Goodbye 2012

You’ve been a real bastard and I am not sorry to see you go.

Look, I know these end of the year posts are supposed to be looking back at the year in some kind of positive, nostalgic way. I just can’t. Not with 2012. This year was BRUTAL. We kept getting hit with bad news and just when we thought we were picking ourselves back up, we’d get smacked down again.

In no particular order, 2012 brought us:

  • Job loss. Scot lost his job in March and as our only source of income this was the year’s defining moment.
  • Not one but TWO cases of breast cancer in family members close to us.
  • Our air conditioning crapped out requiring a $3,800 outlay to replace it.
  • The daycare we had Jamie in was so neglectful I had to report them to the state.
  • Scot got pneumonia and was flat on his back for 6 weeks. This happened mere weeks after finding full time, permanent work.
  • We lost our dear beagle, Maggie, to cancer.
  • Ridiculous issues with getting Jamie proper help with speech therapy, necessitating a private therapist.
  • Finances getting wicked tight with tears and anxiety every time I had to pay bills.
  • The complete and utter undoing of all weight loss progress I had achieved prior to March.

In other words, 2012 was nothing but a year-long country song cliche.

It’s not that there weren’t bright spots among the shit heap. There were and I’ve tried to hold them close to my heart as an antidote to everything else. But the honest truth is that when someone mentions this year, my first reaction is always going to be that this year was terrible in the extreme.

I need 2013 to be better. I need a year of good, wonderful things. I need health for my family (all of it, extended and nuclear) and prosperity for everyone I care for  – friends and family alike.  I would like to salute 2013 as a year I could not forget for all the right reasons instead of all the wrong ones.

Here’s to a new year and a new start. May they be everything 2012 was not!

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Meeting Ellie

The one thing Liam wanted for Christmas above all others was a new puppy.

He knew we were getting one. We met her in November. So her addition to our family was no surprise to anyone. Still, she wasn’t old enough to bring home before Christmas. Instead I made plans to get her the week between Christmas and New Year’s. This involves a 12 hour roundtrip drive to Michigan and back.

Complicating matters was the weather. Intitally, I had planned to take Liam with me and stay overnight with my parents but the weather wasn’t cooperating. I had one good day – Friday the 28th – to get there and get back if I hoped to avoid bad roads. I decided to leave Liam at home and do something I’d never done before – drive to Michigan and back on the same day.

I got up around 5:30 on Friday morning, dressed, brushed my teeth, grabbed the stuff I needed for the dog, and snuck out before anyone else was up. I was on the road by 6 am. The drive up was completely uneventful. Traffic was light, roads were dry, stops were few. I made it door to door in about 5 hours flat (usually it takes 6 with the kids).

I picked the puppy up at my Dad’s clinic, shoved some lunch down my maw, stopped at my parent’s house briefly to see my Mom, and then got back on the road with Little Miss in the seat next to me.

Plans began to fall apart almost immediately. She puked. Then she peed. Then I had to pee, desperately. Then I ran into snow and 45 mph traffic on the highway. Michigan drivers? Don’t do 45 unless it’s bad. I called Scot and we talked and hemmed and hawed and looked at radar and it seemed as if the bad weather was going to be with me all the way to Cleveland. I was already tired from crappy sleep the night before and I’d been driving for around 6 hours at this point. I just couldn’t take on a nightmare drive on top of it.

I decided to turn around and head back to my parents house for the night.

Then the puppy puked again.

LORD.

So, I spent the night with my parents, their adult Cavalier, Archie, and their new puppy, Lily. Those two plus mine made quite the pack of mayhem. The two puppies together made a giant pile of cute.

puppies!

Ellie and Lily

Poor Scot was stuck at home with two antsy (and disappointed) boys AND a nasty migraine. It was not ideal and I felt TERRIBLY guilty. The weather did clear quickly and if I had pushed I probably would have made it through. I was in the MINI, though, and worried about being tired, too. I’m still not convinced I made the right call for Scot’s sake but I couldn’t change it by then. The next morning, Saturday, I got up around 5:30 again and tried to get home.

First, they were getting a lot more snow than the half-inch that was predicted for the area and the storm was across the entire 300 miles I had to drive. Second, I could tell their road was a sloppy, half-treated mess that was not going to be fun to get across (I could do it, it would just be stressful). Third, I got stuck in their driveway and they had to unstick me.

I should have known right then I was sunk.

Instead, I soldiered on thinking that I needed to get home for Scot’s sake. I was 2/3 of the way to the expressway and moving s-l-o-w when Scot called to say that the radar was fugly and I should stay put. There was more hemming and hawing but eventually I gave in, turned around AGAIN, and went back to my parents house. This time I never even made it to the highway. I expected to stay a second night – I even washed the clothes I was in because, ew.

But then fortune smiled and by 9:15 things were clearing fast. I hopped on their computer and checked for issues on the route I was taking (mostly turnpike driving). All signs pointed to ‘get the hell home, lady!’ and so I did. I shoved my crap and the puppy in the car, hopped in the driver’s seat and took off.

I hit the window of clear weather and roads and I raced it all the way home. I pushed about as hard as I dared to – with the added bonus of the Ohio cops being unable to set up speed traps because of road conditions in the median – and did 80 all the way home. This time the puppy neither puked nor peed (in the car).

By this time I’d had her in my possession for over 24 hours and I still didn’t have a name. Emma had been a front runner but it just didn’t seem to fit her. Then Scot suggested “Ellie” – as a short form of Elinor/Eleanor – and both boys latched on to it. Jamie can even say it! Complete with L! A minor miracle!

So Ellie she is and Ellie she shall be and here is Miss Ellie settling into life in our nut house.

THAT FACE

THAT FACE

Miss Ellie

Miss Ellie

Snuggled up

Snuggled up

"I hold Ellie, Mommy!"

“I hold Ellie, Mommy!”

 

Christmas Joy

This Christmas was exceedingly bipolar. It began with heartache and upset and ended with a wonderful family day on Christmas Day. I expected to just do my best to survive Christmas this year. But Christmas Day was really perfect. They kids are both finally old enough to handle all the excitement and schedule changes with aplomb and they also don’t need us to personally entertain them on a constant basis. So, it turned into a low key and wonderful day where we got to open presents, enjoy the kids having a blast, and just enjoy the company of family.

We did stockings and presents with just the four of us in the morning. In the afternoon, Scot’s parents joined us for another round of gifting and dinner. It really could not have been more perfect and I found myself truly enjoying the time.

As a result I barely picked up my camera at all. So, instead, enjoy a shot of our Christmas tree with all the presents tucked under it with care.

IMG_4738

 

We hope your holiday was merry and bright!

Fun With Photos

So the news over the last week has been depressing and I’m still trying to find some Christmas spirit. I’m mostly failing on that front but since a Christmas tree and ornaments are a great opportunity to play with my camera I did just that.

And now I’m showing off some of what I got. Feel free to skip it if it’s not your thing.

Birds made of mushrooms in a nest.

Birds made of mushrooms in a nest.

Jamie's first ornament

Jamie’s first ornament

What tree is complete without The Grinch?

What tree is complete without The Grinch?

Curious George; Jamie's ornament from last year.

Curious George; Jamie’s ornament from last year.

Po the Panda. He loves Kung Fu.

Po the Panda. He loves Kung Fu.

They’re not technically perfect but it was fun to practice!

Hugging Them A Little Tighter

I’m not sure I even have the words to talk about this but something in me tells me that I need to; that being silent isn’t ‘honoring’ or ‘respecting’ anyone. Something says to me that now is the time to talk and so here I am.

Yesterday morning a clearly mentally ill individual walked into an elementary school in Connecticut and killed 20 children – mostly kindergartners – and 6 adults before shooting and killing himself. He killed an entire class of kindergarten students and their teachers. Before committing this atrocity he killed his own mother. Then took her legally obtained weapons – 2 semi automatic handguns and an assault rifle – and went to the school.

First, let me state that it is clear this young man had mental health problems. He was 20 years old – a common age for these kind of problems to appear. Making mental health care more easily available, accessible, and affordable is essential to addressing these kinds of tragedies. This is one reason among many that I believe Obamacare is not only good and right but necessary.

The other half of the equation is the dreaded gun control. And yes, I’m going to wade right in on this one.

I grew up with guns in our house. My father has been a lifelong hunter. For many years as I was growing up, my Dad hunting deer and duck (primarily, though he hunted game birds as well) kept meat on our table. There were many years that we had meat for the winter because Dad bagged a deer in the fall. Dad taught us gun safety from a young age and also taught us how to shoot when we were old enough. Always, always, always there was an emphasis on the danger and responsibility involved with firearms.

But he didn’t keep handguns. Why? Because rifles and a shotgun or two served his hunting needs and would double for home protection, too.

So, you see, I grew up with a certain amount of ‘gun culture’ if that’s what you want to call it.

But I don’t hunt. Scot doesn’t hunt. So we don’t have guns in our home and I’m frankly quite happy with that.

With all that said I’m now going to say the thing that will get me hate mail. No one needs assault weapons. No one needs semi-automatic handguns. “Because I like to shoot targets in my backyard or at the range” isn’t a good reason. “For funsies” is unacceptable. The shooting in Connecticut was the second mass shooting in a week. IT MUST END.

You cannot tell me that the proximity and availability of these weapons did not play a role in the carnage this man unleashed. If his mother had not owned those weapons would he have be able to kill so many so quickly? Would he have even killed anyone except himself? These questions are not answerable, I know. But they are important.

We can no longer shrug our shoulders and say “evil will be evil no matter what we do” and then do nothing to change things. Doing so only makes us all complicit in these tragedies. Yes, evil will always exist and criminals will always find a way to get guns but who decided we had to make it easy for them?!

Our children’s lives are at stake. They world they will inherit is as stake. The places we perceive as safe no longer are and the escalation of gun ownership has only made things worse. I realize that the vast majority of gun owners are law abiding and responsible – even the shooter’s mother was; her weapons were legally obtained and registered. I recognize that most gun owners don’t want to be ‘punished’ for the actions of one crazy person. I sympathize with that sentiment. But how does your right to rapid fire trump the lives of children?

It doesn’t. There is no way it can.

“The only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”

Let us not do nothing. Let us not, once again, turn away and shake our heads and whisper “why” and then forget the victims.

Because my mind wanders to the parents. The ones who lost a child yesterday. The ones who waited in desperate hope only to find out that the child they’d been planning Christmas for wasn’t coming home ever again. Their pain and their suffering cannot be ignored. Their lives will be forever changed and we don’t honor their lost loved ones by having a public show of mourning. We honor them by being angry and finally admitting what the data has long told us: more guns = more gun violence. The faster the weapon, the more damage done. Then we DO something about it.

Write your Senator. Write your Congressperson. Write the President. Write your Governor and your State Representatives. Keep writing. Keep asking. Don’t forget what happened at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Today I hug my children a little tighter. I tell them I love them a little more often. I feel grateful that they are safe and sound. And I live with the knowledge that only together can we make them safer out in the world.

Recipe: Mulligatawney (Spicy Indian Soup)

When we went to visit my parents for Thanksgiving, my mother introduced me to this recipe. I don’t know exactly where she got it but it’s dead simple to make as well as delicious and hearty.

Mulligatawney (Spicy Indian Soup)

1/2 cup butter (I didn’t use quite that much – maybe 6 tbs)

1 cup chopped onion

3-4 stalks of celery, chopped

2 large carrots, chopped

3 tbsp flour

1 14 ounce can of chopped tomatoes (I used petite diced)

2 tablespoon chopped cilantro (I used dried parsley – it’s what I had and I hate cilantro)

1 tbsp hot curry powder (or more to taste)

2 tsp. lemon juice

1/2 tsp pepper

2 cups chopped cooked chicken (I used 2 10 oz cans packed in water as a shortcut)

8 cups chicken stock

pinch dry thyme

2/3 cup rice

Melt the butter in a large stock pot and add celery, carrots, and onion. Saute over medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent. Add flour and stir. Add a bit of stock and stir to make sure flour does not clump or burn. Then add remaining stock, tomatoes, chicken, lemon juice and spices.  Stir to incorporate. Bring to a simmer and add rice. Simmer until rice is done. Serve.

I served this with naan I can pick up at the grocery store and heat in the oven. It was perfect. You can adjust the spice level to your own taste – I found it perfect done as the recipe called for; Scot added more spice to his bowl.

Also, it would be fairly simple to turn this recipe vegetarian. Just substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock and use tofu instead of chicken (or some other vegetarian substitute).

Enjoy!

Not In The Holiday Spirit

It’s December 4th and everyone we know is getting in the holiday spirit. People are hanging lights, putting up trees, baking cookies, making wreaths, and planning Christmas cards.

I know I should be doing these things. I know I should care. I don’t and it sucks.

Let me say straight out that I know we are lucky. We live in a nice home, our kids go to nice schools, we have food to eat and clothes to wear. We have books to read, television to watch, and toys to play with. Our lives could be very different and I am well aware of that.

But money is very, very tight these days. Very tight. When we bought this house 5 years ago Scot was making a lot more money than he does now. It’s not his fault we are in this position and yes, I’ve considered getting a job. With the need for childcare and my 8 years out of the workforce, there are some problems with that avenue, too.  Whatever the case, we are struggling. The bills are being met, if only barely. But making Christmas happen? It’s a question of dollars and cents.

We decided not to exchange with our sisters or their husbands this year. We contacted all the friends we normally exchange gifts with and told them we couldn’t do it this year. We cut massively back on what we spent on Liam and Jamie for Christmas (which is maybe not such a bad thing). We are buying only a small token gift for each of our parents and our nieces. Scot and I are not giving each other gifts beyond stockings (to maintain the magic of Santa for the kids). I realized the other day that we can’t afford to buy a real tree this year so I will have to pull the old fake one out of the basement. I’m going to have to skip the Christmas cards this year.  I told everyone who might potentially buy me a gift (so: our parents) to give me money to put toward the new dog.

All of that is depressing to me. I don’t give a damn if I bake cookies or trim a tree this year. I know I have to (and I will) but I can’t muster up even a little joy about the prospect.

Things will get better. It won’t be like this forever. But I’m tired of having anxiety attacks and crying every time I have to sit down and pay the bills. I’m sick to death of answering my kids with “we can’t afford that.” I hate the amount of anxiety and worry watching a single dollar go out of my wallet causes me or the fact that every time I turn around someone else is asking me to donate money I don’t have to something because “it’s Christmas! You should help!”

I’ll put a brave face on for the kids. I’ll pretend it’s a merry and happy Christmas. But inside I’m not enjoying this at all.