Wannabe Walton

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A couple of years ago, on a mad shopping spree post chemo and mid radiation, I decided I was ready to take my girls out to London for a serious dose of retail therapy.  It was the first type of therapy I felt actively keen to enjoy and I was determined not to be deterred by the white haired Annie-Lennox-Eurythmics look I was sporting at the time.   You know what I’m talkin’ about, a seriously tight coif making my head look like it had been shaved with a maximum number 1 blade.  At any rate, I wasn’t feeling my most feminine and I gathered a swirl around French Connection could go some way in rectifying my ability to get in touch with my girlie side.  And I was right, within moments, a dress jumped out at me as they sometimes do which I knew must make its way back to my personal wardrobe.

The dress came in a sort of mottled pattern of burgundy, blue and cream which somehow worked all together quite well, however, it was the style of the dress that won me over.  The dress was cut in a cottony/jersey fabric with short sleeves, a v-neck neckline and a skirt which hung down just above my knees. The best part was the attached belt which tied in a bow in the back along a sort of Empire line pulling the fabric taut just under my chest.  It seemed to be a totally retro throw back to a fashion found somewhere between the World Wars.  The design was for a dress which a woman could wear every day, get all she needed to get done and feel pretty along the way.  It was a “fait accompli” when I put it on because it instantly made me think of Liv Walton and I knew it had to be mine.

Why would such a style and connection bring out my debit card and compel me to purchase it  you ask?  Well, basically I’ve always had a long standing respect for Olivia Walton.  As many of you will remember, she is the mother from The Waltons television show played by Michael Lerner and she epitomizes, for me, such strength of character in family and community.  She emits a seemingly effortless grace and shines with a stoic beauty from within while all along exuding love in a strong and steady manner.  In short, I find, she has always been an inspiration to me.  I’d even go so far as to say, besides my own mother, she definitely has influenced my way of parenting and raising a family.

It might sound old fashioned, but I like how she’s always cooking or mending or shelling peas and as she’s doing her chores she’s listening and softly considering the world of her family and how that family fits into the wider scheme of things.  Whilst her husband, John, is in the barn churning out planks of wood on the sawmill, Liv has a knack for keeping a positive attitude even as she works alongside an often ornery mother-in-law in her kitchen.  She feeds their family of seven children (plus Grandma and Grandpa) gathering them around a big table, and she makes sure each dinnertime meal starts with a clasp of hands held tight and heads bowed in a thankful prayer.  Everyone dips in and out or passes through the kitchen and Olivia is always there some how managing to inspire them to get along, get on and make their way in the world.  She not only makes sure they are fed with food but with care and knowledge, sharing stories and ideas so they can be interested and interesting in the world and each other. Furthermore, I respect her intelligence, her resilience and her supportive nature mixed with a firm stance on fairness and accountability.  Her capacity to make her voice heard clearly and soundly definitely does it for me as well.  Above all else, I admire her knack for treating all the people in her life like individuals, like they are something unique and special in their own right.

So, back to the dress.  I was wearing it recently and thinking my hair is finally pretty much long enough to put back in a bun just like Liv’s and it made me reflect as I looked in the mirror, “am I keeping up my Walton standards”?  I want to be patient with my girls when they have Mary Ellen moodiness or embrace any of my kids when they seek originality of spirit like Jim Bob’s aviation aspirations.  I obviously love cultivating an appreciation for reading and writing so that any inner John Boy can flourish in my three.  I try my hardest to encourage appreciation for spirituality along the lines of Jason’s and support the ability to blend and harmonize a diversity of personalities and talents like the best middle children, including Erin, do.  I endorse supporting the little Ben’s in our life and making sure they get an equal say on family matters.  Finally I admit I love to indulge, but hopefully not spoil, each of my kids who are still my babies as Elizabeth is to Olivia.

However, I still wonder, am I doing my kids right?  Especially with all that has changed in the world since the real Waltons or the tv ones walked barefoot down a dirt road to Ike’s to post a letter or even shouted “Good Night, John Boy!” to each other before flicking out the light.  Liv never had to allocate iPad, xBox or Wii time nor did she have to filter the internet so her kids wouldn’t get exposed to something totally and utterly inappropriate with the click of a keyboard.  Nor did she have to school her kids in social medium etiquette or protect them from cyberbullies or creepy adults trying to “groom” them online.  She definitely never had to organise or drive her kids to a playdate having a neigbourhood of children to play with in her own front yard.  Oh, and as far as I can tell, she only fed them organic, non GM food and limited their sugar intake by merits of Depression budget limitations or rationing stamps.  And finally, lucky Liv, she never suffered the worry or guilt about her carbon footprint and instead enjoyed fresh food from her garden or traded with other Walton’s Mountain residents.

Sigh.

Nonetheless, I am not ready to chuck all this technology away.  I so appreciate the levels of communication it gives me so that I can “Facetime” my dad in South Carolina from England or be mesmerised by photos from outer space or Maya Angelou reading her poetry for me on Youtube.  I most definitely like being able to have the weather forecast at my fingertips so I know how to pack for Skyler’s class weekend away to the Isle of Wight.

However, with Skyler in mind, I am reminded of what an impact the way I conduct our household can have on a person, specifically him.  Recently he was on a sleepover only to find out how differently families can operate.  When I picked him up, we were barely pulling out the drive and he started to note how “they can watch whatever the want for as long as they want” (shows at our house get vetted and the oven timer set to make sure we don’t forget how long they’ve been staring at the screen).  We also use the timer for “iPadding”, Minecraft, Wii and Xbox.  He then went on to mention that when they sat down for dinner they did not even talk about the day they had had.  “They just ate.”  He carried on telling me, pulling a face, “they had lasagne” (a serious crime in his eyes as is just isn’t one of his favourites), and he was surprised they hadn’t asked if he liked it (like I do) before serving him a plateful.  He finished his account of the experience very sweetly and said, “You know, you always make me and my friends feel like you like that we are there, like we are special.  Mom, you are one in a million.”

As you can imagine, I’ve been living off that comment for almost a week now, not because I concur, I am definitely not that exceptional and far from the one and only Liv Walton.  Instead I have to confess, there is many a time when I resemble more the likes of Drill Sergeant Foley (From An Officer and A Gentleman) or Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest when I deal with my kids.  That said, I guess I must I have my moments. The comment has made me feel honoured and happy to be perceived by a ten year old this way – especially my son and to grow in confidence  that I might be getting some of this raising children thing right.  Now that I think about it, that ‘ole dress has done more than fill my Wannabe Walton yearning, it has clothed me well and, with or without it on, set me up for contending with the perils of parenting in the modern world.  To emulate Olivia Walton is a good thing and to make the children and people of my world feel valued – that’s worth more than any dress I could hope to buy.

 

A Smashing Idea

 

photoI’m at a bit of a crossroads, stuck looking left and right, wondering if I should or if I shouldn’t.  Hmmm, this decision could fundamentally change my future and the lives of my husband and children, yes, and perhaps even the dog and definitely the cats.  They, too, will be impacted by this momentous, earth-shaking and, to be more exact, possibly earth-shattering, choice I need to make.  Maybe, if I lay it out on the table, even spread it over the kitchen counter and probably sprawl it out into the dining room, by looking at it in the light of day I will be able to come to a conclusion as to whether I should or should not donate our “everyday china” to the village fete crockery smash stall*.

At the moment, Spring Cleaning continues to reign supreme what with Nick FINALLY clearing out the two car garage after nearly ten years of living here so he could FINALLY forgo my annual pleading to “do something out there” so we wouldn’t have to climb over a stack of too small wetsuits bought for ambitious seaside swims in the cold waters of Cornwall, tins of the remains of paint kept just in case we need to touch up a wall or two (which we have never have done), or old bikes with their training wheels on ready to be returned to Toytime where we bought them for when the kids where learning to ride just so we can get to the step ladder, outdoor Christmas lights or the broken rowing machine which “can’t be thrown away because it just needs one laaahst piece so it can work again”(to be said in Nick’s English accent).  Even though the laaahst time it swished Nick through an exercise was circa 2007.   He FINALLY tidied it up out there so he can park his new car on one side while cramming any un-dumped garage stuff on the other side.

I am carrying on in like fashion in the kitchen and have consolidated the pantry cupboards which have been cleaned out in the recent past.  One of the kindest things my friend, Chris, did for me was to declutter the food cupboards around the kitchen when I was doing chemo.  It lightened my load somehow losing the old cans of cream of chicken soup, kidney beans and evaporated milk along with old baking chocolate turned grey lost behind the bags and bags of pasta (half used and full) which had taken up space and lingered way past their use by dates in my cupboards.  As I’ve confessed in earlier posts, I don’t come from a strict background of household chore maintenance.  I definitely am in the “lived in look” school of domestic management, however, I’ve got this cleaning bug most probably because we are approaching the ninth anniversary of our move to Brasted and I realise that this is the longest we have ever lived in a house together.  In fact, since I left my parents home to go to college in 1985 this is the longest place I’ve ever lived anywhere and after all this time it has become necessary for me to review the status of things around the house.

All of which has brought me to consider what to do with the stuff in our china cupboard.  Come this September when the Brasted Dog and Flower Show will next be held and will host a crockery smash stall*, Nick and I’ll will be celebrating our eighteenth wedding anniversary and I’ve noticed, after eighteen years, a few things about what my mom always called our “everyday china”:

  1. Nothing matches.  There’s five of us who need to sit down at a meal and it is only if the planets align and we are lucky that the dishwasher has been run at the right time we will have five matching plates to dine from.  For the most part, there are collections from our original wedding list and random dishes we’ve acquired along the way…a few mad Pampered Chef purchases, a good-deal-on seven white plates “that’ll match everything else” from World Market and cute one off pieces like the the dark blue and white star square plate we put the annual Fourth of July cake on.  The best represented set are the ones from IKEA – which will not die.  A word of warning to young couples flippantly strolling the aisles of IKEA and bunging in a box of china for your new kitchen while reading this- you will live with those plates for a LOOOOONNNNGGGGG time so make sure you like’em and will be happy to pass them on to future generations unless you are willing to go the crockery smash route should you ever tire of them.
  2. Of the remaining side plates, dinner plates and bowls we have from the original set we got from the Peter Jones which managed our wedding wish list, most either have been chipped from regular trips through the dishwasher or they have those antiquey, rusty cracks.  You know the ones which haven’t quite made it through the entire dish to break them, but are looking suspiciously like they will do so next time you: a) put something really hot on/in them  b) put them through the microwave and the glaze around the rim heats up to hotter than a kiln and you are subsequently forced to drop them on the limestone floor where they shatter into, not millions, but gagillions of shards flying across the length and breadth of the kitchen into the dog’s bed.
  3. There are also multiple gouges in the lips of our favourite coffee mugs. Most of which don’t even come from a set from our wedding list but rather from the different sessions we’ve had at the local paint-your-own-pottery shops we’ve visited with the kids over the years.  I can’t seem to resist them on a rainy day with the hallmarks of a family member’s name and year painted on the bottom of the cups guaranteeing an authenticity more definitely than any Wedgewood stamp.
  4. I know these aren’t technically “everyday china” however they lurch right next to the aforementioned mugs and I can’t help but consider them as well…the glasses.  Yes, once again I can confirm we do not have any matching glasses – no chips but equally no matches either to set the table for a family of five.  There are the faded Princess and Winnie the Pooh long glasses which have seen so much action over the years you just know your drinking from Eeyore because the glass is ever so slightly blueish grey or from Belle in the lightest of yellows.  We’ve also got a three glass “set” from the 2012 Olympics (also faded) which have remnants of lions somewhere amongst the pink (formerly red),  grey (formerly white) and powder, baby blue motif.  In many ways, now that they’ve faded, perhaps they actually look like they could join the Disney ones to make a set so I might be on to something.  Especially because they remind me of some ones I had growing up.  My mom collected the jars from Welch’s grape jelly which had Looney Toons characters chasing each other endlessly around the outside of the tumbler.  The deal was you could have a “free” glass (which according to my mom was the perfect size for a glass of reconstituted OJ, Tang or to use up in the bathroom to rinse your mouth after brushing) once you discarded the top and removed the jelly contents.  Maybe that means I am following in the footsteps of my mom which is always a good thing.  Now that I think about it, we ate alot of PB&Js back then and maybe it could all have been a ploy to ensure Mom got a match set for the seven of us.  Hey, I think I’m getting somewhere, the glasses are keepers.

Well now all these kitchen ceramics including the mini glass ramekins acquired from splurging on store bought creme carmel which I can never throw away or put through recycling because they are perfect for cats to lap milk from or to use when I want to play sous chef to Nick so he can pretend he’s a real celebrity chef and have all his ingredients measured and doled out all to throw in at just the right time to make a great meal,  the pastel coloured ice cream bowls I just had to have because they remind me of eating Edy’s Mint Chocolate Ice Cream (which you cannot get in the UK?!) at my parents house some times, if we were lucky, topped with my grandmother’s chocolate sauce or the Japanese-y looking earth-coloured tan side plates that came with a long ago fondue set which Nick and I got when we were dating and which we would spend hours preparing every kind of food we could think of to chop up and dip into our little cheese fondue for two have all got me thinking.  It’s like when I was considering my clothes and cleaning out the closet.  Once again I am worried if I’ll be able to remember these details of my life without the keepsake souvenirs to remind me.  While, at the same time, the declutter-er in me dreams of having “Sleeping With the Enemy” style cupboards with all items stacked perfectly in neat rows with nary a chip or a mismatched pattern in sight.  Sometimes, I love to stroll very slowly through the “Housewares” section of John Lewis just to get a sense of what it could be like if I lived in a showroom like world with all in my kitchen well organised and matching.  I have to confess for that matter, I also have to dally in the Bedroom department because our bedroom has the same problem as the kitchen. Yep, the bed linens of our house are also a mash up as well as the towels, oh, and now I’m telling you even the cutlery barely “spoons” any more because the shapes, sizes and styles vary so broadly in that drawer – but I digress.

So what’s this exercise done for me?  Has it helped me to decide which way to go – to sacrifice some of my pottery history for the sake of feeling all is in order or do I keep up the  facade of being an organised table setter and just live with the eclectic collection of china?  I do know it’s made me pause to question – is this all its cracked up to be?  (Sorry couldn’t resist the pun).  It has made me think I kinda like my diverse and sundry collection in its uniqueness to me.  I reckon no one else is gonna have the exact, same set of stuff eighteen years into a marriage; particularly, the stuff worth glueing back together and holding it precious in all its imperfections.  The exercise has helped me decide that I’m gonna save anything with a Bennett kid imprint on it, the other stuff I’ll give to a second hand shop to give someone else a go at building an individualised assortment of every day items to eat off.  For the really sorry stuff – I’m smashing it!  There is a thrill in creating a life.  Even more pleasure in living it.  But still fun, every once and awhile, to smash things to smithereens for the sheer fun of it.

 

*I’m not making this up.  They really give kids – young and old – cricket balls to throw full on at old dishes to raise money.  No protective eye gear.  Not to win a prize.   Just pay to smash with impunity.  Gotta love the Brits.

 

The Space Between The Songs

Okay, I am going to totally date myself here, but I remember buying and playing vinyl records.  There, I’ve said it and you now have a better picture of the kind of person I am.

I’ve always liked to consider myself somewhat a connoisseur of music figuring wherever I lack a most expert judgement in my taste of tunes, I make up for it in enthusiasm for the medium.  In fact, like everybody else I know, my life has its own personal soundtrack and I love to delve through my eclectic music selection, put something on and turn up the volume to create at varying times a mood to raise myself up or settle myself down, sing along to and most definitely bop around my kitchen table or a dance floor to. There’s a chance my parents sparked my interest with Sinatra’s Songs for Swingin’  Lovers and Ella Fitzgerald’s Ella Fitzgerald Sings Cole Porter’s Songbook forever on our turn table or playing in the background while they hung wallpaper to decorate our rooms.  Or perhaps I can blame it on the juke box we had in our basement growing up which played hundreds of singles we could swap out and change as our music tastes wandered.  In our high school years we ran the gambit from The Beach Boys’ California Girls to Jackson Browne’s Doctor My Eyes to The Rolling Stones’ Shattered , The Police’s De Do Do Do Da Da Da , Kool & The Gang’s Celebration, Chaka Khan’s Ain’t Nobody and Michael Jackson’s Don’t Stop “Til You Get Enough.  In college, Neal introduced a more international flair to my playlists with Everything But The Girl and The Style Council  being mixed in with the universally acclaimed Dave Brubeck’s Jazz At Oberlin, but then Jeff got me to delve into ska and reggae with his contagious Locals Only shows performing on the college circuit, threw in loads of anything by The Beatles and topped it all up with an exposure to Branford Marsalis and Sting’s Englishman In New York which probably went some way to subliminally influence me to want to be an American in London!  In London, Nick and I spent our Saturdays at the Kings Road HMV buying up all the acid jazz of the 1990’s especially loving Jamiroquai’s Emergency on Planet Earth album as well as splurging on Kenny Loggins Live From The Redwood Forest, and later Bueno Vista Social Club. I told you it was eclectic.

I can even still remember what songs were hits when I was pregnant with my kids and I swear they’ve navigated towards the genres they heard through me as soon as they could hear.  If you check your Billboard rating lists for 1998, Shania Twain was belting out some beauties that year and I find Megan, although her taste is presently rather indie these days, she’s always got a sweet spot for country given a chance.  And Christy, well, Toni Braxton’s sultry R&B was actually on in the delivery suite in 1999 when she arrived and I can see her lean towards sensational, soulful vocals whenever she gets the chance to plug in her iPad and pick the next tune to listen to.  Skyler definitely has 2004’s Hey Ya! by Outkast ringing in his subconscious as although he loves the likes of Maroon Five and Michael Buble he always rouses us with an all-body-moving Black Eyed Peas song when he wants to get the “party started in here” .

Sometimes I love just listening to the tunes and the quality of the human voice connecting with the lyrics.  When I was living through chemo treatments, I would alternate my iPod on a loop of James Taylor’s October Road  to Yo Yo Ma’s Songs of Joy and Peace as I would try and drift off to sleep away from the cancer and the “therapy” . I fear I may sound like an X Factor judge but I have to say the clear tone of James Taylor’s voice and Yo Yo Ma’s cello accompanying top artists of every music discipline saw me through nights and eased me through the worries that wore on me like no medicine my oncologist could have prescribed for me.

So, why the confession about vinyls?  Well, ever since Beyonce came out with her big groundbreaking Beyonce album with a matching set of videos this December which according to the iTunes editor has “cemented her status as a pop visionary”, I’ve been thinking –  what is the big whoop?  I love Beyonce, like it seems everyone else on the planet does, however, I don’t get how it is such an amazing concept that she came out with a whole set of songs at one go instead of dribbling out a single here, and once that ran its course,  a single there.  What she did reminds me of what vinyls have been doing all along.  The artist/band gets to pick their full set of songs, put them in a meaningful order, accompany them with a visual like a defining album cover and include the lyrics and even hopefully liner notes which reveal the human side of the music and allow fans to ponder about the meaning of and person who produced the music.  Don’t get me wrong, I think what Beyonce has produced is super cool and I am really enjoying the music yet I just don’t get how she’s considered such a revolutionary innovator on this front.

Now I am in full flow of my middle aged rant I guess I can let you in on the schpeel I was going to carry on with about how easy our kids have got it filing through thousands of songs at the swipe of a finger while our old compilation tapes actually were labours of love.  Mary Kate adores to laugh at the time I decided it would be a good idea to make a compilation tape for one of my high school crushes while at the same time making him chocolate chip cookies.  With the stereo system, including the record player and tape machine, on the far side of the living room located on the opposite side of our house to the kitchen I really challenged myself one Christmas to produce a gift for the hearing and tasting.  I would load up another round of cookies to throw into the oven between flying back to the living room and hitting the tape to pause so I could cleanly edit in the next track on the tape without cutting off a song or running into the next one on the album.  I was ever grateful for the space between the songs.  All you forty plus year olds must know what I’m talking about.  Kates thought it was the best fun to watch me dash back from the kitchen with an oven glove on my hand to hit the tape deck between batches.  At one point, as I was wearing socks and running on hard wooden floors, I slipped and nearly took the Christmas tree out as I cleared the entrance of the living room like someone sliding into home base.  The biggest damage done was that I didn’t have a perfect mix and had to try and rerecord the Careless Whisper Wham song I was so desperate to include.

Nowadays, we might not have to fumble with needles to amplify a sound out into the world for songs, but we certainly had/have people producing full albums which can be bought and listened to in their entirety just like Beyonce.  I am happy to report all of my kids are great djs when it comes down to it and my listening life is enriched by the music they share with me still some how I think they miss the point sometimes when they just know one song from an artist.  Even Skyler, who at almost ten, has an encyclopedic knowledge of bands and one off songs he has heard and likes from the charts (or from eavesdropping on his super cool teenage sisters’ playlists).  Each of my kids has an amazing capacity to recall these singles in random order and its like having our own personal original compilation pour out of them and their iPods when they manage the audio controls scrolling through the iTunes library and choosing what song will come on next.  That said, I still think there is something worth following an album of ten to twelve songs through from beginning to end.  Wouldn’t you agree you literally get more into the rhythm of the experience and the artist if you let yourself get moved by the full expression of those sets of soundtracks ordered in such a fashion to link together to give us as a whole album?  Even if you eventually fast forward through your less favourites you still know where each song falls on an album.  Just as I can recount the songs of my life along the way, I’d like to suggest on your favourite albums you can finish one song and know without even thinking what that one will segue into?  I’ll go back to James Taylor and if you are even half the fan that I am don’t you just know when he wraps up I Will Follow on Dad Loves His Work with “Follow Love” the most natural sound you hear in your head even if you don’t have it playing is his plucking of the guitar and then him singing, “Believe it or not I’ve been waiting for you to come through.” the first lines of Believe It Or Not.

Finally, I wanted to declare, I even love the space between the songs on an album. Even if I’m not trying to make a compilation tape and need to buy some time – you know just before the last song finishes and the next one begins don’t you love that quiet in between?  Just a moment to reflect, to pause.  This morning that space of quiet came even more profoundly to me when I listened to a report about a woman in her forties who last month had cochlear implants placed in both her ears and who heard sound for the first time this week. PLEASE PRESS HERE TO LISTEN AND TO WATCH I’ve now watched the video when I was looking for the link for you but think listening to it on the radio was almost even more poignant.  Press play and close your eyes and listen to her hear.  The whole recording grips you and especially when the nurse asks her  if she can hear herself and she says, “Yes” through her sobbing, laughing amazement.   Maybe what I’m trying to say about all this music stuff is that however it is packaged there is something so purely good about hearing and being heard.  Whether you cherry pick a song or go for the whole bunch at one go – I hope you enjoy it and revel in the act of listening.

 

I Yam What I Yam

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So it’s just gone 9.08am and I am already having, what Mary Kate and I often refer to as  a Henry Hill kinda day.  If you can cast your mind back to 1990’s Good Fellas you will know exactly what I mean.  It was a movie with a huge cast not the least of which was Ray Liotta starring as the ne’er do well Mafia wanna be and it is to his character I allude.  Henry Hill was a real life guy who wanted to “get made” in a big kinda way such that he took on all sorts of horrendous tasks in the hopes that he would get brought into the fold even though it was nearly impossible given his non-Italian heritage.  What you really need to know about Henry is that by the end of the movie, Martin Scorsese shows how his life spiralled out of control such that just before he gets nabbed by the Feds(through whom he later agrees to join a Witness Protection programme, dimes out his old Mafia buddies and eventually relates the Good Fellas story) he is juggling just too many things at one time.  There’s a frantic scene which documents the day Henry got caught that Mary Kate and I are reminded of.  It shows him doing drugs at 6.55am (we don’t do drugs but it is part of the story so stick with me), buying and selling illegal guns (don’t do that either), driving like a lunatic and nearly crashing his car (okay, maybe sometimes I do that), picking his wheelchair bound brother up from physical therapy, planning and preparing a meal requiring braising beef and pork butt for his tomato sauce (definitely me – taking on a complicated recipe), collecting his wife to help pick up cocaine he is sorting out for his babysitter to run down to Atlanta while all along getting tracked by a police helicopter.  I promise in no way shape or form are Mary Kate and I doing any of the illegal stuff that Henry is getting up to, but the way Scorsese shows how increasingly stressed out Henry gets, sweating and glancing worriedly up at the helicopter while trying to stuff in as many activities as possible – I don’t know, I some how identify with that feeling some days.  That push on my life’s accelerator and jam on the brakes as I try and get all the logistics of coordinating our family of five to run as smoothly as possible.  The scene resonates with me.

My Henry Hill day started at 6.00am when I listened to the travel report to make sure traffic was flood free and flowing fine for our imminent school runs then I slurped a cup of tea Nick had kindly delivered to my bedside before going to prod Megan for the third time to wake up and take a shower (the girl loves to get clean but waking up – not so much), I grabbed my iPhone playing BBC Kent Radio so I could listen to the latest on the Crimea and the missing Malaysian plane while I ironed a shirt each for the girls remembering last minute that Skyler has to wear his sports kit today for his rugby house matches.  As it was still drying I threw the lot in for a spin while I pressed out the wrinkles on the shirts. Meanwhile, as the cats nearly bite my ankles if I don’t feed them immediately, I set out their wet food and sprinkled it with dry just how they like it while I heard Winston whine to come back in for his food which I’d just chucked in the bowl.  Uniforms sorted, teenagers and almost ten year old up and now down for breakfast, I made Megan’s lunch and then dashed upstairs to brush my teeth and get dressed only to notice Nick had left his Parking Permit for the Station Car Park which starts today (of course) on the dresser.  I tried ringing him and then texted to let him know it was here but that I couldn’t go stick it in his car ahead of any parking wardens because after I did the school run (dropped Megan down to her bus stop and then came back to collect Christy and Skyler to head off to Caterham) I needed to come home directly as I had a courier scheduled to deliver Megan’s new US passport “some time between 9 and 1” and as it was the third time I’ve tried to sign for it I did not want to miss them.  Nick was updated and then I got my second round of riders into the Bennett Landrover Bus only to have the fuel gauge ping that it was near empty!  AAAAAAAHHHHH!

So it’s 11.40 now and I’ve thrown in more laundry, loaded the dishwasher, made some of the beds, eaten a bowl of cereal, popped my Tamoxifen, met the courier (who strangely looked exactly like the dancing backward speaking dwarf from Twin Peaks but I digress), had the boiler serviced and come back to writing to you.

All along, my thoughts continue to consider how pressed for time we can all feel and how much we are able to cram into an increment of time.  Now, I’m gonna go all cinematic on you today while thinking of time and different strategies on how we manage it and maybe even measure it and I can’t help recalling Hugh Grant’s Will Freeman from Nick Hornsby’s About A Boy and his allocation of life into 30 minute intervals as “whole hours can be intimidating”.  Will has a system of breaking his day down into these units so he can pass his time effectively  only to have it all work for awhile until “a boy” happens to come into his life.  Until then whether willing to admit it or not, Will is rather bored with his life not needing to work and having no relationships of real meaning to him but then a kid comes along and messes with everything – his schedule, his priorities, his boundaries.  He can no longer be the island he loves to profess himself to be and he is forced to branch out and broaden his life and in so doing enriches it above and beyond the inheritance royalties he has luxuriated in his pre-boy time.

Thinking of Will reassures me that the way I’ve chosen to allocate my time, no matter how frenetically, has been in the best way possible.  I love the way I have peopled my life with not just my kids and Nick and friends near and far, but I’ve left it open to some flexibility allowing for opportunities for restoration, refinement and always reflection.  I’m pleased when I look back over the last 47 years I can sit comfortably with the life I have come to lead along the way.  I know I will have Henry Hill days that exhaust me to the point of near hysterical hyperventilation.   At the same time, I know there will be days also mixed in that slow down to a pace when my units of time drift along so pleasingly I am afforded moments to enjoy and even give sincere thanks for them.  Days like this past Wednesday when my evening ended with Skyler crawling into Nick’s free side of the bed (he was on a business trip and we were having a “sleep over”) and asking if before we went to sleep we could work on the crossword.  The deal is, where Skyler can, he fills in the answers then when he gets stuck I see if I can work out the clue and then give him hints without telling him the word.  He was making good progress until he came across the clue “4-letters  Mothers of a flock” and asked if I could help.  I started with “What would you call the mothers of a flock of SHEEP?” and he said, “Let’s see, I know the babies are called lambs and the dads are – rams, right?”.  I concurred and waited.  He then said “Now what are the mums called?”  and I said “Here’s your hint:  I love You.” emphasizing the “y” to lead him to the puzzle answer “EWES”.  He paused only a moment and  replied, “Yams?!  Mother sheep must be called Yams.”  It totally cracked me up.  That unit of time got marked and measured with a laugh; the best kind of unit of scale I can think of.

So I finish this post asking who wouldn’t want their tidy schedule organised around, if not dictated by, a kid who likes to do crosswords and crack funny jokes?  I know having a good laugh just before bed is a small thing and then again, it might be a mother/son thing, either way my boy definitely makes my some times harrassing schedule with its sometimes inherent hiccups worth it!

 

Postings prompted from pumpkin epiphanies