Thursday, February 16, 2012

My grandma Hazel

My maternal grandma taught me a great deal of things that I'd taken for granted until well into adulthood. 

A friend of mine was set to fly to Chicago for a job interview the Tuesday after MLK Jr. Day.  She needed a new suit to disguise her growing pregnancy, and had spent the weekend searching for one.  When she finally found it, the pants were too long.  Good luck finding a tailor who is willing to do the work on the Monday of a 3-day weekend.  She racked her head to think of people she knew who would have the skills needed to hem the pants.

My name was the only one that came to mind.  She and her husband brought us dinner, after which I didn't hem her pants: I taught her how to hem them.  While we worked, I passed along the tips my grandmother had taught me: always have a hot iron at hand when you sew; keep a small sewing kit with various colors of thread available for hemming and repairs; keep the heel height in mind as you hem, catch as little of the fabric with the needle as possible in order to achieve invisible stitches.

My friend got the job and will move to Chicago in April with her husband and their new son.

It had never occured to me that not everyone's grandma made sure they had these types of skills.  Besides how to sew, my grandma taught me a great deal of things when I was a child and young woman.  She and my grandfather were always generous with their time and money, never holding back when help was needed.  She had a lot of patience with me, a very untidy and messy child, and yet taught me how to organize my clothing closet: by clothing type then by color.  A child of the Depression, she'd be horrified by all the purging I've done recently.  Her own house was always immaculate and my own mom dreaded the white-glove visits when I was a kid.

She was an avid gardener well into her 80s, and knew the names of flowers, plants, and birds that could be found in her yard.  My grandpa always had a huge vegetable garden and she took care of the flower beds.  Grandma pickled the cukes that Grandpa grew.

When my brother, cousin, and I were young, my grandparents often took us camping, teaching us how to cook on a campstove, how to fish for pogies, how to dig for clams, and what to do when the raccoons ate all of our clams when we were away from our campsite.  They made sure that all three of us knew how to swim.

I took Kaelen to visit her earlier this week.  She'd had a rough weekend but I knew she was feeling better because she complained profusely: I kissed Kaelen too much; I held Kaelen too much; I was going to spoil Kaelen; Kaelen should have a hat on (this, after she complained that her room was too hot); and I didn't hold Kaelen right.  The next day she told my mom that Kaelen was really cute, that he was going to be funny with a wonderful sense of humor, and that he had such a nice personality.  That's about as high praise as she gives.

Grandma turned 94 on New Year's Day. Her health has been declining slowly for a while but she's now slipping away at a rapid pace. The family doesn't expect that she'll last through the weekend.

This is my grandmother with Kaelen and me on Christmas Eve.  He was just 4 days old and she was a week from her 94th birthday.  It was very important to me that she meet him, and that she get to see me as a mother.  I'm so grateful that she did; I wouldn't be the person I am today without her influence.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Get rid of 50 things

Our 1924 craftsman single-story bungalow is 1070 square feet.  Its floor plan is very similar to this one but without the 2nd story:

Last summer we converted the office into the nursery, giving up the 2nd bedroom and finding new places for all of its contents.  This is not a small task in such a small home.  It required that I shovel clean out the attic.  Bluck.  The mere thought of that project still irks me. 

After the nursery was done last summer - well, mostly done; I still had to hang the wall decor - I took a break from working on it and focused on a healthy third trimester.

In January this happened.  Snow.  Lots (for us) of snow!

Kaelen wasn't that impressed and just wanted to go back inside.
His feet didn't even touch the crotch of this snow suit!

The next day brought an ice storm.

I was a month into my maternity leave, bored with the entertainment options available to me, and had cabin fever.  Karen had recently suggested that people get rid of 50 things.

I'd been meaning to reorganize the cupboard under the microwave so that some of the baby things we'd acquired, but didn't have room for, could find a more permanent location than the counter.  I waited until the baby was sleeping and started.  The project went quickly, so I turned my attentions to the adjacent cupboard.

Since it was snowy outside, we were housebound, and Kaelen was still napping, I decided to clear out this drawer.  (OMG how much Jello does one household need?!?)

Then I did this one.

I found this sugar cube tin, which I'd bought in France quite a while back, and used it as the basis for another cupboard's reorganization.

Then I scrubbed the cupboards' fronts.  That single cupboard organization project morphed into a complete scrub-down and revamp of my entire kitchen.

The tiger was loose.  Over the next few weeks I:
  • reorganized my kitchen
  • cleaned and purged my linens
  • scrubbed my laundry room, top to bottom
  • used my Groupon for 2 hours of maid service and had my kitchen and bathrooms cleaned
  • went through all my bathroom cabinet contents and got rid of the old stuff
  • prepared my maternity clothes & Kaelen's too-small clothes for the upcoming Just Between Friends sale, packed up borrowed maternity wear to return to my friend
  • finished nearly every pending project, from hanging neglected pictures to rearranging furniture
  • ordered and installed new glass shelves in our bathroom cabinet (in and of itself a 5-year project... ugh)
  • emptied the cupboard where our new microwave/range hood is to be installed ($35 on craigslist!)
  • written in Kaelen's baby book
  • cleaned the oven and fridge
  • gave the fridge's expired contents to the chickens
  • made 9 chickens very happy
A girlfriend accused me of nesting after the fact.  My neighbor came over for another reason and said, "holy crap, your house looks amazing!".  Why yes, yes it does.

From what I can remember, my toss/donate pile included:
  • KITCHEN: 2 pkgs bamboo skewers, electric kettle, 3 candy dishes, 2 ice cube trays, 1 bowl, 4 travel mugs, 1 thermos, 1 Starbucks Barista espresso machine, 1 spoon rest, orphaned glass pot lid, expired jello & pudding, condiments I'd purchased with good intentions and poor follow-through, spice rack with all its bottles, a Christmas plate
  • LINENS: 4 sets of sheets, 5-6 blankets, about 35 cloth napkins, 6 dish towels, 20 washcloths, 4 bath towels, 6-8 hand towels, 8-10 tablecloths, 3 table runners
  • CLOTHING: all maternity clothes, 15-20 items of Kaelen's, wool pea coat
  • BATHROOM: hand mirror, silver dresser set (given to a friend's daughter), old meds, and never-to-be-used toiletries
  • MISC: 6' potted Norwegian pine tree, dead houseplant, some Christmas ornaments, a box of knick-knacks from my parents' attic, my childhood collection of masks, 2 stuffed animals, framed Japanese print, shoe rack, 15 books
As I went through some of my items I found myself automatically saving some "valuable" things without truly evaluating their usefulness in our lives.  A hand mirror, for example, was something I put back after purging the drawer.  Only after returning it to its former spot did I question why I'd kept it... then immediately put it into the "toss" pile.

My house now gleams. It's spotless, projects are done, things are put away, and our possessions have - and are in - places. I feel liberated and am planning to purge my laundry room, which I organized last year.  I also want to get rid of at least half of my clothes and clean out the "pantry" (really it's just a shelf in the stairwell to our attic).  Maybe if I get really motivated I'll edit my CD collection and Gene's DVDs to the essentials.

Did I get rid of 50 things?  Actually, the count is above 200.  I can't tell you how much better I feel about our home.  I've never been happier with and prouder of it.  It's so freeing to get rid of things that weigh you down emotionally, even though you may not realize it.  Challenging myself to purge so many things was hard but it allowed me to go to the next stage with my house and tackle projects we've been putting off as we prepared for this little guy.
He started this whole thing!

Challenge yourself to get rid of 50 things.  You'll be amazed at how much you can clear from your home's contents and by all the mental cobwebs that will disappear along with them.

Let me know how you do!