BLOG

Home Sweet Home

 

Rewind!!! Pic by my Bud(dy) Walter James

We’re through with the most fretful part of this snowstorm, I hope.  The refrain was unanimous – this is The Storm, one that could break an over 40-year record in 1967, when over two feet of snow fell for miles and miles.  This storm has blanketed a great stretch of the country, from Texas to Maine.  We certainly got more than our fair share here in the Midwest.  The temperatures are also bitterly cold, and will make for a less than eventful clean-up and lots of ice afterward.

It’s Day Two of being housebound with the children and I’ve stocked up on the essentials, as well as a few goodies – buttermilk for baking a cake, snacks, juiceboxes, water, some canned items, fruit, veggies, water, and everything else we may need including batteries, flashlights, candles, and Duraflame logs.  Admittedly, this was all a bit frightening at first.  My youngest daughter thought it would be great to make snow angels, but she’s so tiny that she’d fall right through. Some areas around my home exceed 22 inches, and there are drifts that are taller than my friend and neighbor, who has got to be at least six feet.  That’s even more troubling for us vertically-challenged folk!

I am going bananas inside!  I haven’t been able to go anywhere, and now I have a wicked case of cabin fever.  I love my little darlings and being with them, but what’s love got to do with it? I want out!  Snow is anything but picturesque when it’s parked on your front lawn, driveway, backyard, and in front of your door.

I usually spend little to no time talking about anything that’s less than joyful, but I just wanted to paint a picture and give you a backdrop for this morning’s post.  I get really bad cabin fever when I am indoors for too long. I become irritable, get the blues, and freak out as if the walls are closing in on me.  This seems to be more pronounced during adverse weather events.  I noticed this shortly after giving birth to my first child, who will soon be eleven years old.

While in the hospital, and severely medicated (death to Percocet and Darvocet!), I would look out the window, and all I could see was snow, ice, and slow, crawling traffic. The cars looked like little Matchboxes and the overhanging branches looked like they could snap under the weight of the ice.  Here I was, in this white box of a hospital room, with nurses coming by every few hours to ensure that I took my meds and had a bowel movement.   Come on, already! After 22 hours of labor and an emergency C-Section, I was becoming doubtful about this whole “Joy of Giving Birth” thing.  Though I was excited about the event of being a first-time mother to this most-gorgeous, round-face, bright-eyed little boy, I was anxious about taking him home in this dreadful weather.  Sadly so, I was also feeling a bit of paranoia take over me. To this day, I swear it had to do with being couped up inside a room for so long. Those five days felt like forever. I just wanted to go home!  Could I be experiencing post-partum?

Five days later, I was feeling a bit of the same even though I was home. Having a C-Section limits your movement and activity, to say the least, so again, I was inside. No white walls or box this time, but inside nonetheless. My husband (bless his heart),  started to notice what was happening , and insisted that I go outside regularly, even if I only stuck my head out the window for a few minutes!  A little fresh air would make all the difference, he maintained.  But now, as in February 3, 2011, where the heck am I supposed to step outside for some fresh air? The fresh air is as freaking cold as a naked witch’s tit in February!  What’s so fresh about that?  I.WANT.SPRING!  Day O!   Okay, okay, now that I’ve bitched about how terribly cold it is, and how dreadful this snow storm is, and about my cabin fever, I feel better.

But now, let me also share with you some of the blessings, the small beauties, of being housebound with my three children during this time.  We’re all healthy.  We have our medicines on hand should anyone go into an asthma attack.  We have warm shelter. Though we can all tell that it is certainly colder outside when we’re not wearing socks, the furnace is working.  We have food, flashlights (and batteries), as well as a generator should the power go out. (Oh Lawd, heaven help us all if I can’t figure out how to use it! )  We have a connection to the outside world – what do you think I’m doing here, talking to you?  – internet, phone, television. We have running water, clean clothes, and enough to do to keep us sane. The children have been reading, playing video games, watching TV, eating me out of house and home, playing tag, playing with toys, writing, and painting. Let me clarify that only the girls, ages 5 and 2, were painting and writing. The  2 year old is very confident about her scribbling as she is about her finger painting.  As for the 5 year old, she can paint and write all day, if you let her.  My oldest child, a boy,  isn’t a fan of creative arts, per se. He is my big-picture child.  Don’t ever bore him with backdrop.  “Put it back, and drop it…please Mom.”  😮 (I’d like to have an applause audio right here, instead of that ordinary smiley face.)

I have received more hugs, more closeness, and more love than I can stand. I have been introduced to a 1,000 year old snake, the star of a story written and illustrated by my 5-yr old, and bore witness to the nuptials of him and his “beautiful snake girl”. I’ve received a love letter from her as well, bearing that she’ll love me “no matter what”.  It closes with “you are the most loving mother in the world.” Aww…was I complaining about cabin fever? Over the course of the last two days, my 2-yr old has told me that I’m the “best mommy ever”, in the “whole wide world” at that, and my 10 yr old son has taken to reading my nookcolor, and even convinced me to download a book for him – something about Percy Jackson – which he has been reading, in earnest.  Hey, life ain’t half-bad.  Small beauties.

So I’m going to kick cabin fever as I would kick rocks, because there just ain’t no joy in staying at that layover for too long. Instead, I’ll treasure these moments, these small beauties, for when my children are good and grown, I’m certain that I’ll miss “snow days”.  I will crave their closeness as they grow and go their own ways, and will long for their love letters which make me feel so good inside, even when I don’t always get it right. I am sure that that day will come, so in the meantime, I will let them love me, as only young children can – with randomness, compassion, forgiveness, and innocence, all at once – even when I am stuck inside, surrounded by less-than-picturesque mountains of snow.

This One’s A Real Keeper!

Scan of a Valentine greeting card circa 1920.
"Who Does That Anymore?"

Amidst all this recent de-cluttering and organizing, I ask myself, “what are the real keepers?” What do I absolutely need to keep? Heck, what do I want to keep?  I consider these questions as I place yet another few old greeting cards into a photo box labeled as such.  One of my worst fears is losing my memory, so I tend to keep things that have sentimental value. I think that somehow these physical mementos will facilitate the recollection process in the event that that ever happens.  Though my filing and storage system can still use a little help from Oprah and organizational “expert” Peter Walsh, I will never admit to being a pack-rat.  (I put the word “expert” in quotes, as I’m reminded by my dear friend, that oftentimes these experts are experts in every area except their own lives. I tend to agree.)  I actually think I have a system – well, sort of – even though my husband thinks it quirky and understood by none other than myself.  When it comes to matters of the heart, however, I think that I have quite an uncanny ability to discern what is worth keeping. 

This list is by no means exhaustive. After all, I wouldn’t want to exhaust you, but some of the things that I’ve kept include:

  • Hospital Wristbands – those flexible pieces of plastic only slightly bigger than a man’s size ring, secured around a baby’s wrist at birth.  I’ll never forget their birthdates this way!
  • Greeting Cards From my Husband & Father-in-Law  – Something must be said that the two of them know how to pick the best cards ever! Not sure how much of this is learned behavior. I swear my father-in-law must spend quite a bit of time in his local Hallmark or drugstore selecting cards for his grandchildren. His cards to our children are especially meaningful, given the physical distance that separates us. More than his generous giving, I look forward to opening the cards they get from him. From the cover to the inside, each one is hand-picked to reflect the children’s interests, beauty, and personality.  My husband’s greeting cards to me are among the most random, beautiful, and hilarious cards ever!  They seem to say just the right thing at the right time. His cards to me are given “just because”, and are usually not centered around an event or occasion.  It is rare that I myself will purchase greeting cards for anyone. I think that only I know best what I want to communicate, so I will often write a letter instead.  Occasionally, beautiful blank cards or those with less print will do.
  • Children’s Artwork – Hold on now, not all of it, only the ones that they themselves have created. Classroom-generated art should be tossed at the door, as it only serves as proof that your child can or cannot follow directions, and you already know this! Plus, I’m not raising a bunch of conformists. Do remember to shred what you don’t keep. Trust me, no amount of explanation will comfort a child who discovers her “best-thing-ever” in the trash or recycling bin.
  • Photographs – preferably only those that capture your best side.  Choose wisely! 😮 Seriously, photographs say a lot. They capture moments as well as emotions in time, and remind us of the events and people surrounding those moments.  For instance, the image header on this blog was taken of a frog that my two oldest children found in the basement. They then took it outside and “nurtured” it, thinking that it was a good idea for a pet.  And you thought it was some internet “art”?  Photographs take you back to the physical places you traveled and inhabited, and evoke emotions that are as raw as when they were first felt.  Now you just have to remember where you put the darn photographs!  The absence of photographs, on the other hand, requires the memory to work overtime to recall and piece the past together, and sometimes obliterates memories altogether. That can be a good or bad thing, depending on the memory. 
  • Letters – mostly handwritten, few typed.  Someone took the time to write it, so I take the time to cherish it.  Before her passing, my grandmother and I wrote each other regularly. I’ve kept all of her letters, since the time we were separated. I was 10 years old, so I have lots of letters!
  • Playbills & Movie Ticket Stubs – how else am I suppose to remember the names of these things, let alone what happened in them?
  • Final Hotel Bills – they bear the name, address, and dates during which we stayed during our travels.  The bill itself is useless, but everything else is right there!
  • My Writing – I keep all of my writing, whether it’s written on a napkin, cardboard insert from dry cleaners, or the back of an airline boarding pass or ticket.  After I’ve pieced together all of it, I may very well have the makings for a complete novel! 

And now, I am off to the organization of all these keepers!  Oh Happy Day!  Let me know some of the things that you insist on keeping. I might need to update my list!

Kiss and Tell?

Apparently, it seems that one of my children have made off with one of my writing notebooks in which I took notes for this morning’s writing. Now I have to rely on my memory sans the notes. Look, this has been brewing in me since Sunday morning! (Oh, that was only yesterday!) 😮 At the risk of forgetting any more than I’ve forgotten already, I better quickly get in the flow.

I watched Every Day, an independent film starring Liev Schreiber and Helen Hunt, on Saturday, with hubby dearest, and it raised some good discussion.  This film was beautifully done as it took the viewer into the personal aspects of this family’s life. Liev plays Ned, a husband of nineteen years, a father, worker, son-in-law, while Helen plays Jeanne, his wife, a daughter, mother, and worker.  Ned is going through a mid-life crisis of sorts: he seems less than satisfied with his gig; he’s still making sense of how to best protect his fifteen year old son, who opened up to the family as a young gay man six months prior; his marriage already appears strained; and to top it all off, his bitter father-in-law (played by Brian Dennehy), who is ill has just moved in to live with them. Oh happy day!  Amidst all the hoopla, Ned has an affair with a co-worker during a “creative” session for his job, in which they are under the directive to concoct  material that’s sensational enough  (ie.,  vulgar, raunchy, over-the-top bizarre, sex-laden, out-there) enough for film.  Juicy? Well… not really.

This film’s approach at showcasing a family’s every day struggle to just keep it together, as they confront real issues that are a far cry from trivial or mundane, was rather tempered.  None of the subplots took precedence over the other, nor were they themselves sensationalized. At the end of the day, this family loved each other.  It wasn’t implied. They were actively engaged in loving their children.  Despite the hardship of this particular stage of their lives – caring for aging family members, a teenager coming of self, parents feeling less than satisfied with their careers and sense of living out purpose – they’ve managed to raise two compassionate sons whom they love dearly.    In an instance when Jeannie’s dad (I didn’t get his screen name) launches fierce criticism at her youngest son for not playing the violin quite right, Jeannie interjects like a Mama lion to emphasize  that he’s only playing for enjoyment. Clearly hurt, the boy walks away with a look of puzzlement and irritation which probably only I interpreted  as “you know what, you’re a blankety-hole, but I’m going to let you slide because your blank is sick”; nonetheless, he demonstrates compassion toward his old grandfather, who insists on not dying alone. Ultimately, the grandfather does die, shortly after this same grandson comes in to hold his hand while he takes his last breath.

Ned and Jeannie truly need each other like they’ve never before, but Jeannie, admittedly, isn’t quite available. The responsibility of getting her father the care that he needs, including staying on top of the seventeen prescriptions that he’s required to take, rests squarely on her shoulders, and it is has clearly taken a toll on her life, let alone her sex life.   I don’t believe that Ned went looking for an affair, but it sure didn’t take much cajoling! After all, he was love-starved, and definitely unattended in the intimate department, given his wife’s recent role as caretaker of critical, bitter dad.  I feel for the two of them. Clearly, they need reassurance from each other. It’s obvious that they love and need each other…however, the subplots of their life have taken center stage.

My husband and I asked the question of whether Ned should let Jeannie in on his little affair, and believe it or not, our answers surprised even us!  Perhaps, this was Richard Levine’s goal in writing this film, which is based largely on his own life.  Every Day forced us to be nonjudgmental in areas where we thought we had answers.  We believe in truth and honesty, but agree that there is no right time to unveil this particular truth, given the new circumstance of the father-in-law’s death.  I can take that, but I do believe that they should not waste too much time to address the elephant in the room – that is, non-intimacy – before it takes them down this road again. After all, we know nothing about what similar fate might befall Ned, should he have to care for his own father. You know what they say about women as we come of age.  Ha!!

Georgy Porgy, as performed by the late, great Luther Vandross

The Body Beautiful

Cleopatra (1962 novel)
Image via Wikipedia, redubbed "Miss Cleo"

Now I know why Mama used to say “take your time to grow up!”  I dare not title this post “On Aging” because that would sound so common. Everyone ages. Big deal. That, in and of itself, is not revolutionary. Plus it just sounds boring, scary, recycled, and oh so…old!

More recently, I’ve become amazed by the less-than seismic shifts taking place as I mature in this Life;  the very faint, but visible crow’s feet, the laugh lines even when I’m not friggin’ laughing, the now-thinner skin on the bridge of my nose, the occasional desire for some of my baggage to fly South though I myself am not traveling, the more-difficult-to-moisturize skin on the soles of my feet (though it can be argued that this is more due to the drier, harsher winters of the Midwest), and the appearance of more freckles in more places than I’d care to admit! Oh, and how did I miss the honorable mention of a few strays of gray in my crown?

I’m compelled to take notice and pay even closer attention as my body dabbles in this phase of maturation. Let me first say that for the most part, I do take care of myself, though I can benefit from more sleep.  I exercise regularly, dance like no one’s watching, have struck a somewhat healthy balance between self-control and indulgence, and have developed an amazing comfort level with my body image/aesthetic as I’ve gotten older.  I like what I see, y’all!

The one thing I know I can do is eat better. Sometimes, I get this creepy sensation that I am antioxidant-deprived, or under-nourished in the vitamin and supplement department. There are days when I get enough fruits and vegetables, and then there are those other days when I want nothing but carbs – the simple ones. Think simple, think stupid, right?  (The use of mnemonics to remember stuff as you get older, or perhaps as your plate gets fuller, doesn’t hurt, on occasion.)  These days, I can’t even get that straight.  Wasn’t it “keep it simple, stupid?,” I think, as I reach for that oatmeal raisin cookie. What.Ever! I thought I had this part of the game – eating right, that is – down pat, but apparently I have work to do there.  I’ll blame maturing hormones for sending my metabolism into a frenetic tailspin.  There, I said it! It’s not my fault.

While I hate fessing up to a lackluster performance in the food category, I will say that I have this amazing physical commitment to keeping my body strong, supple, and lean (in most places), so that it endures for as long as I need to use it.  I am adamant about engaging it on a regular basis because I want it to pay me back with resilience, performance, and a superb power to take me through physical and mental changes alike. Though my body continues to challenge me as of lately with its slower-than-usual recovery (perhaps fueling it with the right foods would help?), I love how it responds to a challenge, and how that, in turn, fuels me mentally. Ah, so is this what they call the “Body Beautiful”?

I now find myself quietly admiring the wisdom behind those bright eyes cradled by fine lines and slowly emerging crows feet; beholding the discernment that living and twitching my nose has brought me thus far (hence the finer skin on top my nose); and, honoring the brutal heat of the less-than-sunny moments that I’ve lived, courtesy of my freckled shoulders. Every semblance of this process of maturation, in and of itself, is part of my story. Unlike a tattoo or body piercing, each one is hard-earned, like the scars of giving birth via Caesarean section. I am humbled by how this body has carried me through and over, repeatedly, so I dare not dismiss its prowess, or abandon its care. It sustains me, and gives me joy when it gets all prettified and dolled up, or when it simply warms my soul. It needs me, so I will cradle it – all of it.  I will respect its gracefulness, poise, dogged strength and agility, as well as its ability to stand at attention with me, and in spite of me at all times.

I will respect it and honor it because now, more than ever, it’s inclined to do things that I couldn’t do ten years ago, let alone want to do! (Go body, go body, go!) So I’m cradling that bad boy, and caring for it as I would a new baby, as if its been reborn somehow – taking care of it, loving it, remarking at it, and appreciating it. I intend to keep it beautiful, vibrant, and yes, sexy!

Puke, Poop, & Power…though not necessarily in that order

Tomato purée
Tomato Purée - Got fruit?

Today calls for a tall (tall as in really tall, not tall as in Starbucks-you-gotta-be-kidding-me-that’s-a-tall?) cup of coffee, reflection, and introspection.  I’ve been more tired than usual these days, so today I have no “real” major plans other than treating myself to some quiet, unfiltered time.

Of course, there’s the “must-haves”: dinner to fix, library time, homework and exercise time, but many of these are standard, at least in this household.  I’m learning to downscale the calendar, say “no” more often, and re-define rituals such as dinnertime and bath-time.  Dinner doesn’t have to entail a 5-course menu (never did, anyway). It can mean something left over (not the dreaded leftovers Mom, not again!) from last night’s dinner, something easy and baked topped by something semi-prepared, and accompanied by prepared or fresh fruit. Who said that it had to be vegetables, anyway? On days when all the veggies are gone, fruit will do just fine.  And when there’s no fruit left, tomato sauce and ketchup will have to count as one serving! I think the RDA is 5-8 combined fruit and vegetables anyway.  Some nights, there’s pizza with absolutely no vegetables or fruit. No soda though!  Good old H2O will do just fine! Sometimes, breakfast for dinner can also be a welcome change.  The one thing that I do insist on is that we have dinner together, always. That my friend, is non-negotiable.  And as for bath-time, it need not occur 2x/day, or last for too long. Hit the essentials, including the feet. Put on some smell-goods, and let’s rock!  As cold as it is outside, cooties won’t stand a chance!

(Long break in between.  Thing 3 had to upchuck in the kitchen. Thank God for ceramic tiled floors. Whew!)

So far, I have cleaned up puke and poop twice, each. Darn the return of the stupid rotavirus! In spite of the mess, I’ve danced (gotta get my exercise on), made a scarf (hobby-turned-side hustle), done three loads of laundry (another mindless, hamster-on-the-wheel activity), numerous other things (paperwork, opened & sorted mail, returned non-personal phone calls, tracked down money owed to me, found out why Thing 2 didn’t get a callback from the enviable Girl Scouts), and changed my FB picture to display my hubby’s beautiful brown smiling eyes. That was not a typo. His eyes were smiling. You know how you can see love in someone’s eyes, even when they’re not smiling? Their eyes sometimes tell “say it all”. Well, you know that’s my darlin’ darlin baby.  What can I say? He’s special.

Well  now, it’s time to begin my second shift – homework, healthy pre-dinner snack time, more laundry (but, of course you knew that), paperwork, a lil’ bit o’ budget planning (a work always in progress), dinner, bath-time, and calendar check for tomorrow.  Today’s post was definitely a bit more local than cerebral, but it’s like that, and that’s the way it is!

This evening definitely calls for Calgon!