31 12 2008


I feel like the days between Christmas and New Year’s are like getting stuck in a revolving door.  The space between.  Waiting-for-something-to-be-over-with-days. That feeling of “get on with it already”.  It’s all about transition.

Have you even been in a revolving door with people that are trying to squeeze too much into that confined space?  Or people in too much of a hurry?  And the geniuses that get into the space and suddenly forget how to move their feet at all?

When we were still living in Spain and would come back to the States for a visit – be it six weeks or six months – this feeling would start to overtake me when we would get within a week of heading back home. There would be a pulling away.  A no man’s land in my soul.  An impatience.  Like anticipating the pain so much that I’d be dulled to reality and mechanically react.  Just get it over with already!

Going through my iPhoto library yesterday, reviewing the year, was the same way. Some things that happened seemed like they were years ago and others seemed like 48 hours ago. There are some pictures that will be forever dated in my mind with no chance of forgetting exactly when things happened. Even last night as I was falling asleep and I was mentally peeking going through some of those doors, seeing any number of things I’d rather forget.

But I was there.  It was me.  I had, for some reason unbeknownst to me, to add them to my personal arsenal of life experience.  There will be doors this year too.  Ones that I can stop and enter and others that I can waltz by and ignore.  Some that will have wonderful surprises hidden behind them and others that will open to messes I’d rather not deal with.

I was fascinated by the old doors in Spain.  Especially the rustic wooden ones found in many pueblos.  Before we left in 1995,  we stumbled upon a gold mine of an antique dealer in a little mountain village and in our 20′ sea worthy container filled with all our worldly goods, a number of things got tucked away to be transported across the pond.  One of my favorites is a hunk of wood that was part of one of those doors.  It can be opened three ways – the tiniest door to peek out to see if you even wanted to open the door…the middle door would allow things to be passed through without giving full access…and then of course, the door itself.

All the wear and tear of life is on that wood.  How many times was it opened?  Who was welcomed – who was feared?  What good news was shared and how many good-byes were said?

There is a door in front of me this year that I want to stand at and knock gently. Tapping, not pounding.  Giving those hidden behind the time to come and meet me where I am.  I don’t want to startle or frighten.  I want to be a welcomed guest, not hidden from.


le petit cochon

29 12 2008

img_38122I don’t remember the circumstances but I do remember Shop Girl with her love of all things French saying something that got Best Boy into his best imitation of her…repeating the phrase in such a way that it had us all howling.  Le petit cochonle petit cochon…the little pig.

You do know, don’t you that this is the time of year for truffle hunting?  In Spain, France and Italy, the famed Black Truffle is hunted with pig or dog, men and baskets…trudging around forest underbrush seeking out the famed lumps.

After a ten day stretch of one storm after another, we had been officially blasted. The snow was so deep in the back yard that the dog – not some tiny little ragamuffin- but one bred of mountains and cold and lots of white stuff – could NOT seem to figure out how to navigate the back yard.

A few days into the pile up, carved in the snow, was a circular path…and she would only stay on her path.  All I could think about at this time of year in the brutal north winter, was all the  treasures were being left for me to discover come Spring.

But alas, I was granted a reprieve…and we had a day of 50º weather followed by lots of rain that melted the accumulated drifts and gave me a chance to do some “truffle hunting” of my own.  

It was a bountiful harvest to say the least.  Now if I could only find a market that would pay me the going rate of $130-$380 a pound.  Surely I would have fetched $4000 on one good hunt!  Bella is a petit cochon that produces instead of pursues.

house arrest

28 12 2008


Self-imposed banishment to my castle.  Maybe this is a reaction to knowing that the Mrs. is in good company this weekend.  My phone rings – I screen my calls.  Texts come in and they are read and not answered.  I’m sorry.  I’m being really really selfish and really really bad.

I have been working.  Well, that’s a lie unless I was getting paid to be TV critic for a series that has been cancelled.  I love Hulu…I hunkered down and watched all of Arrested Development in just a couple of days instead of stringing it out over the three years it was being broadcast.  It really is a better use of my time.  This way I’m not tied to the TV on certain days of the week and certain hours for months and years at a time.  I’m just attached to my computer for days at a time.

It’s like reading a good book.  Just can’t stop till it’s over.  Tomorrow is back to reality.  I did get laundry done today, made brownies, picked up a couple of pizzas, washed my hair and did dishes a few times…so it hasn’t been a total loss. I’ll get serious here soon- I promise.  Besides these are the lull days.

have yourself a merry little christmas…

25 12 2008


Tinsel hung a strand at a time.  Throwing globs was never an option.  The Christmas story from Luke was to be read aloud before any gifts were touched.  Around noon – we’d all pile in the car to head to 732 Vermont to gather with the extended clan where I was the youngest of 14 grandchildren.  

I thought about all that today as we gathered for our ham, mashed potato and sweet corn feast for three.  Those were special days and the memories are particularly fond.

But I feel the same about today.   There are no more large family gatherings…there is no more tinsel hung on trees…but she made it through for what its worth.  She is quite remarkable.


‘Twas the night before Christmas

24 12 2008

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds…

Our first Christmas Eve in Spain was a mere five months after arriving.  We had gone to bed at “normal” hour – the just barely one year old and the two and a half year old asleep.  We hadn’t purchased a bed for ourselves yet and were using a two-seater foam couch that flopped down on the floor to make a bed.  

All I remember is being startled awake by an incredible racket at around midnight. The neighbors upstairs were banging on the radiators which sent the sound waves right down the wall to where are heads were.  Then people shouting and the sound of a million fireworks.  “‘Twas the night before Christmas” poem only works in some cultures.  What was going on?

Well, stupid American…it was Christmas.  By the following year, I’d gathered enough cultural cues to understand what surrounded one of the most important nights of the year – Noche Buena.  Families gather around the table starting at 9 p.m. or so for a spectacular feast…eat for two or three hours and wait for the magic hour of midnight.

Many will then gather to go to midnight mass.  The world is awake. There are no children all snug in their beds.  At least not for a couple of more hours.  And you quickly learn that you should not be making much noise on Christmas morning till well into the afternoon.  

It took a number of years for us to be comfortable in our own space where those two cultures collide.  We started doing a rather elaborate fondue soirée gathering a number of ex-pat family and friends to make it “feel” right. Then after a long time of fighting over who’s fork was who’s in the pot, we’d gather to listen to some special books and stories we had collected. Any time we were in the States, more tomes would be hunted for the Christmas collection.  

It all worked there.  Once we got back to the States, it started to feel strange to keep some of these traditions.  There is such a thing as reverse culture shock.  The time to adjust in and out of cultures is in proportion to the time spent in the “new” culture. Maybe because we are in yet another “new” culture that I am struggling.

A culture of a widowed mother, a married daughter who now has to adjust to her own “new” set of in-law traditions and expectations and on and on it goes.  Life is neither static – nor predictable.

Here we are – not even sure we will be able to travel to see my mom tomorrow. They are calling for another 3″ today and another 3″ tonight. Right now there has a been a warm up and it’s raining and everything is all heavy, melty and very slick.

It is a special day but a day nonetheless.  Having a loving family – gathered or not on this day or tomorrow – is enough.  After all, isn’t Christmas really about someone being out of their element?

He’s doing the Monkey…

23 12 2008


Don’t ask me how my brain works.  

Don’t ask me how I connect two random thoughts.  Sometimes it just happens.  

Back in the darkest days of the summer when one life was being wrapped up, another life was just being unwrapped.  It is no surprise to me that months before any of this happened, the expectant Farmer’s Wife had decided to decorate the baby’s room with a theme around old antique toys.  

During one of the last forays into his favorite resale shop, Billy found a little John Deere tractor that had to go to the farm in Pennsylvania for Big Farm Boy’s collection of yellow and green goodies.  Papa (that’s what my kids called Billy) didn’t know yet that his fourth great grandchild was a boy.  We’d get that happy news just weeks before he took off and left us all behind.

The light in that dark tunnel of death was the truth that life keeps going.  Some die – some are born.  Even at the funeral we could hold that month old bundle and be reminded that it wasn’t over… 

The clapping monkey was Billy’s favorite toy.  There wasn’t a grandchild in the bunch that doesn’t have memories – some perhaps rather traumatizing – but memories nonetheless of the joy he’d get at firing that puppy up to clap and grin.

It made perfect sense that the one who was the last to join the bunch during the sad time, should be the one to carry on with the monkey – giving it a new home along side the other antique toys decorating his nursery. 

We got pictures the other day of the two of them together and there is a strange resemblance.  James Brown’s song is about an old man that wasn’t afraid to get out on the dance floor and have fun…just like that Papa we said good bye to few months ago.  So here’s a shout out to Billy from James Brown himself recorded just about the time the monkey was made…please listen.of505903914

too homesick to write

22 12 2008

It’s been a hard day – a hard month – a hard year.  But today in particular for no reason that I can put my fingers on – it’s a hard day.  The Dr. and I were talking about it and Christmas just isn’t our time of year anymore. Three years ago it was spent in the hospital with Best Boy, two years ago it was being shown the door from one job into the unknown. Things like that have a way of marking the Holidays for a good long time to follow.  

The foot of snow outside with more on the way isn’t helping matters much. Especially as we try to figure out our strategy of getting down to see the Mrs. for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  It feels like I’m playing pretend.

It probably doesn’t help much that we locked in some dates in March to go to a friend’s wedding in Spain.  Just knowing we are going has this effect on us.  I spent some time on YouTube listening to the Christmas carols called villancicos that sounded like the season to my ears.  And today was the biggest lottery day with El Gordo…I remember hearing that on the BBC during the middle of the night. 

I’m sure if I were back there I’d only be wishing I were here.  I am here – sort of.  I got lots of laundry done today and cleaned my oven yesterday.  The Dr. thought I was going to die because he said that would be something I’d do with that final burst of energy.  Ha!

Anyway, then I stumbled on this clip from last year’s Christmas lights in Madrid.  I know I won’t feel this bad every day – it’s just today.  So humor me some.  If you have never lived somewhere else it is hard to understand how halved your soul becomes.  

snug as bugs

19 12 2008

img_38021One of my favorite new shows to watch on Discovery Channel is Storm Chasers – (thank you Best Boy).  These guys just love getting in their vehicles and hope against hope that they find themselves in the middle of some exciting stuff.  I like watching it on TV but I don’t like living it.

The other day I did some math.  I took the months December through March when the weather between here and Indiana can be most treacherous. Figuring a minimum of four round trips a month which equals eight single “crap shoots” for a total of thirty-two.  Each one that I can tick off my list that is made on dry roads is a victory. I’ll call those wins.  So as it stands right now the score is Wendy – 6 and Bad Roads – 0.

I dodged a huge bullet yesterday.  From what I’d been seeing over the course of the week, I had planned on staying in Indiana Wednesday through Friday morning to be sure there were no complications after the procedure that was done at the audiologist’s office early on Thursday morning. Through the evening on Wednesday there was more and more talk about how bad it was going to get.  So yesterday morning I was at the grocery store at 7 a.m., filling the water softener with salt and some of the other little things on my weekly “to do” list with the exception for my personal goal of a bag a week. There is always next week, right?

I was back on the road by noon yesterday feeling a bit guilty about ditching her so quickly but made it home with absolutely no complications.  Had I stuck to the original plan of driving home this morning, I probably would have slid into Lake Michigan by now.  She has ice and we have snow falling at the rate of 2″ an hour with the threat of totals topping off at a foot.

There is a house wedding happening tomorrow.  Shop Girl has been the co-ordinator and I’ll be staffing the kitchen.  Were it not for that I could have easily been hunkered down in Indiana for extra days with no problem.  But for now we are each in our respective homes – snug as bugs in a rug.  And very grateful for technology.  Where would I be without wunderground.com and accuweather.com ?


grave blankets?

18 12 2008

“Oh good, you’re here.  I was just about to go to Remus Farms and get a grave blanket.  I got this coupon out of the paper.”

I hadn’t even closed the door behind me.  My mind reeling trying to add up the words to form a picture – grave + blanket.  The day after I left last week she got word that the headstone had been set.  I really didn’t expect to hear before Spring.  But it was an early Christmas gift of sorts.  Needless to say, she was anxious to see the real deal and know that their spot is carved out with no uncertainty as to where they are parked!

She gives me directions to the fruit stand/farm market and I’m delighted to know it is about 20 minutes away.  We get to the intersection of where she expects it to be…and Remus is NOT the name on the sign. Luckily she had jotted their phone number on the coupon that was going to get her a free poinsettia with the purchase of the grave blanket.  We weren’t too far off track – just had to cross the road into the next county.

We were directed to the back of the mostly empty farm stand to the display of blankets.  The best description of what I saw is a mound of evergreens about six feet long properly bedazzled for the season with a price tag of some $75. “Mom, you know he’s not cold right?”    

More investigation led us to see the pillows, baby pillows and wreaths. WHAT?  I got the wreaths but the evergreen poofs with big huge bows on the top???  Not buying it. But what do I know about grave decor.

It was totally her call.  She had brought along a stash of cash she’d been hiding from my dad for who knows how long.  No expense was to be spared. She kept talking out loud about which one she thought my dad would like all the while I was screaming inside that I thought he’d “Bah, humbug!” all of them.

Slowly but surely we determined that too much flash was not Billy’s vibe.  So a simple wreath was her choice because the plaid bow that made it all so Celtic to her.img_38203

By the time we got back cross-county the sun was hanging low in the sky. The stone was totally covered by snow and even brushing it off left the engraving filled.  It struck me as we stood there what a perfect place this was to lay him to rest – he is still doing one of his favorite things even in death…sitting out watching the cars and trucks go by on the highway as the sun goes down.









17 12 2008

img_38091Oh, my generational age is starting to show.  Working at the hotel it was always confusing to me when people had to cross-train.  That just seemed to me a recipe for disaster – the more you know how to do, the more THE MAN will make you do and not pay you any more for it.  I understand the reasoning it just all seemed shady to me.  I’m even befuddled by the divisions of labor in young couples these days.  It was easy to spot the great divide when we looked back over our shoulders and viewed our parents.

As a young married (30 years ago!) I was incensed when I’d hear a man (let’s call him “everyman”) ask a woman to take five steps into the kitchen and refill his coffee cup. He had no handicap save his view of what was “her” job and what was “his”.  So lines were drawn in the sand early on and the people around me knew what could and couldn’t be expected.

When the Best Boy and Shop Girl were babies (they just fall short of being Irish Twins) I didn’t get much sleep.  If it wasn’t one thing – it was another. Part of our family lore quote bible was uttered during these years.  As I was getting up for the umpteenth time one night, the Dr. rolled over and still half asleep uttered the famous words, “This isn’t right!”  And in case you are wondering if he meant – that it wasn’t right that I had to get out of bed to attend to the kids – the answer is no.  It wasn’t right that someone (who shall remain nameless) was awake and woke us up as a by-product.

Twenty-five winter solstices have come and gone but the words still ring out in our home. Our tri-colored daughter and gray mouser have been having a hard time of it of late. They have been “crying out” at around 3 a.m.  There is no rhyme or reason. Unless the mice in the house are teasing them mercilessly.

I can make the last let-out happen at 11 p.m. and surely that should last till 6 a.m. But for now – it’s not working.  Feeding them in the early evening instead of late afternoon…no matter the change up of strategy – it’s not working.  So there was a threat last night about who was going to get up with the animals and it got me thinking.  This is actually payback for all the years I got up – now it’s his turn.  I just lay there all warm and snuggled – pretend snoring.  Suddenly she is his dog.