WINTER DREAMING

It was easy to be lulled by the seventy degree weather though common sense told me that old man winter was lurking just around the corner waiting for us to become complacent before slamming us again. I knew it was too early for him to be done with us, but somehow after the spring tease the freezing temperatures are much harder to bear. I had begun to tentatively think of spring flowers and polk salad, though I don’t know where I’ll find polk salad around here. The thought is tantalizing my taste buds with memories of past springs filled with that delicious wild green. Polk salad has always been a special treat to look forward to with the warming weather. I guess I’ll have to forgo it this year but there are dozens of wild flowers here to enjoy. I’m anxiously waiting for the blue bonnets to pop up in the field across the street where I’ll have a front row viewing seat.

In light of the harsh weather in other parts of the country I have cause to celebrate, even if it’s colder right now than I’d like. I’ve determined that I’m like an addict of sorts, I get a few warm days and I just crave more. I have hopes that if I can bide my time, hibernating if necessary, till March arrives that the long-awaited south wind will have enough ummph to push old man winter back to the north country where he belongs.

To say I’m counting the days till spring would be an understatement; I’m sincerely waiting with bated breath for the first flowers, new green leaves, and first fruits of the season. I thrive on having something to look forward to so to bring spring a little closer during this dreary, cold spell, I’m planning my spring garden….in containers of course. Should I have flowers, cherry tomatoes, herbs, that long wanted lemon tree? My heart tells me to embrace them all and I might as well dream big.

As I sit here planning and dreaming of warmer days, I’m truly thankful my family moved me to Texas last spring or at this very moment I’d be ice-bound in my home in Arkansas again. No, in view of everything, I won’t complain at this snippet of cold air; it’s time for song and dance, hot chocolate and seed catalogues, homemade soup and bread, and maybe, oh yes maybe, a donut or two…with chocolate frosting.

TIME WARP

My days zip by so fast that I hardly have time to draw a breath before another week is gone. I’ve many things planned to accomplish each day but I never seem to have time to start, much less finish, any of them. I’ve come to believe that I’m in a time warp, either that or [perish the thought] I’ve become incredibly slow at everything I do, and I know that’s not the case….is it? Surely I haven’t become my mother-in-law whom I poked fun at for being so slow.

There was a time I could run rings around everyone else. At the peak of my life I cared for 7 children [all of them my own], had a reasonably clean house, cooked three hardy meals from scratch each day, did laundry for the nine of us, and then in my free time I’d paint an entire room [moving all the furniture myself], do the clean up, and move the furniture back in place before my husband arrived home from work. He never knew what to expect when he came home at night but he knew better than to come in after dark without turning a light on for fear of falling over furniture I’d moved around. Back then that was just a normal day; somehow that doesn’t seem so normal anymore. These days I barely have time to get dressed before it’s time to put my pajamas back on. I need to come up with a better plan, such as wearing my PJ’s all day or sleeping in my clothes so I can roll out of bed in the morning ready for the day. Some of my boys did that when they were young and the only drawback to that was their clothes looked slept in. We no longer have mostly cotton clothing that must be ironed to look good, synthetic materials are used a great deal, or at the very least a permanent press fabric. That should work well for me if I decide on that course of action.

Since this time warp has engulfed me, I’ve found a useful shortcut that allows me to breakfast before evening. I no longer make biscuits or anything else I have to cook, the secret is a straight-forward bowl of delicious cold cereal. I then have time to plan one cooked meal…and sometimes even prepare it. A pot of soup or something else that takes minimal effort and which will last a few days is all I’m striving for now. Yes, I really am sorry for making fun of my mother-in-law; they say what goes around comes around, and I’m now the beneficiary of that profound observation.

My new church time this year is 1:00 PM and I barely have enough time to get ready. I really may have to resort to sleeping in my church clothing when the time changes again next January to a 9:00 AM start time. Since I’ve been living by myself I very rarely wake on my own before nine…ten…or sometimes even eleven AM. I must use that hateful alarm when I need to set my trash curbside between six and nine AM….what a bummer, I do hate that alarm! I’ve wondered if I’ve gotten lazy or if I’m just catching up on sleep missed during the last 53 years when I had children constantly interrupting my sleep and a husband who slept fitfully, rising at four or five AM wanting [expecting] a hot homemade breakfast. The truth may never be known, but I’m not overly concerned since I don’t have to answer to anyone but myself.

I guess it should be no surprise that time seems to be passing so swiftly considering I’m sleeping away half the day combined with the fact that I am moving slower and taking longer to finish tasks. I have the distinct feeling however that there’s more here than meets the eye, that time actually is moving faster; even my teenage grandchildren have said something to this effect. What a difference a few years can make, when I was their age each day was a long expanse of time to fill with numerous activities with time left to daydream. I sort of miss those long, happy, carefree days with no end in sight. Today, the end is getting closer and closer and the days are getting shorter and shorter. Am I unhappy about this phenomenon? Not at all for there is a time and season for everything. It’s my season to slow down from such a busy life and enjoy the simple pleasures that can be found in the shortest of days. Who cares if I regularly sleep late or eat cereal for brunch? Who cares if I make one 30 minute meal instead of three gourmet ones? Who cares if I spend my time reading or daydreaming? Certainly not I, in fact it’s rather a relief to give up the guise of Wonder Woman. Now, if I can just figure out how to eliminate vacuuming and laundry from my existence, Utopia may be on the horizon.

REGRETS

I’ve always loved music and when I was a child I had visions of becoming a singer. I spent hours singing while gliding in the porch swing or while playing outside by myself. As I got older I’d lock myself in my room and sing along with the music on the radio or stereo.

I clearly remember the first stereo my father gave me; it was a large wooden portable one. That was a misnomer, since it was far too heavy for me to move around, but it served it’s purpose and I was thrilled with it. It came with a few records, most of them silly songs such as ‘Nanners ain’t got no Boneies’. But I played them over and over until I was able to purchase some of my own choosing. Thence forth, most of my allowance went for records.

My mother and I sang together quite often. She sang alto and I sang soprano [I had a very high clear voice] and we harmonized well. Some of my fondest memories are of singing with my mother and I still have the songbook we generally used.

I was in Glee Club in Junior and Senior high school. We once performed on television in Little Rock, Arkansas and later in Stillwater, Oklahoma where the buses waiting outside were left running because of the cold weather. Somehow the carbon monoxide fumes built up inside the building we were performing in and members of the choir began dropping like flies, including myself. It was sometime after this last episode that I realized that I didn’t have what it took voice wise to become a real singer so I let go of the last childhood vestiges of hope and turned my energies elsewhere, although music continued to be a big part of my life, as it still is today. One of my sisters-in-law is a professional musician; she’s a wonderful pianist and has an awe-inspiring voice. She has taken her children’s choral group all over the world and has been invited to perform at the White House for at least two Presidents.

I’ve enjoyed singing in the church choir at various times and I always sang to my babies and young children. I sang in duets and trios at Relief Society functions when I was younger but these days, due to allergies, it’s a toss-up whether my singing voice will even work. I can however, still play the radio and my CD player; my days are filled with music and I concur with my four-year old grandson who said to his father, “I love music.”

When Bruce and I were dating he played his guitar and sang to me, boy did he know the way to my heart! He continued this practice until the last three weeks of his life, and thanks to my oldest son I have a forty song CD of Bruce playing and singing his favorite songs. How comforting it is to hear his music whenever I wish.

One time shortly after we were married I had a phrase from a song stuck in my head and kept singing it aloud over and over all day. I’m sure it was maddening to anyone listening. Bruce finally asked me to quit singing, so I did…I never sang in front of him again, except when our family sang Christmas carols together. He of course didn’t mean for me to quit singing altogether, just quit singing that maddening phrase. I knew that, but something inside me froze at his words and wouldn’t allow me to sing in front of him ever again. Over the ensuing years he tried every way he knew to get me to sing for him or with him but I physically couldn’t do it, my vocal cords wouldn’t work. Just before he went into the hospital for the last time he apologized for that time 53 years before when he’d ask me to quit singing [who knew he even remembered that incident]. He said that he recognized that was why I never sang in front of him and that it was his biggest regret in life.

How sad that in some of his last lucid moments he remembered and had cause to regret a remark he’d made more than half a century earlier. And how sad that an innocent remark made in passing had such a lasting impact on me. The truth is that we don’t know how our words will affect someone else so we need to guard our tongue carefully. Knowing Bruce’s biggest regret makes my biggest regret easy to pinpoint, that he had that regret at all. Some things simply can’t be changed no matter how much we wish it, but maybe one day we’ll get the chance to sing together in a Heavenly Choir and then our regrets will be a thing of the past.

CONTINUING INSANITY

This is an addendum to my July 2014 post of ‘The definition Of Insanity’. The demented Cardinal that terrorized Chris’s household for many months met his demise when their cat caught and killed him, depositing his body on their front door step. Now I really hate for song birds to be killed but I’ll admit I felt just a little relief [well okay, more than a little]  when we saw his beautiful lifeless form lying there..

We were just settling into mornings of sweet uninterrupted sleep when we once again began to be wakened by that too familiar sound of a bird pecking the windows. Yes, it’s another Cardinal behaving just like the previous one, except with much more determination. This one doesn’t concentrate on just the two front windows in the morning, it flies all around the house attacking each window in turn, all day long. Nothing has yet deterred it; not pictures of hawks taped to the windows, not wind chimes hung outside the windows, nor streamers tied in the trees. It’s a little unnerving for two birds to act like this….I mean what are the odds for even one bird to do it? In my almost 71 years this is the first time I’ve seen it happen. Is the second bird the first one’s progeny who learned by example or is he just demented too? In case it’s a genetic trait passed on to the next generation, the family cat needs to work overtime in catching this bird too before nesting season begins. I hate to think of a whole army of birds flying into and banging on the windows. This story line just keeps getting stranger and stranger, and closer and closer to Alfred Hitchcock’s ‘The Birds’.

I just recently read something that said when a person sees a Cardinal it’s a loved one visiting. If that’s true there must be some very angry relatives in the neighborhood. And why they are so intent in getting inside the house is anybody’s guess. Not a very comforting thought so I choose to disregard that idea and look at Cardinals as I always have, as beautiful song birds. And the demented ones at my son’s house? Well I don’t have a good answer for that but if anyone has an explanation please let me know.

NO RAISIN CREAM PIE

There will be no chocolate, coconut, or raisin cream pie; there will be no coconut or pineapple upside-down cake; there will be no French fries, no baby back ribs, no fillet mignon or even a single hamburger. No, there will be none of them today even though the memory of these foods in association with this day are burned into my heart and soul. Today is Bruce’s birthday and these were his favorite foods, foods he never tired of and always wanted on his special day…or any other day for that matter.

I always made his chosen dessert but it was a toss-up whether we’d go to a restaurant for the main course or eat at home. In recent years some of the children invariably gave him a gift card to his favorite steak house for his birthday so we usually ate there. I fussed at him for his love of rich foods, but if I had him here with me today I’d say nary a word.

Was it only a year ago he was recovering nicely from a heart attack and the future looked so bright? Oh what a difference a year…or even a month, can bring. A month later he was in the hospital again and two months later he was gone. I do hope he enjoyed his last birthday meal of steak and a pineapple upside-down cake. The memory lingers in my mind with happiness that I was able to share it with him, and sadness that it was the last one we would share.

Funny that the last couple of months of his life he didn’t want steak or meat of any kind. He wanted a Frosty from Wendy’s and spaghetti with my homemade spaghetti sauce. I should have known something drastic was about to happen when he started requesting spaghetti a couple of times a week for he’d never, NEVER, liked it and had always refused to eat it. I, on the other hand, loved it and would eat it for lunch when he was at work, sometimes several times a week. The tables are turned now, I haven’t liked or wanted spaghetti since those days… psychological? Maybe, especially in view of the fact that I no longer want the homemade biscuits that he loved and that I made for him almost daily.

With my mind filled with thoughts of Bruce today [as they are every day] I’ve decided that I should treat myself to something he’d request for his birthday, a celebration of his life so to speak. Perhaps a coconut pie would be just the thing, his love of it dated to his childhood when his mother made them. I had to get her recipe and practice for a long time before my pies were as good as hers. Yes, I’ve talked myself into it, coconut pie it will be! AND I’ll throw caution to the wind and have two pieces, one for him and one for me. Eating two pieces a day will make the pie last four days. However, if my children get wind of what I’m doing, it will be gone in one sitting…not such a bad idea actually, if they are reading this consider it an invitation.  Happy Birthday Bruce!

GIVE ME SUNSHINE

It’s only January and we’ve had our second blast of Polar air for the winter. It started early this year with ten days of Arctic air before Thanksgiving. These cold, dark, dreary days are not my cup of tea and they make me long for the hot days of summer which I so despise.

Here in the dead of winter as I think about summer I realize that even though I don’t like hot weather, there are a few things I do like about summer. I like the long hours of sunshine; I like going outdoors without wearing a coat; I like to be out in the mild, pleasant air of early mornings and late evenings; I like all the flowers and greenery that comes with hot weather; and I like the carefree feeling that comes with warmer days. Give me sunshine, oh give me sunshine!

Thankfully we don’t usually have many days at a time without the sun. One of my daughter in-laws loves for it to be rainy and cold because it reminds her of her home in the Pacific Northwest, but give me sunshine!

I’ve noticed that the cold doesn’t deter the rain starved birds from bathing in the puddles. I don’t mind the rain either, in fact I like it for a few days at a time, it’s just these infernally cold, sunless days that I have a problem with. Why can’t we have the cold air along with a sunny sky. Just give me sunshine!!

During the kind of weather we’ve been having I tend to hibernate, not even going to the mail box until I feel the mail carrier can’t stuff anything else in my box. Funny that, when I lived in Arkansas the highlight of my day was going to the mailbox. After my husband became ill he wanted to walk out to get the mail for a little exercise. I let him and got out of the habit, now it doesn’t seem so important…unless I have a package. In that case I’ll reluctantly bundle up and make the short trek to claim my prize. Thanks to Amazon Prime I can know exactly when and how my merchandise will be delivered. There’s no guess-work on that score with the notifications I receive.

These dreary winter days find me cooking, cleaning, reading, studying various things, doing genealogy research, sometimes doing art work or blogging, and most days shopping on-line. Yes folks, I hate to admit it but I’m addicted to shopping from my easy chair….what’s not to love about it? I wish I could order all my groceries on-line like people do in New York and have them delivered right to my door. I really do hope the sun returns before my Amazon gift cards run out otherwise I’m in serious trouble since I can’t realistically hope for anymore before my birthday at least. So give me sunshine, and lots of it, I need to get out of this house and go to the store!

HAPPY NEW YEAR

What a year of change 2014 turned out to be…I certainly didn’t see these changes coming so I was completely blind sided. As Charles Dickens said in a Tale of Two Cities, “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”

Firstly, my daughter changed her name; well okay she got married. There’s nothing wrong with changing your name when you get married. I did it as most women do, but she had always been adamant about keeping the name she was born with…and she did, sort of. She uses it in conjunction with her new last name. It was wonderful to see her so lovely and happy, although a little sadness creeped in because her father passed away before her big day. And it was wonderful to have all six of her brothers come together to help celebrate her happy event, especially since her father wasn’t there…physically. Now midst six daughter-in-laws, I have a son-in-law, quite a novelty in this family.

The most life changing event happened when I lost my husband of 53 years. He had been in poor health for several months, but the final nail in the coffin, so to speak, was a surgery gone awry. I keep asking myself, ‘what if he hadn’t elected to have that surgery?’ The answer doesn’t do anyone any good, especially myself, for he did have it and it was a choice he made knowing the risks. He was always a risk taker, that particular time the risk just didn’t work in our favor. Indications are he knew it was his time to go so perhaps the ‘how’ didn’t really matter.

Another radical change came when I sold our home and most of our belongings and moved lock, stock and barrel to Texas. I stored my things and lived with a son here for a few months. And then, then I got my own apartment. What a change that has been! I had never lived by myself, pumped my own gasoline, or been totally responsible for my finances or my life. It has all been quite a learning experience. It’s not something I would have voluntarily chosen for myself but I do feel that I have grown and learned a lot….who says you can’t teach an old dog new tricks? I’ve always had to be dragged kicking and screaming to any new experience, so for me to actually be able to do what I’ve done is a big accomplishment. Lest you think I’m patting myself on the back, I must admit that it was more a matter of ‘sink or swim’ and I chose to swim, or rather dog-paddle. I’m not really swimming yet but I’m beginning to get the hang of it with the continued help and encouragement of my loving family.

I was so optimistic at the beginning of 2014, I thought it would be the best year ever, and in some ways it has been. I have learned that one must appreciate every day spent with family members, to take nothing for granted because those we love can literally be here today and gone tomorrow. I’ve learned that a person isn’t an island, we all need others. I’ve learned that we are stronger than we imagine ourselves to be; it may take some major event to bring that strength into play, but it’s there waiting in the wings. I’ve learned that regardless of our circumstance, life is sweet. I’ve learned how to rely on Heavenly Father more fully and to recognize his presence in my life even in the smallest of things. And I’ve learned how truly blessed I am.

I’m not going to tempt fate again by suggesting that 2015 will be a really good year. I’ll take what it brings with thanksgiving in my heart for each day I’m here to enjoy it. I think it’s true that one must experience the bitter to appreciate the sweet. My life has been filled with sweet things, more than my fair share actually, so I must deal with the few bitter things that come my way with dignity and grace. Helpful or not, I’ll continue the life long tradition, begun at my mother’s table, of eating black-eyed peas on New Years day in case that makes a difference in my good luck and fortune….maybe I just didn’t eat enough of them last year.

Here’s hoping you all have a great new year. A year filled with love and sweet things; a year filled with laughter and learning; a year filled with faith and self-discovery; a year filled with the happiness of family. But most of all a year filled with the appreciation for life itself and for the one above who gave it to us all. Happy New Year!

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