Long Distance Grandparenting

Nearly every Monday morning at about 5am, I wake to the sound of my cell phone vibrating on my nightstand. I don’t really mind this early interruption to my slumber. My weekly “Morning, GaGa!” photo makes me smile every time. Sometimes, if I am really lucky, I even get a video!

If you know me, or have read some of my other posts, you know that our only granddaughter lives very far away. This makes it quite challenging for us to see her (or her Mama and Daddy) with any regularity. I will say that we are well acquainted, though, thanks to the use of technology. We Skype at least once a week and my phone is full of photos (nearly 2,000!) and videos of their daily activities.

I love the fact that we can experience their daily life from afar, and I feel that Fee knows us pretty well, something that would not have been possible twenty years ago, when our children were small. She takes our weekly visits in stride, greeting me enthusiastically when the screen pops up with a “Hi GaGa” and a smile, or hiding away in the corner under a blanket fort while I ask “Where is Fee?” She is a smart one, that one. When I ask her if she could give me a kiss or hug she replies, “I can’t – there is glass there!” referring to the computer screen that is between us. He first question is always “Where has Poppa gone?” and when he is here he will sneak up and surprise her, receiving a squeal and a giggle when she sees his face appear behind me.

This is not to say that it is easy. I long to hold her on my lap and tell her a story, or to tuck her in to bed at night and kiss her forehead. When I am out and about and see other grandparents doing things with their grandchildren I feel a pang of envy. I am sure they see me staring, and probably wonder what kind of a creepy individual I am.

When our children all began to move away their lack of proximity was tough at times, but it was manageable.  They have all been able to come home quite often, and we text each other almost daily. It has been exciting to visit each of them and get to know the cities that they now live in. It wasn’t until Fee was born that we truly realized how difficult the distance would be.

Our girls were very lucky.  Both sets of grandparents lived close by. They were always available for birthdays and Sunday dinners. They babysat whenever we needed them to, and even watched them for the day when they were sick so that we could both get to work. My mother-in-law loved those days. She would settle them into her own bed and serve them toast and chicken soup. Our parents were close to the girls and very involved in their lives.

When two our daughters came home a few weeks ago they paid a visit to their paternal grandmother. She took them upstairs to the apartment that she had lived in with their grandfather when they were both little girls. It was wonderful to hear them reminiscing about the times that they had spent there as children. Listening to them recalling these special memories made me think about my own impact on my grandchildren and what their memories will be.

In less than a month Jim and I will be grandparents to two little girls.  These last few weeks are almost as hard for me as they are for their parents.  I wish that I could drop by and give my daughter a break from chasing a two-year-old around so that she can rest. I want to be there to see our new granddaughter soon after she makes her appearance in the world. I wish I could see the expression on Fee’s face when she meets her new baby sister, and be available to reassure her of her place in the world when she feels displaced and out of sorts because she is no longer the center of the universe.

After Christmas we will take another trip to see them in their own home. It will be a long plane ride that I wouldn’t even consider again if it weren’t for the prize at the end of the journey. When we get there I will have to load up on enough kisses and cuddles to last me until the next time we visit. It will be hard to leave not knowing exactly when that visit will be.

In the meantime we will rely on technology to keep us familiar. I think I may have to upgrade the memory on my phone!

Granddaughter, little girl, toddler, hello, greeting, sundress
“Morning, GaGa!”
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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 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.

Catching up…

Coffee cup, desk, StarbucksSaturday morning…no real plan…that is the way I like to start my weekend.

The past two months have been a flurry of “getting ready”, “the gangs all here” and “wow, I can’t believe it is over”.  We finished the main work of the Master Bedroom reno, new ceiling, insulation, carpeting and all.  We had a wonderful time visiting with all of our children and our lovely Fee.  Lots of relatives stopped by to say hello, we endured the rainy weeks surrounding the Fourth of July, and we discovered that it really IS fun to be grandparents. Far too many craft beers were consumed, but lots of laughs (and a few tears) were had.

I am hoping that the next few weeks will allow us to enjoy my favorite season of the year.  I am wishing for hot days and summer sun. I want to quietly barbecue dinners on the deck and enjoy my morning coffee on the porch.  I hope to take “the boys” for a trip to Lake Erie to let them splash along the shoreline.  I plan on shopping for bits and pieces for the new bedroom and spending time at a few favorite summer haunts before they close for the season.

We will try to save the next big project for fall because these summer days are always brief and fast.  Our youngest will be starting her  Senior year of college very soon and the house will be completely quiet again, but that’s not such a bad thing.  We have issues with an aging parent to deal with that will certainly cause stress and anxiety, but today I refuse to think about it.

I intend to enjoy the summer day. Take a drive…go out for lunch…buy something I don’t really need.

I will leave you with a slide show of our summer so far here on the Hill (sorry for the poor quality – most are from my phone). Happy weekend, everyone!

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Hot enough for ya?

heat squirrel in a bowl hot
Click image for photo credit

If you ask me that question this time of year, my answer will undoubtedly be “Not Really”. It is SUMMER for heaven’s sake!

I LOVE the heat. Summers around here are so short that I can’t get enough of the warm weather.  Humidity is not a problem for me.  My skin feels great, my joints and muscles move better and I just feel good.

Now, I know that I sit at a desk all day, and don’t have to labor in the hot sun.  As a matter of fact, it seems like I am COLDER in the summer than I am in the winter.  I sit in my office with the A/C on and shiver.  I have to put on a sweater and drink a cup of hot tea every day at around 1pm just to get through the afternoon.  When I drive home from work I don’t even open the windows on my car until I am halfway there.

I have often said that if I had visited the tropics when I was younger, I would have never returned. I love the feeling of open windows and grass underneath my bare toes.  Even on the muggiest night I am usually content to have a fan blowing on me to keep me comfortable.

I get so tired of hearing people at work or in lines at the grocery store complaining that it is “too hot”.  In an area that has only a few months of temperate weather a year I think we can all survive a week or two of summer heat and humidity.

Seriously, do any of you remember this?

First Day of Spring

 

I do, and I know that we will have many more freezing, snowy winter days next November through March than the last short string of ninety-degree weather.

If you do have a problem with the heat, I will be thinking of you.  Drink plenty of fluids and try to stay out of the direct sunlight. Check on your elderly friends and relatives and make sure your animals have enough water. Try not to complain too much, because there are those of us who wait MONTHS for this.

Know that I will be enjoying every sticky, sweaty moment of this summer weather. I will smile when I walk out the door this afternoon and am hit with a wall of hot, sultry air. I will sit in my car for a few moments and feel the heat sink in to my bones before I turn on the A/C. I will have a cold drink on my front porch this evening while I listen to the birds chirping and my neighbor mowing his lawn.

Ahhh, summer. It will be over before we know it!