Thursday, November 24, 2011

Tradition, Tradition, TRADITION!

The savory smell of turkey, celery, and onion tantalizes me this morning.  It's already been in the oven for 2 and a half hours, roasting away. I'm watching the start of the Macy's Thanksgiving parade in my pajamas with Tony and Therese, while the other kids are still fast asleep.  The best thing about this parade is watching the numbers from Broadway musicals, and the Rockettes.  It's the next best thing to being there (and in my pj's!).

I baked my pies yesterday, and really can't wait to dig into some pumpkin pie!!!  I almost sliced it for breakfast, but realized that would  spoil the anticipation of waiting till after dinner. 

Thanksgiving is low on the totem pool of my favorite holidays.  It seems a little 'bland', especially in years past. The thing I appreciate about Thanksgiving, however, is all the family traditions we have and have had in the past.  The memories I hold are very dear to my heart.

As a child, we usually spent Thanksgiving at my dad's homestead with my Grandpa, Uncles Bill and Jack, Uncle Jim, Aunt Maggie, Uncle Tom and Aunt Jane.  The table was set with a lacey white cloth and pretty china plates and glassware.  My uncles and Dad usually found a spot on the living room floor after dinner to lie down for some TV football.   (While the ladies went to the kitchen sink to do DISHES--what was with THAT?)

I doubt that a Thanksgiving ever came and went without my Aunt Maggie telling me that I was 'snoopy' (her word for 'picky') because I didn't like vegetables.

I always enjoyed seeing my uncles and aunts who had 'come down' from Cleveland.  They always brought their 'kids' with them, too--Twiggy and Chugga--a couple of dachshunds! 

Some years, we stayed home and Mom did the cooking.  She didn't make turkeys most years, she preferred to roast a large chicken, which was just as tasty!  Mom even let us drink from wine glasses, which is a tradition I've passed on to my own kids.  They will have sparkling cider this year--nothing alcoholic!  Sorry, kiddos!

After marrying John and having my own children, we have fallen into a comfortable tradition of having my parents over each year, and sometimes my Aunt Maggie, who is now the last of my dad's siblings. 

I always make a turkey with all the traditional sides.  John loves brown and serve rolls (I can take 'em or leave 'em), so I always buy several packages of them.  (The kids love them too.)  He calls them 'burn' and serve rolls. 

I guess the thing I have learned to appreciate the most about this holiday is that it IS bland.  The thing that seemed boring as a kid and young adult has come as a breath of fresh air to a middle aged mom who is tired from all the harried stuff of life.  It feels good to sit here in my penguin pajamas, coffee in hand, and not have to run people to school or do any other number of things I have to do on a 'normal' day. 


Thursday, November 10, 2011

Did you ever....? SHOCKING revelations behind closed doors!!!

Throughout the day, I find myself doing 'unorthodox' things and I started wondering how many others do stuff like that?  I wonder how many of my readers will admit to doing some of these things?  Or maybe they'll contribute something else to the list?

Here's a list, off the top of my head, of kooky things I've been known to do once or twice...

Used a butter knife as a screw driver.

Crammed the washing machine too full because I had 'just a little more clothes' over one load, and dumped in extra detergent. (And prayed I didn't have a Brady Bunch moment with too many suds.)

Measured ingredients for a recipe by pouring the substance out and thinking, 'That looks to be about a half a cup.'.

Threw panty hose in the washer and crossed my fingers that they wouldn't snag.

Left clothes in the washer overnight and instead of rewashing them (due to musty odor), threw extra dryer sheets in the dryer to refresh them.

Driven the kids to school in my pajamas.  (I've been doing that a lot lately.)

Slept without a sheet on my bed because I was too tired to put one on it.

Eaten something crumbly over the sink so I wouldn't have to dirty any dishes.

Worn mismatched socks because I couldn't find any that matched.

Gave the kids mismatched socks.  See above.

Served potato chips as a side dish.  (Usually a Saturday thing.)

Eaten cake for breakfast the day after someone's birthday in this house.

Tried to vaccuum fur/fleas off the dog...with zero success...

Yikes, this is a BAD one...told my kids the answer to homework problem/s because they were taking too long to do it.

Used tape to fix a falling hem. 

Trying just once to substitute instant potatoes for real mashed potatoes.  I never got away with that again! 

******Okay, so you get the idea...that's just the tip of the iceberg.  Now you see that I'm not a perfect mom and wife afterall.  Are you disappointed?  I'd like to hear some confessions from you now?!


Monday, October 3, 2011


There are layers of problems in my life.  I want to solve one thing, only to realize it hinges on something else that needs fixed.  I live in an almost constant state of frustration over things that I feel like I have no control over.

A week or so ago, our hot water went out because the basement was flooding, due to the main (only) drain backing up.  The plumbers 'fixed' it, no guarantee--of course... and today... I had to take an icy cold shower.  John was a half hour late to work, trying to light the pilot, kneeling in icky sewage water.  (Thank goodness for this man who loves me so much.)

The fix was no fix.  We've been expecting this for years.  Every year, the plumbers unclog the drain with the warning that we really need to replace the drain pipe.  This would cost us thousands of dollars, and it will be a major pain in the butt.  (Digging up the yard, turning off the water, etc.) 

Well, it looks like we may have run out of luck and will need to do this. 

I feel weighed down.  I have personal issues that are mine alone.  They aren't family things, or marriage things.  These are my own private struggles between me and God.  Those things alone can (and do) bring me to my knees in discouragement.  Like everyone, I have temptations.  I have weaknesses.  I have faults.  I have sins.  The only bright spot in this is that I know that in order to bear fruit, I must be crushed like the grapes that become the wine.  So, I bear the crushing in order to bring forth something fruitful.

So, in utter humility, I plead with God to help me through this dark night of my soul.  It has its peaks and valleys, it isn't all despair and gloom.  But, when it is, it takes every ounce of my strength to cope.

And then...there in general.  Keeping up with the bills.  God has never let us go without, but we have chosen the path of family life, with a houseful of kids and a large grocery bill.  And all the accompanying things--clothing, shelter, utilities x8.  I don't want this to sound at all like a complaint.  I would never choose to change a single thing about my family.  Each member of the Elliott family is dearest and most precious to my heart.  The money is a passing issue, but their very lives are everything

Add into the mix the very real problem of the HOUSE.  This house, on most days, looks like it has been burglarized.  Drawers left open.  Stuff on the floor.  A real disaster area.  I have always been one to crave an orderly home.  I don't care if it is a showplace, I'm not that picky.  But, this is not acceptable.  I have all but given up.  That makes me so angry with myself because I have NEVER been a person to give up.  I'm very stubborn.  When I want to be working on something vital, it always gets pushed aside because I have to do recovery mode with the house. 

 I am so tired.  I've been running on empty for the last decade.  I think I've really done an honest to goodness 'best attempt' at being the best mom and wife I know how to be.  But I have somehow failed miserably in the area of teaching these people how to be responsible.  I don't know what happened.  I am supremely angry with myself for this.  I would chalk it up to personality, but each kid has a different personality, so I can't use that as an 'out'.  They all seem to be unconcerned that this house is a wreck and I am the only one who cares.  (John helps when he can.  This is not about him.) 

I have tried talking and explaining how this impacts me.  I have tried ordering them around.  The only thing I haven't done (but many people have urged me to do this) is to start throwing away things that matter to them.  I guess that's my weak spot.  I really hate to do that. 

Now, I don't want to give the impression that they are doing this on purpose to annoy me.
They are good kids/young adults.  They do love me.  They just don't care about neatness, so they think I should just forget about it, too.  I tend to always try to see the good in all things.  I see that I have children who are very interesting, intelligent, thoughtful, fun people.  When I'm really feeling low, they are there with hugs and prayers, and words of encouragement. 

There is that ONE thing, though...that big white elephant in the room...they are all Oscar Madisons and I'm a Felix Unger.

Ah well.  I've said enough on this subject and it does no good.  Time to plow thru the mess and try to make things a little neater for my own sake.


Thursday, September 22, 2011

Yummy and fast recipe invented by ME!

I have a confession to make: I love pizza.  I also love Velveeta cheese.  So, when I make my own pizza, I usually make one of the pizzas with Velveeta as a topping.  Some of my kids love that, too.

I have an extremely easy and quick way to have a 'pizza'--hot and ready to eat--in less than 3 minutes!  Yes, you saw that right!  If you don't like Velveeta, that's okay, you can substitute mozzarella for it.

What you need:

2 soft flour tortillas
1 jar of your favorite spaghetti sauce (mine happens to be Ragu)
Velveeta (I use the low fat variety--it tastes every bit as rich and cheesy as its full fat cousin)

**feel free to add pepperoni, cut up peppers, or precooked bacon, grated parmesan or romano cheese, if you like

Spread about 1 to 2 tbs. of sauce on top of one tortilla with spoon.  Top with grated cheese (if desired), place other tortilla on top of that.  Spread 2 tbs. sauce on tortilla, then place thin slices of Velveeta on top of that.  (Space them out.)  Microwave for 1 to 1:30 minutes.  Enjoy!!!

You might have to eat this with a fork, it tends to  be messy! 


Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Simmering thoughts and boiling memories

I used to keep a journal...I kept it almost daily for about 20 years and it kind of fizzled at that point.  I think because I write online, I lost my enthusiasm for the notebook.

One of these days I am going to look up my entry from September 11, 2001.  JohnPaul would have been three years old, and the other kids were all school age.  Maria was in 1st grade, Tony--3rd, Jacob--6th, and Ian--9th.  I remember the weather vividly because it was one of those ideal late summer days...the sun was shining, the sky was blue, the air was fresh, and there were barely any clouds to be seen.

After having seen the kids all out the door, I remember having something exciting to report to my mom (now I don't remember what it was), so I hurriedly rang her on the phone.  When she answered, I was anxious to jump right in an tell her my news, but she cut me off.  "Did you see the news?"  It was just after 9:00 and I had not put the TV on. 

 I answered her, "No."  She told me something strange had happened, that an airplane had struck a sky scraper in NYC. 

The magnitude of that didn't hit me yet.  I figured a pilot made an error in judgment and was flying too low or something.  I pictured a single passenger plane.

So, I said, "Hmmm, that's wierd.", then continued my story.  She seemed rather distracted and said maybe I might want to put my TV on, so we said 'goodbye' and I turned the tube on.

The Today Show was on.  I remember sitting there with JohnPaul, watching the recap of the collision, when the 2nd plane hit the towers.  That's when I knew something was really wrong.  I could not believe what I had just seen happen live.

We stayed glued to the TV most of the day.  It was surreal.  Life changed that day in many ways...

When I decide to get my notebook journal out, if I see anything posted in it of interest, I will share it on here.  It might not say much of anything; I actually do not remember writing anything. 

So, here we are, coming up on the 10th anniversary of this tragedy.  I seems crazy to think about that being 10 years!  Shortly after that, John's mother was diagnosed with cancer, and given two weeks to live.  She died in December, just a few weeks before Therese was born. 

Today I sent Therese off to her first day of 4th grade.  JohnPaul, who was three years old that day, went to his first day of 8th grade.  Maria is now a high school junior, and the three young men are Penn Staters. 

In that decade, my hair has become streaked with grays.  I have become a different type of mom than I was then--no longer the pregnant and harried mom of babies and little kids, but the mature mother of mostly young adults.

10 years.  Wow.


Sunday, August 14, 2011

Home, sweet home...or not?

Sometimes my house frustrates me.  It is in very poor condition, is too small, is crowded, and cluttered.  I never wanted to live here, I accepted it as our first home because John lived here and inherited it when his father died.

I always dreamt I would get to pick out the home that fit my needs and desires.  I've never been a person to take things for granted.  I was raised by parents who didn't indulge my whims, so I appreciated everything I had.

So-- the home I would pick wouldn't be this---

Now, don't get me wrong, this is beautiful and a tempting idea.  But, I could be happier with a LOT less.  Take for instance these cottages---

These little seaside and/or rustic and woodsy cottages appeal sooooo much to my heart.  <3

But seriously, I would be thankful to have a home with a front porch (for sitting with my honey, and for rainstorms), 2 baths (one bath ain't cutting it with so many Elliotts), at least one REAL shower (we have an ancient bathtub rigged with a handheld shower), storage space(we have NO space so we can't put anything away, ever--thus, insane CLUTTER), and decent plumbing, siding, windows, doors, and electric.  Ours are all outdated, except for half the windows that we had replaced several years ago, and our back door which is not too old.

Something that I find annoying is the lack of things that work.  My work is primarily in the kitchen, and things there are as up to date as they were in 1940.  I don't have a dishwasher, nor do I have room for one, even if I had the money to buy one.  The plumbing is so ancient that to fill a pitcher or coffee pot takes about 3 minutes.  I set it in the sink, then go about doing other tasks while it fills up.

I've said this before and I will say it again: I do not like to complain.  So, I want to say this: I have so many blessings, that to complain about these little irritations would not be my style. 

I'm basically working up to a point here--I think that God permits small disappointments because it teaches us a lesson.  In my case, I think He is assisting me in that He does not want me to get too attached to wordly goods.  And you know what?  It's definitely working!  I am not attached to this house, believe me!!!

My home has many priceless memories.  John carried me over the threshhold after we were married.  I was still in my gown, and he in a tux. 

All of our children were raised in this house, and this is where we've celebrated birthdays, holidays, and every day family stuff.

We have prayed together here, broke bread together, hosted parties, and consoled one another during sorrowful times.

I think God knows that my heart can be more fully devoted to Him if certain desires go unsatisfied.  It draws me closer to Him because I know He is the only true remedy for that restlessness. 


Sunday, July 24, 2011

Keeping things in my heart

There's a passage in the bible about Mary--how she kept 'all these things in her heart'.  (Paraphrased) As a mom, I can relate!

Each one of my kids has my entire heart, and I love them all with the ferocity of a mother lion.  I long to see them blossom into the fullness of who they are as humans, and as members of the Body of Christ.

Today we will celebrate, at a local eatery, our 3rd born child's high school graduation! 

I remember when I was pregnant with Tony, I wondered how John and I would juggle our kids now.  With two boys, we could 'tag team' them, and keep the upper hand.  With three little ones, how would we deal with that?  (Short of growing a few extra hands.)

I was still nursing Jacob when I discovered I was expecting, so the first order of business was to wean him.  I remember feeling so sorry for him the first night I refused to nurse him.  His big eyes stared up at me with expectancy. I kissed his little silky soft head, told him to go to sleep, then went to my own room and bawled.

Tony arrived on October 10th shortly before dawn.  I didn't have a name picked out.  John and I had tried to choose one, but weren't successful.  It took several hours to settle on Anthony Ryan.  We picked Anthony because during childbirth, we had a big scare, and turned to St. Anthony for assistance.  John had a rosary from St. Anthony's shrine in Italy (a gift from my friend, JoAnne) in his pocket.  He began to pray at my side during the crisis. 

Also, my mom's name is Antoinette, so we thought it would be nice for him to bear his grandma's name. 

Tony was, from the start, a very easy baby to love.  He had the largest brown eyes I ever saw, and even when he was happy, they had a 'sadness' to them.  John and I jokingly hummed the theme to the old tv show, 'My Three Son's' now.  Three boys!  We felt incredibly blessed by God.

As Tony grew, it was apparent that he had a special bond with Jacob, who was just two years older than he.  When he would stumble and fall, he would cry out, 'Deecob', then toddle to him.  Jacob has always had a compassionate personality, and he would wrap his tiny arms around his 'brudder', and soothe him. 

When Tony was about 11 months old, and teething, he began to use me as his teether.  I developed a breast infection!  Painful!!!  The doctor put me on an antibiotic and I decided it was time to wean him.  I really didn't want to until he was ready, but the pain had me reduced to tears each time he wanted to nurse.

Then I realized something.  I was 'late'.  I asked the pharmacist if the meds I was taking for the infection could affect my cycle, and he answered 'no.'  That's how I found out I was expecting Maria.

Being the 3rd born out of 6, I see that Tony has a good handle on life.  He's laid back in all things, doesn't stress out.  He thinks life should be enjoyed, is quite balanced in all things.  I admire that quality in him.  He isn't concerned with having all the latest gadgets, not that they don't interest him.  He just seems to have that quality known as temperance.

Tony is kind.  I don't believe I've ever known him to purposely hurt anyone.  In one of the plays he acted in, he had to shout angrily.  That is the first time I (or anyone he knows) has heard him raise his voice!  (With one exception--lol--Maria has actually provoked him to that point, but that's who SHE is.)

I love that Tony likes to cook.  When he was a tiny child, he wanted to own his own pizzeria.  Then he went through the phase where he wanted to be a farmer.  (He said he could not be one, however, because he 'didn't own any overalls'.)  He quickly moved onto more sophisticated interests.  His skill and talent with how things work always amazed me.  Any time he played with toys, he would  disassemble them and put them back together in ways that were unexpected.  He cut half the face off of an action figure and replaced it with the half off another one, creating a two faced monster.

He designed his own Halloween costumes and even sewed some of them himself.  Hallween is his favorite time of year, and he still loves to dress up. 

He taught himself how to make and edit movies...he is highly gifted in that area.  His movies are really creative!

When he was only 15 years old, he began to date Miranda.  I thought he might be a bit young, but here he is, three years later, and still with her.  He is very kind and good to her.  He likes to cook for her (pizza, pepperoni roll, fried rice, soups, eggs, chicken), and she has become like one of my own children.

I can see that Tony will make a heck of a daddy some day.  When Therese was a baby and toddler, he would always be willing to lend a hand.  I watched him soothe her when she had fallen, washing her wound, and covering it with dressing.  I often saw him getting her a drink or helping her reach something.  What a satisfying thing it is to see your little boy becoming a man.

Tony also has a wonderful sense of humor.  His best friend since grade school is Eddie 'Spaghetti'--how appropriate for someone with the moniker Tony 'Baloney'.  They're both gentle soft spoken young men with good hearts and intelligent minds. 

I'm so thankful for my Tony!  Now, he is enrolled at Penn State and will pursue his degree in Letters, Arts, and Sciences (heavy on the arts).  Way to go, Tony!!!

Congratulations to a wonderful young man.  I love you so much, Tony.


Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Murder Room

Like vitamins, books are part of my daily requirement for a healthy life.  I read every day, but only rarely does a book earn the 'Annie's WOW recommendation'.  The Murder Room, by Michael Capuzzo, has earned it.

I recommend it to those few individuals with a certain personality type--you must have a stomach for murder (and all its accompanying unpleasantness), you must enjoy unsolved mysteries, and you must love a good character or two...or three.

If you are put off by graphic forensic descriptions--WARNING!!!--do not read this book.  If you are put off by graphic psychological profiles (of extremely twisted minds)--WARNING!!!--do not read this book.

If you love to probe the workings of detectives and forensic psychologists; if you crave the satsifaction of a cold case finally solved...this book will satisfy!

The author is astonishing in all ways.  His research is exhaustive--from biographical, to the investigative, to the very last details (even down to the weather on any given date)--I am one impressed reader.  He has a delightful way with words, too..."The studio was very still.  Far off he heard a sound like the sea breaking, but it was only the ceaseless pounding of cars on the expressway."

I was introduced to three distinct real life characters--Bender, Fleisher, and Walter--the founding members of the Vidocq Society.  Their personalities came to life in the pages of The Murder Room in such a way that I found myself truly touched to 'know' them. 

What makes a person, such as myself, intrigued by this dark work?  Why am I so compelled to read and understand these things that should not exist? 

I'm not a CSI hanger-on.  It all started long ago, way before this modern trend of TV shows--Law & Order, CSI, Criminal Minds.  I was a child who loved to read Nancy Drew and other mysteries.  I quickly graduated to Mary Higgins Clark and any other whodunit that I could lay my hands on.  When I was 14, I borrowed a comprehensive study of Jack the Ripper from the school library.

The book, a hardbound text, was my introduction to the depravity of the psychopath.  My innocent soul was shocked by the gory serial murders.  I couldn't stop reading, though.  I felt this need to understand why a person would do such a ghastly thing.  Crude photographs of the crime scenes, and reprints of the local newspaper's articles from that time were clues that I set out to analyze.

Never mind that I wasn't the first person to do so.  The murders took place a hundred years before, and had been looked at countless times.  No one had solved these crimes.  No matter, I wanted to understand...

When I was a newly married woman of twenty one, my husband worked nights.  He left at 3:00 in the afternoon and didn't return until sometime after 3:00 in the morning.  I sat up most nights, reading about Ted Bundy or other serial killers.  Most nights, I kept the lamp burning until he walked in, and only then could I relax and fall asleep.  How stupid and silly I was, but I couldn't seem to help myself.  I can't say how many times I heard strange noises in the night, my heart pounding with fear that I would meet one of the maniacs I read about. 

Just lately I have discovered (and blogged about--see my earlier entries) that my great grandmother may have had a close encounter with H. H. Holmes, America's 'first' serial killer.  There is now evidence that Holmes and Jack the Ripper are one and the same.  A handwriting expert from London has verified that some of the Ripper's letters and Holmes' writing, through analysis, are one and the same.  (How oddly appropriate that is in relation to my ghoulish pasttime.)

In the tapestry of life, there are threads that weave all over, but are still one thread.   Imagine my surprise when one day several months ago, I began an online friendship with the great great grandson of H. H. Holmes.  Who needs fiction when you have real life?

(I assure all my readers--Jeff Mudgett has not inherited H. H. Holmes' taste for torture.  LOL.  He is a kind, honorable man, as well as an epilepsy advocate and published author.)


Friday, July 15, 2011

So much at stake...

Jesus is an honest to goodness flesh and blood man.  Scripture tells us He is like us in ALL ways, except sin.  He is also God.  That mystery has been studied, analyzed, meditated upon, and so much more for over 2000 years.  It will never be possible to completely wrap our minds around the mystery of the God/Man.

Did you ever wonder what would  have happened if He had (gasp!) sinned?  We wouldn't have been redeemed.  There would no longer be any chance that anyone could enter into Heaven. 

I've thought about that, but today, something else occurred to me.  If Jesus had sinned, what would have become of HIM?  He is God, but as a man, he would have deserved Hell with everyone else.  God is all HOLY, that means WHOLE.  He cannot be divided.  We know that, and Jesus proved it.  But, in his sufferings and temptations, Satan worked to divide God.  I don't know what would have happened if Satan had succeeded.  Isn't that a really strange thought?! 

I'm not sure if Satan fully knew who Jesus was, but I guess he might have suspected.  He must have pulled out all the stops in regards to temptations.  I've had some strong temptations in my life, so I shudder to think of what He put Jesus through.  My own struggles would be like a grain of sand in the Sahara desert in comparison.

When I think of that, I feel even more confident in Jesus' power to protect and shield me from evil.  He is the 'Triumphant One'. 

How could we not feel indebted to Him for this tremendous gift?  That which He did for you and for me? 


Friday, June 24, 2011


I've been a Scrabble addict most of my life.  I don't remember where it started, although I've always liked words, languages, spelling, etc.

I started playing online Scrabble several years ago when Ian told me about it.  He got me set up on the site and explained how it worked.

Once I started playing on the ISC site, I was HOOKED!!!

I've learned a lot since I first started:

1.) I like fast games.  That isn't really a 'revelation' since I find myself bored when playing drawn out board games.  (Or should I say 'bored games'?!)

2.) A good game time for me is set at 6 minutes.  Each player gets six minutes, plus an extra minute after the timer runs down.

3.) The first order of business when the game begins is to search for any possible bingoes I might have.  *A bingo is when a player uses all seven tiles in one turn.

4.) The best way to look for bingoes is if I have any of these combinations: 'ing', 'er', 'ed'.  If I do, I rearrange the tiles on my tray to see if I can combine those letters with something else to form a bingo.  (Example: ITNRGAN...would be 'RANTING'.)

5.) As much as possible, it is best to find bingoes early in the game because the board is open.  The more filled up the board gets, the less chance one has of finding a spot for a bingo to fit.

6.) Bingoes are important because they earn the player an extra 50 points on top of the letter value.

7.) On ISC, most players are of at least the same caliber as I am.  If I see a spot open, they do, too.  It often comes down to who is lucky enough to get the better tiles.

8.) Almost always, playing letters alongside another word is much better than playing them all separate.  For example: if the word 'teams' is played, and I have the letters to form 'zoo', it is better to place the z in front of the a to form 'za' (yes, it is a word, folks), the 'o' in front of the 'm' to form 'mo' (another word, yes), and the last 'o' in front of the 's' to form 'os', rather than to form 'zoos' off the 's' from teams.  Usually the resulting score is much higher.  The exception would be if there were a triple word score available or if there were a double or triple letter score available for the 'z', which is a high scoring letter.

9.) The moment I make a play, I begin to look at possible plays for my next turn.

10.) If I notice a player is using only one tile per turn, that sometimes indicates that he/she might have a bingo and is waiting for an opening.  I will try to thwart that by closing off any place that could be used.

11.) If I have a bingo, but nowhere to place it, I will pass two to three times, but then I will break it up.  I have learned that to pass too many times results in a huge loss of points.

12.) If I have all vowels or all consonants, I often use my turn to change my tiles.  Occasionally there is a chance to use several vowels at once, depending on the openings available.

13.) If I have a high scoring tile, I scan the board for double or triple spots.  For instance, an 'x' is a high scorer.  It can be placed after any vowel (except u or i) to make a word.  U or I can be placed after x to form a word.  Ideally, an 'x' used on a double or triple space with a vowel in front, and one behind, it results in a big score. 

14.) The tiles I value the most are 's', 'e', 'a', 'x', 'q', 'z', 'h', 'w', 'r', 'd', 'j'.  They are easy to play or high scoring.

15.) I dislike 'v', 'u', and 'c'.  They are not easy to use in most cases.

16.) Unfortunately, there are quite a few rude players on ISC.  I've had people accuse me of cheating, use profanity at me, belittle me, and ignore me.  (Ignore means that they do not use any common courtesy, such as greeting me or thanking me for the game.)  I will go through losing streaks, then win a game, and my opponent will say something like, 'You got lucky because you got all the good tiles.'  Do I really need to hear that?

Well, with that, I'm off to play a round of Scrabble before I get to my housework!!!


Thursday, June 16, 2011


It's been a really laid back vacation week.  As I said in my previous entry, I haven't been feeling up to par this week.  Things have been slowly improving, so today we took a little car trip to Grove City.

There is a big outlet mall there with all kinds of shopping opportunities.  I was craving their vendor's bucket of fries, but they don't sell those anymore.  :( Bummer.

There is a Primanti Bros. there now, but we didn't eat there.  We had to be back in time for Ian to be at work at 6:00, so we ate in the food court where we could get our grub fast.

Therese and I had a blast in the Cosmetics Outlet.  I got some Clinique goodies!  I gave her a couple things, and she gave me a big hug!  She really loves to play with makeup and has her own little cosmetic bag filled with stuff I gave her.

My favorite purchase was a 50 cent mini rubber baby from a toy store there.  I don't know why I like it, but I do.  I know--I'm weird.  :)  I like unusual things...It is about twice the size of my thumbnail. 

We went to Here's Howe candy store.  I'm going to do an article for on this unique place.  It's on Grove City's main drag, and it has almost every kind of candy a person could want.  They also sell many flavors and types of coffees and teas.  We ground our own coffee--one pound for us, one for my dad (for Father's Day). 

I told the kids to get their own bags and fill them up with whatever candy they wanted.  The store is set up so patrons can buy candy by the pound.  We got to the checkout and the cashier rang it up--$43.  That's a record for us.  It seems wasteful, but we're on vacation, and there are six kids.  (I got some stuff for myself and John, too.)  That's roughly a half pound per person, since the candy ranged from $2.25 to $5.00 a lb.  (The coffee was almost $9.00 a lb.) That's not so bad, is it? 

I found those little 'flying saucer' candies--the ones that taste and feel like styrofoam.  I bought some after being struck with "sudden onset reminiscent mood".  They tasted terrible.  There is a reason these things are not popular.  Why do they even make them? 

The day turned out to be a very nice one.  There was no pressure, we got sugar, and the whole Elliott clan spent the day together.  That's the best thing about vacation, spending time with my husband and children.

On the way home, the clouds broke into a pounding rain.  I've always enjoyed riding in the car in the rain.  I find the rhythm of the windshield wipers and the pounding raindrops on the roof to be incredibly relaxing.  Once home, we settled in and a thunderstorm passed through.  It wasn't a violent storm, but rather, a gentle one with a few gusty winds and a sheet of rain that fell steadily for at least 10 min. 

Now the sky is blue and the sun is shining before it sets on the horizon.  The birds are all chirping and calling.  I'm thankful for this vacation.


Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Disappointments, camping at home, and spiked lemonade

I don't like to complain.  I dislike it when others complain.  So, this is not a complaint.  After all, life has so many blessings in it, I prefer to look at those things instead of looking at the bad.

The school year ended and I had high expectations for a week of vacation with my family.  It arrived this week, but because I have been hit with two different physical issues, I am taking Motrin every 4 hours and sitting around in my P.J.'s.  All the while, Therese's eyes look at me with betrayal burning guilt through me.  We were supposed to be spending time at Waldameer, her favorite place on earth.  And the beach.  And shopping in Pittsburgh.  In her defense, I would have felt the same way if I were nine years old.  And I see that she wants to cooperate.  She made macaroni and cheese with Daddy last night so I didn't have to cook.  She also cleaned the house up and washed her own hair.

The other kids aren't so much trying to make me feel guilty.  They go with the flow and understand better that things sometimes happen that are beyond our control.  Thank goodness for that. 

Part of me would like to sit here and cry.  After all, I waited and planned for a long time for this vacation.  I needed it desperately.  I do believe that it's better to let go and accept it rather than fight it.  The end result won't change, but I will feel better in the long run.

Maybe we'll set up a tent and camp at home tonight...we can still roast marshmallows and tell scary stories, even if it isn't in the know the saying about making lemonade when life hands you lemons. 

Here's a glass of lemonade for you--maybe I'll spice it up a little with a splash of whiskey--hahahahaha! 


Monday, June 6, 2011's a secret...

Yummy is all I can say as I enjoy a cool summery treat...wanna know what it is?  And  how many calories?  (Surprisingly very low calorie!)

It's only about 75 to 100 calories per serving.  I'm not overly fussy about measuring food.  I just estimate when I dole out a serving.

So, what is it?  Its my Berry Medley Parfait!  It is deliciously sweet, cold, and satsifying. 

I buy a 16 oz. bag of frozen mixed berries (blackberries, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries) from WalMart.  (Really cheap, too, Somewhere in the $2 to $3 range.)  Scoop out about 4 tbs. of fruit, place in bowl.  Mix in half cup of non fat (or low fat) whipped cream or Cool Whip.  Ta-da!  Sit back with a good book, a fan blasting on you, and imagine you're sitting on the beach!

I like to eat the berries as they slowly defrost.  The blueberries are really good when they're still frozen.  The strawberries are difficult to eat until they soften up a bit, though.  :)

Another wonderful idea is to take a tall glass of water, add 6 icecubes, and about  6to 8 frozen berries.  They enhance the water's flavor without adding calories.  It is a delicious alternative to sweetened drinks.  (Or artificially sweetened stuff that I'm not sure is all that good for you.)  You can experiment with different types of fruits--stores carry frozen peaches, too!  I have not yet tried that, but I have a bag of peaches in the freezer, so one of these days, I'll give that a shot.

These frozen berries are awesome on plain breakfast cereals, too!

Let me know if you guys like these ideas! 


Saturday, June 4, 2011


It's been some time since I've blogged!  The past few weeks have been overlapping events and other duties for us here at the Elliott house!

I'm thankful that it is now summer vacation!  I love that I can have some measure of control over my life for a couple of months.  (Although I will still be taking Ian and Jake to their respective workplaces.) 

It is a drag to have kids bogged down every night with hours of homework.  Then there's the early bedtimes, the early wake up calls, taxiing them all over timbuktu, and spending every weekend involved in school projects.  (That is the worst.  There's never much time to recharge the old batteries.)  Our school district is horrible about assigning projects in the middle and high school levels.  It takes so much precious time away from the hard to come by family time.  I have grown resentful over the years.  It gets expensive, too--we go through ink cartridges like they're water.  Those things ain't cheap, either.  I would think our school board and teachers might take that into consideration.

Yesterday was a busy day.  Maria was finished with school on Thursday, Tony had morning rehearsal for Commencement, JohnPaul and Therese had a half day.  I took Therese to Mass before school, dropped her off at school, then picked up Maria. 

We went shopping for a couple of hours...Pat Catan's--a favorite place to browse--bought some fancy ribbon...then went to Auntie Anne's for a warm oven baked pretzel...browsed at Rue 21, then went leisurely  through the whole antique store.  I got her a miniature vase and a gold wooden shoe (knick knack).  She and I like antiques.  We topped our trip off with iced coffees; but poor thing!  She had a reaction to the toppping on the whipped cream--it was a mix of cocoa and cinnamon.  She's allergic to cinnamon.  I thought they just used plain cocoa on it! 

In the afternoon, I picked up JP and Therese and we went to get pizza.  We had a combination lunch/dinner so we could get ready for Tony's graduation. 

The graduation ceremony was very nice.  The only complaint I had was the chaos following.  I remember the same kind of thing after Ian and Jake's graduations.  I would think that the school faculty would work to straighten things out so they'd run smoother.  If there had been a fire, there would have been a stampede, and people crushed.  If I was in charge, I'd dismiss the people in attendance row by row.  Instead, like a zillion ants going in all directions, people take off.  Everyone is in a hurry, yet no one is getting anywhere!  It's a bit like trying to pour a gallon of water thru a straw. 

Tony took off for Miranda's afterwards, then spent the night at Eddie's.  Now he's at Tyler's party.  I bought a cake to celebrate if he ever decides to stay and hang out awhile. 


Monday, May 23, 2011

I am ready for the white padded room!

So, yeah, I've been exposing some things to the world that I've rarely talked to anyone about...

Nobody has commented, so methinks perhaps you're all thinking, 'She's loonie!'.  I can't blame you for that. If you told me this stuff, I'd probably not believe it.  The only reason I believe is because I had a one -on -one encounter with it! 

After I had written about John's fasting, I promised to write more details. 

John was not raised Catholic.  In fact, he wasn't raised to believe much of anything.  His parents were mismatched (I don't know why they ended up together, frankly) and didn't stay married too long.    His mom attended a Methodist Church once in awhile and migrated to services at the Salvation Army later in her life. His dad was very anti-Catholic.  If he had lived long enough to see John and I get married, I'm sure he would have pitched a fit. 

I never wanted to push John into being brought into the Church.  I believe that is a decision that only he could have made.  I did make certain things clear to him when we were dating. 

The first thing was that if we were to get married, there would be no use of artificial birth control, which is sinful.  (To those Catholics who don't know that, yes, it has never been permissible to use.  I realize that, sadly, many Catholics don't know that.)  Number two, I hoped to have a large family.  Number three, our children would be raised Catholic.

John is easy to get along with and he had no problem with any of these things.  In fact, his heart was in the same place that mine was.  He told me he wanted a large family, too, and he would not impede me in how the kids were raised.

We had a Catholic wedding, complete with a Mass, but he could not receive the Eucharist with me.  One must be Catholic to do so.  I remember hoping that some day we would be unified in faith.

Ten years into our marriage, he approached me one day and informed me that he was about to enter into the RCIA program at St. Bart's.  (Rite of Christian Initiation.)  I was really glad he had come to the Church because I felt that it could only draw us closer to each other.  We have always had an extraordinary closeness, but I had prayed for this day to come, and was very thankful.

The following Easter, he was brought into the Church and I was his sponsor.  When Ian, our eldest son,  received his First Communion about a month later, John was able to receive, too. 

The unusual mystical happenings had begun the previous Christmas eve at bedtime...1994.

Being that we were parents of a newborn, as well as a toddler, a four year old and an 8 year old, that day was very exhausting.  I had promised myself that I would pray a rosary on Christmas day, but after the kids were all put to bed that night, I fell into bed  like a lump of clay.  It was only 9:00 but it felt like midnight.  I had been up most of the night before, helping 'Santa Claus'.  I hadn't had a full night's sleep in months anyway because I nursed my babies, and Maria woke up often several times most nights.

As I drifted off to sleep, I remembered the rosary.  I turned my head to look at John, who was in the same shape that I was.  His eyes were closed and I could tell by his breathing that he was falling asleep.  "John, I forgot to pray my rosary."

One eye popped open.  His drowsy voice answered me.  "I'll pray with you if you would like."  His hand fumbled on the nightstand, trying to locate the rosary beads I had given him on our last anniversary.  At this point in time, John had been in the RCIA program for about three months.

The rosaries were made of pale blue crystal beads, on a silver chain.  I propped myself up and placed our small creche on the bed with us.  Half-heartedly, we began to recite the prayers, and I tried to meditate on the infant in the manger...keeping myself from dozing off was almost painful.

After a couple of minutes, John, who was slumped up against the headboard, leapt up.  He flipped on the lamp next to him and thrust the rosaries under the light. 

"Annie!  What are these rosaries made of?!"  (I thought he had lost it.) "Austrian crystal and some kind of silver metal."  I replied.

He motioned for me to come over and look at them.  He showed me the links on the chain.  "Not silver anymore.  LOOK!"  I examined the chain.  As we were looking at it, it was turning gold colored.

I grabbed them and said, 'Let me see!"  The next thing we knew, we were both kneeling next to our bed and praying with great emotion.

The next day when my parents were at our house, we explained  what had happened.  My mom has a deep faith, but isn't one to look for signs.  I wouldn't say that she scoffed at our story, but she seemed to think maybe there was a logical explanation.

She was looking at the beads up close and said, 'You know what would be even more spectacular?!  If these beads turned gold!  That would convince me."  As we continued to examine the beads, we saw something curious.  One bead, the 3rd bead on the 3rd decade, glimmered under the light.  We turned it and realized that the blue had been replaced by gold--not the entire bead, though.  Just three connected facets of it, which were all golden.  They formed a heart shape.

The 3rd decade in the joyful mysteries of the rosary is the Nativity of Christ, Christmas!  (This all happened at Christmastime.)  Later that day I called some local jewelry shops to ask if they knew of anything that could explain what had happened.  NO ONE could explain.

John and I talked at great length about this and the other occurrences.  We came to the conclusion that God had a purpose for these things.  As a married couple, we had felt all along that we were being called to holiness. 

We felt (and still do) that God wanted us to strive towards this goal and be the best spouses and parents that we could be.  We have always taken this to heart.  The wonderful mystical happenings seemed to come at times when we must have needed a small boost to encourage us.

The times that John and I were touched (by the Holy Spirit?) (in my earlier blog entries) we felt united beyond our wildest imaginations.  There truly are no words to describe this because there is nothing worldly that compares.  This left an indelible memory on our souls.  It was like God said, "I am sealing you with my love."  We were joined to each other and to Him in these episodes. 

More to come later...time to start dinner...


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Roller Coaster Ride...

My last post focused on my spirituality...

Read on...where I reveal so much more...

To recap, I had opened the door to my inner life and shared some rather unusual experiences I've had...

Well, hold onto your hats...

When my mom was going through a terrible health trial, in 1995, I had four very young children.  Ian was 8, Jacob-5, Tony-2, and Maria--still an infant...

Mom had a heart attack.  When she was hospitalized, she was put on the blood thinner, Heparin.  We didn't know that she has a rare clotting disorder.  She lost almost all her blood volume internally before the doctors figured out why she had spiralled downward rapidly.  My mom, always so lively and energetic, clung to life by a thread.  She was barely stabilized after receiving a huge blood transfusion, and then, the unthinkable happened.

Someone ordered that she be put back on Heparin!  A few days into her fragile recovery, where she teetered on the edge of life's cliff, she plunged towards death again.  That night, all alone in her hospital bed, she rang the nurse.  The nurse told  her to 'quit complaining'!  Mom was dying.  She gathered up all the strength she had left and made a phone call to my brother.  She barely could get the words out--'Call Dad.'  My dad, who spent almost every moment with her had gone home to sleep for a few hours.

He raced to the hospital where he found her in the state between life and death.  He demanded that the doctor be notified, against that nurse's admonishment!  When they found out what they had done to her, there was another race to get blood transfused into her.

While this was happening, John began to experience odd and unexplainable things.

It was about this time, I can't recall the exact day or time, that he and I were standing in our kitchen.  We were talking, when he was suddenly seized by something invisible that knocked him to his knees.  I'd never seen anything like this.  (And I never have since.)

He was literally in mid-sentence, when he fell on the floor, with his eyes almost up in his head.  It scared me terribly.  I was already shaky emotionally, and this almost threw me into a panic attack.

He nodded his head (as in 'yes'), and I realized something very unusual was happening.  After a few moments, his gaze, which had been focused upwards, refocused and found me.  He stood up, gathered me into his arms, and said, "God just spoke to me."

My heart pounded.  "What?!"  Okay, this was really WEIRD!

I waited for him to speak.  I could see that he was having a hard time expressing himself, although he looked serene.  It was like he had just come out of a windstorm, and needed to gather his thoughts.

"What did God say to you?"  I pressed.

"He told me to fast for your mom."  That moment, no food touched his lips for the rest of that day.  And the next.  And the next.  And the next.  And the next.  And the next.  And the next.  He was friends with a youthful and exuberant priest and I urged him to go to him and confide this experience to him.

John had not eaten in a week, and was not showing any sign of weakness or lethargy.  My mom was improving and gaining strength.

The last day of the fast was the day I suggested he speak to Fr. B.  Father was rather surprised and he ordered John to start eating again, so out of obedience, he began to eat again.

Do you want to know more?...It is time for me to go to Mass, so look for the rest later...


Friday, May 20, 2011

More about THAT post (wink, wink)

Yesterday's post was confusing for at least one of my readers, so I beg you to read on...

At the very core of all humans, there is a deep longing for love.  What do we want from love?  We want acceptance, approval, admiration, affection, tenderness, concern, humor, consolation, guidance, mutual giving, help, sweetness....

Think of someone that you love so much you would go to any lengths to be with them.  Remember a time when you had to depart from someone--a parent, a spouse, a child, a dear friend--and how it made your heart feel like it had dropped down to your stomach.  Recall a time when the world had you beaten down and discouraged and that person buffeted you with their words of encouragement...when their smile or embrace was a balm for your wounds.  Ponder the times you felt isolated and desolate and someone who loved you pulled you close and their smile was like a mountain spring to your parched spirit. 

People are diverse but we're all wired to love.  That doesn't mean we don't go about it in the wrong way much of the time.  We can find ourselves attached to things or habits to try and fill that void.  That's why we get addicted to shopping, or drugs, or smoking,  or any other number of things. 

Because we're all broken in some way, we tend to get off track and search for fulfillment in things that can never satisfy that yearning. 

I'm a very child-like individual.  I am basically very joyful.  I like to smile.  I am openly affectionate.  It is not difficult for me to express my feelings.  I am fortunate to have this personality. 

I'm glad I'm wired this way because I have found that people welcome joy, light, smiles, affection.  There's so much anger, hurt, unforgiveness, and pain in the world.  I don't want to contribute to that.  Sorry to admit that I'm guilty of that in the past, and sometimes fall into it now.  I don't want to inflict harm, but spread joy where I go.  I'd like to be a little bee, drawing the nectar of love from within and spreading the pollen of joy everywhere I go.

I love God as his daughter.  I love Him as a poor sinner.  I love Him as His creation.  I love Him as the fulfillment to every need that I have.  My relationship with Him is very real, to the point that He has touched my soul.  When He does this, it is rapture

I will reveal to you a little secret I've had.  Over 10 years ago, as John and I were drawing closer to God through a very difficult trial (my Mom's very close brush with death), one day something remarkable happened.

We were standing together, when like a bolt of lightning, something very real and powerful went through me like an electric current.  I felt powerless to move, almost paralyzed with a feeling of total peace, yet powerful at the same time!  A true paradox.  I could scarcely breathe!  For several minutes, I remained in this state, not understanding it in any way.  For some reason, I KNEW what it was, though.  The peace was something beyond my human experience.  It was the touch of God.  I looked at John.  He had tears running down his cheeks and a look of serenity in his eyes.

I knew that he was caught up in the same current.  We didn't speak for several minutes, but remained still.  It was like we were frozen, almost unable to move.  When this magical moment passed, we were again animated, and we began to rush into an excited chatter with each other.  The ecstasy, the rapture, of having been touched was so fresh, it lingered in our hearts for days afterward.

Why did this happen?  Well, it was the start of many such occasions, and other mystical experiences for us as a married couple.  The highest level of human intimacy is unquestionably the  the marital 'act'.  The giving of spouses to one another in this way is deeply bonding, mutually fulfilling, lifegiving.  It is the supreme demonstration of their love, and a renewal of their marital vows.

The encounter with God on that day surpassed the exhiliration of the marial act by a zillion miles.  This, I cannot explain.  The experience was simultaneous for John and I, happening at the very same instant.  It is a mystery as to why it happened, although we have had many, many other experinces that perhaps I will write about.  Because of this, we have some understanding of why God had done this for us.  (After that, it happened on several other occasions.) 

I don't view us as being special in that God has shared something like this with us.  I think we all have the potential to encounter God in ways that can surprise us.  It is all about being open to Him in honestly and sincerity.

If anyone is interested, I'll gladly expound on this, and explain better if you'd like to know what this is all about...

Drop me a line, and I'll blog some more.  :)

And just to let you know--I love each and everyone of my readers/friends.  Each one of you is dear to me in your own special way.  I would do anything I could to build you up in your lives, and I want to smile sunlight onto your rainy days.

More about this in future posts...


Thursday, May 19, 2011

My lover

This morning, I stopped by the drug store to buy the morning paper, then took a leisurely drive through one of my favorite places--Mahaney Recreation Area.  Maintained by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, this is like a little island paradise smack dab in the middle of suburbia.  The best part?  It is a 3 minute drive from my house!

The Shenango river was trying its darndest to pick up enough speed to create its own little rapids, even topped off with white choppy waves.  As I drove over the Kelly Rd. bridge, I felt the familiar tugging to go rendezvous with my secret lover.  Yes, people, I am a happily married lady, but this man continually woos me, and I am only human!  Are you feeling scandalized?  And does John know that I have this affair with someone else?  If he doesn't yet, when he reads this, he surely will.

But, back to Mahaney's.  (The 'a's are prounounced as they are in the word 'man'.  My dad has taught me that over the years because he knew the Mahaney family which this place was named for.)  Most locals mispronounce the second 'a', thinking it sounds like the 'a' in aviator.

I drove up over the little winding road that eventually leads to the resevoir.  Geese pecked at the tall grass by the shore, and the fuzzy goslings stayed at their mother's sides.  I sat and watched them for a spell, but kept thinking about my lover.  I wanted to race into his arms.  Finally, the desire in my heart swelled to the point of no return.

I began to drive to his house.  When I got there, I found him waiting for me, as I knew I would.  He always waits for me.  You're probably wondering what he sees in me, a middle aged housewife and mother of six.  I wonder that, too, especially in light of the fact that he is the ideal man.  He is sweet, thoughtful, generous, kind, gentle, handsome, and loving.  I've gotten to know him pretty well over the years, and he knows me very well. 

This morning, I took off my sandals and got cozy with him.  We embraced and talked a while.  I told him about all the things going on in my life, and he listened to me.  He is the best listener!  He reassured me in my doubts and fears, telling me not to worry about things, just to trust that God will take care of everything. 

I have things to do today (a lot of laundry for one) and I told him that I really should not stay long.  But, his desire for me took me by surprise.  He held onto me with fierce passion.  I am apparently the 'apple of his eye', which is funny because he so easily overlooks my flaws.  It amazes me!  He thinks I am extremely beautiful and special.  How can I not carry on a romance with him? 

As we embraced for a very long time, I told him I needed to leave.  I could tell that he knew that, but wished I could stay.  I stood up and he asked me to blow him a kiss.  That is our little sign between us.  I turned my back to him and could feel his eyes upon me.  As I walked to the front door, I turned and blew him the kiss.  He caught it and beamed.  There was a happy tear in his eye.  How can I not love this man?!

He is so sensitive, but oh, so masculine.  John is a very wonderful husband, so please, don't be alarmed at my clandestine affair.  I love John with my whole heart.  I just cannot resist my other lover's overtures!  They cause me to swoon...yes, I actually said 'swoon'. :D

I closed the door behind me and looked through the glass.  My breath fogged up the little window pane, so I drew him a heart with my index finger to look at when I am gone.  He smiled at that, too.  We have something really wonderful.

He had one final request as I had stepped through the door...he asked me to think of him throughout the day because he wants me to remember him.  I told him I would do my best. 

When I finally walked down his front steps and got into my van, I felt overjoyed to have had the chance to visit my lover, even for a short while. 


Sunday, May 15, 2011


Well, my last post has vanished.  I don't know why or how...


*Sitting on the gymnasium bleachers Friday night (fanning myself with the program and enduring a lady kneeing me constantly in my kidneys), I watched a parade of young people dressed in their best attire for the Junior/Senior prom.  Today at Mass, I was admiring all the lovely flowers around the sanctuary and thinking about the kids I had watched.  They were like the flowers; all so unique, but equal in their beauty.  A lily can not be a rose, and a chrysanthemum cannot be a hyacinth, but all of these are a delight to the eyes!  People are all different, but all so beautiful as well.

*I have a painful condition called Adenomyosis, as well as Endometriosis, and these things completely interfere with my duties in life.  When I am afflicted with symptoms of these conditions (for at least one week out of each month), I find myself confined to bed, unable to barely move, let alone take care of my home and family.  The pain is severe.  I will spare you the details, but it is unbearable.  (And that is while taking Motrin around the clock.)  John and the kids all support me during these trials, and take care of me  the best that they can. 

Something remarkable happened to me while driving this week.  I was anticipating a week or more of suffering, and bracing myself for it.  I thought about how my Father in Heaven is generous and likes me to ask Him for things.  So, I simply said, "Can you help me out, Daddy?  I know you can take this away from me if You want to."  I don't know what it was, but as I coasted to a red light, my belly felt completely light and almost 'cool' inside.  I'd never really felt this, so it is difficult to explain.  At that moment, I felt confident that I would feel good this month. 

Well, the past two days, I should have been in horrible pain, but there is none!  This is the first time that this has happened.  (The Adenomyosis was diagnosed 3 years ago.)  I'm sooooo amazed and joyful about this.  I don't know that this is a temporary reprieve or a permanent healing.  I hope it's the latter, but if not, at least I got a break!!!  Unless you've been through this, there is no way to describe it. 

*School is almost done!  I am glad.  I'm ready for a break.  Some things I like about summer are:

1.) Staying up late w/o feeling pressure that I have to get up at the break of dawn.
2.) Lazy mornings.
3.) Family trips/vacations.
4.) The beach!
5.) Open windows.
6.) Campfires.
7.) Spending time with my kids!
8.) Less hectic schedule.
9.) Spontaneous fun--late night trips to Sheetz, ice cream runs, stargazing at night, renting movies and having all night marathons w/big bowls of popcorn
10.) Lightning bugs

That's just the start of my favorite things!!
I also like mini golf...leisurely trips to the mall...going to Grove City Outlets...Jim and Leah's pool...cookouts...walking barefoot in the rain...

Okay, enough already!!


Wednesday, May 11, 2011


Springtime in western Pennsylvania begins each year quietly behind the scenes.  Long months of pewter skies and gunmetal gray landscapes make for plenty of monotony.

Save for the occasional sighting of a cardinal in the bare tree branches, or the even rarer patch of blue sky, our eyes become accustomed to nature in gray scale.

 Just when we almost forget that color and light exist, the first whisper of spring tickles our ears.  One morning, we are coaxed out of sleep by a long forgotten sound...that of bird chatter.  As the days grow longer, the sun comes up a earlier, and the bird chatter is now a symphony. 

Each day, buds burst forth and proceed to blossom.  Like a color bomb has detonated, there is a mushroom cloud of pigment as far as the eye can see. 

Exquisite fragrances ride on warm breezes, taking us by surprise.  How charming that the flowers delight our eyes and our noses!!  How generous of them to please us so! 

We welcome the sun's warmth with enthusiasm and invite it to stop and 'stay awhile'.  Brooding and melancholic clouds, like parasites that eat our joy, are suddenly banished.  From East to West, the blue sky and wisps of white are all we see.  God wrapped the gift of Spring in color, fragrance and song, just for you and me!

Springtime, I welcome you to my little corner of the world.


Saturday, May 7, 2011

She's ONE of a kind!

In honor of Mother's Day, I dedicate my blog to my mom today...

Toni Ryan is truly indescribable--but, hey, let me take a stab at doing so anyway...

My mom is the eldest of 8 children in her family.  She was born in '29, the year of the stock market crash--is there possibly a link?!  Ha ha.

Mom's full name is Antoinette Mary Wasley Ryan.  She's Irish, German, and Swedish--and very independent!!

I have learned almost everything I know from her, no kidding!  Toni is very tough, yet she's also compassionate and will go to great lengths to help anyone.  She has the softest spot in her heart for anyone who is the 'underdog'. 

When she was of school age, she spent every summer with her grandparents on their farm on Buhl Farm Drive.  She looked forward to that time away from home because she got some attention and freedom to run and play. 

She has reminisced often to me about the grape vineyards on the farm, playing with her cousin Helen, and having to use an outhouse.

Mom read every single book in the school library by the time she was in the upper grade school levels, so the teacher gave her permission to use the high school and public library.  She read books like she breathed oxygen.  At Christmas, she didn't like receiving dolls.  She only wanted books.  If Santa brought her dolls, she let her younger sisters play with them and  swapped them for their books.  She read whatever she could get her hands on.

Mom grew up in the depression.  Her parents lost all their money when the market crashed, and Grandma had to sell her platinum one carat diamond engagement ring to survive.  Grandpa had paid $1,000 for it back in the twenties, so you can imagine what that would be worth today!  I don't know how much she got out of it when she sold it.

Because of that, my grandparents were super cautious about spending money.  They saved every penny and bought their first car with cash.  Mom never had much as far as clothing went.  Grandma always bought  bargains, meaning sometimes the clothes were 2 sizes too big, or Mom wore summer shoes all year to school because they were cheap at the end of the season.

She never had a whole candy bar until she was in 5th grade.  The only reason she got one then is because her teacher bought one for each of her pupils. 

Throughout my life, my mom remained frugal, probably because of the impact of her growing up years.

My mom has a terrible temper, and is very outspoken.  She isn't one to mince words!  Even when she was a child, she would say what was on her mind!  I remember plenty of occasions where she embarrassed me with that feisty temper.  For example, kids were throwing snowballs at our car once, and she screeched to a halt, rolled the windows down and began to loudly chastise the kids.  I shrank down in the back seat.  Hahaha. 

When mom graduated from high school, she found employment at the Westinghouse in Sharon.  She was adamantly against office work because she found it to be dull.  It also paid much less than shop work, so she applied to work in the shop and was eventually moved there.  Mom tried different things throughout the next few years.  She spent a week in Canada on retreat at a Russian baroness' place.  She didn't particularly like it there, so she came back to PA. 

After that, her aunt (Sr. Annella) convinced her to come to Erie and see if she had a religious vocation.  Her spiritual director, Fr. Carter, did not believe she did, but she gave it a shot.  She went to the Benedictine monastery where she quickly realized this was not the life for her.  She lasted six months.

Finally, she decided that she would go to college, become a writer, and move to the west coast to pursue her writing.  She aspired to have a house on a cliff overlooking the ocean.

She enrolled at Youngstown State University, and for the next seven years, worked hard to earn her bachelor's degree.  She majored in Comprehensive Social Studies (she took 60 hours in that one area!) and English. 

She worked 40 hours a week to pay her own way through school.  She was the first person in her family to earn a college degree.  She had very high marks during her schooling.  Many of her professors thought she should pursue medicine because she took classes in cellular biology and other things that weren't related to her field.  She had some of the highest grades, even over her peers who were going into that area!  College was a smorgasboard of educational opportunities, and she went wild with a taste of anything that looked good to her!  I really admire her courage and enthusiasm for learning.

During the time she was nearing graduation, she was introduced to John, my dad.  Her sister Eileen, had married my daddy's next door neighbor and childhood friend, Bill.  Eileen explaned to mom that John was also attending YSU, and maybe they could carpool.  The rest is history! 

Fr. McGovern, the priest how married both couples told them that the Wasley girls were cleaning up on Ellsworth Street!!

Mom taught school in Northeast, Pennyslvania (yes, that's the town's name, it is on the outskirts of Erie), as well as in Sharon at St. Joseph's School and the public schools as a substitute.

When Mom had two children (me and Shaun), she was still teaching, but she quit to stay home when Jim came along.  Mom used all her teaching skills to educate us in so many ways.  She also had a certificate in art that she earned, and she taught me so much about drawing and painting. 

Toni has shown me so many examples of charity in her life.  When I was a child, there was this lady named Katherine who was severly crippled and was seen regularly, walking State Street.  Her legs were twisted, her back was curved and hunched, she was very thin, and I don't know how she managed to walk.  Anytime mom saw Katherine walking, she'd pull over and give her a ride.  Usually Katherine was on her way to Mass at either St. Joseph's (on the east hill), or Sacred Heart (on the west hill).  Anyone familiar with Sharon knows this is quite a walk!  The hills are steep, too.  A person in good health would find it a task to walk from one side of town to the other.

She would pick up strangers who were walking in the rain, and give them a lift.  If she happened upon an accident, there was never any hestitation.  She'd stop and do anything to help.  She has never been one to 'count the cost'.  She is very, very self giving.  Moreso than anyone I have ever met.

Mom's favorite things to do are to read, travel, laugh, write, watch a good movie, eat sweets.  She passed on ther love of all these things to me, her only daughter.  My mom is never without a book.  As a young mother, she always had a book on the back of the chair or couch, lying facedown to keep the page marked.  When she ate any meal, she always had a book on the table.  She'd take a bite every so often as her eyes remained glued to her book.  If it was a paperback, she'd set a butter knife across it to keep it from closing.  LOL.

She and dad are very adventurous and they took us on many long vacations.  (That was the nicest part of my dad's job as a teacher.)  Two times, we spent about 6 weeks of our summer traveling cross country by car, seeing all the sights we could between the east and west coasts.  They instilled in my a love of travelling and an appreciation for the beauty of my country and the world. 

They always took us to Presque Isle (in Erie), which to this day remains my favorite place on earth.  We also made frequent trips to Pittsburgh.  We saw zoos, museums, beaches, etc. 

They took us to Niagara falls, the Grand Canyon, the Rocky Mountains, Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm, the Battleship Houston, NASA, Mojave desert, Las Vegas, Hollywood, and numerous other destinations.

Toni was a great mom!  She didn't get married until she was 31, which, in 1960, was considered to be rather old for marriage.  She didn't really have plans to marry, but when she met my dad, that changed her mind!

Mom has always had a deep devotion to God.  She took me and my brothers to confession on a monthly basis.  Every night my family gathered in the dining room after dinner to pray the rosary.  We never missed Mass--EVER.  She went to great lengths to take us to church to make our First Fridays and First Saturdays.  I remember Dad would have our only car on Friday nights (he used to work the football and basketball games), so Mom would trek with us across town by foot to attend Mass.  Often the weather was horrendous.  I remember walking through a torrential rain to Sacred Heart Church, which was miles from home.  She would often treat us to ice cream sodas after Mass at Isaly's by our home.

The First Fridays and First Saturdays devotions are beautiful in that there are many promises attached to anyone who goes to mass on the first 9 Fridays of the month (or 5 1st Saturdays) and receives Communion.  She didn't want us to miss out on that treasure.

My mom never liked domestic stuff.  She did not enjoy cooking, yet she always made a healthy meal for dinner.  She laughed at her cooking mistakes, which there were many, but I have very fond memories of that stuff.

Once, she burned a pot holder that got too close to the stove top burner, and a friend of ours came to visit.  When he walked in the door, he said, 'MMMM MMM.  What is that delicious aroma?'  We all burst out laughing--"Mom burned a pot holder!".

I am having a dinner here tomorrow for Mom (and dad).  I always love and enjoy spending time with her.  She is truly the best mom God could have given me.  I think back to all the times she comforted me, took care of me, praised me, etc.  She has always been my biggest fan.  And I am hers.

Mom, I love you sooooooo much!!!