Candles and Mournful Trains

010It’s Sunday evening after a 3-day weekend.  I’m so pleased with myself.  I had an agenda for the weekend and I ticked off most of my items.  Since my agendas are usually very ambitious, most is a good thing.  My baby boy is coming home to visit on Tuesday and I’ve been a whirligirl of activity getting ready for him.  Well, no, not really.  But I got a lot done.

My method, this time, was frenetic bursts of activity punctuated by long periods of rest and relaxation.  This puttering method worked out well.  I’m pleased with all that has been accomplished and at peace with what still needs to b e done.

I celebrated myself and my accomplishments by drinking wine and watching candle flames flicker.  Try as I might, I can’t get the camera to capture what I see as I sit on the couch and survey the coffee table/altar.

There’s a train off in the distance that sounds mournful, but which makes me feel snug and safe.  It’s been a good weekend to be me.

This lawn chair is mighty comfortable, y’all.

I have waxed rhapsodic about an Appalachian spring many times.  I won’t bore us by doing it again.  However, suffice it to say that I’m glorying in today’s weather and trying to create order in what passes for my yard.

daffodilskyLast year was the Great Garden Palooza of 2013.  HMOKeefe was mighty sick and I took off work to be here with him.  He slept a lot and during his naps I started two big garden projects:  leveling the back yard and creating a kitchen door garden.  He worsened and died before either project was finished, but he was excited about what I was doing.  He would sit on the daybed by the bay window and watch me move retaining blocks, dirt and mulch.

There was no need to go to the gym last year.  I moved enough wheelbarrow loads of stuff to surpass any gym workout.  Unfortunately, I need to move as many as I did last year plus a few dozen more.  I’m finding it hard to motivate.  Instead, I sit in the lawn chair with the warm sun on my face and fantasize about how great the yard is going to look when I’m done with it.

I have a plaque that looks like a rock with the words it takes a long time to grow an old friend engraved on it.  It’s really going to take a long time if I don’t get out of this lawn chair and get moving.  Never mind that the house is also a mess and my to-do list is in volumes. . .

While I won’t wax rhapsodic about spring, let me just say that after the polar vortex, record cold and snow, and a generally sucky winter, I need this spring.  I need this warm sun on my face and I need the soft, new grass curling around my bare feet.  I need it all so much that in addition to finishing last year’s projects, I’m committed to restoring the front garden to its former glory.  Yes, I’ve said this before.  Yes, yes, I know.  . . but really, I’m going to do it.  Just as soon as I get out of this lawn chair.

How do you pack for epic?

packingI am an inveterate over-packer and pretty much an unapologetic one. My Girl Scout training of be prepared is never more in evidence than when I have a suitcase in tow. It’s a compulsion, I must pack for any possibility no matter how ludicrous the likelihood.

I’m leaving soon on an epic trip – we’re scattering Doug’s ashes in various locales of the Southwest – places he loved. Besides packing everything I think I need, I also have to pack him. It seems very odd to have a box of ashes that is all I have left, besides memories, of my beloved – even odder to think of the box and funeral home tote bag as “luggage.” There’s a joke in there somewhere about baggage but I can’t find it.

regerHow do you pack for epic?

It is going to be an epic trip. I haven’t been in this part of the country since I was 10. My family and I traveled Rt. 66 more times than I can count, but we do so making time not sight-seeing. This time I’ve got 10 days to wallow in the glory of Doug’s beloved desert.

He was an over-packer too, but nonetheless teased me about my affliction. He would be amused to know that his ashes are causing me to have to severely prune my over-packing. A box of ashes takes up all of a carryon bag leaving me one smallish suitcase in which to prepare myself for 10 days of 3 different seasons and a variety of activities– yes, this former Girl Scout has to pack for winter, spring and summer as well as hiking, horseback riding and, possibly, hot-air ballooning.

listNo, I can’t add another suitcase. Four of us and all of our stuff have to fit in a rental car. I doubt they want to add a trailer to accommodate my compulsions. So I am trying, really, really hard to be practical and choose clothing that multi-tasks. But with three seasons and a variety of different activities, I am overwhelmed.

I made a list. You know things are dire when I resort to a list. It’s a fine list. Minimal, in fact. The contents of the list are not going to fit in the suitcase. There is pruning to do. Fortunately, I started early. At present, less than a week out, I am about 33% over-capacity. I have the remainder of this week to pare it down.

I’m excited about the trip. I’m spending it with some splendid people and we’re also spending time in some of my childhood places like the Wigwam Motel and the place of my birth. I haven’t seen the southwest since we left Hawaii in 1970 and drove across the country to Quantico, VA. It’s also my first real vacation in nearly 5 years. How do you pack for epic?

I hate vacuuming.

uprightI hate to vacuum. Passionately hate to vacuum. It’s not a mere dislike or simple dreaded task, it is full blown animosity. The only machine I share the same feelings for is Beelzebub of Bobbinhood.

With vacuuming, I have two current machines to torment me and a lifetime of ones that mocked my efforts at clean carpet.

I believe my feelings for vacuuming stem from two sources: my mother loved to vacuum and I have exceptionally long hair. These are pertinent, really they are.

My mother finds vacuuming to be a life affirming activity – so much so that she vacuums when stressed, when ill, when happy, when sad, when the floor is dirty, when she’s bored, and as a preamble to any other housekeeping chore. The vacuum cleaner was the soundtrack of my childhood. Television programs, conversations between friends, secrets whispered into a phone were all drowned out by the roar of the Hoover or Dirt Devil or the Vacuum du Jour. If your mother is a passionate vacuumer, how do you rebel? By only doing it when a) the filth has come to the attention of the Health Department or b) someone is coming over.

canisterSince I don’t vacuum hourly, or even weekly, the debris is a bit challenging what with dogs, cats, a dirt road, and a not-particularly-fastidious human. Add to this 30” strands of hair that wind about the brush bar and you have a disaster.

If I could just vacuum and be done with it, I might do it more often. But no. Alas and alack. Each vacuum adventure begins with dragging the damn thing out, turning it on and finding it will not suck. The suckiest household chore of all and neither machine will snort even a whisper of dust. It has nothing to do with the quality of the machines. I think in a past-life I must have done grievous harm to inventor of the vacuum cleaner. It’s all I can figure.

I have hundreds of dollars invested in vacuums. All of them, after a dance or two about the house, become possessed by demons.

Each session begins with cursing. Then there is the application of scissors to cut the hair into manageable pieces so the beater bar will turn freely. Then there’s the cane I use to poke down the hose to free the clogs of cat hair, dust bunnies and the stray leaf. It can take up to an hour of fiddle farting before any suction is achieved. Just as I stroll victorious through the bedroom pushing the damn thing, it will attempt to suck up the dust ruffle, or the puppy, or a phantom and the belt will break.

I buy belts in six packs. From Amazon.

Another hour tearing the machine apart to figure out how to put the belt on. It’s different each time. I swear it is.

Sometimes, I can’t bear it. Just can’t. So I drag out the backup machine. This one is pricey canister vacuum as opposed to an upright. It’s even more evil as something somewhere is not quite right and the gizmo attaching the thinger that seals the hose to achieve suction often doesn’t. So we’ll play unhook it, clean it out, says a prayer or two, reassemble it, test, rinse and repeat until finally it will attempt to suck.

In anyone else’s hands, the canister would be an overachiever – sucking up furniture given the opportunity. In my hands, it leaps at the curtains which causes a circuit to trip and I have to take the whole damn thing apart to reset the circuit.

I hate vacuuming. I do. I really do.

I vacuumed yesterday. I didn’t do a particularly stellar job at it as machine 1 clogged, wouldn’t beat and broke a belt when I’m all out of belts and machine 2 wouldn’t suck for the first 45 minutes.

Still. There is some of my mother in me. I am enjoying relatively clean carpet.


Happy Solstice

winter-solstice-signI’m in the calm before the storm.

Chef Boy ‘R Mine arrives Sunday evening and before then I have to tackle a grocery list that consists of one word: everything. I also have to run around the house and do mundane stuff like de-clutter, dust and vacuum. Since I hate those activities, it will take me all weekend to do it.

I’m in procrastination mode as we speak. Rather than deal with putting the laundry away, I am importing CDs into iTunes and blogging. After I get done with this, I will no doubt be so proud of myself I will take the rest of the evening off and enjoy the new tunes with a bottle of wine. With any luck the laundry will get put away as Chef is rolling up the hill Sunday evening.

This is how I roll.

Even so, I will somehow pull it off.

While absolutely not essential, I did clean the study desk off. I feel quite virtuous. It looks so much better and spurred me to write this posting so it had to be a good thing. Right? RIGHT?

[Really. I have three desks and am required to identify which one I’m talking about. Does one person need three desks at home? What does need have to do with it.]

I have enjoyed this holiday season. I started with the decorating and shopping well before Thanksgiving so it’s been a long season for me. During all that, I spent a lot of time meandering through memories.  My goal this was to do whatever it took to get through the holidays and I succeeded way beyond what I thought possible. Nonetheless, I will be glad to get back to a normal house and normal schedule come January.

While too much of a good thing is wonderful, it becomes distracting after a while and I have plenty of projects for the new year that I’m almost eager to begin. Oh, yes, there will be whining and I will rue that word eager, but that’s my feeling today.

I have enjoyed this period of prolonged nesting and plan to continue it sans the trappings of Christmas and the distraction of online shopping. (Amazon will surely send out a search party when the spree ends.)

But before that, I get to spend 5 days with my son and then another 5 with my step-daughter. I am so excited to see the both of them. Their visits don’t intersect which is both a blessing and a curse: a blessing because I get to spend uninterrupted time with both of them; a curse because they don’t get to spend time getting to know one another better.

It’s been a rough year, but is ending on a high note. I wish peaceful days for all of you. And me. I am planning on enjoying these last of  the longest nights and further reminiscing.  Laundry be damned – the sun is coming back soon.

Happy Solstice to all!


Christmas Guests, Memories and Memorials

doug's tree guest room 016I’ve spent the day finishing HMO’Keefe’s Christmas tree.  I’ve been working on this for more than a week now.  It’s a pre-lit tree, but whole sections refused to light.  I checked bulbs, cords, fuses, the alignment of stars and planets, and everything else and nothing, nada, zip, could persuade the lights to work.

I decided to put up HMOK’s tree in the guest room primarily so his daughter could enjoy it when he comes to visit, but also because it is a slim tree and fit into the room like it should always have been there.  He was mildly annoyed when he got it home after buying it to discover it had colored lights.  He and I both prefer trees with either white lights or a solid color.  This one has red, blue, pink, white, green and gold.  It’s grown on me over the years and the multi-colors are great in the guest room.  I’m right fond of it.

But I was not fond of its refusal to work.  So, I trundled off to the Lowe’s and found an exact match for the lights.  Now, really, what are the odds?  So, I added more lights to the sections that aren’t working.  (Maybe next year I’ll take off the non-working lights, but I didn’t feel like wrestling with cable ties this year.)

doug's tree guest room 038I was so afraid that celebrating the holidays this year would be hard that I resolved to begin early so that if I did end up in the pit of sadness, my obligations to the family and friends would be taken care of.  Funny thing.  The more ahead of the game I got, the more I have enjoyed the season.  I’m still mourning HMO’Keefe, but I think I’ve moved to the acceptance stage of things and spend a lot of time reminiscing about our years together — particularly our Christmases.  We had a long-distance relationship for years, but regular as rain, I went to Boston or he came here.

He particularly loved the spectacle that is my house at Christmas time when I put everything out.  I felt I owed it to him and to me to make sure the house is at its Christmas best this year.  I’ve had a ball doing it.

doug's tree guest room 023Today, I fixed the lights and got out the boxes of his ornaments.  He was fond of Santas, kayaks, chili peppers, cowboys, and his daughter.  His tree reflects those things.  It’s a beautiful, funny, eclectic memorial to the man I loved.  I’m so pleased that his daughter is going to be able to sleep in this room with that tree when she comes to visit.

I’m also excited that Chef Boy ‘R Mine will be here for 5 days this year.  I can’t remember the last time I had him for 5 days.  So, I’m in a frenzy to have the house clean and orderly, to make cookies, to celebrate all the time-honored traditions of an American Christmas.

doug's tree guest room 042The guest room is almost ready, and boy-howdy I’m glad my two guests don’t have problems with cat hair.  I’m pleased with how the room turned out.  I bought the furniture this past summer upon realizing it drove me crazy that my son and step-daughter didn’t have a proper bed to sleep in when they’re here.  The suite of furniture is gorgeous and suits the room perfectly.

Upon excavating and decorating the closet, I got the hidden writing closet up and running again.  I can’t wait to spend some serious time in there writing secrets and memories.

I’ve decided to win the lottery tonight and might even buy a ticket.

megamillionsThis lottery is up to $400 million and something.  I think I can squeak buy on the cash payout of $212 million.  Therefore, if I don’t post for awhile it’s because getting my financial affairs in order is taking longer than I thought.  Now one wouldn’t think it would take long to drum up an attorney, a financial adviser, and a tax accountant with such a sum, but one really never knows.

Conventional wisdom says I can win if I don’t buy a ticket.  I was just whining on Facebook that conventional wisdom is so boring and often wrong, but in this particular case, I think it might be right.  So, my to-do list includes Buy lottery ticket today.