Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Facing what's scary and owning it

I'm normally very sappy and sentimental when it comes to the New Year. There is something about an old year dying and new one giving birth that makes me almost wistful for what could have been - or maybe what SHOULD have been. Nitpicking on what what I should have accomplished does nothing, really, but serve to make me have regrets.

This year I have none.

I left a job that I held for close to four years and started a new, scary venture that had me sitting at my kitchen table crafting and creating posts and tidbits for clients. I love what I'm doing and the scariness has washed away along with the routine and normalcy. That's just it. We MUST put scary things on our agenda because if we don't, we stay the same forever and ever. My husband runs a successful paint/texture business and is living out his dream of making things new. I am safe in the stretch of his arms if I need him,  yet we have a system worked out that gives each of us responsibilities - not just one of us. I left the safe job to start the scary one knowing that I needed to make X amount of dollars to keep up my end of the bargain. Nothing drives you like knowing you are being depended upon to keep certain things functioning in the household. It's a good deal. 

I lost several things this year that I loved. My weekly column I wrote for a local newspaper was ditched suddenly and with no warning. It threw me, literally had me on the floor for a few days before I figured out that there is more waiting for me. That I need to pursue and find and track down the opportunities I'm meant to find. That I'm not meant to stay in the tiny box of comfort I had crafted for myself. The scariness was pursuing me and if I didn't get up off that floor and keep moving, I would be lost to it - destined to stay small

My highest goal, along with gathering enough clients to keep me growing (and them as well), is to put finger to keyboard and bang out the first words of that ever-growing novel inside my head. My husband's story taunts me with its list of lost years, packs of wild children, abuse and neglect, and wild rides underneath trains. I believe the haze of drugs and violence he experienced scare me and tell me I can't write the story. The prostitutes with their clacking heels and deep rivers in the dark of night make me feel as if the story cannot be told with any semblance of order - that I will fail.  It's time to face that little lost boy, crying on the street corner. That teen so street-wise and jumping into danger with shadowy figures. That man I met who turned into the love of my life. His story needs told and I'm the one to tell it.

Tonight we greet the New Year as she arrives with all her finery and glitter. I will meet her with a vengeance and a fierceness to never stop...to pursue...to redeem and meet what I know I am

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving seen and heard

Thanksgiving morning is gentle and warm like a baby's breath against your cheek. Snow is falling ever so softly and I'm snuggled up with coffee contemplating the day. Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is on and show tunes fill the living room with their merry voices. Snores are still being heard from upstairs where it has been so vacant the past three months. It's now filled, if just for a brief time, with footsteps and laughter and the creaking of the floor. My heart is full and expectant with looked-forward to things.

I am also weary and heartsick for things that have happened in our country this week. I am even more weary and heartsick because of responses I have heard from people who are called to love, not pronounce that they are so tired of the 'race' card being played. If you're tired of hearing it imagine living it. Because you're tired of it doesn't mean it doesn't happen. Tuck your white privilege back into your pants before it starts dragging on the floor. 

I digress, though.

Today I am so very thankful. My house is loud and rambunctious once again, and the fridge is packed with food to eat. Oreo pudding and stacked chicken enchiladas were partaken of last night, and a movie was watched late into the night as we fell asleep under the lull of a warm house and people we love. 

I do not take these emotions lightly. I enfold them and stash them away neatly to take out when the house is again quiet. I get up to make another pot of coffee and ready the cream sticks for when the tribe, including an extra nephew, tumbles down the steps - still bleary with sleep but looking for sustenance. We will huddle on the couches and watch the parade, take a nap, watch another movie, and ready ourselves for the huge family meal at my sister's house tonight. 

Thanksgiving is a personal holiday replete with things we take for granted. Today, though, I look past what I hold dear and pray for healing. For eyes to be opened. For FB posts that don't try to put people in their place. For understanding where we haven't tried to understand before. To look at pain and really SEE it. To see violence and not say, "See, that just shows their character." 

To not just look at what WE have and say #Blessed and #TooBlessed and #thegoodlife. 

Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. Spend it well, love deeply, and remember to look outside of your happiness to sometimes see others pain. And to embrace it. 

Tuesday, November 18, 2014


I'm sitting here staring at an empty yogurt container, hair uncombed, and crumbs on the counter. My belly is full of coffee and I'm contemplating a second pot. Laundry is spinning and I have a long series of docs that I need to be working on but don't have all the info as of yet. It can wait another day. Right now I'm contemplating Christmas lights and how I might have them up the first of December. From my Facebook feed it seems I am a month behind.

Christmas-all-the-things is upon us.

Joy to the world and all that jazz. I love Christmas. Yet, I find myself unwaveringly indifferent this year to the early Christmas hoopla. I feel almost Grinch-ish in nature and am struggling to identify why. My nativity and all its intricate figures await my steady hand to arrange it with care, and my collection of Santas and snowmen eagerly await their
appearance. I think fondly on past Christmases when lights didn't go up until the middle of December. I can hear you gasping, yet I was ready, so ready, to make things festive and bright while wrapping each light around the evergreens out front. Now we're expected to have things out and brightly shining one day after Halloween. Or we're behind.

I hold social media at fault. And myself.
I am an over-sharer. I acknowledge this and accept it

I embrace social media and all its things. I do believe, though, that it enables us to share things that we never used to see. Now we see just how on top of things our friend in town is, what with her hand-painted and hand-sewn Christmas crafts. We see just how early others put things up, while in the past, we never would have seen that and would prepare at our own pace. Viewing others and what they do can create a sense of anxiety in ourselves to keep up, to run side-by-side, to compete.

Maybe it's that sense of competition that I don't want. The consumerism of today has played a huge role in making us feel that we're behind, to get out and SHOP, get that sale price or you're missing out. Make this Pinterest-inspired Christmas Advent calendar made out of shells, glitter, and wood or you're not worthy. It's a heart attack waiting to happen. But you see, I love Pinterest. I believe it to be a fabulous tool to pin our favorite little things, sayings, and so forth. When we allow it to take over our lives and become, shall we say #Pinterested, we're far gone. The same goes with Facebook. I'm 100% guilty. I want to find a way to use it in moderation instead of it being stuck to the end of my fingertips in the form of my phone. It's ever present. It's all-consuming. We're a notification-driven people. 

Until we figure out moderation we will all be products of an anxiety-ridden society. We want the #best and we want to be #winning. We want to be #performing for a #socialmedia crowd and love #attention - we all want to be #affirmed in our daily lives. This drives us to share. #GUILTY as charged. I'm searching myself while gaining control of my #oversharing fingers.

The snow is blowing around in a fine mist outside and I try to tamp down the itchy-finger feeling of taking a picture of it. I can see the angle in my mind, yet I know not every moment can be a photo op. I must teach myself to understand this or I will lose joy-filled moments in my life. I know in myself that I can put up my decorations any time I want to. No person and their carefully strung lights should ever make me feel as if I'm behind. My pace is just that, my pace. I've only  just started my Christmas list and haven't bought one present yet. It might be weeks before I start and that's okay. Thanksgiving is one week and two days away and I'm enjoying my vintage wax turkeys every second until the last bite is swallowed.

Don't give in to the 'countdown' to Black Friday. 
What I need is a countdown to Thanksgiving.D
Then you can start the Christmas countdown. Only then. 

Countdown Turkey!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Interstellar: Lose yourself (minor spoilers)

**Minor spoiler alert**

I felt like I was in a cathedral, vast and dream-like, sitting on the edge of my seat. Hurtling through not just space and time, but another galaxy on the cusp of a raging black hole. My breath grew shallow as the actor was swallowed up and entered a place no one can explain with any real certainty. My popcorn was hot and the drink went down cold. The movies, my friends, are alive and well.

Along with horror movies, I await the best and brightest of film in the space genre. Give it to me any way you can - Armageddon, Event Horizon, Contact, Alien - I will take it and tuck it under my arm with wonder. I wish I could say I'm a Star Wars geek, but I am not. I like some science fiction but am mostly a straight rocket-ship-into-the-stars type girl. Throw in a few aliens or even better a 'life force' or 'beings' we're unsure of and I'm a goner. 

When I first saw the previews for Interstellar I nudged George and said, "We will be here on opening day for that." It looked big. It looked entertaining. And it looked able to take me on a trip I couldn't otherwise take. It starts off on our earth in the future, an earth that is slowly dying agriculturally, and centers on a family of farmers. Matthew McConaughey was a former NASA pilot who now farms - as farming is the only way to sustain life in this not-too-distant earth. Dust, and lots of it, abound and as they stumble onto anomalies in gravity and so forth, they also stumble onto a secret. 

I don't want to give away plot spoilers, but we all know that he takes off into galaxies unknown to find a place for the people on earth and future generations to live on. The ride is spectacular, and the special effects are phenomenal. I really did feel like I was in the cathedral of space hanging on for dear life, as we spun round and round on our way to Saturn and a mysteriously-placed wormhole. Because we all know that wormholes are man-made (or alien-made? I didn't know). 

Most days we get up, drink our coffee, and ponder what our to-do lists are for the minutes that stretch out before us. Work, menial tasks, and sometimes the scrubbing of a toilet. For nearly three hours, that world was totally blacked out for me. It took me on a ride that helped me to remember that the universe doesn't revolve around me and my day to day life. The vastness of the stars and the mysteries they hold, as unfolded in the movie, remind me of the great work of the unknown. The world, or our earth, wasn't the only thing created when God created the heavens. He created so much more - more than our minds could ever wrap themselves around. This movie takes you to heights, then plunges you back down again to ask yourself over and over, "What just happened?" 

Yes, there are questions. This article explains just a bit of the scientific aspects of the movie and the questions we all have: http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2014/11/11/neil-degrasse-tyson-breaks-down-interstellar-black-holes-time-dilations-and-massive-waves.html

What I took away from Interstellar were several things:

1)  Our universe if bigger than us.
2)  We must be good stewards of our planet.
3)  There are times when the greater good comes before self.
4)  Space movies kick @$$.

I highly recommend Interstellar and give it nearly 5/5 stars. Lose yourself in it and let your everyday world go for three fast-moving hours. The actors are wonderful and give tremendous performances from Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, and Jessica Chastain to Michael Caine and John Lithgow. See this movie. See it on the big screen because a TV will not do it justice. Take in the cold beauty of the star-laden universe, its colors and time and gravity. Let them enfold you and take you to a place you've never been before. Let the unbelievable enrapture you. Isn't that what movies are made for? 

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Never succumb to the weak words

I read voraciously as a child. I read books picked out at Little Professor Bookstore, and I read magazines plus newspapers. When commercials for wacky products would come on in the middle of Scooby Doo, I would repeat the addresses at the end to see how many times I could read it before it cut back to the program. My bookshelves groaned with title after title, even at a very young age. Dad built each of us floor to ceiling shelves and mine was packed tighter than tight. Needless to say, I am a reader/book hoarder. 

I've been pondering what it is women like to read. We all love a good fictional novel, replete with settings that make us yearn to travel and see love in new ways. This kind of book is good for the soul because it stirs within you a restless need to see the world. We all need to see the world, or just get out of our little corner of it more often. Many of us will never visit another country, but that doesn't mean we can't travel there with the words as our guide, that we can't delve into the lives of others and be taken away by the windswept moors of England. When you let the words take you captive it lets you feel the air where we are aren't comfortable and secure - a little bit of danger and anonymity can make you feel alive. Non-fiction holds reign on my bookshelves as well, and I've read about many people and places that held my attention deep into the dark folds of night. I've traveled with a man across Siberia as he tucked into tiny rooms and ate strange foods, as well as a woman reporting undercover in Afghanistan where her life was in danger around every corner. Your heart beats heavily as you feel yourself in their shoes and you know not what lurks around every grungy corner. 

I feel alive when I'm reading even if that means fighting with my husband about the light being on. It's always one more page...one more chapter. By the time I've reached the end of the chapter he's fallen asleep and I read on as the cloak of midnight encroaches and is gone.

Women need good things to read. 

I used to read our encyclopedias when I ran out of other things. Siberia, Antarctica, New York City, and tiny villages in Romania - these were the countries and pages I turned to and pored over every word. Don't let my encyclopedia-reading ways change your views of me. I believe what I was searching for was MORE. More grit, more to chew on, more to grab with my mind and turn it around in my brain. Our women's magazines are filled with makeup tips, hairstyles, and ways to please your husband. Let it never be said that I don't care about those things, I do, but this is filler that is spackling up our minds. Minds that need vibrancy and intelligence.  

On occasion I'll pick up a book, one of those trashy romance novels, and glance through it just to see how it reads to me today. I'm mostly appalled at what I find in it by the way women are treated. We are relegated to the kitchen to make sure that the chicken is tender, the pies are warm, and the baby is dry. Maternally-household-istic jargon aside, I embrace my role as wife and mother. But we, as women, need to be stepping out of the roles that so many of these books in the past were written for.

I want to be taken seriously by men and women. I will not be judged by how clean my yard is or how tall my rosebushes are. I want to have a conversation in my writings or wherever it may be, and be taken at face value for what I've said. I don't want my opinions tossed aside because I'm a a woman. 

Because that does still happen. 
Every day in every part of this world.

As a woman, I want to ready brilliantly-enticing articles that make think. I no longer want to read articles that tell me to forgive to 'keep the peace'. I want to talk and fight it out, not simply give in and crumple inside myself. I don't want to be told that to make a relationship work one has to give blindly, over and over and until there is nothing filling you up and you have nothing left to give. This kind of rhetoric is telling us that we must always give in, forgive, say I'm sorry when God designed us to walk side by side, not one behind the other. I want to live in a world where an assertive woman is not called bossy but brave. Where we can give our view and not just have it called a woman's perspective. 

We need women writers to be themselves bravely.
We need words that make us strong not weak.
We need sentences that allow us to be more.

I am fortunate to be married to a man that has pushed me to be these things. This, after so many years not believing in myself. We were two cultures that clashed, who then fought it out, and believed in each other. He believes in strong writing for women, and though I know that making him an astounding sandwich is part of his love language, he also knows that mine is affirmation of strong words. He believes in those words and he reads them. 

Find strong things to read. We must not succumb to the weak words.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Don't fill up each day. Live it.

Taking a bit of stock in my day to day this windy Monday. November is here, October breezing in and out with all her bits of color and mayhem. I enjoyed October with abandon this year because I decided I would. Normally I would have been whooshing here and there to soccer games, but no, I was firmly planted in my seat at the kitchen table typing away. I hung up Jack O Lantern faces, set around glittery skulls, and made a dummy to sit on the porch for the season. I brought him in this morning, what with his torn pants and bony face, as his season is done. I carved pumpkins and lit them every evening and watched burn merrily. I pitched my squashed and frozen Jacko into the garden this morning and prepare for the next thing.
I love this stage of my life. 
The house is quiet.
I'm doing ME. 

The words I need to fill up the spaces are coming fast and furious and I embrace them and hug them close. I have to do me because no one else will and I don't want her to disappear into the thin seams of life, always awaiting the next thing to come to pass.
 No, waiting isn't an option so I've slashed open the veins and let the words and phrases pour our. Spill out voraciously so that I can become empty of them, so they can breathe and stir about - simmering in a rich stew of longing and having. The longings, which come so often as younger versions of ourselves, reaching and conforming and not yet seeing who we are as women. I find the having to be satisfying and satiating, I'm not reaching into the abyss of small children and toys scattered about. It's such a change of trying to find yourself in the morass of age and youth and the needs of a family young and wanting. 

Love you.
Love your wrinkles that tell a story.

I can't say the same for gray hair because I'm not sure that I will ever let those appear until I'm so old that all of a sudden it will be a breath of fresh air not to paint and primp them into order every month or so. For now they will be a wicked red resting in a nest of dark brown, or a tint of caramel when the months are warm and sun-drenched.
  Why not? Why let them go gray and feel yourself aged? Some can embrace it, but not me. My husband is one of those that ages like a fine wine, falling deeper into his features more handsome than ever. Gray would only make me feel like someone else, so I paint....and will continue to do so. 

I can feel the air changing as we turned our clocks back and in doing so turned our faces towards the holiday season. Heavy sigh. I love the holidays but I don't love the rush. I'm deciding to take each day of November and enjoy the march to Thanksgiving - not Christmas. We have plenty of time for that and all the anxieties and rush that comes with it. For now I can see ahead several weeks and know that my KIDS will be coming home, if even for a few days to eat turkey and stuffing. To know the warmth of home and fill their bellies with more than just food. I'm counting those days down. One, two, three...

Enjoy today.
Enjoy tomorrow.
In fact, enjoy tonight when your loved ones come home.
Take the time to kiss them home.
Snuggle on the couch.
And embrace the morning when the cold dawn freezes the tip of your nose.
Each moment is here. In the now.

Friday, October 31, 2014

I'm a crafty word-wrangler

This is the last column that will appear from me in the BH. Onward and upward!

In my younger years I was a crafty gal. I made loads of clothespin Santas, pins made from vintage buttons, and sculpted weathered snowmen with twig arms from modeling clay. Tiny antique spools made into Christmas ornaments and angels with tiny tin wings that fit snugly onto a tree branch - I sold all these and many more at local shops on consignment and made a tidy sum of spending money. That ‘craftiness’ is still inside of me, but it doesn’t seem to want to come out anymore. It seems like a chore to haul supplies out and paint well-worn pieces back into submission or to create and make simple ordinary things glisten. What’s become of me?

My home is a mélange of eclectic pieces and carefully selected ‘things’ I’ve gleaned over the years. I no longer buy whatever catches my eye because now, I want it to have a home – not just a place to sit and gather dust. I have many vintage frames that I would paint gold, white, or whatever color was available to me in the vast array of my husband’s leftover paint cans. The options to paint whatever trinket I bought was endless. Being married to a painter has its benefits because along with having paint on hand, there were also the options of glazes, textures, and rubbing stains to make my things pretty. Use them I did and the various coffee tables, library tables, and small pieces of found architecture are evidence of what used to call my name. I still love these pieces but I no longer have the call to craft them into submission. As I look around my kitchen while typing, my eyes fall on found gingerbread trim as well as several signs I painted in years past. Sign-painting was a forte of mine and if pushed I still might enjoy it. Now, there are so many ‘word’ signs that the market has been overrun with them. Saturated, one might say.

Being crafty is not necessarily something you’re born with. I enjoyed all those days of being on the hunt for new buttons to create with, finding boards that were just right to paint on, and small pieces of furniture I knew I could turn into something spectacular with just the right shade of paint and sandpaper. It is a profitable business that, if done correctly, can net you some nice pocket change. In those days with small children, any extra income was sought after and appreciated. It still is, but my focus has changed from doing tedious things to doing what I was meant to do. I have many friends that are skilled at finding junk and turning it into treasure – and for many, many years that was the path I was on. Our Junk Fling sales are so fondly treasured that at times I pine for their existence once again. It’s the thrill of the find and the excavation of usable gold that you know will be pleasantly sellable. For some of us, we can look at a box full of old wooden or metal pieces and know exactly what they could be turned into – rustic pleasures that charm when fitted into this or that bit or bob. It’s just under my surface. For now, it’s words that I wrangle into submission to make cohesive sentences and paragraphs. I look at them as buried treasure just under my skull and the hunt for them is the thrill. Maybe someday, when I’ve found all the words and written them down, I’ll haul the paint brushes out once again. But that is for another day.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Turning the page

Must be time to turn the page?

If you're new to my blog then welcome! If you're an old friend then welcome back. I've had this blog for over seven years. Seven years. I wasn't even forty when I started this deal. I almost had to re check that fact because I couldn't quite believe I've been blogging that long. My aim here at Women Who Eat Chocolate is not to ply you with pretty words. I'm real and am getting more adept and letting it all hang out. Since my column was eliminated from The Bargain Hunter, I want to continue giving you my writings - and on the plus side since they aren't for a company, and just for me, you'll get more of the real me. 

Sounds scary.

If you like hard-hitting truth then you've come to the right place. Because I'm a woman in her forties who stopped caring what people thought about her right around the 40ish mark. Whoa, let's talk a bit about how freeing that is. In the words of my blogger-in-training/niece McKenzie, this is the quote she uses to describe my writing:

Hey, this is her description of my writing ... not mine. 
*secretly rubs hands together laughing like Vincent Price*

Join me as I try to keep this blog updated, and also as I maybe, just maybe, get that book started that needs written. We all have a book that needs written. 

Here's to turning the page.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

What we've lost by becoming fearful

What can be said about October and its ‘infamous’ (according to some) holiday? Halloween and all the good and bad connotations that come along with it – do you talk about it and if you enjoy it? Or do you zipper your mouth in certain company and hope they don’t find out it’s a guilty pleasure? Ah Missy, your mouth – if anything – can never be zippered. All shall know that Halloween and all that goes with it is one of your favorite times of the year. For this, I shall never feel guilty.

There’s something to be relished in this wind-whipped season, with leaves the color of burnished gold and a chill wind that doesn’t yet hold the sting of winter. There was an innocent time that I remember, before alleged back-masking and all the fears of the day tried to take away what was a time of fun and creepy pleasure. Before everyone made you feel guilty for enjoying several weeks of pranks and wild, dark rides through Panther Hollow. It was a time when we Trick or Treated on the streets of Berlin, yes Berlin, and stuffed our plastic pumpkins full of miniature candies and caramel apples. Back before there were rumors of razor blades tucked inside apples and the hysteria would reach a fever pitch. I hurtle myself back through layers of years that have turned this time of year into Trunk or Treat and ‘Harvest’ Festivals that don’t allow a single wisp of a witch’s hat or devilish grin to be found. The innocence has been repealed and replaced with sterile times that never hold a hint of anything that makes your skin shiver, just for a bit. We don’t want our kids exposed to anything that might contain anything other than light and life. Why? Is life so perfect and pleasant that they should never see anything outside the bubble?

I’m not going to go into the histrionics and babble of why things changed. What I can do is reminisce about what I miss. I lament the fact that most kids don’t get the joy of donning a plastic mask, knowing your breath will come hot and heavy under its hollow shell, and running merrily door to door and ringing the doorbell. “Trick or Treat!” we would cry with our loot gradually making our bags heavier and heavier. The night would be crisp and the wind would whip our costumes because yes, we always Trick or Treated at night – why in the world should it be done during the day? Before you tell me that it’s because of safety, let me remind you that we oft times cling to the fears that are set before us. If a seed is planted that something is evil, then it grows and grows along with the fears that are put into us.

“Halloween is evil!” they cry.

I’ll never be in the majority, especially in the area I live in. But, I must tell you that I embrace letting the outside in. My kids grew up watching scary movies and dressing for Halloween. I took them to neighboring towns so they could Trick or Treat and be part of a spine-tingling childhood experience. Why must we hide it from them? When our children go out into the world, with nary an experience to draw from, they will be inundated with things that have been kept from them. As for us, my kids were ready. Nothing surprised them. There is evil in this world and we must face it, see it, and deal with it. I believe in none of this sterile ‘fall party’ theme that is pushed to the limit – all in the name of keeping our kids hidden. We used to bob for apples in the old Berlin gym after we marched down Main Street in full Halloween regalia. There were prizes for best costume and medals handed out. We mingled and mixed in full costume in a school that embraced this time of year.

My little hippie, witch, and valiant warrior circa 2000. 

When did we become so fearful? When did we begin to hide and shelter our children so much? My children were not sheltered. We fostered embracing our beliefs along with knowing what is in the world. Ignoring that Halloween exists doesn’t make it disappear. My husband, being from Mexico, celebrates Dia de los Muertos which coincides with Halloween night into November 1st. It is a time where they believe the spirits of our loved ones return, for one night, and a small altar is decorated and food is put out. The gravestones are cleaned up, flowers placed around and most of the night is spent in the cemetery laughing and enjoying the evening – all while embracing death and the journey to the afterlife. Don’t be fooled into thinking this is an evil belief. This is a time of remembering those who have passed and honoring them. It’s a highly-held tradition in Mexico and to put evil into it is to miss the point.

My 'Dia de los Muertos' picture. This is how sugar skulls are painted in Mexico. 

Every year I struggle with what I say and do around this time. I long to don a mask and skip merrily house to house as I did so long ago, to feel the dark evening wind and have it caress my face. I’ve long ago realized that I don’t much care what others think. In the past several years we’ve been so busy in October with soccer and work that I didn’t decorate as much as I wanted to. This year, however, I’m in the midst of relishing it. My house is empty and I decided I would enjoy each season to the fullest. Grinning pumpkin cutouts hang on my door, and sparkly skulls hold reign in what soon will be my Dia de los Muertos vignette. Jack O’ Lanterns will soon be carved and smiling brightly from my porch, and if you drive by on a dark evening, wave at our friend we put together to greet you as you go by. Topping off the décor is a trio of vintage masks I found at local thrift store. When I saw them my heart swelled – they were the masks of my youth. Heavy and thick with an elastic band in the back, they now smile at me from my bookshelves where I can see them every day …. and be reminded of lost times, that in all their innocence, might never be repeated again.

The masks of my youth. 

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Stubbornness found in a bowl of Seven-Minute Frosting

I’ve noticed a strange and frightening trend in myself – I’m learning to stretch the food I have in my pantry. No one panic. Gone are the days when if I had one stick of butter left I
would run uptown before I ran out. Do you know I’ve made one stick last for five days? Butter. Me. Five days. This is something that would have been unheard of when the kids were home because the pantry was always stocked. Since cleaning out the kitchen I’ve learned that buying what we like, enough of it, and not freaking out when said item is gone – makes you become a bit more inventive in the kitchen. It’s become a game of sorts, eating what you have. Also, it saves you a lot of money.

I recently wrote about cooking and the excitement I felt at trying new things and cooking in different ways. Using what I have available is also very new to me – and no, that doesn’t make me a bad person. Before, if I didn’t have two jugs of milk in the fridge it felt very empty. Now I’ve learned to tamp down that growing feeling of nausea when I have one half gallon sitting there in all its glory - fresh milk, enough just for George and I, waiting to be used. I’m using war tactics on myself to become trained in the art of self-sufficiency in the food department. Let’s be honest, we all know that trips to the store are a life-sucking process that drains our wallets and leaves us feeling we don’t really know what we have available to cook with. We think, “Ugh, do I have lasagna noodles? I’ll just pop in to the store and get some anyway.” While there, the black-hole set up of the grocery store makes our carts fill up to capacity. Somewhere, somehow, I’m gaining strength in that department. Last evening I made a white chicken chili that was amazing. I made it with looking in the cupboard and pulling out things on hand.

Maybe I’m being a bit bullish. As I type, I am refusing to buy butter until I need groceries and I am down to half a stick. Anyone that knows me knows that I hoard butter. When I run out you know that life as we know it is slowly winding down and the universe is drawing itself into an implosion. That being said, last evening we were both craving something sweet. I put my thinking cap on and thought about what I could make that didn’t have butter in it. I decided on an old crazy cake recipe from our church cookbook which uses oil as the shortening ingredient. It’s also mixed up in the baking pan so this meant I was winning on that aspect alone. Also, any cake that has vinegar is a winner. Just mark my words. Frosting, though, was the problem. A good buttercream or mocha frosting takes copious amounts of butter, and as well they should, and I make a mean mocha frosting. Suddenly, I remember an old, old recipe for seven minute frosting – which I had never made. Cookbooks, though, are something I like to peruse through so I knew it was a cooked frosting. About seven minutes later, arm aching from holding the hand mixer over the double boiler, I had a delicious frosting that didn’t need butter. Stubbornness, and using what’s on hand, can often net you delicious endings – and money in your pocket

Friday, October 3, 2014


I have seen movies and I have loved them. My repertoire goes back into the vast recesses of the seventies, or at least as far back as I can remember. My list of movies that have affected change in my life is a long one. The list of movies that I simply love is even longer. Not many days go by that I’m not watching one - or have one on the Netflix queue ready to go. I wouldn’t make it very long without them, and if that makes me petty then so be it. There are more addictions than people in this world and movies don’t top the addiction list at a very high number. Books and movies are my only vices, well, along with live-tweeting the Oscars. Guilty.

I remember back to when I was small and we only received six channels or so from the awkward antennae on the top of our house. Yes, I did once get stuck on the climbable antennae tower. Our Zenith Color TV (notice the word color) stood proudly in the family room and when the TV would lose reception, we would get on the floor and turn the dial on the little box that controlled the antennae. You could hear it clicking as it moved its direction N, S, W, or E. The fuzzy ‘snow’ on the screen slowly evaporated as the connection clicked into place and it was a go to find my favorite programs. I spent many a Saturday, after Scooby-Doo in the morning, watching Super Host and John Lanigan. They introduced me to the old, old Dracula movies, vintage Wolfman, so cheesy yet divine, as well as those space movies I loved so much. Supe was part of my childhood and I soaked up every bit of those old flicks with an eager eye – I mean what’s better than ‘The Blob’? Friday nights with Big Chuck and Little John were memorable for the skits and scary movies they always showed. How can you not love a slate of Hammer Films, chocolate chip cookies, and chills?

Say what you will about my selection of films, I never gave up being a movie watcher. I remember seeing ‘Holocaust’ and ‘Roots’ on our TV at home in all their mini-series hoopla. Those movies are burned into my psyche. The late seventies and well into the eighties brought us the slasher films in all their glory. Friday the 13th, Halloween, and so many more became part and parcel of being a teenager in the eighties. Who can forget seeing Footloose in the theater as well as Dirty Dancing, Red Dawn, or St. Elmo’s Fire? I drove to Wooster during a thunderstorm in the summer of ’85 in my dad’s rusty old truck to see St. Elmo’s Fire. It was the first ever movie I saw alone and the memory of the trip and movie make me smile. I remember the first time I could get into (or did someone get US in?) the Lyric Twin Cinema with a friend to watch a movie, as well as the Quaker in all its vintage glory. Buy your popcorn, hold your ticket tightly to show the man with the flashlight, and when the lights went down you would sink into your seat. I called it heaven. 

With the advent of the VCR we were able to bring more and more movies into the home. In those days you had to drive to New Phila just to rent movies, and drive we did. We were so proud of that huge box that played movies that we would’ve driven to Canada just to rent them. Remember when you had to pay to have a rental membership? A long way and many years later I still have my rental card. Questor movies, that was the place.

I did luck out with my husband. Girls, if you love movies never marry a man who won’t see the ones you like. It’s a give and take, because we take turns picking, but my guy will see any movie with me – ANY movie. This includes chick flicks, horror movies, independent movies, action/thriller, and even a movie called Tusk where he really did walk in blindly. Bless him for laughing, crying, and going along with my crazy choices. It’s been an adventure in film. When the kids were smaller we would stock up on movies at Video Connection (miss that place) and make a big bed in the living room. Movie after movie would play until they fell asleep, then it was time for our movies. We’ve made them movie lovers and now my son is in school for Film and Video Direction. I couldn’t be prouder.

Now that we’re alone in the house our Netlix queue is big and wide, vast and deep. Movie rentals stores nearly no longer exist, so every once in a while we’ll rent at Redbox for $1, or download a movie On-Demand for a little bit more. We make treks to the cinema in Canton be it Tinseltown or Movies 10 which is a dollar theater. Some people spend money on sports or hobbies – one of our hobbies is movies. When it’s time to get out of the house we’ll look at each other and say, “Wanna go eat and see a movie?” I’ll grab my reusable Cinemark popcorn bucket and cup for cheaper than cheap refills and we’re off. If we’re sitting on the couch and cable has nothing to offer, I’ll load up Netflix and we’ll peruse the thousands of titles available for our viewing pleasure. We’re a movie household or even movie freaks if you will (shout out to the Movie Freaks Facebook community – which has given me more obscure and awesome titles to choose from than I’ll ever have time to watch). 

We’ll be watching movies forever until we’re old and gray – and yep, we’ll be that cool trendy couple that still goes to the theater because once it’s in your blood it never quite goes away. 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

On being a worthy room-owning woman

Do you feel worthy?

Slipping back through the curtain of years I take a look at myself with a harsh lens. I was not very confident and cared way too much about what others thought of me. I wish I could go back thirty years and give myself a slap in the face. Harsh truth. When faced with a myriad of ways I could’ve reacted to adversity, most of the time I let tears take over and went home to bury myself in a book. Granted, books are a good thing, but taking the time to be strong and face conflict is even better. Listening to music in my own world was healing, but not even Shaun Cassidy can solve all problems. I slid through those years feeling sorry for myself and especially letting those feelings of “not good enough” take over. Most of these feelings were covered up with a good heavy mask that I took off when I entered my room, which was my haven. Even now, thinking of that girl and the genuine ability and spunk she had makes me weep for what she could have been then.

We ask ourselves, if given the opportunity, would we travel back in time and live our lives a different way. Knowing what I know now, I would just want several days back. I would speak words differently, gather myself and who I am, and project that I wasn’t a pushover. Somehow, it took entering my forties to realize who that girl is – she is me. That was a few years too long, but I’m so glad I met her and we started taking names. There are times it creeps back in, like when I enter a room or gathering and start thinking that all these people are wondering why I’m there – that I don’t belong. I tamp it down and hold my head at a cocky angle and I walk in that room like I own it. It takes a bit of practice, but soon you’re not feeling the old emotions anymore. Victory.

It’s a bit liberating to state that you’ve beaten your old foe insecurity. As women, though, we are a bit too apologetic. I read an article this morning called “15 Career tips for women” and though the title sounds a bit blasé, it was an absolutely refreshing article. One of the quotes hit me square in the face because I’ve been this way. I know what I’m worth and I should state it without wording it like a question. We all, as women, need to tap into our own worth and power and use it to better ourselves – so we can all walk into the room like we own it.

“Speak in statements instead of apologetic questions. No one wants to go to a doctor who says, “I’m going to be your surgeon? I’m here to talk to you about your procedure? I was first in my class at Johns Hopkins, so?” Make statements, with your actions and your voice.” –Tina Fey

You can find this and all my other columns on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter

Friday, September 19, 2014

The insatiable desire for order from chaos

Insatiable, yes, that’s the word. I have been infused with the insatiable need to purge my house—every corner, every closet, everything. If you know me, you know that I have become more streamlined over the years. I no longer yearn for heavily decorated knickknacks lining every shelf in a whimsical fashion. I want spare. I want clean. I want minimal. When I was newly married, I was out buying all sorts of things from thrift stores that we needed. Garage sales, clearance racks—if it was on sale and we needed it my house enveloped it. I think envelop is the right word because when I go through things now, I don’t remember buying half the stuff I find. I’ve purged a lot over the years at our garage sales and by selling online, so my home is nothing like it was then. But, something has taken over me and it wants to clean it, all of it.

I’m thinking it has something to do with the empty house. For nearly 24 years there were children running amok in the home so we always were careful what we had sitting around. Now that they’re gone, I think Missy’s sense of style and spatial reasoning is coming back. I’ve got projects in my head that are popping out. I’ve already cleaned the kitchen cupboards and thrown everything out of the pantry. Folks, you do not want to know what was in the back of that thing. I have cranberry-dark chocolate trail mix that I now nibble on, and black corn tortilla chips that we dip in hot salsa. It is filled with things that our palates crave, and everything is arranged with clean lines and non-sticky surfaces. I cleaned out my coffee nook and threw away a myriad of containers. It is now spare and pleasurable. My bedside stands and shelf have been cleared of books I don’t need, as have my library shelves. I have a laundry basket full of books that I need to take somewhere to sell or trade, and I have my eye on more as my shelves groan a little less heavily now. I am planning on clearing all the shelves of my library and painting the insides a bright color, then arranging my books in an artful way. 

I’ve already cleaned out some of the boy’s stuff in his room he no longer needs and posted it online. The girl had her pile ready to go as she kept her room fairly spotless. I have a few things left from our eldest, but it’s bits and pieces of her life that no longer have meaning to her—except for the fuzzy pants she keeps here to wear when she comes home for Christmas. Those are neatly folded on her closet shelf. Three heaping closets, made when we created the dormers upstairs after the fire, have somehow become dens of iniquity and they are next on my radar. My fingers are itching to sort through the rubble and see what I find to sell or get rid of. This new phase of actually wanting to sift and sort is a tantalizing surprise to me. It was never something I enjoyed doing, but now I feel it’s just the shifting of the years and the wanting for things to be in order. It’s putting your life into a semblance of things that are within your control and tangible to your touch. With each piece I am gaining peace and making my world spare and clean so I can go out and do more with my life. I can’t feel as if the home is in tatters as I’m making a new way in a child-less world. I press onward, garbage bag in one hand and steely mentality in the other. With each item thrown away or sold my heart gets a bit lighter.

You can find this and my other columns on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Casting out demons and finding your spark

I've been silent. I've been pensive. I've been letting the dark shadows curb my writing. Silent demons, stop your scratching at my neck. I'm tired of you and the way you make me feel.

It's a salient process, this thing called writing. My focus, when I left my desk job to set up a nook here at home, was to find time to start the novel inside me. For so long I've let those demons tell me I can't write it.

"You will never finish it."
"You can't even start it."
"Just do it tomorrow."

Adjusting to the warm niche of home, along with the added benefits of coffee and food on hand, has taken some time to get used to. I have found love for home, kept inside, that now flows out of me. I am doing what I'm meant to. I'm sharing a passion and spreading it around, though thin in spots, that is ever progressing and changing with each day.

Losing inspiration sucks.
I feel as if I've lost a spark and can't find it.

Yesterday I got a text from my niece McKenzie. She's always told me how much she loves to read what I write be it my newspaper column or a blog piece. She says she can get lost in my writing and I always just smiled and said, "I'm glad you love them" never really realizing how much she meant it.

She started a blog. Because she was inspired. You can find her at Just Your Average 20 Year Old's Blog.

This has quite blown me away not just because she started a blog, but because she felt like she was never good enough at writing to start one. But she said "screw it" and created one. And she wrote. I believe she has lit the spark inside me once again. Sometimes we just need to say "screw it" and start doing the impossible.

In listening to those demons speak we give them life. We give them power. We make them bigger and scarier than they really are. Really, we just need to tell them to go back to hell where they came from. Slip your bad selves back into the pit because I don't need to listen anymore. Sincerely.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Throw-away blog.

I wrote a blog and couldn't publish it. My thoughts are too raw, too charged and full of gristle. Someday soon I might, but today isn't that day. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Standing on the precipice ready to fly

My newest column which will be published next week. Early for you on the blog. Check out all my columns on The Holmes County Bargain Hunter

My August is a precipice, a steep cliff that keeps dropping away from me ever steeper. I stand on this edge not only peering out at the drop, but looking ahead in the distance. I can’t quite make out what’s ahead in the hazy ephemera, but I know it’s there – solid and warm - waiting for me to arrive. My husband stands with me on this cliff, just a step back, and together we watch our last child prepare to leave the familiar nest of home.

Together we launched our eldest into her future some five years ago, and I wept. Four years later we delivered our middle child to her destination, and I wept. As I write, in two days we deliver our youngest to his starting point. I have been adamant over the years that they consider what is different - to see what is out there for them that doesn’t keep them near my sticky fingers. Those mom-fevered dreams that give you the itch to “drop in” with cookies or something they might need just so you can see their face. We bade them consider something that will be of value to themselves and then the world – not something that involves getting a “degree” for something they aren’t passionate about.

The hot sting of tears behind my eyes has become normal these last several weeks, and I’ve let the floodgates open. I embrace it and know that each tear that rolls down my cheeks is one more step in giving my child wings - wings to fly to unknown parts where they can collect themselves and their future. I’ve fixed my eyes on what I know to be true and right. Definitively we know this is where Hunter belongs. People may say, “Why are you sending him to an art school? How is that valuable?” I want to say to each and every one of the doubters, “What are YOU doing that is more valuable than this? How is your business degree, your teaching degree, or your degree in accounting any better or wiser a choice than any other?” We each have a choice in how to direct our lives and one way is not more important than any other. If we all chose to stay in the vicinity and get the same degree what a boring life we would all lead. I want to break down the walls surrounding our community and shed light on what is out there to encounter. We too often stay in our safe little boxes and peer out timidly around us with a judgmental eye. I reject sameness. I embrace diversity.

For now, we are carefully packing up each and every shoe, sweatshirt, and pillow. Socks are being bundled together and with each one my mind goes back to that tiny frame of his, now so broad, who curled himself into my lap for comfort each time the world hurt him. I let myself roam in those memories, walk around in them and pick him up just to bury myself in that tender neck one more time. I would be remiss to not let myself mourn what was – what remains in my memories. He is standing on the precipice as well, having fought his way to it, his frame now rugged and ready. He has forged his way through hands that wished to keep him down, sequestered, through words that traveled misleadingly on tongues without care. I laugh with him as we look ahead to the start – the start of his life on the edge. It’s a place where you make your dreams or drown in them, there in the highest of heights looking down uncertainly against the unknown. I see him there, standing on the edge, and I see him as a preschooler, so small and unsure. As quick as that image comes I banish it. We are behind him, ready to push him off that precipice – so he can fly away. 

Next week when I climb the stairs to his room and sit on his bed, now stripped of its trappings and pillows, I will cry. I will think of him in that big city and I will be joyful. I will savor his scent so recently departed and I will smile, because I know he is where he needs to be. 

Thursday, August 14, 2014


"Silence becomes cowardice then the occasion demands speaking out the whole truth and acting accordingly." -Ghandi