Wednesday, February 23, 2011

V-Day a week later and other thoughts

It is Valentine Day only 10 days later.  I guess I always figured write what you are thinking as you are thinking it and then re read it and edit out the stupid stuff.  Its been a busy February and that never quite happened and now I look back at V-Day as I recall it with the hazy notion, that I got through another one.

This morning is cold.  My thermometer reads a bone chilling 0 degrees, but once again we are told we have braved and survived another period of below normal temps and out of whack winter weather after 4 days of weather last week that melted every thing in sight most of it over one very warm night.  Another snow storm of the same variety on Sunday night, though the accumulations while approximate to the last storm, had only bare ground to blow across, so the digging out was easier, I think....

But back to V-Day.  I have a love/hate relationship with Valentine Day.  As a child in school it was one of the three big holidays celebrated in school.  Halloween, Christmas and Valentines Day.  School parties that we would wait for with baited breath.  Heart shaped cookies and red hots along with soapy tasting heart shaped candies with romantic sayings on each one.  But the biggest thing was the Valentines we exchnaged.  It was a shopping trip we were always allowed to go on, and I would agonize for days on what direction I wanted to go with my Valentines.   Granted I was somewhat limited as makers of Valentines weren't the saavy marketers they are today.  There were basically 3 or 4 styles in my parents price range, some geared more towards little boys and the rest seducing little girls who put copious amounts of thought and desire into those little red hearts and sentiments.  Once bought, we had to decide what was the best card in the bunch to give to our very best friends and perhaps the one boy we didn't find awful and who even at the tender ages of 7 and 8 we wanted to somehow impress.  After those momentous decisions we would work our way down the ladder and go from lesser girl friends down through the boys to the few boys we could barely stand who got the least sentimental of a box of basically generic thoughts on love.  The last valentines were always saved for the those who we just didn't even really think about and were just part of our class.  To not give everyone a Valentine was never an option, and Valentine boxes were what we spent the week prior to V-Day working on and decorating.  I don't know that there were ever crushed hopes and derailed dreams in those days of elementary children passing out innocent Valentines.  We were all innocent then and only looked to see and analyze if our best friends had given us a Valentine of equal love and sharing, and sometimes if the boy we secretly liked had selected a Valentine that was more than just the neutral sentiment found in the rest of our cards.  Sometimes we read much into that valentine and even more into a childish scrawl.  But mostly after the party and the day were done, we put away the valentines, often shoved under our bed to occasionally be pulled out and looked at and analyzed once again.  We'd dream silly, little girl dreams of that boy we liked, growing up and declaring his love for us and the white wedding dress that would follow, but that was as far as our dreams would go.

As we grew older the valentines became more elaborate, even as the party's became less.  Jr. high school meant being cool and not giving away that secret which was the boy you liked from afar.  The liking was more pronounced but the secrecy kept more carefully.  One year I made all my Valentines after being enthralled with a girl the year before who had taken the time to hand make all of her Valentines.  I labored for a week before hand making the valentines and deciding who would get what valentine.  It was the peak of my Valentine creativity. 

High school saw the end of the Valentines as I had known them in grade school.  It wasn't cool to pass out valentines and even less cool to do so in front of other people, so the valentine became an obsolete anachronism even though we felt as strongly, if not more about our friends and those boys we liked.  We just couldn't show it.  We sometimes passed out silly cards among us girls, but the order of the day became the Sweetheart Dance put on my the school's FFA and for those who have no notion of what that is, it stood for Future Farmers of America, and they selected several girls to compete for Sweetheart of the dance to be accompanied onto the floor by an FFA member of their choice.  Even then we thought it was kind of dorky, but it was one of our more formal dances, in that we got to dress up, the girls were given corsages if they had a date, and it was always around Valentines Day.  Long time couples sometimes passed out single carnations to their girlfriends in school on that day, but that was the extent of signs of affection in school.  One year the journalism class got the bright idea of selling Valentine day messages which you could fill out and have the class print up and deliver to your valentines of choice.  It was not a huge success.

College was my awakening into how other places were much more elaborate in their celebrations of love, at least outwardly.  I remember my freshman year I had just started dating a guy who went to a different school hours away from where I was at Alma College.  I always remember walking uptown and picking out Hallmark Valentine cards for my parents, grandparents and brothers and sister, such was my emersion into the rights of Valentines Day away from home.  I remember the switchboard crowded by flower arrangements all morning long.  Girls delighted squeals as the men in their lives remembered them with arrangements of varying degrees of expense and romaticism.  The day went on and my roommate received her flowers from her long distance boyfriend and I wondered if Tim would think enough of me to send flowers or if a card would suffice for him.  It was afternoon before I got the switchboard announcement that there were flowers for me.  I remember a smile from ear to ear and immense relief that I fit in with the rest of the girl's dorm by getting the arrangement of flowers that said I was special to someone.  It was a lovely arrangement as I recall and was the zenith of my college experience with V-Day.  The years after I would have no longtime boyfriend and while I received a rose or two from good "guy" friends, it was the arrangement of flowers from my freshmen year, I most remember.  And much of that had as much to do with the need to fit in my freshmen year as it did the arrangement of flowers, which apparently was not the case later on.  I do remember feeling melancholy on a few of those following V-Day's as while it was a sign of independence, it was also the one day where you want to be a couple.  As that day would leave I would often breathe a sigh that things and expectations could get back to normal.

For the life of me I cannot remember what Kurt got me our first Valentines as a couple.  I know he got me something and I'm pretty sure it was some kind of roses, but I don't remember them. It wasn't until a couple of years down the road of our married life, that I discovered while Kurt always remembered Valentines Day and always bought me at least a card, it was always preceded by a dash to the local florist the day of, on the way home from work to see what was left that he could purchase.  The same held true of cards, whatever was left on that day.  Flowers and prepackaged romantic sentiments were not my husband's thing.  I learned over the years, and while that might have included some disappointing Valentine days, was that my husband was rock solid and never forgot to bring me at the very least, a card.  He just wasn't a planner of romance.  I am not a rose fan, and certainly not a red rose fan.  If money is going to be spent on flowers which I do love, spend it on an arrangement or a bouquet of  mixed flowers.  That said, Kurt believes in roses because that's what is there around V-Day.  Through the years his cards have meant more to me, as while they may have been the V-Day leftovers, they were a sentiment he picked out and read, and thought of me as he picked them out.  I still have them all.

The gifts of Valentine Day have come and gone and most haven't been remembered, chocolates that were eaten, roses that died too soon, and silly cards that made me smile and wonder how large was the selection left.  As my children reached that magical age of grade school valentines it became the job of me to buy the valentines and then cajole and harangue them into signing them and getting them ready for the school parties.  Gone were the days of carefully picking out what cards they wanted.  Whatever, was fine with them.  As they grew up, I became more moody with the approach of Valentines Day.  I rebelled against the commercialism that had once again overtaken a holiday that started out as a commercial venture, anyway.  As I grow older, age and the long dark winters make my outlook darker and I tend to look to V-Day as a lifeboat, even though it rarely is.  There were some very bad Valentine Days and probably more just mediocre ones of recent.  Valentines day this year was just strange.  My kids have never sent out valentine wishes to their parents, though Ryan did call later in the day, and as for my friends we all just kind of think its silly to send out sentiments to one another.  But for the first time in our marriage, Kurt got me neither a card or flowers or any outward sign that it was Valentine Day.  He felt bad, and I don't think he expected my reaction.  I didn't expect my reaction as I guess subconsciously I was looking forward to my sweetheart of over 34 years remembering. even though you would have to live in a cave not to know the day was approaching.  Honestly, I felt left out.  I know my mother would give anything to have my dad around to "not" remember.  But it was just a day and I was glad when it was done as it marks the last holiday of winter and the lean days of Lent, of somberness will give way to the joy that is Easter and spring.

And so it goes...

Friday, February 11, 2011

Friday Thoughts

Cars on the track at Daytona.  Pitchers and catchers report to Lakeland, FL.  The spring season for baseball is starting and Nascar is about to resume after a short winter's nap.  And we are about to leave another bout of the "Deep Freeze" of Michigan, 2011, behind.  As the sun rises on another pretty winter morning here, I wonder if next week when the temperatures are to hit in the 40's and beyond, if I will then complain about "dirty snow", slush and the mud that inevitably will appear.  It is after all, only February here in Michigan so we will not see spring anytime soon, but I guess a change from the Dr. Zhivago like crystal frozen beauty that has been us this past week to a change for the warmer will be welcome, though I will likely complain about that also. 

I try to head outside at least once a day with the dogs to walk them as braving the cold always makes me feel energized when I come back in and ready to tackle something new.  Whether I actually accomplish anything remains to be seen but at the least, I feel like I may.  This week it has been sorting and labeling old photographs that have never found their way into an album.  They go back as far as 2002, and were just thrown in the "Album cupboard" awaiting placement in an album which somehow never occurred.  The closer we have come to the present days, the less pictures I have in printed form as most I just now save to the computer or on a cd.  So, I know my labeling and cataloging is nearing its end at around 2007.  Inevitably when I tire of figuring out the years of some pictures, I pull out an old album, mostly from when my kids were just and even babies and I think how unconcerned we all look in those pictures.  There is one that is a favorite of mine at Sand Lake when my grandparents still owned the cottage there.  Annie was just over a year old.  That year she had a pink bathing suit with ruffles across her bottom.  We have several of her marching along the beach with usually Grandma in tow in case she fell over and into the water, which she did often and with seemingly little care, as we would pluck her out, stand her upright, no tears, no crying, and she would just start walking again.  But in this picture she is laying between my legs, while we both sit on an old quilted blanket.  I am brushing sand from her hair and she is calmly eating an oreo cookie that probably has more sand in it then anything else.  I am drawn, as I reexamine this picture after all these years, at the simplicity of the scene and the trusting nature of my daughter as she calmly lays against me, and the almost casual way my hand is resting just above her head, a gesture so common I do it with half a mind I am sure, my attention elsewhere, but one so trusting in the mother-child relationship.  I wonder now as I have wondered often when did that complete trust in "Mom" leave my children and cause them to venture out on their own?  It happens to every parent and child, but for that frozen moment it is captured so vividly for me.  Soon I will hold a grandchild and embark on that wonderful journey of a grandma and I wonder what moments will be frozen in time for me then.  I hope my mind can conjure all the wonderful ones that await me and I can enjoy each one in its wholeness.

I lingered over the albums for three days enjoying going back in time to a place that seems so much simpler now, though I know it wasn't.  I know I was overstressed with being a young parent, and trying to live on one wage and all of the unknown's of raising children in a society radically different than my parents raised me.  It is now through the lens of time, that I know my children will think the same of my grandchildren.  But somehow, it just all seems so much simpler then, diluted now to wonderful color pictures of babies and toddlers doing the wonderful things they do, that I was lucky enough to capture on film and now decades later marvel at once again.  I remember so few of these things now and ask myself, did that really happen?  Did I actually have three babies at one time and did I somehow navigate them through life?  They grew up and now those baby years are so precious, and it is the one thing if I could do over I would in a heartbeat.  Just a few days, weeks, months of them as babies with their lives, (and mine), spread out before us....

Time for a change in the weather and time to close up the albums for a bit and look to tearing down wallpaper, as the new has finally arrived and that's a story for a different day.....

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Surviving Winter Wallop...

Watching the history of chocolate, and wishing I could dive in to that vat of chocolate.  I have been gone too long from here, and now the many thoughts of this past week are as murky as that vat of very good looking chocolate.  Throw in some peanut butter, peanuts, almonds, or caramel and I am right there with ya...I will have died and gone to heaven.

Hence the temptation to do nothing but eat chocolate this past week and read, read, read.  I managed to do the reading and resisted chocolate temptation for the most, as we lived through the first big blizzard of this winter and certainly for a few years here in Michigan.  We heard about the approaching Armeggedon for days before it actually struck on Tuesday evening, and by the time it actually arrived most of us hardened Midwesterners were more than a bit cynical at how effective it would be, (as in school closings for hopeful school children and their equally hopeful teachers and work stoppage for many others).   As most of us would say, we'd been there, done that and been disappointed more times than not.  But by 11 pm that night the wind was howling and snow was drifting everywhere and the bulk was to still be coming.  Schools were closed and I settled in to see what morning would bring. 

Kurt was up at 4 a.m. and worry or anxiety had me up right after to see what the out of doors looked like.  We had two, four foot drifts down two spots in the driveway.  The backyard we really couldn't see enough to make out how much snow we had gotten during the night.  We could discern it was still snowing and snowing hard.  Several phone calls to his brother, and other guys in the plant had me believing Kurt was more worried than the others about the day's events.  He decided to wait until daylight to get the tractor out and begin plowing the driveway out.  I had electricity, satellite tv, and my internet still worked, so I was quite content with what this "Hump Day" would bring.  At daylight it was still snowing and blowing heavily, but Kurt got out the tractor and cleaned out the drive, and down the road enough to see if he could get out later on.  Boredom and cabin fever brought on by an anxious husband, had me dress in my heavy duty clothing and try the out of doors.  We had a couple of drifts as high as the four foot fences in  back and a rather nice 6 foot drift in the back yard beyond the fence. And when I approached the front of the house, a piece of house siding on the front porch was laying on the floor, obviously the fierce Northeast wind had blown it off.  Two pieces of the porch metal ceiling were either flapping in the wind or bowed down.  I put the siding which now had a crack in it, into the garage to replace after the wind died down and when Kurt had finished we "collaborated" on putting the ceiling back in place.  I use the word collaborated loosely.  If he would just listen to me, (which he never has in over 33 years), it would have went faster and been successful.  As it was, we got them back in place but I didn't have much hope they would stay in place. And I would have been correct as always, the ceiling piece blew completely off shortly after we left it.  Holy Cow, I feel like Dorothy in Kansas, where I feared parts of my house would end up.

By 10:00 a.m. Kurt was tired of being at home while others were at work and I told him to go.  I, obviously, wasn't going anywhere, but as long as I had the amenities I was fine with being snowed in.  The news here was weather and as it was the upper Midwest's first big blizzard when the mid-Atlantic and upper South had been getting bombarded by snows that were not at all usual, we were not news to anyone but us.  I settled in and took it easy, for what I thought was the rest of the day.  Apparently I was the only one who was content to have it quiet and not worry about whether a snowplow went down our road.  Phone calls and internet buzzings were scattered throughout the afternoon.  About 2 p.m., the snows had stopped and though the wind still blew, the blizzard was over.  I estimated about a foot of snow, but it was hard to tell, as it was moving from east to west at a prodigious clip.  The sun finally broke through and Kurt was back by 3 to again plow what had drifted in since morning.  At almost dark, a phone call from Ryan let me know he had gotten his truck stuck just down the road the other side of the neighbors in a big drift.  Kurt had already pulled out a couple of trucks that had tried the roads during the day, so the tractor went back out and he pulled Ryan, Alison and Ben back to our place and we had a blizzard hearty meal of stuffed peppers.  Ryan had been itching to "play" on the tractor and move snow so he cleared a path down the road to get out.  No snow plow had hit our road, a fact that had Kurt perturbed, but I didn't worry about it.  The kids and Ben left after the road was cleared, and while all schools would be closed for a second day, we knew the worst of Winter Wallop was behind us.  Thursday would be dig out day, the snow plows would go by, and business would be up and running, though schools were still off. 

The final estimate of snow fall was about 10 to 11 inches around here, hardly blizzard proportions but the combination of the blizzard winds made is seem like much more.  I read, finishing a book in a couple of days, something I rarely do anymore.  My house still has pieces of itself laying in the garage awaiting reapplication in a slightly more battered form.  I cleaned and decided how the rest of my winter would go.  Oh yeah, that's gonna happen.   But its nice to plan, even if I seldom accomplish, and if all else fails there is always chocolate, and chocolate and peanut butter and chocolate and peanuts and chocolate and almonds...