Reflections from my bathroom mirror

Mirror, Bathroom, reflection,Most writers know the feeling. That perfect opening sentence, the great statement, the brilliant vision that gets us fired up to sit right down at a keyboard and record it, before it vanishes.

Unfortunately, for me these bursts of creativity usually occur when I am in the shower, dripping with shampoo.  I don’t know what it is exactly that makes me so witty and well spoken when I am naked and covered in suds, but it happens all the time. It is probably the fact that I am not able to multi-task while bathing, so my thoughts are able to take a straight line, not distracted by the lists and bills and post-its that cover my desk.

Often the spark stays with me long enough that I can polish my stories in my head as I continue my morning routine in front of the bathroom mirror. Oh, those wonderful, eloquent blog posts and articles that I concoct there….sometimes I even tap a line or two into the notes app on my Iphone, or dictate them to Siri while I apply my make-up with the other hand, sure that I will be able to continue later in the day when I am in front of my computer.

The problem is, as the day progresses and I continue on, my genius – as well as my motivation – starts to fade. That perfect story or blog post becomes a bit watered down and fuzzy. The amazing first line falls flat and I am left with just that one sentence. By the time I actually feel  my fingers on the keyboard, the process stalls, the words stop flowing, and I am left with a title or the aforementioned sentence, but nothing more.

It is always interesting to revisit the dated flickers of creativity of my past. The list of possible posts in my phone or the unfinished drafts in my dashboard prove to be an amusing diary of my life.  Sometimes I actually start them up again and come up with something useful. More often I wonder if I should just delete them all and start over.

As I sit here dripping with my hair wrapped in a towel I am simply thankful for the list of topics that my morning shower has cultivated. There is one thing that I do know for sure; if I ever decide to write the ‘Great American Novel’ I really need to stock up on body wash.

I am curious to know how or (even more importantly) where other writers find their inspiration. I would love to hear your stories – please let me know in the comments section!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And they said it wouldn’t last

newlyweds, wedding, buggy, surry with a fringe on top, just married, just hitched, bride, groomIn 1982 I was 21 years old.  I had not ever seen the ocean or traveled on an airplane.  I had never lived more than 10 miles from my parents’ house.

Since then there have been:

3 children

2 apartments

1 house

15 jobs

11 vehicles

3 dogs

3 cats

1.5 grandchildren

18 trips to Mexico

On September 11, 1982 it was hot and humid. I wore a long-sleeved high-necked dress (not to mention a corset and stockings!) to that little church in Chautauqua, NY. In front of all of our friends and family I married my best friend. The very next day you took me to see the ocean for the first time in a borrowed car using a AAA Trip-tick for directions. I remember being terrified as we walked along the sand and I held fast to the bag that held every dollar we had.

That was only the beginning.

We have lived here on the hill for most of the years since then, and it has been a wild ride at times. We have experienced births and deaths, new jobs and unemployment, graduations, funerals and weddings. We have weathered the tough winters and enjoyed the sunrises over the lake each morning. We have watched each of our daughters leave this place, one by one. I still live less than 10 miles away from my childhood home, but we have traveled the world together.

I wouldn’t trade one minute of the laughter or the tears that we have shared for anything.

Thank you, Jim, for filling the past 32 years of my life with love and care. God has blessed me far more than I ever deserved by bringing us together.

I am amazed at how far we have come.

Love you, Willy.

“Lil”Feet, sand, Mexico, Beer, Beach

Coming Clean

I have a confession to make.

I do not own a dishwasher.

I guess that this is not very common these days, but to me it is normal.  In all of my adult life I have only had one (secondhand, portable) dishwasher. It was messy and sprayed water all over the kitchen. It was cumbersome and loud.  I used its butcher block top for extra counter space for a while and stored my Tupperware cake keeper in it, but I think I used it less than a dozen times.

A conversation that I had recently with an acquaintance went something like this:

She “I could not LIVE without a dishwasher.”

Me “Never really wanted one.”

She (horrified gasp) “That is unimaginable!”

By the tone of her reaction you would have thought that I had said that I preferred an outhouse to indoor plumbing! It is true, though.  In my 30+ years up here on the hill I have wanted many things…a hot tub, a sidewalk, even a bathtub for a time (but that’s another story), but a dishwasher is not one of them.

Another friend whose own dishwasher broke down right before the Thanksgiving holiday one year told me that she couldn’t possibly host the festivities without one.  To her the dishwasher was as important as the oven itself!

Don’t get me wrong – when I was a teenager and washing the dishes was a chore that had to be accomplished before I could slip away to be with friends, I hated the job.  I would do anything to get out of it, including trickery and deceit. I would make promises to my siblings that I never intended to keep so that they would relieve me of the job, and I was quite often successful.

When my own children were growing up washing the dishes and folding the clothes were the two main chores that they had to do each day. They will tell you that if I came home to a sink full of dirty dishes there would be much commotion. It is true that when I was exhausted from a long day at the office and needed the sink for meal preparation, I did not relish the task.

The kitchen sink is the heart of our home. Each member of our family has spent a significant amount of time in front of it.  We’ve bathed our children (and now our grandchild) there, pulled up chairs so that they could help us and taught them to do it on their own.  Thousands of basins of soapy water have been drawn there. My memories contain hours of telephone conversations had while scrubbing and rinsing and drying, watching the seasons pass by through the windows that are situated just above it. Gossip was shared, tears were shed, good news was revealed and bad news received – if only those walls could talk! Long conversations had while cleaning up after large family gatherings – holidays, reunions, graduation parties and even a rehearsal dinner brought friends and family members together long after the meals were finished and the table was cleared.

I remember my mother standing at my sink washing the dishes, even as her health began to fail.  She would bend from the waist, leaning on her elbows as she cleaned each plate and glass and pot.  She taught my sister and me that it was rude to leave someone’s kitchen without offering to help with the dishes, and I know that both of us feel the same way to this day. Sometimes when I am at the sink by myself I catch myself standing the same way she did as my back begins to ache from a long day of preparation and celebration. I smile to myself remembering how important this task was to her.

I would love to have my big country kitchen remodeled. I have thought many times about how I would arrange things, and what kind of cupboards and flooring I might have.  I have added marble counter tops, farmhouse sinks and tile floor coverings to my Pinterest boards, dreaming of how beautiful it might be.  The one thing that I never make room for in my imagination, though, is the dishwasher.  To me it is just unnecessary.

Think of all of those missed opportunities for memory making….

“Unimaginable!”sink, kitchen sink, country kitchen, dishes, doing dishes, chores

Five Things

I haven’t done this in a while. Who am I kidding?  I haven’t done much of any blogging in a while….but today I feel grateful and good, so…

Five things that make me happy right this very moment.

1. Early morning yoga.  I woke up to sunshine today and my heart just told me that I needed some time on my mat before anything else. It felt refreshing and good. My body feels loose and warm on this cold summer morning. I like that.Pink yoga mat, porch, practice, morning yoga, namaste

2. Morning texts from my Fee (and her Mama). It is always nice to know that someone is thinking of you as you start your day. Texts with pictures are even better. (hint, hint)Pigtails, granddaughter, toddler, happy, little girl

3. Coleus plants. As I look out on my (frigid) porch this morning I can see the beautiful green, yellow and burgundy colors of the coleus that we planted this past spring. They have grown gorgeous and large and bushy and have weathered the non-summer that we are having this year far better than any of our other plants. The memory of the evening drive that we took to the Amish greenhouse last May and finding the palettes of tiny starter plants is a happy one.Summer Plants, coleus, planters, porch

4. Coffee.  Always coffee. There is nothing better than a good sip of strong black coffee from my big red mug. It warms my belly and wakes me up. I LOVE my coffee in the morning!Coffee cup, desk, Starbucks

5. The view of the sunrise over my front lawn. No matter what time of year it is,  the sunrises here on the Hill are always spectacular.  Every morning I do my work facing the lake so that I can watch the sun coming up. I would much prefer to be outside, sitting ON the porch, but I will take the dazzling pink and orange colors reflecting off the water from wherever I can see them. Today it is inside, but I am hoping for a warm up soon. Maybe a cup of afternoon tea would be nice out there later.Sunrise, Chautauqua Lake

What are YOUR five things today?

My Mother’s Voice

I don’t really like to talk on the phone anymore.

There was a time when I would spend hours with it crooked between my shoulder and my ear. I could do almost anything that way….fold clothes, make beds, clean out the refrigerator…having a telephone conversation didn’t slow me down. When they were little, I think that my children may have actually thought it was a piece of my anatomy.

I still reach for it every time I do the dishes. Our main house phone hangs on the wall right there within an arms distance. It always seemed to make this tedious chore go faster, and it was usually the best possible time – after dinner, when everyone was settled into their before-bed routine.

I rarely make calls any more. The reason for that is that the person who I always called is no longer there to answer.

I miss my Mom.

I talked to my Mom on the phone nearly every day for years, even though she only lived a few miles up the road. I called her for recipes and advice about how to discipline my kids. I called to complain about my terrible day or (honestly) to gossip about people that we both knew.

My mother was a young mother and I often think we grew up together, more like friends than mother and daughter. She had a million friends, and always knew what was going on in our small town.  I could count on her to know the family of the boy who my daughter was dating or the name of a seamstress to hem a recital dress.

As my children grew older and busier sometimes the main contact that I had with my Mom for a few weeks was only over the phone.  She didn’t like this and would often complain that I was too busy.  I felt terribly guilty and we would even argue about it from time to time, but we still always managed to talk nearly every day.

The last time I really remember hearing my Mother’s voice was in a message that she left on my machine.  “Well, hello!! It’s just your Mother”. Her tone was self-depreciating as always, like her call was unimportant to me. I remember feeling guilty and thinking that I had better call her back as soon as I could.

A few days after she died I was all alone in the house and I had that urge to pick up the phone and I remembered the message.  I ran to the kitchen and pressed the button, but it was gone. We had never replaced the battery on the machine and the power had gone off recently. I cried for quite a while when I realized that I wouldn’t hear her voice again.

But I do.

When I play with my granddaughter her voice comes out. She sounds happy and silly and goofy and her laughter rings out. When one of my daughters asks how to cook a roast or what to use to remove a stain out of a good white blouse she answers them with patience and humor.  When my sister calls me in the evening frustrated at the trials of raising a five-year-old she is there offering support, love and understanding – if not answers.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom.  I know that I can’t call you today, but I know that if I could you would be there for me like always. Thank you for all of the wisdom that you shared with me over those many hours on the telephone. I know sometimes it felt like a phone call wasn’t enough, but I appreciate every conversation that we had. <3Mother, Daughter, family, Motherly love, Mother's Day

 

Dear Fee

It’s been a little while since I left you a note here.  So much has happened since the last one….you visited again last Christmas and we had a wonderful time! It was my pleasure to ring in the New Year with you and your Mommy and Daddy (and I think your Poppa enjoyed it as well). We had such a lovely time with all of the family up here on the hill.  It was a bit crowded at times, but that just gave us all a chance to get to know each other a bit better, didn’t it?New Year's Eve, Baby, Celebrate, Grandma, Celebrate

You have become such a wonderful, spunky, funny little girl.  I really enjoy our weekly Skype dates, even though you are usually a bit too busy to chat for long.  It is nice to get to know you as you grow and change.  I really wish that you lived a little closer, but I guess these video visits will have to do for now.

Now I hear that your life is going to change in a BIG way! Word on the street tells me…

YOU ARE GONNA BE A BIG SISTER!Baby, sonogram, big sister

What a wonderful, terrible, fabulous thing for you, my girl! Soon you will be able to enjoy the company of a sibling who you can talk to, boss around, and connive with to make your Mommy and Daddy crazy. You will get to be the leader, the teacher, the one with “experience”. I know that you will thoroughly (well mostly) enjoy your new role in the family. I am sure that this change in status will possibly cause you a bit of consternation, but trust me – it will be worth it in the end!

I remember very clearly the night that I went to the hospital to have your Aunt Kelsey.  I worried so about the fact that your Mommy would be upset to lose her status as the only child. I was afraid that she would dislike her new sibling and be angry with Poppa and me. I really didn’t need to worry. She did love her sister – most of the time.  Sometimes she loved her a bit too HARD by squeezing her a little too tightly, and there was that one incident with the potted plant, but mostly I think she enjoyed her role as the first-born, and to tell you the truth I think she still does. When we added Aunt Kylie to the mix she REALLY got to be in charge, but I think it may be a bit early for your family to think about three, don’t you?

In the meantime, little one, you and your Mommy need to enjoy your last few months of ‘just we two’ when you are together. I hope you make the most of your Daddy and Daughter Mondays, as they may be harder to come by in a few months.  I know you may not always remember this time, but your Mommy and Daddy truly will. Soon your two-year old tantrums and antics that keep them up nights and exhaust them for days will seem like a walk in the park in comparison.  These early days with just three will be precious memories to you all, but honestly once your family starts to grow the real fun begins!

As for me, I want you to know that you will always be my special girl. After all, you are the one who named me GaGa, aren’t you? Thanks for helping me to experience the joy of being Gram. My friends told me before you were born how wonderful being a grandmother would be, but I didn’t truly know until I held you in my arms and looked into your eyes for the very first time. It was magic!

I can’t wait for you to tell your new little brother or sister about me. Only good things, OK? And maybe you can talk your parents in to bringing you both back over here to live so that I can spend more time with you and spoil you. Does that sound like a plan?

Finally, I have to tell you that your new baby will be the luckiest one of all because he or she will have YOU for a big sister!

I love you forever and always and guess what?  Now I get to come see you again in November. This is going to be fun!!

<3 GaGaFee and Gram

My least favorite holiday

I have to admit that I woke up this morning feeling a bit sorry for myself. Eating, cooking, family drama….Thanksgiving has the makings for a stress-filled day. One that I usually face with a considerable amount of trepidation.

I had worked myself up to a pretty good level of self-pity.  This year felt different. Two of our children (and a granddaughter and a son-in-law) would not be home. Two of our parents (my Mom and his Dad) are no longer here to share the holiday with us. My father has a different living situation this year and it has caused us quite a bit of family strife. I had even written a blog post yesterday to be posted this morning about the reasons that I dislike the holiday (hence the title, previously written).

Then I got a call from a friend’s husband letting me know that her mother had died last night. I haven’t been a very good friend lately – I have been too tied up in my own misery to pay much attention to anyone else’s distress. I only learned that her Mom was gravely ill a few nights ago because I had been so out of touch.  I didn’t know what to do to help, so I offered my prayers. It didn’t feel like enough, but it was all that I had.

The phone call made me think. I have been spending way too much time thinking about how I feel and not enough about everyone else in my life. So many people have it so much worse that I do at this moment. I felt selfish and petty. If I were TRULY thankful I should have realized how lucky I am to be able to celebrate the holiday at all. A lifetime of Thanksgivings had set me up with a certain expectation of what the day should bring, but I was looking at them with the wrong focus.

Tonight I took a look back at the photos that I have stored on my computer of past Thanksgivings that we have shared with our family up here on the Hill. Yes, there has been a good amount of stress and drama during our past 30+ years here, but there has also been much laughter and happiness. Looking in to the faces of the people in the pictures I saw what I should have been seeing all along.  We are, indeed, truly blessed to have what we have here in the place where my husband has spent over 50 Thanksgivings. A lot of living has happened here on the Hill.

I am thankful to have been a part of it.