Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Big Yellow Taxi

After a long two weeks of illnesses, I think our family is all on the road to recovery.  It started with D, up all night all hot and shivery and ugly.  It moved along to Big brother and, almost immediately, little brother.  I was the last to get a touch of it. A round of antibiotics each, and we're in ship shape.  No more missed school or work.  It's amazing how much it drains the whole family when just one member is sick.  It's equally amazing how quickly a can of Lysol runs out.


 The weather here has been frigid.  Highs in the teens, lows in the negatives.  I guess I chose a good set of days to be home ill.  Going out is borderline uncomfortable.  Of course, we have luxuries: heated leather seats in the car and knee-length-down-filled-coats with fleece pockets. They make the cold bearable. Just looking out into the cold makes me feel shivery. I feel blessed to have warm blankets and slippers and cats. Cats always make winter better.


The juncos and titmice don't notice.  I expect them to turn into little birdcicles if they sit too long on a branch.  They never do. They just flitter away, as if it's thirty degrees warmer than it actually is.  It's encouraging for me to get up and dressed when I know there are little flying tufts of feathers eager for the sun and our measly suet feeder every morning.


We went a day and a half without running water recently.  After making several phone calls, D had a man out to fix it and it only took half an hour to repair.  An underground wire that makes the pump in our well work was severed somehow. He replaced the wire and was on his way.


In all honesty, it felt tremendously inconvenient to have no running water for this (short) length of time.  Once it was fixed, I took a hot shower.  While in the shower, I felt ashamed for letting it be such a bothersome thing.  Obviously there are people much worse off.  People who don't even know running water is a thing.  Thinking this way gets mentally exhausting, I know.  Most normal people have a severed well pump wire, get it fixed, and say something like "oh thank God! I was starting to smell!"   While I may say something like that, my mind is swarming with gratitude and guilt - privileged guilt. The worst kind of guilt...but mostly gratitude.

Thank God for running water!


Before we moved to Moraine, in our previous home, moss used to grow on the roof of the garage, between the shingles.  I used to think it was so ugly and awful.  Now I think it was quite beautiful. That's one of the ways Moraine has changed me.  An empty nest dumped on the lawn at the beginning of winter because the leaves that held it in place have fallen would have been an eyesore.  Now, I find it so lovely and symbolic of the only constant, change.  A day without running water would have been a tragedy.  Now, it's a lesson and a reminder - an opportunity for gratitude.


When there was a heavy snow, before Moraine, we worked frantically to make sure we could get out of the driveway and back to work as soon as possible.  Now, we hope for a heavy snow because it will make it easier to see the wildlife. 

wildlife!

I miss my grandma more on Moraine than I ever did before. Maybe that is just a coincidence, but in the quiet, simple evenings, I remember how she used to sleep with the t.v. on, in her big green bed, with a pink rosary hanging off the headboard.  Early in the mornings sometimes, I smell her cigarettes and starched, bleached sheets. Almost every weekend, I make her biscuits and gravy for D and the kids. I think about her the whole time I cook - from start to finish- and I miss her so much sometimes, it hurts.  I don't know what it is about Moraine that makes me ache for her so much.  Maybe the silence, allowing her back in after years of keeping the thoughts out.  Maybe it's the familiarity of a safe haven. Maybe it's the kids, knowing she'll never get to pinch them. She liked Dolly Parton and George Jones and Elvis.  She would open a can of Coke and keep it in the refrigerator and sip it all day.  She made blackeyed peas and cornbread for dinner and they were so warm and perfect every time.  She made me laugh so much.
 

Once, her left turn signal light bulb was out. I was in the car with her when she found out.  We went to Steve's gas station, where they pumped the gas for her.  The attendant told her the bulb was out, but she didn't have the time to get it fixed.  That day, we went from the gas station, to the grocery store, and back to her house making only right turns.  It was the funniest thing you've ever seen.

She always gave us socks for Christmas.  It was silly when I was a kid, but incredibly thoughtful looking back on it with adult eyes.  She had a huge bathtub. It had a cigarette burn in the far right corner.
Grandma smoked like a chimney, even when she was very, very sick - she would smoke whatever you handed her: a straw or an unlit cigarette. 

I'm sure she would get a kick out of Moraine.  Looking down, I'm sure she knows how much she means to me.




 This next week will be calm, but moving onto February will be hectic.  D will be going out of town for a few days, and then he and I are going away for a concert over Valentine's Day (yay!) to see our favorite band.  Winter is cold and warm at the same time.  I'm ready for spring.  Remember the crocuses? 



"Always remember there was nothing worth sharing like the love that let us share our name"


-S















Saturday, January 12, 2013

Flowers In Your Hair

Lately, the homebody in me has been entwined in a tremendous battle with the productive member of society with a job and bills to pay and people to answer to that aren't my dependents.  I have been so drawn to all of the quiet parts of me that usually remain dormant until spring.  The parts of me that want to dig in the dirt, paint the walls, glue googly-eyes on rocks and give them names.  The parts of me that want to peel back all of the fleece sheets from the beds and heavy down coats from the hangers and snow pants off the shelves and replace them with cotton and linen and darling little skirts.

It is because mother nature is confused here in the Midwest that I, too, am feeling a little confused.  Today, the temperature was an average of 50 degrees.  Granted, it was a muddy, overcast, gray kind of 50 degrees - but in January - it's just baffling for me. I'm sure that tomorrow or maybe the day after, Indiana wintertime will return to normal and we'll be greeted with frozen-solid windshields and slippery-cold-clay grounds in the mornings. That is why I had to take full advantage of the interestingly mild day that was today.


D and I got to take a hike together this afternoon and in the silence, listened as a gaggle of geese foraged around the pond. We listened to two playful piney squirrels explore the trees as a pileated woodpecker scavenged through the woods. There was no breeze, no howling children or disruptive sounds.  Even the chainsaw being operated by a faceless neighbor across the pond was a welcome, productive sort of noise that fit in amongst all of the enormous trees. 


I got to take some lovely photos of my darling husband between the trees, in his big green boots and adorable baseball hat.  Holding his warm coffee cup. Flanked by an old oak and a sugar maple. Momentarily at ease and feeling the peace that comes when the cool air hits your face (or beard).

I got to breathe in the air, the smell of the wet earth and leaves mixing just perfectly with the delicate hint of pine if a breeze should move through the trees just so.

I got to hold D's hand as he helped me down an especially slippery hill.

I got to sip on a very strong coffee with some almond milk.

I got to laugh, listen to my husband tell me about his week, about hopes for our future, about how tremendously different our lives are from what they used to be.


I had an opportunity to think about our small, simple life here on Moraine. I wondered: are we making a difference in the world at all outside of our own? I thought about the ripple effect of living. Of how dropping a small stone into a giant pond, the ripples will travel all the way to the edges of the pond if the water is still enough.  In the stillness of the trees, I felt a little like a pebble.


I have come to understand that certain moments like these shape my life by a measure that is not consistent with their brevity and immediate imprint.  These are not big events, the births, the deaths, the unions and separations, which - for all their significance - are the commonplace joys and tragedies of humanity.

Rather, they are the almost imperceptible splashes in the pool of my existence, like when I glance up at D perched at the top of a ravine like a king on the back of some great beast, and I marvel at what it means to be human, to be the species that - for better or worse - has invented all this stuff, this amazing, crazy magical stuff.

I mean, to watch one man who can climb aboard a 2,000 pound piece of machinery at 7:30 in the morning and have a 200 acre plot of land prepared to be burned to the ground safely the next day by 3:30 p.m.? And to know that he is just a gentle man, really, the heart of a kitten and the work ethic of an entire anthill?  It's almost as if I can feel the small pebble dropping through my surface.

It's almost as if I am not just the pool, but also the shore and I can see those little waves rushing toward me.


A brief update before I join my warm-blooded-heat-radiating husband and attention-starved Big brother in bed for a movie:  little brother has had an exceptionally stubborn cough for the last 2 weeks or so, but only at night, and no other symptoms, but he had us so concerned that we took him to a doctor today.  The doctor believed it was simply post-nasal drip and suggested we do a few things at home to keep him comfortable and to give it time.  No antibiotics, which was a welcome change to most doctor visits lately. He is sleeping peacefully in his crib right now and hasn't coughed once since falling asleep.

Big brother played basketball for hours today.  He would take a break, come into the kitchen all flushed-cheeks and chilly fingertips to tell me how happy he was to be outdoors.  He went to a church activity for two hours Friday night and had a really good time.  Being ten is a blast. Just ask me him.

Sometimes our satellite television service provider will surprise us with a free weekend of HBO as a trick to get us to order it, and this is that weekend!  Needless to say, we won't be wearing pants until Monday morning.




 "Just know you're not alone. 'Cause I'm gonna make this place your home."

-S.





Saturday, January 5, 2013

A Little Bit Of Everything

It has been an interesting start to the new year. On January 2, 2013, Sweetheart and I were chasing a mouse around the house in the early morning hours. My wife has a very effective technique of capturing mice with a towel. She is very calm and gentle with the mouse and she sets them free outside the house.  Once in a while, our black and white cat will catch a  mouse during the night and bring it to our bed as we sleep.  She then will release the mouse and watch it crawl into the covers with us.  This always makes for an interesting event.

Two days ago, the road at the Moraine was a sheet of ice.  The driveway is long with hills and hollers.  I almost crashed into a ravine and a pond while driving the road.  So when Sweetheart was returning home from work she had to park out by the mailboxes and walk to the house in the dark.  The next morning, she got all bundled up and walked out to the car in 20 degree weather.   She was the first person at her office.  I am proud of my wife.  She is a good pioneer.

Big Brother is enjoying his vacation.  He will be back to school in a few days.  He is excited to go to church tomorrow.  Little Brother is trying to talk more.  He is so smart and so active.  Sweetheart bought bird seed today.  I hope she sees Penny soon.

My family and I always look for Robins in late winter and early spring.  Yesterday I saw about 12 in the back yard.  This will be a year full of adventure and new experiences.















D.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Paris In The Morning

In the span of the last week or two, I have gotten two seed catalogs, my bi-monthly issue of 'Organic Gardener', 'Country Living', and a cooking magazine full of vegetable-centered recipes in the mail.  You guys, I just want to skip winter.  I want to skip it so badly, it makes me pout.  At some point during the holidays, one of our relatives (uncle Wayne, perhaps?) asked which season we like the most on Moraine.  D and I thought for a split second and agreed that winter was our answer.  But, looking at all the tomato varieties and pondering which one we'd plant in the garden this spring (leaning toward San Marzano and Roma) made me wonder why on earth I ever said winter.


But then, two days ago, I went for a fairly short hike. Everything was frosted in snow. The crisp, second-day kind that sometimes if you're really careful, you can stand on top of without making a footprint. The kind that sort of coats the sides of trees and clings ever-so-gently to the brittle phragmites that have, much like myself, gone inactive for the frigid season. The kind of snow that you can hold in your hand very tightly and it will melt into a snowpebble that isn't good for anything, really, except to throw. And the world was so

still.

Insulated almost, against the sounds of the cars a few miles away, against the movement of the leaves that aren't on the trees anymore. Insulated against the distractions of television, children, dishwasher, washing machine, dryer, running water, furnace, home-sounds that we forget never stop.  It was a silent kind of world where time just floats by and things change - but so very slowly, gracefully, that you have to be very still for an uncertain, unpromised amount of time to even notice.  The gray/white palette is so hushed. Any green I managed to find felt extravagant. It's a similar feeling to finding the crocus in spring - a satisfied sort of welcoming to those changes that happen in their own time.  I am just a curious observer.  And-just as suddenly as a bud blooms - I am reminded of why I said 'winter.'

bah humbug.


As 2012 came to a close, I could feel life slowing down. The winter light glaring in through our south-facing windows has been bold and glaring and warm, warm, warm. The deer are grouping together and, if you watch closely in the mornings and evenings, you can watch them slowly munch their way through all of the clearings surrounding the house before they settle in wherever they do that with full bellies in a warm, fuzzy clump. The twins that were born this past spring are boys, sprouting little antlers on top of their heads.  They're confident and strong and they grew out of those spots so fast.

bad dancers.


We've been doing all of the indoor activities that I avoided doing while the weather was nice.  Yesterday I spent the day cleaning out all of the cabinets, drawers, nooks and crannies of the house.  I steam-mopped the floors, vacuumed all of the rugs, washed the linens and most of the laundry. Tomorrow, I may clean the linen closet and get some groceries. The day after that, I go back to work and the boys still get 5 more days before returning to school and work. They so deserve it. My loves.


Today, we visited a local children's museum.  Big brother was a little too big for it, but he made the best of it for little brother...


Who thought it was the best day ever.  It was his first visit to a ball pit. He was so happy. Genuinely happy. He is a tiny explorer. He is so content and excited.  It was a lovely place to visit.  It's been somewhere we've wanted to go for a while, but we were waiting for the weather to change.  It was a good first day of 2013.


I don't generally look back or reflect upon the year that is ending when a new one begins, but if I had to I would say that 2012 was a year of blessings and abundance. Personally, I found inspiration in so many different places - from music to a simple meal - but nothing inspired me as much as my day to day life here on Moraine. The boys - all three of them - find joy in the smallest things, and - as I see that happening, I am reminded of how meaningless so many of the things I used to care so much about are. The hollow, commercialized way happiness was always marketed to me doesn't work anymore.



Now that we live on Moraine, I know now where my happiness is fed and watered - and it's not at a cash register. Of course, raising two children, we have needs and wants - and I will try my hardest to make sure this precious family of mine has all they could want. However, for me and my own spiritual journey has transformed and I find so much joy in the experience - watching someone else open a gift, sending a handwritten thank-you note. The experience of watching our married cardinal couple eat dinner, of laughing at our boys until it hurts, of chatting with family about the way things were. The experience of sharing our dreams and hopes about the future with D. My happiness grows differently now.


Looking forward, I think 2013 will continue to be a transforming journey for our family. I have a lot of hopes for each of us, but as a whole, I hope we reach out more, give more of ourselves, and take care of each other. D and I are planning on taking better care of ourselves, and continually working to improve our finances. Every day, we're closer than we were the day before.  We make a lot of sacrifices and we say 'no' to a lot of things that might make us momentarily happy or make our lives minutely easier, but we try hard to keep our long-term well being in mind and make financial decisions based on that.  We're doing our best, and we'll continue to. Every day is easier than the one before.


Mostly, I want 2013 to be a year of positivity for our family.  I don't want us to get bogged down with worry or hard times.  There will always be hard times.  I hope we stay optimistic and strong.  I hope we remember how blessed we are, and let those warm feelings give us comfort if we find ourselves facing any kind of uncertainty. I hope that in 2013 we lean on each other and respond to situations that arise with love and dignity. I hope we grow and become better people, go on adventures, experience new explorations, listen to great music, eat fabulous food.  I hope that in 2013 is just as inspirational as 2012.



-S.

-Music that made 2012 even better-