Category Archives: Holidays

This Is the Father’s Day We Almost Didn’t Have

at the beach, 2011. the husband with the kids in the ocean. an intentionally blurry photo, taken by me.

This is the Father’s Day that we almost didn’t have.

Had things gone dramatically different on Thanksgiving — as they very nearly did —  this Father’s Day would have been the latest hurdle in a sad series of firsts.

It would have been the beginning of a lifetime of fatherless Father’s Days — which are the only kind I’ve known for the past 32 years.

Perhaps that’s the reason I’m having trouble writing the obligatory Facebook sentiment wishing The Husband a Happy Father’s Day. The emotions are too familiar, too close to the surface. It’s impossible to articulate in the face of the losses that did happen this year and challenges we continue to struggle with this new normal and our ever-present pasts.  They don’t make Hallmark cards for this kind of Father’s Day, which can be my lazy excuse (this year) for not buying one.

Instead, I look for the perfect photo, the best quote and I come up empty-handed until I find these words that I wrote for Father’s Day 2011. Words that still ring true five years later. More than ever, actually, if that’s possible. And it is, because while this was written in the midst of much uncertainly and change, it was also written before.

Before losing everything we’d worked two decades for.

Before The Cancer.

Before Thanksgiving.

Before going places on this parenting journey one never imagines when you first hold that newborn.

Before everything changed.

Before we knew now what we didn’t know then.

Here, then, an abbreviated version of “Father’s Day 2011: The Here and The Now”:

“I didn’t think I needed to write a Father’s Day post to The Husband. I really didn’t plan on it, to be honest. But then, you know, post after glowing post started showing up in my Google Reader – tributes to all the wonderful dads out there, guys who are the type of dads that The Husband is. Friends and family members are writing Hallmark card worthy status updates on Facebook whereas I’m … sitting here thinking, I’m really such a shit for not doing one of my own.

Because it’s not like The Husband doesn’t know how I feel, for God’s sakes. Obviously, he knows that I think he is a great Dad and a wonderful husband, yada yada yada, so it doesn’t really matter.

But see, here’s the thing: it kinda sorta does.

For reasons I don’t really want to go into on the blog and Facebook, it matters especially so this year. After being together for literally half your life, you fall into these sorts of silent, oh,he/she-knows-how-I-feel patterns, despite the irony of the minister at your wedding deliberately changing up your vows and scrapping the to have’s and to holds with phrases like “you’ll remember the big things like your anniversary, but it’s the little day to day things like saying, you matter to me that is the hard stuff.”

You take for granted that things like the laundry will always be done every Sunday of your life, like it has been in mine for 23 years. (Yes. Twenty-three YEARS my husband has been doing my laundry. Top that, girlfriends.)

You take for granted things like being able to count on your husband to run out to Walgreens for a gallon of milk, or take the boy for a haircut, or to pick up the kids when you’re running late, or to remember the sunscreen and apply it better than you, or to take them to the park when you’ve got a migraine kicking your ass for the third day in a row.

And these are just the little things. We’re not even going to get into the big deal, lifelong, no-cure-or-end-in-sight things.

Like parenting a child with autism, for example.

Like being a hands-on, 24/7 dad when you’re living with chronic pain for more than a decade.

You take these big and little things for granted until they’re not there anymore – or, in our case, not there as much. 

One of my faults is that I tend to focus on anything but the here and the now.

I procrastinate. (Hence, the no Father’s Day card or gift.)

I fixate a bit too much on the past.  I don’t always live in the moment.

(I’m working on that.)

And when you live with one foot in the future and one foot in the past, you’re not grounded in the present and you miss saying what needs to be said.

Which, for this Father’s Day for The Husband, goes something like this:

You’re an even better father than I ever imagined you would be, in circumstances that we never imagined would be.

Even though it doesn’t always seem like it, you’re needed more than you know. 

And you’re loved more than you can possibly imagine.

Happy Father’s Day.

  99 Days of Summer BloggingThis is post #21 of 99 in my 99 Days of Summer Blogging project. 
 

kicking off 99 days of summer blogging (1/99)

99 Days of Summer Blogging

Time to get this party started!

Today’s the official start to 99 Days of Summer Blogging, a little impromptu project of mine where I plan to blog every day this summer. Yes, every single day. I’ve started an editorial calendar which is already helping.  I’m using Evernote to capture post ideas for those days when I got nothin’.

Best of all, a few of you are joining me in this crazy endeavor and a few are considering it.

More importantly, today is about much more than the beginning of summer. It’s about remembering those who made the ultimate sacrifice for our freedoms and never taking that for granted.

As if on cue, the live version of Frank Sinatra’s “The House I Live In” just came on The Husband’s Spotify.

Always a powerful song, but especially worth the listen today.

sunday salon/currently … memorial day weekend edition

Sunday Salon banner

It’s a steamy start to the summer. (And yes, while the calendar may not consider it to be summer until June 21, Memorial Day weekend is the start of summer in my book.) Yesterday my car’s thermometer said it was 95 degrees outside. I’m really not kidding when I say two weeks ago it was so chilly that I wore turtlenecks to work for three days.

I’m on our enclosed deck, enjoying being outside for as long as I can stand it. It’s humid enough to have the box fan going, which helps for now. We don’t have any grandiose plans this weekend. The usual appointments and errands. The Girl needs some summer clothes and that’s on the agenda for tomorrow.

99 Days of Summer Blogging!

99 Days of Summer Blogging

Tomorrow starts my attempt to blog for 99 consecutive days. I’m thrilled that a few of you are joining me in this little project.  (You can too. Participating is intentionally very low key. No real requirements. No linkys. If you like, feel free to use the button above for any #99DaysSummerBlogging posts.) The accountability factor makes this more daunting (can I really keep up this pace? what if I run out of things to write about? what happens on the days I have a migraine?) but also exciting.  I’m looking forward to getting back in the swing of writing every day and clearing out some of those half-baked posts in Drafts.

Big Book Reading Challenge

Big Book Summer Reading Challenge

Another summer project that I’m taking on is the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge hosted by my friend Sue of Book by Book.  I usually participate in this because it only involves reading one book that’s at least 400 pages between Memorial Day and Labor Day. Definitely doable. If you’re looking for inspiration, here’s a partial list of what I’ve read for this challenge in previous years (links go to my reviews):

America’s Women: 400 Years of Dolls, Drudges, Helpmates, and Heroines by Gail Collins (572 pages)
Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn (415 pages)
With My Body by Nikki Gemmell (462 pages)
Flight Behavior by Barbara Kingsolver (436 pages)
And the Band Played On: Politics, People, and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts (630 pages)
The Years by Virginia Woolf (435 pages)

Currently Reading …
LaRoseWith 372 pages, my current read — LaRose by Louise Erdrich — is just shy of qualifying for the Big Book Summer Reading Challenge. It’s a fascinating novel about family and culture.

Currently Listening To … 

Sin in the Second City

Still listening to Sin in the Second City by Karen Abbott.

I’ve been listening to a lot of music lately. Part of the reason is because I work in an semi-open office environment, which can be challenging when one needs to concentrate. I usually just hit Shuffle on my entire music collection and And every day, I hear at least one song that seems to describe the day — or our current situation, or something, or someone I’m thinking about, or a memory — absolutely perfectly.

These are the songs that resonated most this week:

Linking

A few weeks ago, I purchased The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson because it seems like a book I’m going to want to own. Although I haven’t started it yet, Hilton Als’ feature on Maggie Nelson in the April 18 issue of The New Yorker (“Immediate Family”) makes me want to read this very soon.

YALSA (Young Adult Library Services Association) has a great list of mental health resources for teens In addition to books (fiction and nonfiction), blogs, and websites, there are apps that link to immediate crisis intervention and online discussion groups.

Once in a Lifetime is a new blog to me, thanks to Keith’s and my connection through Pittsburgh Bloggers. Keith’s post “A Month of Mental Health, An Eternity of Suicide”  makes some great observations about the hypocrisy of the media’s relentless messages of perfection and its embrace of Mental Health Awareness Month.

I’m a big fan of the Netflix series “House of Cards.” In this article from The New York Times, Robin Wright may have more in common with Claire Underwood than we previously thought. #FUCU2016

Some thoughts on … well, the power of our thoughts.

What are you thinking about on this Memorial Day weekend?  

currently … wrapping up christmas

Christmas Eve - presents

Christmas Eve, 2015

Currently
It’s our last night of our Christmas vacation in Philly. We’ve been here just shy of a week, enjoying a nice balance of seeing family and friends (usually over brunch or dinner) while also having some downtime (usually spent reading or writing).  It’s always impossible to fit in everyone who we’d like to see and all we’d like to do, but I think it worked out well this time.

Tomorrow’s a travel day back to the “Burgh, then I’m off on Tuesday. Whenever possible, I try to give myself a “re-entry day” on the tail end of these trips. It’s back to work on Wednesday — along with one final dentist appointment this year to use up some insurance dollars — before another few remaining vacation days segue into a long weekend.

Christmas Reading

Like FamilyRDear Mr. You

I admit, I’m scrambling to meet my goal of 52 books read in 2015.  Right now, my tally is 47 (much lower than previous years).  This may be attainable if I stick to shorter books, but I’m not sure.

Reading short books was my strategy for this trip.  So far on this vacation, I’ve read one —Like Family by Paolo Giordano. I was so excited to see this one at the library because I loved (but, sadly, didn’t review) his previous novel, The Solitude of Prime Numbers.  I really liked this new one, which I breezed through in a few hours (if that). Told in flashback and set in Italy, it’s about a couple who hire a housekeeper, Mrs. A., to help out during a difficult pregnancy and who stays on as a nanny for several years. After Mrs. A. is diagnosed with cancer, she decides to leave the household abruptly. The book, then, is about how she has changed the course of the couple’s marriage and their lives.

Right now I’m reading Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker, which is incredibly well-written and very likely to be on my favorites list. This exactly the reason why I usually don’t post my best-of lists before year’s end; this time of year often brings more opportunities than usual to read and more often than not, something I read while we finish up this trip around the sun surprises and delights me.  Dear Mr. You is going to be that book. The concept is fantastic: it’s structured as a collection of letters that Ms. Parker has written to each of the significant men in her life.

Christmas Not Reading …
For the past few years, I’ve enjoyed spending part of Christmas week with a holiday-themed story. The timing of this needs to be carefully considered and calibrated; I don’t like to start this particular book much before Christmas Eve and I like to be finished by the day after Christmas. This started in 2011 when I reviewed A Clockwork Christmas, a collection of four steampunk tales.

A Christmas Carol was my 2012 selection, followed by The Chimes last year. (I’m not sure what happened in 2013. Maybe A Christmas Carol again, I don’t know.)  I wasn’t impressed with The Chimes, and I was even less enamored with this year’s selection, The Cricket on the Hearth. Slightly less than halfway through this one, there was still no sign of Christmas in Dickens’ long-winded and discombobulated narrative.  This happened to be one of my Classics Club selections, too (although not the one for this most recent spin), so I’ll probably replace it with something.

Christmas Listening …
Between wrapping gifts and a few bouts of insomnia, I’ve been listening to more podcasts than usual. Here are some of the best:

The Writer’s Almanac: “The Meeting” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (12/25/2015)
Such a perfect poem for Christmas when you’re missing someone special.

Burnt Toast: “Someone Put a Diaper on the Turkey” (12/17/2015)
Listeners’ stories of hilarious holiday disasters involving food.

New Yorker Poetry: Ellen Bass Reads Adam Zagajewski (12/16/2015)
Adam Zagajewski’s poem “Try to Praise the Mutilated World” resonated with me.

On Being: Martin Sheen: Spirituality of Imagination (12/16/2015)
Fantastic interview with actor and activist Martin Sheen about his spirituality.

“Yeah, the love that I longed for, and I think all of us really long for, is knowing that we are loved. A knowingness about our being that unites us to all of humanity, to all of the universe. That despite ourselves, we are loved. And when you realize that, and you embrace that, you begin to look at everyone else and you can see very clearly who in your vision knows they’re loved and who does not. And that makes all the difference. And I began to give thanks and praise for that love. You know how, so often, people say they go on this journey — and I said it, too — that “I’m looking for God.” But God has already found us, really. We have to look in the spot where we’re least likely to look, and that is within ourselves. And when we find that love, that presence, deep within our own personal being — and it’s not something that you can earn, or something that you can work towards. It’s just a realization of being human, of being alive, of being conscious. And that love is overwhelming. And that is the basic foundation of joy. And we become enviable joyful. And then we see it in others, and we seek to ignite that love in others. You can’t do it. You can’t force someone to realize they’re loved, but you can show them.” – Martin Sheen

The Moth Podcast: Eve Plumb and The Pittsburgh StorySLAM (12/15/2015) 
Eve Plumb (you know her as Jan Brady) is hilarious in this episode of The Moth where she shares stories about her childhood on and off the set of The Brady Bunch, and her relationship with her mother. In another story (not involving Eve Plumb or Jan Brady), a slideshow of photos intended for an audience of two winds up being shown at a family gathering.

Christmas Shopping …
The Husband, The Girl, and I all received some great books for Christmas — and The Girl and I went on a little bit of a shopping spree (thanks to her Christmas cash burning a hole in her pocket) at two local independent bookstores.  I need to wrap up this post, though, and get to bed, so I’ll plan on doing that recap separately.

Anticipating … 
I can’t believe this is the last Sunday Salon/Currently for 2015!  I really like doing these posts (even though they tend to take me forever) and in looking back over my blogging this year, oftentimes they’ve been the only posts I’ve written in a particular week.  I’m hoping to remedy that in 2016.

In addition to the book haul from this week, I have a few other fun posts planned.  Hope your holidays were good ones and that you have a great last week of 2015!

and i do come home at christmas

“And I do come home at Christmas. We all do, or we all should. We all come home, or ought to come home, for a short holiday–the longer, the better–from the great boarding-school, where we are for ever working at our arithmetical slates, to take, and give a rest. As to going a visiting, where can we not go, if we will; where have we not been, when we would; starting our fancy from our Christmas Tree!

Away into the winter prospect. There are many such upon the tree! On, by low-lying, misty grounds, through fens and fogs, up long hills, winding dark as caverns between thick plantations, almost shutting out the sparkling stars; so, out on broad heights, until we stop at last ….” ~ Charles Dickens

We traveled across the state, over low-lying, misty, foggy hills. Into a brief blue of dawn and the brume of day.

There are sugar cookies waiting. Books for reading.  Dinner plans with friends who are like family. Who are our family.

It is good to be home.

 

currently …jing-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-ling

Christmas 2012 (30)

poinsettia, at my mom’s

“It’s that time, Christmas time is here
Everybody knows, there’s not a better time of year
Hear that sleigh, Santa’s on his way
Hip, hip hooray, for Christmas vacation

Gotta a ton of stuff to celebrate
(Jing-a-ling-a-ling-a-ling-ling)
Now it’s getting closer, I can’t wait
(Jang-a-lang-a-lang-a-lang-lang)
Gonna make this holiday as perfect as can be
Just wait and see this Christmas vacation.” 
~ “Christmas Vacation” ~ written by Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil, performed by Mavis Staples

Currently …
Quiet Sunday afternoon here, with the usual football on TV (we’ll get to see the Eagles tonight!) reading the papers and blogs, and a simmering crockpot on the counter.  I’m on the third day of a stubborn headache which isn’t responding much to the usual remedies (Advil, lots of water, several doses of my prescription Maxalt) but hopefully this disappears soon.  I know I had some gluten on several occasions last week, so that could be to blame along with the crazy weather. After near-record highs last week, colder (and more seasonal) weather has returned — along with the first dusting of snow —  but I’m hearing that the warmth may be making a comeback for Christmas.

Vacationing …
Thanks to having an abundance of use-’em-or-lose-’em vacation days remaining this year, I’m off from work until January 4!  (There’s one day that I’m planning to head into the office, but I’m anticipating that will be fairly casual and low-key.) Since the time off that I had at Thanksgiving was spent in the hospital with The Husband, I’m more than ready for this. I’m very much looking forward to a week of downtime with family, friends, maybe a movie or two, and some good books.

The WitchesReading …
Not much this week, actually. Still working on The Witches. This is good, but taking forever to get through.

Watching …
Speaking of Christmas vacations, last year we introduced the kids to the classic “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” We watched it again on Friday.  I can count on one hand the number of movies I’ve watched more than once (I’m not big on repeating many things) but this is one of them.

Not Watching …
Who else is completely uninterested in anything related to Star Wars? I saw the first three when I was little, and they never held much of an appeal for me. I remember having a Princess Leia doll but that’s about it. None of the three people I live with have any desire to see it either, which is good. (It’s also good for clearing out a lot of posts in my Feedly!)

Cooking …
I’m making a new crockpot recipe today (Yellow Split Pea Chowder) from 5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook by Stephanie O’Dea. I’m using Trader Joe’s vegetarian soy chorizo in this, which is a new ingredient for us.

(Update: Of the four of us, only The Husband liked it. Too spicy for my taste.)

Shopping …
We’re only buying for the kids this year. No adults, so that helps. My kids usually don’t ask for very much at all, which makes them difficult to shop for. I have iTunes gift cards for both kids as well as our nephews and niece. I’m probably going to go shopping tomorrow and get a few little things, plus some clothes that they need.

Anticipating … 
Christmas week with family and friends!

Currently: 12 Days Before Christmas Countdown

Currently…
I’ve been loving these warm temperatures this weekend. We’re talking close to 70 degrees yesterday and today! Of course, it was somewhat overcast (this is Pittsburgh, after all) but it was nice to run errands without a heavy coat. I would love weather like this all winter long and if we never see a speck of snow, that would be perfectly fine with me.

Anticipating…
It may not feel like Christmas weather-wise, but I’m more than ready for it. (Not so much regarding the shopping part. That I’m not ready for at all, as usual.) I wound up with a lot of extra vacation days this year (that’s the plus-side of our cancelled San Diego trip earlier this fall, I suppose). I’m definitely looking forward to some time off, starting this Friday.

Reading…
Between the World and MeThis week I finished Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates, which seems to be on all the “Best Of” the year book lists. I’ll let you in on a secret: it’s going to be on mine, too. Although I’ve started compiling my year-end wrap up lists, I’m not planning to post them until closer to the end of the month because there are a few more that I’m hoping to get to that may be Best Of contenders that I’m hoping to get to — especially since I’m hoping for some additional reading time.

I thought Between the World and Me was such a powerful, affecting book. Coates wrote this memoir as a letter to his 15-year-old son about “his awakening to the truth about his place in the world” as an African-American man. He writes eloquently of his childhood, his time attending Howard University, the influences that helped him gain his perspective on history, and a college acquaintance named Prince Jones who was killed following a police chase through three counties.  A journalist, Coates weaves current events into his and his son’s reality.   Highly recommended.

Cooking…
I’m so proud of myself. Not only did I create a meal plan before going to the grocery store today, but my meal plan spans into next week. I want to use up all of our perishables in the fridge before the holidays, so that necessitated some pre-planning.  Unfortunately tonight’s dinner did not turn out well — and the irony was that it was a baked macaroni and cheese recipe that I haven’t made for years. Go figure.  I’m pursuing two cookbooks from the library that look promising:  5 Ingredients or Less Slow Cooker Cookbook by Stephanie O’Dea and At My Table by Mary McCartney. Maybe I should have chosen something from one of those.

Hope you had a great weekend!