It’s Monday night, the night after Christmas. In case you didn’t see the family photo tagged with our location, we traveled over the holiday. I told the world and myself I wanted us to have a chance to reconnect as a family. Truth is, it was all about spending some time with my boy, my sixteen year old son.These days, he walks out the door more frequently than he walks in. I spend too much time wondering every time I hear a car drive by or a siren shriek.

I’ve finished unpacking, almost finished unpacking, well, I’ve started unpacking and can say that all of my shoes are where they belong.

I’m scrolling thru Facebook, and I see all the happy family photos. My heart swells with pride at the likes under ours taken by a very kind, patient hostess. We are standing in front of a fireplace, arms linked, smiling.

It wasn’t really like that at all.

Well, parts of it were. There was tubing down Cranmore with C, legs linked, tires spinning. I screamed, he laughed.

There was s’mores by the fire after a sleigh ride. My daughter sat next to my son. He went into the lodge and got her hot chocolate.

There were the moments before we had to leave for the sleigh ride, when his dad had to stuff his feet into his brand new boots because he didn’t want to go.

There were arguments over phone chargers, pillows, homework, bad language, and whether or not one should stay in a jacuzzi for an hour at a time.

In other words, it was like being on a vacation with a toddler that has far more words and muscle at his disposal when he wants to take a stand.

On our way home, we stopped by the outlet store. He walked over to me, held out his arms and pulled me close. He said- “I’m glad I came. I had fun.”

He finds joy in a Nike store, and bliss when he knows that moments after we leave he will be swaddled in a new Nike sweatshirt and sweat pants.

I’ve probably crossed the line here, but I’m giving myself a pass this time.

I’ve decided it is time to stop rambling on about the challenges we face.
They are his challenges now, He deserves privacy to be who he’s going to be and figure out what he needs to figure out.

I will take a step back to find my place in the audience while my son goes about becoming a man.
It won’t be easy.

I remember wondering if things would have been different if I’d read him more bed time stories or made him join Boy Scouts.

You reminded me that one less chapter of Harry Potter, or four more camping trips probably wouldn’t have made a bit of difference.

Some of you let me know you are dealing with some of the same problems; and that you are as lost and confused as I am.

Sometimes it’s incredibly easy to feel totally isolated, in a room full of people, in a community of millions, at the dinner table with family.

We are as connected as we allow ourselves to be. We are not alone.

Neither is he.

I hope he figures that out.

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This is the holiday season. I don’t need to tell you that. The songs on the radio are carols, everyone at work is counting down days and feasting on cookies, kids are looking for elves on shelves and parents are wondering why they ever started another tradition that involves one more thing do during the season that demands the most of parents of young ones.

I’ve wanted to write about the holidays. I’ve tried to say something meaningful about slowing down and finding the spirit. I was going to talk about decorating our tree.

We didn’t decorate our tree. My husband dragged it in one night while we slept. He strung the lights while I was working. My daughter hung ornaments with a friend of hers while they were trying to decide what movie to download. My contribution was to straighten out the tipsy angel, and sweep, daily, the tinsel, that seems to be growing, like sweet potato vines all over the first floor. I sweep, it slithers down and creeps along carpet while I sleep. I sweep again. The dog finds the whole process weird.

I shopped for the first time yesterday. An eleven year old and a fifteen year old, both of whom just got new smart phones a month ago. $600 smart phones we will be paying off while we are trying to figure out how to send them to community college because we don’t have any money.

If the holidays aren’t enough to make me crazy, I’m always on the verge of something.

I’m on the verge of everything.

I’m on the verge of killing my son, throwing him out onto the street with a bus pass and a back pack. I’m on the verge of falling at his feet and begging him to just watch one episode of the Middle with me. Like the good old days. He smiles, I think- what has he done now. He grimaces- I wonder- what have I done? I’m constantly cataloging our conversations, expressions, text messages and I’ve reached no conclusions other than he is my son, and he is a complete mystery to me, and I really, really hope he knows I love him more than my own breath.

About a month ago, I asked my boss where I was heading, in a general way. I’ve been at the same job a year, my title has nothing to do with the job I do every day. I’ve been hoping for a new one, or a title, and a little more money. Tomorrow, we are having lunch at a nice restaurant. I can’t imagine he would take me to a nice restaurant to give me good news.

I’m going to the gym every day, and I’m eating cake, and large bowls of pasta, and putting cream in my coffee. So I guess I can’t say I’m on the verge of getting in shape. But I do go to the gym every single day, and walk the dog, and take the stairs. I look up healthy recipes and I think about them. So maybe that qualifies.

Today, I drove my son to school to talk to the principal about an argument my son had with a fellow student. I picked up some Christmas presents for my nieces. I spoke to some students and reached out to one organization and two high schools about working together, me and them, to help more kids come to Quincy College. I went to Marketing for cookies and the Registrar’s office for sandwiches. Based on my conversation with my colleagues, I am the only person in the world that hasn’t finished shopping. I ate too many cookies and had a cup of soup.

Today I sprinted thru being on the verge of bribing an assistant principle, spending grocery money on really, really nice tee shirts, and getting a serious stomach ache. Thankfully, none of that happened.

I made it to my therapist’s appointment where we discussed the anxiety of the holidays, and since I was in a rush, we made it quick. She wrote me a prescription. I am not on the verge of a nervous breakdown or I’m too well medicated to notice.

I raced home. Katy had a friend over to practice for their flute holiday concert this evening. I made them dinner while they mangled “Oh Holy Night.” I had a glass of wine, and served them two huge bowls of spaghetti. While they ate, I gathered my clothes for the gym. I wiped counters. I kissed the dog and promised her we’d walk before the rain came.

We got to the concert. Katy and Madeleine played first. I’d warned Madeleine’s mom, “they weren’t very good.” I asked Madeleine’s dad to tape them on his Iphone.

The girls played “Joy to The World” and “We Three Kings”.

They played beautifully. I sat on my metal chair and looked at them, poised and still in front of the music stand. I have never heard such beautiful music in my life.

I didn’t want to write my boss an email. I didn’t want to go the mall, or walk the dog, or lift a weight, or climb the corporate, or any sort of ladder.

My girl brought me Christmas.

It is eight pm. Sophie is at my feet. She will take me outside to look at the lights. I won’t count my steps, I won’t check my heart rate. I will pick up her poop, and I will let her sniff that weird patch of grass on Wood Street for as long as she’d like.

I’m inside my life. I share it with horrid, funny, magical kids, a husband that remembers a tree in the middle of his shift, and picks out the best one, the college, where my supervisors, students and colleagues teach me something new every day. Sometimes, the lessons get a little redundant. I think I’m pretty clear on the importance of patience in world of academia, but I’ll know when I know.

The month of December seems to be a time where too many people live on the verge- of losing their minds, going bankrupt, trying to keep up with the neighbors, smacking their kids, or wishing they’d never fallen in love.

From this moment forth, I’ve stepped away from the verge, and I’m not going anywhere near it. If I shop, it will be without a list. If I buy gifts, it will be because I’d like to give something to someone I love.

I’m not even sure what verge means any more. Maybe it’s when I choose something, horrible or amazing, to swallow up my entire focus. While I wait- I eat too much, I snarl at kittens or kids, I check my email, I scroll thru Facebook to glare at people who do not seem to be on the verge, while reassuring myself that Facebook lies and almost everyone is on the verge of something. Even if they don’t know it.

I do know, by definition, to be “on the verge” implies resting one foot on one spot, a less than desirable spot, while the other foot hovers and waits for a better space to open up.

That’s seems pretty silly.

I’m home now.

I’m blessed.

I’m pretty sure Colin loves me, and if he doesn’t at the moment, he’ll remember soon enough. I love him. I love so many people, and I’m so lucky that in the middle of this life, I’ve made enough space to know them.

The rest will come.

Right now, everything I want and need is here. I’m not waiting on anything.

The rest will come.

Peace.

I have never been a woman that accessorized. I lose earrings. Bracelets get caught in my steering wheel. And every time I change my bag, I lose my license. Or a credit card. Or my favorite lipstick.

Six months ago, something happened. I “stole” a scarf from my 11 year old daughter. The scarf had been hanging around a teddy bears neck since her 8th birthday party so don’t judge me too harshly. I liked wearing it. It was like Jacob’s coat of many colors except it was a scarf. And it went with everything. It had many colors. I felt like a grown up. I felt like I could guest host a talk show. I felt “put together.”

Next, a friend passed on a scarf, or shawl, or pashmina, a large piece of cloth intended for draping around the upper half of the body. I liked wearing that too, though I still haven’t quite figured out what to do with it. Most of the time, I put it over my head if it’s raining. Once I get inside, I fold it into a triangle and pretend I’m a woman in need of a rocking chair. Which often I am.

For Christmas, I got two infinity scarves. Are you familiar with this latest rage sweeping the nation? (I think it’s been a few years, but I don’t get to the hair salon very often. The last Vogue I read was from 2012. I think they might have used the term revolutionary. Or maybe they were talking about a new kind of bang. As in short cropped hair on the forehead. There are a lot of revolutions in the world of accessories and hair. Not just the kind that grows on your head but that’s a whole ‘nother story. I need to go to the salon more.)

They are both blue, my new Christmas infinity scarves. One is turquoise blue, the other is a royal blue. They both go with almost everything I own, especially when framed by my very favorite jean jacket. Which is denim blue. (Duh, you are thinking. No, I’m telling you. Denim is not necessarily the color of denim any more. It was hard to find a denim colored denim jacket.)

I like them. I, who have never worn any accessories, except for brief binges on earrings, an intense love affair with a wrist cuff, and a series of flirtations in my late 30’s with a series of hair ornaments, have embraced the scarf. For the time being. The patchwork scarf I stole from my daughter. The burnt orange hand me down from my dear friend that I have yet to define. And the two Christmas gifts in the most beautiful shades of blue. Infinity scarfs.

The givers knew me well. The scarves are circular, so there is no draping or tying or folding to be done. It is not likely they will slip into my coffee or dangle in my soup.

And I need to eat more soup. I’ve seen the commercials. Women that eat lots of soup look like they are about 34, have perfectly groomed eyebrows and can shop for swim suits on line because everything looks good on them.

Christmas is over. It’s time to put away cup cakes and frivolous attempts at holding onto pairs of earrings, and to embrace the simple truth that I am a woman that needs simplicity in all things.

And two infinity scarfs in two shades of blue seems to be a really nice way to start.

I will survive this winter in New England, in shades of blue and green and gold. It’s nice to know that the people I love knew I needed a little help to stay warm this year.

Perpective

December 5, 2014

 

At this moment in time, I know where my car keys are, my eyeglasses, (They’d been missing for a month, and last night I had a dream that revealed their location. Really.) both of our tv remotes, the cats, Sophie the Sweetest of Pups, my gym bag, the favorite cup, the house phone, the mobile, scissors, pens- I can even tell you where to find a band aid.

On the other hand, I misplaced the tablet, our dryer is busted so there are clothes draped on every available surface and our towels are crunchy, Christmas is coming. I need to make an appointment to get my teeth cleaned, and I’m having a hard time adjusting to the whole new full time job thing.

I have a new job! A job I love at Quincy College, 2 minutes away from our house, with a terrific boss and a really cool team that is kind and doesn’t mind that sometimes most of my sentences end in exclamation points.  And Christmas is coming!

But I haven’t had as much time to go to the gym as I like, and I miss my friends and long dog walks with the Wondrous One.

Breathe.

I know where most of my stuff is, there is a gym in the basement of the building I work, my friends are on Facebook, and I know where my children are. I know they will be coming home to me tonight, safe. And that we live in a tiny corner of the world where the odds are everyone is coming home tonight.

I am fortunate woman.

I am also a sad woman. A woman whose heart has broken more than a little in these past few weeks for all of the mothers and sons out there who aren’t so fortunate.

There is space inside me for both.

 

 

About a Week Before Christmas

December 18, 2013

The snow started about 2 pm today. By three I was on the phone with my boss checking to see if the Christmas party had been cancelled. It wasn’t. By four, I was trying to talk Sophie, the Dog that Would Really Like to Live In Miami, into going outside. By 5, both kids were with friends and I decided to have peanuts for dinner in honor of the party I was missing.

And at 7:30, under a snowy sky, I was standing on top of a very small hill wishing that I had mittens. Night sledding. The kids came home, and when they tripped over the snowboards left piled up by the back door, a brilliant idea was born. Night sledding.

I’ve never taken a ride on virgin snow. It’s puffy, not very slick, it kind of felt like the sled had had a little to much eggnog on the ride down.

We had only four of them, and there were five of us, so there was a certain amount of negotiation. Between the kids. I didn’t have to negotiate. I drove the car, and, they assumed, would make the hot chocolate when we got home. That gives a woman a few privileges.

“Katy, do you want to make snow angels?” Tue had spilled from the sled onto her back and was inspired.
“No, I didn’t come here to make snow angels,” Katy said, then snatched the sled from Tue. “But you can make snow angels,” she said sweetly.
“Mom, put your feed on the sled. Stop dragging them. There you go… Wasn’t that fun? You want to ride down with me?” Colin offered right before smashing me in the face with a snowball.

He then pummeled Kate, who responded by falling over and mewling like a kitten. An angry, wet kitten.

We slid down, we staggered up. Enough times that I didn’t even have to mention hot chocolate when I said it was time to head home.

In the car, in the quiet of heavy breath and windshields wiping “Ol Fifty Five” by Tom Waits came on the radio.

“As I pulled away slowly, feeling so holy, oh Lord, I was feeling alive.”
Merry Christmas and to all A Good Night.

It’s the middle of December. This is the time of year, more than any other, when money weighs heavy on my family. We can’t afford to sign the kids up for ski lessons, we have eggs for dinner not because breakfast for dinner is a lovely novelty but because it’s a cheap meal. I throw out the mountains of flyers in the Sunday paper because looking at all the wonderful gifts we can’t afford is depressing. We aren’t poor, for God sakes my kids do not suffer because they can’t fly down a mountain on a few carefully crafted pieces of plexiglass. And we like eggs. But sometimes it feels that way. Our town is made up a lot of people who shop for sport and go to Aspen to snowboard.

The other morning, I woke up way too early. Too much on mind, not much I could do about it. The day was spent, and I’m kind so I’ll make this brief, struggling thru a yoga class before the sun was even up, driving twenty miles to a mall to try to replace a broken phone even though, and I heard this five times in the course of my time there, I wasn’t due for an upgrade. Next, I burned another twenty dollars of gas racing to work. I am employed at a local college where I also attend classes. A few emails, a brief review of what I needed to know for my finals next week, and then I raced back home to deal with dogs that needed walking, kids that needed feeding, and a mountain of half damp laundry in a dryer that hasn’t worked that well for years.

It was a long day. By the time the dishes had been cleared, and my notes reviewed, and the dogs sent to the back yard for too little exercise but a chance to shriek at anyone with the good fortune to pass by, I was weary.(Yoga at 5:45 is a lovely idea in theory, but I should really only indulge if I have time to nap in the afternoon.) Our tree was standing in the corner. It smelled good, but none of the lights worked, so the rest was going to have to wait for a trip to Ocean State Job Lot on the weekend.

I went next door to say hello to our neighbors. I walk their dog. They look after my daughter when I’m working late. In a month or two, or if we are lucky, three, they are moving across town. I’ve known this for weeks. I didn’t really know it until last night.

This is a family that is very different from our own. They are from another country. The mom is young and beautiful, I think she used to model. She sells fine jewelry on ebay. I am older and attractive if I work at it really hard and the lighting is good, but I never photograph well. I don’t wear earrings any more because I always loose one, and I’m not stylish enough to pull off asymmetrical jewelry.

Her daughters are a little bit older than my little girl. They have more than one pair of Uggs. They have impeccable manners and always call me Miss Julie. They take off their shoes when they come over and they like my popcorn. They laugh at my jokes but that might be because they are really polite. Watching them grow up has been one of my favorite things.

We are very, very different. Yet, in the course of being neighbors for ten years, I eat cereal out of a bowl that belongs to them. She sips coffee out of one of our mugs. She notices when I lose weight, I can tell when she hasn’t slept well. I went over to their house the other night at eleven pm to borrow a belt from her husband because my son needed to wear one to school in the morning. He got out of bed, found the belt, and told me to keep it.

I don’t know them that well, and I know them better than my friends. I know they like to sleep really late on the weekends, and that she loves her leopard slippers. Her daughters have danced around my living room and my son has cleaned their garage. I know them because they are in our lives and have been in our lives almost every day for a very long time. And even though I don’t always understand what my next door neighbor says, and I know she sometimes thinks I talk too fast, we have chosen each other as family.

At end of my long, long, day, I chose to visit the family next door. It’s the holiday season and I think they must miss their home, far, far away, and their family, on the other side of the world. After our brief visits, to talk about kids, to take their dog for a walk, to borrow a stick of butter, I always feel better just knowing they live right next door.

When I got home, I realized that all of the boxes in the kitchen weren’t parcels from online shopping. That in a month or two or three, they will be gone. They will live on the other side of town. We will see each other in the drug store, or at the school for a Christmas concert. But how much can we say when we aren’t standing in each others kitchen, at the end of the day, and really listening thru all of the barriers language leaves between people from different sides of the world?

All of the stuff that had weighed me down heavier than a thousand rocks fell away, and I started missing my family of friends while they got ready for bed next door. My son came down stairs and put my head on his shoulder, and promised me that we would always stay in touch with the Vo’s.

The tree is decorated now. And Katy is outside playing in the snow with her very best friend in the whole world. And I will ask her mom tonight, when I visit her kitchen, if her daughter can sleep over again.

This may be their last Christmas as neighbors, but it won’t be our last Christmas as friends. My son promised.

I am fifty years and have been actively involved in celebrating Christmas for about forty five years. And tonight, for the very first time in my life, I took down our Christmas tree.

I lifted the ornaments from the branches and wrapped the delicate ones up in a newspaper bought just for this task. I jammed the nonbreakable ones, the stuffed snowmen, the pine cones, the little watercolored masterpieces from nursery schools a few years back, in between the little balles of paper. I swept up pine needles.

I stood on my tip toes and lifted our angel from her perch. I nested her inside some of the “snow” that looks awfully similar to asbestos, and placed her on top. I swept up pine needles.

Next I began to deal with the lights. I was the one that wove them among the branches, it was only fitting I was the one that began to untangle the tangled web I wove… four different strands of lights. At one point, the length was so long and I was pulling so hard to free them in a long single strand, the Christmas tree fell back into the foyer. I finally dragged the entire tree, stand and all, and miles of lights out to the sidewalk. There I had room to work. And so I did. I’m sure the people walking and driving by were thinking of better ways I could have gone about the whole task. But no one made any suggestions. If you are one of those people, next time, I’m open to any and all advice. (There is so much in this world I know absolutely nothing about.)

Next was the storage of the lights. In the past, my husband has wrapped them around empty paper towel rolls he’d saved for this purpose.

I used one paper towel roll, after I unrolled, according to the wrapper, 250 feet of paper towels. I began at one end, slowly reeling in yards and yards of twinkling stars,  using the steady  gestures a fisherman uses when bringing in a good catch. I think. I don’t fish. But I imagine it feels similar.

When I was done with the the first line, I searched for alternatives. The remaining lights are wrapped around one sippie cup, one bottle of almost empty toner, (Bonnie Bell, left over from a brief horrid period of adult acne, thank God I’m finally too old for that,) and one tube of sunblock, still full, but number 15. Nobody uses fifteen anymore, the ozone layer is going to disappear any minute and using fifteen would pretty much guarantee skin cancer the following week.

And then I swept up pine needles. I lifted up the rug,I  think I saw some from last year, and swept them up too. I took down the Christmas cards, and the stockings, I untangled tinsel from shoes,  I put the last scraps of wrapping in the recycling, and ate the last Hershey’s kiss hidden under a log.

This was the first time I put Christmas away, into a box. Wrapped it up, onto a cylander. Buried it under fake snow. They say that we need to keep Christmas in our hearts all year long. It doesn’t feel like Christmas tonight, it feels like the end of an era. An era when I didn’t have to responsible for unplugging and angel and tucking her away for a year.

But change is good. I’m going to go sweep up some more pine needles. I hope it still smells like Christmas for a day or two. Those candles that claim to smell like trees just smell like the home of someone that smokes that thinks they are keeping it a secret.

But that’s another story.

Happy January 6th, my friends.

P.s. And if you haven’t taken your tree down yet, start saving your paper towel rolls.

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.