Saturday, October 10, 2015

The Songs That Take You Back

Because The Peanut has gotten to that age when it is all music, all the time in the car, we listen to a lot of radio.  A lot of playlists on her iPhone.  A lot of music on the headset.

Just a lot of constant noise, which is okay because I like music a lot.

The problem is that the intersection between what I consider to be a "good" song and what she thinks is good is a widening gap.  One thing we've done is to just randomly set the iTunes app to random, mixed-up tunes, and that way sometimes my stuff comes on, and then hers, and so on.

The other day we were driving along, and The Church's "Under the Milky Way" came on, and I started singing along like I always do, because I love this song -- it calls to the inner angsty, pre-20-year-old buried somewhere between high school and college, who used to sit up late at night and haggle about political philosophy with visiting Model UN pals on college weekends or on high school field trips.  It speaks to me of pegged jeans and layered socks and big hair and a lot of carefree, non-scheduled, un-crazy fun.

You know, the exact opposite of what life as a grown-up, over scheduled, always on time, lots of responsibilities and duties working mom lives day to day.

It doesn't hurt that this song always makes me want to sit down and write the great American novel.  It's just a peppy little ditty, with a little angst and bagpipe overlay thrown into the mix, but it is seriously a time machine to my younger, more ambitious, more energetic self every time it plays.

So it is playing in the car, and I'm singing along...belting it out, if you must know...and I realize The Peanut is singing along, too.  Because she discovered this song on one of my playlists and absolutely loved it, too.

That may be partially due to the fact that I used to sing it to her to get her to sleep after her 3:00 am feeding when she was tiny, but I don't care.  She's not quite ready to embrace The Smiths and The Cure or too much punk music as well on the angsty '80s music continuum, but I'll take what I can get.

All of this made me think:  what songs that take you back in the day are now also songs that your kids enjoy?

Sunday, October 4, 2015

A Visual Vacay And A Prayer

There are certain photos that I have taken over the years that take me right back to the moment they were snapped.  It's a sort of visual vacation when that happens.

The photo above was taken at sunrise several years ago, during a family vacation to Hilton Head, South Carolina.

It was low tide that morning, and The Peanut and I had gone out hunting for olive shells and assorted bits of awesomeness along the shoreline.  There were very few people out that morning because it was windy and cold, so we had most of the beach all to ourselves.  It felt like we were the only people on Earth for a very long stretch that morning.

Looking at this picture, I can smell the salty tang in the air, hear the rush of waves lapping back and forth and scouring the shoreline with shells and coral bits and the occasional shark tooth bobbing along in their wake.  Our shoes got gritty with sand, and still we walked, cold making goosebumps of our skin, yet still we marched on, until finally we found our prize.

The lettered olive shell still sits on my computer desk, reminding me of a time when I was blissfully happy with my wee girlie (who is no longer quite so wee...SIGH).

Just looking at this photo and that shell makes me smile all over again.  With one glance, I am back on that shoreline, back in that wonderful memory.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Autumn Leaves

A little Miles Davis to brighten a chilly, rainy day at our house. "Autumn Leaves" was made for Miles to play -- love this.  Have been on a jazz kick lately, listening to a lot of the classic stuff.  But I'm always on the look-out for some new talent or performances.  If you have a new fave, please share it in the comments.

As chilly as it is this morning, and dreary, wet and gray besides, this is definitely a day for staying indoors and under a cozy blanket.  It certainly feels like the sort of day when the fireplace gets lit, and we hang around in the glow staying warm and sheltered.

Today, I am grateful for our cozy little house, and my loving little family, and all of our many blessings.

The leaves outside our windows have begun to turn, and it certainly feels like Fall is in full swing here today.  It feels like a great day to make some hot apple cider and maybe take a nap, if I can make that happen at some point in between drives back and forth to cheer practice for The Peanut.

Here's hoping...

Monday, September 28, 2015

Planning for the Fall: Snow Day Cupboards

We woke up to a day of pouring rain and cool temperatures...and a broken heater in the house.  I'd rather it would happen now instead of after the snow starts to fall, but Autumn has definitely arrived at our house today.

This year has whizzed by so quickly, and continues to move at an insanely rapid pace.

While I can't predict what kind of winter we'll end up having this year, I do know that there are a few snow days in our future.  There always are in this land of icy, treacherous roads and skittish school board folks, so I like to be prepared in advance with a few things on hand as snow day surprises for The Peanut.

Each year, I find some little bits of things and put them away in our hall closet and in the craft cupboard, so we have something new to do on a snow day.  This year, I've found some wonderful "grown-up" coloring books for us to enjoy -- the recent trend of coloring books for stress relief for adults has really extended our coloring enjoyment, and there are some wonderful ones for our soon-to-be-teen that should be really fun for her.  For example:

- Creative Haven Manga Coloring Book
- Creative Haven Creative Cats Coloring Book
- Creative Haven Steampunk Fashions Coloring Book
- Creative Haven SeaScapes Coloring Book
- Adult Coloring Book: Magic Christmas : for Relaxation Meditation Blessing

We always keep a supply of markers, crayons and colored pencils on hand, so these are really fun to do while we sit and watch a movie or listen to music by the fireplace.  We also keep a supply of games and puzzles at the ready for the same reason.  This past post on our Rainy Day Cupboard gives you some more ideas on what you can stock up on for younger kiddos -- thank you to Sarah Ban Breathnach's "Mrs. Sharp's Traditions" for the idea!).

Friday, September 25, 2015

Your Friday Giggle

Laughing so hard.   Love this so much.


Thursday, September 24, 2015

Homecoming Mayhem

This week is Homecoming at The Peanut's junior high/high school, which has meant a crazy schedule, an enormous amount of painting and crafting, and way too little sleep at our house.

As one of the girls in her class said to me, "This has ruined tissue paper forever."  Amen.

Until next year, of course, when the'll do it all over again.

These are the years when time flies by at the speed of light, and we will look back at the end of the rush and wonder where the time has gone.  I try to be conscious of that when I crawl up to bed, exhausted, at the end of another day of frenzy, but it can be hard to keep perspective when you are living on fumes.

This afternoon, you can find me helping the kids to throw together their float for the Homecoming parade, and then coming home to help The Peanut paint signs for their skit tomorrow.  Friday is the football game, and we'll be there to cheer on the Irish.

Saturday?  I'm sleeping in...with relish.

It has been fun reliving all the Homecoming mayhem through The Peanut's eyes.  It's amazing how much more tired you are as an adult than I was as a kid all those many years ago.  It's almost like traveling back in time, but through some sort of looking glass that saps your energy levels to half speed.

In any case, fun will be had again today and tomorrow.  Then, blissful sleep every chance I get this weekend.  Hope you get to do the same.

(Photo via Still Burning.)

Monday, September 21, 2015

Hoping for a Lingering Fall

It is cool and crisp this morning, cloudy with just a bit of sunlight peeking in around the edges.  The birds have begun to check out the feeders on a more urgent errand, and flocks of Canadian geese have already begun to fly high and fast in their V-formations overhead, honking their way southward in the pre-dawn silence.

Fall is arriving quickly this year.

I am told that the Farmer's Almanac is calling for an early and hard winter.  My granny used to set her calendar by the almanac as the bible of planting and harvesting, but I've never been so sure about it.  Somehow, though, this year feels a little more urgent in terms of preparation.  It just feels like the weather is going to turn suddenly, and we will just wake up to snow.

I am hoping for a lingering Fall.  There is something miraculous about the fleeting nature of the leaf color popping all at once and then disappearing like a mirage into the bare branches of winter, and I always want it to linger a little longer so that I can soak it in each year.

But it never does.

In the end, what I'm left with is a blazing memory of color, and a whole lot of leaves to rake out of our yard all at once.

(Photo via Dave Huets.  Love this shot!)

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Please Vote For Andrew McCutcheon for the Clemente Award

Andrew McCutcheon has been nominated for this year's Roberto Clemente Award.  Please take a moment and cast a well-deserved vote for Andrew McCutcheon for this award.

The Clemente award honors the player who best exemplifies the true spirit of what baseball ought to be -- good sportsmanship, the player's individual contribution to their team with their own skills and talents, but also their work off the field in the communities in which they live and play.

Each team in Major League Baseball gets to select one member for their team nomination, and the Pirates picked Andrew McCutcheon.

It is such an honor to get nominated for this, and I'm sure he's very proud.   But he absolutely deserves it for all of the work that he has done with at risk kids and Make-A-Wish kids and every kind of kid in between from the time he got into the minor leagues and all the way through.

I have lost count of the number of times I've read about, heard about or seen stories about Andrew McCutcheon's work with at risk and Make-A-Wish kids from all over the country. He is amazing with these kids, and really puts his heart into this work.

The above video is just one of so many times.  Just look at the smiles and laughs with this kid...and then multiply it by the hundreds more that he works with every single year. The man is a class act on the field, but even more so off the field.

Please take a couple of minutes to give Andrew McCutcheon a well-deserved vote.  Thanks, gang!

Monday, September 14, 2015

Waking Up To Fall

This morning dawned crisp, cool and clear, with the light slanting in just that slightly altered way that lets you know that Fall is knocking at the door.  The leaves have not quite begun to turn, but the feel in the air definitely says that cooler days are coming.

Warm up the fireplaces, gang, there are colder days ahead.

This is my favorite time of year, and not just because I am an October baby.  Crisp mornings, hot cider, beautiful leaf color, less sweat...what's not to love?

This week marks the beginning of my perennial trim back season.  Need to get all of my yard whipped into napping shape before the first winter storms begin to roll in and blanket the neighborhood with ice and snow.  Every year I think that I should have a better system for all of this, but it keeps getting done in a sort of piecemeal way, as I can grapple for time against every other competing "to do" on my ever-growing list.

This morning, though, what I'm hearing is "slow down and enjoy it more."

This Fall, I want to savor the change in the weather just a little bit more instead of rushing right through it.  After the multiple bouts with cancer the last few years, all the rushing around has lost its allure, and what I really want is to stop and smell the last of the summer roses while I still can.

The trick is figuring out how to do it while still getting things done.

We had a wonderful weekend together as a family:  went to see the divine Diana Ross in concert in Pittsburgh (she completely rocked!) and then went to an afternoon Pirate game the next day (awesome seats, even more awesome seeing the Pirates come from behind and win!).  Life is good here, and I hope that it is good where you are, too.

Go out and find something to enjoy today -- you'll be glad you did.

(Photo via Ian Sane.  Love the richness of the color in this shot!)

Friday, September 11, 2015

How Fragile We Are

On this September 11, the fourteenth since the horrific attacks of 2001, let us remember how fragile we are.

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Rainy Day Memories

The rain is pouring down so hard this morning that a river is running along the sides of Main Street. The water is coursing and pouring with little rapids and pools swirling around the storm drains on the sides of the street, drains that are so clogged with early leaf fall and twigs from yesterday's wind that they appear to be gasping for air as they bubble and chug through the unexpected torrent of water.

It is a fantastic day to be at home.

As a little girl, I used to go to visit my Granny quite a bit when I was younger.  She lived in a little single-wide trailer in the midst of the hills and hollows deep in southern West Virginia.  My favorite thing was always on a rainy day, waking to the sound of the pitter patter of raindrops - plink, plink, plink - on the thing roof of her trailer, and nestling back into the blankets of my warm bed to listen as they fell from heaven down to earth.

It was always the best when I woke up before everyone else, so I could lay in the stillness before the morning's coffee making and breakfast bustle began.  Listening to only the raindrops breaking the silence, and wondering at the magic of the world outside our door, while snuggling in the warmth of the quilt that my Granny had made with her gnarled, arthritic hands, just to keep me warm on my visits.

It was a tiny little house, but it was always filled with so much love and comfort and peace.

The rain today makes me miss my Granny, but it also makes me feel a little bit like she is here with me, cheering me on even though I can no longer see her beside me.  That is a comfort and a grace.

It's funny how so many little, innocuous things in life can be that way:  a song on the radio, a scoop of a particular flavor of ice cream, an old movie, a casserole made according to some long-forgotten family recipe that shows up at a church supper in someone else's covered dish.

As I sit here watching the rain plop drop by drop on the last of our summer roses, I am back on that old porch swing with my Granny, stringing beans over a deep bucket and laughing, and feeling loved.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Running on Empty

Despite this being a holiday weekend, with that extra kick of a Labor Day break, I feel like I am completely running on empty.

The whole family is fighting off a cold right now -- The Peanut is on the back end of it, Mr. ReddHedd is right in the middle and is snot factor 100+ at the moment, and I'm just trying to stay so far on the fringe of both of them that my paltry immune system survives the assault with a minimal impact.  We have one little house, and I feel like we are all circling each other with varying degrees of some nasty germ warfare bug on steroids, based on the rate at which we have been going through boxes of kleenex.

Up until yesterday evening, I would have told you that I was winning the battle.  But last night, there was a lot of violent sneezing.  Then this morning began with an instantaneous grab for the kleenex box and a stagger to the coffee pot for revival.


Summer colds are the worst, aren't they?

Especially on a day which was supposed to be a planning day for our week.  Planning for yet another foray into the world of healthier eating and a little more exercise because both of us are feeling blah and exhausted, and neither of us wants to sink into our golden years unable to move.

It is as though my body knew that some light weight work and cardio was coming, and decided to launch a pre-emptive strike.  But I do not care.

There will be healthy eating and some exercise anyway.  So there.

Furthermore, I will find a way to refill this tank, if it means going to bed at 8:00 pm every night for the rest of the week.

I am absolutely failing to take good care of myself at the moment, and that is deadly where I'm concerned.  Too much running around taking care of too many things all at once without any let-up, too little fruit and veg, too little exercise and no decent downtime, and a to do list that goes on for eons.  I cannot be the only person who feels this way, but it does seem like it is just me floundering about with this all the time.

Give me hope, dear reader.  Tell me how you have pulled yourself out of this becalmed doldrum of the soul and body and made things better.  Or tell me how you are also struggling and that we will find a way together.  Something.  Anything.

Help me find a way to stop running on empty...