Thursday, January 31, 2008

A Year Ago Today...

I learned that my mother had died. She chose to take her life (or, she came close to choosing and got too close to turn back). We had a challenging relationship, neither of us meeting the other's expectations. But I know that the last words I spoke to her were "I love you". And that has to be enough.

I've spent the last year wrestling with the whys. Why did she make that choice? What could I or my sister have done differently? Is she at peace? These are questions with no really satisfying answers.

My younger daughter talks about her often. She'll come out with, often out of the blue, "your mom is dead." Or "Gramma Donna died." She remembers doing activities with her, traveling back East to visit relatives with her, games they played. Older daughter is more hesitant, doesn't like to talk about it. She'll try to stop us if we're talking about her. That worries me. I want her to remember. I have but one vague childhood memory of my maternal grandfather and only one adult memory of my maternal grandmother. My paternal grandparents died decades before I was born.

It's been a year of tears and sadness. I could cry every day. I don't, because life would go on hold if I did. But not a day goes by that I don't think about my mother.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Thinking About Excess

I recently read this book (no, it's not Thursday)...

It's a great book, but man did I feel like the loser parent when I was done. Because...there are so many times when I cave and become the permissive parent. It's the easier thing to do, in that moment, but I know it'll make life harder in the years to come. It's a constant battle to stay in the balanced parenting mode, and it is frankly exhausting. But I know it's what I (we) have to do.

So about excess. See, I think it's hard for kids to focus when they are surrounded by too many choices. I know it's hard for me, and I end up with tunnel vision, either reading a book or diving into the finite/infinite world of the Internet.

What does this mean for my household? I'm going to remove some of the little one's toys. It's so hard to do this, because she's creative with her toys and actually does play with a lot of them. But I think her creativity and imagination could allow her to repurpose the ones I leave her with, so she doesn't feel deprived. My gosh, deprived! These children are anything but.

How do you cope with excess in your life?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Thinking about Travel?

I found this lovely informative site via The Consumerist. Upgrade: Travel Better follows the ups and downs in travel, primarily by air, with asides on such varied topics as the short film Helvetica (yes, about the font), how the Wynn Las Vegas makes sure no one steals from the mini-bar and the strange definition United gives to the word 'forever'.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Book Review Thursday

I confess, I read a lot. I can't help it. It's like an addiction. I don't buy many anymore, thanks to a great local library with an online catalog. I've learned, finally, that I can enjoy a book without having to own it. Saves a lot of space and money, let me tell you.

My latest read is a slim subtle volume by Stewart O'Nan. It's a book I spotted on the New Fiction shelves at my local bookstore-cafe, and I noted the title and later placed it on hold at the library. It came in yesterday and I finished it that day.

"Last Night at the Lobster" tells the story of Manny, the manager of a Red Lobster restaurant in Connecticut. Corporate has decided his restaurant isn't pulling its weight and will be closed. By the last day of operation, Manny is down to just a few employees, a handful of which he's being allowed to bring with him to his new job at an Olive Garden in the next town over.

Anyone who has ever worked food service will appreciate this story. We meet the chef, who cares more than anyone would expect of a chain restaurant chef. The waitresses are a mix of stereotypes; the "lifer" whose nametag is so old it's been out of production for years, the highly emotional new one, who complains if she has too many tables or too few. Manny himself is torn between a relationship with his current girlfriend, and a waitress at the Lobster, with whom he'd had a not-so-secret secret affair.

This is the first book I've read by Stewart O'Nan. I've put some of his others on hold at the library. For baseball fans, I notice that he has co-written with Stephen King a book on the Boston Red Sox.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Slow and Steady Gets Results or The Flylady is Always Right

I'm sure most of you out there in InternetLand are familiar with the Flylady. If not, here's a quick overview. The Flylay, real name Marla Cilley, is a taking-care-of-your-home evangelist. Her focus is on loving yourself, taking things bit by bit, and not beating yourself up over perceived failures. She's really more of a coach than anything else. Her website is; check out the Baby Steps and Routines as well as the Ask Flylady column.

I've griped silently about the grease spots that won't come off on my range for a while. I tried scrubbing every once in a while and not much came off. I tried ignoring it, but the look of neglect always nagged at me. So, the past couple of weeks, I've tried a new approach. I spritz the areas with my nice-smelling Cucumber cleaner. I give them a swipe, but just a swipe, not a scrub not a lot of time. And I do it at least once a day. Here's the thing: thanks to these two weeks or so of once a day swiping, those stubborn spots are gone or going.

One of the Flylady's main points is that we should aim to do a little each day, rather than a big amount once a week. Think about it. For those of us who have trouble keeping up with the house (or anything for that matter, you could apply her techniques to writing your book, doing your taxes, running your business), we can become addicted to the rush, the high of seeing extreme results. I mean, if you neglect your bathroom for a month and then clean it, wow, it's going to look great! If you clean it once a week though, it'll *always* look great. But you won't get that high that comes from seeing or being the creator of an extreme transformation. Why do you think makeover shows, for body or home, are so popular? There's a rush to seeing that huge change happen so quickly.

I've started doing the same thing I do with the range with the bathtub. It's grimy and gross. We have a refinished tub and it's quite hard to clean. I've tried many cleaners, scrubbing and scrubbing and no luck. So (finally), I took the Flylady's advice and put a small surface-friendly scrubbie in the tub. Each time I shower, I put a little shampoo on it and scrub the tub surface for about a minute. That's all. I anticipate a shiny, no grime tub within a week or two. And that will be good enough.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Clean Spaces

Lately, I've been really focused on keeping a kitchen counter clear and the top of the stove clear. Each time I glance over and see those open, clean spaces, well, I feel uplifted. Free. I want more.

The back of my range used to be really icky with grease spots. I'd try to clean it, but it never seemed to come clean. Lately though, each time I clean the stove surface, I'll spray some cleaner (Method Cucumber, yum) on those knobs and the odd bits at the back. I'd give it a few swipes, but not push it, not let myself get frustrated. Well, what do you know, after doing that for a few weeks, that area is almost shiny. I can see reflections in the chrome bits of the knobs. It's such a reward for being patient.

Monday, January 14, 2008


Making a list of your day's accomplishments can really revitalize a bad day. Not that the day I had today was bad, rather, it was one of those days that leaves me feeling that I didn't really *do* anything.

So, for the record, today I:
*ran two loads of laundry
*did one load of dishes
*prepared a Crock Pot meal
*cleaned the kitchen counters
*wrote a draft of an article
*updated stock at the website I manage (see sidebar)
*took recycling and garbage out to their bins
*swept the kitchen floor

There are other things I wanted to accomplish today, but I didn't get to them. I want to make more lists in advance, as that seems to help me more with my time-management.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Making Lists

I've gotten out of the habit of making lists, and the result is that at the end of they day, trying to fall asleep, my mind scrolls through all the tasks that I have yet to do. I've decided to start making lists again.

What's on my list today? Certainly not everything that I'll actually accomplish. Bank, library, drop off one child at preschool, pick up another at school, drop off a donation at the school, do some writing. What I didn't write down but actually did includes laundry, tidying the kitchen, preparing a snack. Feels like cheating to write those things down, but they are tasks that I completed.

Recently, I read a book that consisted of lists concocted by contributors. Some were decades old, and had been rediscovered. Others were composed just for the book.