Friday, November 30, 2007


In the week I have been without a computer except at work, where I had to work, I have been thinking about multi-tasking. I'm against it. If I multi-task, I become addled, foggy, and fragmented. I find myself making grocery lists while listening to Mark read to me, composing letters while reconciling an account, and mentally decorating while having sex. This is not good. All of these things require complete thereness. And I can't be in two places at once.

Even things that might seem made for multitasking, like planning a meeting while driving, can be fragmenting and even dangerous. I get to my destination, and I can't remember my trip. It's like drunk driving. You know you made it, but you check your bumper just in case. Not a good thing.

And so, I am trying to combat personal multi-tasking. Other people can do what they want. I am doing one thing at a time. I start with a to-do list that covers all areas of my life (and there are plenty.) Then, if I am working on something and an idea or rememory hits me, I jot it down on one of the notepads I keep nearby if it's something important. Often, it is just a flight, and I push it aside. It will come back if it is important. Then I move back into the moment and do a sort of focus exercise. BE the bank statement.

On the whole, it has been pretty successful. Fewer mistakes, better sex, happier people. I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving Recovery Weekend

After two days of wonderful overindulgence in food and family, I am ready for a two day fast. I'm thinking of nothing but cereal & soup and a long list of chores to do around the house.

I am sitting here now, writing a charter application for a middle school, with one cat on my lap and another eyeing my keyboard. He thinks it's the best place in the house to sleep. I disagree.

The angel Gabriel is sleeping upstairs with GrandBob. He awoke at 5:30 a.m., starving to death. I fed him and he fell right back to sleep. Not me. I'm up, drinking coffee and reading about best practices in middle school education. Trying to convince my cats that they don't like me that much.

By some miracle, my house is, for the most part, clean. The weather is mild. I guess I don't have any excuse not to tackle the storage shed. It is filled, not so much with twenty years of junk, but all of my neuroses, anxieties and big plans.

If I throw away the pieces of fabric I cut out 15 years ago when I decided to teach myself to quilt, am I admitting failure? And maybe I should give them to the art teacher. At least the pieces that don't have cat pee on them.

Do I really want to get rid of the size 6 jeans I was able to wear for one week in 1985? Jeans never go out of style, and I could very well lose 50 lbs...

Oh well, I guess I have to face the incomplete craft projects, the disorganized boxes of books, and the jumble sale of clothes I've managed to ignore for 10 months, plus twenty years.

Onward... wish me luck... oh wait, is that left over killer mashed potatoes?

Friday, November 23, 2007

Healthy Eating.. or not

The cooking sections of magazines and morning shows are full of helpful ways to make traditional foods more healthy. Use non-fat sour cream, apple sauce instead of sugar or oil, half the cheese.

I don't do that.

I don't eat mashed potatoes, cheese cake, stuffing, cookies, or any of these things every day or even every month. I do not want to make my traditional holiday fare healthier. I want it to be full fat, full sugar, full naughty.

This is my recipe for Thanksgiving Whipped Potatoes.

Beat one container of REAL cream cheese, one stick of REAL butter, two cups of shredded white cheddar cheese & one pint of REAL sour cream until fluffy. Add about 12 boiled potatoes. Beat until creamy.

I have ruined several beaters with the recipe, so you might have to let it rest between steps.

Eat no more than once a year. Take a long walk or play touch football with the kids afterwards. Enjoy the full naughty meal and remember the infamous admonition:

Eat, drink, and be merry,
for tomorrow we may Diet.

Thanksgiving part deux

Yesterday, we had a wonderful time with my in-laws. Bob's cousin, who we are just getting to know, came with his wife and two little children. My sister-in-law's first ex-husband was there along with his sister. Everyone was charming and fun.

Bob's family is very musical. His cousin played his CD. I am always amazed that people I actually know can sound like that --- like REAL musicians. Cousin Warren and Bob played the piano & every child who wasn't too shy showed off their musical skills. Later, Bob brought out his guitar and took requests while most of the family played pool. It was a great day.

The menu, for the record: Turkey, gravy, rice, sweet potato casserole (with marshmallows), green bean casserole, cabbage with apples, collards, creamed spinach, three kinds of cranberry relish (including one Mark made), heavenly hash (more marshmallows), apple, pumpkin, pecan pie, peach cobbler, & pumpkin cheesecake. I know I've forgotten something...

I think that I was wrong about the family gathering thing. Well, not wrong for my family. They don't want to entertain on Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever. They want to be. And that's OK.
But the new people at Bob's family's house made everything seem fresh and new. Having new people around allowed me a new look at the family, and I liked what I saw.
Today, I'll go to a quiet gathering of my side of the family, and it will be nice. We aren't all alike; I'm not even the same person every day. And that's OK.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Great Expectations

Many years ago, when Robert and Joseph were very young, we had our first and only Thanksgiving as a nuclear family.

Robert got chicken pox about a month before Thanksgiving. My brother and sister had never had chicken pox, and since they were adults, it would have been fairly dangerous for them to be infected. We waited for Joseph to show symptoms, but by Thanksgiving, he didn't have a bump. Still, we decided to forgo Thanksgiving with the family, just in case.

Bob and I took on the challenge with all of the enthusiasm and good sense one expects from a young couple. Lots of enthusiasm, little sense.

We planned our menu for four. We had to have turkey, and Bob prefers dark meat, so we couldn't have just the breast. We had to have ham. My brother gave us some of his extra special stuffing, and my sister donated her delicious sweet potato casserole. Bob made green bean casserole, I made creamed onions. These are all essential, of course. It wouldn't be Thanksgiving without them.

I had to have mashed potatoes --- the kind with sour cream, butter, cream cheese, and white cheddar. Bob needed white rice. I think we agreed to forgo the wild rice, but I'm not sure. And of course, we had pumpkin and pecan pies. And ice cream.

And of course, we had the relish tray. Sweet and dill pickles, black and green olives, pickled okra and cranberry sauce.

We set the table with wedding china and crystal that we hadn't seen since Robert was born. I made a centerpiece of pine cones and autumn leaves, with the help of 5 year old Robert and 2 year old Joseph.

While we waited for the meal to come together --- no mean feat to get all of that ready at the same time; I set out the relish tray. Bob and I fought with the turkey, and eventually, we were ready to set out the feast.

That's when we noticed the relish tray was empty. Robert and Joseph had eaten every pickle, every olive... OK, they left the okra.

Bob and I ate a little of our feast. Robert and Joseph had managed to save room for ice cream. We had lots and lots of left overs. And a great story to tell every single Thanksgiving since then. Forever and ever, amen.


OK, I'm walking across the Food Lion parking lot along with a zillion other people who are buying stuff for Thanksgiving dinner. I look down at my feet to admire my embroidered clogs and I see:

something white hanging from my shoe. I reach down, thinking I am going to get a slightly embarrassing piece of toilet paper. I grab it, and it isn't toilet paper. It is cloth. It is substantial. It is my underwear.

I take it from my pants leg and stare at it, in the middle of the Food Lion parking lot, surrounded by a gazillion shoppers. It won't fit in my pocket. This isn't a flimsy bikini number. This is a super-duper support panty, size...never mind. It goes in my pocket book, where it stays safely, until I pull out my wallet to pay...

Ok, back to the pumpkin cheesecake.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007


Annie commented that it was sad my big happy family couldn't be together because of their different beliefs. I think I need to clarify what I said, and sort of defend the families. Well, not defend them.. they are what they are.

Which is what I think about families in general. I heard an interview on NPR yesterday. A sociologist was talking about Thanksgiving and holidays and how to deal with your family. She was very witty and, I thought, wise. One thing she said that struck me was that you don't have do this stuff if you don't want to. We all work very hard and we should choose where and with whom to spend our down time.

As an extension of that, I think we need to recognize that just because we want to be with different people doesn't mean they want to be together. I think it would be selfish of me to force the various facets of my family together just because I don't want to eat three turkey dinners. After all, these people have nothing in common except Bob and me and our children. Why should any of them endure a holiday with virtual strangers? After all, they all work very hard, too, and deserve a relaxed holiday.

Having said that, let me emphasize that none of these people are rude to each other. They all have lovely conversations, they laugh, they commiserate, they applaud. Many of them like each other outside of any relationship they may have with Bob, me and the kids. They may like each other more than they like us. If we did get together, it would be a pleasant event.

It just wouldn't be a take your shoes off, loosen your belt and tell stories about the time Great Grandma Mary put the turkey in the oven for four hours, but forgot to turn it on. No, I take that last part back. That story is always told.

Anyway, we will have two or three turkey dinners and spend long periods of time in the drowsy comfort of various family --- no company, no cares, no drama. And I think that will be a good thing.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Over the river

Yesterday I planned to shop for Thanksgiving and cook one of the pumpkin cheesecakes (the one for the family feast at his school) and make the dough for cheese pennies. I managed to buy the food, but that's it on that front. I did get the landscaping timbers and soil for my little garden by the shed. Sometime this week, the boys (who are men) will build my little raised garden.

Today, I go to work and try to do everything that needs to be done this week in one day. I also need to go by the school to sort and deliver the fundraising booklets. We're hoping the kids will hit up their families at Thanksgiving. Isn't that what families are for? I plan to do my Christmas shopping through the school's various fundraisers. (When is the Scholastic Book Fair? I need to buy books!)

This evening, I make pumpkin cheesecake with ginger snap crust and ginger whipped cream topping. And maybe cheese pennies. If I'm going to be a mess anyway, might as well go all the way.

It has occurred to me that the traditional fight I used to have with my mother at this time of year may have been more about me than her. Or a certain combination of her personality and mine. I sort of miss that fight, although I'm trying to avoid going ballistic on anyone else. And I'm still thinking Christmas in the Islands sounds really really good.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Thanksgiving: the angst

This is the time of year when I begin my annual nervous breakdown. Well, actually, last week was... which is part of the reason I haven't posted. That and a perforated eardrum, but that's a different story.

At Thanksgiving, families gather as one big happy group, give thanks for their blessings and eat lots of food. It helps if you family is one big happy group. It helps if they can be together without sneers, judgements and reminders of things we agreed to forget.

My family is really three families. My father and siblings, my husband's parents and siblings, and us and our children. This year, with the advent of the angel Gabriel, there is another family or two... my son and his family of three, and Katy's family.

Robert and Katy decided to invite all of these people to a Thanksgiving dinner at their house. I can understand their motivation. There is nothing that says "we are a family" more than inviting others to eat with you at your house. And it appears that Robert has inherited my all-or-nothing style of entertaining. Once a year, invite everyone you know to your house and feed them.

Unfortunately, the forces of Thanksgiving did not work in their favor. Their 1200 square foot house would strain with the 25 to 30 people who might show up. Although they wouldn't have to provide the food for everyone, it would be a small space filled with people who are related only because Bob and I love each other and because Katy and Robert love each other. Other than us, they are as diverse and divided as the US Senate. Our families range from my Dad who is a raging liberal atheist who has gotten more so in his old age to Bob's brother and sister-in-law who firmly believe in a literal Bible and other things I don't understand and don't want to. I'm not going to go into all of the stuff in between out of an out-of-character respect for privacy. Let's just say that if Pat Robertson, Hillary Clinton, Sylvia Plath, Yasir Arafat, Martha Stewart, Indira Ghandi, Mao tse Tung, Ayn Rand, and Ann Coulter sat down together, they would have more to say to each other than my family members. My family is all wonderful, but in really different ways. And while everyone would be civil and kind, no one would have fun.

So we will go to Bob's parents on Thursday and my brother's on Friday. I have promised Katy and Robert I will help with a non-Thanksgiving dinner for her sisters and their families and her cousin and her boyfriend.

And I am not complaining.
  • I am grateful that we have this much family in one town.
  • I am grateful that my parents and Bob's parents married each other and stayed married, and that Bob and I are still married after 22 years, so we don't have to add the stress and strain of step-families to our bizarre mix.
  • I am grateful that I am blessed with a group of people who love us all, even if they are bewildered by our behavior, beliefs, and interests. And vice versa.

Time to go to the store... three pumpkin cheesecakes coming up...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Other People's Dreams

I have some really weird dreams. I don't mean the ones where I go to teach at my old high school and find that I didn't pass my senior year and have to take English and Science while teaching a history class that includes every person who has ever been mean to me. Talk about overcrowded classrooms. I'm not thinking about the standard anxiety dreams: Tornadoes, tidal waves, sharks, Nazis, all of the above (man that was an anxiety dream!)

I'm not even talking about the very rare but disturbing premonitions of birth or death. I'm OK with my grandmother coming back to me and giving me fashion advice, especially since her taste has improved since she died. I'm hoping that when Mom gets settled in, she'll tell me something other than "quit giving away my things." No, those are all regular dreams.

I dream other people's dreams. The first time I remember dreaming what didn't seem to be my dream, I was stamping papers with a copy stamp, wearing a red sweater and black & white hounds tooth skirt, and someone said "Have you finished that yet Garcia?" I said no, but thought that was strange, since my name is not Garcia. I told my friends about this, and they said I should buy a red sweater and black & white hounds tooth skirt, because that sounded cool, and forget about the dream. So I did. Buy the outfit, not forget the dream.

Since then, I've had several dreams in which I am someone else. Sometimes I am a man instead of a woman. I have been of a different race or ethnicity. As far as I know, I always speak English, since I understand what's going on, sort of. I am surrounded by family and friends who are not mine, but accept me as theirs. It's a little like the television show Quantum Leap, where I am the only one who knows I'm different.

I wonder if these dreams are the stories I should be writing. I hope not, since they are pretty boring. I should probably apologize to whoever's dreams I'm having, since I've not only stolen them, I've insulted them. Sorry.

Maybe I'm dreaming the dreams of all of the insomniacs within my range. If more people take Rozarium (or whatever it's called), I'll go back to my own dreams.

There is probably a perfectly rational explanation, and I don't want to hear it. Right now, I'm enjoying solving other people's problems and dreaming other people's dreams. It's much easier that way.

Monday, November 5, 2007


This is one of those stories I probably shouldn't tell, but am going to anyway. I'm going to tell it anyway for a couple of reasons. First, I've already told just about everyone whose opinions matter to me, and so far, they have not condemned me completely (at least to my face.) And second, I'm just like that. I tell stories I shouldn't tell.

So this is it. I have a thing about shoes and feet. Nothing kinky. It's just that when I was a kid and asked for new shoes, my mother would show me her feet and say, "When I was your age, we couldn't afford new shoes and I had to wear the same shoes for three years and my toes got all twisted and bent." And her toes were twisted and bent. Her second toes, which should have been longer than her first toes were curled under like a corkscrew. Her baby toes were mashed in so they hid under her feet. It wasn't pretty at all.

So I wondered then, although I probably didn't say it out loud more than once, why she would subject us to the same torture, when they could afford to buy us shoes? Why did we have to go through this every year? Yes, once a year. It's not like we were Imelda Marcos wannabees. We each had one pair of shoes each year, until we started taking gym, then we had a second pair of sneakers.

Now, in my infinite wisdom, like so many others before me, I swore my children would always have shoes that fit. They were from K-mart mostly, but I bought new pairs two or three times a year if I needed to. God as my witness, my children would not have crooked toes!

OK, there were times when I let the boys wear their shoes until the soles fell off. There was that sort of embarrassing incident, when one of them came home with slightly used shoes from the poor children bag at school. The slightly used shoes were Nikes or something, and better than I would have bought, so I sent a thank you note and left it at that. But I vowed to do better.

So, now, we come to this last week.

My baby had needed new shoes for a month. His toes were sticking out. The soles of the shoes rubbed blisters on his poor feet. By the time I bought him new shoes in an early morning emergency trip to the 24 hour Walmart, his feet looked like raw meat.

I rinsed them, salved them, and swathed them in aloe infused sockies. He rested all day. I felt terrible. The next day he put on his new shoes and flew off to school. He kicked the ball, ran the bases, leaped tall buildings. All it took was new shoes and a mother with the sense to buy them.

Ironically, coincidentally, or karmically, I stepped on a safety razor this weekend, so I am now the one with the hurt foot. I rinsed it, salved it and wrapped it in Mark's aloe infused sockies. But somehow, I knew I deserved it.