Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Tale of Two Garages

“Two car garage, five bedrooms”. Sounds a pretty impressive description if we decide to sell the house, doesn’t it? I have already told the full story of the five bedrooms, bedroom number five being frigid in winter, a furnace in summer. Not exactly truth in advertising.

Let’s move on to the garages. When we bought the house, there were indeed two garages, an unnecessary luxury for us since we only had one car. To get into the garage we had to drive down the driveway, unlatch a gate and maneuver through (and, during the years we had Murray, first tie up a walk-craving dog), latch the gate and make our way gingerly into the garage, avoiding a sturdy metal basketball post. So even one garage didn’t get much use.

Somehow I didn’t pay much attention—I was working at the time—when my husband said he was getting his trustworthy Grazio Brothers “to brick over the large area of driveway in front of the garages and had contracted with Eddie to brick up one of the garages to make a workroom.” Well, many thousands of dollars later he had his workroom, which, of course needed a door. And a heater. And a table saw. As the years went by, thanks to the children, the room acquired a television and a refrigerator, and became a man-cave.

As for the  other garage—needless to say it became the repository for all our garden equipment, bikes and general junk. No way a car could get in, especially since there is a large bench on one side which I laughingly call my potting bench. This side looks a little smarter this year since we have a new door which I can once again open with an electronic switch. When my children were younger, they did their best to “decorate” the walls.

Here we have the German poet’s wall (in translation):

Here the English poet's wall:

Here the pets' and siblings' wall:

A lot of memories in what started out as a "2-car garage."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Easy Peasy

Everyone born in Iowa likes corn. A generalization maybe, but it is certainly true of my husband. It sure makes cooking dinner in the summer easy. It also makes for a meal which is totally unhealthy for anyone, especially the older generation, of which he (sorry sweetie) is one. You see, the final touch is lots of butter and salt.  To complete his preference,  the only thing resembling a vegetable is sliced tomato (sprinkled with vinegar) and of course the best kind of sliced tomato is fresh off the vine, which around here is in late August or September. So for the time being, I have had to improvise.

This year we have had two meals of corn. In this last one I incorporated two pork cutlets, hacked off a loin which I was getting ready to cut in two and freeze. Pork, of course, is another favorite of sons of Iowa—and my sons-in-law. Since all I have to do is boil a pan of water and throw in the ears of corn (immaculately shucked) for a few minutes, I will not complain.

But should any of the local gentry drop by for dinner, I can gussy the whole thing up a bit.

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Mothers' Day

Or Mother's Day. Collective or one single? Oh, never mind, I prefer the English version anyway. Mothering Sunday sounds so much more kindly and gentle and avoids the sound of a Hallmark holiday (which is is.) Also avoids the punctuation problem.

This holiday is coming up on Sunday and therefore many a pastor or priest has been saved the trouble of composing a homily by offering up a paean to mothers. I never thought much about it until I read a blog post which my friend Liza brought to the attention of her Facebook friends. It is considered bad blogging etiquette to eviscerate a fellow blogger's post and post it in its entirety, so let me tell you that you can read the whole thing here. I am going to reprint the prayer which I found so very moving. A number of my friends experienced losses this year and sometimes remarks are hard or even inappropriate to make. There's a lot to think about here and in the comments.

To those who gave birth this year to their first child—we celebrate with you
To those who lost a child this year – we mourn with you
To those who are in the trenches with little ones every day and wear the badge of food stains – we appreciate you
To those who experienced loss through miscarriage, failed adoptions, or running away—we mourn with you
To those who walk the hard path of infertility, fraught with pokes, prods, tears, and disappointment – we walk with you. Forgive us when we say foolish things. We don’t mean to make this harder than it is.
To those who are foster moms, mentor moms, and spiritual moms – we need you
To those who have warm and close relationships with your children – we celebrate with you
To those who have disappointment, heart ache, and distance with your children – we sit with you
To those who lost their mothers this year – we grieve with you
To those who experienced abuse at the hands of your own mother – we acknowledge your experience
To those who lived through driving tests, medical tests, and the overall testing of motherhood – we are better for having you in our midst
To those who have aborted children – we remember them and you on this day
To those who are single and long to be married and mothering your own children – we mourn that life has not turned out the way you longed for it to be
To those who step-parent – we walk with you on these complex paths
To those who envisioned lavishing love on grandchildren -yet that dream is not to be, we grieve with you
To those who will have emptier nests in the upcoming year – we grieve and rejoice with you
And to those who are pregnant with new life, both expected and surprising –we anticipate with you
This Mother’s Day, we walk with you. Mothering is not for the faint of heart and we have real warriors in our midst. We remember you.

Monday, May 06, 2013

Keeping up Appearances

I was adding a note to a birthday card to a friend in England when I wrote “Must go. I have moved to my upstairs study and it is cold.” I had the grace to finish up with a brief explanation of my grandiose comment.

It is getting warmer now and I am happy sitting at my desk in Lucy’s old bedroom with my computer and my collection of stationery and books. I moved in here when I got my laptop. I realized if I didn’t move fast this room too would be annexed by my space hungry husband. How did Lucy ever sleep here? It is freezing cold in winter and steaming hot in summer. When I realized the problem, I packed up my tents in Fall and took my laptop down to the playroom in the basement where there is an old desk of mine with the requisite drawers and a lovely gas fire to keep me warm. In spring it is back upstairs until the heat drives me down to the basement, where it stays cooler longer, then nomad-like to any space with a window air conditioner.

I was going to include a photo of this room to relieve the monotony of the prose. I have some in the catalogue of photographs I took for the insurance company. You know how people sift through pictures of themselves to select the most flattering to insert on Facebook or, dare I say it, blogger? I couldn’t find an attractive likeness of this room. The main problem is that years ago I put up wallpaper here. I did a super job. The walls are smooth and there is a lovely frieze. Some time later, we had a door blocked off and although it is nicely plastered, I had no way to cover it. The wallpaper is no longer produced and the thought of stripping the existing wallpaper and starting from scratch did not appeal to me. After those pictures were taken we did get a bookcase from IKEA which fills the hole quite nicely, but not perfectly.

I didn’t want to post an imperfect picture. Would you think less of me? I doubt it. This room is immensely practical, but Martha Stewart would raise her eyebrows.

I wonder how many of us are guilty of this, especially as we blog. There are blogs which give details of the writer’s visits to a psychiatrist, problems with obesity, their children’s desertion, losing their job, but how many writers gloss over these conditions, publish photos of smiling children, describe a pleasant incident, which even the most unhappy have, and cover over the parts of their lives they are ashamed of?

And perhaps the bigger question, does it matter?