Friday, July 4, 2014

A Summer Swing


For me, there's just something about summer and a swing.  The movement.  The quiet.  That bright emerald green of the leaves mixed with the bright blue sky.  I loved tipping my head, leaning back and watching them as I sailed underneath.  My thoughts and imagination would run, matching the tempo of my pumping arms and legs.  Was I in a race?  Was I taking in the congratulations?  Yes I was.  I always won.

I remember getting off the kindergarten school bus at my great-grandparents home and running to their swing set.  It was very old and the only working part on it was the lone swing.  I would sit on the wooden seat, grab the rusty chains and pump.   I loved it!  I would swing as hard and as high as I could in the shade of the beech and maple trees.  I became part of the sky.  I would make myself dizzy leaning back as far as I could to watch the leaves and branches sway.  I would swing until great-grandma called me in for lunch and the dreaded nap.  Sometimes I would take the flying jump off the swing landing hard on the ground; other times I would scuff up the dirt in my white sock and saddle shoes.  I was a kid, I didn't care.

I can also remember running to help gather eggs.  It was such a big deal for this little girl.  I would carry as many as I could to the house and great-grandpa, being the spoiler of grand kids and great-grand kids, would let me.  And, of course, I dropped some on the cement porch steps.  I cried.  Great-grandpa reassured me that it was all okay.  I had done the cats a favor.  But I was still disappointed in my failure.  The very next day when it was time to gather eggs, great-grandma handed me a brand new, red basket.  It was perfect for little girls who like to gather eggs.  But I digress.  I was talking about swings.

It wasn't long and that old swing broke.  There was a new swing set to replace it, but it wasn't quite the same. So I took to sitting and swinging in great-grandpa's porch swing that he made. My favorite time in that swing was when great-grandpa would join my sister and I. He would be in the middle and would use his long legs to push the swing, an arm around each of us.  Without warning he would stop in the middle of a push so the swing was at its full backward motion and his feet would be firmly on the ground holding it there. The first time he did this my sister and I fell off but we got such a kick out of it.  It was one of those little scary things that kids like.  We never knew when he was going to do it again and the anticipation would drive us to the edge.  We quickly learned to not completely relax when he was pushing the swing, that was key to staying in it when he would pull his little trick.  He was such a fun grandpa.

For a short time, my family lived in a house that had a swing in a tree out in the front yard.  I loved that. There I was a senior in high school and I would sit in that swing as often as I could.  There's just something about a swing near or in a tree.  Maybe that's why I didn't like the new swing set at my great-grandparents, because they had put it in a part of their yard that was open, no trees, no leaves, no branches.

Nowadays I choose to sit in a porch-style swing.  I get a bit too dizzy when I lean back and look at the leaves, so my swing has a canopy over it which provides me some welcome shade.  I look at my garden and watch it grow.

Last year my daughter, when asked what she would like for her birthday, told us she wanted a tire swing.  I smiled.  My husband and I looked at each other, done and done. She enjoys being alone and swinging, listening to her music.  Sometimes I watch her for a few minutes, watch her lean back and look at the leaves, watch  her enjoy summer on a swing.
My swing.

Her swing.


Her view.


My view.  And, yes, my garden is a little weedy.
This was taken in early June.  The plants are much bigger now
and I've been keeping up with the weeds.
I promise.



Friday, June 20, 2014

The Washer of My Dreams, Then Reality Set In

My old washer died.  It happens.  No tears were shed because it was almost 14 years old which in washer years is pretty old.  So I wasn’t sad, in fact, I looked forward to purchasing a new washer.  A shiny, new washer which, I informed my husband, would NOT be the cheapest washer out there.  We had received our tax refunds and had a little money available to us so part of it was going to be spent on a work horse type of washer.  And I wanted a Clydesdale.
 
Excitedly I researched.  I really enjoyed this.  I checked out reviews on washers from Sears (which is where we usually go for our washers and dryers), Menards, Home Depot and Best Buy.  One that continued to catch my eye was the LG WT1101CW, 4.3 cubic foot High-Efficiency, Front Control, Top Load Washer in White, Energy Star (that’s a mouthful isn’t it).  It was carried at all four locations.  It had 4.6 out of 5 stars at Home Depot, and 4.5 out of 5 stars at Sears, etc.  The reviews at Home Depot showed that 773 people rated this washer with the highest 5 stars, 114 gave it 4 stars, 26 gave it 3 stars, 22 gave it 2 stars and 46 gave it 1 star.   People LOVED this washer.

I loved the description, it gave me goose bumps. It was unlike anything I had used before.  There was mention of “Cold Water Technology”.  What?  I always wash in cold water, so you mean this washer has technology for this?  Why yes, Krista, it does!  And that’s not all.  My clothes will be even cleaner?  Oh! Yes!   Plus, a “SenseClean System automatically sets the water level and wash time for each load . . .”  And, “8 wash programs, including tub clean, heavy duty, cotton/normal, delicates, speed wash and PureColor cycles, offer worry free fabric care.”* Worry Free!  It said worry free.  Awesome!  Many reviews remarked on how large the drum was.  Short people (like me) couldn’t reach the bottom of the drum.  That’s right, it was that big.  I was so excited.  I was getting a huge washer that would practically load itself.  I had visions of doing laundry only one or two days a week instead of the three loads, six days a week that I normally did. I was getting this washer.  I was buying the dream.

Now, of course I did read some of the bad reviews.  There was talk of persistent unbalancing issues, but I figured those people just had no idea how to properly load a washer.  I’ve been washing clothes for over 30 years.  I know how to properly load a washer.  So after comparing prices and warranties, I ordered my new washer online and it was delivered within a week.  I was so excited!  I couldn’t wait to use it.  What?  I have to get a different detergent?  Yes, this is an HE (high-efficiency) machine.  I have to use an HE detergent. This is a detergent that dissolves more efficiently and makes fewer suds to ensure efficient washing and rinsing.  Other detergents will not work.  Oh, okay.  ‘Honey, on your way home from work, please pick up some HE detergent so I can wash clothes in my new washer.  Thank you.’
 
While I waited for my HE detergent, I will admit to you that I drooled over my new washer.  It was so huge, and shiny.  I swear there was an echo inside the drum when I lifted the lid, put my head in and went, “Ooooooooh”.  I was giddy with the idea of doing so much laundry at one time.  My machine and I were going to be a laundry eating duo.  There would be nothing we couldn’t do, no pile of socks too stinky, no jeans too dirty, the mountain of bath towels would NOT set us back.  I hugged my washer, my new best friend.

Then I started using it.  There were several kinks to work out but I wasn’t going to let them get me down. After all, this high-efficiency machine would play some lovely musical notes when I turned it on (so cool), and a special little tune when it finished a load.  How awesome is that?!  It’s just new and very different from what I was used to.  My new washer and I just needed to become acquainted.  So I read and reread the manual.  I became frustrated.  On the cotton/normal cycle it uses very little water because it’s a “smart” washer and it “senses” the laundry.  But dirt and lint would be left on the clothes when I pulled them out of the washer, so I was pretty certain there wasn’t enough water going in to do a good rinse.  So I emailed the company for help.  I was told to use the “Pure Color” cycle or the “Bedding” cycle as these cycles put in much more water (40 gallons versus 17 gallons on the cotton/normal cycle), so much for high-efficiency.   These cycles that use more water are recommended for better washing and rinsing performance, again so much for high-efficiency.

My next problem was an unbalancing issue.  (Apparently, those people with the negative reviews did know how to load a washer.)  I would say 60 to 75 percent of the loads I wash end up unbalanced.  And it’s not an easy fix because since this is a “smart” machine, it tries to fix itself.  This is what happens:  I wash a load of towels; it goes through all if its cycles just fine until it goes into its final spin.  The final spin takes about 13 minutes.  It will wait until it’s on minute eight before it decides that it’s unbalanced.  At this point it stops the spin, adds more time to the clock and fills up with water (yet again, so much for high-efficiency).  It fills with water to try to adjust the load around and then it spins out again.  I’ve never had that step work and there’s no way around that step.  So the machine will again at minute eight become unbalanced.  At this point it stops again and flashes an error message.  I need to step in and readjust the load myself and restart the final spin.  Once in a while this is all it takes, but mostly we repeat the process several times because this high-efficiency machine is very sensitive to unbalanced loads.  Many times it flashes the error message at me, I take out sopping wet clothes and put them back in as carefully as I can, distributing the weight as evenly as I can, only to have it decide on minute eight that it is unbalanced, so it tries to fix itself again by re-filling with water, again.  It can’t fix itself and unbalances again, giving me another error message.  Repeat.  I have gotten to the point that often I stand next to the washer, daring this stupid machine to unbalance just one more time.  I’ve spent entire afternoons on one load of towels.   You have no idea how frustrating it is to deal with this unbalancing issue.  And that cute song, I hate it!  I tell my machine to shut up because it shouldn’t be so happy that it took four hours to complete one load of towels. It has no right to sing!

Still I persevered.  I kept reading the manual hoping that something would jump out at me that I had missed. I even watched a couple of videos on this washer, like how to load it.  They show this lady putting in two large, pristine white sheets and a large white comforter into the washer.  In that order.  Nothing is carefully placed, it’s just pushed in.  I thought about suing for false advertising.

As I continued to research, I came across a “help” section where other people who experienced similar problems to mine had asked questions and I reviewed the answers they received.  Here are some tidbits of information I found:

- It is imperative to not put in so many clothes.
- And above all else – like must be washed with like.  Meaning – jeans and only jeans.  Shirts of like weight and size only.  Towels must be sorted between large towels only and smaller towels do NOT combine the two together.

I haven’t written my review of this washer yet because I want to be able to use clean language when I do. But one question I will ask, what is the point of getting a 4.3 cubic foot washer if I can only wash small loads?  Laundry now takes me twice as long.  I’m never even caught up on it.  With my old washer I at least got the weekends off but now it's a constant chore of just trying to keep the dirty clothes at waist level in the laundry room.

*These quotes were taken from the Home Depot website regarding the description of this washer.

Thanks for listening.
Sincerely,

Frustrated Laundress


Wednesday, May 21, 2014

My alarm goes off at 3:40 a.m. now

Do you remember when I wrote in this post about how I got it in my head to go apply for a job?  Well, I got the job. All because of that insane moment of "let's be brave and do something new and different".  I hate it when I get like that.  It upsets my norm.  

So anyway, it surprised me when they called back because they (meaning Menards) waited over a week.  I remember after the interview I was feeling good about myself and was pretty certain that I’d get the job. Then one day, then two days, and finally a week went by and I hadn’t heard anything.  I started feeling pretty certain that I didn’t get the job.  One part of me was feeling low about it because it was a morning stock position.  I mean, if I can’t get that job what hope did I have for finding something else?  Another part of me was secretly happy that I wasn’t yet part of the gainfully employed.  I like being a stay at home mom.  Really.  Like.  It.  But after a week, Menards called and I was hired“Yeah”.   

My first two weeks were hard.  I felt so stupid and out of touch with the real world of employed people. The act of following instructions from someone else and keeping a smile on my face when I wanted to cry and say, “No, I can’t do this, you’re going too fast!”, all weighed pretty heavily on me.  Not to mention the physical labor involved - those 50 pound bags of dog food don't put themselves on the shelf and the overstock items don't climb the ladder and put themselves on the "mega racks", yeah that's all me.  So I felt really sorry for myself. And overwhelmed.  What made this all worse was the fact that, as I mentioned, it was a morning stock position.  I wasn’t assisting in brain surgery, I was putting groceries on shelves. Anyway, I was coming home and just whining and crying about how hard it all was for me both mentally and physically.  I really, really didn’t want to continue to do this.  

Fast forward three weeks and it's not so bad now.  I'm no longer whining and my family is  happy about that. I’m seeing muscle develop.  Yes my guns are getting bigger, and I’m hoping that my waist gets smaller.  We’ll see. I’ve met a lot of great people.  They all help and encourage me. Which brings me to the other thing I'm re-learning - how to communicate with others.  This is a warehouse setting, so there are some different/rougher/saltier-talking types.  For example, during my second week at work I started wearing a back support brace.  I was putting it on over my work shirt but under my Menards vest.  It's uncomfortable so I was putting the brace on right before I punched the time card.  Those working in my department would be standing around waiting for 4:55 a.m.  because that’s the earliest we’re allowed to punch in.  So there I was putting on my brace when one of the “older than me” guys says, “What is that a corset?  ‘Cause it’s really workin’ for ya.”  Hmmmm.  Yeah.  There were two incredibly long seconds where I was thinking, “I don’t know what to say to that.”  I was hoping to come up with a smart comment but instead I was just embarrassed.  So I tried to swat him and he laughed.  We punched in and went on with our work day.  I wasn’t offended because he didn’t mean it to be rudely offensive.  But as mentioned, I was embarrassed so I now put my brace on at home. I did tell my husband about the comment with the small hope that he would be offended and say I could quit.  No such luck.  But that's okay because now I’m starting to feel like I fit in with this really eclectic group of early morning risers.  I’m socializing and figuring things out and it adds to my confidence.  Which brings me to Mother’s Day and the gift that my daughter Lillie gave me, a poem. 

You’re a VERY BEAUTIFUL butterfly
And you are free to roam and fly
And if a cage does hold you back
It’s only because the confidence that you lack
You’ve only seen so much here
So go on and enjoy the world out there
They seek your presence everywhere
Your dazzling hazel eyes
Makes time pass right on by
Your warm and kind smile
Makes people wish you’d stay a while
Those pleasant words that you speak
We all wish that we could keep
And when you wrap me in your wings
Kindness and protection I feel they bring
Yes mother we love you very much
From your kind words to your simple touch
Yes you are loved very, very much


Yes, it made me cry.  Lillie has been pushing/encouraging me on this whole job thing and since I didn't want a job I took her encouragement as just wanting me out of the house (you know how teens like to be left alone).  But that's not who she is.  She is much more insightful and more loving than I gave her credit for.  She could see what I didn't want to see, that this was good for me.  I NEEDED to get out of the house, it was time.  Thanks Lillie.

I’m getting some other good mileage out of her poem too.  Whenever she gives me a hard time and she is a teenager, so it’s more often than necessary, I just say, “Um, beautiful butterfly here.  You can’t be naughty to the beautiful butterfly.”  She doesn’t think I should be allowed to use her words against her like that.  But, too bad.


Thursday, May 8, 2014

A Letter to Spring

My Dearest Spring,

I don't mean to intrude upon your time, I know that you're busy.  Well I'm sure "busy" doesn't even begin to cover all of your budding and raining and growing and alerting all things floral and fauna that it's time to begin again.  It's not a task for the weak of heart.  So I really do hate to bother you but it's just that, well, I think you forgot something.  I'm referring to the warm temperatures. You may not be aware, but here in Northern Michigan we experienced a longer than normal, colder than normal, and more snow than normal, kind of winter.  So we have all been waiting for you quite anxiously Spring. And while we see the signs that you've touched our region - the robins and the rain - the wind is too bitter.  It bites and whips through in a completely unladylike fashion, and I haven't seen a bee or hornet since last October.  And, well, business just doesn't get done if you don't have a bee around (if you know what I mean).

My friends and I would really like to open up and spread our leaves but it's just too cold. I've enclosed some photos as I thought the visual would help bring to your attention the seriousness of our situation.  

Here we are huddling, trying to keep warm.
It's me, Lila and I'm freezing!
As you can tell from these graphic photos the situation is indeed dire.  I make this final plea for your help.  Please Spring, please send us some warm air soon.

Very Sincerely,

Lila Bloodroot

**This letter was written by Lila a few days ago.  Spring must have received it and took pity on her because today it was 70 degrees outside.

Here's Lila now.
Life is good.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

What do you do after a funeral?

What do you do after a funeral?  I’m asking because I’ve had a hard time filling the space.  The funeral for grandma was Saturday.  It was well attended.  The luncheon was spectacular.  There was no lull in good conversation, and so many hugs.  The day was full.  So, why, at the end, after the flowers were given new homes, after the food was divided up and after everyone hurried to their cars through the rain on that late afternoon, why at the end did I not want to be home?  It felt strange and empty.  I attempted to fill the time with busyness; first changing into comfortable clothes, my husband built a fire to take the chill from the air, I washed dishes, tidied the house, set my sweet-smelling bouquet in the middle of the dining table, and then sighed.  My husband asked me what I wanted to do, he was up for anything.  I didn’t know.  It felt wrong to make plans.  My body was tired but my mind wouldn’t allow a nap.  We decided on getting pizza, (even though more food was the last thing we needed), and a movie. 

The following day we went to church.  Afterwards lunch, followed by the long nap that had eluded me the previous day.  That evening we went to a birthday party to celebrate with my husband’s family.  It was the perfect diversion.  Home again later that night it was hard to believe that the next day was Monday and it was back to “normal”.  

But it didn’t feel normal.  In fact Monday was depressing.  I normally enjoy a quiet house when the husband’s at work and the kids are in school but I did not enjoy it this time.  I ended up crying.  After a bit I decided to pull it together and do something different, I completed my resume.  I had noticed a job opening a few days ago and it was one that I wanted to try.  So I spent two hours sprucing up my resume, then went in and applied.  I got to fill out a four page application.  It baffled me that a good portion of this application had questions devoted to honesty or the lack thereof, and questions about stealing and drug use.  For example, they wanted to know if I thought it was okay for someone to take merchandise without paying for it if they really needed it.  Was it okay to take merchandise without paying for it if it was small and inexpensive?  (Do some people really say ‘yes, it's okay’?)  Did I consider myself more honest than most people?  I circled two answers on that one and was asked why I had two answers.  Well, I circled “yes I consider myself more honest than most people” first but decided that made me sound self-righteous.  I mean who are the “most people” being referred to?  So then I circled the answer that said “I consider myself to be as honest as most people”.  I assumed that any answer other than the “No, I consider myself less honest than most people” was correct.  

The young man who interviewed me was very nice and tried to make me feel comfortable but I haven't interviewed for a job in 17 years.  I’ve been a stay-at-home mom for a long time and I’ve either been self-employed or had smaller jobs that didn’t require the interview process.   I was surprised when he asked me if I took a drug test today would I pass it.  Ah, yes. (There were also questions on the application regarding, if it was okay to take drugs before work or on break?  Since he wanted me to take a drug test, I assume that I got that answer right when I chose ‘no’. )    After the interview I got to drive to a lab and submit a sample for a drug test.  It was undignified and that's all I'll say about it.  Anyway, back to filling my time.  The whole job interview process was actually a great diversion for a few hours.  I came home excited about what I had done.  I perked up and made lasagna for supper. 

Tuesday I did some housekeeping and decided to sew.  I wanted to accomplish something, and I did.  A clothespin bag and two weird looking bunnies.  It went surprisingly smooth.  I didn’t worry about straight lines or even matching thread.  The goal was to do something and I did.  

Wednesday I went shopping for groceries.  I saw a little old lady who reminded me of grandma and that made me tear up.  Then I saw a friend and her mom who made me smile.  God looks out for me.   Later that night I met my sister and mom at the library, followed by coffee at our favorite place, Bud's.  It was nice to talk and laugh.

So that brings me to today, Thursday, another normal day that doesn’t feel quite normal.  I have plans this afternoon, someone needs me and it’s nice to be needed.  I say again, God looks out for me.  And this is how it goes after a funeral.  Trying to move forward, trying to seem normal when nothing feels right, and before I know it I will have made it.  It will dawn on me one day maybe when I’m outside getting the mail, that this day was completely normal.  And that realization it will bring with it the sting that comes from the knowledge that I have moved on.  But the sting will give way to the relief that I made it.  

Please tell me you see a face on the bunny on the left.
No laughing.

Back view.  Maybe I should add tails.

Clothespin bag made from vintage material.

Back view.
Thanks for stopping by.
Krista

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

We're going to learn a new word

 

It's with a heavy heart that I say good bye to my Grandma.  She passed away peacefully on Sunday after a long battle with Alzheimer's.  To my family and friends, you can read her obituary here.  I shared a small tribute on that link, as have a few others.  She touched so many lives.

The past few days have been full of family and friends sharing stories and memories of her.  I've been searching through my own and I'm blessed to have so many to choose from.  Most are funny because Grandma always enjoyed a good laugh, but some are more serious because she had a lot to teach me.

As little girls, my sis and I fought all the time.  Grandma was ever patient with us but one day she warned us that if we didn't stop fighting she was going to get out her shillelagh.

"Shillelagh?  What's a shillelagh?", we innocently asked.

"Go look behind my bedroom door and you'll see what a shillelagh is."

Off we ran, around the corner and into her cool bedroom.  We peeked behind the door and became quite wide-eyed.  There leaning in the corner was a stout stick, almost as tall as I was at the age of seven, and bigger around than one of my skinny arms.  So that was a shillelagh.  I told my sis that she had better be good and abruptly left the bedroom.

Another time when my sister and I were fighting at grandma's house, we learned that there were worse things than a shillelagh.  I remember it was a beautiful summer day and sis and I apparently couldn't find anything else to do but fight.  So grandma came out into the yard and told us to stop. She took each of us by the arm and made us face each other.  Grandma proceeded to tell us how lucky we were to have each other.  "Friends won't always be there but a sister will."  (Please imagine two bad little girls rolling their eyes.)  Then she said that she wanted us to apologize to each other.  Sis and I mumbled bad apologies.  "Now say it like you mean it," she said.

So we tried to be more sincere but made little progress.

Then she said, "Now hug."

What?!  Hug?!  No way.

"We're going to stand here until you do.  Now hug."

We stood there for a while hoping Grandma would give in but instead, we got her 'evil eye' stare.  You didn't mess with Grandma when she gave that intense, raised eye brow look.  (shiver)  So we gave each other straight-arm hugs and turned to leave.

Grandma grabbed our arms again, "You're not done.  Now kiss."

Huge intake of breath!  Horror!!  No!!!

. . . I don't remember kissing my sister.  I must have blocked that memory because I'm sure if we hadn't kissed each other we would have had a shellackin' with her big shillelagh.


Shillelagh (club)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
shillelagh (/ʃɨˈlli/ shi-lay-lee or /ʃɨˈllə/ shi-lay-ləIrishsail éille [ˈsalʲ ˈeːl̠ʲə], a cudgel with a strap) 
is a wooden walking stick and club or cudgel, typically made from a stout knotty stick with a large knob
at the top, that is associated with Ireland and Irish folklore.

**My grandma had Irish roots.  We were taught to say shil-lay-lee. And no, sis and I were never 
shellacked with her shillelagh.  We may have been bad little girls but that hug and kiss scared us
straight. 


Friday, March 21, 2014

And Not a Drop of Wine Was Consumed


We met at the library which is the perfect place for two not overly hip, would like to live life more adventurously but lack the proper motivation so we read about it, kind of girls.  She tried to sneak up on me as I stood there reading the jacket of a mystery novel.  But since I know her, I anticipated such a juvenile move, and spotted her mid-scare.  We spent our time perusing the aisles and choosing books.  When we each had an arm full it was off to our next destination, coffee and tea at Bud's  

We love going there and would do it more often but families and schedules make life a bit too busy to fit this in as much as we'd like.   We order our drinks, she gets an Irish Mint Mocha and I get Mitten Mint-Apple tea, and make our way to the back of the coffee house.  It’s live music night so the front is crowded, but we are able to find seats in the back behind the fireplace.  We can still hear the music but feel more free to talk loudly enough to hear each other.  Side note:  One time we had our coffee up towards the front on live music night, and I got caught talking quite loudly when the music suddenly ended.  You know, that second before the applause sets in, yep, there I was. . .yelling.  Sis got a nice laugh out of it but I was entirely embarrassed.  
We catch up on our kids and our husband’s.  We chat about our writing, diets or lack thereof, our parents, our grandparents, and what we had for supper.  She spots the new wallpaper on my phone and asks indignantly if it was a picture of England.  I told her why yes it is and that I had just put it on this morning.  She reminds me that England is hers.  She’s going there someday.  Before she dies.  I smile and nod.  England is a distant dream of ours and we tend to panic if we feel one of us is getting closer to the dream than the other.  I don’t know why we do that since WE ARE GOING TOGETHER (I think she sometimes forgets that.).  Our time together goes by quickly, sprinkled with laughter and secrets.  It’s the best time.
 
We hug and warn each other to drive carefully and to watch for deer.  On the drive home I crank up the music, the kids never let me have it as loud as I like, and try to keep under the speed limit.  It’s hard to do.  I am happy and light.  I feel younger, not a middle-aged mom and wife, but a girl who has fun, and has dreams, and simple conversation at a coffee shop.


**You may wonder why I titled this as I did.  It’s for my dad.  He worries that on occasion too much wine is consumed by his daughters.  : -)

Thanks for stopping by now go have some tea.
Krista