A Bag of Rice

This, this is a bag of rice. A very big bag of rice.

As I unbungeed it…yes, we close it with a bungee…to refill the container that lives in the cabinet, I realized this bag represents many phases of my life. As a mom of a little peanut of a child, I would have looked at this bag and thought, man, I could make the cutest a-line dress for Olivia with this. I had already made a dress out of a vintage pillow case for her…a rice bag dress…adorable. Next phase, I see a prop for Olivia’s grade school teeny tiny birthday party. We made oversized playing cards, candy bars, and other bits of hugeness for the kids to hold in their teeny tiny photoshoot. Fill this baby with cotton and bam, they would have looked amazing lifting this over their heads. Phase of the moment, a pat on the back for scoring this and other restaurant supply sized food items during the pandemic. Keeping my family fed was my main job, it all worked out.

I am thankful for the many uses for a comically large bag of rice.

Banana and KitchenAid mixer for scale.

Emotional Triggers

I can walk into a performance space and as the lights go down, I completely lose my cool. My heart starts beating really fast, I have a frog in my throat, and I get teary. It could be a Kindergarten Circus of 5-year-olds, or 4th row center at Jagged Little Pill… I. Am. Done. Hearing David Bowie sing Heroes at the concert for the 9/11 first responders, the front of my dress soaking wet with tears, ridiculous. Watching my daughter bounce as high as the sky on a bungie trampoline, her freedom contagious…chills. Seeing my husband greet guests at his one man show, I had to leave the room, way too emotional for me, so not a pretty sight. My family watches me, how long will it take her to start crying…I am their entertainment.

I received this picture this weekend. I cried. Of course I cried…it is everything a mom cherishes. I know the look on his face even though I am only seeing his back. How can you thank a person so connected to your kid that they understand the importance of a moment, and know how much that moment would mean to his mom. No words.

My little boy was the king of imaginative play. He could play on his own for hours, from his Sesame Street guys, to his Toy Story crew, to his bin of Star Wars toys. He created adventures that transported him to other worlds . Flying his Millennium Falcon around the living room, it was clear he was not holding it…he was on it.

Saturday, he walked into the park, and there, right in front of him was what had been in his head since he was a little guy…it was right there…he too teared up.

I am thankful we raised a son who can feel his feels.

The Great British Baking Binge

It’s back and I have been bingeing. It is actually not possible to binge, they are releasing episodes one week at a time, like olden days…when we had patience because we had no other choice. I love The Great British Baking Show, everything about it. It is an exercise in listening, using existing knowledge, and thinking out of the box. It tests working under pressure, handling disasters with grace, and taking constructive criticism. The contestants are not cut throat, loud, or manipulative. So unAmerican, the anti-Survivor, I am in awe.

Every season I fall in love with one contestant. The 17-year-old redhead who blushes every time the camera is on him; the lady who exercises while waiting for her bakes to bake; the young girl who is so poised and well beyond her years, it is almost impossible she could be creating such masterpieces. This season I really am having a hard time picking a favorite, kudos to the casting team, there are so many lovely talented people in one tent, I would be happy if any of them won. That is a lot coming from a very opinionated woman.

Can we talk about the kitchens…hello…my colors, mixer, bright teal fridge, sigh swoon sigh, my dream kitchen, I just need a proving drawer. I think I might tackle bread if I had a proving drawer. For a bit I thought I had been saying proofing all wrong, but in fact, it is proving or proofing. Say as you wish, I’m going English.

Too stodgy, even layers, nice lamination, good flavor…their comments in my mind as I bake. Those accents, praising or disappointed, I listen for them as I work.

Last Christmas Eve, late in the day, preparing for a dinner for 4 instead of 12, I decided to make a Yule Log/Jelly Roll. With none of the proper (proper said in an English accent), tools I just went for it. Baking my thin layer of cake, getting it out of the oven quickly, spread that jam, using my parchment to roll it…very little cracking…it was a triumph. The buttercream was over whipped and separated, my bad, I covered my mistake with confectionary sugar, raspberries, and served it. Paul with a bit of a smirk, hands in pockets, looking from the cake to me and back to the cake. Prue rocking some amazing glasses and dressed like a rainbow. I can hear them…nice laaayers, good flavor, I like the hint of lemon with the raspberries, lovely to look at, but too bad, it is really too bad about the buttercream, such a shame…almost there.

I am thankful for the loveliness of the Great British Baking Show.

have to, get to

The other day I looked in the mirror and lamented that I have to dye my hair. Thursday, a day off from my little guy, I woke and said…I have to take a walk today. I regularly have to make dinner, and in this month of daily Thankful Swoons, I have said I have to Swoon…more than once.

I need to change them all to GETs. I get to do these things.

One of the things on my list today is the wake for my friend Fran. Fran and I used to joke about how often we both had to dye our hair. We would assure each other that the gray looked good and then agree we liked not only the color, but the texture of our curls when dyed. I will now embrace getting to to do this chore…and I will kiss the sky each time I do it.

On this day, even though my heart is a bit heavy…I am thankful I get to Swoon. I wish you a day of good “gets”…I wish you peace.

Jury Duty

I am thankful to live in a country where people (in theory) have a right to a jury of their peers. I am more thankful that I was told not to report for jury duty today…fingers crossed I won’t have to go at all. Jury duty is a hardship when you are a sole proprietor.

gentle warriors

This is my dad in Korea, one of my favorite pictures of him. It is so him. The way his hand is draped over his knee, that sweet crooked smile, the slightly turned-in foot, and best of all his ability to get down on the ground to hang out with a kid.

We never heard much about his time in Korea; he was not really a boastful guy. Back then he was a partier, and rumor is that this trait postponed many of his departures to the battle field. It seems the clerk in charge of the index cards (!) indicating who was shipping out was a drinking buddy, and didn’t want his pal to go. I have no clue if this is true or just a family myth. Either way, it’s a good story.

Today we honor our veterans. I am thankful for them, I am thankful for their parents and their loved ones who watched them walk out the door, not knowing if they will ever return. I am very thankful.

I stand here crying for a different gentle warrior…one that left this earth for her next journey way too young. Three different cancers over the past 15 years, she fought like no other. She was a warrior.

There are people who change your life with their gifts. Fran’s gifts were many, she was a master of color, a sculptor…an artist. Fran was our hairstylist. This sounds like a crazy exaggeration, I mean really, who mourns their hairstylist like this, but Fran was more than just someone who cut our hair. Fran was a friend.

My daughter, another warrior…fights the battle of trichotillomania. It started in 6th grade and it is a constant in her life. When you develop this kind of obstacle in middle school things can go two ways…your community can rally around you, or they can run. I am in awe of the communities that rally around kids in need. That did not happen here. One of the few people we could always count on, who addressed the issue, who was always supportive, who wanted to learn, was Fran. Fran gave me the gift of one of the best days with my girl, she gave Olivia her first pixie. After a year of hiding under hats and wraps, when Olivia was ready…she trusted Fran to cut what was left of her hair. Without judgement or drama, Fran created the most beautiful little cut…hello Mia Farrow, hello beautiful girl…welcome back my Olivia. When someone makes your kid feel beautiful that person is forever in your heart.

Why can’t I stop shaking…these last few years have been filled with loss, what is it about this death that is hitting me so hard? Fran was a hard working woman, a business owner, a mom. She loved to cook for her peeps, celebrate her kids, entertain, and take care of her extended family…13 years into her cancer battle, she still hosted Thanksgiving. Fran was a woman who never turned down a job, who loved to make people feel good about themselves, a woman who gave. I am so very sad because even though she lived every moment of the last 15 years to the fullest, she will not get to see her kids grow up, or experience the first night of having an empty nest with her husband. I mourn for her, her family, and everyone she connected with. I mourn because her death frightens me and reminds me to live each day, to appreciate time.

Fran, I wish you a gentle journey to your next adventure, I wish you peace. I hope your next go is pain-free and full of rainbows. I know you will, once again, appreciate every moment.

I am thankful for Fran.

A Higher Power

Today on FB someone asked the following question… Do atheists and agnostics have a “Higher Power”? For example, when your child is very sick and you say in your head “Please help her get well”, who are you talking to?

I love that question. I love it because it made me think about what I really believe. My response…

As one who was brought up in a wonderful caring church and who attends another to this day, I have faith. I believe in a higher power, an energy that is always around us. I believe in sending vibes, prayers, wishes, to that energy. I believe that energy focuses on the good in people and is not punitive or spiteful. I don’t believe a person who dies of cancer is less deserving to live than  a person who is cured… and I certainly don’t believe any higher power picks and chooses who lives. I believe kind and generous behavior feeds on itself…and creates a positive energy that all can feel. I don’t have a name for my higher power, I don’t think it’s male or female, has human form, or is something anyone can describe. It just is. I also have no issue with people who want to gain strength from the higher power of their choice…as long as it promotes love, acceptance, kindness, understanding, and non judgmental behaviors…all that stuff people are supposed to learn in their religious teachings. Thanks for making me think about this today…you might just end up a Swoon.

And so it did…I am thankful for people who make me think and I am happy there are so many ways of believing.

Boxes

Rocketships and houses. Campers and boats. Magical props to cut friends in half. A big box was a blank canvas, a ticket to a fun-filled day. Opening our imaginations to ideas yet discovered.

When I was a kid boxes were kind of special…they did not just arrive on doorsteps everyday. We went to the supermarket, hardware store, or local variety store to save boxes before they were broken down for dumpsters. Nobody would ever think of buying a box to pack items for a move…we collected for weeks. A new refrigerator or stove box was like gold…they were painted, markered, cut, and taped. They lived in the living room for months, to finally be retired to the attic. Once in the attic they became sleds…carrying screaming kids down the steep attic stairs to the center hall. As I have mentioned before. It is a miracle we are alive.

This morning I noticed a huge box on our front steps. Steps we never use. Steps that have a sign on them saying “Please do not leave any boxes here, please deliver to the door up the driveway.” This sign is regularly ignored. I give this delivery person props for taking the sign and laying it face down on the steps. Sign? What sign? Anyway, I carried the box inside confused about what on earth could be so big and so light. Did I order thirty Thanksgiving boas? Ahhh canvases for a project my guy is doing with some students. Phew, we will not be molting fuchsia feathers over our turkey and stuffing.

The box, so big, so great…the first thing Greg said was “great box, maybe Dillon would like a rocket ship”. Dillon definitely wanted a rocket ship. And so we were back to that part of our lives…steak knife in and out…zip zip zip…that carving noise only made with cheap knives and cardboard. Anticipation. Greg, what are you doing, Greg what is a porthole, Greg can I get in, Greg, can you make another porthole, Greg can I bring Jasmine in? Swoon. There is nothing better than a kid and a box.

Today I am thankful for boxes…for the joy they brought me and my brother as kids…for the burst of flashbacks to our own kids I had while watching Greg play with the little guy today…for the supplies they bring me that make my life easier. Thankful.

Treasures

Good morning world… this month has been an explosion of people from all over reading my Swoons. To say I am overwhelmed and humbled is an understatement. Shouts out to my new found friends in Romania, Austria, Bahrain, and Ecuador. Thank you for returning again and again to all the others. Seeing your countries fill in my map of readers is a joy. I treasure you.

Treasures. Are they the people in your life or the strangers who like to hear your random wacky thoughts? Are they objects from your past or a shiny new engagement ring? Are they moments spent with loved ones, or a peaceful walk by the river? Treasures.

One of my treasures is my PvilleLadies text thread. It explodes on a regular basis, a tidbit of information ends up with 342 replies, little hearts, exclamation points, and thumbs up emojis. The Carol of the Bells…ding ding ding…a visual and auditory hug reminding me I am a lucky lady.

Today a picture popped up. A cute little stool. I assumed it was from the queen of Etsy in our group…but I was wrong. My friend had just spent weeks helping her dad clean out her childhood home. A huge task, one that takes much patience, and as a former Kindergarten teacher who looks and speaks like Snow White, she was the perfect person for the job. Carefully emptying the attic of a lifetime of treasures, getting approval on the keeps or the gives...she was finally done. Ever the teacher at heart, she decided to check her work one more time and returned to the attic. She went into a cedar closet, and in the back was a door leading to another closet in the eaves. Growing up we used to call these “the closets in the closet” and they were the BEST hide-n-seek spots. Anyway, she opens the door…and there is her mommies vanity chair, which had become her vanity chair growing up…just waiting to be found. Her mom had re-covered it in a green and white gingham to match the curtains and bedspread that her mom also had sewn. What a treasure of love…and to add icing to this perfect cake…she was able to get a new gingham cushion at Target.

Swoon.

I am so thankful for stories like this that pop up and make my day brighter…and for the friends that know I cherish hearing them. Sharing bits of goodness is such a kind gesture. We all win.

Have a great day.

The Effort

Effort…the thing that makes or breaks you.

Having the most… whether it is talent, athletic ability, intelligence, social skills…means nothing…if you don’t nurture it. Having a ton of family or friends means nothing if you never take the time to be with them.

It was such a lovely day today…a gift. We had a visit from my cousin’s child…more like my cousin’s man, I am not sure you can still be called a child at 32. We had met maybe 3 times before, a stranger. He reached out when he heard my mom had moved in, wanting to introduce his wife and daughter to his grandpa’s little sister. All the connections so confusing, we are family. Today, after two years of pandemic delays…my mom was finally able to meet her great great grandniece.

There is something about little kids that brings out the best in people. We sat around eating delicious vegan delicacies and fruit salad, cup after cup of coffee and tea, we watched and enjoyed the KiKi show. She danced, jumped, rolled around on the floor doing yoga with my mom, drew, sang, built with Duplos, and she told jokes…she entertained 6 adults for hours. I remember being at Fire Island with baby Jacob, the first baby in the family. We used to sit and watch him discover the world…and there was nothing better.

I would like to think I would have reached out to my elderly relatives if I had ever been in the situation to do so. I am not sure I would have thought of it though. I am so impressed that my cousin’s son did…what do you call your cousin’s son anyway? I am realizing this thought sounds like I am calling my mom elderly…mom, you are not elderly, other people who are 84 definitely are…but not you.

Family. I watched the movie Spencer yesterday, talk about a cold bunch. The director called the royal family “the wallpaper”. Perfection, they were proper and flat, no emotion, no energy, and completely confused by Diana’s ability to feel her feels. Today, watching the little spark plug dance around the room, we cheered, we clapped, we appreciated her free spirit, it was joyful.

I am so so so thankful for my cousin who raised a beautiful and giving son, who with his wonderful wife is raising an amazing little girl. I am thankful for all of them…but especially for the effort that was made to get us all together when it is so much easier to put it off for another day.

Making an effort counts, and I am thankful they did.