Friday, December 29, 2006

Justice or Ill Will?

Last night while I was reading the news on CNN I was saddened when I read that Saddam Hussein is to be hung sometime over this weekend. Sometime during the last moments of 2006. As if his death will bring about new hope for 2007. And I'm saddened by this.

Believe me I don't condone his administration, nor his leadership. My heart goes out to the hundreds of thousands of people that he had tortured and murdered. I pray that the war in Iraq will come to a peaceful resolution. And I know I'm praying for a miracle. But still, I pray.

And I have questions: Will his death bring them back? Will his death serve as some justice, or will it blacken our collective soul?

A long time ago the law was an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth. Then a new law to turn the other cheek was suggested. I think it is for the better of us all to follow this newer way of thinking in backyard or worldwide skirmishes. As the Amish did when their children were murdered, so should the world.

I'm not suggesting we allow people to continue their line of torture or deceit. But is it right to impose the same wickness of which they are accused? These wicked acts, like a cancer eat at our soul. Making it hard to breathe and see the goodness around us. Can we teach our children to behave any better than this if we don't set an example?

In the movie Scrooge, when Jacob Marley pays Scrooge a visit he is draped in the heavy chain he forged in life. A chain built upon the ill will he showed his fellow man/woman while he walked the earth. There is a lot to be said by that chain. And I wonder about our own. My own.

My eldest daughter says I am liberal in our line of faith. I tell her that I am hopeful. Hopeful that despite my faults and failings that when it is my time to face the Maker, there will be love in His eyes. That by being accepting, forgiving and holding no ill will that my soul won't be darkened by hate.

So for Saddam Hussein, for the Iraqi people, for our soldiers, and for the people of whole world I pray for you. May our Maker be with us all.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Words of Wisdom

Nana is old; very old. But she has words of wisdom.

"I like to see them together. When they play it makes me so happy."

Thanks Nana

Monday, December 25, 2006

I know it's a holiday because...

one of my children is sick. It's the middle one. It's a fever and headache. No other real symtoms.

Two Thanksgivings ago it was the eldest and asthma. This past Halloween, the little one with an earache. To me, being sick on Halloween is worse than being sick on Christmas. You can't go trick or treating Nov. 1st. with the explanation that you were sick. But you can open presents Dec. 26th.

The day started with call to the Dr, and a dose of motrin. Now, she is almost her old self. Stiil, there have been two calls to relatives. "She's sick... no coughing, no puking. Your call." They're still coming. That's love.

Santa was very good to us. The presents have been opened. My eldest is voluntarily playing Christmas caroles on her clarinet. The goose is in the oven. (Hence, a brief spot of computer time.) Despite the fever, life is good.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

4 A.M.

I don't know why, but lately, regardless of what time I go to bed, my eyes flutter open at 4 A.M. The quiet morning is a gift. Still dressed in jammies, I usually read email, get on the treadmill, (not today though), do a bit of writing, and then head off to the kitchen to assemble school lunches before waking the girls and heading into the shower.

When I got up this morning I walked into a kitchen where a Christmas prep food bomb had gone off, yesterday. I have Christmas dinner almost under control. Most of the side dishes can be prepared entirely or to a point before the big day. Thus, relieving some of the stress and clean up mess. I love to cook when I'm not under pressure. I'm not so good a pulling a supper out of my refrigerator, or my hat for that matter.

So, in the quiet, I unloaded and reloaded the dishwasher, washed down the counters and sink, and took note that the stove top needs some attention. And after this bit of typing I'll wash the kitchen floor.

Despite the fact I grimace when I see the bright and shiny 4:00, and wonder how my clock got set an hour early, I'll take it. It's not everyone who gets an hour or two or three of quiet to themselves.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Christmas is still about Jesus

Since the early part of November the youth at St. George parish practiced three nights a week for our Christmas play, Just Believe. Children, age 5 to 17, learned songs, memorized lines, and picked up a few funky dance moves. And last night it all came together for them and the 250 people that packed the parish hall.

There is nothing, and I mean nothing, that sets the tone for the holiday more than this play. As much as I love listening to the Boston Pops, or Handel's Messiah, watching 38 young people explain the love of God, puts me over the moon. There were tears, laughter, and so much applause I am surprised the parish hall is still standing. And I would have to conclude it stands only by the love of God.

The people that braved the rain and came out for the show were not disappointed. All left with a smile and a full heart. And if you couldn't make it, I'd mark my calendar NOW for next year's performance.

Christmas is still about Jesus. And I thank the cast and crew of Just Believe, and God for this wonderful reminder. May you all have a happy and holy holiday. Merry Christmas.

Friday, December 22, 2006

It's all been building towards today

Friday folders
Girl scout cookies
Mystery reading
Gingerbread houses
Taking pictures
Passing out candy
Delivering pizza
and dressing sheppards

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Knitting Mittens

After one hat, two hats, big hat, small hat, I decided to try my hand at knitting mittens. Two reasons really, I would learn how to knit on double pointed needles, (A prereq. for making socks, and we can always use mittens around here.)

The pattern was for an adult. SO, me in my infinite wisdom and spacial brain pictured how to size it down to fit my middle one. All was going well until I hit this little bit of knit speak:

Rnd 1:(Note the number. We're not far into this process) K17, M1, k2, M1 k23-44 sts. K1 rnd.

Rnds 2, 4, 6. 8, 10, 12: Knit

So in my downsizing K17 translates to K10, (fine so far). M1 is make 1 stitch, again fine. And k23 -- for me is knit to the end of the round. The problem was what did/does K1 rnd mean?

For the first mitten I realized I was knitting 2 rounds between each increase row. But on second thought did the K1 rnd equal knitting the next round, which was implicity stated in the directions? I called around to my knitting friends and family. "Sounds like a redundancy in the directions," was the overwhelming conclusion.

No worries. In making this pair of mittens I just might have to knit three of them. In the end the mitten fit my sweetie just fine. All smiles, full of confidence I started mitten two. Piece of cake.

However, with this mitten I was smarter. I knew what the knit speak was telling me. No questions, just knit, knit, knit. I was a knitting machine. Waiting at the doctors, knitting, riding in the car, knitting, 10 minutes before the girls come home from school, knitting. Heaven.

Last night, I finished the body of the second and it didn't look quite right. I slipped my hand in only to discover it was a rather tight fit. I dug out the other mitten...

One mitten. Two mittens. Big Mitten. Small Mitten.

In the morning I had my littlest one try it on. It fits. And then I realized what I did, or in this case didn't do. I didn't knit all those extra rows.

It looks like I'll be knitting 4 mittens. Maybe more.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The Post Office

It took all weekend for me to work up the courage to tackle the Post Office. A holiday must; I have been dreading the long cold lines since Black Friday. I know the whole Post Office horror could've been avoided by shopping early; shipping even earlier. But that wasn't happening this year.

The house schedule is out of control. It was only this past Sunday that I figured out what we will be eating for Christmas dinner. Usually this is well planned out weeks ago. Likewise, the annual holiday visit to the Post Office was equally delayed.

I braced myself. Comforted myself with the truth that after dropping the girls off at school, I had a whole hour and 25 minutes before I was on deck as a Mystery Reader in the library. Kisses and love distributed, I was prepared for what lay ahead. At least I thought I was.

I arrived ten minutes to opening. Already five people were ahead of me in line. Not bad. I looked up, and walking in the door was a person from the church choir. We chatted about the up coming Masses and concerts. Finding out the woman behind me was also from our parish. Next walked in the President of the local pool club.

"Great to see you."

"Good to see you, too."

Three people later a Brownie Mom walked in. "Are you ready for this week's booth sale?"

"Yes, we'll be there after I get off from work."

Next was a mom that I've known through school and walking. "Are you ready for the holidays?"

"No, are you?"


By this time I was starting to think I'm just a bit too social in this town. Or someone was setting the stage for This is Your Life Ptcakes. Finally the window opened. But for some reason the computer system was very slow with the transactions. That's okay. In walked F.C.

"Hey, F.C, I heard you liked BigMama's piece this week."

"She's a genius."

"Of course." (I have since read F.C's piece for this week and I thought my heart was going to stop. It can only be concluded that Genius recognizes Genius. Kudos to you both.)

Finally, twenty-five minutes since crossing the governmental threshold, it was my turn at the counter. Painlessly, I mailed my three packages and overseas letter. Before leaving I walked towards the end of the line to chat with F.C. On the way I said hi to CoffeeNick, the Deacon and a Church Lady.

Visiting the Post Office was a pleasant holiday surprise. The only thing that would have made it better would've been cup of Paulo's wonderful decaf gingerbread coffee.

And for everyone who couldn't make it yesterday morning, I have one more package to mail. I'll shooting for Thursday AM. I'll bring the coffee.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Publishing is gravy

Gravy is good, especially on turkey. And when my book gets published, I will be especially happy. But Forever Yours has touched someone, and for that, the rest of this process is gravy.

While researching the battles of World War II, I discovered a friend's uncle, Billy Kouri, was killed at the battle of St. Lo.

"Your kidding?" I said. "That's the same battle where my character, Charles Boss, gets mortally wounded."

S smiled, and filled me in on the limited details she had. After all it was way before her time. I asked her if it was possible to get more information from her parents. She did. Details on his departure, copies of letters from the Army, and a military birthday card he sent to his little sister.

These details were woven into my book. Billy and Charles knew each other. Fought along side each other. In his letters to Martha, Charles tells his wife about Billy's death. For a while it seems that this is the last letter Martha receives from him.

With the book finished, (for the ninth time), I gave copies to S and to her parents. Two weeks later, I received a lovely note from her mom thanking me for mentioning Billy. That she was greatful for the remembrance.

No worries, V. Thank you for sharing your brother's memory.

Thursday, December 14, 2006


Nothing solidifies the holidays for me, like making fudge. Oh sure, there are the more important religious aspects to this time of year. But putting those aside for a moment, there is fudge. It's the whole thing. The making, the testing, and the giving that I love.

Still, I wasn't going to do this year. I'm cutting back. Not going hog wild with card writing, cooking, shopping, shipping or fudge making. But there is something about fudge and Christmas that I couldn't ignore. Maybe it was the ten pounds of chocolate calling out from the cabinet, "Melt me. Mix me with Kahlua and feed me to your friends." Maybe it was the Church Lady's own wonderful double layered fudge that put me over the edge.

So, early today we made a double batch of kahlua fudge. We dropped some off at BigMama's for quality control and the verdict was a resounding, SEND MORE! With the follow up comment of, "I like your hot pepper fudge best. Are you making some of that?"

After dinner, we whipped up a batch. (After all, BigMama is family.) At first your mouth is overwhelmed with chocolate. Then like a stealth fighter, heat swarms your taste buds. Interesting enough, I think this batch has too much chocolate in it. But I tasted a bite or two or three, okay four, when it was still refrigerator cold. Generally this fudge is better a room temperature.

No worries, I'll suffer through the testing. Somebody has to do it.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Just so you don't think my life is so perfect

They are using a power washer to clean out the sewers on our street today.

Q: How do I know this?
A: Our toilet exploded.

No photos. No news at eleven.

The bright side: I wasn't enthroned when it happened.

The Lure of the Christmas Cookie

Given the normal day in day out stresses, I can be at home with 40 fundraiser-oversized candy bars and not be drawn to the cabinet. I can overlook Wheat Thins, Yo-Gos, 10 pounds of chocolate chips (waiting to be melted into fudge), and Harry and David confections stashed in the freezer for emergencies. But leave a plate of assorted Christmas cookies on the counter and there is no hope for their survival.

There is something about Christmas cookies that shotguns all my willpower sensibilities. Yesterday, while working away on the parish directory (11 pages -- preformatted), I ate more cookies than I care to admit. By God, were they good. Especially the 7 layer cookies, and the chocolate peanutbutter fudge. Then there was the chocolate cherry cookie that was so soft, it melted into flavorful splendor the minute I laid it upon my tongue.

To save myself, and in an attempt to be giving and sharing, I put several of the cookies in the girls' lunches. They had the same responses when they returned from school.

"Mom, where did you get those cookies?" asked one.

"From the lady heading up the parish directory project."

"You have to do MORE work for her."

I had to agree.

The next daughter made a list of all the recipes she wanted me to have. And luck would have it, I had to talk with the "Church Lady" about a formatting issue. She was pleased to hear the cookies were a hit. (How could they not be?) And will get the recipes to me. It will probably be an exchange of sorts, one recipe for each formatted directory page.

I think me and mine are getting the better end of this deal.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Breathe In, Breathe Out

This morning while I was continuing to chip away at the parish directory design and layout I realized I was holding my breath. I have hundreds of pictures to put on 14 pages slated for activities. Of course, they all won't fit. And weeding through them is a bit daunting. So with each image I review I remind myself to breathe, and say, "That's one more done."

I think life is one big project, like the parish directory. Sometimes the (life's) images just piece together and before you know it you have one if not two or three pages formatted. And then there are the other times, overcrowded, with everything and everyone grasping for your attention. This is when I stand up, breathe in and out, get a cup of tea or coffee and then slowly start in again.

Don't let the hectic pace run your life. Step away and breathe.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

On being selfish

As the girls get older, I find I am being pulled in a million, maybe a million and two different directions at any one moment. There is play practice, Brownies, choir, dance, the other one's dance, music, their knitting projects, gluing projects, homework, school activities and volunteering, gift shopping at the mall. Just typing this abbreviated list has started my head to spin. But this past Sunday I found what I can only call a safety net. A place where I can sit and think and relax. Where I'm among friends. We smile and sometimes, after years of getting to know eachother, hug as we greet eachother.

This Advent I am going to be very selfish and make sure I get to Mass every week. For it's truly a gift when we all join voices in song and prayer. And I smile when I hear Mr. S singing. He doesn't sing often. But when one of the old standards is called for, his voice is right there.

There is a festive quiet to our gatherings. By quiet I don't mean cold silence. Our parish is far from that. But my mind is quieted as I am refreshed on life's most important lessons. And I could absolutely float away when one of the girls asks me about the reading or the homily. For they too, experienced the quiet of the season.

I'm not up on all the particulars of all the world's religions, but I think this time of year has holidays or holy days for most of them. So when the weather is coldest, and the sky darkest, we are all offered the opportunity to gather with our family, friends, and our God. To sing, pray and sit in the quiet. Be selfish. Take this time for yourself. There is more to this season than sleigh bells, snow, and maxing out credit cards.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Tears on the treadmill

While doing the usual mileage on the old treadmill, I usually watch the Weather Channel. It's predictable. Every ten minutes is the local forecast. So after 4 times trying to catch the forecast of the day, my stint is done.

Today, 3 minutes into my wiggle walk, as my girls call it, the channel changed to PBS (preprogrammed for recording by my husband) and I was watching and listening to a collage of Pops Holiday concerts. Listening to music was wonderful. And when the sing-a-long segment came on I had tears in my eyes as I watched Santa with the children, both young and old. This is such a magical time of year. There's joy in the air. And tears on the treadmill.

Did anyone catch the forecast today? It might be snowing outside, but a dose of the Pops will keep you warm all day long.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The Bubble Up Theory

Forget the Trickle Down Theory. It's really all about bubbling up. I have a good case of it, applied to my homelife. But one good look at CNN and you can see the same trends in government. At home, it's sad. But for a nation... I have serious concerns.

As an example, take today. I ran around this morning, doing laundry, the parish directory, lunches, kids' scrap books (don't ask), breakfast, shopping, and baking for the holidays. Somewhere between peeling the hard boiled egg and making the salami sandwich, I realized life is like one of those retro bubble lights that decorate our kitchen. That I subscribe to the bubble up principle. Where I have seven thousand tasks on my plate and at any one time one of these tasks becomes the priority. This prioritization lasts but for a moment when another task bubbles to the top, steals the limelight, and my focus is moved on, and so on and so on...

Our government does the same. We are focused in the middle east until something happens in N. Korea. Then we try to get back to the middle east, while dealing with N. Korea and we have the famines, and killings in Africa, and major flooding or electrical outages here at home. All important events, but like things at this house, nothing gets the full attention it needs for completion. Nothing gets finished. And as a nation, we have several tasks, being poorly dealt with. It's to no one's gain.

Maybe this is life. Maybe I'm just finding this out. Maybe I'll get to the Christmas cards that have been stacked by the kitchen table for three days to remind me I need to start sending them out. Then again, maybe those cards aren't so important anymore.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

One Hat, Two Hats

Big Hat, Small Hat
A while ago, I blogged on knitting 100 scarves of Christmas. Our church circled the needles, so to speak, to make scarves for the homeless in our community. It's painful to think about 100 people needing scarves in our town... sadly, it's probably more than this. Anyway... I finished my knitting, turned in my scarves and was delighted, I thought, with the idea of doing something else with my hands for the rest of the holiday season.

One week passed, and then two. I found myself roaming around the house. Unable to really settle down. Unable to get comfortable with any of the hundred tasks that surrounded me. And I was unable to write. Something was definitely wrong. Three days ago I figured it out. I wasn't knitting.

But what to knit? I didn't have large blocks of time. There is the TCAN contest deadline looming, (Good Luck to my fellow Niblets!), the parish directory, doctors appointments, food shopping, baking, HOLIDAY SHOPPING, (a biggie), getting packages ready to mail, and then the lines at the post office. So I needed something small. Something easy. I grabbed up my stack of knitting magazines, and started the hunt.

Meanwhile, as my needles were clicking away this fall, dear friends of ours were even busier having their first baby. This baby was long anticipated and fought for. Her first ultrasound hung proudly on our refrigerator, as if she were our own. Truth be told, she is the reason I started all this knitting in the first place. I wanted to make her a pair of ruby slipper booties. So for the better part of a weekend my mother sat next to me, helping me decode the pattern. (The first time I never knitted anything that required knit speak.)

So, when I saw the baby hats, I knew this was my next project. With the shimmery red and soft white yarn left from the slippers I would make a striped beany for the baby. I followed the pattern for a six month size exactly. I sat for the better part of a day knitting and purling. Calmness coursed through my veins. I was reading the pattern all on my own, and understanding it. And when I was done I had a hat that fits my 6 YEAR old. I called my mom.

"What did I do?" I asked.

"Did you check the gauge?" she asked back.


"Well that happens. Sometimes patterns give you odd sizes."

My little one is delighted with her hat. My husband counseled me to try again. So I thought about the size of a newborns head and adjusted the pattern. What yarn balls, I had, to think I could look at the pattern and fix it. But I did. Instead of casting on 68 stitches for the smallest size, I started with only 50 or so stitches. And instead of knitting 16 stripes on the sides I did eight, before starting the decreasing to shape the cap.

One hat. Two hats. Big hat. Small Hat.

What to knit next?

Monday, December 04, 2006


I love photography. I would take pictures all day and night, if I could. One of my favorite subjects is traffic at night. It always amazes me to see how the lights dance across the image. This picture is hung on our refrigerator. Right along side my girls' artwork.

Another outside favorite is taking pictures in the rain. I love the effect of the rain when it smears all the colors together.

Last night, a friend dropped by while I was reviewing the finalized copy of this year's "A Year with Ollie" digital slideshow. She said, "I don't even know these kids, but is this suppose to make me cry?"

I smiled and replied, "I know these kids, and it's good, if it makes me laugh and cry."

All she said was, "It's good."

I love photographing children, especially when they are moving. At Thanksgiving, my niece was spinning around in her dress. I had her spin a few more times, (I don't think she minded), so I could capture her just right. Last night when I was reviewing the T-day shots, I realized I could see through her almost completely.

And I absolutely love looking at photography. At Paulo's Espresso, a small book store/coffee bar in town, he has had some wonderful exhibits. Yesterday a show of nature photography opened. We went early to do some Christmas shopping and admire the shots. We each picked our favorite which we will revisit almost daily for the month.

Mine is the Screech Owl, what's yours?

Friday, December 01, 2006

Eventually They Get Caught

I always tell my children that they don't have to tattle, (unless it's dangerous or distructive). I will catch on. I may be getting old, but I haven't lost all of my faculties, yet.

I have a noneater. From the moment that lovely child came into this world, she refused to eat. Trust me on this one. I was there. And to this day, she is still a noneater. Generally, she sits at the table long after everyone has finished dessert, the dishes cleared and our evening lives are on a roll. And eventually she shows up at my side, all smiles, asking for dessert and proclaiming,"I've eaten all my dinner!" A few times I questioned her, "Really, you ate it all?" Her answer was always the same. A beaming smile and a good firm multi nod of the head. Dessert would follow.

Last night, night two of the chili, the wailing and nashing of teeth were at an all time high. There were pieces of tomato in close proximity. The rest of us finished our bowls of the world's most wonderful bean and meat, laced with offending fruit, concoction, and those who weren't still trying to loose the required 5 plus pounds of Thanksgiving weight had dessert. Dishes were cleared. She sat. The homework was resumed. She cried. Practice testing for the Social Studies test on Islam was in full swing in the living room, when the distinct sound of scraping a spoon against a bowl could be heard ringing in from the kitchen. I looked to my oldest, "Please go in there and just look."

Three seconds later, (it's a small house), she was back. She said nothing.

"Did she scrape it into the trash?" I asked. I knew the answer, but I was hoping for a miracle here.

Ria just gave me one solemn barely detectable nod. Remember she's the oldest, she knew what was going to happen next.

I walked into the kitchen where my little eating wonder was sitting at the table with the empty bowl in front of her. I asked, "Did you eat?"

I got all smiles.

"Are you sure?"

Smiles, again.

I looked into the trash bin. Hidden under some paper towels and other debris was her three tablespoons of chili.

Up to bed was all I said. Tears followed, with the dragging of feet.

Tonight's dinner is a Cape Cod Christmas Clam Pie, another almost complete family favorite. Along with squash and salad...

Any bets?