Not that you didn’t see it coming but it still hurts.

This smiling lady was my first professional mentor, Lisa.

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She was the curator at the historical society that I volunteered at while I was in college.  I started in the photo archive after a friend had a conversation with the photo archivist at the newsstand he owned for a spell.  I needed something to put on my cv, she needed help keeping things tidy, why not?  My friend knew I liked old photos.  Even had a few instant ancestor photographs that I’d picked up secondhand.

After a few months of volunteering, the photo archivist left and I got shuffled over to the curatorial dept and Lisa.  I thought it was kinda sweet that they didn’t want to lose me.

Lisa was my introductory guide to the world of working with a museum collection.

I fell in love.

Working with the stuff, doing research, developing exhibitions, you name it, all absolutely fascinating.   The sense of exploration, creativity, and trial by fire that comes along with being a curator at a small historical society was absolutely thrilling.

I loved it so much that I’m still doing it more than twenty years later.

All because she gave me a start and a decent foundation in the field.

She developed breast cancer right around the time I was graduating from college.

She fought it for twenty years.

She died last October.

Her memorial service is this Saturday.

Has it been long enough that we can celebrate her life without the tears of mourning putting a damper on the day?

We shall see.

This is Katie.

The feral blond is my youngest.
The feral blond is my youngest.

The loss of this particular ball of sunshine was completely unexpected and sent me reeling.  But statistically speaking, I’ve gotten to an age where people I’ve watched grow up will sometimes die.  It’s a horrible age to reach but what’s the alternative?

I’m so thankful my kids don’t drive.

I can only imagine her family’s pain.

This is Marcus.

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He was a friend of a friend.  We bumped into each other at bars, parties and shows around town.  He was always good for a light and a bit of conversation.  Never wanted anything more from me than to pass the time companionably.  Nothing else expected or demanded.

I had my first Irish Car Bomb with him.  But that’s a tale for another post.

When my other mother died, Marcus was the one who held my hand and got me through the funeral mass.  He didn’t shy away from my grief.  I will be forever grateful to him for that.

A while back I stopped going out and he moved away to his own personal Hell.  We still knew each other was out there the magic of social media.  He was one of those people that I just liked to know was still around even if we never sat down to have a drink together.

His time in Hell has ended.

His pain is over.

Hopefully he moves straight through purgatory, having already paid his dues.

It’s national Chocolate Chip Day.

I do love chocolate, whatever its form.

I’m going to go bake cookies with my kids.

What else can you do?

 

 

Mayday

It was cold and raw and raining an entire zoo outside last night .

Went to sleep at a reasonable hour , happy to finally be huddled under the covers.  Couldn’t sleep but at least I was warm.

Woke up to a warmer day and the most amazing fog.

Snapped this one off as I crossed the street while trying not to get hit.  Love how it self framed.
Snapped this one off as I crossed the street while trying not to get hit. Love how it self framed.

Thankfully the roof held but I know of one that didn’t and I’m worried about the one at work.  Squirrels got in a couple of weeks ago.  There’s a temporary patch but I’m not sure how tight it is.  Keep your fingers crossed.

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Yesterday I baked and made a roast for dinner just so I could have the oven on for a couple of hours to take the bitter chill off the house.  I got it up a whole ‘nother four degrees. Such luxury.

I shut the heat off a couple of weeks ago and refuse to turn it back on.  The bill is already high enough.

They all are.

Just keep swimming, swimming, swimming.

Life will find a way but what kind of life will it be?
Life will find a way but what kind of life will it be?

I’m old enough now to recognize that the weather has gotten rather wonky.  I’ve gardened all my life and the zone has changed three times even though I’m still working the same patch of ground.  Can that sort of rapid shift really be normal?

What are the rats supposed to do when the ship starts to sink?

or you might find yourself run over
or you might find yourself run over

Can they, we, really patch the whole and get things running smoothly again?

Can we reach that sort of consensus? Agree on the work that needs to be done and then actually do it?

In the spring even the weeds are pretty.
In the spring even the weeds are pretty.

Can we all play nice in the sandbox?

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Are we just fiddling while Rome burns?

Or are we the bedbugs in the cracks of the mattresses on the seaman’s bunks, figuring we’ll come through no matter what?

Global weirding is upon us.

Damn the city is pretty in the fog.

Ah the contrasts of life in the city.
Ah the contrasts.

A bit of mood music to accompany this drizzly day?

Great stuff for driving in the rain.

Oh happy day

Didn’t make it to my writer’s group this week.  I feel horrible about that.  I love meeting with my ladies for lunch.  It’s something I look forward to.  It’s been a rough few weeks though.  Going back to my regular work schedule and the driving it entails (driving is tough on me), flower show, wake, funeral, holiday (yes, Parade Day is a holiday in this household), spring seed starting, the start of a cold, giving a talk of a historical nature, and then there’s the typical dinners, laundry, cleaning and oh yeah I’m supposed to be writing a book here.

I’m beat.

Today’s main complaint is a twinging back and the aforementioned head cold.  Hot tea is helping and the heating pad is doing its part.  The beginning of chicken soup is bubbling away in the crockpot.  It would be nice to have some wontons or tortellini for it but we’ll make do with something else.

I didn’t quite finish my morning oatmeal.  Wavering between crawling back into bed and trying to salvage something of the day.  I’m really pulling for the latter so I grabbed a snack and a glass of water and settled down at the desk.  And suddenly I can see him, stripped out and flayed open, my fifth and final main character in my first novel.  Yeah, I still have to peel back the layers a bit and poke around but I can see him clearly for the first time since I’ve been working on this monster.

He’s been hiding in the back of my brain for months, years.  I have the rest of the novel outlined and cross referenced.  There are numerous notes and snippets of prose for all of his siblings and grandmother.  But there are no notes for him.  He was a cipher.

I should by stock in 3M  Quite addicted to their products.
I should by stock in 3M Quite addicted to their products.

Now that I can see him I can finally get rolling again (I wrote 60K words last years, I consider that a pretty good roll) and finish this damn book.  I want to finish it.  I need to finish it.  I’ve never finished a major work before.

I always choke.

When I was in high school I attended a writing program for the second half of the school day.  The students gave a reading in the spring and I read the third chapter of a fantasy tome I was buried in creating.  After the reading an editor from a major publishing house (her husband was the photography teacher at the arts school) gave me her card and told me to send her the manuscript when it was done.

I never wrote another word in that universe.

The subjects of my undergraduate and master’s thesis (thesi? thesises?) got the same treatment.  Yes, between the two of them (an architect and a librarian respectively) I did numerous papers, talks, and the aforementioned Major Papers, but now all those notes, reference books and resources are just languishing in the file drawer or gathering dust on the shelf.  I never managed to bring them to the wider world.

If you bring my tendency to choke out of the study and into my wider universe you’ll find it there too.  Yes, the house got rehabbed nine years ago but there’s still no trim, some walls are still covered in primer and paint samples and the ones that I actually managed to paint need a fresh coat it’s been on so long.

I will finish this book even if it finishes me.

I’m over the halfway point in the story arc.  I know where I’m going with all of this mess.  I just needed to see that one final character and the bastard was hiding like the mouse that haunts my kitchen.

I have the final piece of the puzzle now.

Gotcha.  You shall not escape.

I guess this day isn’t a complete waste of 1440 minutes of my life.

I still reserve the right to a lengthy nap.

I am ill after all.

Eat the damn sandwich

Had an unexpected treat for lunch today.

I was supposed to be at work but a flange on my exhaust system blew last night.  No power, loud as hell and filling the car with exhaust fumes.  Oh joy.  Brought it to Dad #3’s shop this morning.  Seems it just popped apart.  There’s no rot or anything, that’s good.  It’s just broken.  His cost on a new one is $600.  Ouch.  He’s going to cut it out and see if he can put it back together.  Phew.  Fingers crossed.  At least it didn’t break during the 150 some odd miles we clocked on the car this past weekend.

The salesman who came into the shop to get the new payroll contract signed lives right around the corner from me and was nice enough to give me a lift home.  We had a lovely conversation on the way.  It’s always nice to meet new neighbors, especially in unexpected ways.

Came home to an empty house.  Everyone’s at school.  They’ve been off for a week and a half due to three snow days followed by February vacation.  They haven’t have a full week of school since before Christmas.  It’s been rather claustrophobic here, not in a bad way.  I love them all.  I just need to be able to miss them a bit occasionally.

Quiet house.

Deep breath.

Got some writing done now lunchtime.

Bit of roast beef left over from going to the flower show this past weekend. We packed lunch to keep expenses down.  We go every year.  I did the same as a kid and it’s one of the few traditions that I’ve carried on.  It’s one of the good ones.

It's good to see live plants when there's still two feet of snow on the ground.
It’s good to see live plants when there’s still two feet of snow on the ground.

The displays are getting more meager by the year and the lifestyle vendors are taking over the floor.  But it’s the flower show.  We’re going no matter what.  Still can’t buy any seed-starting formula.  Need to get going on those shallots.  It’s nice to smell loam at the end of winter.  Too bad both Sy and I had stuffed heads and couldn’t smell a damn thing.

So many random thoughts bouncing around inside my head.

Found out that a young lady who Cassie and Sofie grew up with died in a car accident this weekend.  She was only eighteen. Same age as Cassie. Inexperienced driver on black ice is a tragic combo.

K, Sofie and Cassie at the latter's 12th birthday party.
K, Sofie and Cassie at the latter’s 12th birthday party.

We just happened to be on our way to pick up Cassie from college for the day to go to the show when I found out.  Her poor family.  Her grandmother helped me raise Cassie and Sofie by watching them when they were too young for school.  She’s a grandma to them.  No we don’t see the family as much as we’d like, all our lives are so busy.  But we’re there for each other for the big ones.  Graduations, birthdays, weddings, and unfortunately death.

I’m having a very difficult time dealing with this one.

There’s so damn many deaths.

Her poor family.

She was only eighteen.  Right at the beginning of who she was going to be.

When we lost my nephew at four and a half months almost five years ago, we grieved the loss of the person he was going to become.  What a ray of sunshine he was going to be.  He already was.

This time we actually got to know the person we lost, but only just a bit.  The best was yet to come.

I changed this kid’s diapers.

She’s not supposed to go before me.

Yeah, this one is throwing me.

It’s times like these that I wish I believed in something.  Being able to hand this off would be welcome.  It’s rather terrifying to go it alone.

When we picked up the roast beef we also got a few of these beauties.

How can you beat this price for cheese butter?
How can you beat this price for cheese butter?

Ferraro’s is an old school, family run neighborhood market.  The meat selection is great and the specials can be amazing.  They get the oddest stuff.  Sure the codes are pretty short by the time they get them in bulk, but that just means that you can binge a bit.

So I toasted a hard roll, heated up the last of the roast beef (my feet are too frozen for a cold sandwich) and sliced a generous amount of the cheese butter on top.  Toasted it in the broiler and warmed up a mug of chocolate while I was at it.

Perfect winter sandwich.
Perfect winter sandwich.

I love the winter.

Just not what it does to the roads, especially now.

The cold doesn’t really bother me and I don’t mind being stuck in the house for days without end.  But the people I’m surrounded with (with the exception of Mal, he’s part polar bear) are starting to get a bit cranky.  They need the thaw to come.

I guess they're tired of this view.
I guess they’re tired of this view.

I don’t look forward to the extra responsibilities that warmer weather brings.  I’ve got enough on my to do list.  But for now I’ll enjoy the weather and keep my fingers crossed for one last snowstorm.  One where everyone stays home safe and sound.

Came up with a project while I was sitting here eating lunch.  An addition to the garden that’s outside my study window.  Now I’ll just have to see if it’s possible to bring it from idea to execution.  It’s a fairy garden, but not.  Those were big at the flower show this year.  Lots of little plants and tiny furnishings.  Miniature garden and art project is more like what I’m thinking of.  The Garden of Lost Loves.  There’s just so damn many of them.  But in it’s own way, that’s a good thing, right?  The alternative is a bit too solitary even for me.

I won’t imagine Cassie or Mal being gone like K is.  All three of them are, were, the same age, just months apart.

To spend all those years raising up a child and then lose them just at that moment when all the hard work is starting to show.  Not that parenting is all work and no joy.  Just that we’ll never get to see who she was really going to be.  It was all still ahead for her.

There were so many things that she still had to experience.

Blink.

So what can we do?

Say I love you.

Smile at people more often.

And eat the damn sandwich.

Just make sure it’s a good one.

 

Salty and Sweet

The other night Sy and I were up late watching something or another and we decided it was snack time.  We’ve both become obsessed with the Zebra flavored crack from Popcornopolis but there was not a bag to be found in the house. We discovered this wondrous stuff at Old Navy (not a place I think of for buying food) in the fall and then bought it again at Staples recently for about a dollar less.  Neither of them are open at midnight and besides, we already had pj’s on. What to do? Head for the pantry!

We found a bag of caramel corn from Trader Joe’s, a big block of Hershey’s and some dark chocolate chips leftover from I don’t know when.

So what it probably expired at least a year ago.  It's chocolate.
So what it probably expired at least a year ago. It’s chocolate.

Sy melted the chocolates in separate bowls in the microwave while I spread the caramel corn on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper (wax paper would probably work too).  We thought we might have to thin the chocolate a bit (and you might, depending on what brand/kind of chocolate you’re using, the phases of the moon and other mysterious chocolate related issues) so I pulled out the heavy cream as well.

Please excuse the phone pictures.  The good camera was all the way in the study, all 30 feet away.
Please excuse the phone pictures. The good camera was all the way in the study, all 30 feet away.

The chocolate was liquid enough to drizzle just fine straight out of the microwave.  I did the milk chocolate one direction.

IMG_4270And the dark the other just to be fancy.

Doesn't it make your teeth hurt just to look at its sugary goodness.
Doesn’t it make your teeth hurt just to look at its sugary goodness.

Sy ended up eating his in a bowl after mixing it a bit.  He originally wanted to toss the entire batch but I was looking to replicate the Popcornopolis experience as much as possible.  I ended up eating mine straight off the cookie sheet with a spoon because I couldn’t wait for it to cool off much beyond the napalm  stage.  By the time I was done snacking the chocolate was starting to harden.

Eating by the glow of the Christmas tree.
Noshing by the glow of the Christmas tree.

There was a bit left at the end of the evening so I set the cookie sheet aside and let it harden completely.  It took a little under two hours but it’s pretty chilly here and the relative humidity is low.  Warmer and wetter and it’ll take longer.  I put it in an air tight container and tried it the next day.  I thought it was better then the store bought.  No more sneaking it into the cart and hoping the kids don’t see it!  The semi-homemade wasn’t as sweet as the original and I liked the flavor of the real chocolate as opposed to confectioners chocolate.

I wouldn’t mind adding in a layer of white chocolate next time though.

Maybe I should try making it completely from scratch?  Start with brown sugar, butter, and popcorn kernels.

Making it up ahead of time so it can cool and harden properly isn’t a bad idea either.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

Holiday Madness With a Sprinkle of Gratitude

The family went out into the fields of Jones Family Farms just two weeks before Christmas. The holiday was coming up fast and furious and we NEEDED TO GET A TREE IMMEDIATELY!!!  It was snowing when we woke up and was supposed to keep it up throughout the day so we rolled out of bed and wrangled everyone into warm clothes and into the car and drove out to Shelton.

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It’s beautiful there.  Over 300 acres of trees, grapes, blueberries, strawberries, and pumpkins during the growing season.  I’ve been honored to spend some time with the patriarch of the family during my day job and I have no problem forking over $65 for the pleasure of tromping around their fields in the snow and ice to slaughter a tree.  We live in the middle of a city on .07 of an acre so  it’s quite a change to see just trees all the way to the rolling horizon.

DSC_0602Due to the snow there weren’t nearly as many people out in the fields as one would have expected so close to the holiday.  It was a welcome change from the chaos that it’s been some years.  I was the one to find The Tree.  It’s a bit lopsided and kinda looks like the top of one tree was grafted onto the bottom of another, but it was still the one.  Sy chopped it down, it was his turn.  Mal, being the stubborn teenager that he is, carried it out of the field all by himself, hoisting it onto his shoulder.  We stuffed it in the trunk and drove slowly home in the snow.  It was a beautiful trip if a bit nerve-wracking due to the deteriorating road conditions.

So after all that nonsense to secure the tree we still didn’t get it decorated until three days before Christmas.  It was driving me insane.  Here was this huge tree in the middle of our tiny living room with no lights and only a couple of random ornaments on it that the kids stuck there for lack of a better place to put them.  Cassie, home for her first holiday since she started college, was barricaded in her room with a new computer conquering the world of Civilization.  Sofie was underfoot as always, nagging to either decorate the tree or play Minecraft with Mal.  Sy and I were bouncing off each other and the walls trying to get everything from laundry to deep cleaning and present wrapping done with the clock always ticking in the background.  So just three days to go and we all pulled everything together.  In a few hours the house went from messy and plain to a kitschy wonderland with a decorated tree, snowflakes hanging from the ceiling and a Christmas pig in the window.  It’s just not the holidays without the pig.

DSC_0785We’re a household of atheists but we all love Christmas.  It’s a time to come together as a family, step out of our heads and think hard and long about just what treasure would bring a smile to each others faces.  It’s not about the gifts but we live frugally and this is the one time of year we tend to be a bit extravagant, with time as well as money.  We really shouldn’t need an excuse to spend more time together but life gets in the way and time has a nasty habit of passing by so quickly.  But for this moment, for this holiday, we all put on our nice clothes, crank the holiday heat to 68° and welcome the extended family to our home.  We eat good food, nosh on cookies and revel in gifts we would never buy for ourselves.  No we’re not celebrating the official Reason for the Season but we are celebrating being alive and being together.  I couldn’t ask for anything more.
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