And What Do We Learn From This? or, Sometimes, Nothing Is Something

Sometimes moving forward requires looking back.

So what the hell was that all about? The “Pardon Our Dust” thing?

I wanted to change up the look of my blog. I thought it needed some freshening.

I spent the last four days messing around with a new theme.

I dithered over palettes. I added new fonts.

I spent a lot of time trying teaching myself enough additional Illustrator to make a banner that with images I had made or chosen previously to symbolize the blog.

After a lot of trial and error, Googling and help chats, I finally figured out how to create a “clipping mask” in Illustrator to round the corners of the image I made of my face and shoulders, with the heart on the sleeve.

I wanted it round.

Like me.

Mike liked my roundness.

I got mad about how much elements of the “Creative Cloud” that I wasn’t using cost.

I unsubscribed.

Then I freaked out (hey, no project is truly complete without a little OCD smeared on!) about whether I’d still have the right to use the stuff I had previously created if I didn’t keep subscribing.

The (very nice and helpful, by the way – thanks Adobe) chat people said I can keep and use what I already downloaded and created. (Sorry, OCD, take a seat. Or a knee, as the case may be.)

Then, as I was scrolling through the blog with the new theme applied, to make sure I liked the (eleventy-hundreth) palette I had chosen, I noticed that all my “featured images” from past posts had disappeared.

Apparently, I neglected to notice where, if anywhere, there was space for a “featured image” in the new theme.

I’m fond of some my photos used as “featured images,” and refer to them occasionally as “that picture up there” in the posts where they appear; I didn’t want to spend weeks going back to putting them wherever they might fit in the new theme.

Which made me take another look and realize that new theme was a bit too cutesy or “whimsical” to encase my content on grief and loss, despite some other content that is funny. Or that tries to be.

So, feh.

Back to “2016.”

When I switched back, I remembered the reasons I chose 2016 in the first place.

It’s clean.

It has elements I want and doesn’t confuse me with stuff I don’t need.

And Mike died in 2016.

Which reminded me that, when I started the blog, I chose the “2016” theme as a way to keep Mike close while trying a new thing without him, missing him.

So good things came of the whole manic, circular, redesigning exercise.

I got new art that I made myself, even though I’m a total amateur as a designer. I won’t have to settle for banner images I don’t like much, anymore.

I learned more about using tools I’d have to use if I ever need to modify that art again.

I tweaked things a little – a slightly modified color here or there. I’m not even sure exactly what I changed, anymore. But during the process I learned which parts of the “palettes” go where, and where I can use a custom color.

I got the pleasure of days filled with creative flow: that feeling you get when you are working on something you care about, and you forget what time it is and you only think about how to make your project better and get it right.

I also got to remember my Dad with gratitude.  He taught me to apply reason to observation to solve a problem, accomplish a task, fix things that are broken or assemble things that are new.

He called that process “using your bean.”

Dad enabled me to “use my bean” to accomplish something I didn’t know how to, but very much wanted, to do.

Dad also had an expression, usually uttered with sly determination and a not a little glee, while forging ahead down an unknown country road or pressing on through eight inches of recent snow on less-than-optimal tires: “We’re takin’ her through!” he’d say.

I don’t remember ever getting stuck, when Dad was driving.

And then finally, it all came back to Mike, whose bravery and generosity in the last weeks of his life were breathtaking, heartbreaking and inspiring. Memories of Mike and of 2016 were, and still are, central to helping me move forward, fight my fears and carry on. They help me “take her through.” I’m grateful for the bittersweet reminder of him whenever I think about my blog’s “theme,” in both content and design.

So, “redecorating” my blog turned into a pretty good Harold.

Still climbing life’s spiral staircase, I remain,

Your clumsily creative, sometimes manic, mostly anxious but still takin’ her through,

Ridiculouswoman

Retreat – or, Duck and Cover

Hiding in the house won’t get me a job. Neither will my resume, apparently.

In elementary school, we had “disaster drills.” We were instructed to get under our desks and cover our heads.

This was supposed to protect us from apocalyptic horrors.

For mere tornadoes, we were marched into an inner hallway in the building, to sit on the floor facing the wall, with our arms over our heads and our heads on our knees.

We sat through a few really vicious storms that way, and survived.

I’m suddenly undergoing a burst of “nesting” – rearranging furniture, buying furniture I can’t afford, planning to paint again, trying to finally finish this house, so that we might actually have people over, to use those holiday-themed guest towels.

The result so far has been some really pleasant together time for my daughter and me, with a cozy fire and no TV (moved to the basement, in a nice finished room, but it will take time to get used to that; I bought myself cheap TV and set it up in what I am calling my “boudoir.” I have always wanted a “boudoir,” and I’m almost done with it. Just need some decent drapes and a chaise to recline –  fetchingly  – on.)

Wait – who am I kidding about guests? And who the hell is ever going to see me reclining fetchingly? We don’t have guests. Neither one of us really wants them, unless they are related to us, and even then, we take them one, or two maximum, at a time.

As for anyone else in my “boudoir,” well, dream on.

So much for “New Year’s Revolutions” . I was going to open up my Facebook page to “friends of friends” and change my LinkedIn page to describe what I want to be.

HA. Today I posted that I’m quitting Facebook. The politics have started again. I can’t take it. It brings out the worst in me – the opposite of what I’m trying to be.

Duck and cover. Sound the retreat.

Hide in the rearranged, redecorated, slightly nicer cocoon.

I need an actual, real job, that pays a living wage and provides health insurance.

I’m not going to get one this way.

But my job search is laughable. It has become painfully obvious that even in an allegedly tight labor market, no one is impressed by my very lengthy resume, pockmarked with caregiving gaps and peppered with short-term failures between too-long stays at high-stress, high paying jobs. Or maybe it’s just bad old (OLD – HA) age discrimination.

“I’m Nobody! Who are you?
Are you – Nobody – too?
Then there’s a pair of us!
Dont tell! they’d advertise – you know!

How dreary – to be – Somebody!
How public – like a Frog –
To tell one’s name – the livelong June –
To an admiring Bog!”

-Emily Dickinson (according to Wikipedia, that’s the closest transcription of what she actually wrote – when it was first published, the editor changed “advertise” to “banish us” and “June” to ‘”day.” WTF?)

“Put yourself out there, something will come along.”

HA. Frog, meet bog.

“The Soul selects her own Society –
Then – shuts the Door –
On her divine Majority –
Obtrude no more

Unmoved – she notes the Chariots – pausing –
At her low Gate –
Unmoved – an Emperor be kneeling
Upon her Mat –

I’ve known her – from an ample nation –
Choose One –
Then – close the Valves of her attention –
Like Stone”

– Emily again – and editors again screwed around with her punctuation and word choices – many versions say, “To her divine Majority present no more” but I’m sure “On her…Obtrude” is right because it’s just more – Emily-ish. (Dashes, HA.) The few analyses I found claim it is about limiting socializing to just a few companions, but to me it is about choosing one’s own company over socializing with anyone at all.  The One chosen was the self. Buzz off world, leave me alone. Quit bugging me. Get off my lawn. She likes her own society. Valves of attention closed. Like a kid with their fingers in their ears, yelling, “I’m not listening.” Nothing will change her mind. Stone. Unmoved and unmovable.

I’m no Emily Dickinson and I don’t want to be as unmovable as stone, but periodic retreat is a thing with me. Maybe it’s the OCD, maybe it’s grief, or fear – of running out of money, of not being a good enough parent, of nothing good ever happening again. Of boring you with boring me. Of aging and seeing my mother’s face in the mirror. Of a small, meaningless life, heading for a big birthday in June, sans even the admiring bog.

Maybe it’s this endless sloppy winter and spring nowhere in sight.

Maybe I’m just “tired of being strong.” (Connie Nielsen in Gladiator)

Is there any value in retreat?

Cocoons become chrysalides from which beauties emerge.

Let’s hope so. We’ll see.

Until then I remain,

Your confused, withdrawing, backpeddling, solitary, guestless and unfetching,

Ridiculouswoman

Menacing Midwinter

The rabbit survived. So did I.

The glass exploded. One just like the one pictured there, on the windowsill.

It didn’t “break.”  It didn’t “shatter.”

It exploded.

I could not believe how much glass was in that glass.

It was everywhere – inside and under the dishwasher I had just taken it out of, under the fridge across the floor, into the living room and the breezeway.

Tiny shards of it in my fingers and the meat of my hand.

WTF?

I had just taken it out of the dishwasher, and accidentally tapped it – just tapped it -on the underside of the Bulgarian-installed quartz countertop.

And BLAM.

It exploded.

Rational minded me instantly assumed that I had chanced upon the perfect point on the glass that was scratched or hairline cracked or otherwise weakened just enough to cause some sort of scientifically explainable reaction.

Kablooey.

I had to vacuum the inside of the dishwasher along with the kitchen and breezeway floors, missing a church service I wanted to attend, because it was unsafe for my daughter or Sophie the cat to walk through the kitchen until I was sure it was shard-free.

Earlier that morning, the relatively new television started acting weird, too, providing sound but no picture – just an odd sort of lavender glow.

Turns out I had connected the HDMI cables in the wrong inputs after switching out the DVR for a no-charge simple cable box (which still makes me mad – that even though I get internet service from this provider and I could watch TV via internet only, they still make me have a box and their salesperson was unable to give a technical reason why  – grrrr.)

Then the shelf on the new hutch on my new desk half-collapsed – one of the pegs that holds it up just suddenly fell out.

What’s going on?

There was nothing significant about the date that I could remember. I don’t remember what I was thinking about, other than considering giving up on my book, and missing Mike, and feeling a little lost about my future, when the glass exploded.

After I got the glass cleaned up and the shelf fixed, I spent a lot of time trying to complete an online job application, and just as I was finishing it, my computer spontaneously shut down.

Just turned itself off.

Wind? Was there a power surge and the strip cut the power? But the lights on all the other chargers plugged in to the strip were still on.

Weird.

These past few days, every time I veer in the direction of giving up on my notions of writing, speaking and singing, something interrupts, or switches off, or falls apart, or explodes.

It doesn’t feel like encouragement.

It feels like menace.

I wake up in the middle of the night in a sweaty panic, wondering what the hell I’m doing and what could happen, all the bad stuff that could happen, in my capacity as a professional-class worst-case-scenario OCD worrier.

My heart races. I cringe and writhe, remembering long-ago embarrassments, mistakes, and failures, imagining they will all happen again now, and be much worse. I read nonsense on my phone for two hours to try to calm down and go back to sleep.

And then, today: a sparkling bright, perfect winter day. No extremes. Just a spotless blue sky, sunshine and fresh snow on the ground.

One day of calm, after the vortex, and the ice, and the wind and the windblown snow.

The house has stopped creaking and snapping and kerpowing, now that the temperature has moderated, but I predict a spate of “giant potholes that ate Chicago” blog posts and news stories, come spring, because of the insane temperature swings we’ve had. A thaw-and-freeze cycle that cracked steel holding up Lake Shore Drive is surely causing concrete and asphalt pavement to crack and crumble all over the area.

Old Sophie caught a mouse last night, and lovingly left it’s gnawed corpse as an offering  in the middle of the library rug.  She’s still got it, the old girl. I just wish she wouldn’t flaunt it in the middle of the library rug.

But we’re gaining daylight – the sun is up when I rise, now, and I can still contemplate a walk in the late afternoon.

It’s too soon to say we’ve turned a corner – March is yet to come, all lion and lamb, and it always, always snows one more time in April.

Waiting for the clock to run out on the agents who have my query and trying to screw up the courage to start another round instead of giving up, I remain,

Your anxious, worried, but like the backyard rabbit who survived the vortex by hiding under the deck, as yet unconquered by winter extremes and associated all-night-vigils,

Ridiculouswoman

Caffeine and Cabin Fever

Clearly, too much coffee causes excessive italicizing.

That’s it. I’m cutting myself off.

Two cups of coffee and I’m a jangly bag of nerves.

Turns out OCD, caffeine and cabin fever don’t mix. Who knew?

We’ll be stuck in the house for at least another 24 hours.

Hours that will be spent listening to and worrying about the loudest popping and creaking sounds this house has made in the almost 20 years we’ve lived here.

Is that a joist cracking? Seventy-year-old nails popping? Window frames warping? Subfloors bending? Hot-water heat pipes pinging, over-expanding under the strain of the boiler (the thank-God-it’s-a-brand-new-boiler, but still) running non-stop?

I am probably the only person caught in the polar vortex who could find so many things to worry about when I am safe and warm inside a house with heat, running water, internet access and hot soup.

If I were Charlie Brown, I’d be the Charlie Browniest.

Climate change is killing coffee, did you know that? So in another few years I might not be able to do this to myself even if I wanted to.

There’s always chocolate. Until there isn’t. Because climate change is screwing with cocoa beans, too, apparently.

Coffee I can do without, but chocolate? Are you kidding?

OK, I’m on a roll here! Let’s find more stuff to worry about!

That steam blowing by outside the window by my desk, from the stove hood fan vent? Is that adding to the icicles dangling from the new gutters? How much can the gutters take, before they give?

There is ice on the inside of the new-ish windows.

There has always been condensation on the windows, old and new, but the only time I have ever seen ice on the inside of the house (windows and wash basin, to be exact) was in my third floor “digs” in a drafty, uninsulated (I’m assuming the UK has advanced considerably since 1980 in the area of home insulation) Victorian town home in Oxford. I’m from Chicago, and up to and including today, I have never been colder indoors in my life than when I lived in England. Perfect storm of dampness, lack of insulation and a laughable appliance called an “electric fire,” which was about a quarter-inch thick piece of “al-you-min-ee-um”,  about 17 by 24 inches with a too-wide loop of electric coil inside, that stood in front of an old coal-burning fireplace that had been half-heartedly stuffed up with newspaper, which didn’t stop its iron flap front from going “tink, tink, tink” all night when it was windy, and which heated a space approximately two inches around its surface, and no further. I slept with a shirt, flannel nightgown, scarf, hat and socks on, under a “duvet” filled with inadequate synthetic something or other and covered in damp cotton. GAAAA!

It was kind of charming when I could see my breath while (“whilst”) studying in the RadCam, but in my bedroom at night? Not so much.

My Mom, a former nurse, used to open the window in my bedroom in the winter, even in subzero temperatures. She was raised by Mainers (“Maine-uhs” a/k/a “ha-dee New England-uhs”) who allegedly put infants outside in the winter, wrapped in blankets in their baby buggies, for their naps, on the theory that “fresh ay-yuh is good for you, dee-yuh.” Sure, as long as you don’t get pneumonia or get eaten by a bear (hey but let’s hear it for the bear who kept that three-year-old kid company until he was rescued, uneaten and apparently pneumonia free).

The floors in my room were wood, not entirely covered by braided rugs. Awesome on bare feet on a winter morning with the window open. Builds character! That’s how we did it back in the day! “We’re getting soft, right?

But I digress. We’re worrying about here and now, OK?

Even if I wanted to, I couldn’t use my functioning, recently chimney swept wood burning fireplace today, because opening the flue would allow a blast of arctic vortex to roar down the chimney and freeze us in our tracks.

Did you know in the 18th century there was a sea captain found frozen in his cabin at his desk, pen in hand? So it’s not like it couldn’t happen. Even though the story of the Octavius is now regarded as a myth. But still.

Through the kitchen window I can see two sets of animal tracks heading straight under the back deck.

I don’t begrudge the woodland creatures some shelter (temporary shelter) but please, let those tracks be from a rabbit, not a skunk (does the cold obliterate the smell?) or a raccoon or a possum. Or a coyote or a musky fox.

How long does it take to come down from two cups of coffee? Coffee which clearly causes excessive italicizing?

At least there are no chickens in the back yard anymore to tend to, in this weather. Or more accurately, if there were, frozen chickens to dispose of. So there’s that, anyway.

Still rattled. I’m going to have to go clean something. Vigorously.

Stay warm, and stay off the caffeine. Unless it comes encased in chocolate. For as long as that lasts.

Wishing you a warm, calm, creaking-popping-pinging and indoor-ice free day and night, I remain,

Your over-caffeinated, under-productive, anxious, italicizing,

Ridiculouswoman

Let’s Layer Some OCD on That Last Post

DON’T GO OUTSIDE. JUST DON’T.

A few updates to my polar vortex post.

I revised it, to make it clear that I understand this is a very dangerous, life threatening situation.

And because I’m not that idiot 20-something that went outside in temperatures like this anymore.

That was a spectacularly stupid thing to do.

Just so we’re clear.

Please go back and read the revised version of that last post.

AND STAY INSIDE.

Please.

Because I worry about you. Pretty much all the time. It’s what I do best.

And because the wind is picking up.

I’ll be here, worrying about you, and praying for anyone still looking for a place to go.

Fretting, and listening to every pop and creak coming from inside and outside the house, I remain,

Your penitent, concerned, perseverating

Ridiculouswoman

Wisdom Tooth Weight Loss Secret: or, How to Drop a Pound a Day by Worrying

Oral surgery and germophobia make a powerful weight loss combination!

I’ve lost seven pounds in ten days.

What’s my secret? The miracle weight loss secret you’ve all been clamoring for (actually, that should be, “for which you’ve all been clamoring” or, “for which you clamor” – there’s no quelling the inner grammar bitch, even when what’s wrong sounds more natural)?

How can you, too, experience this miraculous, effortless and swift reduction?

Lose unsightly weight! Feel more energetic (and hungrier – I think that makes one a little more manic) and suddenly start getting SO much done around the house!

All you have to do is:

  1.  Have all your wisdom teeth removed, and
  2.  Be living with (in my case, self-diagnosed) Generalized Anxiety Disorder, and/or, Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, a/k/a OCD.

All the stars aligned for me on this one.

I put it off for almost a year because everyone I asked who had theirs out said it was the worst, most painful experience of their life. Some suffered awful complications that I dare not mention, lest naming call.

But, it went very well. After a day of trying to talk with a mouthful of gauze, and two socks filled with ice tied around my head, I had…

No pain, and no swelling.

I was almost disappointed, having been robbed of the drama I had been told to expect.

But I digress – get on with it, I hear you plead. How’d you lose seven pounds in ten days?

Easy – my natural terror of germs and infection coupled with the stricture that I can’t eat anything crunchy for six to eight weeks.

And no lettuce or spinach.

Nothing crunchy and no lettuce or spinach pretty much means I eat….nothing.

No lettuce, carrots, celery, cauliflower, radishes or anything else that usually goes into a salad. I can have chicken, eggs and cheese and mushy overcooked veg.

The instructions said I could eat hot food after the first day and pretty much anything other than crunchy stuff, seeds, nuts, lettuce and spinach, after the second.

So, being a salad eater and a carb-avoider, what did that leave me?

Soup.

Strained, to take out any little bits of basil or herbs or tomato skin or seeds that might get through, lodge in the (small but deep) crevices in my jaws, fester, create disgusting infection and probably kill me.

And overcooked chicken mashed into mush with mayonnaise and a little curry powder.

And eggs and cheese. Improvised turkey and swiss roll-ups with mayo and honey mustard.

Boneless, skinless chicken with overcooked green beans. Turkey burgers.

I’m so afraid of bits getting stuck where they shouldn’t be that I’ve been eating really, really slowly, and chewing and chewing and chewing with my weak and wobbly front teeth instead of the remaining molars in the back.

Then I rush madly into the bathroom to rinse, floss, and use this odd looking little syringe with a curved tip to shoot a water-hydrogen peroxide solution into the holes left by my former wisdom teeth, blasting out any of those little nasty bits that might get stuck in there (and fester, and kill me), which (the rushing madly, and the worrying about festering bits that might kill me) probably counts as exercise.

I didn’t have any milk in the house to make canned cream of chicken soup, so I made it with heavy whipping cream instead (hey, it’s called Cream of… right?)

Which was delicious and, it occurred to me, probably so high in fat, even though it had too many carbs, to, along with the cheese, almost qualify me as a Keto dieter.

I’ve also been drinking LOTS of water – I don’t know what it is about losing my wisdom teeth, or taking prophylactic antibiotics, that made me so thirsty, but the effect seems to have been a sort of cleanse.

And, while I was supposed to be prostrate with pain, not bending or lifting anything and taking it easy, I was actually

  1. undecorating the Christmas tree
  2. packing all the ornaments away
  3. getting the lights off and packed away
  4. hauling the tree outside so my brother could help me get it on top of the car
  5. driving out to the forest preserve to drop the tree off for recycling
  6. maniacally cutting up four cashmere sweaters that my angelic daughter innocently washed and put in the dryer on high heat for me, rendering them unwearable, and hand sewing them onto a fleece backing to make a blanket for my Great Nephew and racing to the only FedEx place open after 8 p.m. to pay a ridiculous amount of money to have it overnighted to him so that it would get there on time, thereby negating any money-saving idea about making something homemade for him but I really didn’t want to be late for his first birthday and, today,
  7. taking down the outdoor lights and garlands.

I’m beginning to sense a theme here.

Things that haven’t been dusted in months (OK, maybe years, but whatever) got dusted.

Vacuuming has occurred, often.

I just might wash that kitchen floor.

And clean the bathrooms.

And finally get a blog post done. Voila.

So, if you want to lose weight fast, all you need is:

  • a smooth, uncomplicated episode of oral surgery coupled with
  • a mortal fear of germs and infection which causes you to
  • chew very slowly with your front teeth, avoiding the molars, at the back of which are those openings into the dark and infectable places, plus
  • a determination not to eat any of the recommended mushy but very carby foods (potatoes! Hell no! Pasta? Are you kidding me?) and a whole bunch of too-long-neglected housekeeping.

No? Oh well. Works for me, anyway.

I’ll let you know where all this goes, in six to eight weeks.

Until then, I remain,

Your anxious, germophobic, mindfully masticating (yes, the word that starts with “m,” to give me some alliteration here, that means chewing, so get your mind out of the gutter), hydrogen-peroxide rinsing,

Ridiculouswoman

Dear Santa:

Please direct your attention to those in greater need….

Look, I know this is absurd, a grown woman writing a letter to Santa.

Absurd.

Ridiculous, even.

But ridiculous is kind of what I do.

And here’s the thing: I believe in you.

When you are in the picture at this time of year, people are more likely to be kind. Caring, giving. Generous, even. (Battle lines at big-box stores excepted, of course).

Magical things happen. They do.

It snows magic Christmas snow when the weather nerds insist none is in the forecast.

Packages and invitations turn up unexpectedly, from friends you didn’t know were thinking of you.

Customer service people actually provide service.

I confess I was going to write a tearjerker of a letter, asking you to send us a new man.

Because we could use some company.

My daughter is feeling our two-of-us-that-used-to-be-three-of-us, hard.

She misses her Dad, a lot.

So do I.

I miss the way he danced (very goofy.) I miss the way he used to peek around the door of her room when we were sitting together at bedtime.

I miss us sitting in companionable silence, each reading our own books, pausing to identify and then listen intently to, whatever selection was playing on our beloved classical music radio station.

So I was going to ask you, Santa, for a little help, finding a new man for us. A little help, here?

But I changed my mind because of a few intervening events that put things in perspective since I started writing this letter:

Sophie cat became “Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat.”

She had suddenly lost the use of her back leg.

Vet said prognosis dire. Probably blood clot.

Might have to say good-bye.

Oh, shit, at Christmas?

But Sophie the Christmas Miracle Cat, being, shall we say, un-enamored of said vet (who is a really nice lady, but Sophie sees her and thinks, “shot! run!”) managed to drag herself upstairs, do a pull-up with her front claws (and this cat weighs at least 15 pounds) onto my bed, and make herself well.

IMG_20180924_131149112.jpg

Meaning she somehow managed to dissolve the clot, regain use of her left hind leg, and after climbing up and being carried back down twice (for food, and, erm, other necessities) she got down herself the third time, limping a little, but by the next meal was walking along just fine, asking for her next meal, as usual.

Then, just as we were preparing for our annual ladies’ holiday excursion downtown, I happened to go into the basement utility room (OCD, just wanted to check and make sure the previous night’s fireplace ashes hadn’t done something weird and dangerous while encased in masonry behind an iron door in the ash box – you know, the usual, rational concern) I noticed the boiler was leaking. A lot. And not from a pressure release valve – from underneath.

Call heat guy, who luckily lives pretty close by.

Sorry, ma’am, you’re going to need a new boiler.

How much?

THAT much? Oh, my God!

Try to retain calm during ladies’ annual downtown excursion, while also seeking bids from two other heat guys.

Enjoy lovely excursion, including breathtaking, moving and lovely performance of “The Steadfast Tin Soldier” at Chicago’s Lookingglass Theater. Wow. Stunning.

But while walking along The Magnificent Mile, between the Disney store and American Girl Place,  among the expensively dressed, happy holiday crowd, we passed many, many homeless people.

Every three feet, there was another person, huddled in filthy blankets, head bowed, cardboard sign propped against their knees, or wheelchair, or walker, plastic cup standing, hoping, for something. Just a little something.

I gave the only dollar I had, because I don’t really carry cash anymore, to a person who was propped up with a walker, legs trembling, speech impaired, seemingly brain-injured and desperate.

And turned to continue our walk past the next homeless person, and the next, and the next.

Overwhelming need, smack in the middle of the swankiest part of town.

I have never been so grateful to come home to an unheated house in my life.

Yesterday, I washed my hair with water heated on the stove, and was warmed by the hair dryer, before we headed off to church.

My dear brother brought over two space heaters.

We attended a last-minute, lovely, holiday party at the home of a family who have been exceptionally kind to us, especially my angelic, autistic daughter, who loves them, as they have come to love her.

I watched her make conversation with other guests without my cueing or help, or presence, really, beaming, like the lovely young adult she is, heart full of joy.

Today I’ll  make our traditional Christmas Eve clam chowder and cornbread, to be consumed after church, and then, we’ll put on our warm jammies, make a fire in the fireplace and we’ll make s’mores.

Camping! Pioneer ladies!

I have no heat and no hot water, Santa, and I won’t until Wednesday, when the first heat guys who came, whose heart-stopping bid was actually substantially lower than the next guy’s, will install a new boiler.

And I couldn’t be happier.

Because today, we have a roof over our heads, food in the fridge, two space heaters and enough blankets, hats, sweaters and sweatshirts to get us through to Wednesday.

Three years ago, our first Christmas without Mike, I burned the cranberry sauce for the first time in my life. I’ve been making it since I was twelve. I think that happened because of sadness, distraction and depression.

I burned it again, just now, for only the second time in my life.

Because I was distracted by writing a blog post about gratitude.

I’d call that progress.

So Santa, don’t worry about us  Please direct your attention to those truly in need, and we’ll try to figure out something we can do in our own small way. (But maybe could you save a package of cranberries for us at the local market for when we do our shopping after lessons and carols? They were out by this day last year).

Thanks for listening.

God bless us, every one.

See you next year.

Until then, I remain,

Your grateful, silly, burned-the-cranberries-but-thankfully-not-the-house-because-I-was-distracted-by-gratitude,

Ridiculouswoman