Nothing Doing

See this view?

It's mine.

I had major hip surgery 11 days ago (more on that later), and this particular surgery has a long and complicated recovery. LONG. Did I mention it is lengthy?

I can bear zero weight on my operative leg (the right one) for a total of six weeks, so here I sit. Actually, I can only sit in short spurts too. So here I lie. Or lay. Whatever–I couldn't figure out "lie/lay" even before pain meds.

(And let us pause for a moment to acknowledge that if you zoom in on that picture, you will see the name of the socks are "Bair Paws". Seriously. They gave me misspelled socks in the hospital's pre-op room. I took one look at them and started to gather my things and told Hubs, "IF THEY CAN'T SPELL 'BEAR' THEY ARE NOT CUTTING OPEN MY HIP." Thankfully, he talked me off this ledge, as they are the most comfortable socks I have ever worn. Also, and I really need you to work with me and picture this, the Bair Paws gown they gave me had a hose attached and it blew comfy warm air into my gown. I am a chronic spelling snob, but I'm also a chronic cold person, and guess what? Comfort wins. Nice job, Bair Paws people. Atrocious spelling, but great product.)

Back to recovery.

(Side note: Clearly, the FDA should list that a side effect of painkillers is over-use of italics and parentheses.)

I haven't been this helpless since I was a toddler. I can't fix a drink and carry it with me to the couch. I can't sit at the computer for more than a few minutes at a time. I can't sweep a floor or empty a trashcan or drive a car or walk to the mailbox with my husband.

My mother–the Greatest Hero In My World–has all but moved in to run my family. Precious friends are providing weeks of meals and rides for my kids and are coming to sit with me so that I will not be alone.

This is how it will be for much of the summer. Once I can start walking in six weeks, I am assured the recovery will still be slow and my limitations will be many. I am told my joint will not be normal, strong, and pain-free for six months.

And I won't lie to you: This is hard.

Me, the mom of the carpool, the class party, the field trip, the sleepover, the mega-grocery trip–I am a bump on this couch while that world outside my window just whirls along without me.

And I feel it, smacking me in the head every time I look around, the lesson that hangs in the air waiting to be learned: I can still love my people.

Let me repeat that, because I don't fully believe it yet, even though a little part of my brain knows it must be true: I can still love my people.

I sit here, waited on hand and foot, knowing how much work I'm creating for the people I love best. And I can't help. I cannot love them by jumping up and fixing them a casserole or driving to dance class. I can love them, as I sit (lay/lie) here. I can listen, pray, watch, laugh, comfort, but I can't DO.

And guess what? Loving your people by DOING is way easier than loving them the other ways. I realize, painfully, how addicted I've been to proving my love to my family (and myself) by just moving around on their behalf all the time.

The other day, I crutched myself gently out to my front porch because I need to breathe some air. It was starting to sprinkle, and my ten-year-old daughter dashed out past me and began to dance in the rain. I just watched her, easing myself onto a bench. She danced. And I just watched. I didn't run inside to grab my phone and snap a picture of the cute moment. I didn't watch for ten seconds and then tell her, sorry, I have to go inside and fold clothes now. I just watched her. I watched the beautiful length of her legs, and the funny way the hair started to stick to the side of her face. I just watched and savored that moment, right there.

I just loved her.

I am seeing these moments begin to take shape, as I let go of the old ways of loving my family and try to embrace these newer (and harder) ones. I listen to the sound of my husband's footsteps in the kitchen as he prepares my meds and comes to put me in bed, and I pray that God will ease his burdens. I just love him.

When my son needs to discuss a school frustration, I do not cut the conversation short to hop onto the next thing, because I can't–because the only way I can love him is to hear him. And we talk, more deeply than we've ever talked on the topic. I just love him.

I am ashamed how hard it is to slow down and love my family in this new way. I should've learned it years ago.  I wonder what all I have missed when I dashed off to fold their towels instead of watching them dance in the rain?

Teach me, Lord.



Ho, Ho, Ho (and Other Things I’m Thinkin’)

A sheepish "thank you" to those of you who have dropped a note to ask if my lack of posting means that something is terribly wrong. 

Things are, in fact, terribly right these days–the book is done (DONE, I tell you, DONE!) and it's off to the printer. I'm so giddy with the new-found freedom that I've celebrated by alternately plowing through my reading list and learning to crochet (and by "learning to crochet", of course, I mean "looping  a bunch of sloppy knots, but gosh, it's fun.") The kids are out of school and they're helping me with holiday preparations (and by "helping", of course, I mean "not really helping at all, but gosh, they're cute"). We're staring down the barrel of an especially action-packed holiday season this year–details to follow, once all the dust has settled.

In the meantime, as a very tiring 2009 draws to a close, I find myself feeling a little reflective about this silly blog o' mine. It started as a hobby, grew into a "job," and it's mercifully, gently settling back into a hobby again, for which I'm profoundly grateful. I've learned so much about setting limits this year; perhaps I'll write on it once I grab hold of the right words. Thank you for bearing with me during a busy, chaotic year, and for the frequent doses of encouragement and laughter you've sent me at just the right time.

I just yawned, which reminds me that, yet again, I've stayed up too late, cramming in all the last-minute Things Which Must Be Done. The presents are sloppily wrapped, and the kitchen floor is covered with sprinkles from our (highly unsuccessful) foray into holiday baking today. The kids played too many video games, and the 8yo has been throwing up all evening. I sigh to remember how I was crabby when I should've been kind today, how I was rushed when I should've paid attention. I'm beginning to think my decades-long tradition of falling short at Christmas may actually be by design: if I had it all together, I suppose I wouldn't have needed a certain Baby to come and rescue me from my own messes.

So I'll sit here, picking cookie sprinkles off the bottoms of my feet, and I'll think about the manger. I'll say a prayer for peace and rest for those of you who are fighting hard battles right now–I know there are many of you.  And I'll think on this, by lovely Madeleine:

He came to a  world which did not mesh,
to heal its tangles, shield its scorn.
In the mystery of the Word made Flesh
the Maker of the stars was born.

We cannot wait till the world is sane
to raise our songs with joyful voice,
for to share our grief, to touch our pain,
He came with Love: Rejoice! Rejoice!

Be merry, my friends–I'll see you back here in the new year.


We had three perfectly restful days at Ree's Lodge.  Over the course of our time together, we ate entirely too much food and got way too little sleep. We managed to analyze what is wrong with the State Of Marriage In America, which era of Saturday Night Live was best, what might possibly happen in Iran, and why on earth we wore those clothes in the 1980's.  Sophie, Melanie and I feel so recharged and pampered and well-fed that we briefly considered refusing to leave.  But that would just be bad manners, so we sadly packed up and left yesterday afternoon.

Here are a few of snapshots of all the lovelies:

[First, a disclaimer: Compared to Ree's photos, mine look like they were taken with a cheap camera and by a bad photographer.  Probably because I have a cheap camera and I'm a bad photographer.]


Below, the back deck.  This is where we stood to sing rousing verses of show tunes from the musical Oklahoma.  (Not really.  Okay, really.  But only once):


I'm not sure, but I think this pantry may hold the key to world peace:




Even dirty laundry smells good in here:


The view from the room where I slept:


I would like to report that the reason this guacamole is halfway gone is that I had been sharing it evenly and diplomatically with everyone else and NOT AT ALL because I shoveled half the plate into my mouth so vigorously that my skin has a green tint to it today: 


A scrumptious dinner:


And (*sigh*) cinnamon rolls for breakfast, lightly flavored with coffee:


Signing off now, to go shop for some elastic-waist pants.  

In Which I “Work Some Cattle”

Melanie, Sophie and I met up with Ree at her family's ranch on Monday for a girls' getaway.  Guess how I got to start my day this morning?


Not bad at all.  That strange glow in the air is a phenomenon they call "sunrise", perhaps you've heard of it?  I'm pretty sure the last time I was up this early I was timing labor contractions.  But starting my day with that view is almost enough to turn me into a morning person.  I even hummed a few bars of "Oh What a Beautiful Mornin'".  I had to hum; I was too sleepy to remember any of the words.

Our little adventure started yesterday morning, when we headed out of my city toward Ree's ranch, her meticulous directions clutched in my hand.  I have a poor track record with maps (ask Hubs about the Unfortunate Memphis Incident Of 2006), but I figured that surely three college-educated women with a working knowledge of Google Maps could find Ree's place. 

We meandered our way through the prettiest patch of Oklahoma I've ever seen–tall trees, rolling hills, winding roads.  Then, very suddenly, we crested a ridge, only to find that the curves and hills behind us abruptly opened right up into the wide-open, flat, treeless ranch land ahead.  "Girls," I whispered, feeling every bit like Ma Ingalls, "I think we found the prairie."

(I appreciate the beauty of expansive prairie land, especially the giant sky, but–at the same time–I'm strangely unnerved by it, as well.  I feel a little "exposed".  Perhaps it's a function of growing up in the cozy hillls of Arkansas.  Perhaps I am psychologically unable to function without a silhouette of a Target in the horizon.  Perhaps I'm just one endless parade of neuroses.)

Ree had mentioned that we'd turn off the main highway and drive "a bit" before we reached the Lodge.  So we were picturing, I don't know, maybe a long driveway.

100_4222 We turned off the main highway, and we drove.  And we drove and we drove.  And we drove some more.  Everywhere, as far as we could see, was beautiful, wide-open, gently rolling prairie.  Hardly a tree in site.  Just grass.  And cows.  And an endless amount of blue sky.  We were speechless (a rare occurrence) at the vastness and beauty of it.  A horse (a horse!), taller than my car, stepped out on the road in front of us, then slowly he sauntered off.  Melanie pointed out our next turn, and so I flipped on my turn signal.  MY TURN SIGNAL.  You know, just in case that one truck we saw 15 miles ago needed to know what we were doing.  Suddenly and painfully aware of the "city girl" labels stamped on our foreheads, we started giggling.  Then laughing.  Then snorting.  We were laughing so hard I had to pull the car over.  Delirium had set in.  (It's prairie madness, I'm sure.  Just like the original pioneers, except with an air-conditioned Honda).

But we forged ahead, meeting up with Ree at the Lodge.  She showed up bearing a giant dish full of this–between that and the unhealthy amount of chips and salsa I've eaten in the last 24 hours, Sophie and Melanie may have to roll me home.  We spent a quiet afternoon and evening with Ree, laughing and talking and generally discussing The State Of the World (and sighing some sad sighs over this).  When we parted last night, she let us know she'd be picking us up at the crack o' dawn this morning to work some cattle.  I thought that perhaps "work some cattle" might be ranch-speak for "sit on the deck and read a good book with my feet propped up". 

In fact, "work some cattle" is ranch-speak for "work some cattle".  Marlboro Man kindly offered to saddle up some horses for us.  As tempting as it was to climb up on a horse for my very first time in front of a bunch of professional cowboys, I decided to ride in the car with Ree and Sophie (though Melanie, feeling the need to represent the state of Texas well, gave it a very honorable effort).

Here is the point in this post where I would like to describe to you the morning's events, but my questionable grasp of ranching terminology makes a it a little difficult to communicate.  So instead, I'll just tell you that we watched a whole bunch of very strong cowboys do this:


Mostly, we just tried (successfully) to stay out of the way, and we tried (unsuccessfully) not to ask too many questions.  Our best source of information was Ree's oldest daughter, who is remarkably well-informed about various and sundry ranch-related issues.  When we found ourselves standing in a pen with several newly-branded-and-vaccinated (and understandably cranky) calves, Ree's daughter quietly advised us that "if they run at you, just wave your arms."

If they run at me?

Alrighty.  I'll be sure to remember that while I'm dropping to the ground and crying in terror.

It was only shortly thereafter that one calf, especially frustrated by the morning's events, seemed to zero in on Sophie, Melanie and me as the source of all his problems.  Is it my imagination, or is he giving us a dirty look?


I thought about telling him to wipe that scowl off his face, but then Ree's daughter told me he weighs three times what I do, so I changed my mind.

Now I'm at the end of this remarkable day (not really at the end, but when you're up at 4:45 a.m., mid-afternoon feels like the end of the day).  My feet are propped up on a comfy couch in the Lodge, and I'm looking out over an incredible view.  Ree is headed back up this way in a little while to cook for us (oh yes, please!)

Do you think my family would notice if I decided to stay here just a little longer, like, maybe a year or two?


(Ree, Melanie, me and Sophie)

It’s Beginning To Look A Lot Like…Oh, YOU Know…

Melanie and I usually go to lunch about once a week.  We always look for some place with organic vegetables and wheat grass drinks, because we really need rejuvenating from all the yoga we do throughout the morning. 

*cough, cough*

Um, no.  We usually go here.  Because friends don't let friends eat cheesecake chimichangas (alone). 

But this week we skipped our Bueno lunch and used the time instead to rehearse this little number for you.

(Cheesy.  I know.  But somewhere in the blogger by-laws it says that you have to publish an Elf Yourself Dance at Christmas, and if you don't, Santa will come down your chimney and break your laptop.  So there you go; I'm just playing by the rules.)

Why I’m Sleepy

There are two things very dear to my heart.  Two things I cherish and pursue at every possible opportunity:

1.  Sleeping late.

2.  Bargain shopping.

For 364 days a year, these two things co-exist peacefully inside my head. 

On Black Friday, they go to war.

Every year, it’s the same: there’s a tug-of-war inside my l-tryptophan-clouded head as I weigh my love for a day of sleeping in (the kids are out of school! no rushing out the door!) versus my love for the amazing deals to be had at an inhuman hours (Old Navy hoodies for $7.50!)

The most likely scenario is usually that, on Thanksgiving, my left brain carefully gathers the sale circulars and maps out a plan.

And then Friday morning, my right brain hits the snooze button.  Vigorously.

But I did it this morning!  I stuck with it.  To discipline myself, this year I thought ahead.  I called my friend Nan last night and asked if she’d like to meet at Toys R Us at 5 am (they were offering 50% off of A Certain Thing I Cannot Name Because My Kids Read My Blog).  I knew if I were actually meeting someone, I’d be less likely to sleep in.

Nan is a morning person.  I had a moment of panic when I wondered if she’d expect me to supply cheerful conversation.  (At 5 am, she’d be lucky if I remembered deoderant).  Thankfully she’s a good enough friend that she required no cheerfulness and gave me all the room I needed to emit a general air of sullenness.   

(Speaking of air, did you know that the air around Toys R Us on November 28th at 5 in the morning is very cold?  And I know this because I STOOD IN LINE IN IT.)

After our victorious Toys R Us expedition, we headed to Old Navy, where we scored some excellent bargains.  (Though we had to stand in line for an hour to pay for those bargains.  Old Navy may know a thing or two about hoodies, but their speedy check-out skills leave something to be desired.)

The last stop was JoAnn’s, where flannel is on sale for $1.50/yard.  Or, at least, it was on sale–by the time I got there at the slacker-late hour of 7:30 am, it was almost gone.  I was secretly relieved, because while they were selling flannel at an amazing price, as far as I know they were not selling the extra three hours of days I would need to, you know, actually sew something.

Now I’m home and shopped-out and happily sitting on my couch with my kids, watching a DVR’d version of the Macy’s parade (which is, incidentally, very different from how I was spending my November 28th a decade agohappy birthday, my boy!)

So I’m curious how many of you were wildly demented thriftily wise enough to brave the Black Friday crowds.  Just for grins, answer the survey below:

Oh, Expensive Chicken, How I’ve Missed You

You know what happens when you write about loving simple recipes?  Old friends suddenly start e-mailing them to you!   And suddenly your in-box is aflood with all these fantastic recipes that your friends have always known about and never shared with you, and you’re, like, seriously, you’ve been holding out on me all this time?

My friend Lori sent me a casserole recipe that is so good I can almost forgive her for waiting this long to share it.  The good news is that this casserole is SO simple and delicious.  The bad news is that it uses a giant batch of chicken, which is so expensive right now you might need a second mortgage to afford it.  But it’s still a good special-occasion recipe.  Also, you could use less chicken and plump it up with pasta, I suppose, but sadly, the full-chickeny taste would be a little lost. 

Anyway, here it goes, from my friend Lori, who got it from Southern Living (and, incidentally, I doctored it up a little beyond that, so who knows what it is anymore):


3 cups cooked chicken, cut into cubes
2 cups chopped celery
1 can cream of chicken soup
8 oz sour cream
onion powder
2-3 cups crushed Ritz crackers

Mix together first four ingredients.  Season to taste with onion powder, garlic, salt and pepper.  Spread mixture in greased casserole dish; cover completely with crushed Ritz crackers.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes.

Only a True Friend Would Spend Her Hard-Earned Money On This Stuff

My friend Melanie went to Blog World Expo in Las Vegas this past weekend.

That’s Las Vegas.  Where my Barry lives.  And sings.   And since it wasn’t a practical option for her to pack me in her suitcase and sneak me backstage to the concert, she had to suffice by stopping by the Barry Manilow gift shop.  We had lunch on Tuesday, and she pushed this across the table at me.  I squealed.


It’s a complete Barry Manilow gift pack, all wrapped up (appropriately) in a glossy black bag with leopard print tissue paper.  Let the classiness just wash over you for a minute.

Inside is a Barry poker chip, Barry lip balm, Barry pencils and a Barry cell phone dangle.  "That’s awesome!" I told her.  "Every time I use my cell phone, the people around me will see how much I love Barry!"

She frowned.  "And….that’s….good for you?"

Oh yes ma’am.  It’s so good I might have to download a Copa Cabana ring tone to go with it. 

If We Just Had Some Blue Eye Shadow, It Would Feel Like 1988

I am just worn out from all the laughing. 

My sweet friend from high school, The Queen B, made the two-hour drive to visit me today.  Though we’ve stayed in touch via e-mail and phone, we haven’t had a face-to-face conversation in years.

I was reminded of something today, something it’s easy to forget in the busy-ness of life that keeps us focused on the here and now:  there is nothing like an old friend.

(And I mean, of course, "old" as in "long-time" , not "old" as in "aged".  Because if B is aged, I am aged, and that will never do.)

It’s a happy thing to sit down and laugh and reminisce with someone who knew you when your hair was big and your music was loud.  And there’s nothing like talking about the challenges of motherhood and rising gas prices with the same person who held your hand when you cried over a jerk-ish high school football player.

We laughed and talked downstairs today while her daughter and my sons listened to The Jonas Brothers (too loudly) upstairs. 

It just felt right.