Left Behind

Gold_Chaika_Pocket_Watch_made_in_the_USSRYou have left behind a small bedroom, engulfed by the bulky hospital bed with its folding mattress and steely grey rails.

You have left behind an old red recliner, and I sit in it and remember that the wooden handle no longer works and the deep creak in its rock sounds like the background music to midnight conversations, whispered in the hushed stillness of a sleeping home.

You have left behind a closet full of blue dresses and a red cape, and I never would have known that your favorite color was pink, until you asked for a dress to be buried in and smiled when the rose colored sheath was unfurled from its bag, petals opening in front of a sunset.

You have left a trunk full of love letters and silk scarves and stories I was never old enough to ask you for, so that now I sit and wonder about the woman in the picture, legs propped up on the steps, her skirt sliding up to show off her slender calves.

I have days of work ahead of me, maneuvering the remnants of life from present to memory, and you have left your scent in the sheets, your powder on the bathroom sink, your gold pocket watch on the dresser, and me.

You have left behind me.


This has been a six sentence story. You can find out more about them and this week’s prompt, here.

To Watch Him Love

I went through a year of horrendous online dating before I met the man who became my husband. I wasn’t exactly a poster girl for the most eligible bachelorette, but none of my hold-ups were much excuse for the sort of men I met. I was 24 years old and a full time student. I worked part time, lived with my parents, was divorced, and had two children under the age of five. I’m not an unattractive woman, but men weren’t exactly beating down my door to date me. More so, I knew that I needed a companion, not just a boyfriend.

I couldn’t seem to even meet a normal, down to earth man. Things became enough of a joke around the house that my mother would sit up at night and wait for me to get home, collapse on her bed and giggle while sharing all the terrible details of my odd nights out.

There was the man who was allergic to everything. I gave him an innocent kiss after our date, forgetting that I had eaten a piece of chicken, and almost killed him.

Then there was the guy who asked me to hold his belt while in the mall so I wouldn’t get lost.

The man who took the menu out of my hand and ordered food for me like I was three.

The guy who took me to a movie and proceeded to move down to the front row where there was only one open seat to “see better,” leaving me alone.

The man who figured out where I worked and spent an hour walking around the store trying out different women’s lotions before finally admitting he was one of the men I had denied a date request from on an online site.

The guy who took me shopping and then proceeded to tell me how I should dress.

The gentleman who stripped naked in his parent’s living room while I used their restroom.

The dude who attempted to suffocate me on my parent’s couch.

By the time I got around to talking to Mak, I was pretty wary of dates. A whole year of these kinds of dates will do that to a woman. I had a whole safety set-up – complete with emergency friend phone calls lined up and pepper spray.

Mak invited me over for dinner. I had such a good time that I ended up coming home and looking him up on Google and the case search program to see if he had some shady criminal past hiding. There had to be something wrong, considering my past history with online dating. He had a speeding ticket. That was it. Needless to say, I was impressed.

The next morning we had a quick conversation.

“I’m not really interested in playing around,” he said. “I like you. Let’s make this serious.”

If any other man I’d gone on a date with had said that to me I’d have gone running for the hills.

“Okay,” I said.

I don’t know why. I’d hate to chalk it up to some sort of fate thing, but maybe part of me knew he wasn’t a psycho killer. Maybe there was some deeper connection. Maybe I was just really brave.

Within a few weeks he had met my children and included them in our outings.

541497_397525856932511_2036391058_nA few months later was Easter and I was scrawling ‘I love you’ onto an egg and hiding it in the fridge.

“Go get the orange egg out of the fridge,” I told him.

He got up and I heard the fridge door open. After a moment it closed again and he came back to the couch.

Silence.

“Well…” I started.

“Well what?” He asked.

“What did you think?” I asked. It was the first time I’d attempted to tell the man I loved him and he was being completely stubborn about the whole thing.

“It’s cute,” he said.

“And…” I lead him.

“I love you, too,” he said. “You know that.”

By the end of the year he had moved in. We were blessed in our relationship. There hadn’t been many of the big challenging moments. His father passed a few weeks before our wedding, but it was expected, and while we mourned it hadn’t surprised us. Their relationship had been so strained, for so long. It was the first time though that I ever saw him cry – a moment that I think is imprinted in my memory. There is something about seeing a strong man mourn, something heartbreaking and frightening and so real it hurts that one simply doesn’t forget it.

I remember standing by his father’s bed. He sat in a chair across the room from me. I went to him, but he didn’t reach for me. I stepped back – gave him space. I didn’t know how to handle his grief. He took a few moments to himself and I watched him. I watched the years, the pain, the neglect from that relationship wash away. For those few moments there was love.

There hadn’t been many of those bring-you-to-your-knees moments. We didn’t even really fight or argue. We were thankful to have found a companion in one another that shared a similar sense of humor. Laughter got us through any time things seemed to be getting dark.

He stepped into the role of father as if it were all he’d ever known. It was never a look-at-me exercise, but came naturally. There was a gaping hole in our little family25248_108453875839712_7044406_n and he saw it, stepped into it, and never looked back. It was in the quiet way he made that transition that still never fails to amaze me.

He has a silent strength in him. A code of ethics that can’t be argued or even discussed. They simply are.

Perhaps it’s because of his quiet nature that people find him intimidating. Combining that with the sleeves of tattoos and long dark hair, it’s quite understandable. However, anyone watching him drink tea from a tiny porcelain cup with my daughter would realize how wrong they are.

Four years after that first date and I was talking to my brother in California, planning his trip home to visit.

“When is he coming home?” Mak asked.

“The end of June,” I said.

“Good,” he said. “We’ll get married then.”

Proposal. Date set. End of discussion.

I had a month to get everything planned and ready.

I love you, too. You know that.

After our wedding we decided to have a baby. A few short months later and I was excitedly waving those little pink lines around in the air. We were so excited we told everyone.

We were at his mother’s for a belated Thanksgiving dinner when I started miscarrying. My husband had the kids in the car while I stood white knuckled on the phone with the emergency room and watched my father-in-law toss the kids’ toys into their book bags. Hours and many tests later the doctor gave us the news.

“There’s no heartbeat.”

I’d known when I saw her face. I’d been crying since she came into the room. I looked across the room at my husband. I expected him to get up, to come to me. The doctor left and he still sat there for a few moments. In that space between us I watched him break, hit his emotional knees, mourn, and grieve. I watched him as he cared for himself and then he came to me. He put himself behind and cared for me.

For the following days he held me while I cried and found whatever ways he could to make me smile. We found laughter in the darkest moments. We suffered. We healed.

We spent months talking back and forth about whether or not to try again. The entire process had frightened him so badly. I learned to appreciate what pregnancy can do to a man. It’s a terrifying situation, especially for one who tends to like to be in control of things. There is no control with pregnancy.

He couldn’t see what was happening inside my body.

He couldn’t control what was happening.

He couldn’t stop me from being in pain, from hurting.

All he could do was be there and hope that I would heal.

“I’m not sure we should try again,” Mak said.

We were lying in bed, the lights off and waiting for one or both of us to become too tired to keep talking.

481829_525481010803661_775093643_n“We’ve got a girl and a boy,” he started. “You know? Maybe that’s enough.”

“You don’t want one of your own?” I asked.

“They are my own,” he said.

A few nights later we were repeating this whole thing again. It was like a record skipping, playing backwards, flinging all over the place. I never knew where we’d end up.

“We could try again,” he said.

“We’re not doing anything to stop it from happening,” I answered.

“If it does, it does,” he’d agree.

Three months of this back and forth indecision plagued us.

Finally he said, “I don’t think we should try again.”

“I’m pregnant,” I said.

We collapsed against one another laughing. For weeks we were quiet. We were so careful not to tell people too early. We went to each appointment with our heart in our throats. Every test was a negative, dangerous thing. Every symptom I had was cause to worry. We struggled to find joy.

Mak kept warning me not to get my hopes up.

I kept countering that he needed to not think so negatively.

We flew past each other, both of us on separate ends of our own emotional roller-coasters.

“Are you happy about the baby?” I finally asked him.

“Of course,” he said. “You know that.”

I love you, too. You know that.

I am five months pregnant today. A few weeks ago we went to the doctor and we got to hear the heartbeat. The tiny whomp whomp whomp sound filled the room. I was942205_603602919658136_1585711832_n laid back on the bed watching my husband. He didn’t stand up and come to me. For a few moments, he sat there and smiled. I watched him in this moment of joy and excitement and relief. I watched him take that moment for himself and then he came to me.

He kisses me every morning before he leaves for work. He tells me he loves me before we fall asleep. He doesn’t have to say that he loves me. I know he does. All I need are those few moments, where there is space between us and I have the chance to really see my husband. It is in those moments that I get to watch him love.

Life Hacks for My Daughter

I was sitting here thinking today about all the things I wanted to make sure I tell my daughter at some point. I’m not talking the ooie-gooey things like, “I love you” or “You’re beautiful”. I’m talking the real, down and dirty tricks that I’ve picked up over the years.

***WARNING***

This post may be full of generalizations, profanity, and of course sex. We’ll rate it “R” for Ridiculously Awesome.

1. Ignore every commercial you see for those fancy women’s razors. Skip that department completely and go straight for the men’s. Regardless of what they say, men’s razors always work better.

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Also, it is perfectly acceptable to go without shaving your legs, as long as you are wearing pants and/or the hair is short enough to not poke through your pantyhose.

2. Speaking of pantyhose…it will never be comfortable. Ever. You can save yourself a bit of pain and buy one size up from what the little box-from-hell says you need. Doing this will not, however, pull in nice and tight all the areas you may be wanting nice and tight. For that, you’re going to need Spanx.

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No need to be afraid. Spanx are basically like packing your own sausage.

3. Oh yes, home-made sausage and fresh pasta and God only know what else his mother makes that you never quite manage to get right. Give up. Give up now. He will always compare your cooking to his mother’s, and she will win in almost every category. There is something inside a man’s head that makes him nostalgic for the meals he had growing up (even if his mother could barely manage Kraft in the blue box). There are ways to combat the feelings of anger this will cause you.

– Do not ask for your mother-in-law’s recipes, or to teach you how to make a certain dish. In fact, compliment her always on her food (Wine helps). This will do two things: irritate her and confuse the balance that she expects to be in place.

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– Take comfort in knowing that if you have a son, somewhere out there is a woman who will feel exactly like you when your son says, “It’s not like my mother’s makes”.

– Offer to house-sit for your in-laws and have sex with your husband in their kitchen. Then when you are over for dinner, just think back on that experience and smile. (Pass the wine.)

4. Instead of worrying about his mother’s cooking, focus on learning one meal really well. I’m talking entree, at least two sides, salad, soup, bread, and desert. Master that meal. Work at it until it is perfect. This will be your go-to meal. Your company is coming over meal. Your his mother is visiting meal. Your time to give the husband the credit card statement meal.

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5. Learn to walk in heels. Go out and buy six inch stiletto platform hooker shoes. Put them on and walk on them until you have nailed those monsters. This way you will be prepared for whenever the husband (or anyone else) gives you a pair of heels. If you can master those, you can handle any, and are therefore less likely to spend weeks walking around in your new gift like a drunken flamingo.

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6. Your children will hit an age where they practically become a parrot. And like any wild animal, you either muzzle them or toss food bits at them until they shut up.

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7. Your body is your own, guard it. Until you have children, then anything you might be delirious enough to believe is still yours, isn’t.

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8. At some point, someone in your life is going to offer you drugs. There are certain steps I want you to take before you accept them.

– Look at the person giving them to you…very carefully. Pay attention to detail here.

– Imagine yourself having sex with them in the next hour.

– Imagine your having sex with them without protection.

– Imagine getting pregnant with them.

– Imagine them 50, balding, and changing the diaper of your sixth child on the ripped couch in your trailer, while the rest of your kids are in the backyard shooting BB guns and attempting to tie each other up with duct tape. Oh, and you’re in a floral moo-moo.

– Turn around and walk away very quickly.

* The same applies to alcohol in excess. Except when you grow up. Then flip the image and imagine all your housework. Drink wine until the image disappears.

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9. Finally, before you ever consider some life-long venture with a man, consider these things:

– Sex sucks the first time.

– Sex sometimes sucks the first couple of times. There’s a reason one-night stands normally stay that way. It takes a bit of time to actually learn one another well enough to have amazing sex.

– That didn’t apply to your father and I…and yes, we were a one-night stand turned marriage.

– Your father and I are NOT the role model in this situation.

– All the sex stuff aside, if they aren’t the kind of man you’d want to introduce to your father…best to just let that one go.

– If they don’t treat you the way you see your father treat me, run.

– If they put their hands on you, experience tells me crock-pots can be dangerous as hell. Make your way to a kitchen and it’ll be like running into the Matrix armory.

– If they cheat on you, they will do it again. If you’re the girl they cheated on someone with, they’ll cheat on you, too.

– If their pants sag, I WILL make them a soprano for life. You’ve been warned.

Most importantly…

– If you can’t laugh with them, lose them.

– If you can’t laugh at them, trip them 😀

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And finally, let me just say…

You are not allowed to look at your body and say, “I don’t like -insert body part here-“.

I made that.

With my body.

made that.

You don’t get to not like it.

Love you.

White Shoulders

tradewithtonyThis morning my children are dressed in their Christmas best.

They are ready for Sunday School and in all the hectic chaos of such mornings, my son asked for cologne.

So, I ran into the room, apologized to the sleeping bear that is the husband and grabbed his cologne, patting it on my fingers and dabbing the smelly stuff on my son’s pale little neck.

My daughter wanted smelly stuff, too.

My mother went and got perfume and it hit me, the second she lifted the cap on the bottle.

Even over the smell of the Polo on my fingers, I could smell the White Shoulders, tears filled my eyes, and for a moment I skipped back.

*This is a piece from my first book, Wake Up a Woman.

White Shoulders

White Shoulders

Have you ever noticed that there are places in this world that at certain times, and this is only every once in a while, time skips? It’s like life is a record player, and in our little record are a few cracks. Oh they are nothing major, and the music still comes through, but at times, just certain times, the needle catches. It pauses there, and the music stops. Then, within seconds, it jumps over the crack and starts anew. Who knows how long those seconds are? I mean, what does time mean to God? An eternity for us is but a blink of the eye to Him.

Of course by this point my grandmother had stopped my explanation of cracks and records skipping. She had one of the sighs, the kind that let me know she was ready to come out of her silence. We were sitting there on that park bench, the kind with the curved metal back, that looks uncomfortable, but you end up melded right into it like you belong with the scrolls and dips and dives. Leaves floated around us in the colors of flaming ash, all reds, oranges and yellows. My Grandmother’s cape was red. Not the red of the leaves, or a sunset over tired skies. No, her cape was the color of a fire engine. As if she should be putting out all those little flames that fell around us, and she could have too. She’d been putting out fires all of my life.

“Now stop this nonsense, and tell me what’s really going on.”

Her voice was one of soft strength, and as she spoke, one small, wrinkled, beautiful hand slipped out from under that cape and grasped mine. I couldn’t just settle for her hand though, and instead I curled myself into her, like I’d done since I was a child. My grandmother was no twig of a woman. She was the kind of woman you hugged and instead of being afraid you might break her, you knew she was the one holding you together. She was comfortable, and as I hugged her the scent of White Shoulders chased away everything else.

It was easier to talk now, so I told her of school and how well it was going. I talked about my professors and how much support they have given me in my writing. I spoke of work and the fun I have with the girls there in our efforts to make everyone fall as much in love with their writer’s voice, as we are. I told her of my children, and how we made gingerbread cookies, even though it wasn’t nearly Christmas yet, simply because the kids wanted to cut out cookie shapes. She laughed at that, and reminded me of her old recipe for cookies, one my mother and I don’t make nearly enough.

“Remember you have to roll them flat. Real flat. You want them really thin. Your mother and you never quite get them thin enough.”

And she was right, we didn’t. My mother and I didn’t come ingrained with that same ever-flowing font of patience that my grandmother had, and is. We’d get that cookie dough as flat as we felt like, even though we could hear her in our mind saying that they weren’t ready yet, and roll them flatter. I started to laugh then, and she laughed along with me, the sound filling the empty silence around us. It rose and fell over us, slowly twinkling out, stuck on the breeze and drifting away.

I sat there on that bench and turned to the empty place beside me. My fingers brushed the dead, brown leaves from the seat. Music played again, sweeping through the trees and shaking everything up at the roots, and the world spun around. I laughed again, loud enough to drown out the music. It was laughter laced with tears, and they fell and darkened the wood where my grandmother had sat.

“I miss you Mommom, so much.”

Perhaps I’ll stay here for a bit. Perhaps I’ll make this my home for a time. What is time anyway? It may only be another breath, another heartbeat, and the needle will catch again, and silence will fill a world scented by White Shoulders.

His Gift

The husband and I have been butting heads all Christmas season it seems. He wants to do more and more and more than I think is even necessary. So when my mother and I discussed whether we were going to do stockings for the adults this year (something the husband and I normally take care of), we figured we’d save some money and not bother with them. It isn’t as if they are full of things we all desperately need, or even that stockings are that important for the adults. It’s just something we normally do, and didn’t think we needed to continue to do.

I told the husband we were going to skip stockings for the adults this year.

And he flipped. Now, when I say “flipped” for the husband’s reactions, it means he gave me Eyebrow of Doom, growled a bit, and informed me that the foot was down and the stockings were happening.

Fine. The stockings are happening.

And then I spoke to a friend, who informed me in the nicest way possible that I was basically being an inconsiderate biatch.

You took a man with none of this. No real family life. No traditions. None of it, and you gave him all of that. You don’t get to take it back.

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It made me stop and think. All these little things we do during the holidays that have become just a thing to me, mean something to him. They mean something, because we took him in. We made him part of our family. We drug him through our little traditions, and now he is defending them. He’s defending them because he’s got the caveman personality. This is his family, his Christmas. He’s the defender on the wall of our little one-story castle.

And here I’ve been, poking holes at it with my dull little javelin.

We didn’t make him part of this.

No. The gift my husband gave me is that he made all this something that was finally whole.

12 Days of WTF

On the first day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

An Uncle with progressing dementia

He has a good sense of humor. We laugh about it.
He has a good sense of humor. We laugh about it.

On the second day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

This. Is. Grandma. I mean, not the picture, but the description. She would totally do this.
This. Is. Grandma. I mean, not the picture, but the description. She would totally do this, but with a few eff bombs dropped in for good measure.

And an Uncle who doesn’t remember today is Monday, not Sunday…no church.

On the third day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Three more things I forgot to wrap last night

imagesTwo loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who just lost his pants again.

On the fourth day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Two kids to get ready for school plus two packs of brownies to bake at 6:30 in the morning

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Three presents staring at me like, ‘Whatcha waiting for?’

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who poured three different cups of coffee so far.

On the fifth day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Five rooms that need to be cleaned yesterday

downloadTwo kids plus two packs of brownies that are in the oven but are STILL not done

Three presents that may get rolled in tissue paper

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who just said, “Who’s that?” when my son ran by.

One the sixth day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

A six foot tall pile of paperwork I haven’t filed all year

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Five rooms to be cleaned and I should start with the fridge and whatever that stain is

Two kids plus two packs of brownies that are finally done but I have no plate to send them in on

Three presents that might just get tossed in the box, ’cause Santa doesn’t wrap, does he?

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who claims to know the men in the Tandy catalog.

On the seventh day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Seven more minutes until its time to take the kids to the bus stop

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A six foot tall pile of paperwork that would make good kindling

Five rooms I might clean tomorrow

Two kids plus two packs of brownies that are going in this pan and I’ll just hope someone returns it

Three presents I got to take the tags off of

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who is wasting all my precious coffee…

On the eighth day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Eight hours to get this grimy pair of bibs washed for the husband

download (3)Seven more…no five more minutes until the children get on the bus and out of my hair

A six foot tall pile of paperwork that makes me think we should save more trees and not send this crap home

Five rooms that aren’t getting done this week. Maybe next week

Two kids plus two packs of brownies that I’ve got to figure out how to cut nicely into 26 pieces

Three presents and one’s for a dog so I so don’t have to wrap that

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who just made a record of times to go in and out of a house in under five minutes.

On the ninth day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Nine more hours to go until the husband wakes up and has to run off to work eight days straight

'Cept there's no tie involved in his work...more like hard hats and cranes and stuff.
‘Cept there’s no tie involved in his work…more like hard hats and cranes and stuff.

Eight hours to try to remove…What is that?…off his bibs

Seven minutes…no now it’s ten minutes of freezing outside while the bus doesn’t come

A six foot tall pile of paperwork that I’m thinking of turning into origami

Five rooms that if I just get the living room and bathroom done, no one will notice the others

Two kids plus two pans of brownies that I’m going to have to drive to the school…and I should get out of my sweatpants for this

Three presents I’ve got to figure out what I’m doing with, ’cause it’s almost time to box and ship them

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who is hiding things in his truck again.

On the tenth day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Ten times of hearing the Kid’s Bop Shuffle

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Nine hours until grumpy gets up and I have no idea what I’m feeding him tonight

Eight hours to…maybe I’ll just spot clean them. That’s a big spot…

Seven plus ten minutes to get to the school in my car that isn’t warmed up

A six foot tall pile of paperwork that I want to try swimming in like money, just to pretend

Five rooms that seven people trample through all day, so give me a break

Two kids plus two pans of brownies that I took to the school while the principals and receptionists eyeballed the box like, ‘I’m in 2nd grade today’

Three presents…I got to get the blanket washed, too. And wrap the monkey, so let’s make it five.

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who I think just cussed out the guy in the TV…again.

On the eleventh day of Christmas the cosmos gave to me

Eleven recipes on Pintrest I swore I’d try this year

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Ten times of hearing, “To the left, to the left, to the right, to the right, now kick, now kick, now kick, now kick…”

Nine hours until I lose him for a week and by the end of it he’s grown a beard and I am looking at him like, Who are you?

Eight hours to dump those bibs in the tub and spray with Febreeze until the stains melt

Seven people who stop me on my way out of the school and I got rid of the kids…I want to go home

A six foot tall pile of paperwork that…let’s face it, will still be there tomorrow

Five rooms and only one is decorated for Christmas, we can use the front door and let people squeeze by the tree

Two kids plus two pans of brownies that I took to the school…and forgot to take napkins

Three piles of things to ship to my brother and I wonder if he’ll get it in time

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who used my Garnier hair repair oil yesterday…he’s bald.

On the twelfth day of Christmas the cosmos laughed at me

With twelve mental breakdowns left to go

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Eleven recipes on Pintrest…hell, everything’s on Pintrest and ain’t nobody got time for that

Ten times of saying, “CHANGE THE SONG”

Nine hours until the husband wakes and works on a week long zombie impression that could fool the Walking Dead cast

Eight hours to…I promised I’d get them clean -whines-

Seven minutes of talking to the vice principal, but leaving with a smile ’cause he said I was doing a good job with the kids

A six foot tall pile of paperwork that I’m just going to yank the kiddo’s artwork out of and trash the rest

Five rooms and maybe a day at a time…next year?

Two kids plus two pans of brownies that I took to the school and they’ll eat them with their fingers anyway

Three piles of things to ship to my brother and get all sappy because he won’t be home with us this year

Two loved ones in the hospital that I have to go visit

And an Uncle who thankfully can still make me laugh.

Merry Christmas.

The Eyebrow of Doom

It may be hard to tell here, but you can almost see the Eyebrow of Doom.

I'm gonna sing the doom song! Doom da doomie da doom doom doomie.
I’m gonna sing the doom song! Doom da doomie da doom doom doomie.

Now, I get the raised eyebrow a lot. Normally it means one of three things:

1. I’m getting ready to get scolded. -In my best the husband voice-

The foot is down.

2. I did something stupid, which means the eyebrow raises only long enough for him to let me know I did something stupid. It’s like the warning shot before the laughter and endless teasing follows.

or 3. I was wrong.

I don’t like that last one.

See, I can handle when “the foot is down”, because this white chick and her lack of rhythm can pull off some fancy dance moves to get around that one. Hence why the daughter is getting the One Direction bed set she asked for…regardless of the many “foot downs” that took place.

And I can handle doing something stupid, because…it’s me. I’ve gotten used to that about myself.

I don’t like that last one. I don’t like to be wrong. I like it even less, because when I finally have to admit it the eyebrow goes up, as does the corner of the mouth in that little I-knew-it smirk, and I get the silent, twinkling of the eye that is the equivalent of some Greek grandmother wagging a finger in my face and yelling “I told you so!” It’s the cone of shame, dammit.

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So, when we went to Walmart and I see a lady standing at the end of the row where the cash registers are looking all friendly and helpful like the Walmart people do standing there when they have no costumers and are ready to wait on someone…

Me:   Oooh, look there’s a lady open down there.

The husband:   I think that’s self-checkout.

Me:   No it’s not. C’mon.  -To the Walmart lady.- Are you open?

Sorry Ma'am. This is self-checkout.
Sorry Ma’am. This is self-checkout.

Oh! And that’s AFTER he found the shirts that I swore they were sold out of, because I couldn’t find them anywhere, except I neglected to look in the main aisle where there were stacks of the neon horrors.

It's more for safety than style...I mean, he works in the dark with big dangerous machines. Give him a break.
It’s more for safety than style…I mean, he works in the dark with big dangerous machines. Give him a break.

Or when we argued the whole way home about this video for Adrenalize by In This Moment. We both might have a bit of a girl crush on the lead singer…

But who wouldn't? She's total girl crush material.
But who wouldn’t? She’s total girl crush material.

And so I swore that in the beginning of the video she was walking out in her nurse outfit with a rabbit mask on. He said no, it was some almost faceless, nude colored mask.

We argued.

I pulled up the video on my phone, but the screen is so small (not small enough that I couldn’t tell it wasn’t a rabbit mask, but small enough that I shoved it back into my pocket and thought to delay until we got home)…

So he pulled it up on his bigger, fancier phone.

Yeah. But there are rabbit masks…later in that video. If you watch the whole thing.

Just saying.

And then tonight happened. You see, while we were at Walmart I grabbed The Dark Knight out of a $5 bin thinking the kids would love to see it. It’s Batman. Of course they’d love it.

The husband:   That’s a little old for them.

Me:   It’s Batman! It’s fine.

The husband:   It’s violent, and the Joker is a little intense in that one.

Me:   Oh, pfft. They’ll be fine.

The Dark Knight came on TV today, and so I let the son sit down and watch it with me.

The son:  The Joker is killing a lot of people.

Me:   Yeah…-Uneasy-

The son:   He said son of a… 

Which is when I slapped a hand over his mouth, shook my head no repeatedly, and turned on SpongeBob.

I forgot how scary that guy was.

And then my mother…my traitorous mother (I say that with love and affection) TOLD THE HUSBAND about the Batman catastrophe…

I had to do it.

I had to put on the cone of shame.

Me:   You were right.

The husband:   Oh yeah?

-Insert Eyebrow of Doom here-

Christmas Happened

Last Christmas, my pantry room floor was given extra texture and dyed bright green. That’s not where this story begins though. No, this story, like many other Christmas tales, begins with tradition. I come from a family with multiple traditions, though we never thought of them that way. These things seemed so natural, that come Christmas time it was second nature to go through with them.

The day after Thanksgiving the tree goes up. The men put on the lights, and then the women and children decorate it. The children get to open one gift on Christmas Eve, which is normally a new pair of pajamas to sleep in that night. Christmas morning starts early, and after the living room is transformed into an explosion of brightly colored paper, oodles of packaging, and zip ties that hurt about as much as Legos when stepped on, the family has a hectic Christmas breakfast. The rest of the day is spent, lounging in pajamas, learning how to work new toys and gadgets, and picking at the turkey that was cooked the day before.

Something happened in the last few years though, and these traditions were changed, altered, or all-together gotten rid of. The tree gets up, sometime after Thanksgiving, except my father cheated and bought one that was pre-lit. Now the men don’t have to do anything with the lights, and I consider them something close to traitors. My mother has implemented miniature trees for the children, filled with boxes numbered one through twenty-four, and every single evening, through December, the kids get to open one and get a small gift: a chocolate coin, a dollar, erasers, tiny Dollar Store toys, and the list goes on and on. And there’s no more lounging on Christmas day. Now my family gets to pack up and haul children all over the place to visit my husband’s family. It becomes some ruthless packing adventure, deciding what can stay and what has to come along, and “No, you can’t take that. You just got it. If you lose it, we won’t be able to get you another one.”

We kept Christmas breakfast though. I refuse to let that tradition go away. Just like I refuse to let the pre-Christmas baking disappear. I wish I could say that I did more baking through the year, but I don’t. However, come December my dining room table is in a constant state of floured and sugared disaster. Tins and jars line every counter full of more junk than one family should be able to eat. And sometime in those crazy weeks, my mother and I tackle AP cookies.

I doubt the name will sound familiar, as I’ve never actually seen a recipe for them online. I’m not even sure what the AP means, and I never got the chance to ask my grandmother before she passed. I do remember, when I was finally old enough to be considered a help and not a hindrance in the kitchen, my grandmother brought me out with my mother to work on the cookies. I hated that they took two days. These golden, crispy delights should have been done immediately. I attempted that one year, to make them and cook them right away. It was a miserable failure, and I had an entire batch of cookies that were edible, but not right. This recipe calls for patience, something I’ve never been good at.

My grandmother, though, was a fount of patience. She worked with my mother and I, mixing the heavy dough one night, and then spending the next evening rolling it out flat. When I say “flat”, I mean, flat. The act of making these things amounts to more exercise than I get in a year. Even now, ten years after my grandmother’s death, I can hear her in the background.

“They’ve got to be flatter than that. Keep rolling. Thin. Really thin.”

“Yes, Mommom.”

And my mother and I would keep rolling and rolling, until there’s a mass of thin dough covering our table. That’s when we call in the kids. They come running, their hands digging into the bin with the cookie cutters and suddenly random stars and trees and bells start popping into the dough. My children were six and four last year, so there was a lot of wasted dough, many cookies with multiple shapes cut in them, and hours of rerolling and re-cutting, until finally my mother and I started cutting out squares and tossing any idea of shapes out the window.

I don’t remember if my grandmother sugared the cookies. It seems like something I should remember, but I know we do, and I doubt my mother and I would have changed her cookies in any way. So last Christmas, when I asked the kids to go back in the pantry and get the sugar for the cookies, they come back with only a tin of red sugar.

“Where’s the green?” I asked.

My son ran back and grabbed the green and brought it to me. I had just bought the sugar, and I remember staring at the half empty container, wondering where on earth it had gone.

“I spilled it,” my son said. “But I cleaned it up.”

He stripped off his socks, right there at the table, and showed me feet that were dyed green. I kept thinking, It’s okay. He cleaned it up. Just missed his feet. It’s fine. And then I got to my pantry. There on the floor was a wet towel, and I lifted it to see a sticky, green mess of glittering sugar. The broom lay nearby, the ends of it glued together with more sugar. I could hear my son behind me, apologizing profusely, as I tried to clean up the mess with hot water and a rag. Let me just say, this did nothing more than stick the mess further into my floor. I gave up at some point and the green spot is still there.

“So, we’ll only have a few green ones. No big deal.”

My mother gave me the look. You know which one I mean. The eyebrow raised, absolute disbelief, possibly bubbling anger under the surface. We were getting one pan of green ones. One pan of really green ones. I looked at the table to see my daughter, empty tin in her hand, and a tray full of lumps completely covered in green sugar.

We sprinkle the sugar.

She drowned them in sugar.

I almost felt like we should be holding a funeral at this point, because it seemed my grandmother’s cookies just weren’t going to happen this year. But then, amidst the frustration and the mess, the best thing happened. Christmas happened. My son started giggling. He had one of those giggles that was contagious, a full on belly-laugh. Soon we were all cackling, tears running down our cheeks, and in the back on my head I could hear my grandmother.

“Laugh all you want, but they’ve got to be thinner than that.”

It only made me laugh harder. We finished the cookies and they were odd shaped. Some of them had no sugar, some only a few grains, some were so covered it was hard to tell when they’d gotten brown on top. There were a few burnt, when we didn’t get to the oven in time or my son turned the timer off without us noticing. There were some that never made it to the cooling rack, regardless of how many times I told my daughter that they needed to be eaten cold. And none of them were as flat as my grandmother would have made them.

In fair warning, I’m giving you this recipe. That being said, I cannot be held accountable for any grandmother mumblings you hear in your ear about rolling them thinner. That is simply a risk you are going to take when you make these.

Lillian’s AP Cookies

Aren't they so pretty?
Aren’t they so pretty?

½ lb. butter

1 lb. 10x powdered sugar

½ pt. heavy cream

½ tsp. baking soda in little water

Flour to stiffen – about 4-5 cups

Green and red decorating sugars, if desired

A heaping helping of patience

Children – for laughter

 Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Mix all ingredients the night before and chill in covered container in the fridge overnight. The next evening, flour work surface, make sure it is a large one, and take sections of dough out to roll. Roll them as thin as possible! When you believe they are thin enough, roll them thinner. Just don’t tear them. Use cutters to cut out shapes, or cut into squares. Decorate with sugar. Place on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 7-8 minutes. Watch closely for the first couple of trays to get the timing right. They should be just golden brown on the edges.  Take out and cool on racks before boxing. Best eaten cold!

Ups and Downs

Today sucked. I mean, in most aspects…it completely sucked.

After a trip to the doctor’s, we found out that the natural route we opted for has not finished and we are not yet over the physical part with the miscarriage.

So…when I believed at least the pain was behind me, I realize it hasn’t even truly begun. It’s like walking around with a time bomb ticking away inside me and having to wait and see.

Will it happen today?

Tonight?

Will the husband be home or will I be alone?

I can’t go to the store. What if it happens while I am there?

Here, let me move that couch. Maybe heavy lifting will get it started tonight?

I should sit down. I don’t want it to start now.

So, it is ups and downs as I feel like Mother Nature is winging me around on her own personal yo-yo. It’s a pathetic Miley Cyrus on the wrecking ball imitation and I needed something to shift this pendulum in a new direction.

The dress. Not me in the dress...but this chic in the dress I now own.
The dress. Not me in the dress…but this chic in the dress I now own.

The dress came in. It looks this good in person. Better even, because it didn’t fit.

I ordered the same size, from the same company that I got my wedding dress back in June.

And this dress was a full size too big. I admit. Part of me was extremely happy to push it back into the plastic bag and prepare to ship it off for an exchange from Amazon. Oh pendulum push.

Mine.
Mine.

And then these came. It was like package heaven here.

And they fit.

And I smiled as I handed them to the husband and told him he could wrap them and stick them under the tree.

Because tomorrow there will be no party for me to go to. I will stay home for the hours, the days, the weeks this may take.

I will bake cookies.

I will wrap presents.

I will cook dinner for my children.

I will pack lunch for my husband.

I will fold laundry and do dishes.

And in a few weeks I will open a package with a kick ass pair of shoes in it and I will wear them for my husband.

And I will love him.

And everything will go up and down, because that’s how it goes.

So, I’ll lift my chin, square my shoulders and give the pendulum a little push with my gold toned stilettos.