Homemade Love

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It’s midnight and I am eating a bowl of Cream of Wheat. I put berries in it, because that makes it grown up Cream of Wheat.

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I am extremely nostalgic. It doesn’t take much for this mind of mine to drift back to memories of my youth. Even this very late dinner does that. It made me think of mom…and what perfect timing right before Mother’s Day.

I sometimes stay up too late by choice. I get distracted by Facebook, laundry, writing, and oh….eating. My mother often stayed up very late also. My brother and I were in awe, thinking she had some super power. That power being – never sleeping yet still amazing. There were no distractions for her, like Facebook. She stayed up late because it was the only way to accomplish everything on her list. And her list was long.

Mom basically raised us on her own. Dad worked hours away in Chicago all week and only came home on weekends. I never understood just how much my mother did for us, until I grew up. That’s motherhood though, isn’t it? The reward comes when an adult child wakes up one day and realizes, “Damn! My mother was amazing!” Until then, and forever and always, we give it our all.

My brothers and I lacked for nothing. We lived in a tiny little town in Wisconsin, population almost non existent. There was no shopping for cool clothes or convenience food, yet we had the cutest clothes and homemade everything for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Every kid in town wanted to eat at our house. Those late nights mom had, produced homemade canned applesauce, pickles, candied apple rings, and strawberry jam, homemade bread, pies from scratch, and cookies. I grew up with very little preservatives. Thank you, mom.

If staying up until early morning hours to make sure we had the best food, wasn’t enough, mom was a constant presence at our school and in the community. She was the leader of not only my adorable little Brownie troop, but also for the Cub Scouts. She was president of the school board. She was ALWAYS the room mother for all of us, and often requested by the other children too! I don’t remember a school party without my mom there and her fabulous homemade treats. It was so comforting and I knew I had the mom everyone wanted.

And by the way, her hair and make were done every day. She was and is elegant and lovely. Always put together. I am thankful for that influence in my life.

What amazes me most now, at the ripe ol’ age of 45 and recently divorced…..is that my mom did all of this while living in a nightmare. Her marriage was abusive and she wasn’t able to leave until we were all grown. She made life look perfect for all of us, because that’s what mommies want – a perfect world for our children. After a certain age, even as a child I figured out it was far from perfect. Still, my mother never quit. We still had all of our needs met, above and beyond, even when at one point she had to join the workforce. The laundry, dinner, lunches for school, everything was just magically done for us. Wow mom – thank you! I wish I had the gumption as a child to try to help out more.

One of the greatest blessings of age has been my relationship with mom. She’s my best friend and confidant. At some point in my life, after raising children myself, I started to see my mother as a woman and a friend. We just don’t see our moms that way when we are young. There is a woman in there. I had to experience motherhood and marriage for myself to understand what it was like for her. Now I can imagine it, even feel it. Now I know how much she must have struggled at times, simply putting one foot in front of the other. All the while taking care of my self-centered , child’s heart.

This Mother’s Day I am looking forward to time with my mom more than ever. Thankfully she never tires of me as I have become more needy of her through the years. Always there with a glass of wine or a cup of tea and a listening ear…..this Mother’s Day will look like any other day for the two of us, because we are often together. It isn’t any other day for me though. As time goes on, we lose people we love. I live purposely with that thought, and cherish this holiday as we take a day to reverence our dear mothers who give everything without blinking.

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Italian Dreams

Montemaggiore Belsito….Italian words have a way of making anything sound lovely. If you don’t recognize those two words, I could lead you to believe it’s an Italian dish, my favorite restaurant, or maybe a day spa where I get away to unwind and pamper myself. Whatever the meaning, it rolls off the tongue and conjures up romance and passion.

Italy has to be the next overseas trip in my life. I have romanticized it so greatly in my mind for many years, and I have no doubts it will live up to my Italian fantasy.

As for Montemaggiore Belsito, it is the Italian Village in Sicily where my Italian ancestors are from. It means great mountain.

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I long to go to this magical land, full of opportunities to awaken all of my senses. I can’t decide if I’d like my first stop to be a visit to my ancestral grounds or if I’d rather save it for the last leg of my journey. Knowing myself, I would be so anxious I’d have to see it first, so as not to rush through everything else trying to get there. I can be a bit childish when I am excited about something. The first time I saw The Magic Kingdom at age 34, I ran to the entrance leaving my children in the dust. Thankfully they find my weirdness endearing.

When I imagine Italy in my mind, it is like a giant work of art coming to life….History so ancient in Rome, it is hard to grasp as an American, romance oozes along the Venetian canals, Renaissance art around every corner in Florence, and supposedly the best pizza ever in Naples. I intend to gain weight in Italy.

I see myself, (and a romantic partner….Italy is too romantic to go alone), standing in the middle of some Italian square. It’s summertime and I am wearing a lovely sundress and heels. I wouldn’t want to damage the beautiful, artistic scene with jeans and flip flops. I don’t know where we are, but we are holding hands, standing still and just smiling as we take it all in. There are people walking all around, lovers kissing, music playing in the streets, and the most wonderful aromas coming from restaurants and outdoor cafes. I want to sit still in Italy. I want to watch the canvas painting in my mind, come to life.

Italians have adopted the phrase, slow food. Why is that sexy to me? Not a bad idea for an American to ponder. I find great pleasure in things like thoroughly and ever so slowly, enjoying every bite of a decadent meal. Savoring every bite of a well made dish while having fabulous conversation with an attractive man across the table, is truly an aphrodisiac. I’m not sure what my blog is rated, so I’ll stop there.

There is so much beauty to be found in our world. And there is a world beyond where we live. I long to see more places. I long to feel a connection to my ancestors. It helps me to understand who I am and where I came from.

I may be building up Italy too much in my mind….but I don’t think so. I am a passionate person, full of curiosity, sensuality, and desire. What better place to challenge that woman inside of me, than beautiful Italy?

Sigh…..for today I am in Illinois. I’ll make the most of it though. Maybe some homemade Italian bread and pasta tonight.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Pom Pom Status

 

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I’m not into status symbols. I don’t wear a lot of jewelry. I don’t get excited about fancy cars. I like having a nice home but I’ve never dreamt of a mansion. Things were different when I was a child though. When I was a child, it was all about the roller skates…..

Hard to believe I am old enough to remember putting the clanky metal roller skates onto my shoes. Really, they were a splendid investment for our parents, since they could slide and adjust as we grew. And the sound they made as we skated? It was a fabulous tinny sound, that clinked and clanked as each foot hit the pavement. However, I lived in a time when metal skates were going out and very cool boot skates were coming in…..

I had a pair that looked just like the ones in the picture. And that is why I cried myself to sleep most nights. You see, there weren’t enough pom pom choices to match these blue skates. I wanted white ones so I could attach many different colored pom poms!imagesThe new plastic wheels made a very cool smooth gliding sound as we gracefully now slid in our new skates…..but who paid attention to wheel sounds now? The bells, which made a cute little jingle as each foot came down….the bells made you officially cool. Gone were the days of the awkward clanking sound we had loved of metal skates. This….this was the new status of the average 9 year old. Boot skates with a collection of pom poms which one could change to match ones outfit.

I’ve since then gotten over the fact that I never had enough roller skate pom poms. It did cause me some trouble however, as a young child. Out of desperation I started a “silk jacket club,” during recess, because I did have a very cool silk jacket. It ended quickly when the teacher called home because other children without silk jackets weren’t allowed in my club. I’m not proud.

Slow and Sexy

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Sometimes all it takes is a little retail therapy……

Most of us have that one “thing” that makes our heart pitter patter when we walk into a store and see it. We want it, need it, must have it. Sometimes we spend hours window shopping on ebay, just to lay our eyes on our beloved obsession. It may be diamonds, cars, furniture, clothing…..for me it’s dusty, old rotary phones.

If you were born beyond the 70’s you may not appreciate this trip down nostalgia lane. I’m afraid it may create great envy in you.

I remember holding that nice, heavy receiver in my tiny little hand in grade school. Today’s phones can’t compare to it! Ever try resting an iphone on your shoulder while making dinner and chatting with your pal?

My mother had it mastered. Not only could she do anything while talking on the phone, including shooting her children the evil eye at five minute intervals as we constantly interrupted, but also cooking, folding laundry, and whatever task could be reached within her cord’s length. Oh yes, the smart moms knew to buy the longest curly cord available to mankind, so as not to be stuck in the kitchen while discussing world peace on the phone. With the long cord you could cover the kitchen, half of the dining room, and possibly the powder room.

I longed to be as elegant as her as I watched her dial the phone with the eraser tip of a pencil, so as not to break a nail, her Salem cigarette hanging from her lips, which wore frosty pink.

That sound as the numbers went slowly swooshing by….The feeling of dialing those numbers can’t be recreated today. The number 1 was fun because it was quick….the 9 however – oh the nine was slow and sexy.

The rotary dial required a patience that would drive us insane today. Sad, right? We are used to quick and instant everything now!

My favorite was the one that sat in our dining room when I was in grade school. It was a hip robin’s egg blue, perched on an antique sewing machine, surrounded by a jungle of my mother’s meticulous spider plants hanging in macramed plant hangers. (but that’s another story)

I was sometimes allowed to call my young boyfriend after dinner. I’d shyly ask if I could call, and after an affirmed yes and a set time limit, my family would giggle as they left the table, leaving me alone to recite passionate thoughts to my 2nd grade love. Here’s where that slow dial made a difference. With each swoosh, I had to nervously anticipate the call. It wasn’t just ding, ding, ding and you’re done. It was swoosh – swooooosh – swooooooooosh….my heart racing as each tormenting number rolled by. He was so cute with those big blue eyes and blonde hair. Would I have to say hi to his mom or dad? He was expecting my call. I’m sure I told him in a note that my girlfriend gave him.

Finally he’d answer and we’d sit and listen to each other breathe for hours.

Yep, I can still feel it. Now I collect those precious phones that conjure up memories of my first love, my beautiful mother, and my childhood home. I’m on the search for robin’s egg blue. I could order one on ebay I’m sure. But it’s the thrill of the hunt. That moment I see it and my heart goes pitter patter.

Frozen Pizza, Horror Movies, & Other Imperfections

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I’m pretty sure the last time I wrote in a journal I didn’t need reading glasses to see my writing.

As I sit by the fire in quiet solitude, sipping wine, writing in my “Follow Your Dreams” journal, the Jason Mraz iHeart station playing for inspiration…..my angelic children are in the basement watching “Jaws 3.” Excellent viewing choice before bed. Once in a while I hear a scream of terror/joy and I am jolted from my sophisticated mood and reminded I’m wearing pink Old Navy sweats and a well worn Bon Jovi sweatshirt, my wine is rather cheap, and I have yet to clean up dinner…..which by the way consisted of a frozen pizza and leftover spaghetti.

It was one of those days. I had very little sleep the night before; woke up with a stiff neck to boot, which has caused me to turn my head like Frankenstein all day long. My day was filled with phonics, spelling, listening to an early reader read a nail biting book about a dog named Biscuit, figuring out how to find the 3rd root of a number, (for some reason I haven’t needed to use this calculation EVER in my adult life), googling answers to random questions like, “How long is an anaconda?”….. I gave spelling tests for three different grade levels and encouraged my seven year old to count to 500. I told my son, as I do everyday, there will be no video games until all of his school work is done. I had a heart to heart with my 14 year old daughter, about life and how things are going. If you are a home educating mom, you understand my list can go on and on. Meals, laundry, cleaning, etc., all get squeezed in there between raising/educating the next generation. You are welcome, world.

Lately I have wondered if I am doing enough or too little. I wondered if they should go to school….am I improving their lives or ruining them? The pondering stopped as I looked at the clock and realized we had five minutes to get out the door to swimming lessons. And yes, that meant I had no time to change my lovely lounging outfit. But who am I kidding? My pink sweats are always a sign that there is no other clean laundry!

Oh my fellow, dear sweet, homeschooling moms. I am willing to bet you ARE doing enough and so am I. Your child WILL learn to read, write, and memorize his multiplication facts. How can he not when you’ve sat on the couch practicing over and over until you are forced into an afternoon nap? (flashcards and reading are absolute sleep inducers) I now have the benefit of seeing my results in two grown children. Despite my imperfections, and oh my there are many…they turned out quite beautifully! Don’t give up – you know and love your children more than anyone. You were made for this “job.”

My children recently endured some major life changes. In the past few months they’ve experienced the divorce of their parents, moving to a new community, loss of old friends, mom’s new career, and everything else that comes with divorce.

I don’t say this to brag, but to encourage others….my children are doing amazingly well, and I believe continuing to homeschool them has played a big factor in that.

I knew I didn’t want them to experience any more change. They have been through enough. In the back of my mind I have assumed since I am now a single mom, eventually they would need to go to school. After seeing their sweet spirits not broken from divorce, and realizing what a blessing it has been to always be available when they need to talk, I am not so sure sending them away all day is the best thing for them. I may have to, but it won’t be because I think homeschooling isn’t working.

I will come up against other opinions if I do decide to stay on this journey of home education, but that is nothing new. As they say…”The proof is in the pudding.” It’s hard to argue the benefits of this lifestyle.

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My babies who are thriving, despite my imperfections

Chasing Fear

 

I took a break from most everything in life recently, and studied for my real estate broker exam. It was worth it….I passed. 🙂

 

Taking a break from everything is a bit of an exaggeration. The laundry, groceries and cleaning did not patiently wait for me to return. Nor did the children’s hungry tummies.

The past month or so I’ve allowed my children to eat what I usually run from, for fear someone will find out I served something horrid like a…..FROZEN LASAGNA!

Making these changes in my life have been eye opening, exciting, scary, and oh so necessary. And that’s just from making frozen lasagna!

I think…..think…..my midlife crisis has come to an end. It’s no longer a crisis, just fabulous midlife. I love it and I am going to squeeze everything out of this time that I can.

A Favorite blogger of mine, (Lynn, from https://encorevoyage.com/ ) once told me, “Honey you just need a shift.” She was right. I shifted and I feel brand new. I love my age. I don’t need to regret not making changes sooner, because I had to want something REALLY bad to make it happen, and I wasn’t at that point when I was even a couple of years younger. I didn’t have the confidence I have now. And I no longer need to panic that time is fleeting, because age is just a number, and as long as we are up for it, we can continue challenging ourselves at any age.

What I have recently learned, and it has been quite eye opening for me, is….I want to always have a fear I must overcome. The kind of fear that makes us step back and say, “maybe next year,” or “well…that’s not really what I want anyway.”

I feared that damn test. People in my life had high expectations of me. What if I failed? I hope I would have taken a deep breath and fought it again until I won.

I was high from succeeding. I don’t remember the last time I felt so happy. I dropped out of college at 21 and started a family. Since that time I have never done anything that was all about me. It felt and still feels great. But get this….

The next day fear tried to envelope me again. It always comes like a mean spirited whisper, doesn’t it? “Who are you to think you can just start a career at 44? Do you really think you can balance a family and a career? What if you….fail?”

I let it follow me around for a couple of days, and then I realized I could use my unwelcome guest to my advantage. I began reminding myself that I had feared the exam….and conquered it. So perhaps this fear thing is a good thing? (I’m like the Martha Stewart of fear) An epiphany! I need healthy fear so I will set goals and conquer those fears! Without fear or a challenge, what is there to work toward? Head in the direction of your fear! Don’t run the other way!

Am I the only one who didn’t figure this out at 20, 30, or even 40? Seriously, this thought is changing my life. I have ALWAYS run the other way when I thought I might fail or I just simply feared. The really interesting thing to me is I didn’t know this about myself. I didn’t see it. I just thought I’d been dealt a life with little opportunity. I didn’t know that I feared failure, which led me to not try. Sure – guilt has played a huge role in not pursuing dreams….but fear fuels that guilt also.

Everyone has different reasons for pursuing goals and dreams. Maybe it’s money, status, security, or other personal convictions. I now know for me it is for growth. I don’t ever want to stop growing intellectually, spiritually and emotionally.

Is there something you are fearing and running from that you actually need to face? If it could change your situation in a positive way, run toward it and fight it. It’s just you and the fear….be a little selfish for a time and give it everything you’ve got!

Unforgettable

A little more about Ireland and the sweetest old man whom I wanted to keep……

I have so many beautiful scenery pictures from Ireland….but the highlights of the week were finding my great grandfather’s cottage, and then the next day finding the remains of my great grandmother’s cottage. I shared that story here….https://apronsheelsandyogapants.com/2016/05/28/wanderlust/

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It all seemed surreal, especially when hunting for my great grandmother’s childhood home, with very little clues to go on. (just a photo and town name) We received a name and address, with the help of a sweet lady at the post office, of the oldest man in the tiny little town we were searching in. She said in her fabulous Irish brogue,  “He knows everything.” Between the kindness of the Irish people, the way they speak, and one charming village after another, surely this must all be a dream.

 When we arrived at the oldest man in town’s little farmhouse, there he was out in the field with his flat cap on, a button up shirt, blazer, and trousers….older Irish men are always well dressed. As a matter of fact, I have found that what I love about older Irish men, is that they look like older Irish men.

I wish so badly I would have taken a photo, but I didn’t want to seem “touristy.” His name was Sean Marren. Marren is the Irish name in our family. Again….this must all be a dream. His brogue was wonderful. It really felt like a scene out of a movie…or maybe I’ve watched “The Quiet Man” too many times. The scenery was perfect as I walked through the field. I happened to be wearing a long, flowing skirt that day…..I almost felt like Maureen O’hara, as I walked toward this sweet man, who for all I knew could be a relative. He was darling and I wanted to take him home, but my mother said I could not.

Mr. Marren was kind enough to study the picture we brought of the cottage. He knew exactly who had owned it and it was right around the corner from him.

As I said, I wish I had a picture of him, but didn’t want to appear rude. Ireland receives many Americans a year, searching for ancestral homes and long lost cousins. He may have thought I was just another one of “those.” (which I am)

I’ll never forget him or this magical place called Ireland. Some people and places are simply unforgettable.

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