Coffee Chat:  This New Normal

Coffee Chat: This New Normal

There's coffee dears...and tea if you'd like and ice, too if hot drinks seem too much on this sunny afternoon in the South.

Welcome to my second 'New Normal' of this year!  Seriously, how many 'new normals' can we cram into one year?  There was retirement with John home nearly all the time and now this self isolation thing which is necessary.

Well no fretting!   We've all experienced a few new normals over the lifetime we've had and there one thing about them all...They last until the next new normal comes along!  In other words, every thing changes eventually and we begin to adapt all over again. 

Yesterday morning we woke to a dreary foggy morning that turned into a damp grey day...Not exactly soul inspiring stuff, especially in the current phase of life we are all in.  I'd planned, despite the copious pollen to get outdoors today.  Not so inclined to get outdoors when everything is damp and sticky.  John did venture out after lunch but came in again as his eyes began to burn.

Pollen be darned...It didn't stop me from jumping at the chance to jump in the car and ride with him into town.   No we weren't going to break social distancing.  We picked up mail.  We took trash to the dump.  We went by the drive by drop box at the post office to drop outgoing mail.  We went to the gas station to get gas for mowers.  People who also came up to pump waited until John was back in his car before they got out of theirs.  I'd grabbed the hand sanitizer on my way out of the back door and we used it.  We washed our hands well when we walked in the back door. 

I cannot tell you how happy it made me to just get out of the house.  I have a slight problem.  You see I am a pro at social isolation.   In my 20's my life was threatened by a friend of the family who had mental issues.  He followed me each time I left the house.  Often I'd look outside my window and see him drive by.  I was scared but there was no help forthcoming from our small town law enforcement nor my husband at the time.  I hung blankets over every single window and stayed in my house for months refusing to leave until I heard from his mother in law that he'd moved back to a town an hour's drive away.

There was a second incident in which I was raped at home by an acquaintance of my husband's.   Having the same husband and the same police chief I felt sure I'd have no sympathy nor justice...  That too had me hiding at home.  Later, there were medical reasons to stay at home for weeks on end: a bad case of shingles that lasted over long despite treatment.   Then the pulmonary embolisms in 2015.

I fight the need to self isolate even without cause but given the right circumstances, I can easily become entrenched in staying home and nothing will lure me from it.  I've hinted at this before but never fully explained it.  What happens to me is purely psychological.  It's not agoraphobia but after a prolonged time at home, I begin  to have panic/anxiety about leaving.  It gradually worsens so that I won't go outdoors nor answer the door and then later won't answer the phone...So yes, I have issues, as we all probably know by now, and I battle them.

All that to say I was more than a little eager to get out of the house  and  I won't break restrictions until we go do our normal grocery shopping (is that even normal any more?)   I'm so grateful I live in a rural area that means something like going to the post office or gas station means 'an outing'!

Do you know what else has happened to me during this season?  I find myself getting more and more creative in the kitchen.    I sincerely believe at this time it's my duty to use all I have on hand.  Stores assure us all that there is plenty of food but it's the distributors that can't quite keep up.   Well, there are folks who are waiting on food...and I don't know what might be in or out when I go to the grocery store, so I'm playing at home with what we have and trying to make the very best use of it.   We seldom eat out but just when they determine we must social distance, you know I begin to think I'd love to get food to go...Well delivery has never been an option here and there are no drive thru options, either.  I refuse to drive 30 miles round trip to pick up takeout.

For one thing in the time it takes to drive to the drive thru, get our order and drive home again...I can usually toss something together and we'd have eaten already.  I've long believed if you drive that far you must naturally add the cost of gas to the cost of the food, too.  So whatever the current price per gallon is plus the cost of food...And then my mind will think how much of each ingredient I might have gotten for the cost of it all.   Every now and then I think it's worth it.   Mostly I don't! 

My creativity isn't leading to new recipes, unfortunately.  No it's just figuring out how to use what I have and let nothing get away from me.  I'm staying on top of things at present. And we're eating tried and true things: chicken fried rice and chicken pot pie and meatloaf and lentil tacos and such as that.

The day might well have been grey at the beginning but I looked out the kitchen sitting window this morning as I had coffee and thought how lovely it was.  The new green upon grass and trees was stunning even on a gloomy morning.

On our way into town I commented on the wisteria draped over tree tops.  It's invasive in our area and most of it is ancestor to some home long gone which had their own vine of wisteria in the yard to clamber over fence or lattice or arbor many many years ago.  The aroma is heavenly.

John has no real sense of smell.  It's been fortunate in his job line.  What he can smell are odd scents like a struck match or vanilla.  But today when we were nearing one of the most heavily draped sections of wisteria he lifted his nose and sniffed..."What's that?" he asked.  "Wisteria," I told him.  "Hate the stuff...but it smells good!"  Indeed it does.

I was reading my 1930 March issue of Better Homes and Gardens and the editor asked in his column, "What are your garden memories?"  I can say most assuredly that flowers populate my memory as much as people, and seasons as much as places.   The editor was, of course, referring to flowering plants.   Granny didn't really have a flower garden until after Granddaddy died.  She had a few things here and there but it had to be planted to suit him and what he wanted was straight regimented lines of plants.  So I have no childhood memories of her yard.  Mama's yards were filled with things others had planted.  In one old house we lived in with a lovely pantry with BINS for flour, sugar and meal and open shelves for baked goods...oh but I meant to share about the 'garden' didn't I? At that old house there were loads of daffodils in the yards to bloom in late winter and early spring, followed by the wild roses which clambered over fences at the side of the yard....There may have been some bridal wreath spirea,too,  a lovely old fashioned flowering bush that I love to this day.

But when we moved to Grove Park, the yard had a banana bush, sweet shrub, scotch broom, flowering almond, violets (white and deep purple), forsythia and wisteria in place.  I think perhaps the house was built on an old home site and so the plantings were from the older home.  It was a wonderful thing to go outdoors there and just sniff the frosty spring air filled with a perfume that to this day remains in memory.

My first marriage home had no flowers except dogwoods later in the spring.  No, nor did the house in Andersonville where we lived next.  But when we moved to the house that I loved...I thought there were no flowers planted there.   And then spring came.  Stars of Bethlehem popped through the lawn under the dogwood tree there.   I'd never seen these little flowers before.  I see them now, in various yards but I'd never seen them until we moved there.   There was also a small tree with pink blooms that smelled like heaven, sweet and beckoning and elusive all at once.  I have no idea what that tree was.  It never got very large.  It looked fragile. The flowers were not showy.  Indeed they hid shyly behind other plantings.  But each year those blooms unfurled and bewitched us with their scent.

I've been thinking and thinking about the living room Sam and I were in the other day, how it so spoke to me the personality of the girl who'd passed away.   I keep looking at my home wondering if someone walking into it would recognize me in the choices I've made.  I can't be objective enough to say...

I've been looking at new homes lately, old houses from a favored website that shows interiors and another that shows new mobile home models.  Do I want a new place?  I suppose I keep looking for the ideal home.  Do I see any I'd trade my own home for?   I know too well John's opinion of old homes that need restoration and renovation.  That's a big NO from him, though I do dream over them. 

As for the mobile homes?  None that I've seen thus far have sold me on buying new.  I'm awfully critical of the mobile homes I've looked at recently.  I realize more and more that this home's floor plan has great merit.  There's little wasted space.  Guest rooms here are larger and have nicer closets than any I've seen online.  I am not saying our home is ideal.  Our guest bath has a narrow entry passage due to the air return register being next to the door.  The bathroom itself is probably as big as any in a 1940's or 1950's stick built home's bath,  but that narrow passageway somehow seems to shrink the room.

On the other hand, our bathroom is HUGE.  It's the garden tub in the corner that takes up a deal of floor space. I insisted upon that tub long ago when we were looking for a home.  I seldom use it, though all the grandchildren have adored it because it's bigger than their swimming pools.  The truth is I'm just oriented to a shower.  I've never soaked in a tub much and I suppose it was a fantasy of sorts to think I would have candlelit soaks in that tub.  But the tub is a smidge too short.  I can't lie down in it.  If I do my knees must stick up and out.   It's a deep tub but not quite deep enough given the shortness of it.  There's a step up to get into it but the step is too narrow and slippery if your foot is wet, so I end straddling the side nearest the sink and praying a lot as I get in or out.  I feel terribly wasteful filling it up with hot water and then letting it all run down the drain again because after 10 minutes or so I'm over it all anyway.   So it's really a waste of space.  And because the tub is such a space hog the separate shower is a snug one.  Not ideal at all.

And then there's the rather odd cabinet that stands between the doorway and the toilet.  I like that it offers some privacy but as I said it's odd.  The cabinets are possibly 20 inches wide and the interior of each of the three sections are possibly 30 inches deep and thirty inches high with no shelving at all.  They are the most useless lot of cabinet I've ever in my life come across.   There's a load of wasted space in each because they are so deep that even if you put a shelving unit in them the unit is too far back in the cabinet and there's all that wasted space in front of it.

And since I am being critical, I might as well share the few other faults this house has...There is no proper pantry.  There's also a 2 foot deep 2 foot wide segment of lower cabinet that we can't even access at all.  It's a black hole area where things go to await small children old enough to understand that they are to crawl in and retrieve things.  Josh is just the right age.  He'll soon be too big to get in there.   The upper cabinet also has a black hole section which not only is unreachable but takes a sharp turn to the left and who knows what I've lost in there.  I finally blocked that section off with a piece of scrap wood top and bottom, so nothing goes back into that area. 

While the closets are decent sized, there are only  three closets in the whole of the house.  And the laundry area is a closet really and we've had to cozy the washer and dryer up together because if we don't we can't open the dryer door, so there's a good wasted foot either side of each appliance.  There's only one shelf and it's hung far too high to be useful to me.  But for all my criticism, no, I shouldn't want to replace my home with any I've seen thus far.

We've a good floor plan and comfortable sized rooms.   We've got our lovely porches.  The house fits the land.  Only on occasion does the house seem too small.  It's almost a little too big for John and I unless we're spatting or he's playing guitar and I'm trying to have a phone conversation at the same time. This house is our home but there's no real emotional attachment to it though it's seen many happy years. My liking our home is practical, it's not emotional.  The land has more value to me when it comes to being sentimental.  I love the land because for me it represents the happiest childhood days, a peace and security I knew nowhere else in the whole of my life.  The house just happens to sit upon it.  And while John and I have worked hard to pay it off and make it our home, in the end, it's just a house albeit a pleasant one overall.

Only Katie was  raised here and I suppose in a way Sam was, since he was in Junior high when we came here.  We have made memories here.  But I find memories are portable.  They move with us from place to place. 

I have never been strongly attached to a house except the one that I tell you often and often I loved and I do.    Sam and I drove past that house the other day.  It looks small.  Unhappy things happened there but the house itself was peaceful and staid.  It wasn't pretty and had been mistreated over years but it was solid and patient in waiting.  It embraced me and I felt loved by it if that doesn't sound too far fetched.   And for the record, Sam has no especial attachment to that house though he spent far more years there than in any other.  His memories of that place are not pleasant.  It is the land here that speaks to him of the same peace and safety and steadfast love that I also feel.   I expect if Amie were here to share her thoughts she'd agree, too.  I know my cousins all felt the same and each happily accepted their piece of that one segment of childhood we might consider idyllic.   And now it's Sam and I who own all the land here.

After we returned home yesterday the sun shone out bright and overbearing and then it poured rain, hard.  Puddles in the yard all over again.  We went to bed with the sound of pounding rain.   No surprise to wake to a grey morning, but the world was greener still and more lovely than yesterday.   I am always amazed at how nature so stealthily and yet obviously changes when we blink because there's so much change that it can hardly all happen in the space of a few hours...but it does!

I pulled myself from a bad dream and out into the kitchen for first coffee and found John far too chatty.  He's usually good to let me have at least that first cup without talking to me beyond saying "Good Morning" but not this morning.  He wanted to tell me all about a tv program he'd been watching and I nodded and "uhmmmed" through it but lordy, I just wanted him to stop, lol.   I didn't let my ill temper better me but that much struggle throws me behind, y'all.  I'm serious.  I had to drink all my cup of hot tea, too to climb out of the path of that dark mood that glowered at me this morning. 

I was reading instagram posts and notes from friends and most all mentioned feeling a sort of malaise with all the social isolation and bad news and expressed their sincere desire to do something and I think that gave me the push I really needed to get over myself.  I got up and took pictures of all the back entry, laundry and kitchen and then I set myself the task to really straighten and clean and address issues that could be fixed right away.  I guess it took the better part of 3 1/2 hours.  John stopped me to make lunch finally because his breakfast was long gone. 

I'll be sharing those before and after shots in another post...and for now I shall bid you adieu.  The sun is shining and the wind is blowing, John's outdoors mowing.  I've just rummaged the clearly emptier fridge and planned a meal to serve us tonight.  Another day has drawn to an end (at least as far as visiting goes) and there are things to be done before night falls once more.

Hugs to all...Talk to you later!

(C) Terri Cheney
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