Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Sisters' Visit

Installment I

My husband and I had just bought a new “100 year old” house and my sisters decided to come for a week to help us renovate. I am the youngest of three girls, the baby of the family. So, it just stands to reason that when in need “the sisters” would arrive. We were still renting while in the process of renovating the new/old house. It was decided that for the sake of his sanity, my husband Ray, would stay at the rental while the “Robinson Girls” stayed at the aforementioned new/old house. The plan was that Ray would cook our meals in the evenings, we would go to the rental for supper and then return to our respective houses for sleeping. We did not yet have a functional kitchen at the new/old house. Thankfully, we did have two functional bathrooms…but I digress from the story at hand. We will visit this topic later.

All went extremely well. We had loads of fun and laughter and even managed to get curtains made and walls painted. We also managed to shop, eat, go to Lowes, shop some more, eat again, go to Hobby Lobby, go to Lowes again… you get the point. There was one trip to Hobby Lobby that we went back in the store three times before we even made it out of the parking lot. This is what happens when you send three women over the age of FIFTY to do anything. We eventually remembered everything we came for, just not necessarily at the same time.

On one such trip to Lowes, we were on a mission to find…something…who knows what. We always had a list, Linda, the Organizer, never went anywhere without her list. The problem was that Linda, the Organizer, was never anywhere to be found when the list was needed. That left Janet, the Doer, and myself to our own devices. Never a good thing. So, there I am, moseying down the aisle with Janet, the Doer, in tow when it suddenly hits me…really hits me, that I need to pee. Okay, something happens when you turn FIFTY that by the time you realize that you need to pee, it is already too late. All I can do at this point is stop in the aisle and cross my legs, clinch as tight as I can, and hope it will subside. Yeah, right. Janet, the Doer, is behind me and instantaneously knows what this stance means, being that she is somewhat older than myself and familiar with the “clinched-pee-pose”. Seeing this sends her into the identical pose. So, there we are in the middle of the Lowes aisle, both striking “the pose”, when the unthinkable happens. We begin to laugh. Now, any middle aged woman knows that nothing will undo the purpose of “the pose” quicker than laughing. With all of that pressure building up, something is bound to give. And it did. Just about that time Linda, the Organizer, comes down the aisle facing us, sees us both in “pee-pose” stance and promptly makes a U turn as quickly as she can and heads for the bathroom. Being the eldest, she has had much more experience and knows what to do in an emergency situation. Janet, the Doer, sees this as our deliverance and says, “Okay, we are going to follow Linda to the bathroom”, to which I reply, “I can’t, if I move, I will pee”. What a conundrum. “Should I stay or should I go, now? If I stay it will be trouble, if I go there’ll be a puddle”. Those aren’t really the lyrics but once again, I digress. So Janet, the Doer makes a break for it. The herd instinct takes over and I follow. Fight or flight? Well, it was not pretty. Just as I moved, the dam broke… down my leg, into my shoes, spreading across my pants like a tidal wave. Finally, I made it to restroom and into the last remaining stall. Of course, by that time the damage was done. Now I was faced with another dilemma…restroom to car… car to home… with pee-soaked pants. It was at that moment when I saw my salvation hanging on the wall of the women’s restroom at Lowes, a gift from God… the hand dryer. I had always wondered why the spout pointed down and now I know. Oh, come on, you've thought about it too, admit it. I turned that baby on, sidled right up to it and let it blow. Just about that time, Janet, the Doer, and Linda, the Organizer, come out of their stalls to a sight to behold. There stands baby sister, blow dryin’ her crotch in the women’s restroom at Lowes. Back into the stalls they went…

Left to Right: Ronda, the Instigator, Linda, the Organizer and Janet, the Doer

Coming attractions:
Installment II, Who’s in the Bed with Janet?
Installment III, The Case of the Missing Embroidery

City vs. Country

I have lived in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains for the past 18 years. In the country. I am accustomed to the sounds of the country. Birds, frogs, crickets, katydids, rain on a tin roof, a babbling creek, the occasional chainsaw, tractor or 4-wheeler. The view outside of my window was of a beautiful pine forest nestled in the valley between two hazy, blue, mountains. My road was a dirt road, winding its way up the side of a mountain. Living in the mountains, the temperature during the summer months was always 10 degrees cooler due to the elevation.

Now? I live in the city.

It’s early morning, summer, hot. I am waiting for the library to open. I stay in my car because it is already sweltering outside. As I sit in the middle of metro Louisville, surrounded by tall buildings and skyscrapers, I listen to the sounds of the city. I see an interstate highway out of the driver side window. It is morning rush hour. The sound is deafening. Out of the passenger window, there is a construction site. Cranes, jackhammers, air-nailers. Noise. The city.

There are apartment buildings across the parking lot. People eating, sleeping, brushing their teeth, having their morning coffee. Do they sit by the window and look out on what I am seeing and think, “What a beautiful view”? There are television shows that spotlight people buying apartments or “condos”, just another word for “expensive apartment”. If you share a wall with someone, I am sorry, but you live in an apartment. I am constantly amazed when they look out of the window of an apartment in a city like Paris or New York, overlooking miles and miles of busy streets and concrete structures and proclaim, “Oh, what a fabulous view”! What do they see? Are the buildings their mountains, the streetlights their trees and the storm drains their creeks? Are the lights atop of the tall buildings their stars? Is this their “country”?

Who is to say which is better? It seems that many people who have grown up in the country can’t wait to leave and live in the city; and people that have grown up in the city, want to live in the country and get “back to the earth”. Is it our search for a new perspective that incites us to desire that which we have not yet experienced?

My husband HATES the city. Is hate too strong a word? Not in his case. I don’t think that there is anything that he finds enticing about living in the city. In his words, he doesn’t want to live any place that you can’t “pee off the porch” without the neighbors seeing. He grew up in Cleveland. Point proven.

I don’t mind the city so much. I find that beauty can be found in unexpected places, if you are willing to search it out. Is the intricate beauty of Victorian architecture not a rival to the delicacy of Queen Anne’s Lace growing in a field; Or the dazzling colors of the flowers and trees of a well landscaped yard comparative to the pink beds of mountain laurel in the springtime?

There are things that I miss about living in the country, but there are also things that I don’t miss. The seclusion, a thirty minute drive to get anywhere, dirt roads, wood soot, no plays, music or art.
A friend told me once, “It takes all kinds of people to make up the world”. I think that can be said for places, as well.

City vs. Country…you tell me?

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Recycling - Not a New Thing

In this age of going green and recycling, it makes me chuckle sometimes when new-age groups act as though these are concepts that they invented. I recall when I was a small child growing up in Springfield, Missouri during the late 60's to early 70's. It was not a time when the "green" concept was very popular, but my parents and grandparents had grown up in a time of depression. I think that living through this time made them more aware of how precious each morsel of food and household luxury was.
My grandparents lived on a small two-acre mini-farm outside of town. They had a milk cow, several chickens and a half-acre vegetable garden. These few organic elements kept the two of them and our family of five in dairy products and vegetables for the year.
One of the things that as a child, I thought to be astonishing, was that even though they had indoor plumbing that functioned perfectly well, they still insisted on having an outhouse on the property. I guess today it would be called a "composting toilet". This was used whenever they were outdoors in the warm months. It conserved water, energy and wear and tear on the well pump. This was not something that they did to "save the planet". This was how they had been raised. Conserve, preserve and reuse.
What I remember so clearly, is that nothing went to waste on their little parcel of land. Many days each summer were spent under a shade tree in the back yard stringing and breaking beans, shucking corn or cleaning potatoes. Nothing went to waste. Any of the cast-offs from the vegetables were thrown into the chicken pen to add to their diet. If there was organic waste that the chickens couldn't eat, it was put back into the garden. (These days they call it "composting") The cow was milked daily and I remember many evenings spent churning cream from the milk into butter. The cream was placed in a mason jar and we would take turns rocking the jar back and forth until it began to make butter. (That was how we learned muscular dexterity instead of playing video games!) As kids, we spent our summer days off from school, helping our mom can corn and green beans. In the spring we would pick strawberries and make jam. Anytime that friends offered vegetables or berries free for the picking, we were there, baskets in hand. Every fall my grandparents would harvest walnuts and lay them out on feedsacks in the garage to dry. Cold winter months would be spent cracking nuts and picking out the flesh. Another treat was the peanuts that they would grow in the garden. A great winter treat was when my grandma would "roast peanuts". They were a great smoky, salty treat! I was so incredibly lucky to grow up eating homegrown foods with no preservatives.
When my grandfather passed away, we were called out to the farm to help get it ready for a sale. This was when I was truly amazed at the frugal nature of these people. Their garage was a wonderland. For years, they had bought their dry goods in bags. These were called "feedsack" bags but they were hardly what we would think of these days as "feedsacks". They were a muslin material with flowers and small prints printed on them. My grandma still had dresses that she had made of these when she died at the age of 96 in 2002. There were balls of string that she had kept from painstakingly taking the sacks apart so that they could be sown into clothes. There were buckets of nails. When a nail was pulled from a piece of wood it wasn't disgarded, it was saved to be used again. There was much, much more but it would take pages to recall all of the ways in which they recycled.
Recently, as my parents were downsizing, I was at their house helping them get ready for a sale to recycle some of their belongings. Fortunately, I was able to recycle some of it myself. One of my most treasured finds was the nail keg that I remember my grandma sitting on as we sat out under that tree in the back yard. It had a little ruffled pad made out of feedsack on the top of it for comfort. Just seeing it brings me back to hot summer days drinking lemonade while shucking corn under the big shade tree.
I seem to have inherited their knack for recycling. When I need to buy something, my first thought is, "is this something that I can buy used"? I peruse the thrift stores and flea markets on a regular basis to find things that I need that have previously been "broken in"! One of my favorite activities is to find items and repurpose them into something useful.
I like to think that my grandparents would be proud that I am carrying on the family tradition.

Shuckin' corn down on the farm.

Crackin' nuts and diggin' out the meat! Notice Linda is using a dart to dig the nut out of it's shell... what ingenuity! Janet, on the left is the "cracker", Linda, on the right, is the "digger", I guess mama, in the middle must be the "eater"!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Mirrors Lie

How do you know what you look like? Your reflection, right? How do you see your reflection? Through a mirror. What if there were no mirrors or no reflection of our bodies? What if our idea of how we looked was determined by how we feel? That is a scary concept. Especially, as you get older. Those days when you wake up feeling like a cat slept in your mouth and an elephant slept on your would we imagine ourselves?
Every morning before going out for the day, (like most other women in the universe) I look at my finished self in the mirror to see what the world is going to see today. One day it dawned on me that what if this mirror is lying? How do you know if a mirror is telling the truth? How naive we are just to accept as truth what is reflected in a $10? $20? fabricated piece of metallicized cardboard!
I reflect (no pun intended) on last weekend's marathon shopping day: Throughout the day I tried on clothes at several stores. One thing that I noticed is that most of the stores had nice, muted lighting and what I like to call "skinny" mirrors. I looked really, and I mean, REALLY good in those mirrors. So of course, I bought the clothes. Then there were the stores whose lighting and mirrors were less flattering...I did NOT buy clothes at those stores because, obviously, their mirrors lied.
So, last night as I am fixing to go out on the town, I put on a top that was purchased on the aforementioned shopping spree. As I checked out my look in the mirror, did it look like it did in the store?
Looks like I am going to have to buy myself a new mirror...Mine is definitely a liar! (So, is a $20 mirror more flattering than a $10 mirror? Hmmmm...)

This blog could also be called "Jean Sizes Lie". Same concept...