Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Holiday Hoopla

Dear God, give me the strength to write this post. It has been many days since I have written anything, many days of excitement and work, and now I am poor in spirit and bedraggled. It is my third day without a shower, and I would like as well as the healing to write this post, a little later on, the energy to shower.

I stopped all my writing projects when I started decorating for the holidays. But you just don't decorate, you clean as well. Our apartment was due for a huge cleaning. I'm lucky that my husband threw himself into the cleaning project with as much commitment and plunk as I did. All our efforts had an end in sight. This last Sunday we invited a couple and a little old lady that we know from church over to our apartment to have lunch. The lunch lasted over four hours. So I guess it was a success. Our guests were the sweetest, most down to earth people who have over this past year been very kind to my husband and I. We wanted to give back. We wanted to honor them and make them feel special. The husband of the couple is vegetarian so we served baked manicotti and meatballs on the side, with salad and garlic bread. I made brownie sundaes for dessert.

There is a second couple from church, quite elderly, who we have invited to lunch on Sunday December 12th after church services. That Sunday my mother should drive up from Connecticut to be with us as well. I'm going to ask my mother if she could bring my best friend, who lives in Connecticut as well, but has never been to our apartment in Vermont. My friend is schizophrenic and probably incapable of driving the distance to Vermont. Whenever I see her, I drive down to Connecticut. For that lunch I have to make some of the food gluten free, since my mother has an intolerance for wheat flour. I'm going to cook quiches (you can buy gluten free pie crust), and have corn bread and salad. For dessert I think I will make an apple crisp, served hot with vanilla ice cream.

I can't get through these Sunday's without some help from my medication. Last Sunday I took extra anti-psychotic medication and a small amount of a narcotic. Part of the plan is to cook and prepare as much food as possible the Saturday before.

Our propane heater is not working and we are waiting for a replacement part that had to be ordered and mailed to the service department of our propane provider. So we live in the bedroom with its one little 14" electric heater, close the door to the front room, and have another little 12" electric heater heating the kitchen so that it is just warm enough for the cats, and for us to walk through to get to the bathroom or the phone. We have discovered, through trial and error that we cannot plug in any more electric heaters or stronger electric heaters because the breaker will pop and everything will go dead. The house is old and it's electrical system is old. Sunday I went to church while my husband stayed at home and tried to heat the apartment thoroughly (because we don't expect our guests to brave the cold like we do), and cook the manicotti in the oven at the same time. He said the breaker popped three times. I sincerely expect that by our next Sunday lunch the propane heater will be fixed.

I tied garlands of plastic flowers and fabric leaves across all the windows in the kitchen, and hung bows. I took our small three foot artificial Christmas tree, put it on a glass side table, and hung all my decorations on it. I haven't had this Christmas tree out for about four years, not since my husband's daughter was living with us. For the dining table I bought a green table cloth with a bright red runner. Unfortunately the candles dripped wax and I spent Sunday evening after everyone left scratching the wax off of the glass candles with my fingernails, loosening it up with glass cleaner, and then scratching some more. The next morning my fingernails hurt but I found in the pantry a fancy box of smokeless, dripless candles that I am delighted to put in the candle sticks for when we have company again. The wax smeared runner was treated with Zoot, a wicked good stain remover, and then put in a hot water wash. I came out wax free, and perhaps, a slightly less intense color of red. I don't care, it still looks good. For a meal, there is nothing more delightful than lit candles and fresh flowers. Everyone had a cloth napkin that matched the tablecloth and that was tied on the jadeware plates with a bright red and green artificial poinsettia flower napkin ring. I spent over $80 at Bed Bath and Beyond for the table linens and holiday napkin rings which I am certain, my husband has no clue how his hard earned money slipped through my fingers. I don't think he would be too mad though, he was as proud of how beautiful our table looked as I was.

I am an artist at heart, or at least I have an artistic temperament, and thus I love a highly decorated living space. Objects of art, colored glass, fine fabrics, lovely places to sit, blankets and handmade quilts. When we moved into this apartment I was still receiving a large amount of divorce alimony and the rugs and curtains and lighting fixtures are all the best and bought on that money, which is many years now long gone. We have many antiques, but alas, the animals or use have broken most of them. There is not perfection in my apartment. I remember as a teen visiting a relative of one of my father's girlfriends, and the girlfriend told me that her sister-in-law kept little cans of paint and stain to touch up scratches on furniture. That is a personality so opposed to my own. In my life the law of entropy seems strong, things break and get worn out, money gets spent, accidents happen, there are unforeseen bills, but we thankfully have everything we really need and while we morn the accidents and the losses, we let them go, we let glory recede and value diminish, as for instance, when the dog knocks over a table and the the glass on a stain glass lamp cracks. And we are not above buying used goods. Half my clothing is used, and more than half the furniture in the apartment is used. Our kitchen sofa we bought for a sweet $170 recently and it is in perfect condition and very comfortable. A nice new sofa would have cost about $1000. The antique store we got the sofa from does not deliver, so we tipped it upside-down on the roof of our car and secured it with a very long piece of bright orange electrical cable. We did not have enough seats for last Sunday's luncheon, so we went to three used furniture stores to find a chair. What fun, hunting for a funky chair. The extra chairs are stored in the barn. We have decided that all our chairs will be different, but all will have character. Saturday before we discovered that one of our antique chairs was broken, so my husband put between the split wood Gorilla Glue and clamped it tight together. Sunday morning he removed the clamp and the chair was good to go.

When our guests came the first thing we did was give them a tour of the apartment. In part, this is because there are many pieces of original art hung everywhere. There is not a single door to a room that doesn't have a painting or framed drawing or print hung on it. The door to the bathroom, the door to the pantry. By accident only one door is left free, a small door to a closet where we keep the cat and dog food. I discuss my art, what it means, how it was created. And some of the fun is that we can compare my art with my brother's and my father's art. My brother's art is very serene and he is self taught like me, while my father's art is the art of someone classically trained in school in the manner of an American Impressionist. We share genes, we share biology, but because we are each creative and have vision, our art has turned out so very different. And then there is the primitive art that I have bought of other artists. I like the style of a self trained artist. It feels like their means are limited, but their desire to express themselves is so great that mental hurdles are leaped over. The means to an end is more difficult because they lack training, but the effort and will compensates due to innate creativity. If you really want to do it, you will find a way. This is the spirit of the art that I have bought.

Once my sister visited a home with my former husband that I had decorated, and she said that everywhere she looked, there was eye candy.

There is something to be proud of in serving others a meal. It is not an easy experience for me to do, even with the help of my husband. And then the next day I was so very weak, that I could barely listen to my husband talk. I almost lacked the concentration to listen to his sentences. I even said to my husband, "I have to pee but I am too tired to get out of bed and go to the bathroom". To this problem my husband had no answer, it was so ridiculous a sentiment. But it was true. My weariness was bone deep. And today, two days later, I am not yet completely recovered. I am just really, really lucky that I don't have any obligations. I am really proud of myself that yesterday I did all the monthly bills, walked to bank to make certain there would be enough in our checking account to cover them (there wasn't by a large degree, the consequence of Christmas gift buying and purchases like the table linens and the extra chair), and then to the post office to mail the bills. And also yesterday I went to a knitting group at church to learn how to knit. My instructor kept forgetting about me and letting me screw myself up. I had the feeling, not remembering how my needles and fingers and yarn was supposed to go, that I wanted to cry, but that I was too grown up and too in control to actually burst into tears. The frustration made crying seem an option, but I am really too adult to do this. My plan is to Google "how to knit" and try to get some online instruction, and then return next Monday to knitting group for some more personal attention. I'm not going to give up. And maybe next Monday my mind will be a little more healed, with better attention and retention, so the teaching won't slip and disappear from my mind immediately after it is given, as it did yesterday.

About twice I have gone into the hospital around Christmas time. There is a little more stress for me because I like to celebrate the holiday season so much. Amidst exhaustion there is satisfaction though. And I think I am in a place in my life where there is no threat of going into the hospital. I take too much medication and my husband is such a nurturer, taking care of me when I am weak, sharing the burden of everything I try to accomplish. I'm grateful this season.

I may soon try to go back to my serious writing project. I look forward to having the strength and the free time.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Karen,

    Me again. I just wanted to thank you for writing this post too. I love your blog, love hearing about your life and the people and things you hold dear. You and your husband are so kind to start entertaining guests. You are definitely an artist and it is a wonderful thing to make your home attractive and comfortable. I cleaned and organized my house for Thanksgiving. What a difference it makes to treat your home mindfully and with lovingkindness! My brother liked it so much he stayed at my house for four nights which was a treat for me.

    I will write an email to you soon. Take care,

    Kate : )


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