Uncategorized

Life Goes On. Day 287.

Daily observations:

  • I need to do some lat exercises.
  • Time goes too fast.
  • I’ll never outgrow peanut butter.
  • Hot sauce with jalapeños and Cayenne peppers from the garden is in the fridge for two weeks then we can use it. Try making it yourself. It’s easy.
  • Yogurt with granola is underrated.
  • There are so many last names in the world.
  • Stuff is getting expensive!
  • If I could meet the person who invented the undo button, I would buy her a Coke.
  • There are good people in the world, but we focus too much on the bad.
  • Pizza or tacos? You can only choose one forever.
  • My dad used to talk to me about a rocket that had unlimited gas and time. It can go go go forever. He would say, “Does it end? If it does, what’s on the other side?” There’s an other side to everything. Whoa.
  • I slouch too much but it feels so good.
  • I miss reading.
  • Get blue light glasses.
Uncategorized

Jealous of Roger. Day 272.

Sometimes I was jealous of Roger, well envious maybe. He’s traveled the world and has been to places like Turkey, England, Italy, Malta, and I could go on. He had friends in the Marine Corps, experienced adventures like sky-diving and visits to Las Vegas, and was able to nap. A lot.

Continue reading “Jealous of Roger. Day 272.”
Uncategorized

Away. Day 264.

A book I read, with a bright orange, non-glossy cover and deckled edges, Where the Crawdads Sing, is about a girl/woman who raised herself in the marshes of the South amongst the tidal swells and swinging, gray air grass. She had no friends for most of her life and her family was not around for the most part. The novel has lingered in my mind, popping up randomly for years, for no reason. I imagine it would be lonely out there amongst nature only, rough nature, but I also imagine there is peace as well. And if you've never known company, would you know, recognize, and understand loneliness? She has nobody to answer to, no bills to pay, no comments to respond to on Facebook, and she will suffer no great loss. She also is not privy to the heartache we all read about on a daily basis, the happenings in the world that are potential for harm and sadness. I became lost in that novel by Delia Owens, and still fantasize about what life like that would be. It takes me back to camping, which I desperately want to do, and nature in general, the woods, ocean. The peace that God has offered to us all. It's what I appreciate the most, what grounds me. It's what offers me stillness and hope. It's fuel and vitamins and life. Real life with death that is cyclical and necessary, not to be feared or mourned, but to be comprehended and respected. There's no make-up or processed diamonds or five-hundred dollar handbags made out of nature. It's authentic. 
Uncategorized

To His Brothers. Day 263.

Memorial Day weekend has always been one for us to reflect and remember. The more years that pass, the more privately we want to do that. Our time is spent together and not on our screens, so I did not write anything new.

Today I share a post that Tyler wrote over two years ago to his three younger brothers:

Uncategorized

Saturday. Day 256.

The whirring of the green and yellow lawnmower becomes loud, then fades, and repeats over and over again while Baylee attempts to created the best lines, the ones that will look better than Max’s, or so he hopes. Curving so gracefully and in cadence with the shape of the front yard. Long slim letter S after long slim letter S.

Continue reading “Saturday. Day 256.”
Uncategorized

Chill, Girl. Day 252.

I realized something today. I don’t let life be. Everything I do is for the next step, whether it be an event, a purchase, a far-fetched dream.

This week alone I looked into going for my master’s, purchasing a pool, planning a trip to Boone.

I need to learn to leave life alone and enjoy the moment. I have no idea how to do that. Let it happen. Just live.

Uncategorized

Work Friends. Day 251.

I wiped the tin lids, put round, brown paper stickers on the jam I made last week, and wrote the words “Strawberry, May, 2022” on them. I also put some eggs, blue, tan, brown, and white, in the brown six-pack egg cartons, wrapped them in twine so they stay closed, and placed a sticker on each one that says, “Fresh eggs from happy chickens.” (I’m an 80’s kid. Stickers are everything.)

Continue reading “Work Friends. Day 251.”
Uncategorized

Missed Connections. Day 249.

Photo by Hernan Pauccara on Pexels.com

Missed Connections is a type of ad that is taken out by a person to find a stranger from a chance meeting they had. It is still being used in this modern day even though social media would most likely be more feasible. I think it’s sweet.

Continue reading “Missed Connections. Day 249.”
Uncategorized

A Dollar. Day 248.

With a possible recession in our near future, it’s hard not to think of a dollar. We have been told to not spend too freely, save if we can, and watch out for the creepy scammers. I understand the domino-effect of recession, but not inflation. I do not know why it exists, but that it truly does, and here’s why:

Continue reading “A Dollar. Day 248.”
Uncategorized

For Alyssa: Boys. Day 247.

I’ve talked about Kim quite a bit in my posts, my friend I’ve know since we were kindergarten-age, the one I used to sneak out of the house with. (I told you that, right?) Her sweet niece, Alyssa, is about to have a baby boy, and she asked me recently to send along any advice about having sons her way. Here are a few things I thought I should mention:

  • Let him pick out his own clothes as much as possible. It’ll amuse you and grant him a sense of confidence and self.
  • Injuries will happen. Just keep your composure until you pass him over to the nurse or doctor. (Once I had to unscrew a screw from the bottom of Max’s foot.)
  • Try not to fear how much you love him.
  • Share music, all types, not that baby stuff, but real music from every genre, and if it has bad words, teach him not to say them. If you censor, it’ll fascinate him.
  • Trust him. Always trust him. (Or at least pretend to.)
  • Don’t wait to tell him bad news. He will be more secure if he doesn’t think something’s coming.
  • Don’t allow others to compare the progress of your son as a baby, in school, in sports, or ever, to their son. Nobody is the same.
  • Whomever your boy decides to love, be nice to them. Some of my favorite people in the world are ones my boys chose. They know what they’re doing.
  • Teach him how to swim.
  • Teach him how to cook, clean, use a drill, and read a paper map.
  • Show him Sesame Street!
  • Don’t be afraid to get dirty, sticky, poopy, pukey. Also, don’t feel compelled to always keep him clean.
  • No matter how many times you put your hand up as a guard, you will get peed on, so keep your mouth closed when you change his diaper.
  • It all goes by so fast.
  • Encourage him to play an instrument, juggle, do card tricks, do crafts.
  • Let him wear pink or flowers or anything else that is socially normal for girls.
  • Frame his art.
  • Teach him how to build a fire.
  • Let him wait on you if he likes. You deserve it and he’ll love to help.
  • Weirdness is simply fine.

The more I list, the more I realize any of these would work for a girl or a boy. I wonder if that’s my advice to you, just treat him like a human, and although you may not agree with some of it, or you choose to do things differently, just love him as you will and let him be whom he is.

Oh how your life will change, and the three of you will figure it all out, especially with your auntie only a phone call away. You are going to be such a good mom. My love to you all.

Uncategorized

Multiverse Mind. Day 241.

Wanda Maximoff

The boys and I went to see Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness today in Wilmington, and our chats have been deep dives and twisted ideas since we tossed our popcorn buckets into the cans at the end of the carpeted ramp. Because of that, I simply cannot organize my thoughts in any type of intricate way, so I will bullet my own madness:

  • I’ll never look swag while using a credit card machine, but tapping is pretty fun.
  • I buried a chicken this morning. RIP, Tuesday.
  • I don’t spend money on fancy purses, jewelry, or going out, but I do love Bose.
  • What is grief, if not love persevering.(?)
  • I still can’t believe we climbed 43 stories.
  • I like how people pat the seat next to them to say sit down. Well, most people.
  • I miss Kmart.
  • Nobody calls me Teresa or Teri in my house.
  • I love my job.
  • If I’m enjoying the present, is it a time thing or a really great gift?
  • I wish more people would recycle here.
  • Roger and I always loved mint shampoo.
  • I don’t like artificial sweetener.
  • When the boys wrestle with the dogs I always tell them to guard their wiener.
  • I think I like the cold because I like to make myself warm.
  • Weight Watchers must miss me. #chipsandcheese
  • With forward movement comes separation.
  • Are there multiverses?
  • I’m working on a nature-vs-nurture piece.
  • It’s the coolest thing to shove a seed into a tiny peat cup of expensive soil and eat what it grows. Come on. That’s so cool.
  • Watch AJR YouTube videos if you’re sad.
  • French toile makes me happy.
  • I can’t believe we’re in North Carolina.
  • My best friend is a 10 year old German shepherd.
  • Favorite colors are silly.
  • Roger put so much effort into being open-minded even if it made him uncomfortable. He was willing to learn. Gosh that makes me happy.
  • I’m working on a piece about my Uncle Lee but it’ll never be good enough to show what he means to us.
  • I wouldn’t mind a little Dark Hold adventure as long as there was a safe word.
  • The Easthampton Diner had really great mozzarella sticks, maybe still does. I miss that place.
  • Jim Halpert will always be Jim Halpert.
  • Turtles are better than people. Actually non-people are always better than people.
  • Exposure therapy is dumb but effective.
Uncategorized

A Reminder. Day 230.

Working has put a hold on my memoir editing, so I wanted to remind myself that I’m not done.

Here, I talk about the day in 2009 when I had some ashes removed from Roger’s urn to have transferred to the cemetery:

I couldn’t help but wonder what was next. People started to leave and as much as I wanted to restore life back to normal, it was impossible. Also, when things calmed down, something else came up. It was a time of unrest and confusion, and the tasks I had to do kept me busy and were welcomed; well, most of them.

In order to have a marker put down at the veterans’ cemetery in town, they needed actual remains, so I made an appointment to go in with Roger’s urn. The day came to transfer some of his ashes into a smaller urn to be buried, and I was thankful to still have my friend staying with me. I didn’t have to go alone.

Auntie and I got into her avocado colored Jeep Wrangler which never had its doors or top on. I remember wearing a black sundress, my hair was in its North Carolina muggy messy bun, and my turquoise flip flops were tucked under my left arm. It had been weeks since his death, so I believe I was wearing lip gloss again. Light pink.

I cradled Roger’s urn tightly to my chest, buckled my seat belt, and lit a cigarette. I dragged deep onto that, inhaling my own death, as we made our way.

Mercedes with chrome details and lifted pickup trucks with big tires swirled around the road as I held my dead husband’s ashes. I moved him to the floor between my bare feet after a bump in the road concerned me. Delirium circled us in her glorious clouds as our little hairs stuck to our sweaty cheeks. There was sun but it wasn’t showing. People were going to K-Mart, first dates, baseball practice, and McDonald’s. They were driving along with their music, smiling at what their boss wore, or griping about their broken acrylic nail. They were late for hair appointments and early for affairs. It was simply absurd. We talked to the urn pretending or believing it mattered to him.

The funeral home was only five minutes from my house on Shamrock Drive, but I remember the drive lasting longer than that. Laughter was trapped in my chest and gut as I wrestled with the absurdity of my life and current place in Jacksonville’s daily events. I wanted to cry with and laugh with delirium. I felt the air tug at my body and imagined tumbling out of the Jeep into nothingness or a nice peaceful rest. Auntie and I knew we shouldn’t really look at each other.

The Jeep’s tires crunched the asphalt as she turned into the parking lot at the funeral home in Jacksonville, NC. I wriggled my feet into my teal Old Navy flip flops and jumped down from the Jeep. I picked up his urn from the floor and pressed it to my chest. I embraced it in a strong squeeze, purposely making it hard for me to breathe, making some of my pain physical. We walked into the front lobby and I felt the cool air envelope my bare shoulders and face as we left the July air. The front room was darkened and empty, and our feet were cushioned by soft, Turkish rugs. The chairs looked too nice to sit on with their velvet crimson cloth. A little man came out, light brown hair and wearing jeans and a polo shirt.

“How much do you need?” I asked the funeral director who usually wore a suit.

“About a handful,” he plainly yet politely said.

I looked at Auntie and she mirrored my face. I handed my husband in his box over to the man, and he nodded and said, “It’ll only take five minutes.” I prayed for his hands to not be sweaty.

We sat on the imported furniture with our Target clothes and looked around. What we were doing was ludicrous like something one would watch on a sitcom, yet it wasn’t funny. I touched the plush carpet with my big toe to feel its softness as I starred in my own sitcom. The man entered our silence with outstretched arms. He was holding Roger’s condensed body in the urn. I couldn’t help but believe it felt lighter as I received it and hugged its squareness. 

“Thank you.”

“Have a good day,” he nodded, and walked away before we did.

We drove home with less craze and confusion than our ride there. Our shoulders were a little lower and the clouds were grayer. I lit my menthol cigarette, and intentionally inhaled more of my life away. I placed his urn carefully between my ankles and squeezed it so he wouldn’t fall out. We made our way back to Shamrock.

A day or two later or who even knows, I filled out the paperwork for the cemetery.

“What am I going to write on his marker?” I asked Auntie, “I only have a few spaces.”

“You’ll know when it comes to you.”

I could have written “Father and Husband,” or “Proud Soldier.” Instead, on his marker in the cemetery, under his name, rank, and awards, people read:

SIMPLE MAN, QUIET HERO

Uncategorized

First Beach Day. Day 229.

We went to Tye and Deaven’s for a beach day.

Max is driving home currently.

I’m ok. Sam is riding captain. “One thing Tyler taught me was it’s better to hit someone’s grass than to hit someone on the left to ya.”

It trickles down.

My boys. I’m a proud mom, sitting in the back seat, enjoying the ride.

Uncategorized

Kevin. Day 216.

Kevin

We have an old cabinet I purchased at an antique shop in Jacksonville. It’s been a snack cabinet, a place to put things we only use once or twice a year like canning jars or Easter Egg trays, and now it’s a small office space with the printer all snuggled up inside it. We call it Kevin.

Continue reading “Kevin. Day 216.”
Uncategorized

The Coaster is Rolling. Day 152.

So Tye, Deaven, Sam, Max, Doo, and I each chose a series we’re watching. We watched the first episodes of six shows today.

Here are the series and their sponsors:

  • Tyler–Ted Lasso
  • Deaven–Peacemaker
  • Sammy–Punisher
  • Max–Agents of Shield
  • Baylee–Stranger Things
  • Me–This is Us

So because I need to process my emotions due to the Space Mountain of genres we’ve viewed, and also because I am practicing posting on my phone, my words will be few today.

Cheers to a peaceful Sunday.

Click Here: 543

543 Day Writing Journey, Uncategorized

Parenting Fail. Day 101.

Sweet Max sending a gift to a friend.

My kids don’t know how to address a letter. Well, some of them don’t, and I take most of the responsibility, and blame the rest on technology.

“Why are you writing the town right after the street address?” I asked Max. He was addressing a package with a Christmas gift for a friend.

Continue reading “Parenting Fail. Day 101.”
Uncategorized

You’ll Think You’re a Tough Guy Too

Other than a slashing burn on your tongue, gums, and delicate throat, Da’ Bomb hot sauce offers your guts twisting cramps that begin at the base of your insides then dillydally through your organs and fat bubbles to your lower back. There it lingers until it casually fades leaving a dull ache. You are then gifted with about five minutes of hope that it has passed, until the warmth reappears and recycles with its crimson heat.

This challenge is the product of a well-calculated peer-pressure type event, and in my case, it was caused by my oldest son, Tyler. He watched a show called Hot Ones on YouTube that is hosted by the babyface, soft-spoken Sean Evans.

Evans speaks with the enthusiasm of a middle-schooler proudly reciting the preamble to the Constitution with a background of inspirational Olympicesque tunes all while directing your eyes with his finger guns. On his porcelain palette of a cleanly shaven head he wears a neatly manicured red beard and mesmerizing psychopathic green eyes. The angel of light shares the experience with his guest, reacting like a crying defendant with no wet tears.

Evans interviews celebrities like Idris Elba, Kristin Bell, Paul Rudd, and my favorite, Pete Davidson while they eat wings, sometimes bird, sometimes vegan. The sauce used on the wings becomes progressively hotter forcing the interviewee to be stripped down to their vulnerable, gelatinous core. And you can’t look away.

“Hot sauce has a way of humbling you, especially this one,” Sean Evans said in an interview with Drew Barrymore in August of 2020 via Zoom. He was speaking of their seemingly hottest sauce, which is number 8 out of 10. It’s called Da’ Bomb. (See below.)

As the veteran actor is visibly distraught from the effects of the bite she just took which was dressed in Da’ Bomb, Evans politely continues to rattle off questions about her career and daily life, a tactic he uses in all of his 219 episodes, showing no remorse or concern as he inquires. It’s brilliant!

I wondered why Tyler kept asking me if I watched the show so I did, and became hooked. Then, Tye said he ordered some of the sauces from the show, and that’s when my nerves started. We tried it. It was me, my three youngest sons, and our family friend, Ben. I tried to talk them out of it and especially concentrated my lessons of peer pressure on my youngest, Baylee.

I took some Morning Star Farms Chik’N nuggets, dunked them in the sauce that’s the color of dried blood, then baked them for 18 minutes. The world stopped as our past few days of anticipation was finally in our sites. We all took a bite, and while I was taking my second, the boys’ eyebrows lowered, and their weight shifted from foot to foot. Their mouths were opened like comedic alligators and their hyperventilating breaths were doing no good with the inhaling and exhaling “hees” and “haws.”

They paced and did pirouettes with their six-foot frames as their inner little boys took over causing them to alternate guzzling milk and lemon-lime Gatorade. The constant dancing and drinking lead them to the bathroom or nearest trash can where they unintentionally gifted their mouths with another taste of the putrid mash. I posted a video of our challenge for your diabolical enjoyment.

It burns down deep through the thin skin at the roof of your mouth through your nostrils creating the most unattractive drip. There is an overwhelming desire to wipe your eyes and dab your forehead which is thinly veiled in a cold sweat, not like you just ran a mile, but like you’re ill with the flu. You tell yourself not to lick your lips and no matter how hard you try not to, you just do with the instinct of a dog who kicks the ground after he pees.

There’s a sense of camaraderie that accompanies the challenge. People don’t just do this without video evidence or by themselves on a Tuesday night. That would be weird. It’s social. They do it to complement their fists while they pound their chests, to simply create new commiseration material, or for a spicy dose of relativity, as told my son, Baylee, 14.

After his pain began to subside, he said, “I feel really good, like better than I did yesterday.”

Uncategorized

“Happy” 25th

The Blues are the superior uniform of the Marine Corps. They call the jacket a blouse, and it is navy blue, so dark it looks black. I would rub the heavy, soft wool against my naked arms and watch the bumps rise. The blouse was trimmed in scarlet, and there were gold buttons straight up the front, three on each arm, and one on each shoulder. The collar had an Eagle Globe and Anchor, or EGA, shining gold on each side.

My marine was decorated with multiple ribbons on one side and clinking medals on the other. On his upper-arms, he wore his rank, scarlet and gold, proudly displaying his non-commissioned officer status as a corporal. There was a white belt that clasped with a gold buckle, showing his trim waist. The pants were royal blue and after a certain amount of time in, he earned his blood stripe, which is a sewn red line from hip to ankle on the outside of both legs. His black patent leather shoes looked liquid and whispered when he stepped, and the wide, metal-framed white hat, or cover, sat low over his brown eyes, and complimented his full lips.

I wore a form-fitting long, black velvet dress with matching sling back heels. I walked out of the hotel room and Roger grinned with his eyes as he looked at me. My hair was long, down my back in loose, glossy curls that felt soft on my bare skin. We were ready for the Marine Corps. Ball.

People were doing shots of Jägermeister, and their laughter invited the green odor to dance around the ballroom. There was a ceremony, then dinner of roast beef with gravy, and always mashed potatoes, no lumps. After we rested our full bellies, we ate a piece of the massive white cake with sticky red trim that was not known for its flavor.

My family and I were sitting at the table sipping vodka, straightening collars, and replacing lip gloss, when I started to wonder where Roger was. After a minute, I heard his voice echoing loudly over the hundreds of people partying. “May I have your attention please?” I thought he was talking to a friend, but he was at the podium at the front of the room, hands controlled in front of his waist, head slightly tilted, and the microphone receiving his question.

“Teresa will you come up here?” Oh, gosh. I saw his slight, nervous smile.

There were hundreds of people, including my family and many friends, all dressed in their sparkly gowns, Dress Blues, and suits saved for weddings and funerals. The lights had dimmed since dinner, and there was no music. I stood and made my way towards him. There was flat, crimson ballroom carpeting, dark with golden swirls, and many chairs in my way as I lifted my feet higher than normal as to not trip.

Bright camera flashes gave me a white tunnel directly to him, and I felt people’s eyes on me. The path gave me time to wonder and hope. It invited me to remember flashes of our talks.

“We could just get married now,” he said months before. His tone teased but his eyes wondered.

“Now?” I replied. We had a private moment to talk after taking Tyler, who was three to Casper the movie.

“Or we can wait,” he said.

“No, no, no, I can’t live away from you any longer,” I said.

I brought myself back to the present and continued my walk up to the podium, my hands were damp. My skin pricked and butterflies were crawling up my throat. My legs wobbled until I found his face. His smile was wide and warm, probably happy I didn’t run out of the room. I forgot about the other people. In his eyes, I found safety and adoration, and I finally noticed that he was shaking when he held my hand.

“Will you marry me?”

“Yes,” so only he could hear me. “Yes.” I felt my face stretch as he put the ring on my finger.

“What did she say!!??”

“She said yes! Wooohoooo!” The room shook with cheering and clapping, and he raised his hand that wasn’t holding mine in celebration.

The marines were roaring with shouts of “Oorah!”

We showed off with a long, respectable kiss. The band played our song, “I Swear.”

He wore those same Dress Blues one month later at our December wedding in the snow. I rented my dress for $80 and wore my plaid sneakers to tease him. He didn’t know until we were officially married. The gazebo in Easthampton, Mass. was surrounded by Christmas lights and sweet, undying love.

Uncategorized

I’m Not Panicking. Promise.

I woke up this morning and felt the cool air come through the window into my bedroom, a nice break from the heavy thickness that has been lingering around town lately. I breathed it in and allowed it to turn into the feelings of autumn. My eyes remained closed as it speared its way through my mind with images of pumpkins and sweaters, until it found my basket of reasoning right next to my closet of rationale. At that, my eyes snapped open and panic set in. Again. Still.

These next few months will be quite full. I am merely expelling my growing inner concern and simple nervousness about wanting it all to fall into place. I’d love to sleep at night.

(Wow this feels good.)

I don’t hate it in Massachusetts. We simply don’t fit in and that’s OK. So, we’re off to North Carolina, where we belong. Where my Tyler is. Home.

I own a house in Southampton, MA. It’s a gorgeous 1800’s farmhouse that needs love. It will need to be cleaned and sold and I don’t see how that will even work with us living here. Have you met us? Have you met David? He’s loud.

This is David

Also, as I look at the place from a different perspective like from a mother of a darling little lacy girl, or the cleanest queen of Pinterest, I worry. I begin to notice, more, the hand prints on the ceiling from when Baylee finally could touch it with a spry jump. He keeps testing that theory, and so do the others (maybe me, too). Also, apparently when one walks up or down the stairs, the white walls are irresistible to the smear. If you have boys, you know what smear is.

I also see the gobs of dog hair that were missed by Max’s daily big-brooming. There are the most charming slants here or there in the house, a marble’s delight, possibly from being here for about 150 years. Also, our forsythia bush is overgrown because in the winter “the animals in there will be cold” and in the summer “but what if they have babies in there” so now it’s a giant mass of green waving vegetation. I realize this will be quite the job.

I love this house and its quirky angles and very wild wildlife. It’s eccentric with its whimsical creaking doors and out-of-place scent of lilac in the winter. I listen at night to the packs of coyotes traveling along the game trail, and I will miss locking eyes with a bear or young deer while I hang towels on the line. But, it’s time, and we need to work.

Want to live here?

Sammy is going to finish his degree in a hybrid environment as an environmental science major. I am overwhelmed with pride for this kid, and I know he can push through it, all while he maintains his position as my sweet listener.

Max will enter into his sophomore year of college which will be remote and is also learning to drive, and (oh yeah) he still has to decide where he wants to go next semester in NC.

Baylee, the youngest who just turned fourteen will be learning remotely if it’s allowed. Otherwise, we will find the right program for him to enter into homeschooling.

I will also enter into my last semester at Westfield State, and have tacked an internship on to that. During that time I will also be looking for a job. A job. I’ve stayed home with the boys all these years, so, yikes to the second power.

Why not wait until next spring? Because we already did that once and here we are. We are ready now and we want to leave as soon as we can. Baylee will be schooling from home so that part won’t matter. I am hoping to work remotely, and Sammy has that option as well.

Palms sweating again.

I dip deeply into my brain’s little knock-off purse with sequined hunter holly leaves and shiny red berries. In it are what Christmas could look like if we pull this all off. I go there when I need some supplemental energy. It tastes like peppermint and smells like a deep green Frasier fir that’s littered with tinsel and Popsicle sticks with dried Elmer’s. Roger’s village will be up no matter where we are, in a camper or cabin, on a mantel or the floor. I keep those hopes tucked away in the sequined purse because they can’t roam freely. It’s mine to look at when I allow myself to. My own little syrupy pill that helps me sleep.

I don’t care what the house we’re in looks like. We may rent until this place sells or buy something cheap in the mountains that we will live in temporarily. All we need is a place that has no cockroaches, no neighbors or ones who love roosters, and room enough for each of us to have our own little space.

I see us wearing brand new pajamas from Old Navy with prints like snowflakes or Superman. We will feast on something with white gravy or chocolate sauce, and soak in our brandnewness. I almost can’t handle that day already, but it’s all I want. It’s what we need.

Roger’s Village
Uncategorized

Heaven Must Have a Green Door

I took this photo in 1989 on Christmas

“I’d like to play a song for my niece, Teri.”

We may have been in a local bar in Western Mass., at the gazebo on a warm July day in Easthampton at the rotary, or even at an outdoor pavilion surrounded by a setting sun and dancing people, barefoot, fun liquid sloshing around in their red plastic cups. He also played music at Jack and Jill celebrations in American Legions, surrounded by dancing smoke and the scent of crock pot lazy Pierogis, and at birthday parties about ages that end in zero. Life stood still when he played, and people loved to listen.

Every time, I knew what song he would play for me.

“It’s called ‘Great Balls of Fire.’” At that, my Uncle Joe’s hands would dance around the keys flawlessly and his rich velvety voice would sing with smooth syncopation while it accidentally commanded attention. I don’t think he had to even look where he placed his piano fingers, no crinkled piece of notepaper held the lyrics for him.

When he played that song, our song, the one I told him I liked when I was a little girl decades ago, I felt like a kid again, little and loved by my big strong uncle, the one who served in the Navy, the one who really loved cats, and the one I shared my love of music with.

He played in a band for most of his life, many bands actually. His favorite music to play was old rock like “Penny Lane” by the Beatles or “Green Door” written by Jim Lowe in 1956, a peppy and very catchy song that offers a riddle about what’s behind the green door that is making people so happy. Uncle Joe sings the lyrics, “Don’t know what they’re doing. But they laugh a lot behind the green door.”

Oh, Uncle Joe

He was Joe Joe, a guy who said what was on his mind, even if maybe he shouldn’t. That’s what made him so real.    

I remember the phone call we had after I lost my husband in 2009. I was in North Carolina and Uncle Joe was unable to fly down. We didn’t talk much. All I remember is hearing him choke out, “I love you.”

Years later he talked about his college and said I should give it a try.

“I went to Westfield State College. I think it’s called Westfield State University now,” he said. “It’s a great school.” I took his advice, and this December I will be finished with my degree at WSU.

I never wondered with Uncle Joe whether I was loved by him. He showed me by carrying around a giant bucket of Lincoln Logs he bought for me at Caldor, and by not getting mad when I got sick at McDonald’s. All over the place. He was kind when he found out I was seventeen and pregnant, and he always looked happy to see me.

How I will always remember him

It was rare to see him without a smile all over his face, and he didn’t simply walk into a room; he bounced. He had a strut stroll that was more of a cool saunter with rhythm, like coolness took no effort with him.

I still hear his deep, booming voice in my mind, and am thankful that he lives on in recordings of songs he played, present tense, but more than that, he lives on in me through the love that I have for him.

Rest, Uncle Joe, not peacefully, but full of oldies, cheeseburgers, and long-haired kittens.

Uncategorized

Happy Birthday, Roger!

July 13th has become a favorite of mine when she enters the world dancing and celebrating. The date indicates the beginning of peace for me, and a termination of the seemingly eternal six-week period of time when memorable dates congest my breathing and weaken my body.

Also, during this long stretch of time, I feel the cloud around me, the one that places a haze over my individual self, violently stuffing me back into my blaring widow status. Any of my personal accomplishments, good moods, or peaceful days are to be set aside until the certain dates go by. The boys’ lives are paused as well. Another thing that makes these days heavier is being the “sad one” all the time. I am associated with bummer-like feelings, and July 13th brings me back.

As the years go by, people still celebrate him on all of the dates, and I pray it remains that way. If people forget him, I will lose a little of me, so I don’t want it to stop, but it takes work.

Memorial Day begins before the actual weekend with posts and photos, and I will always be grateful. We all dip into the tepid pool of memories and deliver them to each other in the form of Facebook posts, old, pixelated photos, and emails. This year was particularly peculiar with its lack of ceremony and personal connections, yet still it wedged its ghostly barbed form into our hearts.

After we memorialize our fallen, we celebrate Father’s Day which has become blurry with false cheers for the future which we don’t have with him. For some reason, the sun shows brightly each year attempting to heave up my pouty mood. Maybe she’s mocking my fake smiles and closeted crying with her cheerful rays.

After Father’s Day comes June 29th which marks the anniversary of Roger’s death. This year we acknowledged it for the eleventh time. As the years pass by in their modern vehicles, I become less confident in time’s ability to mute the sadness. I just willingly become tired because it’s easier.

The significant dates linger, too, by my own choice and fault, because I stay off social media on those days as much as I can. I respond the day after, which I suppose is counterproductive to condensing the feelings of all the special days.

Roger’s birthday is Sunday, July 12th.

He would have been forty-eight, with gray hair, maybe, otherwise the same. As always, I would have teased him because he is older than I am, and he would have crossed his eyes, scrunched up his nose, and made the most obnoxious face at me while he cackled.

There would have been pineapple upside-down cake as with any special Roger day, probably some type of cheeseburger, and so many fries, crinkle cut, with lots of Heinz ketchup and extra salt. I would not have given him grief about having too much Dr. Pepper, and Busch Light would have joined him to the end of his evening while we swam with the squeaking bats in our backyard pool.

The boys would give him gifts of heavy handfuls of dried clay shapes with gobs of primary colored paint placed carefully on their surface. They would look nervous when he opened their individual gift, making my heart stop for just long enough to reset me. I would have wrapped t-shirts with funny pictures on them, size large, a giant Zero bar, some router bits, and a book that he would love more than I thought he would.

I remember the first birthday of his after he died, the day we had his funeral, July 12, 2009, but a year after that leaves its spiny quill in me the most.

We made a pineapple upside-down cake, of course, and let the day pass. It was getting dark so the time came to light the candles. The kids were happy and giddy, I mean, it was a birthday. I stood on the back deck with my vodka drink and freshly lit Camel Crush after casually saying, “Go on without me.”

The lights in the kitchen turned off and I saw the cake through the back window, floating around on its own being held up by an orange halo of candles. He would have been thirty-eight.

I listened to them sing to him.

“Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday to you. Happy birthday, dear dadddddddddyyyyyyyy. Happy birthday to you.”

I choked.

After that year, we quit doing anything traditional on his birthday. I don’t make a cake and we don’t look at photos. We just exist in the thickness of the date, waiting for the day to pass, longing for the arrival of July 13th so we can, without explanation, live as regularly as we can.

I don’t think there’s a right thing to do. We celebrate him every day and he’s never away from our minds. Sometimes, though, it’s just too much.

Happy birthday, hon.

Uncategorized

Banana Pudding for Dessert: It’s a No Brainer

*recipe included

One time we even made banana pudding with Oreos!

When I moved from Massachusetts to North Carolina in 1995, I worked at Helen’s Kitchen, a country restaurant in Jacksonville, where I learned about the different foods offered in my new military town. I also was taught how to speak the Southern food language, and to appreciate the culinary differences between my two home states.

If you say, “I’ll have tea,” in MA, you will be served with a steaming cup of hot tea. Sometimes it will come with a tiny metal pitcher of hot water with the little thumb tab. Tink. Other times, it will come in a large Styrofoam cup with a lid, tea bag dangling off to the side displaying your preference. Green?

In NC if you say, “tea, please,” you will get a large glass of iced tea, sweetened with a syrup made on the stove with sugar, water, and love. A request for hot tea in NC must be specified, and unsweet tea should be asked for quietly. Sweet tea can be quite the cure for too much Jack Daniels the night before, and will repair wooziness from low blood sugar or heartbreak. People drink sweet tea daily with their country ham, chicken and pastry, or even while they nibble on a pig’s thinker.

“What are brains and eggs?” I asked my friend, Opal. Only once.

“Honey, they’re brains and eggs,” she answered, amused.

“Like real brains?” I asked.

“Yes, hog brains,” she laughed.

Brains were the most delicate pink, as expected, and came in a small can. The cooks would mound them up high on a plate next to a heaping gob of bright yellow scrambled eggs. Usually, the consumer would mix the eggs and brains, and the soft mixture didn’t require much chewing, unlike the empty hot dogs that were served, also known as chitlins.

Chitlins, or chitterlings, is another food I had to get used to the scent of. They are made with hog intestines and when they were on special, their pungent scent would dance around the restaurant all day long. They were usually dressed with red pepper flakes and people would put extra vinegar on top of the heap. I remember holding the plate steady so the jiggly, brown chunks wouldn’t slide off onto the floor. If one piece wanted to jump off the plate, a quick flick-of-the-wrist would place it gently back with the rest.

Let’s fix our grossed-out brains:

Helen’s also turned us on to biscuits, sausage-gravy, tangy, vinegar-based pulled pork, and hush puppies. After many failures, and burnt biscuits, I learned.

There are many foods from North Carolina I practiced then added to my mind’s cookbook that are considered favorites of me and my sons. I now make skillet corn bread, the creamiest macaroni and cheese with a spicy topping, and one of our favorite foods from NC, banana pudding.

The following recipe is for a dessert that is requested quite often for special occasions or by the most cherished visitors, like my niece, Shyla. It is always in a very large, heavy bowl, surrounded by happy people and sometimes colored eggs or decorated winter pine. It has served well as a weapon in a food fight, and tastes the best in the middle of the night with only the fridge light to illuminate the delicious sweetness. After many attempts at making it perfect, I finally came up with the most decadent recipe.

Recipes for banana pudding can vary, and I have perfected mine through years of observing and trying different ingredients. Simple is best.

My Banana Pudding

(You will want to at least double this.)

1 block of cream cheese, 8 ounces, softened

I large container of frozen whipped topping, thawed *

I small can sweetened condensed milk, 8 ounces

1 box of instant banana pudding mix (or vanilla then add 1 tsp. of banana extract)

2 cups whole milk

1 box of vanilla wafer cookies

A few bananas

Beat cream cheese, sweetened condensed milk, pudding mix, and milk until the lumps are mostly gone. Fold in half of the whipped topping. Once that is incorporated, add half the box of wafers, not crushed. (The wafers will absorb the flavors.) Once mixed, carefully place the rest of the whipped topping neatly on top of the rest. Layer with the remaining wafers. The bananas can be added to the main mixture or the top, but any leftover (I laugh) pudding will turn brown quickly if bananas are in it. I usually add them right before serving, or sometimes not at all.

*Normally, I would say to use homemade (or even canned) whipped cream, but in this case, tradition dictates the use of whipped topping.

Uncategorized

Beholden to Those Who Feed Us

They are out of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, my shopper messages me from the Instacart App. Do you have a replacement in mind?

I hurry to answer. Anything is fine.

The exchange continues with more alternative suggestions and apologies. As we message each other, I safely sit on my oversized chair with a warm, pink quilt covering my legs. I sip my first morning coffee while Golden Girls plays in the background.

A week before, I sat on my sunny back porch with my steaming green tea and opened my Instacart app on my phone. I always go to bread and milk first, then choose my date for delivery. I ask the kids what we’re out of and it always consists of fun stuff like Coco Puffs and peanut butter cup ice cream.

I wonder about my shopper and if she is afraid. Does she have worries? Does she have a family, too? I also wonder if she is happy about the new income her family is earning, and what will happen when people start shopping on their own again.

Do we really need things like ranch dressing, sugar, and Friendly’s Strawberry Cake Krunch Ice Cream Bars? Maybe we should be eating whatever we can, not whatever we want. Is her life and health worth risking for our late-night snacking?

If you don’t like what I choose, my shopper messages me, please tell me.

I tell her not to upset herself, the entire time wondering about my morals. I figure if I get something we won’t use, I can give it away, and that each extra second she spends in the store is dangerous.

Why is she buying my groceries? They’re making money now when they normally may not, I get that, but what is the price of health?

Does the extra tip cover the risk? If my shopper gets sick, is it worth the Lucky Charms, whole-milk ricotta, or tater tots?

We close the curtains and remain quiet while she places our bags so neatly on the front porch. We try to keep the dogs hushed so they don’t scare her. When she leaves, we peak out the window and it’s like Santa just left.

“You got Smartfood!”

We wait an hour or two until the germs blow away or settle, then we dive in with our assembly line and a bucket of hot, soapy water. I scrub the items while my face begins to itch, and the boys dry and put them away.

“Don’t touch your face,” we each say several times to each other.

I miss shopping. Baylee would come with me most times, and he would bounce back and forth in the aisles and give me those puppy eyes when he wanted Sweet and Sour Skittles or the fancy water bottle. It was kind of our thing. He said “hi” to everyone and always thanked the helpers. One day soon, we will go again.

Until then, we are truly grateful for our shoppers. I hope you are, too.

Uncategorized

When You’re Hungry, You’re Hungry

The Southampton Community Cupboard at the Congregational Church is still supplying food to those who need it during the COVID-19 pandemic, but their supplies are running alarmingly low.

Mike and Candice Iwanicki volunteer their time at the town food pantry and their minds are always on feeding local folks who need a little help, but now, because of a global pandemic, they have another concern, empty shelves.

Fear of illness is causing people around town to have their groceries delivered, and some don’t leave their houses at all. This is leading to less donations in the boxes for the pantry at the local businesses that allow them like Big Y.

Other businesses that had boxes like the library and the Easthampton Savings Bank in town are closed because of the pandemic.  

Just because there is illness in the air does not mean people stop being hungry.

“It doesn’t matter what their circumstance is,” Mike said. “It’s all the same feeling. It doesn’t make a difference. It strikes everybody the same. When you’re hungry, you’re hungry and you know it.”

Anybody is welcome to receive help from the pantry. It serves people in Southampton and surrounding communities. All you have to do is show up.

“This system has never required financial information,” Candice said.

Although Mike does not like the idea of people not being able to enter the church and shop during social distancing, he knows it is temporary, and is happy they are still open.

“People are usually able to come in and browse and decide what they want to take,” Mike said. “And what they don’t want to take, too.” 

For now, things run differently at the pantry, but they are still operating.  

“We give the people a bag and a slip of paper with some other choices on it,” Candice said. “We fill the second bag and deliver it to their car, now wearing masks, and gloves, along with wiping everything down.” 

The pantry does receive some of their items from the food bank, but they rely heavily on private donations.

They will accept any item at the pantry, but are in dire need of cereal, bars of soap, boxes of macaroni and cheese, applesauce, canned fruit, tuna, and chicken. 

If you are unable to donate, please pass the word that they are in need of items. Also, let people know that they don’t turn anyone away.

The Southampton Community Cupboard is open every second and fourth Saturday.

If you wish to donate, please contact Mike and Candice Iwanicki at mikey1261@gmail.com. If you would rather donate cash or a Big Y card, please send it to: Iwanicki, 94 Pleasant St., Southampton, MA 01073.

Uncategorized

Hey, Mr. DJ

She’s my good-morning every day, and my night-love-you before I go to bed.

I remember meeting Sherry, Roger’s older sister, in 1992 when we were dating brothers. Her height was enhanced by a little 90’s poof and her smile was warm. The guys aren’t in recent chapters, but Sherry is still in mine.

I remember in the early 90’s we were driving back from Chi chi’s Mexican restaurant during an ice storm. Mini skirts and cowboy boots embraced our tight little bodies, and we laughed while we pushed the small, silver sedan up the dark, slippery hill in Westhampton. We didn’t look at the time.

I remember we yelled at each other in 1995, when I started dating Roger. He was in the marines, stationed in North Carolina. His leave and holidays were always spent with Sherry and that would change. The people in the apartment below used a broomstick or something on their ceiling to break up our boisterous exchange. We laughed and ate pancakes with real syrup the next morning while we shared the funnies.

I remember Sherry standing next to me in December of 1995. We were outside at the gazebo in Easthampton. It was dark and the snow was fresh and white like my rented gown. We joked that the only reason I was marrying her brother was so we could be sisters. I really loved my marine, but this may have been true.

I remember her trying to win a staring contest, the kind when you can’t smile or look away. She’s received the genetic gift of not being very good at it, but it is the most authentic smile I’ve ever seen. Her eyes crinkle, and the left side of her mouth duels the right.  

I remember when she came to us one year when we were living in North Carolina. She wanted to start over. She was brave and I was in awe. “Life is hard,” we said.

I remember how excited we were when Madonna came out with her Music CD and we played the shine out of the disk. The speakers crinkled and cracked. We’d drive down Bell Fork Road in Jacksonville, NC. She drove a navy-blue Ford Ranger, and I drove a Candy. Apple. Red . . .mini van.

I remember not being able to use my voice when I saw her through the muggy air in June of 2009. Roger was gone. I don’t remember what she wore or how her blonde curls were shaped, but I remember the trauma in her blue eyes.

I remember sitting across from Sherry while her and Roger’s father was dying, hoping it would end soon, but guilty for feeling that way. We held hands across his thin chest, and played audio of the Boston Red Sox World Series game hoping he could hear it. We commented on his perfect skin and his heart’s purity.

Sherry folds money into little shapes like guitars or swans and sends them to the boys on their birthdays. She listens to me more than I listen to her and is the only one who calls me T-Mae. She tells me when I should have used the word “rode” instead of “road” in my writings. She remembers everything significant like if I have a paper due, and from Tennessee, she checks my weather. She always tells me how strong I am.

I get it from my big sister.

Uncategorized

Base

On March 8th, I woke up in the middle of the night as I usually do and noticed the time was 1:53 AM. I decided to stay awake (like I had a choice in that matter) and see what it looks like when the time changes for Daylight Savings. I watched it go to 1:55 then closed my eyes. When I opened them again, it was 1:59 so I waited. I focused on not closing my eyes again. Next thing I knew, I saw 3:00. The hour was completely gone and with no celebration. It mirrored my life.

I began to flash back to the days when my sons were little in the springtime, like when they loved playing with bubbles. I can smell that gentle soapiness. They’d walk around the yard dragging those giant orange baseball bats behind them like Bamm-Bamm from the Flinstones. Sammy used to pick Sweet 100’s, tiny cherry tomatoes, from the garden. His little cheeks were all puffed out, stuffed with the juicy “meenos” as he called them. They loved playing some type of tag. They’re all over thirteen now, but I can still hear it.

“Mom’s base!”  Chests puffed out like the idea was original.

Base gives the tagee a sturdy safety bubble that surrounds them with protection from the most shameful title of It. If the tagger touches someone, he says, “You’re It!” and everyone laughs. If everyone makes it to Base before they get tagged, the tagger loses. It’s a dishonorable loss, too, and It is a terrible thing to be called.  

Base is a definitive belief that becomes almost tangible in the heat of a competition like tag. It’s strong like a hallucination or a placebo.

I remember one time I said to Tyler, my oldest, “It won’t work.” We were talking about some type of placebo.

“Why not?” he asked.

“Because it’s just a placebo,” I said in a snarky Mom way.

“So?” After he replied, he remained silent knowing he was right.

If it works, it works.

The human mind. It’s incredible.

The boys really believed in Base, and sometimes, I hated that it was me. They would get rough or fling mud or Cheetos all over my shoulder when I wanted to rest for a minute. Most of the time it wasn’t so bad, but I’ve lost my powers.

They can’t place their hand on my shoulder and receive any safety from me, not in times like this. I’m a tough guy, but all of this is scary. I’ll take the terror from a hurricane any day over this fear of people we all have right now. It’s easier to protect yourself from something you can see, cause nobody wants to be It.

Uncategorized

Social Distancing and Revised Proposals

My Little Writing Room

Our minds lately have been rolling up their sleeves and working overtime, right? My direction has been disabled by the uncertainty in the world. I have many assignments to do for school and even a work project I’m excited to begin. Baylee is officially schooling from home so that is a priority as well. Writing, thankfully, is something I can do from anywhere, but I simply can’t focus on even the simplest tasks, such as working on this blog piece.

I have four started, and none are complete. In a recent proposal I wrote, I explained that I would be able to finish my memoir by visiting local coffee shops so I will not have distractions. I fantasized about what I would order and even created a playlist on Spotify and named him Oliver. Of course, I didn’t have a backup plan for social distancing due to a pandemic (!) so I had to compromise.

I love being home, but when I am, I see windows that need to be cleaned, stop to pet my cat, Salad, or all of a sudden need a snack or a new cup of green tea from the kitchen, which is next to the library where I would write. It just wasn’t working. I talked to the boys about what we could do to remain friends with each other while this social distancing is going on. We toyed with the idea of making an office in the upstairs part of the barn or even set something up in my room. The barn is still too cold, and my room is for my bed and my rest. It had to be perfect.

Before

There is a little sitting room centered upstairs splitting the four bedrooms into two pairs. It was full of memories, dust, and mismatched furniture. Nothing was placed neatly in the room and it was just dirty. It is far enough from the kitchen and tucked away from the living areas and noise. It would work, so we took all the furniture out, cleaned the floors, and dusted the shelves.

I used old pieces from different rooms like a sewing machine table and a chair that never fit in anywhere, and we all moved them in to place. The lighting is glowing warm, and I can see part of our wood line and the large field that a young bull moose ran through one day. It’s perfect for that mid-writing space out. There is a ledge under the window that I sprinkled a little bird seed on, and here I am, writing.

I am grateful for the large space we have here between the house, the barn, and the land. I know it’s not common and many don’t have extra space, but for this time of social distancing, the places we are confined to may be able to offer some peace. Keep it tidy and your mind will be tidy. I understand this is not a real problem. People are ill and the world is quite disabled, but our minds and sanity are important. So, boil some water with nutmeg or cinnamon, wash old curtains that have been resting in the closet, and replace the ones with tired arms. Make yourself a corner of the room that makes you happy. Set a timer for seven minutes and tell the kids to see how much they can clean of their room in that time. It becomes a game, a competition. Create a space for yourself. Feed your soul with some harmony.

Gronk keeps me company

Uncategorized

Letters from Malabar

When I was seventeen, Nana lived in Florida during the winter months and Massachusetts when it was warmer outside. I remember the first time she left and how much it created a sense of emptiness in me. I was desperately sad and would miss the many weekends at her house in Northampton. We ate silver-dollar pancakes for breakfast, then would shop at Caldor and Bradlees. Her house is where I learned to love black coffee, tea berries from the woods of Laurel Park, and open windows in the spring. We used to hear a train in the distance and talk about real stuff like love and God.

When we were apart, we wrote to each other. They were the real kind of letters with the medium white envelopes from CVS. The letters were written in pen, black or dark blue, and you had to lick the back of the American Flag stamps. Nana wrote in small, perfect cursive. I envied her writing, but her words and their meaning are what I didn’t pay enough attention to. She wrote about the Florida grapefruit she had for breakfast, the bright yellow daffodils that were growing in her yard, and she asked about Tyler, my first-born son. He was twenty-four days old.

Our writing stopped for a couple weeks after she found out I was pregnant. I was seventeen and still in high school. She wanted me to be a career woman and own a business one day like she did. She didn’t know what to say to me, or how to complement her modern beliefs with her old-fashioned teachings. She was born in 1925, and grew up believing unmarried women didn’t have babies, especially before they were eighteen.

Of course, she warmed to the idea of a new baby, and it’s hard to resist the charms of Tyler. So, we continued to write to each other, and the words came out fast. I wrote about my upcoming graduation, being a young mom, and plain old feelings. I felt a release and also appreciated writing as an art. I cherish our writings now and refer to them when I need or want to. One common theme she loved to sneak into many of the letters was the importance of study, and to never give up on my dream of going to college. She told me to work hard and I told her I would. Many years later, here I am.

I began a memoir a couple semesters ago and have picked it back up to finish it, and even committed to doing so for an independent study in my course at Westfield State University called Career Prep for Writers. It is taught by the one and only, Beverly Army Williams, and it is, as she said, bonkers. In this course, we learn to create our brand. It includes projects like career exploration and blog writing, as well as activities such as mock interviews and resume writing. The course makes my eyes cross and my jaw throb from clenching my teeth, but I thank God for it every day.

Professor Beverly leads with kindness and joins with compassion, and the group in our class is the warmest collection of supporters and fans any new writer could have. We have all committed to a study that is forcing us to look at the future, and I see evidence of this all over social media. The people in her class have new accounts or are working on old ones. Their brands are being created and they are thriving. I see their smiling faces and new stories, and I notice them actively living. What’s funny is that this “non-traditional” (I’m pointing my thumbs at myself.) student is no different.

Now I must employ this hope and energy and get to work. The memoir was sitting stagnant inside my HP yet still she lingered in my brain, causing disruptions in my other writing and building pressure. That’s why I tasked myself with the completion of it. The accountability was imperative, and I work best with a deadline. (I don’t have much time.)

Nana passed away on June 1, 1993. But she lives in my cooking, my need to be in the woods, and in my words. So, that’s where it all started, my love of writing. I wonder where it will go, or if it’s already moving, and when I can call myself a writer. I love being a mom and fighting fire formed me, too, but one day someone will say, “Teresa, what do you do?” I will say, “I’m a writer.” Cheers, Nana.