Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Out with the Old

Changes are a part of life. Learning how to deal with them gracefully, I think, is the secret to a happy life.No matter how we may rail against the injustice of the ticking clock, if we're lucky, tomorrow will still arrive right on schedule.

In the past few years we have been navigating the changes from parenting to advising. My husband likes to remind me that having independent grown sons is exactly what we were working towards. Last summer I realized that I had been putting everyone else first for practically my entire life.

Now, to be clear, I am not whining about that. I have adored being mother to my children. Although they could be exhausting at times, I have loved almost every moment of their lives, even with their ADHD and alphabet soup of learning disabilities and differences. Some would say it was a luxury to be a stay-at-home mom, and maybe it was, but we did without a lot of things so that I could focus all of my energies on these boys. But, I must admit, indulging myself this year has been rather delightful.

It's been a couple of years since the last fledgling flew the coop, and I'm just now embracing our lovely, empty nest. It's kind of nice to put food in the refrigerator and find it still there a day later. I can wear my pretty night gowns without scarring the boys for life, and have (except for the very coldest nights) retired the pajamas that Kent called the husband repellent.

What used to be a noisy, filled to the brim home now feels empty and too big. The huge yard and gardens that have given us so much pleasure over the years now seems overwhelming to keep up. In short, we are considering a relocation, to a smaller home with less upkeep. The problem is, every time we try to define the type of house we'd like to find it turns out to be this house.

We've known for over a year that Kent's job could take us anywhere. We may end up staying here in Saginaw for years to come, or the current contract could end in June with a new assignment in a new town. In a lot of ways we are just waiting for the other shoe to drop, a handy way to justify making no decision at all.

To make ready for what ever may come, we've been doing a lot of cleaning out. I've never been terribly sentimental, so there's not a lot of ephemera to cull. In November, my BFF mentioned a charity looking for orphaned projects, UFOs, fabric and yarns no longer needed. I sent her several boxes of stuff that could happily live elsewhere. As I taped the boxes closed I felt a great sense of relief.

I suppose it's rather weird, but I like throwing things away. Whether it goes in the trash, or off to charity, I love the sense of space that cleaning out gives me. It reminds me of the saying: you can't receive into clenched fists. Letting go of stuff (both the physical and metaphysical), opens me up for new.

I've always liked ringing in the new year with a clean house. We seldom keep the Christmas decorations up past New Year's Day. This afternoon I'll be changing the sheets on the bed and sifting through the pantry for food that has expired. As I work, I often reflect on the past year, as a way to package it up into history.

Even though it has a fancy name, tomorrow is just tomorrow. It's a clean slate, a fresh start, a chance to begin anew, just like every other day. I'm looking forward to the new adventures all these tomorrows will bring. We can plan all we want, but we can never really know what the future will hold. I kind of like it that way.

Friday, December 27, 2013

Back to Plan A

In between and round about all the holiday festivities, some progress has been made on Of a Summer's Day. There as been a good deal of hemming and hawing about what to do next. For a good while I was convinced that the quilting needed to happen next. I think that maybe I was suffering from "done is better than perfect" syndrome.

After walking around the project, all laid out on my cutting table, spools of thread and all, I began to realize that I wanted more for this little quilt. I have been seduced by embroidery, which is something that I've loved all my life. In fact, it was the very first needlework I ever learned, from my Grandma, when I was just four.

I'm taking my time with this, because I think this little quilt could be something special, which is probably putting way too much pressure on myself. Not probably, nope, it's fairly obvious that the desire for perfection (or at least my bestest best), is what's keeping from me moving forward at a reasonable pace.

Just when I think I've licked that damnable beast, perfectionism sneaks right up and bites me hard on the butt. I guess that's why I say I'm a recovering perfectionist. Does anyone ever really recover?

I'm getting the itch to start something new, but would also hate to leave this little quilt undone. Little seasonal quilts are coalescing in my heart, and Valentines' Day is not so far away.

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Catching up on Christmas

The tradition started more than two decades ago. We were scraping by, raising four kids on one income, and we just didn't have the ability to buy gifts for our extended family. To fill the void, I began baking Christmas cookies and breads for the family. We were living in Wisconsin in the early years, far from family. To make the gift seem more substantial (to me at least), I packaged the stuff as prettily as possible, and called it an instant party: just pull it out of the freezer about an hour before guests arrive and let them believe you've been baking all day.

I started this Christmas season with a whopper of a sinus infection. Honestly, at one point I thought my teeth were being forced out of my jaws. Ever hopeful that I might keep up with my baking schedule, I spent a week stockpiling cookie dough for baking when I felt a bit better.

After eight days of misery I threw in the towel and went to a "Doc in a Box" (MedExpress). When the doc lightly touched my face it was all I could do to keep from decking him (and it wasn't the "with holly" type of decking I had in mind). He gave me excellent drugs. I felt nearly human again in a couple of days.

And then I tried to bake up all that cookie dough. When the first batch turned into lava in the oven, I realized that I had doubled the butter in all of the recipes. I guess I decided that 1/4 pound = 1/4 cup. Hey, I was sick! There was nothing else to do but toss the dough for double batches of gingersnaps, oatmeal jumbles and sugar cookies. Yikes! How long have I been baking?

I love orange cranberry nut bread. I use an old family recipe from Ocean Spray. (I didn't say it was MY old family). This year I planned to use tiny little bundt pans for the baking.

Aren't they adorable? They would have been, if I had thought to turn down the oven temp just a smidge so they could bake long enough to cook through without over browning on the outside. The first batch turned out to be piles of mush, that I practically had to pry out of the pans because I took them at their word when the label said nonstick coating. After a liberal dose of antibiotics (for me, not the bread), the second batch came out much better.

When I wasn't throwing a pity party on the couch, or inflicting miserable crimes on baking ingredients, I did spend a bit of time weaving up some of my hand spun yarn on my rigid heddle loom.

I'm not sure that I'm sold yet, on the whole weaving thing. It's pretty repetitive. But it is rather fascinating to watch the colors change, and there are some nifty weaving tricks I look forward trying. We shall see.

Our Christmas was very quiet this year. Our boys are far flung now, and none of them made it to the house this year to celebrate. I thought I might be sad about that, but, to tell you the truth, I was totally okay with it. Since we also weren't hosting any family Christmas parties this year, we barely decorated, and that was okay with us as well. Despite all the kitchen fiascoes, and the quiet household, we had a lovely, joyous Christmas. Here's hoping that your holiday season brought you the same.

Monday, December 9, 2013

What I really did in November

Alex (6 1/2 years) and Nicole (almost 4), and me (29),
getting started on gingerbread houses.
It appears that I don't actually have a novel in me. Every time I give a lecture, at least one person tells me I should be writing. (Hmm, maybe that's instead of speaking? Never thought of that before.) Turns out it's not for me. At least not fiction. And not now.

But I do have these amazing grandchildren who need an amazing grammy. This, this is what I want to be remembered for.

Alex was most excited about the mess we were about to make than anything else, I did everything I could to indulge him. We had flour everywhere, and laughter and joy.

The holidays are different for us this year. None of the boys lives in town with us. First Nate and Amanda left to take a job on the west side of the state. Then Jake and Rachel took of to Baltimore so she could finish school. David joined Nate to find a job. And the Caleb and Elaine romped off to Kansas this summer to find their fortunes there.

Nate and Amanda usually come into town for Thanksgiving, but they usually arrive at our house later in the day, stuffed to the gills from her grandmother's table. This year, instead of trying to out Martha Martha (which I normally love),Kent and I and David had just a simple dinner early in the day. I made a turkey breast (why on earth hadn't I thought of this sooner?), and just the sides that we like the best. And pies. And dough for gingerbread houses.

Just as the sugar overtook the turkey drouse, we fired up the oven and started building our cookie homes. I have a simple cutter set for the basic walls and roof, but this is a creative family and the deviations from the simple plan began immediately.

The next day, instead of fighting the crazy people at the stores, we got together again to build and decorate our houses. Even the men folk had a ball. Kent used a meat tenderizer on his gingerbread pieces for texture, so he built a "waffle house". Nicole pretty much just stuck pink sprinkles on everything, including some of us, but it made her happy.

Even the "big kids" had serious fun. This is what you get when you ask David to pose with his house. Isn't it cool? He used yellow mini m&ms in the windows for the Advent candles we always place in ours.

It's kind of amazing what sticks with our kids. It may be trite, but it is true: life is what happens when you're busy making other plans. The boys seem to cherish the small things that made us a family, not the grand schemes meant to create a once-in-a-lifetime memory.

Nate, my son the engineer. I have always thought of him as my quiet son. He's always been intensely private. I'm not sure where this hysterically funny guy came from, but I'm so happy he's here. This guy works long hours; he and his wife are raising two delightful kids and creating a loving home. He makes my heart full.

Alex got his mess alright, and then some. Even though we had some housing disasters when the mortar failed, we all had just a spectacular time. The houses are currently living on my dining room table, but I have plans for them.

When it comes to holiday, sometimes different isn't so bad. I got to keep the best part of Thanksgiving, and have started a new tradition on holiday house building. If it turns out that Kent and I are on our own on Christmas morning (for the first time in more than 30 years), I don't think it will be bad at all. I hear I may have some new "grown up" jammies under the tree.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

New Computer Blues

It's my husband's fault. The office computer was ancient, practically a techno-saur, making glaciers look downright rushed in comparison. Truly, a pot of coffee could be brewed and consumed in the time it took for it to come to life. Hubby got tired of waiting.

He suggested that it was high time for the business to put him (er, the computer) out of its misery. After all, it didn't need to be a fancy computer, a lower end, basic computer would be fine for the needs of the office. I rather chafe at the idea of spending money on a lowly thing, especially when just a little bit more will make for a whole lot better. Hubby didn't want to deal with Windows 8, something all new pcs seem to be loaded with these days.

But I don't mind learning a new operating system. Frankly, I think folks make a huge fuss over it all. Of course there has been a learning curve (why do they always feel the need to rename commands?), but mostly, it's been business as usual. 

So, I was the one to get the new computer. With Kent acting as my geek to English translator, we set out to find a computer with just the right bells and whistles for what I do. I was sorely tempted by the new all-in-one desktop models, with their touch screens. They are so stylish! But in the end it was decided that a touch screen was a silly thing for me, for the kind of work I do. (I fully expect to be disappointed by that decision long before it's time to replace this new computer.)

The downside, of course, is installing all of my favorite programs. Every few days I go looking for a program, only to find that it has not yet been installed. Or worse, requires an upgrade, or an activation code. It's a little frustrating, but I know it will all work out in the end.

All of this is a long way of explaining why I've been away from the blog, and why there are no pictures in this post. I'm kind of hoping it will mean that I need to upgrade my camera. I hear they can download the pictures wirelessly these days. And it is seven years old. Why, that's practically prehistoric in e-years.