My Christmas Failure…

tree 2015I just really didn’t get it done this Christmas.

I should have known it was going in that direction when Darling Daughter and I were hanging out in the living room several weeks ago…

Me: I saw a watch I love; going to buy it next time I’m out.

Darling Daughter: Oh? What kind?

I tried to describe it, then fumbled with my iPad, as I tried to look it up.

Darling Daughter: Was it like this one?

Me: Yes! That’s it. Isn’t it pretty? Working in an office, I need a watch. Just isn’t acceptable to look at my phone to keep track of time.

Darling Daughter: It will be here in 2 days.

Me:  Huh?

Darling Daughter: Just ordered it.

I was a little stunned…

Darling Daughter: You can wear it when it gets here. We can just wrap it up on Christmas morning, and you can act surprised.

So really, Darling Daughter started things off with her gift to me…

The Christmas Tree

Lead off the season getting it up a little late. In the spirit of our tradition of cutting down ridiculous trees, this years was a long-legged beauty—like a gazelle. Or a “pencil necked” tree, depending on how you look at it. The tree has a very long trunk; branches start 2 1/2 feet from the ground.

The Christmas Cookies

I made homemade dough. My mom’s recipe needs to sit in the refrigerator overnight  before being rolled out into cut out sugar cookies. Except it sat overnight for many nights, and we (mostly I) slowly ate the dough. I did roll out and frost 11 cookies a couple of nights ago. A miserable failure, really.

The Christmas Gifts

We started off with gifts under the tree from Santa, but the kids slowly opened them before Christmas.

I had the best of intentions, but I’m working downtown now and who wants to shop after work? I’m not a fan of the mall, avoid it at all cost. I’ve always been the girl who wishes the right clothes would magically appear in the closet. Same with furniture and household goods. Shopping has never been my thing. I kept planning to get the Christmas shopping done, but things came up…

And the kids couldn’t come up with anything they wanted.

Darling Daughter: You know what I REALLY want for Christmas?

Me: Hmmmm…

Darling Daughter: Toilet paper, paper towels, Clorox wipes, cleaning supplies for my apartment, shampoo, razors…Would it be bad if I asked for Kroger gift cards?

Me: No.

Darling Daughter: Because I really have no problem buying clothes, shoes, the fun stuff. I really, really hate spending money on groceries, the things I need when I’m back at college in my apartment.

Then, three days before Christmas, she tells me about a college t-shirt that she’d always wanted, but never bought because it was pricey. FAR too late to order the damn thing!

My son was no better. Badly needed a couple of pairs of jeans, and a couple of pairs of sweatpants. We went shopping a few days before Christmas, so that he could try on jeans. We found ONE pair that worked. He wore them to school the next day. They never got wrapped. Same for the sweater that my daughter picked out. Ugh!

That is how we wound up with only a few gifts under the tree on Christmas morning. We were already wearing many of our gifts, using others. I guess I just kind of threw my hands up, figured why run out in the madness? Why stuff boxes with shit nobody wanted, or that wasn’t needed? Figured I might as well take the kids out shopping this week, get them what they need.

My Solution

I drew fun pictures of what I would have gotten them, if I was more perfect, if I had gotten it together–gotten the shopping done. Rolled them up, tied them with ribbons, and put them in their stockings. They (thankfully) were amused…


Really, I’m just giving them stories to tell. If I was a better mom, they’d have no stories.

I had Darling Daughter fetch my laptop so she could pick out the shirt she wanted—and we ordered it Christmas morning. It will be here soon. Almost the same as opening it Christmas morning, right?

Family Time

Though we pretty much ruined the normal traditions this year, we spent a wonderful Saturday before Christmas at my Dads house, spent time the family/cousins,  in Pennsylvania (a short road trip across the state line) on Christmas Eve, and the kids and I attended midnight mass. After breakfast on Christmas morning, we took a Christmas walk in the woods and we’ll see more family this afternoon.  We’ll have fun in the coming days, we’ll get that shopping done—and the whole family will be together for New Years Day, even the Pennsylvania and California crews.  We are getting the important things done.

Kids often grow up thinking they’ll do better than their parents…

I’m helping my kids out. Setting the bar low.

Thank God it’s Monday…

nowOnce known for my catlike reflexes, I stumbled into this past weekend on crutches, clanking and clattering—dropping F-bombs. Or so Darling Daughter claimed.

My first meniscus surgery was 5 years ago. My second was last Thursday. Same knee. A little more banged up than the last time, but it went well.  My knee swelled like a balloon on Friday, and there was no getting comfortable, but I figured I’d relax over the weekend.  Not sure what I was thinking.

This isn’t a quiet place, especially on weekends.

Ever the optimist, I went to bed early on Saturday night; heard my Son come in, quietly turn on the oven for his late night snack and let the dogs out. Son and Darling Daughter chatted in hushed tones and I drifted back to sleep.


As the smoke detector in the kitchen sounded, Grace (my mutt), dove under the blankets near my head. I patted her, blocked it out.

Son mumbled something to his sister about pepperoni dropped in the oven. He opened windows, cranked the ceiling fans, ventilated the downstairs. We live in a Cape Cod home and my master bedroom is (unfortunately) downstairs; the other bedrooms are upstairs. Ugh! The kitchen, bathroom and back door are just outside of my bedroom.

BEEEEEEEEP. BEEEEEEEEP. Smoke alarm started up again…

The Red Dog (Rocky) desperately wanted in bed. Surrounded by 150 pounds of trembling, terrified dogs, I was officially awake. Son peeked into my room.

SON: Can I put the ceiling fan on?

ME: Why not?

SON: Want me to crack a window in here? It’s really smoky…

ME:  How cold is it out?

SON: Cold.

He cracked a window and I burrowed under the blankets.


The smoke alarm just over my bed joined the party. Darling Daughter was not happy. Son (laughing by then) tried to get a handle on the situation…

The Red Dog was in panic mode. He stood up, swung himself around—and knocked Grace off the bed. It was hysterical. He burrowed under my pillow. Grace quickly scrambled back into bed.  And I shook—with laughter.

I grabbed my metal crutches, headed out of the bedroom. Our tiniest dog, Little Lola, was hiding under the bed. Busy protecting my injured knee as the bigger dogs danced around the bed, I hadn’t noticed.

photo 1 (1)

The Dachshund was undeterred.

He stayed in the kitchen, kept an eye on the oven, waited for the French bread pizza to emerge. He held firm in a plume of smoke, in position to grab crumbs–or maybe he was short enough to not notice?  The animal has focus. Knows his priorities.  Which is probably why Dash is a sturdy little wiener dog.

I rounded the corner to the living room, smacking things with my crutches and there was Darling Daughter, burrowed into the couch under a heap of blankets. With the ceiling fans on full speed, front dogs couchdoor and windows open, it was cold. Her sweatshirt hood was over her head, drawstring pulled tight so that her face was hidden.

And I got it. She couldn’t breathe in the haze of smoke. It was like an indoor bonfire—with no fire, just smoke from the pepperoni sizzling at the bottom of the oven.

The dogs, kids and I gathered in the living room and talked while the house aired out. Son ate his snack.  Darling Daughter and I went to bed at around 2:30 am.

Sleeping in isn’t an option anymore.

Not since last spring when the neighbors got 12 chickens. The rooster did his thing on Sunday morning and the hens started laying eggs shortly afterwards. I had no idea hens were so vocal when laying eggs. But they seem like good chickens, right on schedule every day at the crack of dawn.

Not wanting to get out of bed, I settled in for a Flea Market Flip marathon—until Darling Daughter got under the covers. Son rolled the computer chair over, rested his legs on my bed, wound the dogs up, switched the channel, and turned the TV on and off. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I sent him off with my debit card to get breakfast.

As we gathered around the dining room table, he played with his sisters’ tea paraphernalia; popped open lids, tasted tea leaves, took the top off of her fancy, brand new $200 cast iron teapot. He’s the only person who could get away with that. When they’re together, they delight in winding me up. A college student on an engineering co-op, she’s home on weekends this semester–meaning they tease and torture me every weekend.

No idea why I expected to nurse my knee over a weekend.

ME (to Son): Please stop talking.

SON: I haven’t stopped talking.

DARLING DAUGHTER (to her brother): I’m so entertained.  This makes me very happy. I miss you.

The conversation continued, as Darling Daughter and Son looked over his Common App for college; he had asked her to review it.

DARLING DAUGHTER: When was your divorce final? Month and Year?

ME: No idea. I can look it up…

SON: Yes, when was our family destroyed? (And they were off, laughing, utterly amused…)

DARLING DAUGHTER: What’s your occupation?

SON: I always struggle with that question…

DARLING DAUGHTER: Should we put mom as a semi-skilled worker?

DARLING DAUGHTER (to me): Let’s not oversell you.

They continued on, mostly like I wasn’t there—having a great time.

By then I was desperate to leave. Decided to run errands. Loaded up my crutches and got the hell out…

And on this beautiful Monday, I’m enjoying peace and quiet. Finally.

Of course, it all ends between 5:30 and 6:00 pm each day–but I’ll take what I can get.

And truly, I’ve learned to love Monday.

Click here for my latest “She in the CLE” blog post. 

What is She in the CLE?

“A blogger collective dedicated to driving conversations with purpose by women in the Cleveland area. We provide a channel for women to engage and discuss topics at all levels from climbing the corporate ladder to sampling the best eats in the city to raising a family! Our mission isn’t about defining the conversations or topics – it’s all about creating a vibrant, virtual space that allows for networking, continual learning and storytelling.”

Haven’t checked it out? I encourage you to do so…

What do you want your obituary to say?

Something I never thought about until a few weeks ago, when I started writing obituaries for The News Herald…

Obits come to me every day by phone, fax, email and sometimes people come into the newspaper and I collaborate with them.

In an odd way, it’s an honor to write (or help write) a summary of the story of a person’s life. Their interests, accomplishments, employers and the loving families that they leave behind–or that have predeceased them.

When I started the job, I was nervous about grammar and punctuation. Readers of this blog will understand! I’m not the ‘punctuation princess’ and I often bend the rules of grammar, sentence structure, etc.

familyMy job might just drive my children crazy.

I’m reminded each day that there are no guarantees. I’ve written notices for infants, teenagers…all the way up to nearly 100 year olds. There’s no hiding from it. Anybody can pass away. At any time.

After a rough day last week, I told my children that I needed them to drive carefully. That I loved them too much, for them to be careless. They knew I was serious. They made me promise to be careful, as well.

My mother passed away when I was 20, after a three-year battle with cancer. And my mother lost her mother early as well. My Aunt had lost both of her parents by the time she was 16. Her husband lost his father when he was only a teenager.

Probably, this is why my family ‘gets’ it. We’ve always gotten along. We don’t argue over petty things. If we’re angry or hurt, we address it with each other quickly, then move on. To the important stuff. Being together. Laughing. Having fun.

I was raised by (and around) people who lost parents young, and I lost my mother young. And I think that’s where I learned my values. Values shared by my family.

I always thank people. (Even if I don’t like them!) Those who do me a kindness will be thanked, like it or not!! I always tell my children I love them. Daily. Still. Even though they are teenagers. I don’t want things to go unsaid. Even if my ways seem silly to others, I sleep better at night.

Which brings me back to my original thought.

What would be written about me?

She was ‘nice.’ (little family joke)

She was a terrible driver. Sang so badly, that even at 18 months old, her daughter begged her to stop. She did NOT let her daughter have a pet snake, but she never said no to dogs…and even a cat, though she took Allegra every day so the kids could keep the cat.

‘Things’ happened to her; torn meniscus while gardening, dislocated (and broken) fingers watching a track meet, heels regularly caught in metal stair grating sent her tripping through door to work, tended to spill diet coke on herself while driving her car, never used oven timer and often ‘forgot’ things were cooking…and cooking. Went from always being early, to NEVER being on time.

COULD NOT complete a white picket fence. Appropriate, as my life is not a ‘white picket fence’ kind of life…


What I would like people to say?

That I was kind, compassionate, that I always did my best. That I never forgot my priorities; children, family, friends, dogs. That I enjoyed each day. (Or most of them.)

Did this get you thinking?

What would you want your obituary to say?

What might it say?

My Broken (dislocated) Finger

Which finger got banged up?

Yep. That’s the one. My ‘middle’ finger… (On the right hand.)

And it has me wondering if I should attend tomorrows high school track meet?

Son high jumps and pole vaults. He also runs, sort of. (They put him in if they need another person in a relay, or something…)

nick high jumppole vaultPerfect events for Son. He’s been flinging himself about since he could stand on two feet. A freshmen, he never pole vaulted until last month. He gave it a try (no training, or experience) and quickly jumped 10 feet. He regularly swings up over 10 and 11 feet, using his trusty (or at least we hope it is!!) pole.

I doesn’t look so trusty when it bends and he’s ‘flying through the air with the greatest of ease…’

Last Saturday was Cold. And windy.

It was one of those track meets where only a parent will stand out there. And there I stood, out on the football field, watching Son high jump. I was wrapped up like a burrito in a giant, fleece blanket. My arms all wrapped up IN the blanket.

When high jump was over, I shuffled back toward the bleachers and tripped over my blanket. My hand smashed into the ground. Hard.

I got up and continued walking–As I walked, I pulled off one glove. Then the other…

hand copy Sh#t! My middle finger was headed in two directions. Where it met my hand, it was going left. But the top half definitely wanted to go to the right.

What to do?

I trudged up to the press box, to get my daughters car keys. I had to borrow her car because mine is stick shift. I drove to our local family doctors office, waited an hour for the x-ray tech to come in. (As always, I had a book in my purse.) Then I got nerve blocks in my finger, so they could yank it back into place. The finger was also broken, and the tendons and ligaments are a tad bit banged up.

Luckily, I got back to the track meet in time to see Son pole vault.

But for most of this week, my hand looked like a paw. Fingers, knuckles and hand were swollen to nearly 2x the size of my other hand–and a bit purple. There are three fingers on the hand that were jammed. Probably, I won’t ever be putting rings on those fingers again–unless the knuckles return to their normal size.

And yes, I type for a living with my job at The News Herald.

My goal this week? I just wanted to be able to hit the comma. Who even thinks about reaching the comma, with their middle finger? I didn’t until this week. And it would be great to be able to hold a pen…


Aunt Kate: These things happen to us. Things that don’t HAPPEN to other people…


Friend: You went down? All the way to the ground?

Me: Yes.

Friend: I’m sorry…(apologizing because she couldn’t stop herself from laughing in my face…)

Me: Go ahead and laugh. Everybody else has been…


Co-worker: THAT’S THE STORY? You’re going to have to come up with a better story.

Me: One where I don’t look like an idiot??


Lastly, Daughter teased me when I couldn’t do things; grip a pen, brush my hair properly, etc.

Darling Daughter: It’s a finger, you have nine more of them!!

(Son and Daughter both thought that was hilarious)

Darling Daughter: Be careful you don’t stub a toe. That might really sideline you!!

I restrained myself, but I really wanted to stick my finger in the air. To help my circulation, of course. So the blood didn’t rush to my swollen hand, and make it throb. Not because I wanted to signal the kids.



I’m a little apprehensive about attending the track meet.

Last week, Son was 10+ feet off the ground. And I got hurt, putting one foot in front of the other??

Plus, I’ll be out in public. Which means the beating I’ve taken all week is bound to continue. And I get it. I give those around me plenty to make fun of. I know they can’t help themselves.

Probably, I’ll go. But I’ll be really, really careful…

Or as careful as I can be.

Barefoot, Barf and Candy Hearts

candy heartsMany would have considered this week a failure…

Early in the week, I spoke in front of a group of about 100 people with less than a days notice. And because Daughter took the shampoo to school, I was stuck washing my greasy hair with a homemade mixture of baking soda, warm water and vinegar .

(See last post for full story…)

Found the recipe on the internet.

At the dinner table that night:

Son: How’d you smell?

Daughter: Were you mad? I saw your text about the shampoo at the END of the day!!

Me:  Not at all.

Thankfully, that isn’t the type of thing to wind me up. I found another way to make it work. I’m really good at that, because I’ve had lots of practice in recent years.

Then came Valentine’s Day.

People get a little silly about the holiday. (In my opinion.) Though I’ll say, I can only remember a few times that I didn’t get something from parents, boyfriend or husband.

And yet, the retail stores can keep their candy, flowers and other fripperies. I’d far prefer a nice fella to curl up with at the end of the day. Somebody I can laugh with, who’ll share my sorrows and who I look forward to spending time with. The Dog and Pony show? I could skip that…

Could care less about the candy hearts, or the flowers…

Which is a good thing, as they were in short supply this year!!

This morning…

I was up early. At 6am, I stumbled out of bed and made my way to the sliding door to let the dogs out. I rubbed my half-closed, eyes as I moved toward my laptop in the dark.

But my foot landed in something cold. And wet. The consistency of pudding.

I hopped over to the light switch, then flipped it on. Barf! One of the dogs puked.


Not for the first time, I was grateful for my catlike reflexes and coordination. I quickly hopped through the kitchen, dining room, down the hallway to the bathroom and got into the shower.

Not exactly the way I was hoping to begin my day, but I didn’t miss a stride.

These things happen to me. Often!

I’m not sure why.

Probably, that’s why it doesn’t bother me to hit a roadblock, because life mostly doesn’t go smoothly for me.

The best part of this week?girl

My cousin and his wife are having a baby—and it’s a girl. Not since Thanksgiving has the family been this excited. (Thanksgiving was a free for all when they shared the ‘big news’)

It’s a Big Deal to all of us…from Cleveland, to Pennsylvania to California and other locations—we’re all filled with joy to welcome another member to our family.

Puke between my toes, baking soda and vinegar in my hair, zero Valentine’s Day candy.

None of that much matters.

The things that really matter are my children, family and good friends. If they are okay, I’m happy. This week, I’m a tiny bit happier than usual—because there will be a new baby girl joining the family soon. Such a gift.

What a spectacular end to an otherwise ordinary week!!