10/21/20 My absent-minded middle daughter hung a sign above her desk this fall. On pretty grey paper with silver accents it says, “Focus.” This morning dawned so warm and sunny that she was struggling to stick with her lessons and after I had pulled her back from lala-land for the third time while we were learning to check by casting out nines, I reminded her of the sign that exhorts her to focus. “Oh, but Mom, there’s also a sign that says ‘Not all who wander are lost.'” She had me there.

Much of my own life has been consumed with trying to focus on the big issues in the last month. We did a fair amount of wandering too. It has been a gloriously colorful fall and while we waited a little anxiously for our heating guy to show up, the weather continued balmy until the middle of October. Occasionally we built a fire in the fireplace and ran electric heaters. The day after the ductwork was finally completed, we awoke to a heavy frost and a chill in the air that meant business. We touched the button on the thermostat with gratefulness.

Our family traveled to North Carolina in the first week of October, both to visit family and for an anniversary getaway for Gabriel and me. We left our offspring divided out among my two brothers’ and Gabriel’s brother’s families and had three days for ourselves. After this crazy, busy summer, we found ourselves with barely enough time to catch up on the things that had not been discussed for too long. It is highly preferable to stay up to date with our issues, but sometimes life conspires to pile up a backlog. I think perhaps the security of lifelong commitment causes us to get sloppy with our accounts, kind of like not balancing the checkbook for too long and just figuring there is enough in there to carry us through until we make time. Marriage is sanctifying , and when you mire around trying to find your way through mud for awhile, it is a great relief to come out still liking each other, still sharing the grace of life.

We were a little surprised to find ourselves traveling homeward with two extra tiny passengers, offspring of my niece’s very prolific parakeets. My brother convinced us that we needed them, and the girls were quick to remind me that I promised them birds when we get settled in our house. The budgies are quite happily at home here. We got them a spacious cage, but most of the day they spend perched on someone’s shoulder. Pepper had a traumatic experience one day when she took a spontaneous flight on her clipped wings and landed smack in Olivia’s hot chocolate. Needless to say, we do not cook with parakeets on our shoulders.

We were delighted to host my brother Nate and his family here the week after we got back from North Carolina. They had plans to come north this fall before we made plans to go south, so we had us a little feast of time spent together. Our children are now old enough to entertain themselves for hours, and we can take off to a fancy restaurant without worrying about a babysitter. The high point of Nate’s visit may have been the night I served him decaf coffee that inexplicably contained lavender and chamomile. I have no idea how I managed to pick up a package of decaf Eight o’clock coffee labeled “Relax” and didn’t notice the odd ingredients. I didn’t remember until I had made it that Nate has a strong aversion to chamomile, but it is terribly funny to tease him so I served it anyway to see if he would notice. He politely declined to drink it.

This week we’re celebrating Gregory turning 16. He said that the only thing he wanted from his sisters for his birthday was for them to stop talking in British accents. Haha. It’s a deeply entrenched habit they have picked up from listening to audio with British narrators and they are pretty good at it. They love to tease him by adding in an Aussie “mate” when they address him. In the end it was easier for them to go to Walmart and spend some of their money on gifts.

Gregory and Gabriel are having a fishing day in a canoe today. There are a number of lakes around here that we haven’t explored yet, so they packed a lunch and headed out early. Right now fishing is pretty much the pinnacle of his life. I’m guessing Gabe is doing some napping in the canoe, since he didn’t get home from work until 1AM.

10/27/20 I spent a few hours outside this morning, raking and planting bulbs. We got a handy dandy drill bit that made the bulb planting much faster, especially the ones in the lawn. (I did not know these devices exist until this year. Thank you, Kristen, for sharing your bulb planting tip.) FYI, I first bought one at Home Depot, but it stripped out on the very first hole we dug. The resident blacksmith told me it wasn’t hardened tool steel and a terrible design to boot. So… after much research, I mean I read Amazon reviews, I got the one I linked, and it is fabulous. You have to have a pretty strong arm if the bit digs into a tree root or a rock. It is not a job for a child, for sure, but children are great at dropping bulbs into the holes you dig. If you have a gimpy knee, you too will be amazed at the easy bulb planting ways of the middle-aged.

Most of the daffodils I ordered were for shade and are supposed to naturalize very well in the lawn, so that’s where we planted them. The tulips and allium are going in the front of the house where I can see them easily through the big windows. I’m a little nervous about all the squirrels around here eating my tulip bulbs, but this way we can open the window a crack and dispatch the squirrels if we need to. I probably don’t need to tell you that I can hardly wait until spring.

I used to think leaf blowers are for sissies, but guess who is a sissy? We accidentally left our rakes in a barn at our old place, so looking at the situation realistically with these humongous trees in our yard, we bought 3 rakes. And a leaf blower. It took this mother and four children hours to clear the lawn of leaves, and this was the third time we worked at it. I just read in a gardening book that a large oak tree can have 20 acres of surface area to catch water on its leaves. Is that the same as 20 acres of leaves?

The dingy room in the basement that is my new pottery studio is now cleaned and painted with larger windows in the walls. It is warm and easy to wash down with a sink in the corner. When I first thought about trying to throw pots in that dungeon, my heart sank. It was a very uninspiring room, but it is surprising what a little paint will do. I have been throwing pots this week and finding it deeply satisfying.

Let us conclude this straggling post with a few pictures of sunset over Erie and how Addy feels about life.

When she is glad, she is very very glad.

6 thoughts on “Focus

  1. I laughed at Gregory’s birthday wish. I would love to have someone with a British accent around my house. Maybe the skill would rub off on me. 😁

  2. Thank you for the tidbit about twenty acres of leaves. I live on a quarter acre with SIX giant oak trees, and it gives satisfaction to think that I’m actually raking 120 acres of leaves every fall.

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