Who’s Hungry?

Question:  Should I feel disappointed because I’ve gained 4 pounds in the last 4 weeks? Or should I feel grateful that I’ve only gained 4 pounds in the last 4 weeks?

Under the circumstances, I think the latter is a fair choice.

Exhibits A, B, C, D (just 4 of many, many exhibits. For example, Exhibit D was also exhibit G  about 2 days later, so…you feel me?)

Everyone handles time differently. I assumed I would fill mine with yoga, meditation and running. That’s because I’ve always told myself that if I only had more time, I would spend it practicing yoga, meditation and running.

Well, I’ve had 4 weeks of nothing but time and, as it turns out, when I have time, I feel compelled to feed people, self included. I know there are others out there like me because I keep seeing the hashtag #sourdough. Reveal yourselves. I need your recipes.

Besides that, I’ve been feeling anxious. How about you guys? My husband is still working from home, we have insurance, my older children are working, and we can weather this situation for several months or more, if necessary. No one we know has been infected with Covid-19. We’re very lucky. We hear daily about the new number of cases and the rising death toll. We hear about war torn countries and refugees whose circumstances are, impossibly, even worse than they were two months ago. On television, we see the cars lined up for miles to get food for their families.

When I lay down at night after meandering through another pleasant day at home, the thoughts I’ve kept at bay push their way to the forefront: So many have died; others are sick or at high risk, or filled with dread because they don’t have enough to get by or their homes are not safe; so many have mental health issues to begin with, never mind the onslaught of a pandemic. How many people are alone in this? How are the kids? I feel anxious for all of these people. I feel anxious that our circumstances could change. I feel guilt, too, for being lucky and for hoping we stay that way; for avoiding risk and for enjoying this slower pace of life. Sleep never seems to come some nights.

How are you doing? How are you feeling?

Chicken out

I Don’t Know Who Needs to Hear This but…

I’ve been seeing this statement everywhere lately, followed by words of encouragement, criticism or humor. Where did this trend come from? On snarkier days, I stand solidly behind the notion that if you don’t know who needs to hear something, you should refrain from sharing rather than subjecting strangers to your hubris.

However, given the social distancing most of us are (hopefully) engaged in right now, maybe it’s just as good a way as any other to spread positivism.

Once, I was the person who needed to hear something. I was stressed out about some things and not talking about it, as is my wont. My brain was a squirrels’ nest, and the pressure was mounting but I marched on through the motions of work and family, ignoring the squirrels gnawing away up there, not wanting to give negativity too much space in my head. You can guess how that was working out.

One morning, I left my office just off the hotel lobby to speak with the front desk. It’s my habit to scan the lobby area for trash whenever passing through and that day I noticed a piece of paper on an end table. It was folded a couple of times over. I looked around for a possible owner and, not seeing anyone, I opened it, like the Nosy Parker I am.

It said, “It will get better”. That’s it. Just a simple message on a small slip of white paper written in neat script using a blue pen.

I still have that piece of paper. Not only was it the message I needed, it captured my imagination. I’ve thought many times over the years about who wrote it and to whom and for what reason. I’ve imagined a wife tucking it into a worried husband’s suit pocket. Sometimes, it was an encouraging message someone’s mom wrote. Other times I’ve conjured a lonely, weary Road Warrior attempting a self-soothing technique picked up in an online counseling session or a Brene Brown video.

Mostly, I’ve marveled at how the Universe delivers the messages we need when we manage to keep the lines open.

And so, in these disquieting times, I don’t know who else needs to hear it, but my tea bag had this to say…. 

Yogi message

If you need me, I’ll be at home learning to simplify. And I already know it will all get better.

What messages have you received lately?

Stay safe my friends.

Chicken out




My youngest daughter visited over the holidays. Some of you may recall a post I wrote about this daughter several years ago. When I wrote it, I wasn’t sure she’d reach her next birthday, never mind milestones like college, career and children, and I was also beginning to comprehend that I couldn’t fix her problems. I thought she might die. I was worn down and the reservoir of hope I had been drawing from was nearly dry. One morning, without any real intention, I wrote it all down. It was a purge, an attempt at relief, but it was never intended for publication. I write a lot of posts that I never publish; they need work or they’re boring, or they’re whiny or trite or, as was the case that day, too raw. As soon as I finished the last sentence, however, I clicked the publish button. It felt defiant at the time. Where I come from, where a lot of us come from, we don’t talk about family trauma in public. We suck it up and take care of our own. In retrospect, my defiance was self-preservation. I needed to talk about it, about her, our relationship, and about everything that sucks about addiction; the pain, the need, the shame, and the relentless cycle. Publishing that post helped me start a conversation that I never could have initiated verbally. I broke through a barrier that day. I accepted her disease and my limitations. I asked for help. I got it from you. I’m grateful.

Today, through the grace of God and her own resolve, R is clean and sober, almost a college graduate, and the mother of a happy, charming toddler. I’m grateful every day that she fought, and continues to fight, for her recovery. I’m grateful that I reached out when I was so close to giving up. I believe it made a difference. If you were one of the people who read that story and responded, thank you for your kindness, your prayers, and for holding us in your thoughts. I was able to spend the last holidays with all of my children and grandchildren. I know that not everyone is so fortunate.

If you or someone you know is suffering and you need to talk about it, I will listen, not judge, share if you want me to, and hold you in my heart, the same as was done for me. You just let me know, okay? We’re better together.





Never give up

Okay I’m In!

Jenny from Procrastinating Donkey posted a questionnaire and I feel like participating today. As Jenny says, feel free to answer some or all of the questions yourself in the comments, or do a post of your own!

1. What was the last thing you put in your mouth?
I’m drinking Vanilla Sleepytime Tea right now. It’s not working.

2. Pajamas or gown?
Pajamas all the way all day. Okay, not all day but if I could get away with that I probably would.

3. Worst physical pain you’ve ever been in?
That would be labor. Which labor, now, that should be the question. The first one, probably, because not knowing what to expect made it worse. But then again, with the ones that come after, you know what to expect, so that could be worse. Hmmm. Guess it’s best to focus on the result not the pain.

4. Favourite place you’ve ever been?
We go to Rockport, ME every summer. I think that’s my favorite-so many happy memories.

5. How late did you stay up last night?
I burned the midnight oil. Tonight, I won’t.

6. If you could move somewhere else, where would you move to?
So.Many.Places. Parisscotlandirelandlondonwalessandiegovermontcoloradomaine.

7. Christmas or New Year?
Neither. Saturdays.

8. When was the last time you cried? It’s been a long time. 

9. What’s the last photo on your phone?
It’s a photo of my youngest who just got his bottom braces put on today. They look good

10. Two of your favourite movies?
I’m going to date myself here, but Jaws…I also am fond of Practical Magic, Witches of Eastwick and The Love Letter. Apparently, I like movies that take place in quintessential New England seaside villages.

11. What’s your favourite season?
Summer followed by fall. I wish all year round could be summer and fall.

12. Which famous person would you like to meet?
You know what game we should play next? Who would you invite to your dinner party. Because it’s hard to pick just one famous person I’d like to meet. Mostly, they are artsy types, musicians, people from Ted Talks, people from history or made up characters in novels/movies. Ernest Hemingway comes to mind, also Annie Liebovitz, Alice Waters, Georgia O’Keefe, Springsteen, and the two aunts in Practical Magic.

13. If you could talk to ANYONE right now, who would it be?
My parents. They both died and I’d like to know where they are, what it’s like there.

14. Are you a good influence?
Depends on who is being influenced. I can go either way;-)

15. Does pineapple belong on a pizza?
Not on my pizza.

16. You have the remote; what show would you be watching right now?
Something vapid and trashy, which is why I try not to watch television. I’m drawn to bad TV like a Kardashian to social media.

17. Three people who you think will play along?
Pompeo, McConnell and Barr

18. First concert? Doobie Brothers. My siblings and my cousin were going so my mother offered to get me a ticket, as well. I was 14. This was in the days when tickets to concerts didn’t cost half your take home pay. I’d like to say I loved it but I was never a big Doobie Brothers fan. I wish it had been Springsteen before he was “Springsteen”…that would have been something. These days, I prefer less loud entertainment but there’s a few people I’d still like to see.

19. Favourite food?
Burrito bowl with quacamole and sour cream

20. When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?
An artist, a musician, a restaurateur, and a writer

21. Bonus Question: What’s your favorite all time book? Can you pick just one?


The Chicken Family: Sort of like The Partridge Family, but with less talent and more husbands



I’ve told you stories about my family but I’ve never explained my family. This is because that’s complicated. But I’m feeling expansive tonight so what the heck, here goes. In short, it’s a big, messy, beautiful love story.

Let’s ease into it with this also familiar story line…

Here’s the story of a lovely lady

Who was bringing up three very lovely girls (and two boys)

All of them liked to fish and play cards like their mother

The youngest one was Mike

And here’s the story of a man named Butter

Who met the woman and her kids and fell in love

So they married and had my brother and became a happy family

(and here, folks, is where our story takes a hard left)

Until I showed up a few years later and ruined it for everyone

I hear I was a handful

First came divorce and then my father took my brother and me

To live with his Aunt who was about his age, don’t ask, it’s complicated

Who introduced him to another very lovely lady

Which is how I got my stepmom

My dad and she had three more kids, which made me almost the oldest

Except when I visited my mom and siblings

Where I metamorphosed into the baby (Gotta love me)

And that is why I often feel out of place

Because you can’t be almost oldest and simultaneously the youngest and be normal

Am I the bossy one, the spoiled one, the peacemaker?

How would I know?

I’m birth-order confused.

Then again, it’s sort of my super power. I’m highly adaptable.

I almost forgot to mention Tony, another lovely fellow

Who married my mom and become our Stepdad

It was a match made in heaven or at least the VFW

And finally we all lived happily ever after

Tony couldn’t have kids

But I forgot about the other father. The first father of this story.

He got married again, too, to Hazel

Another very lovely lady

And they had three lovely kids

This is crazy isn’t it?

It gets crazier.

Because my mother and Hazel, they became best friends

And that’s how I grew up with, essentially, 12 siblings, three fathers and three mothers, a bunch of German shepherds, a few generations of cats, and other assorted animals

Of course, three of those siblings were not actually related to me, it just seemed that way

It was siblinghood by proximity

Until I went through puberty and decided I liked one of them

Like “LIKE” liked. So we went out.

It didn’t last long.

But I had you going there for a minute, didn’t I?

And now you understand me

Chicken out












Take a Letter, Maria

Address it to my friend Doug.

Dear Doug,

I don’t have a Maria in my life so I have to write my own letters. This letter is for you, and you no doubt get the musical reference, corny as it is.

I’ve been thinking about you a lot lately and would have called except I don’t know your number. Or if you have a phone. This blog is the only way I know to get in touch with you. When I write a blog post, I’ll inevitably get a blog comment that starts , “Yay Chicken posted again”, before launching into an entertaining and relevant story about one time or another from a seemingly endless well of stories. I love seeing that line and I love those stories.

I’ve been trying to think, for the last week, of something interesting to post, something epic, in order to solicit Doug comments, but my words are sluggish. I blame Thanksgiving and leftover stuffing.  I finally decided to just write you a letter to see how you are doing. Why not? How are you? Did the weather clear up finally? Did you get your windows fixed? Is your car safe to make the drive to Yosemite? Are you there yet? Do you have access to the internet? Are you okay?

I know that’s a lot of questions. It should keep you busy for awhile. I look forward to your imminent response. Take care of you, Doug. Can’t wait to hear what Yosemite is like. It was Yosemite, wasn’t it?



Vi Chronicles: In Which Peggy Lou is NOT Washing Any More Dishes

Of course, you know about my big sister, Peggy Lou. I’ve mentioned her here a few times. There was the night she took my brother and me to visit the devil who lived at the church in town, and that other time she let me go canoeing by myself. One might think that Peggy Lou had it in for me, but that was not the case. She loved me, and, even if she WAS a terrible babysitter, she took her big sister role seriously. A little too seriously for my liking. While my other older siblings expressed their affection appropriately, with money, toys and attention, Peggy Lou felt compelled to contribute to the development of my moral character. She thought I needed help becoming a good person. I thought this was rich coming from the woman who once put me in a box and hid me in a dark basement during a game of hide and seek gone terribly wrong but that’s a story for another day.

In this story, it was Thanksgiving and Peggy Lou had just returned from hunting. As she walked by me, perched like a cat, self-satisfied and amused, on a chair somewhere in the vicinity of our mother, I saw the briefest glint flash in her eye, and the corner of her mouth lifted in a way that suggested a smile but not a “Ha ha” smile, more of a “Gotcha” kind of a smile. It was as though a mental box had just been checked off in Peggy Lou’s brain. My eyes narrowed suspiciously in response. What was she up to? I knew time would tell. I managed to control my fight or flight urge long enough to partake several times of the delicious Thanksgiving bounty spread across the countertops in my Aunt’s kitchen. Afterwards, on tryptophan overload, I sidled off to the living room for a little rest and relaxation before dessert. I didn’t want to be anywhere near Peggy Lou with her glinty eyes and also thought it best to stay out of the way of the cleaning up, which, tradition dictated, had to be done before the pies could be served.

I was curled up most comfortably on the couch, eyes glazed over, mouth hanging open, staring towards the television, when in walked Peggy Lou. I groaned inwardly. There’d be no napping with her in the room. She tossed a dish towel my way.

“Your turn”, she smirked.

“My turn?” I looked up at her. I was honestly baffled.

“I had my turn drying dishes and now it’s your turn”, she explained.

I couldn’t believe my ears. I had never been asked to wash the dishes. Peggy Lou must have gotten food poisoning or froze her brain out in the woods or something. She was obviously confused. Wait until I told my mother about this one. Then I remembered my mother didn’t ever do dishes. She made her kids do it. And I was her kid. This was not looking good for me. I could claim I was too young to wash the dishes but that went against every bone in my almost teen-aged body. I had recently taken to claiming I was old enough to ride into town alone on my bike and maybe even practice driving the car around the neighborhood. Did I really want to risk the inroads I was making with those arguments with a paradoxical claim that I was too young to do menial housework? And yet, no self-respecting almost teenager wants to be included on the dish drying rotation, either. I didn’t even know how to dry dishes. I looked around the room for some support. Everyone kept their eyes on the television. I wasn’t the only one who didn’t like to mess with Peggy Lou’s sensibilities. I wouldn’t be getting any help from these turkey-addled cowards.

“No pie until the dishes are done.”, Peggy Lou reminded. As if I needed reminding.

I sighed. There was no sense negotiating with Peggy Lou when she was threatening bad outcomes. I wouldn’t be the popular cousin if I held up the dessert train. These people wanted their pie. A few of them didn’t really need it but I did. I slunk nervously into the kitchen and manned the position next to my cousin, CCool, who was already elbow-deep in soapy water. Precocious as she was, she’d been washing dishes for years even though she was only two years older than me. She had her own snowmobile and her own horse, too. She might as well have been 32. She rinsed a dish and handed it to me. I dried it and put it on the counter. She handed me another one. I dried it and put it on the counter. We fell into a rhythm. Hey. This was easy. Leave it to Peggy Lou, I thought, to make it seem like some big imposition. Honestly, she was so lazy sometimes.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.

Chicken out

It’s not blinking it’s winking…

That’s what I’m telling myself right now because the page is empty and the cursor is expecting me to do something but I’m not sure what to do. It’s just blinking and I don’t know whether to turn right or turn left. Should I tell the story about the swing in my uncle’s back yard that was like something out of a Fragonard painting? Or should I tell you about wanting to reference, in the story about my uncle’s swing, a specific painting of a woman on a swing that I remember being really popular with some of my friends who also happened to smoke a lot of pot back in the seventies and how I couldn’t remember the artist’s name, couldn’t find the image, but did find the Fragonard paintings, which are also very idyllic, much like the swing in my uncle’s back yard. Should I venture into the past? Or pull from the present? Does it matter?

And the cursor just kept blinking. No answers there. I suppose I could talk about my doctor’s appointment this morning and how all through the weekend I anticipated the doctor saying, “Good for you, you’ve lost weight since we last saw you!” But she didn’t say that. She asked me if  I wanted a flu shot. One should not look to one’s doctor for validation, I realized.

This was going to be tougher than I anticipated.

That’s when I realized that the cursor wasn’t blinking at me. The cursor was winking at me, trusting that I, ruler of my small kingdom of chicken stories, would choose the right one for today.

My aunt and uncle had a swing in back of their house. It’s probably still there. The thick, twisted ropes hung from a branch that must have been 30 feet up in the air and the seat was made of a piece of old wood a couple inches thick. You could stand on the seat while someone pushed it from behind and go so high it felt like you were flying and also a little dangerous. In fact, it was a little dangerous. It was mostly shady back there but some sun would filter down through the leaves and shine in your eyes, prompting you to shut them tight and lean back, letting your arms go straight and sticking out your legs, just enjoying the the ride and the sensation of moving through the air, sightless, except for the changes in the light playing across your eyelids. The last time I was out back by the swing was after my uncle’s funeral. There were a group of us…another uncle, his stepson, my cousin, some second cousins, I think. The kids were swinging and the grown ups were catching up with each other. Everyone changes while some things, like that old swing, seem to stay unchanged, or maybe that’s just in my memory, too, in the same place where my uncle sits grinning at us, about to say something snarky and guaranteed to get us laughing.

What memory popped up for you today from the past?

Chicken out


It’s a small world after all. Or is it?

I’ve become friendly with the guy who runs the garage where I take my car. I first took it there because it was conveniently located across the street from my employer. That was a couple of jobs ago. I still take it there because I can always talk to Sam about my car without him getting exasperated or patronizing. He always says, “Don’t worry. We’ll take a look”. When I pick the car up, he always smiles and offers me a drink or something to eat and we have a nice chat. Sometimes his wife and little daughter are there. Her name is Sam, too. He laughed as he told me the story of how he convinced his wife to name their daughter after him. They recently had a little boy. I saw him earlier this week and he told me he’d be going home around Christmas for a visit. He was looking forward to it. I asked where home was. He’s from Lebanon. When I got home, I got out my globe and searched for Lebanon. I had an idea it was part of the Middle East, but no solid idea of its exact location. I found it, right there at the apex of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Syria and Israel. Lebanon has mountains and beautiful beaches and a lot of cedar trees. There is a cedar tree on its flag. When I picked up my car, I asked Sam which town in Lebanon he’s from. He’s from Batroun, North of Beirut, south of Tripoli. It’s a touristy area and one of the world’s oldest cities. It has a population of about 45 thousand, which is about half of my town’s population. His family has a refreshment stand there, where they sell lemonade, beer, ice cream and what not. He worked there before he came to America to help his brother with the garage. His mom didn’t want him to go. He liked working in the family business, he liked the weather, but he came anyways.

If I had learned about Lebanon in school or from the news or a book, I probably would have glazed over and tuned out. It’s so far away. In fact, I probably did exactly that. I know that if  you had asked me about Lebanon I would have said it’s in the Middle East and If you had then asked me what I thought Lebanon might have been like, I would have said there’s probably war and refugees and human rights abuses and patriarchy because that’s what I hear in the news. It’s not a place I’ve ever wanted to visit. I’m not well traveled and I know I think of other places within the parameters of my limited knowledge, positive and negative. It makes those places small and one dimensional. Hearing about Lebanon from a homesick native son, about the old buildings, the beautiful beaches, the citrus trees, the weather and his family was enlightening and helped me to see that I’m not doing myself any favors. Hearing about Lebanon from Sam inspired me, it made me wonder what it would be like to walk the narrow streets between the old buildings, to swim in the sea, to experience the culture there. It’s so easy to dismiss or fear places you’ve never been and people you’ve never met, to assign everyone to a stereotype. The older I get, the more I’m aware that fear is a mad tyrant and fear of other people and cultures seems to be more of an issue now, not just in this country. I know I’m guilty and I know I can do better. Maybe the antidote to fear is curiosity, communication, and kindness.

Off Balance

I was on a roll for awhile. I was a rolling stone. There was no moss in sight. The train had left the station, there was no stopping me, the wheels were turning…

And it felt so good. I felt so alive, so on top of my game. I was getting everything done, waking up early, eating right, exercising, maintaining. I had achieved….balance.

Do you know how long I’ve been chasing that elusive state? Some people are born steady and consistent. They think things through, they maintain focus, they put one foot in front of the other. They make good choices. That was not me. I was born a little more slap dash, my drummer a little more offbeat. I chased what was of interest in the moment and that changed often. I lacked depth and consistency. I did not lack spontaneity.  I’ve heard it said that if you have curly hair you want straight hair, if you have straight hair you want curly hair, if you have no hair, you maybe want some hair, and if you have hair, maybe you shave your head. I didn’t want spontaneity. I wanted consistency. I craved Balance.

And I finally got there, at least I thought I had. But then one day, recently, okay Monday, I woke up and I didn’t feel like meditating. I did it anyways. At lunchtime I didn’t feel like walking but I did it anyways. I came home and I didn’t feel like making anything healthy for dinner but  I did anyways. I thought, tomorrow’s another day. Tomorrow, I’ll be back in my groove. My groovy balanced state of being. The next day I didn’t feel like meditating so I didn’t. I didn’t feel like walking so I didn’t. I came home and felt like eating ice cream so I did. Then I went to bed early because I thought, I’ve got to get over this, got to get back on track.

But I think that train may have left the station without me.

I’m not sure what tipped the scales out of whack. I know that it will come back because I’ve gotten quite good at chasing balance. In fact, haven’t you heard? Chasing balance is the new Balance. Maybe tomorrow I’ll try yoga.

How has your balance been or do you care? How do you maintain it or do you? Asking for a friend.

Chicken out

Here’s a good song on the subject:  Christine and the Queens: Tilted



Mind the Wanderings

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