Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Security Blankets

Toddlers often have a favorite blanket that they drag around with them everywhere they go. Usually, it will be a baby blanket that was used in his crib. As he grows into a toddler, the child will want to sleep with the blanket for naps as well as bedtime. It  becomes tattered and worn, but it continues to provide a sense of security for the child, often into kindergarten and first grade. Linus, a character in the cartoon strip, "Peanuts," is a prime example.

While I don't drag one around with me, I do use lap quilts. They provide warmth when I'm sitting on my front porch in cool weather, drinking my coffee and watching the squirrels jump from tree to tree. I keep the temperature low in my house, and use lap quilts while I crochet or read a book. As a child, I would take a pillow and quilt to my front porch and lie down to listen to the rain.

A few years ago, I started requesting a blanket at my dentist's office. This habit began because it was so darned cold there. I quickly noticed that it had a psychological affect, too, by calming some of the anxiety of being in a dental chair and having that needle or drill coming at me.

There is something so very comforting about wrapping yourself in a blanket. Not only does it provide warmth and security, but if it was made by someone special, it can provide a connection with that person or even a sense of place. I'm not the only person who recognizes this. A friend makes kid-size lap quilts for the local sheriff's department to give to children taken from their homes by child welfare services. I know others who make quilts or crochet afghans for beds at veterans' homes, and others do the same for folks undergoing dialysis. 

We make blankets for babies as shower gifts, too. I've read that swaddling a newborn snugly, even tightly, calms it because it gives her the feeling of being inside her mother's womb. Maybe that's what it does for some of the rest of us. I don't know. I only know that cuddling up in one makes me feel less vulnerable. 

In a world full of uncertainty, we could all use a security blanket now and then.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

Christmases Past & Present

Gabe & Mati making cookies
     It’s two days before Christmas. The boys are here, and we’ve made sugar cookies and decorated them. The boys also managed to decorate the countertop, the floor and themselves as well. But what the heck, we’re not just making cookies. We’re building memories.
I still have some candy to make, and the dessert and vegetable to prepare for Christmas Eve dinner. I also have a couple of gifts to wrap. It’s raining, so the boys can’t play outside. But while the little one naps, and the older one plays with a friend, I sneaked into my office to post this blog.
There isn’t time to write a full-fledge post, so I’m re-posting a slightly revised version of last year’s Christmas essay.
Merry Christmas to all, and have a blessed New Year.

A Touch of Holiday Nostalgia

I usually get very nostalgic and sometimes sad around Christmas. This started long before my husband died, but his death certainly adds to the sadness. I think it has to do with remembrances of Christmas past, when my dad's side of the family got together to celebrate.
Most of my dad's three brothers (a fourth died when I was a toddler), three sisters and their children would gather at Thanksgiving at my Aunt Vera's. She's dead now, and so are all but two aunts. I miss the missing ones most during the holidays. Like they say, when the generation ahead of you is gone, so is the umbrella between you and eternity.
I can still see those long tables set up in Aunt Vera’s basement, laden with the yummy foods my aunts would bring. That's how I learned that mac 'n cheese didn't originally come in a box, the way my mom made it. My Aunt Rubye made the most mouth-watering mac 'n cheese I’ve ever tasted.
After lunch, we’d draw names. Then we'd get together again around Christmas and exchange gifts. Grandpa Hobson used to buy something for everyone, but because there were so many of us, he couldn't spent much on each. They were token gifts, but I appreciated the thought. My mom, however, didn't. He often gave the women hosiery, but at 5'9-1/2" tall,  her legs were too long for any of them to fit. She always resented that.
  As the family grew, exchanging gifts became expensive. My cousin Ed had five children, and announced one Thanksgiving that he could no longer afford to buy the extra gifts. He suggested we let the kids draw and exchange, and that worked out fine. I can't remember when we stopped the name-drawing altogether.
After Aunt Vera died, my Aunt Rubye and I took turns hosting the gatherings. Once I had a friend come to my house dressed as Santa Claus. We took pictures of the kids (and a few grownups) sitting on his lap. No one knew him, and because Ed had not arrived yet (like income tax refunds, he and Diane are perpetually late), everyone assumed it was he. You should have seen the looks on their faces when Ed and Diane walked in! 
(Back) First cousins Pat, Ed & Elaine, with
Elaine's niece, Lennon (center)
One Thanksgiving stands out because of a game. It was my cousin Pat's idea to play "Oldyweds," based on the then-popular TV game show, "The Newlyweds." She picked out three couples who had been married for various lengths of time.  Pat sent the three husbands into one room, their wives into another, and everyone was instructed to contemplate three questions. One of them was: "When was the last time your spouse made you mad?" When my Aunt Violet recalled the last time Uncle Alvin had made her mad, she got angry all over again just thinking about it.
When I moved out here to the country, I tried to keep up the Christmas gathering tradition. It was hit or miss, because aunts and uncles were aging and cousins became their care-givers. Everyone had so much to do during the holidays, so many church and school obligations, that it was difficult to get many to come. So I stopped. It took a cousin's funeral to get us started again.
This year, only two families showed up, but I still had a house full. There were 12-15 of us, including three first cousins. I didn’t have time to decorate for Christmas, because it was Thanksgiving weekend. We chose that time because my brother’s daughter was visiting from California and wanted to meet everyone.
We all agreed we should get together more often.  We’re considering a barbecue and pool party at a cousin’s house next summer. There's nothing like seeing a bunch of old geezers in swim suits to get the nostalgia juices flowing.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

No more surveys!

        If I get one more request to complete a survey, I’ll puke on my computer.
        It seems that every time I call a service or tech rep, place an order online or take my car to the dealer for a recall, I get a request for my “feedback” via a survey. Yesterday, I even got such a request from American Express. The first question was, “Do you recall logging into your account December 11?” Hells bells, I can’t remember where I logged in yesterday, much less four or five days ago!
        I’ve gotten to the point where I  delete most of them. They take too much of my valuable time. Individually, it doesn’t seem like much, but collectively, I could spend an hour a day on them.
        Usually, their questions are skewed in their favor, and they never ask the one you would really like to answer. Like the hotel survey that failed to ask, “How was the maid service?” Because I’d really like to tell them about how she forgot to leave me any coffee one day. I guess she was too busy changing out the soap that I’d used only once.
        Then there’s the aforementioned American Express survey, which wanted to know how many times I had to log in to get my question resolved. Good grief, I only logged in to check my balance. How many times does that normally take?
        Netflix usually sends an email wanting to know which day I returned a DVD. If you held a gun to my head, I couldn’t recall on Friday whether I mailed it Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday! Does it really matter? Geez.
        I don’t know how to avoid these surveys, so until I do, I’ll just continue to delete them.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Planting Rye

I’m always running late, whether it’s for appointments or doing chores. So it should come as no surprise to most folks that I didn’t get my winter rye sown until the first week of this month.
When the summer bermuda dies down, it’s great to have a winter grass take its place. But that rye should have been spread in October or November.
I started on Monday afternoon, December 1, but quickly realized I had a brush as big as Texas to remove first. I should have burned it last year, but let it sit. It was too late in the afternoon to start a burn, because I didn’t want it to smolder overnight unattended. So I spent an hour and a half scooping and piling the woody brush into my tractor bucket and dumping it over the fence. By the time I had finished, it was too dark to spread rye.
Horses enjoy grain, even when the grazing is good.
Next day, I loaded the rye grass into my spreader, read the spreader chart for the rye opening, then took off. I figured it would take about six to eight passes up and down myhilly pasture, but the seed was gone in 40 feet! 
Back I went to Central Seed for more rye.
“What setting did you use on your spreader?” asked Lamar, one of the store’s employees.
“I used the rye setting,” I answered. 
“Which rye setting?”
“There was just one.”
Turns out the "rye" setting on the spreader is for cereal rye, which is much bigger than the seed for grass rye. Who knew?
So I bought another bag of rye seed, enough to cover two acres. I’m not sure how big that section of my pasture is, but I figured that amount would do it. 
By the time I got home with the bag of seed, I had to get ready to leave for an appointment. 
On the third day, I actually spread the rye seed. I set the hopper opening so low that it took repeated passes over the same territory to get it all out. But I didn’t mind. I love being on my tractor, and I was just happy to get the job done. 
When the rye starts coming up in February, I’ll have to spread some nitrogen to fertilize. If I had planted in October  or early November when I should have, perhaps it would have come up earlier. Or perhaps the November frost would have killed the young buds, as happened with a friend’s pasture. 
Sometimes being late turns out to be a blessing.