Afternoon Refresher - Fire and Ice
Hello hello, and do come in! You're just in time. I've been trying to get time out for an afternoon refresher all week long. Tea is exactly what I wanted this afternoon. As I told John, on these hot days when I drink so very much water, I start wanting something a little more substantial after awhile. Tea suits me perfectly.
I haven't baked a thing. It's been far too warm to cook overmuch, though I did end up cooking quite a lot on July 4. I broke down and bought a packet of chocolate covered grahams at the store. Gee those things taste good. I can't make up my mind if it's because we've had so few sweets of late or if they really are as tasty as I think them!
I mentioned cooking on July 4th. Katie came down to visit. I hadn't expected her and there was a wee bit of a scramble, but then I sat down with John and we talked over meals and the man, clever one that he is, came up with an idea for a pizza that turned out really, really good. He was inspired by a baked submarine sandwich he'd had the day before at a restaurant. So we altered our dinner plans and made supper plans that suited us all admirably. Katie helped out with the cooking for supper and her fiance hung around the kitchen because he's a cook, too. All of my children except Jd, are cooks. Jd, like his dad, does well enough if needs must.
John and Jd, poor fellows, are odd men out in this family. We all love to cook and we all love to try new recipes. John is a hamburger, steak, fried eggs, frozen pizza sort of man and Jd is pretty much right there with him I think. The rest of us sit about and share recipes, talk about good meals we've prepared, or had somewhere else, or share ideas we saw on tv or in a magazine. So it was nice to have the kids in the kitchen with me Friday evening, chatting away about meals they'd prepared in the past week, asking questions about the recipe we were making and how it came to be, etc. While Lori and I do the cooking in our homes, Amie and Ben, Samuel and Bess, Katie and Matt all share cooking duty. I think each of them are really good cooks in their own rights. I do find it funny in a way that the cooking is often vied for in their homes because the ones who don't cook have to do dishes, lol.
It was nice to have my girl at home for a bit. It was nice to have an opportunity to really talk to her which I hadn't had in months. It was just the right time, too, because last week turned upside down and blew up. I was left scrambling about trying to make heads out of tails. None of it harsh things, but just those life things that sort of happen. It was terribly hot and that drained me like a wilted leaf. I was over tired at the beginning of the week and completely irritable and whiny by the last days of that week. I needed a dose of Katie chatter and I got it. It was so nice!
I mentioned last week as tough and it was in a way. There was that lovely emotional day Monday when the newest grandbaby arrived and we were sung over at the gas pumps at the station in our town. Mama had a doctor's appointment that afternoon that I'd forgotten. I'd promised to be with her. I had to do a quick scramble about and scratch my plans. It wasn't life threatening or anything, a matter of a cyst on her eye that had gotten out of hand entirely by the time she finally got in to see the specialist. We were sent to a more specialized specialist on Tuesday in Macon and that turned into immediate minor surgery as he felt she'd suffered long enough with it.
John worked that Wednesday and I worked myself hard that day, in an attempt to do in a day what I'd wanted to do all the week before. I promised myself a day off on Thursday but John came home and decided we had to get out of the house and we did. We were gone nearly 6 hours running errands. He did treat me to a lovely lunch out but I was dragging hard by the time we returned home. So Friday I promised myself a day off and then worked myself into quite a state, until just minutes before Katie came in. John shook his head at me. "You've worked awfully hard for someone having a 'day off'!" He was right. Three days in a row!
It took the weekend to recover. Sunday I went out to dinner with Mama (which was midday for us both, we don't usually eat big meals later in the day). She mentioned how much she missed going to church. I thought about the church I'd grown up in and the churches I've attended over the past few years and the church we're attending now. I thought over mine and Katie's search for a church that met her criteria 6 years ago and how difficult it was for us, because my girl is more old fashioned in her spirit, for all that her outside is Modern Millie-ish. "I don't know if church like you miss exists anymore Mama." She told me my brother had said the same thing.
The church Mama misses is the church she grew up in. It's the building her grandfather built to replace the church that burned. That is part of what she misses and more. That older church that burned was the church her great grandparents and great great grandparents, and so on, founded nearly 200 years ago. It was sweet and simple. Not ideal mind you, but sweet and simple. It was a country church, with a lovely old graveyard and a field next door that waved with corn or wheat or cotton or came alive with cows at various times through the years. It was surrounded by tall old oak trees and the graveyard was dotted with cedars that stood where gravestones weren't available. It was a plain sort of church and plain sort of people attended it. But that was then. It is no more. The building houses another church group now. Some of the old cedars have fallen and been cut up and carried away. The field next door lies fallow. Changes do occur.
It's hard to explain to Mama what we find in church today. The theater seats and dim lights, the loud and rocking music. The message is the same powerful stuff it's always been, but it gets decked out in a style that she would find shocking I expect. And to attend a big church such as the one we do now...Well talk about culture shock! Mama's little family church might have held 50-60 at times, but it just as often held 10-12 and seldom more than 25 on the average. Just imagine walking into a room that seats 1000 after that.
After thinking these thoughts over, as we drove along, I felt a little sad. I've longed at times for that old fashioned simplicity but I know that what I miss isn't the style of preaching or the rigidity of the rules that had to be followed. What I miss is that feeling of absolute certainty that it was MY church, a place where I belonged and would always belong simply because my family always had. Only I don't and I didn't, much to my grown-up hurt and dismay, and later my great thankfulness. I've learned that church is good to have but relationship is the most important thing of all. I think Granny knew this, it was what she tried to impart to me for years, but Mama has always seen church as the place to meet God, and in her mind, it was the church she attended all her years, not some new building where she has no personal history.
I suspect Mama too was feeling nostalgic. She's spoken often of her childhood years lately, of relatives long dead, of classmates, and homes in the county where they visited, where they met in summers and played, and so many of these, people and places, are gone now. There are few, so very few, of the generation who went before left alive and behind her she sees just her own small family line trailing out behind her and she seems a little bewildered. She grew up in a small town where half of the folks in it were kin to her and everybody was a cousin or darn near it. She had great aunts and uncles, aunts and uncles and cousins to spare. Now there are a handful at best. She's a stranger in the town where she grew up.
It was in some ways a hard day Sunday. Perhaps it was the weight of loss that seemed to hover around Mama. Perhaps we were both weary from the week before and the heat. I was glad to come home and be alone with my thoughts and shut out the world for a bit. I took up my genealogy research and struck at it anew for the first time in a few weeks and buried my head in a past that wasn't mine to remember and regret losing.
You know, I can't help it, as I work on these lineages and trace them back and back...I see familiar names pop up here and there, surnames that intermarry and populate the same neighborhoods, even as they move from state to state. Many of them familiar to me as my own surnames because I was surrounded by their family members growing up. I thought about how people sometimes seem so very familiar to you, that instant connection, that kindred soul sort of thing. I studied reincarnation when I was a pre-teen. It's not at all shifting from one life form to another in the next life... I was a little intrigued by it then. From this side of life, as an older person, I don't believe much in reincarnation as anything other than a theory. What does intrigue me is the DNA factor. If we believe in genetic memory, whose to say that it isn't actually generated by DNA and we 'recognize' that in one another when we happen upon one of those kindred spirits who, it turns out, had family who populated our past family members' lives as well?
Have you looked at any of the tiny houses online? I thought about them as we drove around the back roads Sunday, because there was many an old little house along the way. The new tiny house are of various sorts. Caravans, some actual small stick built homes, fancy campers, etc. but are meant as a permanent residence. Some are portable and can be moved from property to property as you need to move if your job demands it. Some are meant to make a simple homestead lifestyle that is efficient on many levels, as well as affordable. Well it all sounds terribly appealing on the one hand. Who wouldn't love a beautiful little home, a play house for grownups, so to speak?
I wanted a play house as a girl and would have loved to have had one for my girls, but it wasn't possible. We all settled for imaginary homes made up in the moss covered roots of a tree or formed from fallen branches and leaves. I often dream over little cottage-y looking homes we pass here and there. And I love looking at abandoned homes. In our area it's not great huge houses (though there is one in our town I'd love to rescue, but that's another story). Most of the abandoned homes we come across are crouching at the edge of a field, or sitting in a little grove of trees that sits next to the road. I suspect they are about four rooms big. I dream of how cozy they must have been once upon a time, how cozy they might be once more. There's always that little girl dream of making a house a home that I just haven't shaken in all my grown up years. It boggles my mind to think of families raised in those little houses, sometimes with many children.
I think of sharing it with John, whom I love deeply. Just at first it seems romantic. I think that's why I love the cabins we've stayed in and the condos that feel like first apartments. I like that we seem more a couple in a small space. And then reality bites: I cannot imagine the inability to go off by myself for a bit, to move away from the noise that two inevitably generate as one watches TV and another tries to play music. And where on earth would you retreat to when you've had a fight?! There are days when, here in this very home, I feel as though I cannot find an inch of space that is solely mine to escape to and those are the good days, lol. That's when I put aside the dreams those tiny houses generate.
When we came in yesterday afternoon, I put away the groceries we'd bought and went out to empty the water and ice from our ice chests. I decided to keep the ice for water, putting it in my watering can. One of the cubes slipped away from me and I picked it up only to have it sort of pop between my fingers and land at Maddie's feet. Maddie has discovered something she likes anew. She licked the ice cube, picked it up, chewed it a bit, dropped it and licked it and just acted as though it was something totally great. I think I'm going to give her one now and then through these warmer summer days. Her coat is still very thick and despite routine brushing she is still shedding the undercoats.
In the past, she and Trudy practically lived under the back deck, which was shut off when my brother built those long steps along that one end. Maddie has satisfied her need for cooler spots by lying in holes she's dug here and there in shady areas. She moves from this one to that one as the day goes along. John complains about this, but only about those areas where there are no flowers being dug up. Hmmmm...I noted this morning that apparently the flower bed around the Faith Tree is a favored spot. It's only Spiderwort and Soapwort (which sounds so much prettier by it's other name of 'Bouncing Bett') that she's crushing at present. The iris won't remember a thing come next Spring. I suspect that cool green feels awfully good to her.
I am amused at the great sensitivity she has at times. A couple of weeks ago, the kitten John found was sent home with a friend who rescues strays. She had a nursing Mama cat she hoped the kitten would take to...Well the friend looked at Maddie and laughed. "She's fat...that's not all fur!" Maddie had indeed put on a few pounds since Trudy passed away. I'd cut back her food but she'd burrow into a nest of baby rabbits and fill up her belly, which grieved me and amused John. Apparently Maddie understood the criticism. There for over a week I could barely get her to eat a thing. And then when she did start eating she'd barely eat the half portions she'd been getting in an attempt to cut down her daily calories. Her hurt feelings paid off however. I noted that while she'd never be called svelte she has trimmed her waistline a bit. I can't say hurt feelings ever worked well for me. I'd just tuck sadly into a double portion of whatever food tasted good (and didn't it all?) back in my younger days.
Maddie is such a lovely old girl. We've had a bit of thunder the past couple of days, nothing much really, but I noted today that the cat, rather than sit atop the porch railing which she prefers, or get into her own little cubbyhole to hide from the weather, was sitting atop the plastic can the pet food is in. This is right next to and slightly in front of Maddie's dog house. The cat was turned towards Maddie as though watching over her. Maddie may chase the cat on sunshine days but she sure seemed comforted by the cat's company. Big old silly red dog.
I thought I would just accomplish worlds of things today but I haven't. It's ended being a sort of piddly day. My head ached again this morning, but it's clouded over and started to rain gently. We had a heavy long rain storm last night that lasted nearly two hours. I think this sort of weather is just perfect for curling up with a book and reading along all afternoon. I confess I've done some of that, too. I am still reading Gone With The Wind, but I do find it a bit heavy going at times. I picked up the Nancy Drew book, The Clue in the Old Stagecoach this afternoon and I'm already half way through it! I'm not sure I'll finish GWTW this month at all, but I do want to keep reading. I find it interesting and am learning a good bit as I go.
My goodness, the Air Conditioning has gone off...It normally doesn't stop running full time until somewhere about 7pm. I think we might have to put on some coffee and chase the chill away...
I can think of two dozen things I ought to get up and do, but I am just not wanting to give in to the 'ought to's today. Maybe today is my "promise" day, huh?
I wanted to finish decorating my back porch this morning, but when I went out to the shed, where some of the necessary things are, I couldn't get the door open. It had swollen so tightly shut from last night's rain that I couldn't budge the thing no matter how I tried. I had a big pile of stuff I'd brought from the house outdoors, meaning to put in the shed. I had to haul all that back to the house. It's in the kitchen sitting area. I hope John can wrench it open for me tomorrow, but with more rain this afternoon, who knows?
I have deep cleaned every room we normally live in this month which is pretty good considering how many extras have popped up. I'm satisfied anything more can wait until next month. Now it is my hope to do little projects here and there but weather does have to be fair for many of them or they shall not be accomplished. I have in my near future, five appointments/engagements/events to attend to in the next 10 days. I get the feeling that maintaining routine work is going to be the most I will accomplish during that time and I may well not get more done the rest of the month. I can get frustrated very easily when I plan heavy and accomplish little but there are times when we must simply roll with the wave of the days and work with what we're given. I'll check for those things I can do in unexpected moments of time whether they are days at home or moments at home. It seems the best way to proceed.
The Nothing Extra challenge has been a challenge all right! I didn't realize how tempted I am by little extras whether at the grocery or out just anywhere. I've good reason for wanting to cut back hard on my spending. We had a heavy month of birthdays in June and then we added two more with the babies. I told Amie, I do believe her baby meant to squeeze herself in to that June birthday melee and she arrived early just on purpose to do it. There was a wedding, a couple of baby gifts, and numerous repairs in last month, as well. I am nearing the end of the meat market purchases. I hope to make it to the first pay period in August before I buy meats but I'd like to have some or all of that money set aside when we go. There are items I need: jeans, shoes for winter wear, new sandals for summer wear, pajamas. There are things I'd like to do for the house yet. And on top of all that is my desire to pay off our personal loan for the back porch so we can do the next round of work on the house. I've done well on that goal. I've paid back nearly half of what we'd used, but I really want to get it all taken care of before December of this year.
I have two chairs that need to be replaced. I'd like to landscape around the house, but John wants to underpin it first instead of having the vinyl skirting there. Our home is a double-wide which is fairly common in our area. There are stick built houses but the bulk of folks can afford only very moderately priced homes and so you do see a good many double-wide. As we headed home from an errand the other day we looked at houses. John and I admired porches, fences, landscaping, shade trees, swimming pools, lawns, parking pads, driveways... Homes much like ours with just added little touches that seemed to set them apart from others. We were gathering information really, looking at ways we might improve our own home outside.
Later in the week, John asked why I was watching a house flip program. Well for the same reasons we'd been looking so hard at homes the other day. I was looking for ways, affordable ways, to upgrade our home and make it look fresh and nice on the inside. I love my home. I am so pleased with the few little things we've been able to do over the past year. I want to do more that will improve and enhance our home.
Well all that is the long way around of saying that this Nothing Extra challenge is not a temporary thing, it's a real attempt to determine what I really want and not temporarily satisfy an urge to purchase some little something that will add not one iota to my enjoyment of life or home. It's about being a better steward of my money. We are careful, but there's room for improvement and I want to improve. I'm not satisfied to stand still and say 'Look how well we do.'
To that end as well, we discussed, as we drove along looking at homes, the plethora of birthdays and our growing family overall. John mentioned his concern that we simply could not continue to increase the gift giving in our family without giving up something else or making changes. I'd just worked on the budget for this quarter and knew that there was little else to cut and anything we gave up at this point was going to be something necessary. We decided making changes was the way to go. So we're starting with how we do Christmas and we're going to downsize birthdays. In the end we likely won't save money but we will hold steady which is a savings, rather than adding to what we already spend. And so we're back around yet again to that Nothing Extra spending challenge. If I can find little ways to cut out a few items here and there or to curb spending, then so much the better for us.
And just as a brief little follow up, when we arrived home that day, after looking at all those other pretty little places, we agreed, as we came up the drive, our own home holds up well against those we liked best. Room for improvements, yes, but all in all, pretty satisfactory in our eyes.
I guess it's time to end this little chat. That was John on the phone just now and the scoundrel started yawning as we spoke. The rain we'd had here earlier while you and I chatted had moved on to his area and it was making him sleepy. Now my eyes are watering from yawning...I hadn't planned on a nap but it might be necessary, lol.