Archive for February, 2007

Life Begins at 27

Up until yesterday, when Chris would spend weekends with us, he would sleep the last night at our house, get up at 3:30 a.m. (in military-speak, oh-too-early), and leave between 4:00 and 4:30 so he could be on the job by 7:00. Yesterday, he left at 3:30 in the afternoon, with the last of his belongings in tow. Since these did not fill up the bed of his truck, I was a little nervous about his driving along at 60 mph/100 kmph, but he assured me that he planned to take another, slower route — turns out Route 4 stretches all the way from Dover, NH right up to Lebanon.

He called at 7:30 yesterday evening to let us know he’d made it in one piece — took about three hours, as opposed to two — but that included a detour to the Concord Dept. of Motor Vehicles, to see if he could get a NH license. (They were closed already. He must have gotten there five minutes too late.) He also said the road was full of “frost heaves” — now, I’ve never seen frost heaves anywhere else in the country, so I’d better explain this. When the ground freezes at the start of winter, all the moisture in the earth under the road freezes, too. (Duh.) When the January Thaw comes, and all that moisture unfreezes, the roadbed temporarily swells, and the asphalt covering the road develops cracks. Now, when this happens in the spring, eventually the roadbed settles back down, the asphalt goes back down, and the cracks are repaired. But when it happens during the winter, and the roadbed re-freezes, the swellings stay in place, and you get humps in the road that are frozen into place. That is a “frost heave.” And Route 4 is full of them. Must have been interesting, with his computer chair and a couple of bookcases rattling around in the back.

His computer, fortunately, was on the seat next to him, resting securely on top of the seat and on top of a duffle bag full of his clothes — he had so many clothes that the bag came up level with the seat! And he had wrapped it in an afghan I gave him, that I had made back before I was married, so it was secure not only from falling, but from prying eyes. I was a little nervous about his driving along with a computer in the front seat; if he’d been stopped for, say, having a taillight out, a cop could have gotten mighty curious about someone from PA driving along with a computer in the front seat! (He still has his PA license and plates, a situation I hope is remedied in the coming week.) But he made it to Enfield in one piece, and had spent the hour prior to calling us moving all his stuff up the stairs to his new place.

Now all he needs is a bed to sleep on, and an easy chair or two, probably also a couple more bookcases. Being his parents’ son, he has a lot of books. On the other hand, with the library two doors down, maybe he won’t have to buy so many books now. In any case, his life is finally starting — life on his own, with no encumbrances from the past, in a job he loves, in an apartment he chose, not the first one he had to grab so he could get out of a bad situation.

Many, many years, Chris!

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On the Move

Yesterday, we helped our son move into his new apartment.

It was a two-hour drive, one way, half of it along an interstate highway with high cross-winds, and skiers blasting past us at warp speed. We did all right until Chris pulled over — in an area with no shelter — and started tugging at stuff in the back of his truck. I kept waiting for him to be blown over the railing and off the side of the cliff. (I have a lurid imagination.) Turned out that the lid on one of his totes was about to blow off (how he knew that from the cab, I have no idea), and he wanted us to load it into our car. My husband persuaded him to drive up to the next exit, where we found a pull-out and completed the transfer in a lot more safety than we would have at the top of a mountain.

For that’s where we were: In the mountains. Climbing steadily. I had always thought the White Mountains were just in the eastern part of the state, but nope — they’re all over the North Country. And Chris, as we found out, will be living in the middle of them. Enfield, pop. 5,000, is about halfway up one mountain, right on Lake Mascoma, which means nothing at this time of year, but I bet he’ll be grateful for that proximity come next summer. And Chris’s new apartment is on the second floor of a carriage house, right on Main Street. Two doors down from the library, right across the street from the police station, with a convenience market on the corner and a laundromat down the end of the block. He had a lot of conveniences in Lansdale, but Lansdale wasn’t rural. This is.

It took us just half an hour to unpack most of his worldly possessions: a couple of tables, his towels, sheets and blankets, a bookcase, dishes, pots and pans, and a futon mattress that we lent him so he’d have something to sleep on. Pretty meager to start with. But the place gets wonderful sunshine and has good cross-ventilation. All his utilities are included in the rent. It’s also a very masculine apartment, with a lot of wood trim and a neutral off-white paint on the walls. He says the landlord will allow him to hang “pictures” — in Chris’s case, this means icons, and he already has the perfect spot picked out for them on his bedroom wall, which is the only part of the apartment that faces east.

Before we left, I sprinkled the place with holy water. He has yet to settle into a parish, though there’s one about 25 miles away, and considering that he’ll probably visit us at least half the time, I’m not sure how established he will become in that parish, so I’m not sure if the priest will come out and do a house blessing this far into Lent. But that is one of his plans, once he gets a fairly stable schedule — last week he worked nights, this week he’s working days. I hope to heaven he can make that 10-mile drive up the mountain without falling asleep at the wheel on his night shifts.

Meanwhile, it’s so good to see him smiling again.

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Profile Pic

I think I have finally managed to add a profile pic.

People who know me will say the resemblance is striking. 😉

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Meet Molly

Here she is: http://www.toyota.com.matrix Just as red as in the photo. Yowza. As my sister says, “You’ll certainly be visible.”

Molly was an emergency purchase, when Bobo, her predecessor, blew a gasket. I’m having a hard time finding a link to Ford Escorts, but Bobo — short for Boris the Blue Beast — was a “French Blue” 1993 station wagon. Best car I’ve ever owned — when that gasket blew, he had 208,000 miles on him, and the pickup in the engine was just phenomenal.

Anyway, you can’t drive a car that keeps stalling out on you. So we went shopping, oh, about three weeks ago now, for something in our price range. We first checked out another Ford, a 2005 Focus, which would seem to be the logical descendant of the Escort — nuh-uh. The leg room was awful, and we found ourselves sitting shoulder to shoulder. I could picture me driving around in this little puddle jumper on a typical day — I’d go nuts inside of half an hour.

Our daughter has had a Matrix for about a year, and loves it, and I’d been thinking about it for some time, since I knew that my dream car, the Mini Cooper, was plain out of our price range. So, after we determined that the Focus was just plain cramped, we headed over to the Toyota dealership — and there she was, the only manual transmission on the lot. A very tidy engine layout, and even at the rock-bottom price they were asking, she came with a ton of options (a/c, CD player and radio, floor mats, to name a few). We took her out for a test drive, and for me, it was love at first drive — Jim’s still warming up to her.

This is the first new car we have ever owned as a couple — my first car was a new 1967 VW Beetle — and also the first car of its size. We’ve always driven compacts before. It’s so wonderful to be able to see over the top of our hedge! But even better is that, even with the increased size and the steel side-impact beams, this car still gets 30-36 mpg. I’ve filled the tank twice now, and I’m getting around 35 mpg, all in-town driving, and that includes letting the engine warm up on the frigid mornings we’ve been having.


In other news, Chris called yesterday — he’s signed a lease and put down a security deposit on a 1-bedroom apartment in Enfield, NH, population 5,000. It’s about ten miles to his new job in White River Junction, much better than the 45-minute commute he had from Lansdale PA to New Hope, and he says the apartment is very “rustic,” meaning lots of wood trim. He does need furniture, and I expect that a new futon sofa is going to be our housewarming gift to him — he ended up leaving virtually everything in PA, when he couldn’t get it into the elevator to move it (no service elevator). Oh, the best thing about this apartment? Depends — from his point of view, it’s the same price he was paying in Lansdale, and includes heat and hot water. From our point of view — it’s across the street from the police station!

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Cribbed from Mimi’s blog. Actually, I ended up going to the source, someone called Rosemary, because somehow Mimi lost some of the letters of the alphabet. Apparently this is supposed to be called the “Domestic Goddess” meme, but as anyone who knows me knows, I don’t Do goddesses. Call it the “Domestic Domovaya” meme, a domovaya being the female of two little Russian house spirits who keep things ticking along for the family (and mess things up if they don’t think the family is taking good enough care of the home!).

Aprons- Y/N- I love aprons but I don’t always wear one. My favorites are “housewifey” aprons, you know, the full apron with the bib and a gathered waist and a ruffle around the bottom. Try to find one. I’m seriously considering making a couple. I used to wear them all the time, till Functional and Utilitarian came into vogue, and I wish it would go away again.

Baking– Favorite thing to bake: Kulich, Russian Easter cake. I used to bake a lot more when the kids were home, but the hubster doesn’t like baked goodies, and I’m too fat to deal with them myself. (One thing I refuse to touch, BTW, is cookies. One afternoon, about 20 years ago, I made five dozen chocolate-chip cookies, and the kids and hubster, who were watching a movie, consumed every single one. That’s it! Cookies are too much d*** work to vanish in a single afternoon.)

Clothesline- Y/N Absolutely! Good for the environment, good for the wallet, clothes have a smell and feel that no fabric softener could ever give them (yes, I use that too). In the winter I dry clothes on a rack in the kitchen, which humidifies the house.

Donuts– Have you ever made them? No. What, this New Yorker?! Doughnuts are something you buy in a bakery!

One homemaking thing you do Every day– Well, dishes, of course. And dinner.

Freezer– Do you have a separate deep freeze? No. When living in Europe, I got used to shopping every day, and I still do that. If we know it’s going to snow, I’ll pick up a few extra meals and freeze them in the refrigerator freezer, but otherwise, no, a big freezer would be a waste of money for us.

Garbage Disposal– Y/N? Yes. When ours broke a few years back, there was no question about replacing it. I didn’t grow up with one, though — they used to be illegal in New York City, not sure why.

Handbook– What is your favorite homemaking resource? Currently I use FlyLady, when the CHAOS gets to be too much. But my all-time favorite is a book published in the 1970s, “The Psychiatrist’s Wife’s Guide to Housekeeping,” written with wit and a healthy dose of reality.

Ironing–Love it or hate it? I do hate it, but since the hubster has all-cotton shirts, it’s a necessity — one I have neglected far too long at this point. I’ll only iron five shirts at a time, though.

Junk drawer–Y/N? Where is it? Yes, in the kitchen. How do people manage without at least one junk drawer?!

Kitchen: Design and decorating? We did this two years ago, the whole shebang — new cabinets, new floor, new stove (natural gas!), new color scheme — blue and white. Oddly enough, we don’t spend any more time in the kitchen now than we used to, and I think it’s because the room is too blue — it gives off a very cold feeling. But I’m not sure what to do about it. Paint the blue wainscoting red??

Love: What is your favorite part of homemaking? Hanging the laundry out on the line.

Mop Y/N Not as much as I’d like. Who has the time?!

Nylons– Wash by hand or in the washing machine? In the machine, of course. Again, who has the time to wash things by hand?!

Oven– Do you use the window or open the door to check? I open the door. I used to have to open the oven, when we had an oven without a window, so now I turn on my light and use the window all the time.

Pizza– What do you put on yours? We used to get mushroom pizzas, but again, that was a kid thing, and since they’ve moved out, I don’t think we’ve had pizza at all. (The original blogger, Rosemary, wrote: “My family likes it plain so we usually get plain. I like ham, bacon, black olives– almost anything different, but my family won’t go for it.” It struck me how many things Mom likes go by the board for the sake of the family. You ALL know what I’m talking about!)

Quiet– What do you do during the day when you get a quiet moment? Blog, pray, read, needlework. There are a lot more of those since the kids grew up. The hardest time of the day is around 3:00 or 3:30, when they used to come steaming in the door, and the real work of the day would begin. Dinnertime is hard, too — as my optometrist said, “There’s a voice that should be at the dinner table, and isn’t.”

Recipe Card Box Y/N? I have one, that I used to use a lot more often. It has all my favorite recipes from our time in Germany, and I still like them the best. Maybe I don’t use it so often because I have them all memorized, after nearly 38 years???

Style of house– Good question. It’s supposed to be a “ranch,” with everything on one floor, but it doesn’t fit my idea of a ranch, big and sprawling. It’s 950 square feet, with two bedrooms, a living room, an eat-in kitchen, and a three-season enclosed porch. I would like to call it a bungalow or a cottage, which sounds much homier. I would also, if I won the lottery, which I don’t play, like to redecorate the outside in an Arts and Crafts style.

Tablecloths and napkins? When we use the kitchen table, yes. Cloth napkins, too. But again, we rarely use the kitchen table anymore — we eat in the living room off the coffee table, listen to the radio, catch up on each other’s day, and watch TV if there’s anything worthwhile (our current definition of “worthwhile” is NCIS on Tuesdays and some PBS train program on Mondays — they run a couple).

Under the kitchen sink– organized or toxic wasteland? Pretty organized, actually, but that’s because the garbage disposal takes up so much room that there isn’t room for very much else. I would love to store my dishrack down there (no dishwasher), but there just isn’t room for it — so it stays in the second sink (we have a double sink, part of the kitchen upgrade).

Vacuum– how many times per week? I blogged about this awhile back. I hate vacuuming. I hate the noise, mostly, but I also hate lugging that monster around after me. I vacuum only when I really have to, and the rest of the time, dust-mop and carpet-sweep (I need a new carpet sweeper, too). We don’t have carpets, BTW, just rugs and hardwood floors.

Wash– How many loads of laundry do you do in a week? One a day, if I keep up with it. This one’s a little funny, though. As anyone with kids knows, the best description of laundry is FlyLady’s “Mount Washmore,” and from Kathleen Norris (“The Cloister Walk”) I cribbed the story of the lady who says she’s going to have engraved on her tombstone, “At last her laundry’s done.” I’d do it, too, if I thought my Orthodox cemetery would let me get away with it. Anyway, the week after my daughter got married, I went down to the basement laundry room to tackle the wash — and there was nothing. One little pile of underwear, from the hubster and me. Our son had decided to start washing his own laundry, and I looked around and thought, “My life is over.” It’s scary how much laundry can take over your life!

(My own personal “Washer B” question: Front load or top load? We have a front load, and I love it!)

X’s– Do you keep a daily list of things to do and cross them off? When life doesn’t get away from me, which, come to think of it, is the whole purpose of keeping such a list. But it’s invaluable to me, in terms of keeping track of things like appointments, phone calls, and errands — It is called a Franklin Planner.

Yard– Who does what? My husband. Mimi and I share a lot in common, including a black thumb. Every year I buy annuals at the gardening center, and if I get around to it, I plant them — otherwise, he does that, too, as well as tend his vegetable garden. And in the fall, if he still has productive plants, he brings them indoors and keeps them alive on the bay windowsill. One year my daughter asked us if we were growing the Little Shop of Horrors. My husband’s very good with plants.

Zzz’s–What is your last homemaking task for the day before going to bed? Diehes. Once the dishes are washed, the day is done, though if my husband would let me, I’d make his lunch, too. Poor soul has to get up at 3:00 a.m. and leave the house at 4:15 to catch the bus to Boston, where he works, and I just don’t see that after a day like that, a man should have to make his own lunch. But he does.

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I posted this as a “meditation” (how stuffy, but I don’t know what else to call it) to the OrthWomen’s list yesterday. It went over well there, so I thought I’d copy it here.

Just thinking over the weekend about our Chris, and the incredible turns his life has taken: We would never have dreamed, back about 10 or 15 years ago, that his life could ever have turned out so successfully. Back in 1992, there wasn’t a lot of sympathy for kids with Asperger’s Syndrome, mostly because it hadn’t yet been officiallyclassified as a condition, so Chris, who was then in middle school, put up with a lot of guff out of various teachers, and the indignity of being put into special-ed classes along with kids with a fraction of his intelligence – but ADD or ADHD was the only possible “code” available at the time, so we had to agree to special ed or have his teachers pick on him relentlessly. Back then, we just hoped he’d get out of high school without some kind of lasting stigma.

Back then, I actually, seriously, asked God why He had created Chris, if his only lot in life was to suffer: Hard to explain to a 10- or 15-year-old that being a “Christ-bearer,” which is what “Christopher” means, is a great honor, if it means following Christ even to the carrying of an exceptionally heavy cross. True, it was right around this time that his voice developed into one of the finest basses I have ever heard, what the Russians call an”octavist,” meaning he can sing somewhere in the 9th sub-basement of the musical scale. And I realized that at least one purpose of his existence was to glorify God with that voice, so that was its own kind of answer. I just wished that the rest of his life could be as successful, so he would at least get some sense that his life is worth living – it sure didn’t seem like it, at the time.

But very recently, with the positive changes that have occurred in his life – and with the miscarriage our daughter suffered a little over a year ago – praying for that small life that was snuffed out so soon, and for its uncle, who has known pretty much nothing but sorrow and grief – recently it occurred to me: God creates a person for Himself. It isn’t that He doesn’t expect us to lead useful and productive lives, and He certainly gives us the means to do so – in Chris’s case, parents who loved him and believed in him when no one else did – but little Sophia, who never had a chance to live this life – hey, her life is just as valuable to Him. Just because we never had a chance to know her, doesn’t mean He doesn’t know her and cherish her most intimately, rejoicing in her presence in His life. Just means we have to wait a bit longer to meet her.

What a mind-boggler. God creates each life for Himself, for the sheer joy of getting to know each one of us, for the sheer delight of listening to an octavist with the grimy hands of a railroad worker, or the lightning intellect and golden tongue of a great orator of the Church, or the profound reverence and love for Him of a heart that can’t carry a tune in a bucket. He doesn’t care about our deficiencies – those are the deficiencies of the world. We are what we are, and when we remember that He holds an icon of us in His hands – the image of what He intended when He created us – when we just make the most of how He created us, then we become what He intended,and fulfill His purpose for our lives. Does it get any better than that?

A couple of the responses on the list frankly horrified me – the things these people live with every day, that made me feel phenomenally presumptuous, posting all of this. But then I thought: Things like cerebral palsy and abuse, Parkinson’s, children’s cancers, all seem so outrageously cruel, and we wonder why God allows them – but they’re part and parcel of being in a fallen world, just like that tsunami a couple of years ago. Our priest gave a sermon about that in which he opined that God has not finished creating the world yet, and that’s why tsunamis and earthquakes happen.

Hmmm. Stands to reason, then, that He isn’t finished perfecting*us,* either, and as I was just reading, when St. Paul asked for his affliction to be taken away from him – three times, yet – God’s answer was,”My strength is made perfect in weakness.” Oh-kay. But it’s beginning to dawn on me (emphasis on “beginning”) that the suffering, in whatever way, shape, or form, is part of conforming us to His image, and the scars are all part of our “icon” – maybe the physical or emotional scars wipe out or cover over the spiritual scars of our transgressions(as it says in the funeral service of the Orthodox Church). It’s not my place, or anyone’s, really, to try to figure it out. But it sure helps me to realize that there’s a purpose for my existence beyond this time and space, and that He made me because He wanted me.


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It’s been so long since I posted that I had to verify my username and password. That’ll teach me.

You can probably assess the activity in my life by the activity on my blog, which is to say, when the blog is quiet, the life is zooming off into the far reaches of the galaxy. Well — not really. It just feels that way.

After the phone call mentioned in my last post, nine days later, my husband hopped a train down to Philadelphia and helped Chris pack up his household — what they were able to. He ended up leaving a lot of furniture behind, the worst of which was a futon sofa that we all really liked, and which he had used for a bed while living in Lansdale (suburb of Philly). They could have packed it into the truck with no trouble, but to get it into the elevator, they would have had to dismantle it, and lacked the necessary hex keys. Since they only discovered this on Saturday morning, and Chris was due in Vermont the following Monday, they ended up leaving the futon sofa behind, along with his computer desk, an entertainment center, and a large sectional sofa that he had intended to leave behind anyway. The new tenant of the apartment paid him $300 for all of this, items which cost him $1300 originally. Ouch.

He spent the following two weeks in classes to bring him up to speed on how things are run on a big-time freight line, graduated second in his class, came home last Friday for a semi-relaxing weekend — we spent a good part of the time trying to track down an apartment near his base of operations — and this morning, at 4:45 (shudder), he left home for the two-hour drive to the new job in Vermont. I told him to call if he got into trouble, so since he hasn’t yet called, I guess he got there all right.

The rest of the time has been divided between trying to get my father-in-law’s financial affairs regularized — dealing with privacy laws has been enlightening, to put the best face on it — and working on a replacement for an Aran sweater I knitted my husband, oh, about 15 or so years ago. That sweater has been gradually disintegrating over the past few years, and it finally dawned on me that I was going to have to knit a replacement. Two problems: (a) I really dislike working on Arans, and (b) it takes away from cross-stitching time. I finally finished the sweater (which was supposed to be his Christmas present) last night, only to find that the sleeves are about an inch too short. If you knit, you know what that means: Snip one thread where the cuff joins the body of the sleeve, unravel it, and knit a whole new cuff. If you notice any particularly blue air, it will be from all the cussing that has swirled forth into the world from this corner of it. If there’s one knitting job more tedious than Arans, it’s ribbing. Knit 2, purl whatever — I prefer one — for however many inches you can stand, or, as knitting guru Elizabeth Zimmermann put it, “To make a turtleneck sweater, cast on the required number of stitches and knit 2, purl 2, until you are sick of it.” In my case, that would make a mighty short turtleneck. I hope to heaven this dratted sweater is done tonight.

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