Time After Time

There’s a cheap plastic clock on the wall in the bathroom and it ticks loudly. You can hear it down the hall and into the bedroom. The ticking is almost deafening when I stand at the bathroom mirror getting ready to start the day. It’s annoying; but I need that clock. In order to keep on track in the morning, I need to check the time often while getting ready for work so that I get out the door on time.

On time. It’s a constant challenge, an uphill battle, a tug-of-war, and often just ever so slightly out of my reach.

Our lives are run by the clock. We have to get up on time in the morning to get to work or school on time. We have to complete projects by a certain time, be on time for meetings, and finish a few things up by the end of the work day.

And it’s not just work. It’s social time, too. We schedule times to meet friends or times for activities. We go out for dinner at a specific time. We plan evenings around the time of TV shows (well, maybe not so much anymore.)

clock faceWe make time.
We spend time.
We waste time.
Once in a while we find time.

But time is fleeting. We don’t always value time, and we don’t always invest time in something that will reap a reward later on.

Life is a rush to get from place to place and to jump from one thing to the next. The older I get the more I want to slow it down – find more time to relax and enjoy loved ones and friends. More and more often, my mind wanders back to when our children were young and we would spend some very precious time reading to them before bed. Or times around a family dinner table enjoying the company of those who are no longer with us.

We have clocks in almost every room in our home: on the kitchen stove, on the wall in the family room, a grandfather clock lovingly made by my husband’s uncle in the living room, alarm clocks in the bedroom (yes, multiples), and that loudly ticking clock on the wall in the bathroom. They constantly remind us that we are either on schedule or running late. But they never give back what we really want most: more time with those who count.

Each earsplitting tick is calling me, begging in fact, that I become a little stingier. I will freely admit to a growing sense of greed if it means more moments spent with my aging mother and my rapidly growing daughters.

That very loud clock on the wall makes me think, and now it needs to make me act.


Kudos to Western New Yorkers

Unless you are living on another continent you have no doubt heard by now about the massive snowfall in Western New York in the past five days. Some locations received up to 7 feet of snow in just a three-day period. Those locations are just 65 miles north of us. Some of our friends live there. The weight and volume of the snow caused roofs to collapse on buildings and left motorists stranded in their cars. At least a dozen people died as a result of this storm. It really was a tragedy.

We did not get that much snow here at our house. In fact, we got less than a foot out of the whole storm. This is due to a phenomenon known as the Lake Effect. Those who live on the southern and eastern ends of the Great Lakes are familiar with lake effect snow. When cold air passes over the relatively warm water of the Great Lakes, that moisture evaporates into the cold air. Then, when the air mass reaches land the air condenses and snow begins falling. These snow clouds form narrow bands that are driven by the direction of the wind. Sometimes the snow falls directly on our area and sometimes it is north of us, depending on the winds.

This storm was entirely to our north. Even when the winds drifted a little in our direction, they had tapered off so that we received less than a foot of snow, which in snow belt standards is relatively little. Our neighbors to the north were not so lucky. Some communities were hammered with a very heavy wet snow that just would not let up.

But this is Western New York and we are a hearty bunch. There are numerous stories of how neighbors reached out to help one another during this storm. People shoveled for each other, checked on the elderly, shared food and warm places, and took stranded motorists in to keep them safe. Often, it is heartwarming to live in a cold climate.

That's our daughter at the center back.

That’s our daughter at the center back.

My husband and I had a short trip planned for last evening. We were going to drive 140 miles northeast to watch our daughter perform in a program at her university. She joined a dance group at school a year ago and we had never before had a chance to see one of these dance shows, so we desperately wanted to go and she really wanted us to be there. We knew all along it would be a tight turn-around, since my husband had to work in the morning. But we planned it anyway.

Then the storm hit. We watched carefully to see where the snow was falling and determined that safety would have to be our first priority. Luckily for us there is an alternate route that does not involve the New York State Thruway, which was closed for several days and only opened to limited traffic yesterday.

Then the window opened. The snow stopped almost entirely and we set out on our trip, heading east, away from Lake Erie in order to avoid any road problems, and then north towards Rochester. It was clear driving the whole way. We arrived in plenty of time to grab a bite to eat and watch our daughter’s show, and then we headed home in the dark and bitter cold night. Yes, we did make a five hour round trip drive just for our daughter. We are parents, and that’s what parents do sometimes. We did it to support our daughter. She’s worth it.

Today, we have a freezing rain advisory. With the air temperature warming up now the precipitation is changing once again and we will see some mixed rain, snow, sleet and freezing rain for a while before it turns to all rain later.

So our window of opportunity was open just a little bit, and we drove right through it.

But I really want to congratulate all of the Western New Yorkers who helped each other out in a time of crisis this past week.  There is a very good reason why Buffalo is called the City of Good Neighbors!


Yes to Turkey; No to Shopping

I am a shopper. I love to shop. Shopping is easy for me. Too easy. I admit that sometimes “retail therapy” really does make me feel better, and that shopping is one of my favorite pastimes. I can literally shop ‘til I drop. I can shop all day, with just a brief break for lunch or a snack. I can shop all day and fill up my car with merchandise, and I can, honestly, shop all day and hardly buy anything.  Shopping, for me, is the act of walking through stores looking at all of the beautiful things that I may or may not choose to purchase. I guess, in that regard, much of my shopping is “window shopping.”

But I will never shop on Thanksgiving Day.

Never might be a long time. So let me clarify what that really means to me. It means NEVER.

My daughter and husband, carving the turkey last year.

My daughter and husband, carving the turkey last year.

Thanksgiving is a family day. In our household my husband usually works for a few hours on Thanksgiving morning. By the time he gets home, both daughters are sitting around in their pajamas watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on TV. (Brief pause here to cover a pet peeve: it is NOT the “Macy’s Day” Parade. There is no “Macy’s Day” holiday.)  By this time I generally have the turkey in the oven and am working on some side dishes, and may be getting ready to do the last minute tidying up or setting the table.

Just a short time later the family arrives. Some years it’s a smallish group and other years large. This year it will be very small, but some years we have had up to 20 for dinner.  Then it’s all about the food for a bit. We eat, we talk, we eat some more. We have a little wine, and maybe a little more. Then we clear the table and have coffee and pie.  After that we sit around and talk some more, or sometimes play a game. One year we had what can only be described as an epic game of Apples to Apples that involved about a dozen of us ranging in age from 8 to 80. Sometimes the kids take a walk. Once in a while someone moves to the piano to play, or to their guitar. But it is a FAMILY time.

Eventually we clean up the kitchen, load the dishwasher, hand wash the good silverware and a few other things, and then we’re exhausted. Once the extended family goes home we turn on Miracle on 34th Street, pour another glass of wine, and relax.

There is no time for shopping. Even if there was time, we simply would not. If we didn’t spend all that time sitting around and talking as a family, how would my kids ever hear stories about their parents, aunts and uncles growing up? How would we know what’s going on in our kids’ lives? How would our kids connect with their grandmother? It’s a FAMILY day. That’s what I’m most thankful for on Thanksgiving.

I’m never thankful for shopping. I enjoy it, definitely. But I am not thankful for it. I will NEVER shop on Thanksgiving Day.

Oh…and I don’t do Black Friday, either. To me Black Friday is a perfect day for sleeping in after all the turkey, pie, and wine the day before. There is no price low enough to get me out of bed at 4am to fight with ridiculous crowds of people for a gadget that I’m pretty sure we’ll be just fine without.

So maybe my ideas don’t fit today’s norm, but I’m okay with that.  Maybe if most of us stay home on Thanksgiving Day with our families, the stores will get the idea, too.  Maybe.

Ode to a Snowbrush

When the winter winds start blowing
And the sky begins its seasonal snowing
I head to the garage on a little quest
To drag an item from its summer nest.

It has languished there since spring appeared
And now is needed; no, revered.
For this one item has potential
To become in winter most essential.

There it is, with all its charm:
With scraper, bristles, and telescopic arm.
I grasp the brush that’s so appealing
And get a very pleasant feeling.

This snowbrush will serve me well
Through months of white and chilly hell.
This simple workhorse gets me through
The winter, so I have a view.

Driving would be very tough
With all of that accumulated stuff
Upon the windows, lights and hood.
No, it would not be very good.

The handle extends extra far
So I can brush six inches from the top of the car.
With a few turns it’s shorter now
To clear the windows like a plow.

Without this vital piece of gear
I’d be homebound much of the year.
My snowbrush lets me keep on going
No matter how much it’s snowing.

Window on the World

I am a lousy housekeeper. It’s not that I hate cleaning, but rather that there are so many other interesting things to do and cleaning is never really interesting. Sometimes it’s cathartic, or even affirming, but rarely interesting. It’s not that our house is a disaster, because I do try to rein in the clutter a bit and we run the vacuum and wipe down counter tops. But the really deep cleaning doesn’t happen often.

Twice a year I clean windows: once in the spring when the storm windows come off and we remove the winter grime to make way for the window screens and the spring and summer sunshine, and once in the fall when the storm windows go on and we clear away the summer dirt to let the sun shine in when it reflects a bright glare off the pending snow.

Today was a window cleaning moment. The temperature was 60 degrees and the sky was a bright blue. Plus, because of the Veteran’s Day holiday I was home from work and could get full look at the dirty windows when the sun was at its brightest in the morning light.

But today’s window cleaning was truly bittersweet. Ever since our dog died on Labor Day weekend, we have been missing her. We missed her for about two weeks before we decided it was too hard to look at her crate standing unused in the family room, so we took it down and replaced it with a chair and some plants. We miss her each time we uncover some leftover bit of dog hair on the carpet. That dog shed a lot. I am convinced that decades from now we will move a piece of furniture and still find husky hair under a sofa leg, like some long forgotten artifact unearthed during an archaeological dig. And we missed her each time we looked at the sliding French doors that lead outside from the family room, because her nose prints were perpetually on the window.

dog at the window

She didn’t really like the Christmas bow I put on her, or the fact that there were gift boxes stacked in her usual spot by the window.

That was one of her favorite spots, since the window runs low enough on the door to provide a full dog’s eye view of the backyard and neighborhood stretched out beyond. From that vantage point she was the master of all she surveyed, giving her a true window on her world to watch for other dogs or people talking a walk, or her girls coming home from the school bus or after a bike ride.

So today, I cleaned the last of the dog nose prints from the window. It really was past time, since the dusty film on the rest of the pane was casting a gray pall over the room. And while I was at it I found some dog hair (no surprise there) in the narrow vinyl tracks that allow the screen door and outer door to slide. Honestly, it was dog hair combined with quite a bit of ground in dirt that had been held in those tracks for too long since the vacuum doesn’t easily reach there to clean it out.

Now the windows are clean and the dog nose prints are gone. We really do miss her all the time, nose prints or not. Someday we may get another dog, but not right now. Right now we need the freedom of not having a dog. We need to be able to make an impromptu decision to take a long drive or a day trip and not worry about who will take care of the dog while we’re gone. Frankly, our savings account needs a break too, after months of paying quite a lot to take care of a declining dog with kidney failure.

So we have clean windows. But now I really have to dust since I can clearly see how much has accumulated. Housekeeping really is a thankless job.