reverse threading

the path back is the path forward


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something so delicious. [d.r. thursday]

it was the perfect “welcome home”.

there is something so delicious about going away. we left town and the cold north for florida. it was just for a few days, but the difference in climate is stunning. when you are not – in general – wearing your 32 degrees base layer or your earmuffs on a walk or your furry boots and you have traded it all for cropped jeans and flipflops and no-sleeves, it is a joy. the sun shined down on us as we visited together – our family – a ridiculous and unbelievable four years since we had seen them. we stuffed conversations into nooks and crannies of time and cheered glasses and cooked and took walks and played thomas-the-tank-engine with the tiny two-year-old-miracle who is now in the fam as well. in the middle of it, we suddenly realized how fast it was all going. and then, it was time to board. masks on – two of like four people in the entire tampa airport – we got on the plane and zipped through the air back home.

there is something so delicious about getting home. behind us we had left dogdog in the ever-capable hands of our 20. behind us we had left the worries and angsts of the moment, of this time. behind us we had left our 32 degrees base layers and hats and gloves. behind us we had left all vestiges of our normal schedule and normal routines.

we exited the plane, stopped at the meditation room at milwaukee airport and got into a cold but completely happy-to-see-us littlebabyscion (i may be projecting here) and drove home, getting more excited each minute. 20 had soup and bread ready for us when we got there. he knows how to tend to those basic comforts – those things that reassure when you have left part of your heart behind somewhere else. and then…that deep tiredness – that happens after you have been away and have arrived back home – sunk in.

sleep came early and then we woke early. looking out the window we watched the snow fall. it’s winter in wisconsin and it looks like winter. i like that. i need the seasons to go by…it’s part of my own process as well.

as the flakes get larger and i write this i know that today is a home-day. i just need to stay home, do the laundry, look at the lists i left, process leaving family-i-love behind. tomorrow i will go out. tomorrow is soon enough.

today i just need to absorb the “welcome home” and listen to the quiet snow fall.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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nothing better. [d.r. thursday]

“the snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how,
whence such beauty and what
the meaning…
(mary oliver – first snow)

it snowed all day, the wind howling, the temperature careening below zero. a white christmas was on its way. the luminaria, though, they would not make it onto the sidewalks with neighbors and friends. it would be too oppressively cold, dangerously bitter.

wisconsin – right here by the great lake michigan – was not besieged with tremendous snow. there were not depths taller than shovelers or windows blocked by towering drifts. but it was so so cold. severe.

and even in the frigid, the glitter was obvious.

“…never settle
less than lovely!
…”

the pond gathered the flakes. you could almost see them individually…the gift of a dry and very cold snow. dogdog laid outside, allowing snow to fall on his fur and, from time to time, jumping up and licking big swaths from the deck. he is a cold-weather dog, gleeful in the snow.

some of our plans were changed because of the arctic blast. i regretted that. for a bit. there were so many things to go do, so many lights to go see.

but the dura-fire was lit in the fireplace, the wine was poured, the cookies needed decorating, the ornament game waited. and we looked out the window and spoke of bing crosby and white christmas.

and it was beautiful out there. and still. quiet. and sparkling.

“…and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain – not a single
answer has been found –
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one
…”

and we were home. together. and i can think of nothing better.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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mangia! [merely-a-thought monday]

my sweet momma was not italian – no, not at all – but you wouldn’t have known it. “mangia!” she’d insist, “eat up!”.

a product of the great depression, my momma was not privy to fancy and did not prepare schmancy foods. she chose ragu as her pasta sauce of choice. prego made an appearance here and there, but she listed to the ragu side of the shelf. she made many a lasagna, pots and pans of meat sauce and spaghetti, a mountain of meatballs. we didn’t have designated pasta bowls – we used the same corelle plates we dined on everyday. it didn’t matter. everyone gathered felt nourished, by the food, by the conversation, by the love.

i would imagine that – just as we have here – there are refrigerators loaded with leftovers today. all kinds of appetizers – cheeses, hors d’oeuvre meats, olives, grapes … anything you can purchase at tenuta’s – a local italian grocery and specialty delicatessen – in all sorts of containers. leftover pies and chocolates and cookies stacked in containers. leftover homemade pasta sauce and plastic ziplocks with penne in containers. because it worked with the train schedule of our son and his boyfriend, our christmas day early afternoon meal was a big pot of chuck roast chili and cornbread followed by a trip to the station and big hugs and a wistful mom – me – waving goodbye as the they disappeared into the metra. in the fridge, the big stock-pot, chili not having made its way yet into a – yes – container.

i guess that it is the thrill of most moms to have as many as possible gathered around the table. it is a thrill to watch your family enjoy a good meal together, to have conversation, to laugh, to table-sit afterwards. the first thing i remember my momma asking anytime we’d all arrive was, “are you hungry? what can i get you?” and the last thing she’d do is hand us a doggie-bag of leftovers or a snack bag for our travels.

as the boys prepared to leave, i asked, “what can i send with you? what snacks do you need for on the train? what about these cookies?”, though in my mind i was envisioning sending them with a full charcuterie so they could munch on their brief train to chicago. one does not want one’s children to go hungry on the train.

we got home from the drive to the station a little noshy. we poured glasses of wine and peered into the container-crowded fridge. pulling out the leftover pasta, we heated it up in the microwave in its leftover container. the arugula salad was within grasp without having to move too many things around the fridge shelves, so we pulled that out as well. with merry christmas napkins and a couple forks, we sat at the kitchen table eating leftovers out of their respective storage vessels – unfancyschmancy containers. the dining room table – in the space between living room twinkling-light-lit-trees and sunroom happy lights – still had candles and cloth napkins, a tiny tree festive for each of our meals all together, but the kitchen called our names after the holiday rush and we gazed at the piles of bowls and plates, silverware and glassware on the counter, waiting to be tended.

and just before we left the kitchen to go put on our match-the-fam buffalo plaid pjs and thick socks to early-snuggle under a fuzzy blanket on the couch and watch “love actually” i could hear my momma. “are you sure you had enough? can i get you anything else? a little dessert?”

clearly, somewhere in her dna – even maybe way-way-way back – she was a little italian.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this MERELY-A-THOUGHT MONDAY


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astonished. [d.r. thursday]

nostalgia hits fast.

how many times i have stood in front of the gazebo in northport harbor…how many times i have sat on the steps, lost in thought or listening to the clinking of metal sails in the docks next to the park…how many times i’ve wandered in the harbor surrounded by the dreamy lights of the gazebo and old-fashioned sidewalk lampposts on the paths.

lake bluff brought it all back.

an absolutely beautiful display in the square drew us to it and we parked, even in freezing cold, to walk around a bit, take pictures and soak it all in. it wasn’t northport, but it was stunning and magical.

the wordpress prompt today reads: is your life today what you pictured a year ago?

are any of our lives today what we pictured a year ago?

the element of surprise … both ways.

at a time of year that always-always makes me miss my childhood home, both of my parents, our big stone fireplace, the luminaria lighting our neighborhood streets and groups of friends caroling around the blocks, hot cocoa and marshmallows, tinsel and krumkake, rum cake and eggnog, the delicious anticipation of opening gifts and the northport harbor gazebo radiant, its lights shimmering in the harbor, we find the little square in the middle of lake bluff. astonishing.

instructions for living a life: pay attention. be astonished. tell about it.(mary oliver)

*****

UNFETTERED 48″ X 48″

read DAVID’s thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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the window of magic. [two artists tuesday]

the stairs in our home go straight up a few steps, turn 90 degrees to the left and then another 90 degrees to the left before the last few to the landing. if you turn left again you will see straight into the treetops through the office window, will pass the bathroom, and will head down a short hall to our daughter’s room. if you turn right at the landing you walk into our son’s room.

there’s a big window in his room ahead of you and it faces north. it is the window of magic. for if the circumstances are just right and the frost gathers and holds hands with the sun, this is where the crystals are found. and they are divine.

that day, in every corner, from every angle, the ice shimmered, an evanescent presence that would disappear as the window warmed. the ephemeral tiny expressions of frozen wouldn’t last. not yet. it is still fall and there will be warmer days still.

but for right then, to stand and gaze at the strands and shards and bubbly droplets is to take part in the very moment, that very moment of cold. it was to acknowledge it. and to recognize its transient beauty.

a long while ago i was gifted a necklace with a silver snowflake charm. in the tiny box was printed a brief message, “every snowflake is unique; it’s true. each one’s special, just like you.” not the thought-provoking words of mary oliver or john o’donohue, but a simple reminder of unrepeatable gorgeousness, in words anyone can grok.

these last days have been harder, a holiday with empty chairs. we are adults now and we know that this is the way of life. john pavlovitz writes, “in this season each of us learns to have fellowship with sadness, to celebrate accompanied by sorrow. this is the paradox of loving and being wounded simultaneously.”

we walked on the trail and spoke of each member of our family. we each spoke a gratitude for each person, each step on the trail punctuated by a story or some enlightenment. we laughed and i wondered what gratitude would be uttered for us, hoping that words would not be difficult for the utterer to find. our thanksgiving was bookended with early morning pumpkin pie and full bellies of mashed potatoes at day’s end. in the middle was appreciation for the people we love.

it is easy to see the cold, the long winter ahead, the empty chairs. they are apparent and they can be brutal.

it is harder to walk, peer through the window, and see the crystals and their exquisite – even if brief – magical uniqueness.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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fluff and pine and raynor winn. [d.r. thursday]

and we will give thanks over costco rotisserie chicken and homemade mashed potatoes.

and we will play favorite cds in the happy-lit sunroom as we set a table, thoughtfully choosing cloth napkins, deciding which place, which memories we want to evoke.

and we will speak of others gathered around tables and tv trays, spilling into family rooms from dining rooms and kitchens filled with light and food and conversation.

and we will call and have chit-chat, maybe even a facetime visit.

and, if the rain holds off, we will take a hike in the woods. it will be slightly warmer and there are few dishes to wash.

and, maybe, we will read poetry or the new raynor winn book, if our copy arrives soon enough.

and it’s possible we will watch a movie or two, with a duraflame log burning but not stressing the fireplace and chimney.

and we will dessert on brownie bites, perhaps a dollop of whipped cream, perhaps a few raspberries. or ice cream from our yonana, still a dollop, still a few berries.

and we will miss those not here…those gathered with others, those too far away, those on other planes. we will speak of them in our gratitudes and hold them all close.

and we will sit – and stand – and maybe even dance – in the day, even in its liminal space.

and we will begin to decorate with fluff and pine to welcome the season, earlier than usual.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this D.R. THURSDAY


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you can’t take it with you. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

there is always time. nothing we do is more important than the time we spend together. all of us.

my sweet poppo always said, “you can’t take it with you!” and was referring to money. but it generalizes to pretty much everything. in the end, you can’t take your possessions, your achievements, your investments, even your failures, with you. they will stay behind and it’s love that will carry you on, love that you will carry with you.

so even in the middle of important checklists of chores, work tasks, more achievements and more failures, more, more, more anything – cars, clothes, houses, boats, snowblowers and appliances, shoes, hairdos, all the fancypants trappings of “made-it” – there is time. to walk and talk and be silent and swish your feet through crunchy fallen autumn leaves.

cause you can’t take the other stuff with you.

my dad’s last words to me were, “i love you, kook.” my last words to him were, “i love you, my poppo.”

he’s watching us swish our feet through the leaves now. and smiling.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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a chicken and a cow in autumn. [two artists tuesday]

my nephew called. i guess technically he isn’t my nephew now but neither one of us cares about the technicality of it. we talked a couple years ago but not since. no matter. he was ironing and he thought of me. he described how ironing makes you just kind of slow down and lets your mind wander. and so he followed his instinct and dialed. i told him i was glad he wasn’t thinking of me as he was washing the floor. he agreed and said that a washing-the-floor conversation wouldn’t be as whimsical.

whimsical.

i loved how he used that word. we slowed down our hiking, shuffling our feet through the leaves on the trail, david encouraging me to chat. my nephew and i laughed and told stories, asked questions, laughed some more. later, in some text-reminiscing, he asked me if i still had the beer cap earrings he had bought me when we were together up-north many years back. he said, “you’re one of my favorites.” i walked slowly into flashes of another time of life. it was a gift.

from the deck it looks like a chicken. suddenly a chicken leaf fell from the maple tree and landed squarely on our little curlicue-fence. i stopped at the top of the steps and drew d’s attention to it. “look at the chicken back there!” i insisted. we laughed at the chicken on our fence. ok, not exactly. but imagination is a funny thing. we make castles out of refrigerator boxes and gazelles out of cumulus puffs. we create out of thin air.

“have you noticed that autumn is like a yellow cow?” (pablo neruda) “have they counted the gold in the cornfields?”

we are not alone in our imaginings. pondering leaves, clouds, swirls in the lake’s surface, rocks on the trail, i wonder what it would be to not ponder these things. i feel like i might laugh a little less, like there would be a little less whimsy.

i’m not sure how autumn is like a yellow cow, though i am sure that is valid for pablo. it’s all good. it makes the world go round with a little more pizzazz. there is gold everywhere.

right now i’m just wondering where exactly my beer cap earrings are.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this TWO ARTISTS TUESDAY


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my big sister and his big brother. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

and then, there were avocados.

the box arrived on the doorstep and, almost immediately, the text came. “delivered to front porch,” my sister texted, “hooray!!!”.

this was not a small box. this box had 17 avocados in it. and not 17 measly avocados you purchase at the local wisconsin grocery store. 17 that were grown lovingly on a tree in florida, some of which weigh over a pound. a pound!

beautiful golden-green on the inside, they arrived on a difficult day and were a welcome sight from my big sister. yes, ken’s words – “life’s vicissitudes” were wreaking a bit o’ havoc and my big sister’s avocados were a balm, like his big brother’s reassurances and caring and teasing on the phone later that week.

we don’t live close to either of those siblings. one lives in florida, with a beautiful home and pool in front of a lush swamp and lake and one lives in colorado in a lovely neighborhood with stunning peonies and a view of the front range. we don’t get to see them often. but they have a way of showing up. and, for that, we are grateful.

in this world today with broad radiuses of residence instead of the close-by of years past, it’s not easy to stay engaged with those you love. you wish to spend more time with them – the ordinary kind of moments – to see what life is like, to step a tiny bit into their shoes or at least have a window into their day-to-day. it’s hard to hear of other families and easy sunday dinners, errands with elderly parents, adventures with grown children. i’ve pined more than once to go browse at target with my daughter or have a pedicure with my sister or watch my niece hold and play with her toddler-boy or view a hallmark-extravaganza with my other niece or, even harder, coffeesit once again with my sweet momma. i’ve thought about all the time i spent at tennis courts or in baseball fields with my son and wished to again watch from the sidelines as he bats and runs and fields or lobs tennis balls over the net. i’ve thought about preparation for fall and pumpkins and apple pies and corn mazes. i’ve thought about the famous calzones made in my sister-in-law’s colorado kitchen, the sweet niece who would sip red wine with me and taking a walk around the lake with david’s momma. and then, the chance to see all the rest…our families, friends, newly-found cousins, wider concentric circles still connected but a little further out.

these years have taken a toll. though we have traveled a little bit, it’s not like pre-pandemic. and there is so much to miss when wisconsin is not where everyone is, so much yearning. i know Making Time for others is important and, with work and budget and covid restraints, we try the-best-we-can to do whatever-we-can. it doesn’t eliminate the missing.

today is a good day for guac.

*****

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

whole30 fajita bowl


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still around. [saturday morning smack-dab.]

he’s the lock screen on my phone. that babycat. every morning i tell him “good morning”. every morning, still, i get a pang looking at his green eyes and the white stripe on his black-fur-face. he is sooo missed.

i made the bed the other day and found tiny white hairs scattered on the comforter. it made me wonder if he had stopped by. i know dogga misses him too, and babycat was dedicated to his dog, so maybe he did come by, just to reassure him.

these pets of ours. vital parts of our hearts, they enhance life, entertaining us, grounding us, loving us unconditionally.

as empty-nesters they are what receive our daily attention, our daily nurturing, our daily worrying. their absence is profound. though gigantic statement of love, it is a great loss felt each day when a furred member of our family is gone.

i would like to believe that babycat is somehow still around. i’d like to believe that he knows – that he’s still adored, that we pine for him, that dogdog sometimes still seems to be waiting for his return. that his life – absolutely – changed mine and, for that, i will evermore be grateful.

*****

read DAVID’S thoughts this SATURDAY MORNING

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