Memories

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I have a mug that I have been using all winter for my morning coffee. It made its way from the back of the cabinet right after Thanksgiving, and I have been using it ever since. Supposedly, it’s a Christmas mug, but in truth, there isn’t much about it that screams Christmas. Aside from the wreath on the door of the house in the background, it is more of a winter mug. Which is a good thing because I’m having a tough time putting it away this year.

When I was little and winters were snowy, we would spend hours playing outside in the snow. We built snowmen and snow forts and entire houses with room upon room upon room on top of the snow banks in the parking lot across the street. Our fingers and toes would be numb, and it would be dark outside before we finally retreated to the warmth and light of the house. Or we’d wait until Dad got home from work and we had to go in for dinner….

These memories are why this mug has always reminded me of home. But this year, especially, it reminds me. When we were little, Dad would take us sledding on one of several different hills in town. We would load the sleds in the back of the car (or the back of the truck) and off we’d go. Dad built snowmen with us, sometimes adding an extra couple of snowballs for ears and noses and calling them snow bears, families of them, at times, populated our yard.

This year, winter has been a challenge, and I’m not ready to put away my Christmas mug. So I’m calling it a winter mug. This mug, it’s keeping me centered. It’s giving me pause to sigh and remember the good times. Remember Dad.

So if you see me using what looks like a Christmas mug in the middle of the summer, just let it go. I’m reliving some good times. And holding tight to some memories.

Saturday Wanderings

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Back when he was in fifth grade, maybe sixth, my son created a simulated Black Hole for a project for science. Now, this was not just a table-top diorama. No. When my kid creates a Black Hole, it is going to be a big one.

He thought long and hard about how he would complete this project. On Amazon, he discovered that he could purchase a large sheet of black lycra. He set about to create a frame for the material, and he used PVC pipe and joints.

Actually, the finished product was pretty impressive. He carried it to school unassembled in his sister’s duffle bag. When he put it all together, it was three feet tall and four feet from one side to the other. His teacher was impressed. But as impressive as this project was, it is not the point of this blog post.

Fast forward to this past fall. The large sheet of lycra had been hanging around my house for awhile. We all knew it belonged to W, but it was in the living room; it was in the bedroom; it was in the basement. It really hadn’t found a home. After it had kicked around for too long, W picked it up one day and said, “Do you think I could make a hammock out of this?” And the next thing I knew, I had a hammock hanging from the beams above the ceiling tile in my basement. The best part was that the ceiling tiles had to be pushed aside to make this work.

But then he decided he wanted to make it into a real hammock rather than just a piece of lycra tied to some rope tied to the beams. He spent the better part of a day pleating the material and stitching it together on my sewing machine. The parts that were too thick—where he looped the lycra over and connected it to the rope—were sewn by hand. His newly reconfigured hammock passed the basement test with flying colors.

So last weekend, he took the hammock on a camping trip to test it out for real. Yes, it is February, which means that here in New Hampshire, it is the middle of winter. Personally, I am not sure if I would rather sleep on the frozen ground or in a hammock at this time of year. When I was discussing this issue with my daughter, she had the same first response I had. “Bridges freeze first!”

(And that, my friends, is a clear indication that if nothing else, my daughter learned one important fact in her Drivers Education class, and it is one that she will never forget!)

The argument on whether it’s warmer to sleep on the ground or in a hammock (if you must sleep outside in the dead of winter) is still out for debate, but here’s what I did learn. Getting out of a hammock in the middle of the night in the dead of winter to use the latrine is not too much fun.

[Image credit: FreeImages.com / Orlando Alonzo]

Blurring

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Sometimes, I have to wonder. My children—even as teens, or maybe especially as teens—tend to shed their belongings as they walk in the front door and through the house. The shoes are the first to come off onto the boot tray. Then the backpack, landing on the floor by the chair. The jacket is sometimes hung up, but usually ends up thrown on the back of a chair or on the table. Sweatshirt, sweaters, hat, socks, etc. As my children shed these items, they get dropped along the path. It’s a blur of doors and limbs and kids and belongings.

At the end of last week, I had just returned home from work. I emptied and put away my lunchbox, and I made my way up to my room to change from my work clothes before I made dinner. As I raised my foot to step on the first stair, I heard, “Don’t step on my shirt!”

What? Ah yes. Someone had dropped a shirt, right there in the middle of the bottom step.

Perhaps the problem is not really me stepping on the shirt. It seems, the problem might be more about the shirt being in the middle of the steps where it doesn’t belong. Just a thought.

Music

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I’m not a fan of silence. In fact, I love listening to music. Or actually… I used to love listening to music. Recently, I have had to switch to talk radio. I have NPR blaring through the car speakers as I drive to work and back home again. The talk show hosts drone on and on and on about politics, the transition of power, the issues facing the present administration. Truth: I’m getting pretty sick of talk radio.

I used to enjoy listening to music. Usually on my way home from work, if not on my way to work, I would listen to music rather than NPR. I listened to music when I arrived home at night while I was preparing dinner. And I listened to music as I completed household chores.

However, when my sister and I were tasked with finding music for Dad’s service, the new reality of music became very clear. An entire song, a tiny line, a wistful melody, the dreamy intonation of the singer… any one of these things could turn on the tears like a switch.

Now, navigating a collection of songs is like walking through a minefield. A song will come on and I will be fine. The next song, and the next will not be a problem. Buried in the album, a line will be sung, and I will dissolve—suddenly and completely—into a puddle of tears. I never knew how swiftly these feelings could come and sweep me up into the tide of emotion.

And then subside just as quickly.

I used to enjoy listening to music; it would keep me company and drown out my own thoughts. But perhaps at least for now, I am better off listening to the sound of silence.

Car Snacks

fullsizeoutput_2ae5I recently renewed the registration for both of our cars. Since both cars are registered in my name, they both came due in my birth month. After I completed the registrations, they sat by my front door waiting to be moved to the cars.

A week or so ago, I finally went out and stuck the new stickers on my license plates and put the documentation in the cars, first my car and then the car my teens use. As I rooted around in the glove compartment for the little plastic sleeve that we have to hold the registration, I noticed two individually wrapped ring pops.

Back at the beginning of the summer when I was in the car for some reason, my son had shown me the various snacks he was keeping in the glove compartment—ring pops being one of them. Therefore, I was aware of the car food and not surprised to find the ring pops there. I was a bit concerned about their condition, but since they were unopened, I figured I would deal with them another day. I slipped the registration into the sleeve and shut the glove compartment.

Yesterday, my daughter had somewhere to be and it was snowing. She took the car that was better in the snow, and W and I took the smaller car on our errands. As we drove down the long road home, he decided to search the glove compartment, a hobby of his when he is in either one of our cars. Of course, he discovered the ring pops and decided he was going to help himself.

Keep in mind, we are several months from hot weather, and candy that has been in a hot car over the summer has likely seen better days. And W certainly found that out when he opened the first of the two pops.

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It was no longer its original shape, having melted several times over. The second wasn’t any different. While he did taste one before we threw them out, they were chewy and not what he was expecting.

Now I’m trying to come up with the best moral for this story. Perhaps it would be, Sometimes things don’t maintain their original form in a hot car. Or maybe, If you don’t throw out your car snacks before you go off to college, your little brother will do it for you.

Maybe we can just go with this one: Don’t store your candy in the glove compartment.

Creative direction

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Creativity comes in many forms in my household. I have the creative writer who develops fictional worlds, populates them with characters of his making, places those characters in impossible situations, and then writes them out of (or deeper into) those situations.

I have the visual artist who recently used her artistic talents to explore mental illness through drawing and painting. She used both color and black and white images and some 3 dimensional work, as well. The resulting pieces will be added to the portfolio she will use as she applies to colleges in the fall.

And I have the science-minded engineering type who uses computers, 3D printers, electronic components, and the tools of engineering to create and develop the ideas that populate his brain on a daily basis.

None of these forms of creativity is any better or worse than the other. My children have discovered the tools and materials that intrigue and inspire them; they started from the same general place—creativity—but they have gone off in completely different directions. And I must say, it is fascinating to watch them develop their skills day by day.

For Christmas, I gave Himalayan salt lamps to two of my children. For my birthday, my son created a small lamp for me. Using the salt lamps as inspiration, he designed the “crystal” and created it and the base on his 3D printer, completed the wiring, and assembled the whole thing. I had no idea that he was doing this until I opened it.

Creativity… it’s an interesting concept that manifests differently in everyone. If we really look, we can recognize it as a trait every individual possesses. Personally, I like the way creativity shows up in my house.