My Real Life

December 31, 2013

Twenty Wishes for 2013 – Final Update

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

One year ago, I came up with twenty wishes for 2013.

They were goals that I hoped to achieve in the year.

Nothing too lofty…all attainable.

Just things that I really, really wanted to do in 2013.

So, I guess it’s time to take stock and see what I did and did not achieve from my list.

1. Take the family to DisneyWorld. We’ve been talking about doing this for quite awhile and just haven’t done it. I want this to be the year.

Didn’t happen.

We started to make plans to go in the fall, and then in July, I was promoted to administration and suddenly, everything changed.

So, this will be on the list for 2014, in the number one position and it is a non-negotiable.
2. Get a playset for the backyard. I want the kids to play outside more, and I know my kids and a playset would definitely do it.

Didn’t happen.

We picked one out, were ready to buy and then found out that our backyard has too much of an incline for a playset to go in without having the ground graded first.

So, that is a huge project and the end result is that neither of these things happened.


3. Get weight down by 9 pounds AND KEEP IT THERE. 

Didn’t happen.

In fact, I gained 15 pounds between July and December due to the job change.

Why due to the job change?

Because there is a lot more sitting in administration than there is in teaching.

Tons of work while I’m sitting, but I’m still sitting.

And that’s not good.


4. Incorporate more vegetables into the family diet.


Not by a lot, it happened.


5. Make $1,000 by selling on eBay.

Didn’t happen.

I started out like gangbusters, but just didn’t keep up the momentum.


6. Get blog readership to 200 per day average.

Happened, then lost it.

I was doing great.

So great.

And then I got the new job, which meant longer hours, and  a lot of my blogging was done after work but before the kids got home from school.

Now, I get home after the kids do and when they go to bed at night, I crash.

I’m working on a plan to get my writing done because it’s important to me.


7. Make home office neat, organized, and functional.


I bought a writing desk and THAT is neat and organized and functional, but the rest of the office is not.

My plan was to work on the office over the summer, but the new job came the first week in July and it’s a 12 month job, so no summer hours to work on the home office.


8. Read 50 books (and keep track!)



Read some great books and read some doozies, this year, but as of December 27th (when I’m actually writing this) I have read 55 books this year.

Actually, I’ve read a few more than that, because I know there were a few that I didn’t log.
9. Get pictures hung. We’ve been here a year and a half and haven’t hung up our pictures yet. Drives me nuts.


It finishes the house and makes me feel good!
10. Have family photo taken.


Just didn’t get to it.
11. Really go through my closet and be ruthless with getting rid of what I don’t wear.

No, again.

Although, this week, I’ve been starting to take a look at things and go through them.
12. Play piano at least once a week. I teach piano lessons, so I am always at the piano, but I rarely carve out the time to play for myself. I went to college as a vocal and piano performance major and I feel like I’m neglecting that part of myself.

Big yes for the first half of the year and big no for the second half of the year.
13. Only eat out once a week, if at all.


Did well at this.
14. Write in my journal more often. I only wrote in it twice in 2012, so anything would be an improvement! I think keeping the blog up every day takes it’s place, but they have different purposes and I don’t want to neglect my journal writing.

Not even close.

I may have written in my journal a total of three times all year.
15. Really learn about self-publishing to see if it is an option for my novel.


Didn’t happen.
16. Re-edit my novel.


Although, I did join a writer’s group and have been writing for them and I’ve been enjoying that immensely.

So, I haven’t gone back to my novel, but I have been doing some other exciting writing, so I kinda feel like that’s a win.
17. Shred and pare down all of our files.


Had planned for that for summer.

Didn’t happen.
18. Sell the van.


Sold the van and oh, how sweet it is.
19. Take more pictures.

Can you guess?

First half of the year, pictureful.

Second half of the year, pictureless.
20. Spend more time outside.

Yes…even after the new job switch, when I was home, I was outside, with the kids, which is why most of those other things just never got done.

I made a decision that because I wasn’t going to be home as often, when I was going to be home, I was really going to be present, and in that, I believe I really succeeded.

And you know what, I think that this success makes the rest of the failures seem way less important.

December 29, 2013

Then Change the World

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 1:45 pm

There are homeless people in my town.

There always have been.

It’s a beautiful town with a center called “The Green” and the homeless sit on benches, unnoticed, unobserved.

Not all of our homeless are invisible, however.

When I was a kid, one of the homeless men in town sued the library because they asked him to leave because he was harassing patrons and he smelled bad.

He won, but it was later overturned.

He has gone on to sue the railroad and other organizations throughout the years, sometimes with success and sometimes without.

But, while he may be the most “famous” of our homeless, he’s not the person who most people speak of.

That honor goes to Marianne.

When I was a kid, everyone called Marianne “The Dirt Lady” or “The Mud Lady.”

Since I was a child, Marianne has walked the streets of my town, covered in self-tanner, heavy makeup, with white-out on her teeth to make them pretty.

The New York times even had a piece on Marianne in 1998.

Marianne has good days and bad days.

When I was in my early twenties, I was substitute teaching, but I also worked in a card store on the Green.

Marianne would come in and would fix her hair and makeup while looking in her reflection in our flower cases.

Some days she would come in, do her business and leave.

Other days, she would walk around the store, loudly ranting, yelling at me, yelling at the customers, until the boss would gently and quietly ask her to leave.

She always left without issue.

Everyone who lives in my town knows Marianne.

However, most of the people in my town have never spoken to her.

The police look out for her, as do the shop owners and small business people.

But, the majority of the residents register her presence and then move on, rendering her as invisible as the next homeless person that they have stepped around or over or by, without a second glance.

This morning, my Dad was preaching at our church.

Our church is located on the Green.

He asked me if I would come and do the prayers and the readings for him.

He doesn’t ask this often, careful not to abuse the fact that he knows I’ll say yes, and so I was happy to do so.

The service began, and I sat, up, behind the pulpit, as my Dad preached.

I’m not sure at what point Marianne entered the building, but when I got up to say the prayer for the offering, there she was, sitting in the back of the church, bags at her feet, head down, resting or praying or listening, or just being in the warm, dry, quiet of the church.

The service continued, and when it was over, my Dad and I made our way to the back of the church, as the organist played the last piece of the morning.

People began to join us in the back of the church, shaking hands, saying good morning, catching up about their Christmas celebrations, and just sharing in some fellowship.

My attention was on the people filing past my Dad and I, at the door.

At one point, someone was speaking with my Dad about something that was clearly confidential, and so I turned my head to observe the crowd.

And there, I found Marianne, in the middle of it all, happily chatting with one of the parishoners who was asking her about how she was doing and talking with her about life in town.

Another woman came over to Marianne and invited her to the refreshment table and gave her some donuts and juice, and then also began to converse with her, as if she were simply another member of the church that was standing there in her Sunday best without shoe polish in her hair and every piece of clothing that she owned on her body or in the garbage bags at her feet.

People wished her a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year and asked if there was anything she needed.

People walked by and said hello, and touched her on the arm, on the shoulder, on the hand.

They touched her, and I couldn’t help but wonder how long it had been since she had felt the warmth of a human touch, given out of kindness and compassion, with no ulterior motive other than to provide comfort.

By the time everyone began to empty the back of the church, I walked to the table to get some water and Marianne was gathering her bags.

The woman behind the refreshment table said to her “Marianne, are you sure you don’t want to take some of these with you?” and Marianne said “No, thank you…I’m fine now” and she waved goodbye, and we waved and said goodbye back and she left.

I got my own coat and purse, said goodbye to my Dad and stepped out into the rainy morning.


When my Dad preaches, he often ends the service by saying “Go now, and spread the good news, and if the world is not ready to hear the good news…then change the world.”

I’m the first to admit, my relationship with religion is shaky, and so, to me, “good news” can mean a variety of different things.

This morning, for me, the good news is the evidence of human kindness that I am so often searching for and not often finding.

And so I am sharing with you, this good news.

And in doing so, I am hoping, so desperately, that I am able to be the change I wish to see in the world.

December 26, 2013


Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 4:22 pm

I’ve documented, here, many times, the fact that I am the only child of two only children.

That, often left to my own devices, my imagination ran wild and I kept myself busy with stories in my head, books in my hands, and a pen at my fingertips.

People will say, “It must be very different for you to have four kids,” and they are right.  I have no frame of reference for so very many of the things that come with having more than one child, but I’ve learned as I’ve gone, and I’m still figuring it out with each new experience.

People will also say “How wonderful for you to have married into such a big family!” and they are absolutely right.  However, I’m not sure anyone can really understand exactly how different it is, unless they’ve been there.

Christmas is the perfect example.

When I was a kid, I’d wake up on Christmas and I’d have to wait until my Grandparents came over before we could open presents.  They lived a few towns away and weren’t early risers, so presents weren’t really opened until around 11 or 12, and that’s only if my Dad wasn’t preaching that morning.  If my Dad had to preach, presents were dealt with in the afternoon.

When my grandparents got there, my Mom pulled out the tray of assorted danishes and pastries, and they drank coffee and chatted while I wolfed down my danish and sat, waiting for them to finish.

When they were finally ready, I’d distribute the gifts to the people to whom they belonged and we would, in a very orderly fashion, open our gifts.

Dad would open a gift.

Mom would open a gift.

Grandma would open a gift.

Grandpa would open a gift.

I’d open a gift.

Dad would open a gift.

Mom would open a gift.

Grandma would open a gift.

Grandpa would open a gift.

And on and on and on.

When we were done, the adults would begin chatting again and I’d start reading.

Eventually, my grandparents would leave and I’d keep reading, and my parents would join me, in front of the fireplace, in the living room, with their new books, and they’d read too.

We’d read and restoke the fire and read and read and read, and the house would be silent.

One…or two…or all of us…would doze in and out, throughout the day, and then we’d wake up and keep reading.

By the end of the day, my Mom and I would have finished at least two of the books we got for Christmas and my Dad would be halfway done with one of his.

Dad snoozed a little more than Mom and I did.

And that was Christmas.

Don’t get me wrong…I actually loved it.

It was what I knew and it was warm and cozy and comfortable.

Christmas today is a little different.

Yesterday, Monkey in the Middle woke up at 3:15.  I know this because I heard him get out of bed, go down the stairs, then nothing for about 5 minutes, then he came back upstairs, directly to my side of the bed to let me know that Santa had come.

I mumbled, “Oh, that’s so exciting!  Go back to bed,” and he padded off to his sister’s room, where he and his sister and brother were having a Christmas Eve sleepover and heard him tell them the same story.

Five minutes later, he arrived, back in my room, crying.

“Monkey Girl said I’ve ruined Christmas!” he sobbed.

“Huh?  How?”

“She said that because I went downstairs and saw some of the things sticking out of the stockings and told them that I’ve ruined the whole thing.”

“She’s 12.  Don’t sweat it.  Go back to bed.”

“No, I don’t want to snuggle with someone who said I ruined Christmas.  Can I sleep here?”

So, Mr. Knees and Elbows crawled into bed with Real Man and I and as I tried to go back to sleep, he flipped and flopped, completely unable to go back to sleep, thinking about the presents he had seen under the tree.

Which meant that I was unable to go back to sleep.

Around 6, he asked “When can we wake you guys up?” and I said “7:00” and  he went back to his sister’s room and the three of them whispered, all sins forgiven, for an hour.

At 7, on the nose, all three of them came in, to my side of the bed, as always, and said “It’s time!!!” and so Real Man and I got out of bed while the big kids grabbed Tiny, and down we headed.

They went through their stockings, opened their presents, cheered, exclaimed, clapped and said many thanks for what they got.

Real Man and Monkey in the Middle went to begin assembling MitM’s new bubble hockey (minus the bubble) game, Baby started working on his Dr. Who Lego set, Monkey Girl began playing her new DS game, and Tiny played with his US map puzzle, while I began trying to erase all evidence of our Christmas together as I prepared for Christmas: Part Deux – My Parents.

The morning went on with the assembly of the hockey game taking a full two hours, but everything was cleaned up, and my Mother showed up at noon, armed with presents.

My father, who had to preach because some things never change, was supposed to meet her here around 12:15, but the church custodian was ill, so my Dad had to stay after and do all the clean up after the service, including the washing of all of the communion glasses.

If you aren’t Presbyterian, you may not know that our communion consists of drinking out of little, tiny glasses…one per customer.  The Christmas Day service is well attended.  My Dad didn’t show up here until 1:20.

Once again, there was present opening, thanks given, and then the boys went to hide their most precious gifts, (Hess trucks and hockey game) so they wouldn’t be damaged in Christmas: Part Three – The Cousins.

Around 2, my in-laws started arriving.  By 3:15, there were 27 of us in the house.

There was eating, laughing, talking, arguing (because there are 16 grandchildren and it’s bound to happen), making up, and just relaxing.

We sat and ate lasagna and meat sauce and salad and bread and cookies and pie and chocolate and drank wine and beer and soda and cider and just were together.

At some point, my father-in-law gives out presents to the kids.  He tries to do it in age order, but that never quite works out and it’s like a mosh pit of wrapping paper and sweaty little bodies squealing with delight, hugging Grandpa, and trading toys and playing with everyone else’s stuff.

At one point, I looked over at my father and his eyes were wide with wonder at the sheer…activity…of it all, but his eyes were wide above a broad smile at the evidence of love and familiarity in the room.

So, Christmas today is very different from the Christmas of my childhood, and as I said, it is the best example of the differences between my childhood and the childhood of Real Man, for whom yesterday was his typical childhood Christmas.

And while I remember those Christmases of my youth very fondly, and admit to escaping to sit on my bed, yesterday, for a minute or two just to get my head together while everyone cavorted in the kitchen below, I’m so happy that this is the experience that my children get to have.

To be in the presence of such love…such big, big love…and to get to grow up completely surrounded by family at every turn…that’s Christmas and it’s so, so good.



December 9, 2013

Her Own Way

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

When my daughter was 5, she took a ballet class.

All of her little friends were taking dance classes and she was desperate to take one, too.

I wasn’t convinced this was going to be something that really “stuck” so rather than sign her up at a dance school, I found a $45 beginning ballet class at our local community school.

We went out and bought the required pink leotard, tights and slippers, and my little girl was beside herself with excitement in the days leading up to her first class.

We walked into the studio and there were about eleven other little girls, clutching the legs of their mothers who were chatting with each other.

When everyone was there, the teacher said it was time to begin, and so everyone pried their ballerinas from their legs and the moms went to the hallway to wait while the girls went to sit in a circle in the middle of the floor.

I had brought a book to read, so I sat on the floor and began to read.

The rest of the moms crowded around the door, anxiously, looking through the small, square window.

“Oh my Gooooodness!  They are SOOOOOO adorable!”

“Look at Cassie!  Good girl with that plie!”

“I can’t believe how fast Sara can pirouette! Did she learn that from you?”

I sat there, alternately reading my book and listening to their chatter, and eventually, my curiosity got the best of me.

I stood up and brushed off my pants, imagining what I would see when I looked through the window.

My girl, clearly, would be the star of the show.

I was sure she was plie-ing and pirouetting with the best of ’em, and that her ballet positions were putting every other little girl to shame.

As I neared the windows, the mothers parted like the Red Sea with looks that I couldn’t quite identify.

I was pretty sure it was jealousy.

Then, I peeked through the window.

There they all were.  Matching tutus and leotards.  A sea of pink fluff.

Every girl diligently followed the moves that the teacher was demonstrating in the front of the room, concentrating hard on the movements.

I smiled and searched for my girl.

I couldn’t find her.


I began to stand on my tiptoes to get a better angle, and looked this way and that, trying to locate my ballerina.

One of the other mothers finally took pity on me and whispered, “In the back.”

And there, in the back of the room, was my girl.

Blissfully staring at herself in the floor to ceiling mirror.

Not paying a lick of attention to what the teacher and the other girls were doing.

Dancing to the music inside her own head, with her own moves, in her own way.

My cheeks flamed with embarrassment, and I was just about to raise my hand and tap on the window to get her attention when she spun.

And as she spun, I saw that look on her face.

The look of utter joy and happiness.

And I left my hand at my side and began to smile myself.

Because that was MY girl.

That was my girl who always did everything in her own way, according to her own rules.

Why had I thought, for even a moment, that dance class was going to be any different?

I brought her back every single week, and every single week, I watched as she started class with the other girls and went through the exercises, and then, her attention would be caught by her own, magical reflection, and off she would go to dance her own dance of joy.

My little girl is 12 now and she has learned that, sometimes, to get by, you have to dance like the others.

But  for the things that matters, she still does it all in her own way, and really doesn’t care to be like everyone else.

Yes, she struggles, sometimes, to love herself the way that we love her, but that’s just being human.

She isn’t a non-conformist…she just doesn’t feel the need to follow the trend, to do what’s cool, to say “Oh, me too,” when really, it isn’t her at all.

I love her so fiercely, and I hope that she always sees and does things her own way.

Because even though it may not be what everyone else is doing, her way is incredible.

December 3, 2013

Twisted Mix Tape – Christmas Edition

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

This week’s twisted mix tape assignment was to post about your favorite Christmas music.

No small task for this girl, because I love Christmas music.

Love. It.

However, the music I love isn’t always so mainstream, but that’s okay, because if there is any time of year that is about tradition, it’s this one.

My first choice is my Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians The Sounds of Christmas Album.

It was produced in the 1950’s and my parents pulled out the record every single holiday season.

I know every word to every song on the album and love it so very much.

I was only able to find one of the songs on YouTube, so here is “Ring Those Christmas Bells” by Fred Waring and the Pennsylvanians:


One of my favorite holiday CD’s that I bought when Real Man and I were first married is the Rosie O’Donnell Christmas Album.

I know, I know…Rosie O’Donnell isn’t for everyone.

But, this album, I just loved.

It has two of my favorite Christmas songs on it.

The first is a duet between Rosie O’Donnell and…wait for it…Elmo.

The version on the CD is better, but here is a YouTube version of the duet:


The second song from the CD that is one of my CHristmas favorites is Billy Porter singing “O Holy Night” which is one of my favorite Christmas songs no matter who is singing it, but when he sings it, and oh my God, when he gets to the end…goosebumps.


The next Christmas song that I love is “Christmas Wrapping” by the Waitresses.

Can’t help but sing along, even though they aren’t the best singers and it’s more of a “talking” song than a real singing song.


My final song for today (although there are more Christmas songs that I certainly love) is “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Karen Carpenter.

Sung by anyone else and the song is “Eh” for me, but as I’ve said before, Karen Carpenter’s voice was just pure smoothness and I’d listen to her sing the ABC’s with a longing sigh.

So, have YOURSELF a merry little holiday season and enjoy the sweet sounds of Karen Carpenter.

December 2, 2013

Giving Thanks

Filed under: Uncategorized — Amy @ 6:00 am

I know, I know…

I’m a little late.

Everyone else is far beyond Thanksgiving and well into the Christmas season by today.

People have actually been trampled to death at Black Friday sales, people have spent thousands at home ordering deals online, trees are up, and even I posted about how the Christmas music has begun to play at our house.

But, today, I’d like to backtrack a little and talk about Thanksgiving.

We had Thanksgiving at one of my brother-in-laws’s homes this year.

They were gracious enough to open up their home to us, and please note that when I say “us” I mean 24 of us who came to spend the holiday with the five of them.

It was lovely.

Truly lovely.

We talked, we laughed, we ate, we talked and laughed some more.

Even all of the kids got along, and that is no small feat, considering that of the 29 people who were there, 14 of them were 15 years old or under, all the way down to Tiny, who is 2.

Tiny made himself at home with his cousin’s toys:

IMG_5100 IMG_5102\\

Baby made himself at home on his aunt and uncle’s furniture:



I made myself at home by stuffing myself silly.

Real Man and his Dad, the original Real Man showed up in matching clothes…a glimpse of the future for me, perhaps:



It was just a truly perfect celebration.

Then, because eight hours together on Thanksgiving wasn’t quite enough, we joined together the next day, in the bitter cold and snow flurries for a bit of family football in a local park.


Although, not everyone was into the game:


When I was a teenager, I was so sure that I was going to live far away from where I grew up.

Yet, there is just something about spending time like this with your family that makes you glad you never left.

Do we all get along and see eye to eye all the time?

Of course not.

But it’s okay.

Because at the end of the day, we love and appreciate each other and that’s the whole point.

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