Sunday, September 27, 2009

Joy and Sorrow

Twenty-three years ago this month, my sister and I increased our mother's grandchild load from one to four in one weekend. I think we blew her mind! It was wonderful and crazy all at the same time and she made us promise never to do that again, as if we had conspired together in the first place!

My sister was blessed with twins, a handsome boy and a beautiful girl and I was given the delight of my life, my sweet baby girl #1. Life was grand, sharing stories and pictures and feeling like once again my sister and I had something in common. It had been a long time since I had that feeling, especially since she had moved away.

Then one morning the phone rang and I could tell from my mother's voice that something was terribly wrong. You know that silence, that long silence that is screaming at you without a sound. My sister's beautiful little girl at 4 months of age, had died in her sleep. The world seemed to stop at that moment yet my mind seemed to race. So many thoughts ran passing by in a split second. There are two I remember strongest. The first was the instant panic I felt for my own child sleeping in her cradle. How does a baby just stop breathing? There is no warning. They are given to you, then taken away without understanding or explanation. The second was guilt at my own child sleeping in her cradle. Why my sister's baby and not mine? How do we share little girl stories now? If I share my joy, do I cause her sorrow?

I did not understand then, nor do I understand now, the strength of a parent at the loss of their child. Even witnessing it so close, I can not imagine myself surviving it. I get nauseous still at the thought of it and something inside of me just wants to curl up into a ball. How do you place one foot in front of the other or for that matter, even get up on your feet? My sister is a remarkable woman. The journey of her pain and sorrow is private and personal, hers to share if she chooses but I will say that she is my hero to endure a pain that is never over.

I find it odd that I think more about my niece's death on her birthday than I do on the day of her death and I wonder if it is that way for my sister? There is not a joyful birthday that passes for this trio of jewels that does not have sorrow mingled in with it. How do you have joy for two without sorrow for the one that isn't there? How do you watch them grow and become young adults and not wonder what she would have been like?

Twenty-three, the same age I was when this all took place, my sister twenty-four. We sure felt grown up but as I look at my baby #1 and my nephew, I know we were still really just kids, made older for the second time, (that's another story) by a death that came too soon and I am reminded that all sunshine makes a desert and I praise God even though I do not understand.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

wonderful, magical life

Pumpkin life around our place is very unpredictable. Back in 1991 I grew a pumpkin that weighed 113 pounds. I remember the year because I was pregnant with baby #2 and it was actually the first time I tried to grow pumpkins. In the following years, the deer have gotten more pumpkins than we have or they just have not produced well even though our attempts have been whole hearted. Last year my pumpkins all died and we ended up purchasing our fall harvest pumpkins at Jacob's Corn Maze.

Well, the babies carved their pumpkins and set them out with our fall decorations on the front porch and that is where they stayed until they were reduced to slimy, moldy pools of pumpkin juice that no one wanted to touch. Brave daddy finally came rolling in with the industrial strength wheel barrow, shovel and hose to haul those twisted, distorted faces, once lovingly carved, to the compost pile. Into the heart of the pile they were cultivated and covered with plastic. Then, the magic began...

This spring we were blessed with this wonderful pumpkin plant complete with plenty of pumpkins for all the babies! Isn't it just like God to take something thought to be dead and rotten; something you never even think to have hope for, and bring it back to life. God reaches right into the deep, dark, secret places, into the heart of the garbage pile and works His wonderful, magical life restoring power to bring forth a new creation bursting with fruit. How amazing! How loving! How available for all!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

listen to your mother

"How many times have I told you not to do that?" "If I've told you once, I've told you a thousand times..." Famous quotes from our mothers that we've always laughed about. Funny how even as a grown woman, they come rushing back when I do something stupid.

One of those 'stupid things' I should not do, but do all the time, is stick a utensil into the bowl while the mixer is running. Bad I know, I've been told a thousand times! Typically I use my wonderful Pampered Chef rubber scraper but today I was being lazy and just grabbed the nearby fork. I have learned that metal forks don't have nearly the give that rubber scrapers do! Needless to say I ended up with my fingers trapped between the fork and the mixer while it was cranked up on high, OUCH! And suddenly, the image of my mother standing there scolding me came flashing through my mind. After several tense moments, I finally pried my squished little fingers out and got the fork unstuck.
Have I learned my lesson? Definitely not. I turned right around and stuck the rubber scraper in the mixing bowl because after all, I had to finish making the banana bread. I will however be sure to only use rubber. As for listening to my mother. well they do always know best but kids never listen.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

OMG!!! You did WHAT?

So, baby boy #2 had a spaz that I let you all see our dirty sink and rug... go figure, I can't even find the beautiful hardwood floor in his bedroom! But, I promised him I would let you also see just how lovely our old farm sink really is. I do love this sink! It sure can take a beating and come out looking, and smelling great.
I remember the day I bought it at a yard sale. It came with one of those old metal cabinets underneath it. I tried my best not to take that nasty thing, it was all rusty. $30.00 for the sink and cabinet, $50.00 if I just wanted the sink. Sure, they were no dummies were they? So, I became the proud owner of a new "old" sink and a rusty cabinet.
That sink sat behind our barn for about 10 years before we had the opportunity to work it into our kitchen and I was so proud of my $30.00 purchase. One of the little tidbits not mentioned in the 'owners manual' or thought of by my ever processing mind, finding a faucet to fit it that didn't break the bank! OUCH! It cost us over $200.00 for a faucet and if I recall we had about 3 to choose from.
Sometimes as I'm working at the sink, I wonder about the original owner and I try to picture how it looked the first time she used it. Flawless and pristine white. I wonder if she was as excited by it as I still get, did she realize the working value of it or was it just the norm for the time? I picture all the big holiday meals cooked in her kitchen, all the canning she must have done... then I think, yeah, it was probably some crotchety old man that never even got married. No little baby bottoms getting washed in here!
By the time the sink had made its' way into our kitchen, my babies were beyond the size of getting their bath in the sink, but I'll just bet there really was many a sweet baby bottom that got clean in here. Thank God you can bleach a porcelain sink!


I was recently reading someone Else's blog and she was commenting on the fact that blogs can make you look all shiny and give people the impression your life is perfect. She wanted to be sure that people saw the real her and for that I give her credit. No one lives a perfect life.

But as I sit here this morning, looking around at my imperfect and 'real' life I can't help but wonder... It comes complete with 2 pit bulls flopped sound asleep on the furniture, remnants of their apparently delicious, chewed up sticks left on the rug for later chewing. One slightly still overweight, old golden retriever whose thyroid is so bad she is on 2 medications a day, and our delightful, geriatric, blind, deaf, incontinent poodle whose breath is so bad it must have come from the depths of hell. Plus, a couple of cats, (I've mentioned before that I have trouble saying no haven't I?) A gentle breeze blows in the open kitchen windows and tumbleweeds of dog hair go rolling across the hardwood floor only to get wrapped around the legs of the dining room chairs, settling in comfortably with the golden piles already there. They look like those cute little fur wrapped cuffs on sleeves you see all the little girls wear, only not so cute! The sink is full of dishes and the laundry is in the wash, in the dryer, on the line and on the floor!

Now, in case you are thinking we must be slobs, we vacuumed yesterday, did the dishes and the laundry. In a house of six people and six animals, it seems to make no difference. So I thought about my "shiny" blog and said, "Why not?", it might be the only shiny thing I have!

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Corny Obsession

I seem to be obsessed with corn these last couple weeks... I think it must have something to do with watching baby boy #2's corn field grow. He and his papa planted it this spring, sowed the seeds by hand I might add, along with turnips and some other yummy thing the dear love. We now get the wonderful privilege of watching a dozen dear dining daily! Sounds like a Dr. Seuss book doesn't it? And I love corn on the cob as much as the dear except I like mine boiled with sugar and lemon juice then loaded down with an extremely unhealthy amount of butter, salt and pepper, YUM! Baby #2 and I race to see who can eat one the fastest. I never win!

I love looking at the corn blowing in the wind, planted in nice, neat and tidy rows. That's me, liking things neat and tidy with everything in order, in my dreams... But if you look at the plant closely, there are so many colors on it. The green leaves, the golden tassels, the yellow and white corn and my favorite, the purple/pink silk. Then in the fall it all turns brown and is set to be useful for another season. God is sure creative isn't he?

To help satisfy my obsession, we took a trip to Jacob's Corn Maze out on M-72. This year the mazes were done in the image of a landing eagle and a flying eagle. We did them both and had a corny good time. My babies are all funny in their own way and I get a kick out of listening to them interact and try to get one up on each other. Most of it doesn't write out well, it's a "You just had to be there" sort of thing, to hear the timing and the tone but baby girl #3 said just out of the blue, "I don't understand about fishing, it's so boring" to which I responded, "Not if you're catching something." Baby boy #2 in his best sarcastic, girly voice says, "I just don't understand shopping, it's so boring." to which baby girl #3 promptly replied, "Not if you're catching something." Not funny written out, I know. But we laughed hysterically. Could be we were already in a 'corny' mood due to the purple silk arm pit hair, mustaches, uni brows and ear hair we were all wearing. You see, in my personal opinion corn mazes are not all that fun in and of themselves. Mostly it's hot and sweaty in there, you're getting eaten by bugs and you're thirsty and lost. There is a fine line between how much water is too much water because then there is that 'other' problem. And, if you are too uptight, you will spend all your time arguing over which way to go. My advice, relax, put on your corn silk uni brow and feed your corny obsession!

Sunday, September 6, 2009

firewood and manhood

While dining with some friends last night, the topic of firewood came up and the question raised about whether or not it is worth it to heat your home with wood. David and I both answered with a resounding and emphatic YES! However, I believe his reason goes much deeper than mine.

I love the cozy feel of the fire on a cool, crisp autumn day, the delicious smell of the different kinds of wood as they burn. I love that my husband can tell me which type of wood it is just by the smell of it. I love being snuggled up with him by the fire on a dismal, rainy, Sunday afternoon and I love knowing that we have provided for ourselves, by our own means. People tell me over and over that they just love my home, they feel so welcome and comfortable when they come in. I know that beautiful fire dancing in the fireplace gets all the credit.

For a man though, I believe firewood and manhood are directly connected. All a part of that inner, God given need to provide for and protect one's family. David has cut firewood for 35 years now and while his body at times grows tired of it, his heart never does. His drive never diminishes nor does the sense of urgency, that desire to see 20 cord of wood neatly stacked and ready to use. That peace in knowing your family will be warm for another winter. It is a ritual that begins in the spring and lasts well into the fall when we finally have all our wood in for the year.

My husband is a wonderful teacher of few words and as I watch my boys go out the back door with their dad and head into the woods behind our house, I wonder with a bit of awe and envy about what life lessons and manhood mysteries are being lived out in those moments? Even if I am out there helping with the wood it is a world which, as a woman, is not mine to know, and that is okay.

Friday, September 4, 2009

Laundry Line

We have been fortunate enough to have lived on both ends of the financial spectrum. There was a time in our lives when we were not only too poor to afford a dryer, we were too poor to pay for the dryer at the laundromat. I can remember winter days when the house was full of little baby socks and little baby undershirts hanging from every spot imaginable. You learn pretty quickly what to hang where because it only takes one of your husband's work buddies stopping over and being greated by your bras and panties to figure it out!

I remember when we finally got our 1st 'used' dryer and my mother said to me, "You might as well take down your clothes line now, you will never use it again." I gasped in horror and swore that I would. Two years later, down it came never having been touched once.

There has also been a time in our lives when we've had more money than brains and I can honestly say I am more ashamed of the latter. There is nothing shameful in poverty but plenty to be ashamed of in wastefulness. It is funny the things you think you have to have and the things you never knew you needed until you see them. It is even more tragic that all those 'things' end up owning you instead of the other way around. Suddenly you find yourself working all the time to pay for them and spending all your spare time maintaining them. Why is it that the owners manuals never put that little tidbit in their disclaimer?

Over the years our life has changed a great deal and we are learning to 'declutter' but it can be a slow process. I now have a new clothes line and a dryer that has never been owned by anyone but me. I am greatful that I don't have to hang my clothes in the living room anymore (even though baby #2 still prefers to dry his clothes on the floor) and even more grateful that I have the time to hang them on the line.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

backroads of benzie

Baby #4 and I went blueberry picking today. The family had already made our haul for the winter by picking and freezing about 20 pounds a couple weeks ago but it was just the two of us today and it sounded like fun. The berries had been so lush and plentiful when we were last there that I was sure we would have more than our fill in no time flat.

All morning I thought about what pictures I would like to take, designing a scrapbook layout in my head and trying to imagine how the story would play out. Well as usual, my life never quite goes like the fairy tale I conjure up in my mind. Apparently blueberries must come on in cycles because just as I thought, there were tons of berries, but since when did they start coming in pink? And hey, where's my camera? Well, we began picking slightly 'blue' berries and I convinced myself it was okay that I forgot the camera and I settled into the quietness of the moment. Then much to my delight, soft melodic chimes in the distance filter down on the breeze, my fairy tale life does exist, not... Baby #4's delightful ring tone abruptly brings me back to reality. His friend, calling to finalize plans about attending the JV football game, a little early. We drop 5 bucks in the little metal box and head home.

HOME, down County Road 685, past Tucker and Levi's Fresh Veggies, past the roadside peach and plum stand made famous by the 50's something cop car parked behind it. Past orchard after orchard full of shiny red apples, and cornfield after cornfield with their golden tassels waving proudly in the gleaming sun... sigh... no camera.

All is not lost though for I am the devoted, never say no 'wonder woman'! (whose camera sits on the counter at home). I have just enough time to drop off baby #4, grab my camera, race back to get all those wonderful shots (some of those wonderful shots) and still have time to pick up baby #1 from work. Now that's what I call living the simple life... yeah right.

I consider myself fortunate to live in a place where you can still purchase your veggies from kids on the side of the road, pick your own blueberries and pay for them on the honor system. Where there is one traffic light in the middle of town and family fun Friday is the high school football game. I live in a place where people drive for hours to get here for their vacations, where you are never more than a few minutes from a body of water and there is more grass and sandy beaches than pavement. There may not be bright lights or big city excitement but the back roads of Benzie are paved with adventure. Now that's what I call living a truly rich life!

what's up with the 'i'?

Baby #1 has the name Alexis Elizabeth. When she was younger she would tell me, "I hate my name, it sounds like I belong in a romance novel!" I personally thought it sounded much more sophisticated than say Bambi or Trixie but try to explain that to a 10 year old.

Now that she is older, she always refers to herself as Alexis and I was confident way back then that one day she would. We still call her Alix and the mother of one of her lifelong friends still calls her Ali Cat (sometimes loudly, in public). It's hysterical and sweet.

I was also confident that if I spelled Alix with an i, people would automatically assume she was a girl. I was wrong in that department. I can't remember one person who saw only her name and caught on that she was a girl, and the misspelling and questions... ugh, half her relatives still don't spell it right.

So, in an attempt to say "I love you, I meant well, I was clueless" I have decided to join the ranks of misspelled names and replace the 'e' in chrysanthemum with an 'i'. I now have a clue as to the real reason you call yourself Alexis!

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

finding my voice

My wise old English professor once said I should publish my work, but shortly after that came babies 2, 3 & 4 and before I knew it, half my life had passed by. Now baby #1 is turning 23 and if I had a nickel for every time someone has said to me, "You should write a book.", I'd be rich! The trouble is that most of the funny stuff has passed on by in a whirl of diapers and dog hair long forgotten by a mom who was too busy to write it down.

Now lest you think this is a blog about dogs and the people who love them, it is not. It is however a blog about a woman who has not the power to say no and gets herself into all kinds of trouble because of it. It's about daily life, love and laughter, sorrow and pain, and what it truly means to be rich.

I always say that one day I will write that book and title it something like "It's a Dog's Life" or more like "My Life Has Gone to the Dogs" and maybe I will, but for now, this is the place where I am once again, finding my voice.