in my life.

Do you have a clear memory of what you were like when you were little? I find myself wishing that I could remember more. I'm sure it's all part of my almost-midlife crisis. Other elements of said crisis are: finding it to be a real chore when I have to make myself "presentable", coming within an inch of chopping my hair off every-other-month, an increasing fondness for chips and salsa, an intolerance for uncomfortable clothes, becoming even more of a hermit, etc.. etc... It's a real doozey of a crisis, as you can see.

I grew up in a house that was just under 1100 square feet.  A two story model with three bedrooms and one bath for our family of four (later to become five) in a perfectly middle class neighborhood.  If we were poor we didn't know it.  We lived on a dead end street and ran amuck on that wooded piece of guarded security... say it with me, until the street lights came on.

We didn't have a lot of things but apparently we didn't need a lot of things.

We didn't always have a clothes dryer. We just hung our clothes outside on the line as if we lived in Amish country.  Sorry Amish country, nothing personnel.

We didn't have a credit card so there was no racking up a lifestyle above our pay grade.  If we didn't have the money, we didn't get it. We didn't get a lot of things. AND I can count the number of times we went out to dinner... on one hand, with two fingers.

We did a lot of things for ourselves.

My father tended the yard every Saturday morning ~ edging, trimming and watering.  He finished the attic for a bedroom, built a shower in the basement, poured concrete for our driveway. He also did the maintenance work on our vehicles... himself. Another one of those lost arts gone by the way of updated technology. you never see anyone under the hood of their car anymore unless you are in the parking lot of Walmart. See, it just comes out!

 My mom did all the cooking and cleaning and child rearing. You know, all the woman's work.

You made a lot of things yourself.

My mom sewed a decent amount of my clothes, and I loved them. She always let me pick out the material. In fact, I could "design" what I wanted. She really did make great things. Things I loved.  Skirts, sun dresses, and pajamas. I remember one sun dress in particular, blue print with white rick rack and lace. It was amazing and would have stood the test of time.  I know this because years later I had a dress in the same style (but without the rick rack). The sewing gene just didn't take but I so wished it had. My mom could Scarlet O'Hara the crap out of a pair of drapes.  Come to think of it she made the drapes, too! She kills me. The only thing sewing related you will find in my home is a miniature needle and thread emergency kit that I got from a stay at the Fairmont once.

It was a simpler time and if you're reading this, chances are you grew up in this hand me down prism of home sewn clothes, pot roast on Sunday dinners and hours playing in the sprinklers.

Every so often I see something or read something that makes me nostalgic for a much more scaled back and pared down lifestyle.  For a simpler time. I've always been mindful of my sentimental heart, but I'm learning to nurture that hyper awareness for how my life has changed and clicked into a good place. I want it to serve as an appreciation, a motivation tool rather than a rut that makes me yearn for yesterday or focus too much on how quickly time is passing. Because I'm pretty sure that focusing too much on how quickly time is passing and mourning that it's gone only makes it worse. Besides, right now is pretty awesome. Forward, moving on. It can be a real kick in the pants.  

 Still, at times I catch myself trying to recall what my days were like when I was little floating cloudberries. I know that I was generally happy and quite care-free. I know I was loved, daily. Every minute, in fact. I know I had everything I needed and most things I wanted. I know I was taught not to ask for things,  to be content with what I had. I know all of these things, but I'm grasping to capture a few vivid pictures of the mundane moments of my life. They are there, I know they are. I just need to dig a little.

I remember that as a kid I was wild and friendly and a bit spazzy. I talked too much and faked stomachaches when it was time to try new foods. I am fairly certain the correlation between these and my mom's memories is something like zero, give or take.  I'm just assuming here, of course, but I think it's safe to say grown-ups remember The Other Stuff.  The Big Stuff.  The Headlines.  Like the time I got the German measles and almost didn't make it. I've heard the stories, but don't remember a thing.  Or each year's Big Birthday Party. Gift (why can't I recall these?).  Or the up-late, night-before assembly sessions.  I'm totally projecting here, but I don't think I'm far off, if my own past years' parenting is any indication.


The loveliest thing about memory, in my experience, is that it's deeply impressionable, open to influence.  And it doesn't require much nudging, in any case, to call to mind all the twinkling bits.

I'll remember, for sure, how we lived on a dead end street, most of the homes filled to the brim with kids all about the same ages. And how, after supper we all ran around playing hide and seek and catching fireflies. It really was all it's cracked up to be, deceptively simple, and fun.  And the universal truth, confirmed once again, that sprinklers in the summer are ridiculously entertaining.  The grown-ups, they seemed to like them, too. I'll not soon forget how I woke up to the Christmas of my dreams one snowy morning.  It is likely that Santa never made it through my list, but somehow he divined my little girl's heart, and crossed off all those many lines with one spot-on show-stopper. My first Barbie doll.

I'll long hold onto this big lump of gratitude over family dinners, every single day. I think back fondly on the way summer vacations re-appeared, every year. and I consider those many miles driving in the car with my family one of the best gifts I was ever given. I remember winters so long we didn't see the grass until April, when we would finally see the squirrels bouncing about like it was the Second Coming, hoovering acorns, dawn to dusk.  The weather was cold, but crisp, bright and blue, sixty two dee-grees and we would be hauling out the shorts and tank tops.  It's not that this was surprising, exactly, but three weeks earlier, it was three below.  You'd better believe we walked to the park.

While driving around this past summer, I decided to stop by the "the old house"  I hadn't been there in a while, and being summer, it would have been in full bloom. As I drove up, though, my heart dropped to the floor. It was so small. so run down. I sat in the car and stared with tears in my eyes. The flowers. The trees. The little white picket fence. gone. It was like a piece of my childhood had gone with it. A piece of myself. I don't really know what will come of that place, or who lives there now. I can tell you that it broke my heart into a million pieces.

I have my memories, though. Of the perfect little house with the white picket fence. dancing flowers, and laughter, and friends, and stories about magical sea creatures, and the messy-haired, big-eyed little girl who was fascinated by everything around her. And I have photographs, and this little space, to represent all that it meant to me. And for this sentimental woman, thank goodness for that. My today's are spent soaking up words, and sunshine, and love for my family. I'm hoping for unexpected thrills and quiet, mixed with a strong swig of rowdy. I plan to notice beauty for the grace that it is and wake up early every day.

Concord Grape-Thyme Bars

makes 12 large squares

1 pound concord grapes, stemmed
1 tablespoon fresh juice from about 1 lemon
2 cups (about 14 ounces) sugar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3 cups (about 15 ounces) all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
16 tablespoons (8 ounces) unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
Squeeze grapes between your fingers to separate the skins from the pulp. Place skins in bowl of food processor and pulse until roughly chopped, about 5 pulses. Place pulp in medium saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until the grapes lose their shape, about 10 minutes. Pour pulp through a fine mesh sieve into a large bowl. Use a paddle or large spoon to push pulp through sieve. Discard seeds.

Combine grape skins, pulp, lemon juice, and 1 cup sugar in now empty saucepan. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 30 minutes. Add thyme and continue simmering, stirring frequently, until mixture is reduced and has thickened to a jam-like consistency, about 15 minutes more. Remove saucepan from heat and transfer to a bowl to cool.

Adjust oven rack to middle position and preheat oven to 375°F. Butter a 13- by 9-inch baking dish
In bowl of food processor, combine flour, baking powder, remaining 1 cup sugar, and salt; pulse to combine, about 5 pulses. Add egg and butter and pulse until mixture is cohesive but still crumbly, 8 to 12 pulses.

Press 2/3 of dough into bottom of prepared baking dish. Spread grape jam evenly over dough. Sprinkle remaining dough over jam, leaving pockets of jam visible. Bake until golden and set, about 45 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely, about 1 hour. Cut into 12 squares and serve.

  • The book is almost always better than the movie.
  • Growing your own vegetables is definitely worth the work.
  • Older people really are often wiser, but once in a while you meet a very wise young person.
  • When you're buying food, expensive brands usually taste better than cheaper ones.
  • It's easier to stay organized than to deal with the consequences of not being organized.
  • Falling in love is a lot easier than staying in love.
  • Remodeling always costs twice as much as you've planned, and takes twice as long.
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    Today's my birthday, and after several weeks of mental flip-flops trying to decide just how I felt about it, I'm announcing to the internet that I'm turning 60. Even typing it makes me catch my breath a bit, even though every single person I've told that I was going to be 60 has looked at me in complete disbelief. For those of you who are a long ways from this age, let me warn you: sixty is like no birthday I've had before. Sixty is the first birthday where I've had to consider that my life is more than half over.

    But once I got used to the idea, I've also spent the last few weeks thinking about what a great life I've had, with so many experiences to be grateful for. Life continues to throw new things my way, and I love the new things I'm learning now. Even at the ripe new-to-me age of sixty, life is very, very good. And since I know there's a pretty good possibility that most of you reading this are younger than sixty, I thought it might be fun to share a few things I've learned along the way. In no particular order, here's my list of sixty things I've learned.

    And blogging is most fun when it's a conversation, so if you feel like leaving a comment, I'd love to hear something you've learned in your own life.

    Kalyn's List of Sixty Things I've Learned in Sixty Years
    1. The book is almost always better than the movie.
    2. Growing your own vegetables is definitely worth the work.
    3. Older people really are often wiser, but once in a while you meet a very wise young person.
    4. When you're buying food, expensive brands usually taste better than cheaper ones.
    5. It's easier to stay organized than to deal with the consequences of not being organized.
    6. Falling in love is a lot easier than staying in love.
    7. Remodeling always costs twice as much as you've planned, and takes twice as long.
    8. Spending more for good quality clothing that you love to wear is a good investment.
    9. People who make you laugh are important to have around.
    10. Intelligence is much more important than age when it comes to choosing friends.
    11. No one is thinking about you, they are all thinking about themselves. (From "Rules for Aging," a very funny book.)
    12. Women were much happier with their looks before television was invented. (From "The Beauty Myth," a very insightful book.)
    13. Having a huge house isn't that great if you have to clean it yourself.
    14. Not having car payments is definitely worth driving an older car.
    15. Most kids will behave well if they have the right incentive.
    16. Understanding how someone else feels is pretty much impossible.
    17. Butter makes almost anything taste better.
    18. Whether you feel really bad or really good, it usually doesn't last for long.
    19. It's much easier to stay in shape than it is to get back into shape.
    20. Breakfast really is the most important meal of the day.
    21. Knowing a lot of people can be fun, but having a few good friends is much more important.
    22. Getting up early can be just as fun as staying up late.
    23. Some of the best times of your life can be moments when you're all by yourself.
    24. Having money in the bank is a wonderful feeling. (This is a lesson I was slow to learn!)
    25. People who can't be honest with themselves won't be honest with you either.
    26. If you're more intelligent than the average person, you'll be misunderstood a lot.
    27. Not everything about getting older is enjoyable, but it beats the alternative.
    28. Always having fresh-squeezed lemon juice in the freezer is a wonderful thing.
    29. Saving all your meat and vegetable scraps and making homemade stock is a good habit to acquire.
    30. People who are great cooks, rarely get invited to people's houses for dinner (unless they're lucky enough to have friends who are also great cooks.)
    31. When you lose weight, it's a good idea to get rid of all the clothes in the larger size you don't want to return to.
    32. Most people don't really notice whether or not your fingernails are done.
    33. When the day finally comes for your hair appointment, your hair will look better than it has for weeks.
    34. It really is possible to become great friends with your brothers and sisters.
    35. It's much easier to criticize the schools than it is to fix them.
    36. If you're not lucky enough to have children of your own, being around other people's kids can be good enough.
    37. Most every problem will seem less serious after a few days have gone by.
    38. Most adults have very little idea what the job of a grade school teacher is like.
    39. If you have bad news to deliver, the only fair way is to do it in person.
    40. Flowers can make even the worst day seem a lot better.
    41. Growing your own herbs is one of the best things you can do to become a better cook.
    42. Price has little if anything to do with the quality of restaurant food.
    43. In strange cities when you aren't sure where you are, a taxi is never too expensive.
    44. Nothing improves a child's hearing as much as praise. (From "Rules for Teaching.")
    45. Your best friends are the ones who'll tell you what you need to know but can't see because you're too close to the situation.
    46. Unless it's pretty outrageous, most people never notice what you're wearing.
    47. You'll never get fat by drinking too much water.
    48. Most any vegetable tastes great if it's tossed with a bit of olive oil, some herbs, and roasted at high heat.
    49. Don't buy tomatoes from the store unless they have that fresh tomato smell. (And even then, they are rarely that good.)
    50. Doing as much good as you can is like putting emotional money in the bank.
    51. Shoes that aren't comfortable are never a good purchase, even when they're on sale.
    52. When you're on vacation, sometimes it's better to buy postcards of the scenery than to spend lots of time trying to get good photos.
    53. People who talk about other people to you are probably talking about you to other people. (I do admire people who never gossip, but it's a trait I'm still working on acquiring.)
    54. Pretty much everyone's face looks more attractive when they're smiling.
    55. You can catch a lot more flies with honey than you can with vinegar. (Favorite saying of my mother who died in 1998.)
    56. Words actually can hurt a lot more than sticks and stones.
    57. Cards that come in the mail are more fun than e-cards any day.
    58. Often it's better not to say what you really think.
    59. Even people who are very intelligent sometimes do things that are truly stupid.
    60. Nobody knows everything, and the longer you live, the more things there are that you know absolutely nothing about.
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