Monday, June 27, 2011

The Day After

One of my dreams over the years has been to get a dumpster parked in my driveway. No. Really. Over the years, through the various incarnations of my life, I--and those who live with me--have acquired an embarrassment of belongings. They are stored from the apex of the attic to the bottom of the basement and tucked away under every bed and in every drawer in between.

My husband, daughter, son-in-law, son and I carried, moved, evaluated, assessed, swept, emoted, and finally, tossed what we thought was a whole bunch of stuff.  This is what the dumpster looked like right before they came to pick it up...
Pretty impressive, right? Son-in-law Tony was the muscle, toting cartons containing unopened checking account statements and final college course papers from years ago down to my pregnant daughter  for her to finally get rid of. Tony himself had some stored stuff in the attic from when they moved East from California six years ago. My husband and I pulled out boxes and clothes and cleaned closets and drawers. We teared up over sentimental stuffed animals and popped them right into the big black garbage bag as if they were yesterday's news. We were strong and motivated. We worked straight through Memorial Day weekend without so much as a picnic or parade to divert us. 

And yet, this is still what my attic still looks like: 
And my garage: 

And  my basement: 

At least this last shot shows some progress. The whole idea behind our own little Extreme Makeover - Home Edition was to start getting the basement ready to be made into an in-law apartment of sorts so that when Annie and Tony are ready to leave the city and prepare their own little nest to welcome their baby boy in October, they have a place to stay. Kind of a transition between leaving the city and moving to the country. Or, as I like to see it - a present for me. I'll get to have my new baby grandson on the premises to spoil each and every day. 

But, we still have a very long way to go. The thing I learned about myself is that I needed to prepare myself more for getting rid of stuff. It's really not just a matter of throwing stuff out - it's a process that takes some planning. Especially when you are very likely going to come upon your son's third grade journal where he explained what scares him the most. (Apparently the television show I made him watch during Saturday night "family time"!)  One of the boxes you drag out from the eaves of the attic will have a framed picture of your daughter as she stood for the first time on her grandmother's sofa,  having pulled herself up by holding on to her great-grandmothers hand-crocheted afghan. From the closet in the spare room will be a cassette tape of your step-daughter's first solo concert from college. And even though you don't even have a cassette player anymore, you will hesitate to toss it...just in case. 

Things are easy to throw out; memories are harder.  It takes time to hold the memories in your hand, turning them over and over so that they will stay safely stored in your mind and in your heart.  Yes, that takes some time. 

So we didn't get everything done in one weekend. Well, that's shocking. On the bright side,  I'll probably have to get another dumpster one of these days!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

It's possible I need help...

There are times when people have to deal with a stressful situation. These situations just drop in on one's everyday life and mess everything up. It could be a slight ruffling of feathers or a full-on catastrophe. I've known people to deal with these kinds of situations in different ways, from the sublime to the ridiculous and I like to think of myself as falling towards the, "Sublime/No problem" school of management. For the most part anyway. When the really big stuff comes my way, I rally. Like divorce. And single-parenthood. No problem.

Today, I've got a couple of family issues on my mind plus my husband woke up acting like he'd been sleeping in a bed of pollen all night. He got up sneezing and dripping and tearing and hasn't stopped since. He needs organic tea and leftover pulled pork sandwiches - and he needs me to make them.  I might have to go to NYC to help out my daughter (one of the family issues) and I have a couple of appointments at work to either cancel or be on time for. All quite manageable situations, but for me, it's the low-level stress that knocks me for a loop. To demonstrate just how badly I handle these things, I give you exhibit A:
This is a plate of candied lemon peel. Just part of one lemon, though. After polishing off a half a bag of Stacy's Simply Naked Pita chips, because I tend to snack through the stress, I made some iced tea for my husband, adding a slice of fresh lemon for his glass.  He ended up slicing up the rest of the lemon because it tasted so good with the sugar he had sprinkled on it, but he left all the rinds on the counter. ("He's sick" is what I kept repeating to myself as I wiped up the spilled sugar and wiped down the cutting board and TWO knives.) I eyed the thinly sliced rinds and thought to myself, "Hey- I could make candied lemon rinds!" 

Now, this is where I need help. Why does this occur to me as a good idea? I've never made candied lemon rinds before - or orange or grapefruit or any kind of candied anything. I am a firm believer in supporting all those wonderful people who work so hard to make candy for me. In easy to open packages. 

Low-level stress tends to make me feel disorganized and distracted and the skills that serve me so well in major disasters are nowhere to be found. Hence the fire. Oh, wait...let me back up. 

So, I think to myself, "I'm sure candied lemon rinds are a snap! Where's a recipe?" and I hunt one down online. It's simple, really, because it's just sugar and water and the leftover lemon rinds. I boiled the water, added the rinds, removed the rinds, stirred in the sugar, put back the rinds and kept boiling. All the while I was waiting to hear from Annie for updates. Her husband had a medical emergency and I wasn't sure if I was going to go down to NYC or just stay home - she didn't know yet. So, while watching the phone, I wasn't watching the pot. I ended up catching it just as it boiled over...and the drippy syrup landed on the burner and caught fire. But, see - fire is a MAJOR situation. I can do fire. I calmly smothered it with a damp towel without even so much as breaking a sweat. Meanwhile, for the lemon peel I am working like a longshoreman with the pots and the cooking and the draining and the hauling...and all for what ended up to be a little over a half a dozen strips of tough - yet sweet - tart lemon peels. And a little bottle of lemon flavored simple syrup. Which I probably will never use. 

One of these days I'll learn this lesson: When stress comes knocking, tell it to keep walking. Don't invite it in and let it make you suddenly decide to become Martha Stewart. Mostly I should just stay out of the kitchen and maybe take a walk or keep looking up random things online and drinking. Wait, no...drinking doesn't help either. So just the walking or surfing the internet then. Because really, what good are 71/2 candied lemon peels to anyone? I need help...