Thursday, December 27, 2012

Here We Come a Caroling....

My friend and neighbor Ashley has the best ideas.  She is the PR rep for the neighborhood and the fun maker.  In true form, she invited a bunch of friends and neighbors to go caroling.  When I first read her email I was somewhat doubtful.  Really?  We are gonna go caroling?  In the freezing cold and snow and people will really open their doors?  Will they even care?  But I just went for it.  The kids were super excited about it and so was hubs.  (HA!  He actually asked me two or three times from his comfy chair watching Sons of Anarchy (a very special Christmas edition, not!) "Do I really have to go?"  Um, YES.  You gotta take one for the family team.  

This whole season has been a blur.  One I realize today that has sustained me from falling down the rabbit hole of crazy grief and depression.  I got a note from an old classmate last night that said "You survived your first Christmas without your Mom.  I'm on my fourth and I still miss her like crazy (referring to the loss of her own mother).  It gets better but never the same."  I remember another friend telling me that I needed to "create a new normal" after my Dad died.  So true.  So NOT what I want to do but I have no choice.  
So these new traditions help.  Creating new memories and new activities that take me out of my head and desperate heart as we experience the joy of the we hear the kids practicing the songs before we go caroling.  So precious and these moments are so very fleeting.
All the neighbors were gracious and lovely, some even handing out cookies to all the kids.  And let me tell you, these kids were INTO it!  Singing loudly and racing each other to the next house....taking turns ringing the doorbell.
One of the adults said, "It's like Halloween without the candy!"
It certainly helped to have travel mugs filled with hot cocoa and marshmallows and spiced cider with a nip of rum.  It was simply a time to come together as friends and neighbors and sprinkle a little cheer in our community.  It felt good.
And even hubs enjoyed themselves!  
(the flask of good Scotch may have helped!)
By the time we hit our last few houses we had our routine down!  We always began with "We wish you a Merry Christmas" and then moved into a different song the kids picked.  My personal favorite was "Deck the Halls" but the kids certainly enjoyed Frosty and Rudolph.
Silent Night seemed good on paper, but that's a tough one to sing!
Thank you Ashley to a great idea that I declare is a yearly tradition!

(Ashley would want me to note that every year her parents and friends had a huge holiday bash (with lots of booze) and they were required to head out caroling.  Ashley babysat for The Brindle Family and they hosted the party.  She may have hated it as a teenager but in looking back, she now declares that caroling is a treasured memory that she is now passing on to us!)

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

First Day of Winter Break...

Lauren's gal pals all dolled up for dress up fun!
What better way to kick off the first day of winter break than to invite some friends over for lunch and gingerbread and cookie decorating!  (I'm officially cool mom for the day!)
All the decorating fixings for the g-houses....
And who knew that I'd actually have to bake the sugar cookies....crap!  It's a kit people, the cookies should come pre-baked!  : )  (I COOK, I don't bake!  Far too much precision and science!)  It's not about taste or eating any of this, it's about the decorating!
It was a pretty cool way to decorate the melted snowmen....watercolors!
Evan Reed and his buddy Evanson enjoyed painting...
We are building a village here!  
Ella had a family of gummy bears dancing on the roof!
Lula was not messing around...
Evanson ponders his next move...
Lauren tries her hand at the cookies...
This is the main lodge, G-house style!

                                     We will not even discuss the candy consumption for the day...
Sweet Lou...
Manager Lauren (or should I say BOSS Lauren) discusses her desires for the North facing roof...

The melted snowmen didn't look pretty, but the painting was a hit!
Evanson adds a little something-something......
Sweet Lou sneaks a spoonful of frosting!  
Hello Vintage snowman! ($5 from a thrift store, I couldn't leave him!)  Please note my new Santa martini glass that my friend Wendy gave me!  So cute!  I even left the milk for Santa out in it!  That's how we roll in The Anderson Family!
Deep in artistic pursuit!
Time for cocoa!  In Fiesta ware of course!
Sisters, Ava & Lula
My hats off to all the awesome Moms of the world!

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thankful for....

New earrings from my friend Eileen.  It's been TWENTY years since I moved to Illinois and became her roommate.  She knows me well.  I love owls.  I wore these babies two days in a row.  Eileen texted me and asked if I like owls or if she had a crazy dream and made it all up!  I love that!  She also apologized for buying me something "retail"!  Love that too!  (her other gift to me deserves a post all by itself!  so good!)
My bestie Kelly gave me this scrabble tile to wear on a chain as a necklace.  I adore it.  But I have so many necklaces I don't wear this baby as much as I would like.  I decided to put this on my keychain and it makes me happy on a daily basis now!  
Last night we cozied up around the fire and this a reflection of the tree in the fireplace door.  We made the best decision of our lives to change out our standard fire place with a wood burning stove insert into the fire place.  OMG!  I can't say enough good things about it!  On the coldest, craziest winter day I can start a fire by myself and burn just a few logs all day long!  
Evan took a bunch of ornaments off the tree and Lauren put them back on.  And we don't really live in a church, but we have a piece of stained glass in a light-up box above our mantel.  Really, it's cool.  Trust me.
Lauren purchased this at the school craft sale for her brother for Christmas but gave it to him for his birthday.  You would think he would have cared less.  He actually got super excited about it and gave her a big hug!  That's my boy!
Tricia 1972 (one year old)!!!!
Proof my son Evan is my twin! (ornaments handmade by my 89 year old grandmother Regina and her sister Bette)  Such treasures from my youth!  What was so cool about my Mom is that she gifted these to me and my sister many years ago.
Tracy & Tricia
Sissies forever xo
Best Christmas card ever!
(photo of my mom)
"At this Christmas season we remember and honor 
those who are no longer with us and cherish those who are."

My sister had managed to do Christmas cards after all those sympathy thank you cards we wrote.  We divided the pile and still, it just seemed like they would never end.  Kudos to her.  She cut way back on her list but did some anyway.  This is the first year in a long time that I just let that whole thing go.  Amen.  Relief!  I really wanted to do them.  I just didn't have good photos to use and my heart wasn't in it.
~Miss you Mom~

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Obvious Game by Rita Arens....

Rita Arens writes the blog Surrender, Dorothy (I've been reading it for years) and has very exciting news:  all her hard work, long hours, tears, and self-doubt have been WORTH IT!  Her first young adult novel, THE OBVIOUS GAME will be published on February 7, 2013, two days after her thirty-ninth birthday.  She did it!  She made it happen!  It's all very exciting and amazing and I can only imagine what it must feel like to look at the cover photo of your very own book.  

Those of us who follow Rita's blog know how much effort it has taken Rita to get here and we applaud her!  We relish in her joy!  We wish her major success!  What a journey Rita!  Thank you for making a difference in the eating disorder community.


Rita Arens
A short excerpt from the book:
When we were in seventh grade, Amanda and I snuck out of her house one foggy Saturday night to meet her boyfriend, Matt. We spent more time planning our escape than we did actually conducting it.
We’d made a list while pretending to do our homework:
Wrap flashlights with black electrical tape. (check)
Make fake bodies out of pillows to hide in our sleeping bags. (check)
Booby-trap her bedroom door with string across the threshold so we could see if her mom had tried to check on us. (check)
Assemble all-black outfits, complete with stocking caps, so we would blend in with the shadows as we walked. (check)
Arrange the rendezvous point ahead of time with Matt: the third-grade playground at the elementary school. (check)
It wasn’t until we’d successfully shimmied down the fence, jogged the four blocks up the street, and seen Matt sitting there alone on the seesaw that I realized I had nothing at all to do while they giggled and kissed. I’d been so caught up in the planning portion of our escape that I didn’t notice how pathetic my part in it seemed.
I twirled on the swings across the playground and out of view, once again pretending to be totally cool with it. The thing was, though, I wasn’t cool with it. I felt about as important as the guy who wrote the cooking instructions for Pop-Tarts.
We probably would’ve stayed there for hours if I hadn’t finally strode over to the jungle gym, coughing and kicking rocks as I went. Amanda poked her head out.
“What’s up, Diana?”
“Can we go soon? I forgot to bring a book.”
Her expectant smile turned sour. “Okay,” she finally said, disappearing in the darkness. “Just five more minutes.”
I wandered to the edge of the playground, thought about turning back on my own, letting her get caught out there by herself. But I wouldn’t. That’s what friends are for. She knew it. I knew it.
Everyone trusted me. Good old dependable Diana. Which was why most people didn’t notice at first that I was in trouble.

To be available at all major online outlets: Amazon, B&N, The Book Depository

About The Author:
Rita Arens is the author of THE OBVIOUS GAME and the editor of the award-winning parenting anthology SLEEP IS FOR THE WEAK. She writes the popular blog Surrender, Dorothy ( and lives in Kansas City with her husband and daughter. THE OBVIOUS GAME is her first young adult novel. She is at work on a second.

 She’s been quoted by Bloomberg BusinessweekThe Associated PressForbes Woman, the Wall Street JournalBusinessweek andBusinessweek Online and featured in Breathe magazine, Get Your Biz SavvyThe Kansas City Star (archived material available on request),Today Moms (Today Show blog) and Ink KC.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Last night...

Last night the phone rang and I didn't pick up, thinking it was for the hubs, as these later in the evening calls usually are.  Of course when he said it was my sister I picked up.  Was she upset, scared, sad?  Did she need to talk?  Tell me about some vivid shred of a  memory about Mom? Was she crying? Of course. All those feelings are right there, right there, and ready to move into position given the smallest permission.  

But better than all my anticipation about why she was calling was the real reason she called.  She had read something in a book that had so moved, touched and inspired her that she felt compelled to share it with me.  Right now.  And I loved that she gets me like that.  As a writer.  As her sister.  She knew I would I feel the same way.  Cry over these beautiful words.  Words in which you yourself could have written them the feelings are so spot on.

Last week a friend gave her a copy of the book The End of Your Life Book Club by Will Schwalbe.  She told me I should get a copy from the library and that maybe, just maybe this would be the book to take us out of our book slump.  Since Mom died I can barely concentrate on a magazine article.  

I picked up the book last week from the library and on Sunday night I attempted to read the first few pages. Sure I was exhausted from four straight days of partying like I was 25. Sure I just needed to go to sleep.   The first page just brought up a whole slew of memories I wasn't willing to contend with at that moment.  So I'll give it another try.  My sister is half way through and claims it has been healing.  

I've been thinking about the Newton tragedy.  I've been thinking of all the heartbreak, tears, pain, sorrow.  The damn sorrow in this world.  It just never ends.  My own sorrow.  The sorrow of the Momma's who lost their precious everything in such senseless craziness.  It just leaves me in a place of feeling like I have no words.  I have nothing to say.  It's all too much.  I can't take it.  

But when my sister read these words to me last night I thought of us, our children and I thought of the entire community in Newton.  

(Will Schwalbe's words from The End of Your Life Book Club, pages 128 &129:)

    I realized then that for all of us, part of the process of Mom's dying was mourning not just her death but all the death of our dreams of things to come. You don't really lose a person who has been; you have all those memories.

    But we were going to have to say goodbye to Mom taking her youngest grandchildren to a Broadway show or to the Tate Modern or to Harrods to marvel at the Food Hall and visit the pet store puppies. We were going to have to say goodbye to the little ones remembering their grandmother beyond a fleeting image or an imagined memory prompted by a photograph. We would need to say goodbye to Mom at their graduations and to her buying them clothes and to them bringing home boyfriends and girlfriends to meet her.
    We would also have to say goodbye to the joy of watching this next generation soak up the massive quantities of love their grandmother would have given them, and seeing them learn that there was someone in this world who loved them as much as their parents did: a grandmother who was delighted by all their quirks and who thought they were the most amazing creatures on earth.  It was an idealized view of the future-but it was the one I carried in my head, and I don't think it was far off from the one my brother and sister and father and mother had.
    I was learning that when you're with someone who is dying, you may need to celebrate the past, live the present and mourn the future all at the same time.
And God bless us, everyone.
-Tiny Tim

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


Mom gave this book to me in 1999...
My "It's a Wonderful Life" obsession remains...

THREE months ago today my wonderful Mom left this earth.  The more time that passes the more in complete and utter SHOCK I feel.  When I reflect back on all I have done, all I have seen.....all the tears, rage and sorrow in these three months without her....well, I don't know what to say.  I sometimes feel like all the life, all the joy, all the goodness of who I was has been sucked right out of me.  I'm not always a broken down crying wretch.  

Sure, I've laughed, had good times, moved on to some degree just out of simple necessity.  But I sense this shadow around the edges of every damn thing.  That little reminder memory that in one second casts a darkness on all that should be bright.  

I wrapped all the kids Christmas presents on Monday.  I should say I forced myself to complete the task.  Just get it done.  A year ago around Lauren's birthday my mom and my aunt and I sat in my closet and drank champagne and listened to music and wrapped all the gifts together.  When life presented us with a task, we pulled out the champ and put some music on and got down to business.  And we always shared a lot of laughs.
I will never tire of seeing Mom's handwriting.  She made awesome T's.

When I was hauling my ass back and forth, in and out of the crawl space to retrieve all the hidden gifts, I realized there was quite possibly many years where my mom sure as hell didn't feel like putting up a tree, wrapping gifts and filling our stockings.  (My sister enjoyed all the little items in her stocking to be WRAPPED as well and my mom obliged!  Years later she discontinued this practice and told my sister to deal with it!)  Dad died in November and a few weeks later Mom somehow managed to go through the motions of the holiday.  How in the heck did she do it?  

In the same way my sister and I are doing it.  In the same way we get up every morning and put one foot in front of the other.  I look at my face in the mirror and wonder who it is I see.  Who is this skinny-faced, puffy eyed with bags underneath, patchy haired woman?  Where did her old self go?  Who will she become?

I once was talking to Mom about the Godfather DVD collection she purchased hubs (that year after Dad died) for Christmas and she adamantly denied ever buying him any such thing!  I distinctly told her about the coupon she had and exactly which store she went to to buy it.  She hadn't a clue.  That's a classic case of going through the motions.  

Some days I feel strong.  I feel so capable.  Others days it is more of a sleep walking journey to do what I have to do to take care of everything it is that I am in charge of.  When I told hubs that I feel like the life has been sucked out of me he said that when someone dies you don't lose your power you simply take on the strength of the other person.
That may be true.  Heck, anything can be true right now.
Survival is brutal sometimes.
I have two good, look forward to them every year, kinda parties in the next couple of days and then I'm going on an overnight to the city with my BF for her birthday.  We have a killer hotel booked.  We have an awesome dinner and Sunday brunch planned.  I plan to eat and drink and laugh my face off.  I plan to suck the marrow out of the bone.  I plan to breathe in and out.  I plan to wear an awesome outfit with some ridiculous shoes that I can barely walk in.  I plan to just BE happy.  To MAKE happy happen.  To feel the joy return to my body.  I'm going to manufacture fun people.  I'm going to make it happen.  In the great spirit of my Mom.  Just about the funnest person I ever knew.
(I wish I knew the year this photo was taken....gonna have to ask Grams about this)
Left to right:  My Mom, Terry, her Father (my Grandfather) Henry, her Sister (my Aunt) Sandy and her Mother (my Grandmother) Regina.  

Just look at my Mom's sassy pose and her face!  I'm not sure anyone looks exactly happy in this photo.  My Grandfather is the only one smiling with some teeth showing.  Frankly my Grandmother looks exhausted. (she probably was, aren't all mothers at this time of year?!)  I do love the way my Mom looks.  I'd love to know what everyone was thinking and who took this photo.  That's some classic tinsel on the tree too.  If this was in color I can guarantee my Mom was wearing red lipstick.  

I'm adding that to my list for this weekend too.