Friday, December 31, 2010

Blizzard, Part Two!

Well son of a gun.

It turns out it WAS news after all. It was news because our state and municipalities totally dropped the ball on the snow removal, resulting in people at the Shore still trapped in their homes, more than four days after the storm ended.

The blizzard was effectively over by Monday morning. By Wednesday night, our street had still not seen a plow. There was a six foot drift covering my van in the driveway and a solid three foot bank of snow from one end of the street to the other.

As the days slid into Wednesday with no escape in sight, every few hours my daughter, who is eight and a half months pregnant, would clutch her chest and cry “We’re going to run out of food!! I know it!!”. Then we would both laugh. But the laughter was getting pretty thin after 60 hours, down to about a half a cup of milk, no butter and one frozen chicken. I had to miss my MS treatment because I couldn’t get to the oncologist’s office. I started making feeble jokes about being Donner, party of two. But it actually was getting worrisome.

Her Significant Other was on snow duty at the firehouse in Ocean Grove, a tiny little community here at the Shore. He was completely trapped there for over 72 hours. Nothing with wheels could move at all in the snow and the firemen spent most of their time digging out other emergency vehicles that were stuck. One rescue call had to be done with the patient being pulled through the snow in a sled-like basket. As of Thursday, most of that town had not been touched by a plow.

Local politicians were trying to deflect blame (there was too much snow to remove) or pass the buck (the state didn’t do its job properly), but the bottom line is the entire situation was an unacceptable disaster.

Here is one article in the local paper:

So I filled the time doing what I had done on Sunday:

I read.

I baked cinnamon bread.

I finished a baby quilt top I am making for a friend, but couldn't complete the whole thing because I am all out of batting.

I made… a patchwork thingie. I had in mind a patchwork prayer shawl, as a change from the knitted ones I make. While I was testing it against my shoulders for size, The Critic appeared in the doorway and said “Why are you wearing a table runner?”. So presto, it was a table runner.

We are finally shoveled and plowed out. I may venture to, where else but the fabric store? But the roads and streets are still dicey, so I will play it by ear. One broken shoulder is more than enough, thank you very much. If I don’t get more fabric, I am sure I will find something to do over the holiday weekend.

I wish all of you a wonderfully peaceful, joy filled and healthy New Year!!

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Wednesday, December 29, 2010


Around this time last year I read about a project that was being launched by two young men in Chicago. Their idea was to invite 365 people to write about a little slice of their life, one for each day of 2010. The essays were limited to 365 words and kept to observations related to their specific day.

I applied, was accepted to be one of the participants and was assigned the date of December 24. So here is the site, you just have to scroll down for my essay:

We were invited to include a photo as well. With my usual tendency to be out of control, I took 63 pictures of my living room. And then, of course, couldn’t decide which one to use. This is a worldwide project! I couldn’t use the one that shows the bare patch on the back of the sofa where the cats have sharpened their claws for nine years. I couldn’t use the one that shows the flaws in the woodwork. This one made the living room look too long and skinny. That one made it look like it was ridiculously over-decorated. Should I have lit a fire in the fireplace?!? And on and on and …

Good thing you were not ruled out of the project for being certifiably insane.

At any rate, there may be a book resulting. But even if there is not, it was an honor to be part of it. The stories by the other writers are wonderful, simple vignettes about lives all over the world.

They are currently taking applications for the 2011 project. I would highly recommend taking part, or at least following the essays. It is such a great reminder of how unique we all are and yet have so much in common as human beings.

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Monday, December 27, 2010


New Jersey is buried under about a foot and a half of snow this morning, which is routine in many parts of the world but is a stop-the-presses event here at the Shore. This is silly, because a) snow happens in winter, b) snow slows down transportation, c) lots of snow slows things down A LOT and 4) only idiots go out in the snow unnecessarily. None of this is news.

My front steps

From my front door, looking east, 12 blocks from the ocean

My side yard

The patio and part of the garage

Car abandoned last night by some knucklehead smack in the middle of the intersection

More patio and garage

The trellis on the patio

I love the snow and really enjoyed my snow day. I did all the things I used to do when the kids were little (minus getting them dressed and undressed for the snow 1200 times over the course of the day!). I baked bread, I made a cute, cuddly flannel patchwork blanket for the new baby, made a pot of soup and I read. Unfortunately, except for the reading, I completely overdid it and was a crippled wreck by 7 p.m. But at least I have something to show for it.


I recently found evidence that a mouse had been in the house. But no worries, I have cats!!

Yes, that is the kitchen counter. Sorry, I have no standards anymore.

As for our visitor? Not another sign. I think they were probably disgusted by the lack of a challenge.

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Saturday, December 25, 2010

Yes, Virginia...

Several years ago there was an article in the New York Times (here) that captured my attention and my tendency to wax nostalgic about the past, especially New York City history.

The article was about the former home of Virginia O’Hanlon, who at the age of eight, in 1897, wrote a letter to the editor of the New York Sun newspaper. The editorial answer became the timeless “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…” Virginia’s childhood home on West 95th Street, once an elegant, upper middle class townhouse, was a boarded up ruin by 1967 and was in even worse condition 20 years later, when this article was written. At that time it was the subject of a complicated and divisive legal battle between developers and the city. (It subsequently was incorporated, along with two adjacent buildings, into a school, rendering it unrecognizable.)

The article and heartbreaking picture caused me to imagine a time when Manhattan was primarily a residential area. The lower part of the island was the bastion of capitalism, but the majority of the city was comprised of small neighborhoods like the one Virginia lived in with her physician father. Granted, there was an incredible and unconscionable dichotomy between poverty and wealth, even worse than it is now. But the idea of family homes, windows warmed with lamplight, the sound of hoofs clopping down the street, is irresistible, especially compared to the contemporary blare and frenzy.

I cannot find the reference, but I remember reading about a visiting Dutch royal at the time of the bicentennial. As he was touring Manhattan, he asked to see something from the original Dutch settlement. He had to be told there was nothing remaining. “You Americans are very thorough.” he remarked drily. I remember that comment frequently when I am in the city. Progress is great, but so, so much is gone forever, to our detriment.

But Francis Church’s response to Virginia in The Sun does survive and his words, printed on September 21, 1896 (what would become my birthday fifty seven years later), are just as pertinent today as ever:


"DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
"Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
"Papa says, 'If you see it in THE SUN it's so.'
"Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?


VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except [what] they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men's or children's, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that's no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

Merry Christmas everyone!! I send you all the warmest wishes for a peaceful, joyous holiday!!

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Sunday, December 19, 2010

The Sounds of Christmas

Ho ho ho

I am a total cornball who freely admits to loving Christmas music. I honestly could listen to it all year long. Most of it evokes a sense of nostalgia for what is past: those boisterous childhood Christmas’ at my grandparents and fond memories of so many of the people I loved who are no longer here, my grandparents themselves, aunts and uncles and my closest-in-age cousin, Michael, who has been gone for 13 years and I miss terribly.

When I was about eight I got a record player for Christmas. Before my brother and I came out for our presents, my father put a 45 of Bing Crosby singing White Christmas on it so it was playing when I came into the living room. My dad was only in his 20’s at the time. That song will forever remind me of him as a young man and how he made that touching gesture.

Bah Humbug

But there are some Christmas songs that I could happily live without hearing ever again. They fall into three categories: 1) Annoying, 2) Mind Numbingly Obnoxious and 3) Jaw Dropping.


Little Drummer Boy: I could so do with never hearing “rump ump ump blah blah blah” ever again. Oy, take that drum away from that kid. Winner for the most bizarre duet of this song? Bing Crosby and David Bowie. Crosby died the same year it was recorded. Probably of embarrassment.

The Twelve Days of Christmas: I always find I want someone to shoot me before even the third day rolls around. And around and around and around…

I’m Getting Nothing for Christmas: I would recommend institutionalizing this child and sterilizing the parents.

Runner Up’s: Last Christmas by Wham; Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (because hearing it 2,000,000,000 times in my life is 1,999, 999, 999 times too many); I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus; All I Want for Christmas is My Two Front Teeth.

Mind Numbingly Obnoxious:

Dominic the Donkey: Honestly, who thought this one up?! “Hee haw, hee haw”?!? Yep, those are always the first words that come to my mind when celebrating my Savior’s birth. I can only imagine the nightmare this song caused in school for any poor kid named Dominic.

Grandma got Run over by a Reindeer: Who says to themselves “Nothing says Christmas like a musical tribute to alcoholic white trash”?!? In actuality, I believe the author of this song had some heavy duty hostility issues related to their grandmother.

The Christmas Shoes: Holy Mother of God, how could anyone ever think this was a good idea for a song?!?! And then record it?!? And then play it?!?! Ugh, this is a song that makes me hate everyone.

Runner’s Up: Santa Baby; John Denver’s Please Daddy Don't Get Drunk This Christmas.

The winner for Jaw Dropping:

Do They Know It’s Christmas?: Um, first of all I would have to say NO you idiots of course they don’t know it’s Christmas as most of the indigenous peoples of Africa ARE NOT CHRISTIAN!! Unless of course we went in and mucked about with their culture. But for most of the people who were supposed to be helped by this recording, Christmas is a pretty abstract concept.

“And there won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas”. Well thank freaking God. Way to mess them up even more, unless they are on top of Mt. Kilimanjaro or something.

“Raise a glass for everyone…underneath the burning sun”. Oh. My. God. This is where I begin to wonder if they were just having us on. Maybe all these artists got together, snickering, and said “Let’s see how bad we can get and still have those yahoos buy it, hee hee hee.” It is the only reasonable explanation for the absolute worst line of all…

“Well tonight thank God it’s them instead of you!”

WHAAAAT?!?! Not “If only it was no one suffering like this.” No, it’s “Phew!” (sucking down a cold one) “Thank God it’s those ignorant heathens and not me!! Wooo-eee, dodged that one. Thank you God!!”

All these little ditties tell me one thing: there are a lot of seriously disturbed songwriters out there.


Of course this list is subjective (although I cannot believe ANYONE likes these songs!!). Because two of my favorites are on many people’s ‘hate’ list: Merry Christmas Baby and Santa Claus is Coming to Town, both by Bruce, naturally.

Here is “Santa Claus”, recorded in Passaic, N.J. on 9/20/1978, the day before my 24th birthday. Classic E-Street Band! I was not there. :(

For e-mail readers:

“Merry Christmas Baby” with Bruce AND Conan!!

For e-mail readers:

Merry Christmas baby!

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Saturday, December 18, 2010

A Christmas Angel

It is not news to those of you who read this blog that my entire life the past few years have presented some challenges.

Most recently, one of my beloved children has been upset about something. That is distressing by itself. But in this case, they have decided that they need to distance themselves from me as part of their coping strategy. I have really suffered with this, having a hard time accepting this choice. In fact, I am inconsolable. Without exaggeration I can state this is the worst thing that has ever happened to me. But after months of agonizing and begging, I have decided the only way I can deal with this is to let it go and hand it over to God. I am trying hard to appreciate the fact that it is not just about me, that my child needs this and I must respect their decision.

However, being respectful does not preclude feeling as though my heart has been ripped out of my chest. Being respectful does not stop me from crying constantly. Being respectful still leaves me feeling like a miserable failure as a mother. I keep praying ‘Thy will be done’, but I am all too human in my anguish.

This is what I have been carrying and why I have not been keeping up with my blogs. Or much else. It has simply been too hard. Everything, including breathing, feels too hard.

Enter the Christmas get together planned by my high school classmates, a rollicking bunch of really kind, funny people. I do not want to go anywhere. But I had committed to showing up, so I force myself to go, unable to imagine how I am going to socialize without howling my grief. All I can think about is my child and how much I miss them.

When I get there, wrestling with my walker, I am warmly embraced in affection and caring. We exclaim at how little some have changed, how great it is to see everyone and we catch up. Santa, looking suspiciously like one of my classmates, appears. I am trying hard not to cry, but I am surrounded by so many fond friends that I am able to keep it together.

About an hour into the evening, a woman appears at the end of my table. One of my classmates is pointing us out one by one. Kathy says my maiden name and the woman shoots out her arm, pointing at me. “You!! I have to talk to you!!”

She squeezes through the chairs and throws her arms around me. And tells me how much my blog means to her!! I recognize her now, a sweet girl I haven’t seen since high school days, now a bubbly, enthusiastic grown woman. As we talk, she shares some of the difficulties she has been facing in her own life. Very, very hard stuff. Heartbreaking. But she describes these things with a wry sense of insight and acceptance, without a shred of self pity.

She is so complimentary about my writing that I feel myself blushing. She tells me the most incredibly humbling thing: that my words have provided her not just laughter, but sustenance. Sharing my experiences has helped her, has even been inspiring. I am awestruck. I know people have enjoyed my writing and my goofy sense of humor, but this is the first time I am presented with a flesh and blood person who tells me I have made a difference in her life. “You must keep writing!” she insists.

As we talked, I felt the slightest thread of hope rise up in me. And a sense of purpose. Someone I love deeply has absented themselves from my life, but my life is not entirely worthless. I touch other people with my words. And here is someone right in front of me who is affirming and grateful…for me! She offers wise and comforting observations as we chat and she makes me laugh. She is an emphatic bundle of positive energy. I see this as a gift from God, true light in a dark night. A messenger. An angel.

I am still desolate. But today it is a little easier to draw a breath. I am so thankful for the comfort of old friends and for my sharp, exuberant, encouraging angel.

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Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It's Coming On Christmas

Time to change my template. For some reason, though, since Blogger changed their templates, mine do not fit properly. Must work on that.

Here is Joni Mitchell singing River.

For my e-mail friends:

P.S.: In case you didn't guess by what you are seeing, I love snow.

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Saturday, November 27, 2010


I know, it is a terrible pun. What puns aren’t terrible? (Did you know that the word ‘synchronicity’ was coined by Carl Jung? Me either!)

This is a long overdue post regarding the resolution of my Great Sink Disaster of 2010.

You may remember this summer, while innocently brushing my teeth, I knocked a cup out of the medicine cabinet, which proceeded to shatter my bathroom sink. Only me. So I whined and wrung my hands and wept. You know, real productive coping methods.

A dear online friend has a real life friend who works for American Standard, the plumbing fixture company. AND SHE ARRANGED FOR ME TO GET AN ENTIRELY NEW SINK FOR FREE!!!

I even got to pick it out!

My beautiful new sink arrived several weeks ago and my friend Peter installed it.

Ta da:

Thank you Nora at American Standard and thank you American Standard (linked here; in business for over 130 years!) for your marvelous, generous gift. At a tough point in my life, people who don’t even know me made this wonderful gesture. I cannot say enough good things about Nora and the people she works for. I am so, so grateful.

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Thursday, November 25, 2010

Slinking Back, With Thanks

 BACK:   I am tiptoeing shamefaced back into the blogosphere after being MIA for a few weeks. The concerned inquiries I have received are touching and humbling. Thank you so much. I have been sick, I did have a minor fall, but mostly we have been preoccupied at our house with a baby shower and an engagement and sewing like mad for a craft show. So days spun into weeks.


Baby Shower

Crafty Thingies


I am thankful today for the many faithful friends I have through this blog and in real life.

I am thankful that MS, while taking its toll, has not snuffed all the life out of me yet.

I am grateful that despite being out of work we still have food on our table and a roof over our heads.

But more than anything I am grateful for my four children. We have had some rocky patches, and, I suppose, will continue to, but the most joyful, proud, purely happy moments in my life have been because of them.

Thank you, God, for all of this.

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Saturday, October 30, 2010


Thirty four years ago today, at 11:30 a.m., in the Mansion Chapel at Georgian Court University, I was married. I was 22, Dennis was 23 and we had no idea what we were getting into. Which I guess was a good thing.

It was a beautiful Fall day. At the reception, at Peterson’s Sunset Cabin, we danced to the dulcet tones of the Moon Misters. It was a really fun wedding. Everyone had a good time.


Peterson’s, which was a Shore landmark for over 50 years, has been closed since the 1990’s. This blogger captured it perfectly, including haunting pictures of the abandoned ruin it is today,  

Dennis died in 1993, so this year he is gone exactly as long as we were married.   So unimaginably sad.  He never saw our children grow up or got to meet his grandson.  My son brought my grandson to the cemetery instead.

I don’t think students are allowed to get married in the Mansion Chapel at Georgian Court anymore, although I may be wrong about that. The Mansion Chapel, originally the conservatory in the George Gould mansion, is so much prettier than the stark Student Chapel on campus.

But the relaxed informality of the Mansion, where I actually lived as a senior, changed forever the afternoon someone walked off with a priceless Tiffany lamp.


Thirty four years. Thirty four years of everything life consists of: happiness, pain, sorrow, the gift of four children, much laughter, much loss, much tenacious determination. 

Astonishing that so much time has gone by.   That 22 year old is literally long gone.  She is part of who I am now, but I am such a different person.

And the seasons they go 'round and 'round
And the painted ponies go up and down
We're captive on the carousel of time
We can't return we can only look behind
From where we came
And go round and round and round
In the circle game.

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