Life is hard. We don’t have any money. We live in a world where the rest of the world does. Have money. I apologize all the time. And we eat a lot of pasta. Really macaroni, but if I call it pasta it doesn’t feel so bad.

But we are healthy. That sounds corny but I just read a book by Jodi Picoult and I do read the newspaper and I am forced to count, among my blessings, we are healthy.

And we laugh a lot. Quite often our giggles are because I try to dance. And our dog finds my moves very, um, exciting. Or one of the kids tells a very stupid joke. Or makes a very stupid face. Or farts.

It’s tough, but it’s not. We are fine, but we are not. When I look at the whole world, we are so blessed. When I check out our neighborhood, I am such a failure. Katy wants to know why Santa is so generous with others, Colin cries when he thinks he went over his data allowance on his phone.

How can I feel so lucky and so cursed inside the same breath?

How can we giggle and laugh and weep inside the same hour?

We are so very happy and we are so very sad.

And I have no choice, I have to hold onto the moments of joy. I have to examine the pain and try to fix it, or not.

I have to move thru it all with grace, and joy, and dignity. I have to acknowledge sometimes it sucks and honor the moments it does not.

How can I grieve when people are starving? How can I laugh when everything breaks?

And I do. I shall. I will laugh and grieve and weep and giggle and go on. And show my kids how to go on as best I can.

Because I have the option. And having options, and choices, the ability to choose whether or not to laugh or cry, to celebrate or mourn… that merits a celebration, a toast, and a prayer.

Happy New Year.

Christmas night Thoughts or Some time without kids so I might as well write something.

What can I say about Christmas that hasn’t already been said? Silent Night is a lovely song, batteries are a big part of a successful Christmas morning and chocolate kisses are probably not the healthiest way to start the day.

We had dinner at my sister and brother in laws home. Nancy and Jeff don’t see the Colin and Katy that  often. This past year my children entered the phase of their lives  when their calendars require a full time assistant/chauffeur to keep track of their commitments and get them there. There is not much time is left for the simple joy of watching scary movies with relatives. So tonight after dinner, I left them there. Nancy and Jeff let them have snacks on the bed. Nancy and Jeff let them watch movies where Freddy Krueger is the hero. Nancy will paint Katy’s toenails and Jeff will spend a half an hour talking about the Celtics with Colin. Make that an hour.

So here I am, home alone on Christmas night.  I remember when I used to drop them at the sitters when they were little; car seat, diaper, dry cheerios were a delicacy little. I’d pull away from them like I was leaving a particularly horrible job. I’d turn up the radio, call all of my friends to announce I had a window of freedom and meet whoever picked up first for many cocktails and long lubricated conversations about how I loved my babies so much but I really, really needed this time to be me. They would chime in with answers like “you deserve this” and order me another drink another shot, while patting me on that hand and looking at me with pity. Maybe it was the spit up on my blouse, or the dark circles under my eyes. We’d spend a couple hours in the bar, or at someone’s condo or in an intimate little restaurant. Drinking. Bemoaning a life that required me to wipe someone’s bottom at least five times a day. Talking about the need for adult conversation. We talked a lot about how I needed adult conversation, but I don’t recall any of the adult conversation after it’s need was established. Repeatedly. Maybe that’s because of all of the cocktails consumed during these conversations.  I know that one of my favorite obsessions then, and I’m sure I shared it with anyone and everyone who would listen, was- how was I going to wean Katy from the breast. (That was how I put it, I swear, the breast, like it wasn’t attached to my body, which if it wasn’t attached to my body, it wouldn’t have been such a big concern.) I don’t really think this qualifies as adult conversation, I’m sure it bored my friends to tears, but for about a year and a half that was pretty much all that was on my sleep deprived little mind.

That was years ago. Tonight when I drove away from them I didn’t even think of calling a friend to meet for a cocktail. It’s Christmas night, the bars are closed. And not having the kids isn’t thrilling me the way it used to. I didn’t get that glorious rush of “I’m free” when I pulled out of the driveway. I just thought about how much I hate the months when it’s dark at five o’clock.

I’m home now. There is a lot of post Christmas cleanup to do. I will turn on the radio and sweep and break down boxes for recycling. I’ll try to figure out why the dishwasher won’t drain. I’ll peel up the goo from the kitchen floor from one of Katy’s science experiments. I’ll throw out the box of fancy chocolates; the kids sampled all of them and ate two. I will feed Colin’s fish and try to find the receipt to $18 Nike Elite socks I went to the mall on Christmas Eve to get; they don’t fit. $18 dollar socks that require two trips to the mall, I’m going to reminding him of that for the next six months every time I want him to clean his room.

I miss them. Not because they would help, and they would. I miss them because they have grown into the people I most want to hang out with. I want to commiserate with Colin and Katy about the measly snow we got, and talk about what the best part of the Christmas pageant was. I want to dance around the kitchen with Katy while the radio plays one of our songs, (most of the songs on the radio are one of our songs.) I want Colin to show my something on youtube I just have to see, which I invariable find totally disgusting or pee in my pants hysterical*.

And now my thoughts turn to all of the mothers tonight without their kids. I’m picking mine up at nine.

All I can say to them is I promise to try to remember each day and each night, I am the luckiest woman in the world.

*I am aware that if Colin reads this he will never, ever show me a youtube video again, and decided I can live with that.

I still have hives.

Maybe you don’t even know that I have hives, so let me explain; a little more than a week ago little strawberry bumps sprouted all over my body. From my ankles to my collar bone, welts were scattered across my skin like clouds, except really ugly, menacing, hot pink clouds. That itched. And still itch. A lot.

These are the days before Christmas. I need to shop, make lists, cook something and cover it colored sugar, I need to figure out what to do for my children’s teachers, (money to the room mother), our choir director, (gift card) and my supervisor at the work study job at the college I’m currently attending, (a really nice card and something in the muffin family.)

And all I want to do is find this mysterious itch that has been plaguing me for a week and scratch it.  All I want to know is how much longer until my next dose of Benedryl.

I will get everything done. Every year there is something getting in the way of all that needs doing, and it always gets done. This year, all it is is a fervent desire to scratch. And I still have one more trip to the doctor’s, two refills for my medication and a couple of really good friends who will help if I need it.

Colin and Katy are in the Christmas pageant this year. On Christmas Eve, Katy will make her debut as a Wise One. Colin grudgingly agreed to take on the challenging role of Donkey. So I’ve got a minor skin disease. At least I don’t have to try to sleep on dried out straw. In a barn. With farm animals and all of the bugs that like to hang out with farm animals.

That must have been really uncomfortable.

This past week was the last week of the semester at school. Classes ran long, finals loom. By Monday, I need to know where all the bones go, how to use a blood pressure cuff and be able to list the physiological benefits of weight training.

Wednesday  brought us to the frantic search for a tree stand and a tree we could afford to put inside it. For the first time tonight, I strung the lights all by myself. It’s a beautiful tree. On it’s branches hang ornaments my children labored over every year since kindergarten. They are mixed up with with crystal sleighs, and blown glass icicles I bought before I found myself inside  a life with kids and animals.

There were conversations with my kids about what happened in Connecticut.

In the middle of it all- the amazing, the time consuming and the tragic; on Tuesday afternoon hives sprouted on my body. Red welts along my back, inside my arms, on my ankles.

I went to the doctor on Tuesday, she told me I was having an allergic reaction. She gave me steroids, and suggested benedryl and oatmeal baths.

I still have the bumps. But now the drugs I’m on to get rid of them are keeping me awake.

I’ve got time now to study, sweep up pine needles, catch up on Thirty Rock.

I want to sleep. I need to go to church tomorrow. I need to study the endocrine system tomorrow. I need to stop by my friend’s house and decorate gingerbread men with my daughter tomorrow.

Instead my body is telling me to write a novel while I scratch the back of my left knee.

My brain needs some undivided attention.

And my heart, it beats. It carries me along. It sends me up the stairs to watch my kids asleep.

So I’m a little itchy and awake.

Tomorrow when I’m spent and sleepy, someone will tuck me in while another wipes me down with Benadryl. The people that  I love will carry me.

Tonight, the world doesn’t make much sense to me.
Our corner of the world has a Christmas tree with a crooked angel that opens and closes her arms, not enough lights and tinsel that seems to end up on the floor. Two kids are upstairs sleeping. Sophie the Wondrous and the Magical Dog is staring out the window, waiting for the return of Michael, the Delightful, Disappearing Cat. The dishwasher hums, the radiators rattle, the keyboard clicks.
My world makes sense tonight if I fill my mind with the noises here, right around me. For this, I know I am supremely blessed.
I want to offer prayers, that doesn’t seem to be enough. Hugs, oh my God, hugs? I want to fold the whole wide world inside my arms and have it all make sense and wake up tomorrow to a place where it all does. Make sense.
So tonight, I will pray. Tonight, many, many of us will pray, though some may call it something else.
Tomorrow we will wake up and watch the news, have difficult conversations with our children, shop, wrap, grieve.
And tomorrow night, we will pray again.
Until the night we forget because we are tired, or tipsy, or lost.
Or until the night, the prayers are heard.
We’ll see.
Tonight, the world doesn’t make much sense to me.

Sophie The Wondrous

December 7, 2012

When I am happy, I sing. I hum. I dance around, I clean. I need to call people on the phone, track down a kid for a  “meaningful conversation”. In desperate times, I might actually venture out for a walk in hopes of finding a neighbor or an unwitting clerk fool enough to ask me how my day is going.
When Sophie is happy, she curls on the sofa and looks up at me. She sighs, a small sigh, a whisper of a breath. Her tail wags, she might shift her weight. She might not. She will place her head on a pillow, or on my leg. She sniffs my cheek, leans forward to bury her nose in my hair. Sometimes she will meet my gaze and yawn. Her tongue is pinker than any little girls bedroom. She might just close her eyes and take a breath. She doesn’t open them  back up to see if I am still watching her. She wags her tail in her sleep.

Sophie The Wonder Pup is able to experience joy without needing to dissect, express, confide, or explain it.

Yet even without the ever present human need to share our bliss, she shares hers with me- every time I sit still long enough to listen to the sounds of Sophie.


The Business of Life

December 3, 2012

There a million tiny rituals that make up my day. There is dancing around the kitchen table, screaming about stray socks on the stairs, the dishes, the folding of clothes, the feeding of cats and kids, the walking of the dog, the paying of bills, the returning of books.
All of these things must be done by the end of each day so that my family and I can move forward to the next day and the day after that. Sometimes I stop to cherish an individual moment, most often I don’t. We just move forward, snapping photographs of the highlights, or the low lights. Quoting each other on Facebook. But mostly we just move forward with just a pause for sleep in the middle of it all.
This morning, I put my husband on the plane to go see his Mom. She is 92. She is starting to forget things, or she’s moving around through time like it is a swimming pool. Last week, she was getting married. Last month, she was visiting Canada. Margaret is living with my sister in law and her family in North Carolina . She is not getting married or going to Canada. She is sitting in a chair, waiting for people to call or come see her.
This morning, I drove my husband to the airport. He is, though we haven’t spoken of it, going to say goodbye.
Most of the business of life is mundane, or silly, or aggravating, or not even worth mentioning.
And then along comes a morning like this, where everything stops, and I just have to honor this woman, my husband, the life that I have and the life that I look forward to.
Travel safe, Sheldon. Come home, soon, my dear. And please give your mother a kiss from all of us.