date night/everything tight/check fright/strawberry cake just right

I refuse to say I am fat.

While typing this, I am wearing a size small shirt and jeans that are in the single digits. I refuse to beat myself up. In part, because that would be exercise.

I will, however, say that my clothes are skinny.

I had a date with the Pastor last night, and I was trying to psych myself up. It's not that I didn't want to go out with him, it's just that I seem to be in a post-Christmas funk. Not getting any presents (except from Moms) will do that to you.

I put on my false eyelashes. I hated all my clothes and thought it might cheer me up if I got something new to wear. Besides, I've been really good lately waiting for Santa to come (yet I still got the shaft) and I knew the Pastor wouldn't say anything if I went shopping.

We have a new outlet mall. I want it to do good. I want to like it. I really like a couple of the stores, but I kind of hate going there. It seems like everyone who shops there? Is incredibly stupid. This coming from a woman who routinely shops at Goodwill. I think it says a lot that the people at Goodwill annoy me less than the people at the outlet mall.

I wanted some fabulous retro circle skirted 1950's cocktail dress. You know, the 1950's, when women still had hips. Needless to say, the outlet mall didn't have the look I wanted. Why is everything made for stick straight people? Am I the only curvy girl out there? The Kardashian's are everywhere - and those girls have booties! How is it possible that they can be on the cover of every magazine, yet not have made an impact on the design of clothes? This would mean the Kardashian's have really served no purpose.

I gave up on the mall and went home where I proceeded to have the parade of the closet. I was too embarrassed to even photograph my looks and send them to any friends. The first look I tried on included a floral bubble skirt, a silver sequined tank and a purple cardi with silver trim. I looked like a bag lady who had raided a dumpster behind The Loft, or to give you an even better visual - imagine what the librarian at a LGBT library would wear.

The next look included a short black full skirt and a black sequined top. I looked like a sad, old ice dancer.

I gave up and put on a sweater dress. I was glad the Pastor wasn't home to see me pull my boots over my calves. If you ever want to question the size of your calves, go buy a pair of boots. I have never thought "I have abnormally large calves." I don't believe I do. But there is nothing like putting on boots that will make you think "what is wrong with my hideous, mishapen legs?"

We had a nice dinner out. We went to a restaurant we'd not been to before. The Pastor ordered a special.

Here's the thing about the specials at a fancy restaurant. They don't tell you how much they cost, and you don't ask because you are at a fancy restaurant. His special involved steak and shrimp. Once the check came and for once the Pastor's meal cost more than mine, I knew the date was over. Then I got to listen to how much food costs and how hard the Pastor works (he does) and the value of a dollar and how he would have been just as happy with a $5 hamburger. It went from hot date to conversation with a depression-era grandpa, just like that. This turn of events made me glad I hadn't added to the expense of the date with fashion.

Oh and by the way, I didn't care about my skinny clothes, that I had thought that maybe I should wear tights and spanx (sexy date undergarment combo), or how much it cost. I thought about having fun - and fun for me meant getting the strawberry cake.

It was delicious. I expect me and that cake will have another date soon, whether I find that perfect cocktail dress or not. As for the Pastor, you'll probably find him wherever $5 hamburgers are sold.


Christmas Card

Every year it’s the same.

Some people fear getting trampled to death while Black Friday shopping.

Others stress about not finding whatever version of Elmo it is you are supposed to buy.

But my greatest holiday fear?

The Christmas card.

I’m not talking about the boxes of Christmas cards you can go to any store and buy. That’s easy. You just decide if you want to be religious – Mary/Joseph/baby Jesus on front, or cute – a dog wearing reindeer antlers, or nothing with a generic “Happy Holidays.”

I’m talking about the elusive photo Christmas card.

You see, before you have the photo Christmas card, you have to have the photo. The perfect family Christmas photo.

I figure I must be missing something. People must have better lives, better children, or better abilities at Photoshop.

I’ve been trying to get “the perfect Christmas card” for 6 years now.

When you live in the reality that is divorce and remarriage with kids, first you have to find a time when all of you are together.

This magical thing happened, when the planets aligned – not only were we all together, we were all in Church clothes. Of course, none of us matched in the slightest. I was wearing plaid. The teenage boy was sporting a retro cardigan. One girl was wearing a cherry print, and the other, floral. The Pastor was in his clerical collar. I figured at best our photo would come off as a nice minister who had stopped to help out a rag-tag bunch.

Thankfully, I had not allowed the youngest girl to wear what she wanted to wear that morning. Her idea of proper church attire? Leather shorts. Leg warmers. Long, feather earrings. And I quote her: “I can rock this look.” No, dear. I’m pretty sure you can only “rock that look” if you are streetwalking. If you are a 12 year old girl, you cannot rock that look. At least not under my watch!

I had the realization that we were not only altogether, but half-way decently dressed, driving down the road. I told the Pastor we had to act fast. What happened next I’m sure was like having to race to get on the last helicopter out of Saigon. The Pastor pulled into a parking lot, screeched to a halt and we all ran to take pictures outside. It was even a decent day weather-wise. With this series of events happening, we were either going to get the perfect family picture or the world was about to end. I checked my phone to see if this was one of those dates predicted for the rapture.

The Pastor hurriedly set up his tripod – yes he carries it in his backpack all the time. We turned the timer on and just took shot after shot with the theory being we might get one decent picture.

Sure the 12 year old had some moments when she completely forgot how to smile and was making weird looking faces. And the 14 year old panicked at how to stand in front of the camera. And between each exposure, the Pastor and I were yelling at them, telling them to move here and there – screaming as though they might not make it aboard the helicopter and out of the war-torn country.

It doesn’t end with the picture. Once you get that, you have to attempt to order the cards. Here’s how that works. You go to various websites and look at design, after design, after design. There is an infinite number of possibilities. Cards range in price from roughly $0.01 - $15.00 per card. Inevitably, the ones you will like will be the $15.00 per card card. Once you find a card in your price range, it will need a vertical picture, and you will only have a good horizontal one. Or it is a card that will hold 4 pictures, and you need five.

Once you have managed to find the 1 card out of 27,382 that has the layout and number of pictures you need, and doesn’t say Happy Hannukuh (for a moment you will contemplate converting to Judaism, for it will make ordering cards easier) you will begin the process of dropping your pictures into the layout.

First you kiss your husband goodnight and grab an energy drink because you are in for an all-nighter. After you somehow manage to get the right pictures in the right slots you have to put a message or your names in a text box. Whatever you want to say, or however many names you have, it will be too many letters. You will all of a sudden give one kid a nickname they’ve never had, because it will fit on the card. Don’t even think about trying to change the font, you will want to get at least 30 minutes sleep.

I’m not bragging here. I’ve got a college degree. I went to vo-tech for a year. I’ve given birth to a child. I’ve held professional jobs, including one that required me to manage and be responsible for a number of employees. Why is it so hard to order a Merry freakin’ Christmas card?

You’ve managed to order the cards. Once they come in, you will be faced with the arduous task of addressing the envelopes. Your husband will ask you approximately every 30 minutes if “you’ve gotten the Christmas cards done.” You know, in all your spare time.

You finally finish. Then comes the stamping, the return address labels and the trip to the post office. Then over the next series of weeks, you will receive at least one returned in the mail every day because as it turns out you don’t actually know where anyone lives.

But I did it. You’d think for this, and for making the delicious Thanksgiving meal (all by myself) and wrapping the gifts and the shopping I’d deserve something extra special in my stocking this year. I know I'm not going to get any presents, so I’ll just settle for never, ever having to see the 12 year old wear leather booty shorts and leg warmers. Thanks, Santa.


and to all a good night

I have a vivid imagination.

Here's how the fantasy started. I was standing in the frozen foods aisle at Whole Foods. I'd like to say it was probably the bronchitis and the drugs I was taking, but I'm afraid it is just the way I am.

I saw a Tofurky - a vegetarian turkey substitute. This made me think of one of my favorite movies, About a Boy. I envisioned me, the Pastor and the kids sitting around and watching the heartwarming tale about a selfish bachelor and a boy with a crazy, suicidal mom. Sure, it's sad. But in the end everything is ok and the pieced-together family sits around a table eating a Tofurky at their holiday meal. After we watched the movie, I'd make a feast that included a Tofurky, and our pieced-together family could have a family meal. On holidays in years to come, all the kids would remember fondly the time they got to try Tofurky. And we'd all live happily ever after.

I'll give myself credit here. I was at least willing to abandon my fantasy. December 23 rolls around and the Pastor has been working non-stop, everyday. I knew I had to alter my Christmas expectations when I had to remind him it was going to be Christmas and the people he was going to have working on our rental properties might, just might, want to celebrate the dear little Baby Jesus with their families. (On a side note, having to remind your husband about Christmas is one indication that you won't be receiving presents.)

Then Nate had to have his wisdom teeth taken out. What an ordeal. On the first attempt, December 22, the power went out just before they sedated him, so we had to reschedule for the 23. This rescheduling meant I had to take him to the doctor's office in another city, which meant I had to drive him home alone and try to keep him from putting his fingers in his mouth while trying not to kill us in a wreck. Then I had to go to not one but two different pharmacies. It was all very stressful. By the time I finally got him home, I was asking myself who are these pain pills for exactly?

Once I got home, I put together the feast. There would be no family showing of About a Boy, but I made a meal anyway: Tofurky, mashed potatoes, stuffing, corn casserole and gravy. And why not? I'm not one to push my vegetarianism on others, but I make meat all the time. It's about time we had a vegetarian holiday meal around here.

By the time dinner was served, poor Nate didn't even feel like trying to eat even mashed potatoes. I sat down with the Pastor and the girls. It wasn't some fantastical, magical experience. Nobody looked as happy as they do in About a Boy; no one was even as happy as the Mom who had tried to commit suicide in the movie. In the end I didn't even tell the girls it was called Tofurky. I no longer cared.

The Pastor, true to form, said "Is this one of the special meals you were planning?" I know I can't communicate tone here, so let me explain in more detail. Reread that quote from the Pastor, but read it in a sarcastic, uninterested voice. And then make a noise after that sounds something like hummmmph.

I didn't use any of Nate's pain meds but I did make myself feel better in a way that is allowed by the Church - I made Christina Ferrare's Truffle Oil Mac N Cheese. I know what you are thinking. I haven't had much luck lately impressing these Hamburger Helper people I live with, so why would I make a complicated, expensive pasta recipe with four different kinds of cheeses and truffle oil? I did it for me. It was delicious.

I'm going to go make myself a bowl right now and curl up in front of the tv and watch About a Boy. This mac n cheese may be the only Christmas present I get.

Well that, and getting to watch Hugh Grant. I also own Love Actually and Bridget Jones's Diary. I may make it a triple feature.


no rest for the wicked, or a mom

After feeling miserable for six days, on the seventh day I finally went to the doctor. I couldn't take it any longer. Errrr, rather, the Pastor couldn't take it any longer if I kept him up another night because I 1. couldn't breathe 2. coughed 3. sneezed 4. was blowing my nose. A lot. The Pastor said if he missed any more sleep I'd end up in the hospital from being forcibly removed from the bed. So I thought I'd go see the doctor.

And why shouldn't I freely enjoy these last 12 days of our deductible being met?

I did my usual refusal to look at the number on the scale at the doctor's office (I've found those things to be horribly inaccurate.)
The doc said it was a good thing I didn't wait any longer to come in, because I have bronchitis.

After the doctor, it was off to the bank and the pharmacy to get my prescriptions. To give you an indication of how bad I felt, I didn't even want coffee. Then I had to go pick up some gift cards. Then it was off to a fancy grocery store 7 miles away because I don't live in one of those super-fancy cities where you can buy something exotic like marscapone cheese on every street corner.

After that, I still didn't get to go home and be sick. It was more work and errands until I had to pick up Nate from school. Next was a driving lesson for him. Followed by a standing engagement our family has - Monday Night Tacos.

After dinner, there was running around with the family including this being the one night we could all be together to look at Christmas lights.

We got home after 7, and I still had Nate's birthday cake to make. Since Nate loves chocolate chip cookies, I wanted to make him a chocolate chip cookie cake I had seen in Martha Stewart Living. You know what that means. Sifting was involved. Which also means once again in my life I had to Google "do you measure flour before or after you sift?" How did people bake before the Internet?

I secretly think Martha's true crime was not anything she did with money but what she does with her recipes and crafts. I think she leaves just a little something out so you don't know just how much of a pain whatever project or recipe you are working on will be until it is too late. You just end up feeling inadequate and Martha is somewhere in Connecticut laughing maniacally.

I just needed 8 dozen of Martha's cookies measured out by tablespoon and baked 14 minutes until crispy. Once I started baking the cookies, I had the soon-to-be birthday boy hovering. I had to tell him "You cannot touch that cookie dough!" and "No! You cannot eat a single cookie even though I am baking them for your birthday. I need them for your cake." His reply? "Why didn't you just buy me a cake?"

I didn't let Martha get the best of me today. Here's what her cake looked like:

Here's mine so far (top layer doesn't go on until you serve):

The Pastor was extremely helpful: "You needed a recipe for that? It looks like you just stuck a bunch of stuff between some cookies."

Must. Not. Throw. Cake. I've. Worked. So. Hard. On. At. My. Husband.

Now it is 10:45 p.m. and I still haven't rested like the doctor wanted me to. I haven't been at home all day, much less lay down. The doctor also wanted me to take some Benadryl - and I had to explain to him I didn't have time for a coma.

I'm going to take it now and go to bed. God created the earth in six days and then had a day of rest. I don't think it is any coincidence that this occurred after he created a woman to take care of everything for him. I imagine that woman was a lot like Martha Stewart.


we'll always have Paris

This picture taken at a happy moment in France just makes me feel sorrow.

There weren't just five of us in the picture. There were six. I was carrying around a teeny, tiny secret souvenir. I was pregnant. I couldn't have been happier.

Alas, it was not meant to be. The day we were going to make the big announcement, I went to the doctor and his heartbeat was gone.

The picture devastates me, not just for the loss, but because in a way it captures the essence of the last time I truly felt happy.

A letter I wrote to our angel baby has been published in a new book compiled by Help Inspire Others http://www.helpinspireothers.com/

I've just learned from the people at Help Inspire Others that one of the largest independent book stores in the United States - The Huntington Book Revue, New York - is featuring this book.

I'm heartbroken our baby didn't make it, but I'm blessed to have been able to carry him for a while in my body and forever in my heart. I hope through the work of Help Inspire Others and the sharing of stories from people like me, it will be beneficial to others experiencing the loss of a pregnancy.

Adieu, Mon Petit Souvenir.


food for thought

It started last week.

The Pastor said to me "would it be helpful to you if I made a list of what I like for you to cook, so you'll know what to cook."

Uhhhhhhhh, no. I know what to cook. I pretty much know how to cook a jillion, billion million things. And if for some reason I sustained a sudden brain injury, I could still type into the computer whatever ingredients I have (Eggo waffles, refried beans, ice cream, frozen pizzas) and magically recipes would appear.

I love it when the Pastor tries to "help" me.

I gently explained this to him. And the fact that when we don't eat at home, it's not because I haven't a clue what to cook, but his crazy schedule. Or the fact that we have not one, not two, but three teenagers in various places at all times. I always plan to cook - but then the day of or hours before, my plans will be derailed - because while I am planning to cook, everyone else is planning to do something else far more interesting than being at home and eating dinner.

Our discussion continued with the Pastor telling me how he doesn't understand why I don't just throw something in the crock pot in the mornings. If I did this, then he and the kids would be just fine! They can take care of themselves! They could scoop whatever out of the crockpot, be perfectly delighted while I am at my writing class, and clean up after themselves.

I reminded the Pastor I did that very thing the previous week. When I got home, he told me two of the three people who had eaten that evening did not like what I made in the crock pot (Swiss Steak). The Pastor didn't understand why him telling me that two out of three did not like something might hurt my feelings. Oh, and they left all their dirty dishes in the sink.

At this point, the only thing I'm contemplating putting in the crock pot is dismembered body parts.

But still, he rattled off a couple things he'd like for me to cook - chili and pizza burgers.

I got up the next morning. Looked up recipes. Made a list. Went to the store. Spent $225.00 on groceries, went home, unloaded and put everything up. Of course when you put everything up, that is when you discover you have to clean out and rearrange everything in your freezer, fridge, deep freezer and pantry. All this activity consumed no less than three quarters of a day.

Now on to the Pizza Burgers. I'd never heard of PB but the Pastor's mom made them and as he described them, they were nothing short of Manna from Heaven. Thanks to the internet, I had googled the recipe and gave it a whirl.

I realize I don't have a Ph.D., but I have cooked for more than 20 years with a resume that includes the fact that no one in my household has ever starved to death. Even though I don't eat the meat, I get the jist of things. I followed the recipe. One pound ground beef, hamburger buns, pizza sauce, cream of mushroom soup. Brown meat, add pizza sauce and soup, pour over hamburger buns. Top with cheese. Bake til bubbly. Except for the fact I really thought it might be too runny when I was adding the soup and sauce so I cut back on what it called for. Personally, I thought the buns should probably be baked a little before adding everything on top, but being a seasoned cook I thought I'll follow the recipe and I can tweak it next time I make it.

I served dinner and the Pastor offered up his "constructive criticism." Too runny. He's just trying to help. You know, for the next time I make it.

Let's move on to the chili. I made chili in the crock pot and the best cornbread ever - the Barefoot Contessa's recipe. The Pastor's response? There's no beans in this chili. It's just meat soup.

And the Pastor - the one who hates to throw food away and why can't we just eat leftovers - each time since then when I've offered him the leftover chili, he doesn't want any part of my "meat soup." Also, the teenage boy doesn't want any of it, because now we are out of hot dogs and there is nothing to eat it on.

Just to be clear - I've invested all this time, effort in money into hot dogs I don't eat, chili I don't eat, Pizza Burgers I don't eat, Swiss Steak I don't eat.

There's always a silver lining. I accidentally grabbed a pair of too tight jeans out of the closet and put them on. A few hours later I realized hey! these jeans fit me now! I'm so busy cooking all this food for everyone else to complain about, I totally forgot to eat.


Muffin Top

The Pastor lovingly caressed me and told me he liked my "muffin top."

This can mean one of four things:

1. He doesn't know what a muffin top is.
2. He doesn't know how to compliment a woman.
3. He wants to die a slow, painful death.
4. He wants to buy me a very nice Christmas present.