Saturday, November 1, 2014

This morning my husband made me this extra special latte. He had already made our usual cups, but I often feel the need for one more. The tired of the week had me in its clutches and warm cinnamon coffee, with a bit of chocolate stirred in, thawed the stiffness left behind by the sitting and listening and bearing of burdens. My dear husband can support this fact: I am mostly delighted by simple pleasures. I am overwhelmed and worn out by too many choices and complicated schedules. So much so that at times I have to start cleaning closets.

Do you know what I mean? When life feels complicated and my control over it is limited I look around and see what I can manage. Over time and hurried days the stuff in cupboards and closets starts to co-mingle and soon it drains too much time out of my life as I search for one, specific, misplaced item. I decided when I want to be creative or get dressed there needs to be a more logical flow to the way I store things.

Monday my husband came home from work to find each bedroom closet open and stuff spilling out on the floor and taking over the beds. It is great therapy for me to clean closets, cupboards and drawers: pulling things out, trashing or bagging unwanted items, and putting what's left back in purposeful order. Somehow the whole process lifts a weight off my shoulders and allows me to regulate my breathing. It calms me.

My recent trip to visit my mom opened a storehouse of ordinary days full of ordinary pleasures via pocket calendars left behind by my Grandma. She knew how to edit life down to the best and most important events; the few lines scrawled daily captured more than most people could in a chapter. Of course having lived next door to her for most of my childhood, I can see the details between the lines as her words pulled up pictures from my memory bank.

Nearly everyday she would report the weather; it was a good day if the sun was shining even if it was too cold for her. Captured in the daily scribblings, I find her doing ordinary chores like: laundry, hanging clothes on the line, baking, gardening, and regular visits with friends and neighbors. Days filled with completed tasks seemed to give her a sense of satisfaction and regular visits with friends and neighbors brought her joy. It was an era when people made time to swap howdies and check in on one another. Here are a few excerpts.

May 1, 1992 49° AM 69° hi
“A pretty day with wind, clothes dried fast. We got the patio cleaned & the geraniums moved down from upstairs. Joan came to stay all nite. Her, Terri & I walked.”

September 11, 1992 50° AM 72° hi
“A nice day. AM was cloudy. Picked beans & tomatoes also cucumbers from the garden. Went to town in afternoon. Baked pies for Stevens sale.”

October 15, 1992 64° AM 67° hi
“Cloudy & rainy day. We put in some storm windows. Bible Study here with 8 of us. Had ice cream & hickory nut cake to serve for Ralph's B.D. Joan & Alton called at 10:45 PM.”

In my mind's eye I still see a clothes line near the large cedar tree and the lilac bush. Old fashioned metal lawn chairs rested beneath the elm tree near the garage where I often found my grandparents snapping beans. Walking upon working elders required one to join in and lighten the work load. I see the sunlight streaming through the kitchen window next to the refrigerator covered from top to bottom with family photos.

Grandma's daily calendar full of ordinary tasks are jewels strung together with my closet cleaning days; memories of lessons learned from the women in my life over the years fills my heart to the brim with gratitude for the wonderful folks I call family. Though my chores differ in many ways, spending a few minutes plopped down in the middle of her day's work calms me and... requires less energy than cleaning closets.

I would love to hear how you bring calm back into your life. What memories of ordinary days do you enjoy thumbing through?

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