Tag Archives: tradition

A father who loved…

I pick. I probe. I ask questions. In my first marriage I used to ask “Are we gonna be okay?” and later learned I should have been more specific. Early on with MQD I started asking specific questions.

“If I can’t get pregnant will you resent me?”

“Do you believe it’s possible to marry, raise a family and still be in love? Do you want that with me?”

“I won’t likely make the same kind of money you will and I want to raise my children, be at home as much as I can. I struggle with feeling like that makes me your equal. Do you think it does?”

But every so often there’s a question. One I don’t let pass my lips because I already know the answer.

The other night I was listening to MQD tucking Em in to bed. They were laughing. “Good night, sweetheart. I love you,” he said.

He was walking down the stairs and a question popped in to my head. He walked behind me as I sat in the rocking chair and he paused and looked down at Lucy. I could feel him smiling.

“Do you love Emily the same way you love Lucy?” Contrary to the way it might appear to some, I do occasionally bite my tongue. I didn’t ask him.

But once I’d formulated the question I couldn’t stop thinking about it. It’s ridiculous. It was a trap. I don’t love Lucy and Emily the same. Equally, sure. But not the same. And I’d never ask him if he loved them equally. The scientist in him would immediately answer that Love is not something that can be quantified.  There was no right answer.

And really his answer doesn’t matter. It’s a silly question. And one I know the answer to in the grand scheme of things.

I tell Emily all of the time that no matter what, even if I had a hundred more kids that always and forever it would be Emily that made me a mother. It secures her a special place in my heart.

Emily made MQD a father, too. It’s easy to see a father’s love with an infant in his arms. For that matter it is easy to love an infant. But MQD grew to love a three year old. Anyone who has ever spent time with a three year old knows that they are fickle beasts.

Emily made MQD a father. One day at a time. Slowly.

She started calling him Dad the day we were married. But he became a dad long before then.

Mike, I love the way you love your girls. All three of us.

The Star of the Show


Whether it is an angel or a star or a 12 inch Elvis that you put atop your Christmas tree the chances are good that it is special to you.  In our house we have a brass star.

Last year MQD and I shared our first Christmas as a family.  As he lifted Emily up to put the star on our tree I grabbed the camera, my eyes filled with tears.   As she was the youngest person, it was her job.  I took a million pictures, hence the wild look in their eyes.  I think they were fed up with me by this time.

I failed to snap a picture this year of Emily as she placed the star atop of our tree.  We were all sick with a stomach bug so pictures were kept to a minimum, but today I had these two reenact the event.

I might not have shed a tear the day we topped our tree this year, but I have more than made up for it in the last few weeks.  Counting down the days to Christmas, one ornament or Christmas decoration or tradition at a time I have had more than a few occasions to get choked up.  And now it’s here.

I can hear Peanuts’ Christmas music in the kitchen as MQD cleans up from dinner.   Em is on the couch watching Christmas shows.  I have my feet propped up with ice as it seems my ankles are finally getting the pregnant lady swell.  Cookies are made and waiting for Santa.

Nothing left to do but snuggle up, close our eyes and wait for Santa. Thanks so much to all of you for spending this month with me.  Merry Christmas!

I’m a sucker for a guy with a red nose….

When I was a little girl Rudolph hung over the fireplace.  In my memory he looks just as he does above.  A sockmonkey sock transformed by my mother in to the “most famous reindeer of all.”

Christmas decorations were stored under the stairs in the basement.  In the twenty plus years my family lived in my childhood home the basement saw a fair amount of water and mildew as basements are inclined to do.  The dozen roses my dad gave me on my 16th birthday eventually got wet.  The 45s I had saved along with my Fisher Price record player succumbed to the moisture.   More than a few stuffed animals met their demise.  Shoe boxes of notes passed in middle and high school gave way to the wet environment.  (I can think of a few of you who might be glad to know that.)

Call it a Christmas Miracle if you like… But Rudolph survived.  He looks as young and vibrant hanging on the wall in my living room today as he ever did when I was a kid.  Don’t tell Snoopy, but if something ever happened to Snoop… Rudolph and those eyelashes could win me over in a hearbeat.

Hurry home, Scott!!

This is one of just a few of my “grown up” ornaments.  It is fancy. And sparkly.  And I put it carefully back in its box each year.  It was a gift from my brother and my sister-in-law several years ago.  And Lauren would likely blush if I said out loud the reasons this ornament reminds me of her.

To start with the easy ones, it is beautiful, as is she.  Not flashy and asking to be noticed but classy and gorgeous and fancy and understated all at once.

This ornament could wear blue jeans with pearls and high heels if it wanted to.  But it’s not likely it would need high heels, it is a good bit larger (to be read: taller, for those wondering if I am really about to call my sister-in-law LARGE in a public forum) than the other ornaments, just like the statuesque Lauren.  She has only an inch or two on me and yet she has always seemed taller, even to me.  Finally, a woman my brother has even a hope of seeing eye to eye with.

It is red.  And Lauren is a devoted  NC State Wolf Pack girl.  She taught Em to do the Wolf Pack symbol when she was teeny.  Just as we moved to Chapel Hill.  She didn’t seem to care it might get us run out of town.

What this ornament does not do… and Lauren is about to do… is make my baby brother in to a father.  I can’t think of a nicer thing for a girl to do.  I have mentioned before that my brother and I share little in common short of our love for one another.  But this change on the horizon will put all of us in the same demographic.  There is something about being a parent that changes everything. You share a kinship with other parents.  Perhaps this is what military veterans experience when they run in to another.  Perhaps their branch of service was different or the length of their active duty but there is a common bond.  And a relationship those of on the outside simply do not have.

Very soon three people whom I love dearly will join my Club.  The “I had a tiny baby in my house and I survived.  I was joyful and terrified, exhausted and more excited than I have ever been all at once. And I survived” Club.  My brother, Lauren and MQD.

Now just relax, girls.  Both of you.  Lauren and your sweet baby girl.  You just need to hang in there a little longer.  Scott will be home any day now.  And then … may your Adventure begin.

She’s a Lady…

Part of the art of being a woman...

There is a moment on a roller coaster, just before you begin the descent when you feel weightless.  Free.  If you had your eyes closed, if you had never seen the ride, in that moment you’d have no idea that moments later you’d be falling.

Christmas, 2005.  Emily was three months old.  We’d not yet decided that we’d not be opening the restaurant back up.   And what had been a tumultuous marriage even during its ascent was smack dab in the midst of that beautiful moment where everything is weightless. I was home full time with Emily.  And happier than I had ever been, blissfully unaware of what lay ahead.  And wholly unconcerned with the past that had brought me to that moment.

Christmas of 2005 was my last moment before free falling.  I had a house full for Christmas.  Jeremy ran out to get a few last minute gifts (read: do all of his shopping, he is famous for last minute shopping.)  From a local antique store he purchased this ornament.

I love it.  I loved it then.  And I love it now.  But I have never understood nor asked why he bought it for me.  It is a small bell, filled with something that I imagine once held a stronger smell.  There is a ribbon with a quote.  A quote I have researched but for which I  have never found the origin. 

...is knowing when not to be too much of a lady.

Part of the art of being a woman is knowing when not to be too much of a lady.

We came out the other side of marriage with an amazing daughter to show for it and a friendship that has withstood more than  a few tests.  I am not without fault.  In our ten plus years together I can say that on more than a few occasions when the fault behind an altercation could be pinned on me it was because of what one could call less than lady-like behavior on my behalf.   My tendency to take out my frustration in a passive-aggressive manner often manifested itself in behavior best classified as such.

And now this.  An ornament. Bearing a statement that all but sums up my philosophy.  A philosophy I’d always suspected he all but completely rejected.

“I love it,” I said.  And I hung it on the tree.   From time to time since then I have wondered what he was thinking when he saw it.  It is undeniably me.  But not a me I ever really thought he appreciated.  Maybe the colored (and I am just going with colored, because they were certainly not rosy) glasses that had distorted the way I had looked at our marriage and at my life for all those years also skewed the way I imagined he looked at me.  Maybe  not.

More than likely he saw it and thought as the last minute shopper does, “She’ll like this” and that was all.

That is the story I tend to come back to time and again when I roll it around in  my head.  “She’ll like this.”

This ornament has tremendous weight.  For it is the moment our coaster went over the edge, when I felt the weightlessness leaving me and the descent beginning that I realized I’d not survive the landing if I didn’t abandon all hope of being a lady.

A lady is polite.  And keeps her gloves on.  And her mouth shut.

There would be nothing ladylike about the months that would pass between that Christmas and the Christmas of two years later when Em and I were in an apartment 200 miles from home, a divorce attorney’s business card the only thing on my refrigerator.

A lady would never have had the strength to fight through all that ugly to get to the Beauty that is today.  And I suppose that is the art of being a woman.  The strength, the wisdom to keep going until you find Beauty.

Merry Christmas, to the Ladies.  And the not so Ladylike among us.

A couple of misfits…

The holidays are about family. They can be a time of forgiveness.  Of letting go of the past and coming together to share a meal and a laugh and company.

In every family there is a Bumble.  In 1964’s Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer christmas tv special  Bumble is the antagonist.  To “bumble” by definition is to proceed in a clumsy fashion, to botch or bungle, make a mess of things.

This weekend I thought a lot about how much I hope our Bumble can come around like Bumble the Abominable Snowman. At the end of Rudolph Bumble is smiling a toothless grin and places the star on the top of the Christmas tree in ChristmasTown.  He may not be beloved by the whole town but at least he has stopped wreaking havoc.

For years now our Bumble has referred to the island he calls home as the “Island for Misfit Toys.” It seemed appropriate to post this ornament this morning as he heads back out of town.

Family weekends can be messy for any family.  There was a moment this weekend when I wondered just how much more I had in me.  How much love, how much forgiveness.   In that moment  I looked down and Emily was just standing there.  She took my hand and smiled and said “Here.  I have this fortune, it’s yours.”

And in to my hand she placed a slip of paper.

“Love, like war, is easy to start and nearly impossible to end.”

If that’s true, it might be your saving grace.  Tighten up, Jer.  You got this.  Merry Christmas, Bumble.

They look alike when they first wake up.

The JR

Everyone has had that job.  The job that they took that was only going to last a little while.  It was an “in-between jobs” job.

I hated buying more than one uniform shirt because I wasn’t going to be there very long.  Sometimes I wore a long grey skirt instead of black pants.  And a plain black long sleeve tshirt instead of a Jolly Roger shirt when I was tending bar.  Because rebelling is not my strong suit but dammit, I hated that uniform.

I had never had sidework like that before.  Two hotel sheet trays of tiny solo cups of horseradish.  Four of coleslaw.  Make sure you are prepped to make at least 100 Bloody Marys. On Sunday.  At lunch.

Sell all the soup you can, but don’t eat it.  Eat things you see being made.  Made to order. Fried eggs.  Not scrambled.  Don’t ask about what you saw in the walk in.  It is a strawberry.  Even though it looks like a grey furry mouse.  It is a strawberry and it is someone’s idea of a science experiment.

Never, ever run out of cigarettes.  The other waiters, career waiters that have been at this since you were in elementary school and will still be at it when you are long gone, they are not likely to strike up a conversation with you unless you catch them on a smoke break. Get someone in the kitchen stoned.  Just once.  So they know you are not stuck up.

Figure out how the hostess station works.  Because that is where the money is made.  Coffee and $1.99 breakfast and a two-top of surfers.  They are cute.  But it won’t pay the bills. Suck it up and hope you get the family with the screaming kids and that they didn’t see the big sign that explains you can eat a LOT for almost free.  Write down their order.  Because it doesn’t impress anyone that you don’t have to.  And later when a customer tells you that they ordered wheat toast and sunny side up eggs even though that is total bullshit and they may have said that in their minds because what they actually said was French Toast and scrambled, you will have it written down.

Be nice to the people that everyone knows.  They have been eating here for a decade.  The man that eats breakfast at the bar all of the time, he knows where the sour mix is when you run out.  Go ahead and snicker and say “I bet you do” when the creepy guy say he likes his eggs “Over Easy.” But do not serve him a Budweiser with a Jack back at 11:57 am on a Sunday.  Drop a tray of six dinners.  But do not lose a credit card slip.

Don’t look too closely at the Christmas ornaments that hang from every surface in the entire restaurant.  You will begin to wonder when was the last time they were dusted.  And these thoughts of cleanliness will linger.  And drive you crazy. Put your tray jack back exactly where you got it from.  And never set an empty pitcher of iced tea down.

Learn to wash your own bar glasses.  Quickly.  You will run out if you send them to the dish pit.  Get your own ice.  And then get two extra buckets.  Everyone is slammed, not just you.  But it will be over soon enough.

Do not stay for late night drinks.  Do not ever sing karaoke.  Don’t ask any questions about Alan Ross’ Traveling Karaoke Road Show.  Specifically how it is that it is traveling if it is here every single night.  Do not breath an ill word to Carol Ann.  Don’t bother making a request for a specific day off.  Schedules were made this summer for Christmas.  You are working someone’s shifts that quit.  It is assumed that you will quit before the next summer.

I walked out of every shift wondering if I was going to get fired.  With more money than I thought I had made.  This is what I learned there.

I worked Christmas  at the Jolly Roger.  And all I got was this lousy ornament.


Our nation’s bicentennial.  A gallon of gas was 59 cents.  Taxi Driver was a hit at the box office.  The Muppet Show was on television.  The Eagles released Hotel California.  You’d have had to wait in line to get a Stretch Armstrong that Christmas.  Nadia Comăneci scored the first perfect “10” in the Olympic games.

And I was born.

There is an unwritten law that states that when a child is born in to a family you must have a Christmas ornament to commemorate their arrival.  And this is mine.

I don’t know that you can buy an ornament like this anymore.  At one time you could get a whole box of balls that were decorated with shiny polyester feeling filaments.  This is one of those, shrink wrapped with an image of a baby and the year of my birth.


I bought my first album at Waxie Maxie’s in Springfield.  KC & The Sunshine Band.  I rode a Big Wheel with a hand brake.  And I did it without a helmet.

I wanted to marry Tom Selleck . And have the Solid Gold dancers as my bridesmaids.

I didn’t mind black and white tv shows because one of the tvs in our house was black and white anyway.  I Love Lucy was the funniest show and it was on every morning.  The Love Boat seemed very risque to me, with all those unmarried, beautiful people vacationing together.  I wasn’t sure if I liked Chrissy or Janet better.  Chrissy had better clothes, but Janet was smarter.

I will never forget the episode of “Real People” where Sarah Purcell interviewed the woman with Lobster Claw Syndrome.  For years one whole side of my basement smelled like Strawberry Shortcake.  I made mixed tapes with songs I taped off the radio.

When I was very little I was afraid of Libya,  an economic recession and my father’s unemployment.  I knew that groceries were cheaper at Shopper’s Food Warehouse, because they didn’t give you any bags.  I have waited more than an hour at a video store to get a new release on VHS.

Pantyhose came in a plastic egg and the underwear section of a magazine was embarrassing.  I wanted to smell like Prell shampoo and Love’s Baby Soft and wear my dad’s old fraternity baseball jerseys.

I thought Parkay was fancy.  Sodas were for grownups. Fruit roll ups were for special treats and fast food restaurants gave out tiny orange juice glasses that were going to be collector’s items.  Everybody’s thermos smelled weird and their milk was lukewarm, but no one ever got sick.  I never met a kid with an allergy.

Because I was born in 1976.

Simply Red

Cherries in the Snow.  Raven Red.  Cha Cha Cherry.  Really Red.  Love that Red. Fire and Ice.  Ravish Me Red.

I was not always faithful to a single shade.  But I was a Revlon red lipstick girl for a long, long time.

In high school it was a look  I dabbled with.  There was a Degenerate Art exhibit at the National Gallery in the early 90’s.  I had the tshirt.  It was black.  It said simply DEGENERATE ART.  And I had new black cowboy boots.  Red lipstick completed the look.  It goes without saying that I wish I still had that shirt.

Cowboy boots were eventually  traded for Chuck Taylor’s and overalls, the red lips came and went.

In college I was the girl that didn’t wear shoes very often. I still wore Osh Kosh overalls almost every day.  But low maintenance I was not.

I fell in love with two things early in my college career.  Getting a wee bit baked and acrylic nails.  The hours I spent watching syndicated Beverly Hills 90210 on the WB (the only channel one could get in the dorms without cable) and sculpting the perfect red fingernail out of acrylic were  immeasurable.

To any and all concerned about the effects marijuana can have on a young mind I assure you the acrylic I inhaled in my dorm room did more damage.  Red lips completed the look.  Perfect red nails.  Red lipstick.  Overalls that haven’t been washed in who knows how long.  I was ready to go.

The latter half of my college career had me on my way to or from dinner theatre more often than not.  My “casual attire” moved from overalls to Ben & Jerry’s tshirts, tie dyes and pajama pants.

But the red lips remained.  In large part because the cold cream required to remove the make up I had spackled on for the evening was too time consuming.  And if you have a good reason to sport a painted on mole all night I have always been one to encourage you to go for it.

Bonus points for pearls and a red pageboy wig.

In summary, red lipstick and I go way back.

Red lipstick.  You can open a fashion magazine from nearly any decade and see at least one of the models wearing it.  It is timeless.  Classic.  But it’s only half of the equation.

Red lips without a pout?  You might as well be half dressed.  Ever since I was a little girl my mother has remarked upon my cupid’s bow lips.  (And my heart shaped butt, but that is a post for another day.  One perhaps not so rich with images.)  The first piece of art in her now vast art collection was a Tarkay.  She remarked then that the red pouty lips on all of the women in his paintings remind her of me.

I’d like to think I’ve not lost my pout.  Every girl ought to keep that skill in her back pocket.  But somewhere in the last decade the red lipstick started fading.  Traded in for chapstick with sunblock.  This weekend the red lipstick made a mini comeback.  Just for the day. But a gal can not wear a red feather headband with chapstick.  It was a no-brainer.

Every year when I hang this Patience Brewster ornament I will let it serve as a reminder.  Red lipstick is a bright idea.  Merry Christmas, Red Lipstick.  You have never let me down.  

In Laws & Tradition

If you blog or put yourself out there on the internet in any way at all you are quite likely aware of the way that you appear to a reader, be they casual or committed.  Often bloggers are criticized for being one-dimensional, only putting certain parts of their personalities out on display, some only the very best, some only the trainwreck that is their “personal” life.

I do my best to give a pretty well-rounded view of me, of who I am.  Not so much for a reader, but because my primary purpose in keeping this record is for my own benefit.  I will be able to look back and see what I hope is a realistic picture of the past.  Even if I do choose the images, the words, the stories to remember.   I make an effort to focus on both the good times and the bad.

The last year has held more good times than any year previous, in spite of the fact that I have led a pretty charmed existence all things considered.  But I try not to make bold statements about the greatness of my life, lest they bite me in the ass.

But I can say this was confidence.

My mother-in-law is better than your mother-in-law.  Without any grandstanding or superlatives I can likely convince you that I am right with one sentence.  I really like the little gifts she has surprised us with.  You know how your in-laws come to visit or you go to see them and they say “Oh, I picked these up for you” and you smile and make a mental note  – Every time they come to see me I will use these atrocious potholders.

But not me.  Nope.  MQD’s mother has been generous all while understanding that he did not marry a 20 year old bright eyed college girl.   I have opinions on things, some of them steadfast.  For chrissake she asked me what kind of toilet paper we like before she grabbed some the last time she ran out to the store.

She asked me if I was a Wreath Person before placing an order for a Holiday Wreath.  I am so totally  a Wreath Person and anxiously awaiting its arrival.

When we were in Boston this summer Ginger said “Oh, this is for you guys, you can put it anywhere, maybe your mantle.”  Gasp.  My mantle?  A girl’s holiday mantle is like the centerpiece to her holiday decorating. She can’t be serious?!

And I LOVE it.  Five months I waited to take it out of the plastic.  14 letters spelling out MERRY CHRISTMAS.  There was no way for her to know that I kind of love anything resembling vintage type set letters.  Or that I prefer colored decorations to brass.  And yet it is perfect.

We still need to get the garland for the mantle.  And hooks for the stockings. But I couldn’t wait any longer.  So much of Christmas to me is about unboxing the things that I have loved for years and years, the traditions.  It is a pleasure to put up a new decoration. One I will unwrap joyfully each year and remember, this was from our first married Christmas, in our new house.

Merry Christmas, Ginger. May I never have a box in my hall closet labeled Crap To Take Out When the In-Laws Visit.  Cheers!