Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Fertile and the Fallow

The garden is barren

So is the blog

But my womb is a flutter with a new set of feet
that tap, tap, tap
and twist when I sit by the shine
of my reading lamp

* * *

I think I'm done blogging --
at least for a while

No real reason other than I've picked up a few other hobbies,
and time, as you know, is a finicky thing

* * *

So, goodbye for now

Perhaps, a new baby will mark a return

Or, perhaps guilt over keeping no family photo albums will move me into slapping up a Christmas Post.

If not, au revoir, FishsticksonFriday, au revoir.

Much love,


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Our News

The baby above is about 54 days from conception. Although I'm not quite so far along, it's sweet to think of my newest baby hard at work -- growing bone and skin, eyelashes and a healthy, blood-pumping heart.

Grow, baby, grow!


Dear Baby, I am so blissfully aware of your presence. You are my fourth child and I am so honored to carry you.

Your oldest brother's arrival in my womb, I greeted with the hyper-excitement of a 7-year-old about to get her first puppy.

Your other older brother -- I greeted with ... I hate to say ... fear ( "how could I possibly handle 2 babies?!")

And your other, other older brother, again -- fear ("3?! -- yup -- we're Catholic now!")

But you ... you have made me so deeply happy. I had a feeling you'd be coming, and now that your here, I sense God's love and mercy in a way I hadn't before you arrived. The fear must have been hammered out of me -- stomped out by an army of muddy sneaker-clad brothers. Because, I only wish you were already here in my arms.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Boy

5 Years ago today ...

This Boy

stole my heart

and made me a Mother

Happy Birthday, my Little Prince

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Do it Again

Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments. Enjoy!

Do it Again

“Do it again,” my son squeals from the swing, “Do it again!”

I sigh then “run under,” pushing him up, up, up so high over my head till he laughs and screams like he was flying through the air for the very first time. He swings a little, slows down … down … down, then beckons, “Do it again!”

And again, and again, and again and again. Oh, the park. My mini-van knows the drive by heart. It could probably even get there on its own -- back out of the driveway, turn right, then left, then right again. And voila, arrive at a primary-colored playground for the 9,765th time. I could make the drive in my sleep … or in a coma. I’ll probably keep driving there even after I’m dead. But, oh no, now I sound morose or at least ungrateful. So, just ignore that last part (the part about me driving to the park when I’m dead) and let me take a moment to explain my tone and the bone I’m picking with the park.

You see, there are certain parts of a mother’s life that are, most kindly put, monotonous. So much so, I’ve come to conclude, it is this way by design. And the park, I tell you, is a case in point. That point being that children love the park for the same reasons adults find it boring: it is always the same, it is always open and its target audience is about 3 and 1/2 feet tall.

Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE the park. It’s the answer for so many of this mother’s challenging moments. Cranky kids? The park! Skipped naps? The park! Frazzled from cleaning a house that is simultaneously being destroyed? Let’s go to the park! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve pulled up to our jungle-gymed field, slid open my mini-van’s door and felt all my mommy tension simply disappear as my boys dash into a space set aside just for fun. They jump and run and pretend they’re pirates up on the play castle they swear is really a boat.

I watch them and smile. They give me space they don’t at home in the kitchen. They forget about their many needs and simply play. Fresh air. Other mothers to talk to … yes, I love the park. But sometimes . . .

I really hate it. Because sometimes, you see, it lacks the 30-something age-level excitement I crave. The excitement, or rather the glamour I had expected to arrive by this point in my life.

“Do it again,” my son screams and the old lady beside me on the bench asks to hold the baby. I comply, run to pump the swing and return to her smile. Her eyes are blue as cold water and her skin almost matches. She waves a crumpled tissue over my tots like the Pope waves his staff in a blessing.

“Enjoy it,” she says then tells me about her kids all grown and gone. “If I could, I’d do it all over again,” she says, “I’d do it all again.”

She hands over the baby and shuffles away, casting a shadow long and dark across the blacktop. Whether it be her wrinkled hands or the wisdom of her words, the acquaintance reminds me once again of time’s indiscriminate swiftness -- its viscous flow, its rapid flight. I realize quite clearly that I’ll surely warm these benches as well when I’m an old lady, dreaming of my son’s golden curls -- longing to ruffle them just one more time. And with a spark, I jump to launch that swing through the clear summer sky – simply delighted to “do it again.”

-- Sarah Johnson can be emailed at

Sunday, August 2, 2009

What You Got to Say About White Trash?

Say it to my face!


A Vacation All Along

Simeon squealing at fish,

and I'm waiting for my vacation to begin

Executing a long-anticipated train ride,

and I'm smiling till it hurts but still waiting for my vacation to begin

Snapping shots of Manny with her sweet Simmy

... still waiting

A happy docent displays dinosaur teeth to my fascinated babies; I jump up and down but deep, deep inside, yup, I'm watchin' that clock, wondering when that vacation I heard about was going to begin ... for me?

Awww, my Gus and his daddy staring at Geckos; I couldn't drag them away. [BTW: Did somebody tuck that thing called a vacation in a drawer or a cupboard somewhere deep in the back of the pantry? Did they cover it with foil and stick it behind a ham? Cause I looked and looked but... I'm ... still ...waiting ...]

Oh, this felt like it! It really did! I thought the vacation had finally arrived. But while the fountain cooled our weary feet, I was ... still waiting ...

Because it came much later. After this hot day cooled to night, my parents (we were staying at their house) skipped town for a trip of their own. My husband's eyes caught mine and I mouthed "hot tub." With skipping and hopping we threw our tired tots in bed and raided my dad's liquor cabinet. We hit that hot tub and talked like we hadn't talked in months (and I mean talking as in verbal conversation so don't get yucked out as I wouldn't do that to you). We left the house a mess cause there was no one there it would bother. We watched a movie & before we drifted off to sleep I sat up and said with a start:


But then I felt so sad because I realized we had to leave in the morning.

When I woke, Pete had already packed the car.

And as we drove home, I struggled with self-pity until I realized that no matter how many times I'm told, and no matter how counter intuitive the fact remains: The World Does Not Revolve Around Me. [Although, I am the starting point from where I stand -- and therefore find this concept difficult to believe -- but still, it's just got to be true].

So ...

Simeon got his fish
Haven, his fossils
Gussie spotted a gecko
Pete did too
I had a date, if only for a moment

And realized, as we headed home, that
the vacation ...
well, I had it all along

Diary of a Garden: Once Again, I've Lost Count

Things aren't going so well.

I have a feeling these tomatoes will protest their propping, and decide to remain green.

Because when a trip to the local Lawn and Garden means dragging along a rabble of knee-high banshees, one learns to make do.

And to make do and to make do ...

Monday, July 13, 2009

So Stinkin' Cute

Latest Column

Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments. Enjoy!

Everyone is Interesting, A Series:

This Month: Joe Marzen, In the Nuts and Bolts of a Community

When I announced I was heading to the hardware store to conduct an interview, my 4-year-old son blocked the door. Furiously waving his toolbox through the air, Haven petitioned to come along. I agreed on the condition he help ask a few questions. Haven gladly complied.

"How can we keep bunnies out of our garden?" my son asked a smiling Joe Marzen as the doorbell at Marzen's Hardware Store in Jim Thorpe clamored again and again on a breezy afternoon.

Joe answered with a variety of solutions from fencing to a new herbal spray designed to keep rabbits and deer at bay.

"What about a scarecrow?" Haven asked, his hands up in claws beside his scowling face.

Joe chuckled, ruffling my sons curls and said he thought one would work just fine.

As Haven and I conducted our "interview," locals filed in and out of the store. Summer yard work showed muddy on their boots as they hollered off cheerful "hello's" and "hey there's" to their flannel-clad friend, Joe Marzen. A sudden wave of customers swept Haven and I over to check out the flashlights while the 2nd generation hardware store co-owner tended to his customers’ many needs. [Joe and his brother Bob share the business since partnering along side their father, also Bob Marzen, who worked late into his 60’s before retiring. Bob Marzen Sr. originally purchased the store in 1951, which at the time and since its 1898 inception in a local’s living room was known as G.M. Genshart’s Hardware.]

As I was wrestling a ratchet out of my tot’s clenched fists, a neighbor stopped by to pick up a new mailbox. He nodded curiously at the notepad tucked under my arm. When I told him I was writing a feature on Joe, he paused thoughtfully and said: "You know you're dealing with a pillar, right?"

And even though I'm relatively new in town, I nodded astutely so as to let the friend know I'd cover the two-term Borough Council Member, proprietor, and father of four with all the dutiful moxie I could muster while smacking my son's hands away from socket wrenches and paint spinners.

The crowd thinned and Joe made his way back to the counter with a photo in hand. "Here are my kids," he beamed.

Joe went on to tell me about Lee -- "a local cop who was even involved the recent drug bust;" Melissa -- "a full-time mom with two little ones and another on the way; " Joey -- "very smart -- a meteorologist;" and Eric "just a great kid who's busy with his own career but still manages to help out around the store."

Then after a bit of prodding, as this quiet man is obviously more keen on listening to others than he is talking about himself, Joe shared a bit about the difficult time he had when his children were young. He told me about how his kids lost their mother in a tragic car accident when the oldest was not even yet a teenager.

"But look at them," Joe said proudly, admiring the portrait, "They all turned out beautifully -- just beautifully."

Joe never remarried but explained how his mother and extended Marzen family -- a clan with roots dating back to the mid-1800's in these parts -- "pitched in" with childrearing.

Since his kids grew up and left home, Joe’s filled his time with hard work -- “it’s nothing to stick around this place till 8 or 9 p.m. a few nights a week”; church -- he’s a lector and an usher at St. Joe’s where his family has been active for generations; and community service -- appointed to fill a vacancy on the Borough Council in 2002, Joe was reelected for a second term in 2007 and cites “personal service, not politics” as his daily motivation.

As our time together was quickly encroaching on my tot’s nap, I wrapped things up with a few heavy hitters.

“So tell me the truth,” I cut to the quick, “Would you have rather been born into a Nascar family? I mean if you could have done anything else in the world as a profession, what would it have been?”

Of course, Joe grinned. And of course his eyes twinkled. He then looked down thoughtfully and took a minute before he answered.

“Just this,” he said as he tapped a worn counter with the palm of his hand, “I like it here,” glancing up at the ceiling and around the room, “I wouldn’t have done anything else. I would have done just this.”

Wanna know more about a particular local? Email Sarah at to recommend someone for the next Everyone is Interesting column because … Everyone. Is. Interesting.

Friday, July 3, 2009

"Shot a' Tabasco?"

Happy Birthday Choppy! (short for "Manchop" for those of you who don't know)

You are our SPARK and the SPRING IN OUR STEP.

This little family would be lost without you.

As long as I blog, I'll link to the story of your treacherous beginning (below).

I'll do this because there is nothing today, except for a little scar on your neck, to remind us that you are GRACE. You are MERCY.

You're also a whirlwind of 3 -year-old manpower, and we adore you.

Happy Birthday, Gus!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Wolfes Stopped By

So we're slowly redoing our bathroom (I'll do a complete before and after post when it's done); We popped off the old medicine cabinet.

I stood staring at the marks on the wall behind it; wondering who wrote them and when; whether he lived in this house, etc., etc.

Then I looked to the left and saw this: "H. Wolf. Aug. 1956"

And to the right and saw: "Rose Wolfe, August 1956 & Rosalie Wolfe 1956"

That means my medicine cabinet was over 50 years old! I'm definitely going to look these Wolfes up; Charlotte, I'll need your help!

Diary of a Garden; Part: I've Lost Count

The first salad I ever grew myself! What fun!

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Jesus stopped by just as my son screamed for more --

More syrup, More butter,

More, More, More!

The Messiah pulled out a seat,

his robe drug across my filthy floor

"You see that?!" I demanded as my kid ran from the table

"You see that?! I slammed my fist, "It's Thankless -- Motherhood is Thankless!"

He sighed and smiled, then helped me clear the dishes

Later, he joined us on a walk where my boys stomped the life out of me with muddy boots and demands for hoists to the highest branches

As we shuffled home, I cried again "Thankless, Lord -- Motherhood is Thankless!"

He nodded then took the stroller at the steepest part of the hill

Back home, it was ANOTHER meal with every morsel heated just so and every sippy cup filled just right and every screaming tot in my litter regarding my work with a MAGNIFICENT lack of appreciation

This time, I just shot Him a look

Again, He nodded

I threw the kids down for naps then collapsed on the couch

Christ sat on the floor beside me and took my hand

I felt his palm -- my finger traced callouses then stopped at the hole in its center

"It's Thankless, Lord, " I said, "Motherhood is SO Thankless"

And as I fell asleep, He stroked my brow then covered me with a blanket

He closed my drapes and turned on the fan, knowing I like its hum

He then whispered in my ear before He slipped out the door,

No dear, Motherhood is not Thankless,

Because it is Precisely How

You Thank Me

Thursday, June 11, 2009

My Kid is Weird, Post #5,956

By the chance your mother provide you with the pink, pig piggy bank you demand,
be pensive

until evening falls ... then swaddle him tight with papers and rags

and tuck him safe in a box made for shoes


Then slide him into his "cubby hole" (your mother's computer chair will do)

And bid him fair dreams, lulled by the clacking of computer keys above him

Monday, June 8, 2009

The Season Pass

Here's my latest column at Blue Mountain Moments. Enjoy!

Season Pass to the Lake:

Help Me "Pay This One Forward"

Last summer, my little family was nervously wading into the waters of opening a new business. My husband had been laid off the previous winter, and with no job prospects in sight, we gathered up every extra copper – in the couch and under the car seats -- and bought a field to fill with seed (or something like that).

In short, last summer we were B-R-O-K-E. I don’t just mean broke. I mean broker than broke. But to put it more tastefully, as the season had its sweet spots, let’s just say we were on a Budget [note: a budget with a capitol “B”].

For example, it was with glee, joyful shouts and a jar of bacon grease, we wedged our third son’s car seat between his brothers when he joined our family last spring. Cause, yup, the minivan savings plan had been sunk into the field. We had three boys crammed into the back of a Plymouth that had seen better days -- specifically, those of the Reagan era. The rusty sedan sputtered and spit and shook like it housed a rabid family of silverware-sparring squirrels. That, and it would overheat over the smallest annoyance – like its driver glancing in the rear view mirror (oh wait, it didn’t have one), or a power-walker passing in the wrong shade of purple, a southerly rainbow, a northerly one, fog.

Suffice to say, last summer our vacation plans amounted to those of a “staycation.” However, until a dear, true friend sacrificed some of her hard earned dollars to bless us with a special gift (which I’ll tell you about in a second), the only ideas I had in mind involved a hose and a well-worn kiddy pool.

So here’s the best part. I’ll never forget returning from an outing last June just as summer settled over the town for its heavy, three-month nap. The air was a wet, wool blanket. The kids were cranky. The sedan, smoky. And I was overwhelmed with it all – the new baby, the new business, the perpetual broke-ness. [Forgive me if this sounds whiny, or humor me if you’ve never been so broke you cannot relate, but the debate between “deodorant or Nair, deodorant or Nair … ‘hmmm, do I want body odor or a mono-brow’” GETS REALLY OLD!!!].

It was on that sweatful day, I dropped my limited drugstore purchases on the counter to find a Hawaiian lei taped to my fridge with five season passes to Mauch Chunk Lake pinned to it snugly. I cried. Then I dried my eyes, called that dear, true friend to thank her and pinned passes on diapered bottoms to the left and right of me. We headed up the mountain to waters that nurtured my soul and didn’t return till September.

I could write for days about my baby boys running and jumping at the foamy lake’s edge. I could write novels about cool winds blowing over the water and how they cleared away life’s stresses, putting them into perspective. I could write about how when lost in a moment of splashing I caught my reflection in the water and saw hope in my eyes.

I could write about all that, but it would take more space than this kind paper could allow. So instead, I’ll sum up with a request. Here it is. That field I mentioned worked. I mean it flew. Or better put, it grew enough barley for the basics. Late last fall, we scrapped the sedan [sigh] and bought a “new to us” minivan. I beamed. By winter, I even hit the toiletries aisle at the drugstore with a tad more freedom. Not only did I leave smelling like flowers, I picked up a [...drumroll...] mascara as well. I beamed again. Those around me did too.

So what’s the request? Just this. Help me pay this lake pass forward. Here’s how. If you’ve faced hard times and could use some sandcastle building with your kids, shoot me an email and I’ll drop your name in a hat. Winner gets a family lake pass for the season [I won’t publish your name, but I will snag your sand toys if they’re cooler than mine when our play dates collide]. Or, if you’ve experienced more fruitful times as of late (and this is truly relative), receive inspiration from the dear, true friend I mentioned (who, by the way, was not void of pressing needs when she graced my family with the priceless gift of thought, care and fun) and pick up a pass for someone in a rough spot.

Pay it forward. It doesn’t have to be a lake pass. But how great if it is! Perhaps for you it will simply be a phone call to a friend going through a tough time or a glass of iced tea to a thirsty soul. Pay it forward, and when you pick up that pass at the pavilion labeled Mauch Chunk, tell ‘em I sent you.

*Note: we have a winner; I won't print her name but she knows who she is; and listen, lady -- your cool sand toys are all mine!

Monday, June 1, 2009

A Successful Man

It was Pop Pop's birthday so we headed down for a day of fun

Pop Pop bought the things he wanted most of all: a SHARK water slide for starters,

a pool complete with another (you guessed it) SHARK!

Simeon watched from the sidelines

Gabe scared us all with a "Boo!"

And Haven only cried 500 times but was thrilled nonetheless. Joy!


As many of you know, the late-term abortionist George Tiller was shot and killed in his church yesterday morning.

There has been much to say about the sobering event. I'll add only this:

I'm rejoicing that his schedule was cleared today.

It is my duty to pray for Mr. Tiller's soul and so I do.

Please join me in this act of charity.

Diary of a Garden; Part IV: Sprouts

Can't help but smile, right?

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Pray the Rosary

"Taste and see."

This statement of Christ's sums up the Rosary to me.

A Christian tradition dating back to the 13th century, the practice truly is a mystery (not in the sense that its meaning cannot be plumbed; but on the contrary: that it is revealed bit by bit).

I just really liked this video and thought I'd share it. Enjoy!

Monday, May 18, 2009

My 1st Bath With The Big Brothers!

Oh Boy!

Oh Boy, Oh Boy!

Oh Boy, Oh Boy, Oh Boy!!!!

Phew, time for bed.

Little Mama

You must have clung

to a faith stronger

than the one I whistle when pleasing

because you buried two sons --

one 7 -- maybe blond and freckled

one 9 -- perhaps dark like his father

side by side

Will in '25 and Gerry three years later, in the winter of '28

Was it pneumonia? I wonder. Or just a bad flu ... one I'd stomp about cause the pharmacist dallied to fill the script

To realize your worst nightmare then wake to realize it again, little Mama

I hope the suffering made you cleave and thus saved you

I hope your tears were turned into dancing

I hope you know peace