Posts Tagged ‘bicycle’

Oops! My Domesticity is Showing.

domestiic oops

My what is showing?

When I left my hometown, I had a purpose. I had a plan. When I returned, nearly fifteen years later, my purpose had changed and my plan? Well, life has not gone according to my plan. Fortunately, I’m not the kind of person who needs to follow a formula precisely.

chocolate cake

Looks better than it tastes

Ask those poor people who were unfortunate enough to taste my salty chocolate cakes. Yes, I said cakes, with a plural emphasis, because I don’t always immediately learn from my mistakes.

daek chocolate bar

Nothing but the best!

When we were dating, I baked my husband a three-layer chocolate cake for his birthday. I had used the recipe on the back of the cocoa box so many times, I had it memorized and could practically prepare it blindfolded. I’d read that the addition of salt enhances the flavor of chocolate, so in addition to the typically delicious cake, I sprinkled in a few extra spoonfuls of salt to the icing. I added and stirred and tasted and added and stirred and repeated the process until I was certain I had the perfect enhancement. I was at a need-to-impress-him state in my life, so after forming the peaks on the frosting in a way that would make Martha Stuart want to arm wrestle Betty Crocker for my secret, I packed the cake carefully and drove 325 miles to his Florida home.

Central Florida Ocean

Not the sort of place you’d store your cake.

The cake smelled delicious and when I removed the cover, everyone in the house actually made an “ohh” or “mmm” sound. Big slices, unfortunately, were left on their plates after the first bite. My husband said it tasted like I had dumped it in the ocean.

pound cake recipe

Some recipes are more detailed than others.

 I waited many years before attempting to bake another cake, but this time, I followed a recipe precisely.

 

chocolate cake caramel icing

Never underestimate the power of following instructions.

The chocolate cake with caramelized sugar glaze was a hit, so with my confidence restored, I attempted another chocolate cake with chocolate icing, but did not try to enhance it with the addition of salt, yet this cake tasted worse than the first! Even I didn’t like it. I knew I’d lost my edge in the kitchen, but it didn’t matter.

desk edge

Editing happens here

I was a career woman, an editor, writer and photographer. I spent my weekdays in an office, working with an award-winning publisher and my weekends on outings with accomplished photographers or in my home office editing the works of novelists, memoirists, essayists, short story writers and poets. I didn’t need to bake and I didn’t need to cook. I didn’t even need to clean much.

what's for dinner

Nothing elaborate

My husband was content with quickly cooked meals from kits and the freezer. We lived our lives in such a way that I didn’t have to spend much time doing housework or yard work. We were living our plans and dreaming our dreams.

Mary is happy

Back in the carefree career days

I thought I was happy.

Scooter Pooting

Independently dependent

Then, we visited my mother and realized that although she could continue to live alone, her health would surely suffer and decline. We knew we couldn’t wait for someone else to step forward and help out more than they were. Each member of the family was doing his and her best to work around unique work situations and life schedules and no one was in a position to step into the role of full-time Housekeeper, Activities director, Nutritionist and Companion (HANC).

It was time for me to fill that role.

bicycle

How hard can it be?

I wondered if being a homemaker would be like riding a bike. Would it come back to me?

cookbooks in order

What’s for dinner?

In another life that my current husband has never known, I took extreme pride in my home. I used a cookbook and canning jars and slow cookers.

place setting

Presentation is half the battle

 I set the table and I knew “what’s for dinner” if anyone asked. I focused on my family and not my career in those days, but I wasn’t happy.

unpacking

Unpacking is as difficult as moving.

For several months, I have focused on the transition from full-time editor to full-time HANC. In between editing assignments, I have unpacked and worked to de-clutter and organize my mother’s small home.

hairdresser

Granny’s getting her style updated.

  It seemed that if I wasn’t driving to appointments with her hairdresser, we were driving to a doctor or to pick up prescriptions. I’ve accepted that I will be responsible for ensuring she takes her many daily medications properly.

herbs

Traditional Chinese raw herbs

Her many trips to see many specialists and doctors grates my own personal preference to more natural healing, which does not include pharmaceuticals.

oreos and milk

Yummy, but not nutritious.

 I  grimaced at her predilection for cookies and ice cream.

wine glass of juice

You don’t have to drink wine to toast to your health.

I rejoiced silently when she requested fresh juice and my recent triumph came when she requested a second helping of chili after telling me she didn’t really like chili, “until tonight.” Oh, yes! I followed a recipe and did not add any extra salt.

manuscript

Pages from my novel.

I’m still writing. I went on a photo outing in mid-October. I still write for some of my established clients.

vacuum

Vacuum cleaner in the Carl and Lillian Sandburg home in Flat Rock, North Carolina.

Oddly, I’m content to assist my mother, vacuum, make beds and find interesting meals to cook for my family.

paint

Awaking my sleeping artist

Is it possible that my domestic contentment will play a role in my artistic creativity at some point?

scarecrow in garden

Garden at Cannemara, Carl Sandburg’s home in NC.

 Perhaps my muse has been hiding in the garden, all along. I still have plans and dreams and yet, I find an amusing peacefulness when someone compliments a simple bowl of chili.

 

You’re Welcome to move in, but don’t Touch my Stuff!

Today, I am paying for yesterday’s choices

Cleaning and organizing

Sometimes, you have to make a mess before you can clean the house.

     I started taking  items from the china closet and placed them on the kitchen table.   When the table filled, I put items on the stove, the counters and in the chairs. The china closet has not been moved or cleaned in years.

China Closet contents on table

This picture might need 1,001 words.

     One door opened to hit the light fixture on the ceiling fan, which would not do. So, I started emptying the wall-sized cabinet/closet. It was cluttered with an assortment of seldom-used items.

      Momma has not eaten at her table for many years. She preferred to remain in her recliner, so there was less chance of falling.

Woman in recliner, crocheting

She has everything she needs, close at hand.

      Momma’s recliner is where she has built her own little “nest” over the years.

Bird nest

Unlike birds that can fly away, my mother’s nest supported her limited mobility and fear of falling.

  She wasn’t happy when she saw so many things on the table and on all the counters.

appliances on table

It’s intimidating to walk into your own kitchen to see what you thought had been put away all over every flat surface.


 

  She thought I would destroy the cabinet or move it in the storage “shed” in her back yard.   

storage in rural setting at sunset   

      Demanding answers, she asked my plans. Unsatisfied with my responses, she stated with an unusual emphasis,  “Don’t you dare move that cabinet. I don’t care what else you do, but don’t you move it!”

     Later, she became frustrated when she wanted to empty the dishwasher and found that I’d been washing bric-a-brac and dishes we have not used – dishes no one has used in years. Again, she demanded to know my plans for her cabinet, but my answers did not soothe her anxiety.

cute chicken sugar and creamer

The proof is in the dust track.

    I stopped unloading the cabinet and walked outside, because I knew I couldn’t respond with calmness. Her frustration is also my frustration.

I am doing the best I can to live in her home, with her things and despite the many bits and pieces of stuff and substance that I gave away or sold prior to moving, I have a deep need for order.

Organized china closet with cookbooks

Organized is good.

    I knew I would be moving into an established home, a home with many years’ worth of other stuff. I knew that I did not wish to duplicate the appliances and dishes my mother already had, but I did not know how many duplicates she had. Neither did I know how many one-of-a-kind kitchen orphans she possessed.

 bowl and rolling pin

Many birthday cakes were made in this bowl.


From the moment we first discussed the idea of living with Momma, she and I have said, “We will make this work, no matter what it takes.” It seems, to me, that it will take patience, compromise -primarily my giving in – and acquiescence, understanding, forgivement and forgiveness and something for distraction.

 

Camera lens

Lola is my camera and she goes to all the best places.

Typically, when I cannot go out with Lola and take photos, my preferred form of distraction is bicycling or cleaning. Since my cleaning started the frustrating cycle and the bikes weren’t easily accessible, I didn’t know what to do.

 

Two bicycles

      My mother was adamant and she was grumpy. I knew what I needed to do in order to be able to live with the smaller kitchen, but I also knew I could not do it under her watchful eye or even with her in the other room watching television. She was in one of her less enjoyable moods, so I went outside.

 

Rural sunset through Oak

Sometimes, just putting some distance between me and whatever is bugging me is enough. A beautiful country setting is a bonus.

I decided that I could start working on the two storage sheds in the back yard. I moved as much as I could from one into the other so that I could separate “our” stuff from “her” stuff, thus taking us one step closer to getting my husband the private office he needs for his work.

tools on racks

One day, our sheds and garage will be orderly and neat.

 While I moved tools and other things, I burned some paper and old wooden items I found in the shed on the left.  That helped keep the mosquitoes at bay and kept the landfill a little less full. The wood ashes will be good for the compost.

Compost bin

Until I can make a better one, this is serving as my composter for mulch.

 By the time I returned, I felt less upset and Momma had gone to bed.  The next morning, she said she didn’t sleep well for worrying that she had hurt my feelings over the kitchen. I assured her my feelings were fine, but I did not tell her that I was growing frustrated with her mercurial moods. I understand she will have good/bad days where she remembers and understands or becomes petty and obstinate, which is why I will rely on my grounding rituals, such as burning unusable items and writing in my journal.

Journal diary

Keep Calm and Have a Cupcake. What a wonderful thought!

I have discovered that Momma sometimes needs to repeat some things as many as five times before her cycle concludes. Some require more repetition. I try to remain calm and act as if each time is the first time she asked. So, today, when she asked again, why I had made such a mess of the kitchen, I told her that I needed and wanted to clean the cabinet and the things inside. I told her that by cleaning it, I could see and learn what was inside as well as get to know what items of mine I could sell, discard or give away. After the fourth repetition, she accepted the answer and did not ask again.

She often asked me when I planned to take a break but always accepted my answer that I would stop when I was finished. I did stop from time to time to write a myself a reminder note, ensure she was drinking or share lunch with her. I kept working on the large cabinet and she only told me the back story three times.

Crystal, lights, glass hens

All lighted up, after cleaning and reorganizing, the cabinet is a large piece of functional art.

    Years before my father was diagnosed with a brain tumor, he had done “a big job” for a man who owned many antiques. As barter for the work my father did, he was allowed to bring home any item he chose from the man’s collection and he chose the china cabinet. I don’t know if the cabinet was an antique When my father brought it home. It’s now another 30 years older, but the purpose, as far as my mother has been concerned, has been to act as a separating wall between the kitchen and the laundry area.

Using furniture to make walls

The darker wood is the “antique china cabinet” used to create a wall between the kitchen and the laundry area.

When this house was first built, it was designed to have four bedrooms inside its 1,100 square feet. After my father’s death, my mother enlarged her bedroom and the kitchen. The washer, dryer and a freezer were placed inside the kitchen and the china cabinet, which is much larger than a hutch, became a separation between the two sections of the room.

dead mosquito

This mosquito was one of several insects I found inside the cabinet, all dead, so every dish needed to be washed.

 I washed away years of dust, insects and grime from the items inside the cabinet and the cabinet itself received a through washing with Murphy’s Oil Soap. I strung lights inside the cabinet and consolidated, rearranged and cleaned. Boy, oh Boy! did I clean!

Green dishes and crystal with lights

Christmas lights make a great accent to the china closet.

 I also moved the cabinet into the kitchen, giving the laundry area more space. Oddly, everyone who visits thinks I moved the cabinet the other way and made more room in the kitchen. Decluttering really does work! It certainly helped me declutter my mind and eventually, even Momma agreed it was good.

Organized battery drawer

It’s kind of like a Batteries R Us display, isn’t it? They were in so many different locations before I started organizing.

I consolidated where I could and I know I will find more batteries, more glue, more stamps and tape in other places. I’ve probably located all the dishes but the odd household items will likely turn up in other rooms. Once I established which items I felt I needed to keep to use and to provide Momma with a sense of security, I cleaned them and returned them to the cabinet.  The lights made the glassware sparkle. The orderliness made me calm. The hours of walking and bending and reaching and sorting and cleaning made me tired.

Hens on nests

For years, my mother has collected glass hens on nests and other objects with roosters. It’s just one of the many collectibles she has.

One of Momma’s prized possessions is her collection of hens on nests. I’ve given them a prominent place near our combined cookbook library.

cookbooks

This cookbook collection represents many fine family meals and memories.

I never knew she owned martini glasses until I started cleaning!

Martini glasses and stones

Now, we drink our morning juice from these martini glasses.

 

Momma is very pleased with how I cleaned her cabinet and with how I rearranged the kitchen. She was so impressed she agreed to eat dinner at the table for the first time in years. That, in my mind, is a triumph!

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