Wednesday, October 31, 2012

What I learned from Michelangelo about too many projects

The artist who created this beautiful chair personalized it with one of my favorite quotes. 

When I was thirty my goals seemed just out of reach and I had the energy to keep after them. I wanted to make my 1900 Victorian home as lovely as a decorator magazine. But we were short on cash, so I smashed the cracked and bulging plaster walls, removing the debris in five gallon buckets. Then I had rooms full of exposed studs and dangling strands of horsehair because we didn't have the know-how to put up drywall. 

Michel A. would have been horrified. 

A gracious friend remedied the pitiful state of our walls. I was a maniac unleashed. We painted, stripped woodwork. Then I made curtains for every window and comforters for every bed. I embroidered table cloths, made my kids clothes 'cause I thought I could do it cheaper than buying them. In the spring I tore up the backyard and laid the sod which I scrounged from the big Home and Garden show. About a third of it grew, leaving the rest of the yard with strips of dead grass. It looked a like bad hair cut.

Now it would have horrified Olmstead. (follow the link for info)

In my forties I wised up a little and tackled smaller projects.  But in my heart the desires grew. Itching for a big garden we moved to North Carolina. Our little farm house had two acres. In my imagination they were English cottage gardens and a year's worth of vegetables. 

The decade of my fifties was spent turning the baseball-field yard into one sculpted garden after another. Rain made flowers and vegetables grow; I was in heaven! By the time we had the vegetable garden plowed, it was out of hand. I had more ground than I could keep groomed. I mulched. I weeded. I sprayed. Gangs of weeds mobbed the gardens. I needed riot control! 

If only I had more time, I thought. Surely when I retired every flower border would be lush and the vegetables would stand in weedless rows.

It was a fallacy. Of course other interests begged for time.

 This spring we returned from a trip to overgrown asparagus, the strawberry bed exploding with fruit, weedy empty beds that would have to be prepared for beans and tomatoes within a couple of weeks,  and I realized I still wasn't going to be able to get it all done. The balance tipped. I wanted to actually keep up with my projects, maybe even take a break once in awhile and wander around the yard just enjoying it. Perhaps read a book in my swing under the chestnut tree without the timer being set to move me onto the next task. 

I wish I could talk to Michelangelo. Did he rue the images of paintings and sculptures he couldn't tackle?  Did he want to just lay down on the floor of the Sistine Chapel and savor the satisfaction of the finished dome, admire his design and execution before he jumped up and headed off to work on the sculpture of Moses? 

The chair's quote mocks me now. Why did I desire to do more and more? Is there greater satisfaction in three hurried projects than two leisurely ones?  Did I imagine I was earning  reward points in life for being busier than folks who never make a list?

 Or maybe I was too focused on my desires. I should have followed more of Michelangelo's example. He knew to talk to the Lord about his desires.  I should have been checking my lists with The Boss.

Shoot, maybe I should just throw out that big box of photos now, save myself the delusion that I'll get them turned into mediocre scrapbooks. And that piece of wood that's probably warped while it waits for me to get started on the barn quilt. Then there are the fabric scraps I've been saving to weave a rug for which I don't have a loom.

At the very least I need to rewrite the quote. "Lord, grant that I might accomplish exactly what You desire."

Scroll to take a poll about your oldest unfinished project! 

Monday, October 22, 2012

Emotional Jet Lag: What Happens After Good-bye

I "lost" two hours in air travel this weekend.  I'll be additionally fatigued for the next few days. All of us who fly through time zones feel it to various degrees. 

The bigger adjustment for me will be the emotional lag, the living in one frame of feeling, while reliving the one I left. I think it's like jet lag. Plane trips disrupt my body rhythms.  The longing for my loved ones interrupts my thoughts, and takes longer to subside.

 It doesn't matter if you're the traveler or the one staying behind, the separation tears at your hearts. You have to adjust to the loss of immediate stimulation and response. Knowing you can't "play doctor" one more time, or hear the giggle of the one you cherish feels like an amputation.

We grandparents know the relationship can survive.  But we will miss the sweet sensation of  the child's hug, the little hand in ours. We crave the face to face chatter which Skype can't replicate. 

Despite technology distance makes communication lopsided. I can initiate calls or write to the kids, but they need their parents' help. And mom and dad are up to their eyeballs in the demands of the moment.

Virtual fun can't compete with roller skating or painting a bird house. And there's just no way to gather the kids from two families together via email or snail mail.

        How do I adjust to "love lag?"  
  1. Be thankful. Savor the fun and joy we shared.
  2. Chronicle the trip. I like to cement the memories with books of photos and narrative using Shutterfly .  I send  favorite photos of us together as postcards using the sticky-backs from PhotoStix
  3. As a believer in God's "social media", I pray. Better than I, He can guide their school situations, shape their characters and meet family needs. 
  4. Get busy. responsibilities eventually fill in some of the hole left by the separation.
  5. Share the highlights. I brag about our adventures to my fellow grandparents. They empathize. 
  6. Plan for the next visit! 

I bet you have other ways to cope, and I'd love for you to share them. If you don't see the comments box, hit "No comments" and see if the box opens. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012


     We haven't had a hard frost yet;  there are more leaves on the trees than on the ground.  The chestnut tree, which shades my hammock chair in the summer and gives me a wonderful place to relax, is now off limits.
     The plentiful nuts are dropping to the ground, and I won't even walk under the tree for fear of being struck by one of the barbed hulls. The brown spiked missiles are sharp enough to puncture leather . The falling bombs skitter off of the leaves below them in unpredictable trajectories so that the hulls cover the ground under the canopy and five feet beyond. 
 I wish every fruiting tree in my yard produced like these worthless bothers. Last year my husband raked and gathered 30 wheelbarrows full.  
       The nuts themselves are as alluring as the hulls are repulsive. They are glossy, deeply red-brown. The skin is smooth and the nuts fit in my palm and invite me to caress them. Surely something so alluring would be good. Or so I thought.  But whether I put them in chocolate nut pudding, or baked  them, they were  unappetizing. Then I glued them onto a wreath to display their beauty. No value there either, the color faded and worms wiggled through. Yech! 
    I gave up on the nuts, and the next year concentrated on the hulls. Instant fire starters? No,they burned too slowly. 
     Finally we found a use for a small fraction of the spiny shells.  My husband dumped a load down the hole the ground hog had dug from his home to our garden. There was no way any critter would risk the pain of burrowing through the hulls. The ground hog found another way out. 

    Always looking for a profit (metaphorically, not financially), chestnuts teach a twofold lesson. Number one, what we find alluring may be corrupted.  The exterior  is only as valuable as the  soundness of the interior.
     And number two, if you try hard enough, can find something worthwhile in the prickliest of situations. 


Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Super Grandma Needs Rescue

Some Super Grandma I am! 

I botched my last “mission” and a kind stranger, 1500 miles away, rescued me. 

I had mailed packages to both sets of grandchildren. But on one, I confused the streets and a stranger received the package. He checked the return address, but there was no name, just “Super Grandma.” Super Grandma had blown it, and he knew some little kids could be disappointed. Using his computer to do some kind of reverse search he found our phone number, called and left a message on my phone. He even offered to take the package to the kids. 

I went online to find him in the Denver, Co. directory and realized my mistake. I had used the correct house number, but the street of my other set of grandchildren. Duh!  Super Grandma - NOT! Luckily, one daughter lives 4 blocks from my white knight, so she picked up the package from him.

These little mistakes are getting more frequent, and I have some concern.  (Remember the crazy trip between airports in NYC I summarized in the Traveling Mercies blog, August 28?) A few days ago I called my husband in a panic from the gas station because I was unable to get the key back into the ignition. I tried and tried, and I feared I’d be late for a meeting. Then I remembered--I had both sets of keys, and I was trying to insert my key in his starter. 

I attribute these errors to being in a hurry, too busy, etc. But what if they’re an indication of mental decline?  I guess I’ll know it’s serious when it causes someone else to be alarmed. I flinch to even imagine myself in that state. 

I hope it’s not time for me to transform my cape into an apron.  


These photos were taken by Frenchman Sacha Goldberger of his grandmother. Read her story and see more photos at