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Work Vortex

At age ten I thought Mom ‘relaxed’ by working in her flowerbeds when the air was cool on summer evenings. It seemed she was having fun! The enthusiasm and enjoyment in her accomplishments were clearly evident. Looking back, I realize her fun was a labor of love.

Mom’s meticulously-kept flowerbeds and shrine were a source of pride. Visitors to our farm were always given a tour of the yard. As Mom aged, the number of flowerbeds she kept decreased, but she still enjoyed working in them when she could.

One summer day shortly after Mom had turned eighty-four and I was approaching my fortieth birthday, Niki, Tammie and I visited her. She said, “My joints ached yesterday, so I didn’t think I would get much work done in the rose bed, but once I started to dig and weed-all my aches went away. I worked all afternoon, felt good and enjoyed myself.” Continue reading

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Get Set…

White, hot rage rose up from inside my chest and came out of my throat in a loud, horrible wail concluding in a shrill screech. I wasn’t getting my way and I hated everyone…especially Mom and my sisters.

When I was little, my family would offer to set my limp, fine hair. It never mattered to me if it was done or not. Then slowly as the years passed, I began to notice how much nicer I looked when my lazy-bum-tresses were curled.

At age twelve, my personality developed a new facet and the vain pussy-cat in me emerged. I rudely insisted my hair was properly dressed after every washing. The more I wanted it done, the less Mom and my sisters cooperated.

The Saturday morning that found me locked in our farmhouse bathroom, raging and howling, was the day my support staff, Mom and my sisters, flatly refused to set my hair anymore. In varying decibels, they each shouted, “You’re old enough to do it yourself!” Continue reading

Leaf Me Alone

My daughter gestured toward the tree in her front yard and exclaimed, “Eve is so messy! In the spring she drops thousands of seed pods. I suppose this fall she’ll drop a ton of leaves!” In a grumpy tone she added, “I’m not looking forward to raking them up.”

I nodded sympathetically and pointed out, “There’s a lot of yard work when a person owns their own home, even when their yard is as small as yours.”

In early November my daughter Tammie will be celebrating her one-year anniversary as a home owner. The day she took ownership and signed the papers, we met Susan, the former owner.

As we waited for the realtor to collate the paperwork, Susan told us, “When my granddaughter, Eve, was in third grade, she gave me the maple tree that stands in front of the house. She came home from school one afternoon with a sprouted maple seed in a Styrofoam coffee cup. I planted it and now I can’t believe how big it’s grown. In my granddaughter’s honor, I’ve named the tree, Eve.” Continue reading

Women to Women

My daughter lifted a tea kettle onto the stove, turned to wipe the kitchen table clean, slipped a fresh shirt over her three-year-old’s head and began to lift clean dishes out of the dishwasher. A stack of soiled ones on the nearby counter waited for their turn in the machine. I spotted a new painting I hadn’t seen before leaning on a side board. I inquired, “Niki, when did you paint this picture?”

She glanced at it and answered with a shrug, “Sunday afternoon. I was in the mood to paint. It didn’t turn out the way I wanted. I still have some work to do on it.”

I marveled at her work, “It’s beautiful. You are so artistic.”

Niki scoffed, “No. I’m not artistic! The work isn’t original. I get my ideas from the Internet and just copy them.”

Shaking my head, I disagreed, “Not everyone can copy ideas and make them turn out as well. Don’t be hard on yourself. You are very artistic.” Continue reading

Happiest Girl

An old 1980’s popular song was playing on the stereo. Tammie leaned forward to share a thought with her sister Niki. They both began to laugh. I leaned out of the kitchen to look at my daughters, suspiciously questioning, “What are you two getting up to?”

Still snickering, Tammie teased, “It’s nothing Mom. You didn’t know about it when we were in grade school. Knowing about it now won’t do you any good.”

Strolling into the room with a cup of tea, I harrumphed, “Some of your secrets weren’t as secret as you thought. Would you girls like to join me in a cup of tea?”

Just as we were settling down to tea and apple crumble, the home-recorded tape in the stereo started to play the next song. Niki exclaimed, “Whenever I hear this song, it instantly takes me back to one evening during my freshman year in high school! I remember sitting at the dining room table during Christmas break, listening to this song and trying to write the lyrics. I can almost taste the Christmas candy I was eating and smell the roast you had in the oven!” Continue reading

Getting the blues

Realizing that I’d accomplished what I’d set out to do, I took a deep breath, leaned against a display table and relaxed. The time on my watch said, ‘five thirty’. Since getting up that morning, I’d been racing around gathering beans, beets, carrots, butternut squash and eggplant from the garden. Then, picking out my best specimens of the same size, I attached the entry tickets to their containers.

I’ve come to dread fair entry day. No matter how hard I try to prepare in advance, there is always a scramble to get everything ready. I know my stress levels would lower if I would just stop entering vegetables that need to be picked, dug up, cleaned and sorted at the last minute before being transported to the fair. I can’t make myself do that, though. I have a garden and like to show off my produce.

After rooting through the garden, I ignored my foggy, salt-stained glasses to gather the breads, rolls, cakes and cookies I’d baked. Then, rummaging through my treasure box of crafts, I retrieved projects I’d created during the winter; frosted glass, paper mache and ornaments.

One of my biggest complaints is that fair entry day is always hot. By the time I arrive at the fairgrounds to submit my entries, I am awash in salty streams of sweat. My hair and clothing are sopping wet. I look and feel like a wreck. Even if the day is cool and rainy, the day is always hot to me. Continue reading

Chainsaw Granny

A huge dead limb lay on the ground next to my old crab apple tree. Sighing over the loss, I crossed the lawn to take a closer look. The tree had been old but still beautiful when I had moved here almost forty years ago. Slowly, though the years, some of the tree’s big limbs stopped growing leaves. Yesterday, a wind storm had broken this limb from the tree.

Putting a foot on the limb, I tried to rock it back and forth, testing to see if it was lightweight with rot. It was not. It felt solid and heavy. How was I going to be able to pull it back to the refuse pile at the back of my property? I knew the answer to that question only too well. I would have to cut it up with my trusty little hack saw.

It took me a long time to cut the limb into several logs. Eventually I had chunks that were light enough to handle. Wiping sweat from my forehead, I looked around my yard. The exercise was probably good for me, but I was glad I didn’t have to do this often.

When my daughter asked if I wanted to come with her to look at a house she was thinking of buying, I eagerly accepted the offer. The house was big. The yard around it was beautiful but overgrown and in need of pruning. I said, “Niki, this is a great place for you and your family to live!”

Once the papers were signed and the previous owner had moved out, Niki decided to paint several rooms and do a deep clean before moving in. She wisely pointed out, “Painting and cleaning is so much easier to do when you don’t have to move furniture.”

My daughter is the family painter, so when she began refurbishing the new house, I went there to prune trees and shrubs for her. Lilacs from the civil war era were ripping holes in window screens, scratching the porch roof, poking at eaves-troughs and rubbing against the siding. I nipped off what I could and used my hack saw to cut bigger branches.

I accomplished only about five percent of the trimming that needed to be done. The job was too big for me. That night I spoke to my big sister Agnes on the phone. Her response when I described my dilemma, was, “Kathy, you know I have a lady’s chainsaw. …And I know how to use it!”

My sister accompanied me on my next visit to Niki’s new house. We lifted her battery operated chainsaw out of the trunk and cut down a big branch that I had only been able to top. The small, sharp chain sliced through the wood as though it was soft butter!

Looking around at the yard, I pointed out, “See those pine trees in the center of the circle drive? Niki wants them cut down. I told her they would look nice if they were under-brushed. Let’s see what we can do with the first tree.”

For the next hour we cut away long scraggly branches that were half-dead. Huge false elder plants had woven themselves into the trees as high as the second story of the nearby house. The diameter of some of the false elder trunks were larger than the pine branches, but the wood was soft and cut easily. When we finished, we stepped back and admired our work. What a huge difference it made to have those branches gone!

There were three more pine trees nearby that badly needed the same treatment. And I knew one thing for sure, I wasn’t going to use a hack saw to chop off hundreds of branches to finish this job.

The next time I headed over to work in Niki’s new yard, I stopped by a store that sells chainsaws. I went in and told the salesman, “My sister has a lady’s chainsaw. It works great. Now I want one.” Half an hour later I walked out with a Stihl chainsaw in my hands.

The salesman saw me to the car, saying, “You be careful with that now, OK?”

Being able to easily cut off branches is wonderful, but I fully realize that my new ‘toy’ is very dangerous. I plan on being careful.

When I told someone that I’d bought myself a chainsaw, it amused me how startled that person looked. I guess the thought of a chainsaw-totting granny is kind of scary.