Rumble in the ‘hood, motherhood, that is.

Have you seen the video? This one, by Similac—Sisterhood of Motherhood.

The atmosphere on social media has become toxic in so many ways, and mothering/parenting has not escaped its poison. The anonymity of commenting, especially if one uses a nom de plume, guarantees very little backlash for disparaging comments made. Everyone is an expert, and everyone, it seems, wants to think that their way is best, and how dare you to choose a different path or method. No area is off limits, from how one becomes pregnant, delivery choices, methods of feeding, stay-at-home-mom (SAHM) versus working mom, whether one pushes (in a stroller) or cuddles (in a Moby). These are just some of the highlights (or lowlights?) of ways mothers and others can use to find fault in how one raises their child. And these aren’t gentle suggestions, they more exactly resemble hate mail and bullying.

The video starts out like a rumble in the park, ala West Side Story. It is humorous without being mean, and gently rebukes those who choose to criticize mothers and fathers. The ending is sweet, and I actually felt tears welling up inside. The message is well taken, let’s stop bullying with words. Let’s support our compatriots in life, no matter what path they choose. Let’s just all get along.

Eighteen below

Or -19°, depending on which weather service you believe. School is canceled again…two days last week for frigid wind chill temperatures. More than likely there will be more cancellations later this week. They’re predicting double-digit negatives at least two more nights. February is set to go down in the record books as the coldest ever. March isn’t looking too good, either, at least not for syrup making. It’s probably going to be a bust this year. We’ll have really cold weather, and then all of a sudden, it will be hot. I hate it when we have little or no spring. It just isn’t right.

I’m hoping to get a vegetable garden started this spring. We’re probably going to use part of the front yard, because it gets the most direct sunlight in the summer months. Don’t worry, it will have a decorative fence around it, so it won’t be too tacky. We’ll be all Martha Stewart here, minus all the minion gardeners. It will be us doing all the work. Raised beds will be the way to go. The soil here is awful and needs years of amending with compost. I started a new compost pile as soon as we moved in, but it won’t be ready to use by spring, so we’ll have to buy a truckload. I’m itching to get outside and dig in the dirt.

I also need to work on the landscaping beds around the house. The plants there are well established, but they need more. I think they landscaped with low maintenance in mind.There’s a river birch beside the patio that I love. It’s right beside the hot tub. I want to add a Japanese maple like the one we had at the other house. It had the most beautiful red fall foliage. The irises need to be divided. I should have done it last fall, but it didn’t happen. We had a bunch on the east side of the house that bloomed in October. I’ve never had irises bloom in October.

I hope you enjoy this little song from Franklin and Friends (a children’s TV series). It says exactly what I’m feeling right now.

Random musings–thirteen


It saddens me that Brian Williams did something so stupid that it has probably wrecked his career, except as guest on late-night talk shows, where, ironically, he first began to embellish his stories. He was my go-to guy on the news. I trusted him almost as much as Tom Brokaw. Lester Holt is a great newscaster, but I just really liked Brian. I’ve tried not to watch or read the analyses of him, but it’s hard to turn away from a train wreck. They say he’ll be back in six months, but I think he’s done.


According to some beliefs, if you’re born on Friday the thirteenth, you will be lucky for life. According to others, you will be unlucky for life. I think it’s six of one, half-dozen of another. If you have a fear of this occurrence on the calendar, of which there are three this year, you have friggatriskaidekaphobia (Norse god Frigga, meaning Friday, and triskaidekaphobia, meaning fear of the number thirteen). I don’t believe in superstitions or good luck or bad luck. I believe that life just happens, and that we’re all unwitting pawns in the game of it.

Men and space

Why, when you’re busy doing something, especially in the kitchen, are men always standing where you need to be at any given moment? It never fails. I shoo David out of one place, because he’s in my way, and he moves to the exact next place that I need to be. Always.

He goes back to work–sort of

David’s been offered an advisory position at a company with whom he used to do business before he retired. It’s as much, or as little, as he would like to do. Of course, until he’s 66, another two years, he can only earn a limited income before it affects his social security earnings. Up to $12,000, I believe he said. That would be nice. Maybe we could actually take a nice vacation. It’s been so long, I don’t even remember the last one that wasn’t camping. It’s been at least three years since we even did that without taking the grandkids. Or we could pay down the home equity loan. That would be more practical.


It’s really getting me down. We had no January thaw this year. So far, February is pretty awful, too. We did have a couple of days last week that melted off some of the snow, but the icy driveway is still a hockey rink. Yesterday, when I was driving to the post office, I drove past our old house and noticed that the driveway there is even worse than ours. So, I guess we’re better off than they are. I’m just really, really glad I don’t live in Buffalo or Boston. We’re definitely better off than those people are.

My house has big windows

And lots of them. The family room has six, plus two sky lights. One wall is basically all windows. The view is great into the backyard, but even though they’re good insulated Andersen windows, there is still a lot of heat conductivity through all that glass. The only window treatments are ugly cornice boards and some filmy sheer panels that don’t even go across the windows. They’re just on the side for decorative purposes. It’s going to cost a small fortune to buy insulated panels to put up. Oh, I guess that’s what we can use the new income for.

Speaking of ugly decor

Well, it’s not ugly per se, but it’s definitely not my style. I’m kind of a minimalist. I’m not into in-your-face decorating. The cornice boards are the worst. I’ve never liked them, and I don’t understand them. I know they were all the rage about fifteen years ago. The house was built in 2002, so it fits that whole French Colonial phase of decorating. The colors don’t really suit me either. There’s a lot of beige/tan, which is fine, but it’s the eggplant, metallic dark green, and metallic gold that gets me. The kitchen is mostly beige with two walls that have those other colors in stripes, and those aren’t done very well. When they pulled off the tape it also pulled some of paint on the edges of the stripes. And then there are the three little strips of wallpaper border at chair level that seem to be afterthoughts. That has to go. I want to paint the kitchen a nice soft buttery yellow. It will help with the darkness in there.

Cave kitchen

Lighting is so important in a kitchen. I will never understand why anyone would design a kitchen in this day and time with only three light sources. Over the sink, an island light, and over the range. That’s all I have. There are no can lights in the ceiling, no under-cabinet lights, and the fixtures that we replaced were solid metal and didn’t let any light go upwards, only down. The room gets a lot of outside light in the afternoon, but I do any baking in the morning. I designed the kitchen in my other house with tons of lights. It was awesome. You kind of needed sunglasses when all of them were on. The nice thing in the morning though, was being able to turn on just the under-cabinet ones, which created a nice soft glow that was perfect for drinking coffee and doing computer work. I think that’s the thing I miss the most about my old kitchen. I guess I was spoiled.

Open concept

It’s all they talk about on HGTV, and stainless steel appliances, and granite countertops. I do love the open concept here. My other kitchen was next to the family room, but closed off, so that I missed most of what was going on in there when I was cooking. The stainless steel appliances that we bought are beautiful, if you want to clean them every single day. Not a practical thing when there are sticky-fingered kids roaming around all the time. So they basically get cleaned when there’s company coming, except for the handles. Those get a daily wiping. I’m hoping if I ever have to buy appliances again, there will be a new trend. Maybe avocado green? Or harvest gold?


Gas ranges were numero uno in my book. I had a gorgeous five-burner one in my new kitchen at the old house. With heavy cast iron grates and a double burner that either burned super-hot or super low. It was also extremely time-consuming to clean. Mainly because it was stainless steel, and if you didn’t clean it completely every day, it looked pretty bad. Also, that super-low burner wasn’t really that low. If I wanted something to simmer, I had to put a diffuser between the burner and the pot.

This house had a glass cooktop and it was worn out, and the space wasn’t fitted for gas. I did a lot of research, and decided to go with a Bosch induction cooktop, figuring it was the least objectionable of all glass cooktops. (I had not had a good experience with early ones.) Since induction cooking requires pots and pans that can be magnetized, most of my cookware wouldn’t work. I had way too much anyway. I put some of it in the camper, and gave the rest to my mother-in-law who spread them around to others. I didn’t expect to love this cooktop as much as I do, diehard gas cooking fan that I was, but I do. It took a little getting used to, but it’s so much more responsive than gas. When you turn the heat up or down, it’s instantaneous. There’s no side heat from the burners, so the immediate area is a lot cooler, important when you are standing over the stove stirring something delicate for a long time, and it doesn’t heat up the kitchen as much. And the best thing is the cleanup. What used to take me a good ten minutes or more, depending on the grease or spill factors, now takes about one minute. A quick wash with the dish cloth, and then a spritz with white vinegar and buff with a clean dry towel. Once in a while, I use the glass cooktop cleaner if it starts looking a little dull. I’ll probably never go back to gas, if I have a choice.


Icemakers used to be so simple. They were inside the freezer compartment. They made ice at a decent rate, and there was a fairly large storage bin. Both of the new refrigerators I’ve had recently are not so simple. The refrigerator I chose for the other house was a French door one. All the rage, and I did love the bottom freezer compartment, and the wide fridge shelves. The bad part was the icemaker. It’s located in the fridge area for dispensing, so the storage bin is very small, and with all the opening and shutting of the doors, there was a constant dripping from the condensation. It dripped down into the freezer compartment and there was always a big layer of ice forming on that side of the door. It wasn’t just the model I chose, apparently it’s inherent in that style. So, for this house I chose a side-by-side, the largest they make. The icemaker sucks. It’s larger, but it doesn’t make enough ice, or sometimes it barely makes any, and it gets big chunks of ice frozen together in the corners that I have to break up with a wooden spoon. It’s not like we only use it occasionally. With seven people living here, it’s an everyday thing. Thankfully, I have an additional fridge in the basement with an old-style icemaker. It makes a ton, so I dump it into the one upstairs. I do miss the ice from the French door one, because the ice was that really soft kind that is good for chomping. I’m never satisfied.

Bitter Greens

I’m reading a book set during the period of King Louis XIV, the Sun King, called Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth. It’s about French novelist Charlotte-Rose de la Force, the author of Rapunzel, who was banished from the King’s court when she lost favor of the King. She was sent to a convent to live out the rest of her life. She had the choice to not go, but she would have lost her pension. I’ve only read a few chapters, but it grabbed me from the first paragraph. One of the nuns, Sœur Seraphina, tells her a tale about a child, Margherita, who was sold by her parents for a handful of bitter greens. Her father stole some parsley from the garden of Selena Leonelli. When he is caught, she threatens to cut off both his hands unless he gives her his daughter. This is the story of Into the Woods!  The witch is Selena who, as a young girl, was the muse of the artist Tiziano. Ms. Forsyth is skilled in weaving the stories of Charlotte-Rose, Margherita, and Selena together. I’m so excited to find it!

American Sniper

We saw this a couple of weeks ago. It has been controversial. Some people say it glorifies war. Some say it goes the other way. I found it to do neither. Yes, Chris Kyle is a patriot in every sense of the word, but he is just a man doing his job, and that job is to protect his fellow soldiers. He has a conscience, which is much more than you can say for his counterpart on the Iraqi side. The movie was intense. Even though the acting, the story, and the directing was excellent, I really wanted it to be over about halfway through. Bradley Cooper is truly amazing in the role. He is Chris Kyle. Clint Eastwood was snubbed in the director awards nominations, probably because of his politics. I don’t agree with them either, but I think Hollywood needs to honor people for their work, not punish them for what they believe. He should have had a nomination.

That’s thirteen things, and now I’m worn out.

See you soon,




Sunday morning coming down

I made a huge vat pot of chili yesterday. Our son Jaye and his family came for a visit. They haven’t been here since Christmas Eve, due to one kid or the other being sick, or the weather causing dangerous traveling conditions, so it was good to be able to cook for them. I also made guacamole again, because it just goes with chili. So, I bought extra limes, because I thought a nice pitcher of frozen margaritas would be just the thing to get me through all the noise and chaos of six kids and five adults in my house, and I could share them with Kelly, our ex-daughter-in-law. Now, I’m a one-margarita kind of drinker, but I had two, maybe three, so that’s where the title of this post comes from. I have margarita-morning-after head. Ugh.

Jaye’s family situation is a little, shall we say, tenuous? Or maybe a better description would be, I don’t know what the hell is going on with him and his ex-wife. They seem to be back together. He’s been dwelling/living/residing at her house for the last few months, but he’s also keeping his apartment. Probably in case she goes bat-shit crazy again, and decides she hates him again, and throws him out on a moment’s notice again. Okay, this did not go where I thought it was going, but since it did, let’s explore it a little further.

When their sweet little Lauren died, it tore apart their marriage, which had been on shaky ground anyway. The statistics are not good for marriages surviving the death of a child, so they became a statistic. But, the hard part is they still love each other, and they love their boys, Matthew and Nicholas (the one with Down syndrome). Shared parenting is difficult, especially if the parents’ relationship in contentious, and parenting a special needs child makes it even harder.

To be fair to Kelly, Jaye did his own share of going crazy in the months and even years after Lauren died, so I can’t say that it was all her fault, although, being Jaye’s parents, we probably cut him a little more slack that we did her. And, we mostly only heard his part of the story, even though there were plenty of times when she tried to drag us into it. It hasn’t been a fun three years. For either of them, or for the boys, or for us.

So, Jaye is going to finish his Master’s degree in history in May. He has applied to PhD programs at five or six universities. He has had very positive feedback from Cornell, talking for about two hours to someone there who was blown away by his application written work. And he was recruited by someone at Brandeis to apply there. He also applied to Columbia. His hope, though, is to be accepted at University of Chicago, whose program is most suited to his area of study and interest. It also happens to be the only city where Kelly is willing to relocate. Mainly because she already has a job offer there. She works for the Veteran’s Administration as a psychiatric nurse practitioner, and her skills are in demand. Ironically, they had planned to move there right before Lauren died. In fact, she had already accepted a post at the VA, and they had found a house they wanted to buy. She had to decline the post, because the thought of moving was too much to deal with, understandably.

If Jaye is accepted at U of Chicago, Kelly is willing to pull up roots and move there with him, and I assume they will remarry, although nothing has been said to that effect. If he decides to go to any of the other schools, she won’t go. If he goes to Cornell, there’s no VA within an hour-and-a-half driving distance of Ithaca, and even if she took the job there, she would have to take a pay cut. New York City and Boston are both too expensive, because she is already at the top of her pay scale. Of course, we’re assuming that at least one of these schools will offer him a position. History is a pretty small area, so it’s tough getting in. If he goes, and she stays, I’m not sure how she will be able to cope with the full-time care of the boys. And I know Jaye will miss them so much, and feel extremely guilty for leaving them. It’s a huge dilemma. Of course, the problem could be solved by his not being accepted by any of the schools. I guess we’ll know the answer to that in a couple of months. Stay tuned.

See you soon,


Random musings—food and celebrities

Super Bowl noshes

I don’t really do a whole Super Bowl spread, but our Sunday meal was a little bit Bowl-ish, in that I made a couple of appetizers, which I don’t normally do unless the whole family will be here. I made guacamole, which is so fast and easy, you should never buy it pre-made. If you’re unsure how to choose a ripe avocado, because, you know, there’s a fine line between hard as a brick, perfectly ripe, and too far gone, here’s a handy little guideline. First, the skin should be pretty dark green, then look at the stem end, the stem should still be attached, but should come off easily. This isn’t scientific, but it usually works for me. Much better than squeezing.

My recipe is pretty simple: 3 medium avocados, juice of one small lime or half a larger one (use the rest to make a margarita), one clove garlic, and about 1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt. Mash the avocados in a shallow, medium-sized bowl (I use my pastry blender, but a fork works, too), mince the garlic on a cutting board, then sprinkle the salt on top. With the flat side of your chef’s knife, mash and grind the garlic and salt together until you have a paste, add this to the avocado, and stir in with the lime juice. Taste, and adjust for salt ( a finer salt, if you’re adding at this point). That’s it. Simple, but delicious. The lime juice will keep it green for several hours, much longer than lemon juice, for some reason, and it tastes better, too.

Our other appetizer was one I got from Better Homes and Gardens magazine. Roasted Corn and Crab Dip. Oh my goodness, it is delicious, and easy. Did I say I like easy? The picture shows them using that fake snow crab that I really don’t care for, but the recipe calls for real crab. I think that’s odd, but whatever. I use the real thing. It doesn’t have to be top of the line lump crab meat. This isn’t crab cakes (I have an excellent recipe for those, too). We use bagel chips as dippers, but it’s really good on crostini as well.

I was so full from the appetizers that I barely had room for the main course, which was brats with peppers and onions. I split one with the toddler.

Speaking of the Super Bowl

I can’t really say much about it, because I don’t watch football, but I saw the Nationwide commercial with Mindy Kaling and Matt Damon, which I thought was genius. Mindy is always funny. I wouldn’t be surprised to learn that she contributed to the writing of the ad. She was one of the writers and producers of The Office, one of my favorite TV series, and of course, she has her own series now on Fox, called The Mindy Project. She graduated from Dartmouth where she studied the Classics, but ended up with a degree in playwriting. She gave a hilariously genius speech last year at Harvard Law School’s class day and brought down the house.

Matt Damon is one of my favorite actors. Even if he’s in a bad movie (there haven’t been that many of them), he always rises above the material. He’s also a champion for teachers, and a philanthropist who co-founded the organization, and along with George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Don Cheadle and others, the Not On My Watch Project, which aims to bring global attention to and prevent mass atrocities, such as those in Darfur. He also gave his time, along with other well-known actors, writers, and news people, to an Emmy-winning Showtime series called Years of Living Dangerously to bring awareness and education about climate change. I haven’t watched it yet, but it’s on my list. Matt is one of the Hollywood good guys. There’s never been a hint of scandal attached to his name, and he’s been married to the same woman since 2005.

What did this have to do with the Super Bowl, you ask? I digressed a little there, didn’t I? This is my version of Super Bowl watching. A couple of commercials, and then I’m done. I didn’t even watch the half-time show. I think they’re highly over-rated, and not usually my cup of tea. I hid out in the bedroom with a cup of herbal tea and Downton Abbey and Grantchester, and then went to bed. Apparently there was some fuss at the end of the game, something about a botched pass at the one-yard line. Don’t get your panties in a wad, people. There’s always next year.

Winter, I’m so over you

This Monday was the first one that the kids have attended school since before Christmas. We’ve had big snow or freezing rain every Sunday night, or early Monday morning in January. In fact, last Friday morning it started freezing rain while Gaige (middle school) was waiting on the bus at 6:30. The bus came, but the superintendent ended up delaying, and then canceling, school for the elementary and intermediate students, whose day starts an hour-and-a-half later. They’ve used all of their calamity days, and are into make-up days. So far, it hasn’t encroached on their spring break, but we still have a lot of winter left.

Our driveway, especially the area in front of the garage, is like a very dangerous skating rink. It’s been thawed and refrozen and frozen-rained on and snowed on so many times, I’ve lost count. The ice is about two inches thick. Something definitely has to be done about it before next winter. David said it needs to be graded and filled and brought up to level, or some drainage tile put in, or something. It would probably help if it were asphalted. At least it would be easier to plow. I don’t like to use salt, because the birds come to get grit, and it poisons them. And the sun never hits that area enough to melt it off completely like it does the rest of the driveway.

The maple syrup production was brought to a screeching halt by the extremely cold weather we’ve been having, after that little January thaw we had. It was really too early to start, and David knew that, but the long-range forecast was off by a lot, and it threw him off his game. The temps have to be below freezing at night, but well above freezing during the day with the sun being able to warm the base of the trees to bring up the sap. So, it’s on hold until we get a real thaw.

I just want Spring.

Have you heard?

Harper Lee has an unpublished novel called Go Set a Watchman! It’s a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird. Actually, it was the first manuscript that Ms. Lee sent to HarperCollins Publishing, written as the adult Scout. They sent it back to her and told her to re-write it in Scout’s little girl voice, which they thought would be more interesting.  She did, and the rest is history. Now they’re going to publish the original manuscript written in Scout’s grown-up voice with no revisions whatsoever! I’m so excited I can’t stand it! I hope Ms. Lee lives to see it in book form. She is 88 and in fragile health. Hang in there, Harper Lee.

See you soon,


You’ve got mail!

Or rather, I’ve got mail! I was so excited today to reach into my mailbox and discover a letter from my teacher, Mrs. Sublette. She wrote back to me, and very quickly. I couldn’t wait to read it, and I knew immediately that it was the right Patricia Sublette, because I recognized her handwriting after all these years!

Dear Susan,

Life is full of surprises. Your letter is one of them and a priceless gift to me. Your letter arrived on a cold, snowy day and what a way to warm the cockles of my heart! Out of a nearly 30 year teaching career, you are the only student to have written me a letter, though I have had some half dozen former students to come back to see me. I could not help shedding a few tears of gratitude to know that I made a difference for someone. A teacher is often left wondering if he or she has made an impact.

That first paragraph would have been enough to make me feel wonderful, but she goes on…

When I left Symmes Valley for the year 1971, it was to go to Marshall (University) to get a Master’s in English education. Through the grapevine word came back to me that you said, “What does she want to do that for?”

I don’t remember asking that, but I probably did ask Mr. Hayes (the principal) why she wasn’t coming back. Why in the world would she want to leave us? To better herself? Unfathomable!

Mrs. Sublette says that she definitely remembers me as being a very smart young lady, including me with several other students, some of whom were friends of mine, and she was absolutely correct about them. She also told me a little about her life. She and her husband didn’t have children, and they were divorced in the late seventies, after which she left their then residence in Illinois and moved back to her hometown of Nitro, West Virginia. Her father built a house for her, and she lives there to this day.

She has some health problems, but it sounds as if she leads a very active life. Mrs. Sublette belongs to a book club, and among the fifteen of them, they read a total of 1,176 books last year! She reads e-books on her Kindle, and she has email and wi-fi. She asked if I wanted to continue corresponding with her! Of course I do! I can’t wait to find out more about the person she is now and the person about whom I wish I had learned more all those years ago. Her closing words were…

How can I find your blog? Best wishes to you and thank you so very much for your kind words and for warming my heart.

P.S. I’m still stunned that two people can connect after 45 years across time and space.

(In red pencil)

P.P.S. I still have my red pencil!

She had to redline some of her own text, because her computer wouldn’t cooperate. 🙂

I can’t say how thrilled I am about this development, and I plan to write again very soon. I’m debating whether to continue the correspondence by email, or by good old-fashioned snail mail. There’s something about opening your mailbox….

See you soon, Susan