Thursday, January 17, 2008

Grandma Day Care

Like many mothers today who work from home so they can be with their children, I take care of my grandbaby while I work. I jokingly call our business, “Electrical Contractor & Day Care.”

I sit at the computer this morning with neat piles of work on my desk that must be finished by the end of the day. And yet, instead of working, I am writing about my baby granddaughter. As I write, I hear her waking slowly from one of her little “catnaps”. She is not a baby who lives by schedule, and sleeps only in twenty-minute increments during the day, which necessitates that I creatively juggle my business responsibilities.

This new phase of my life brings back memories of earlier days with my own children. I recall my unsuccessful attempts to schedule their baby needs, and the resulting passage of days which seemed to consist of nothing more than feeding, cleaning up and rocking tired babies. This morning, I placed Alivia in the high chair while I fixed breakfast for my husband, poured formula into her oatmeal and added a little fruit, sat down with my own plate of scrambled eggs in front of me and proceeded to spoon a bit of cereal into Alivia’s little bird mouth and a forkful of eggs into my own. However, Alivia had different ideas. She was too tired to eat – she wanted her bottle, and she wanted it now. So, I held the bottle for her, as I finished my eggs. But, before I could spoon another bit of oatmeal, her eyes were closing tightly.

So, I took off her bib and carried her into the office with me for five minutes while I made copies of a proposal and got the drawings together to be taken out to the jobsite. Once this was finished, I snuggled into the rocking chair with her and she sleepily finished the rest of her bottle. Then, I cuddled her against my chest until her body became heavy with the weight of sleep, kissed her precious silky head, and placed her into her bed, covering her with a soft blanket. I breathed a peaceful sigh of relief --

I went back into the kitchen to clean up – rinsing out her bottle, cleaning up the high chair, placing the breakfast dishes into the dishwasher. I was reminded of the years and years of my life that have been spent doing these very same chores. And I marvel at the immensity of time women spend on these daily tasks while they are raising families.

And, here I am, almost sixty years old, beginning the cycle once more. I have the luxury of working from a home office, and pray every day that I will have the energy to care for all of my grandchildren when they are tiny, if their mothers work. Next year, Lord willing, I will have a little grandson to care for also. It is time-consuming, tiring, and repetitious work, but there is nothing that can compare to the knowledge that you are helping to create lifetime memories and a strong sense of security for these little ones. I hope that none of my grandchildren will ever have to be placed in the arms of strangers during the day.

Already, having Alivia here each day has created a firm bond between us. I look forward to the pleasures I will share with her and her future cousins. I imagine reading to them, having tea parties with them in the garden and taking them to the playground. Of course, many of my days are a bit overwhelming. I wish I did not have to work –it would be wonderful to be retired and have no other responsibilities than this gentle job of baby-tending, but, life is what it is, and I will make the best of it. And, I will be certain to savor these baby years which pass so swiftly.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Contentment 101

I rose from my softly quilted bed this morning to a cloudy, warmer than normal January Saturday -- in anticipation of a blissfully unscheduled day. I put the dogs out for their morning romp, filled a favorite flowered mug with steaming coffee and slowly walked through the sleepy rooms of my house, opening curtains to the early morning light. What a lovely beginning to my day.

Those of us who are blessed with an appreciation for the simple pleasures in life are fortunate. Our world today runs at breakneck speed, and it is so easy to let these little pleasures pass by unnoticed. We must make a conscious effort to savor the insignificant moments of our days which can bring deep satisfaction to our hungry souls.

We spend long hours working to afford the necessities and luxuries in life, and often forget to enjoy the fruits of our labors. As we rush from one chore to another we pass by opportunities to savor the sensual pleasures in our lives. How often do we wolf down a cup of coffee and grab a breakfast bar without even consciously taking notice of the aroma and taste of the coffee and the textured goodness of the bar. In our mad dash to the car in the morning, do we even see the lovely flowers we planted along the walk, as they beg us to look and sniff and touch. Do we listen to the music that plays softly as we drive or notice the seasonal changes along the way. Other than complaining about snowy roads, I think many people are so internally focused they don't see the new leaves opening a bit more each day in the spring, or the wildflowers growing along the road all summer.

It does not steal time from our hectic schedules to merely be truly present in each moment of our daily routine -- to smell, listen, see and feel all the pleasures we encounter, to savor the possessions we have worked for, and to consciously appreciate our surroundings.

Contentment is within our reach if we learn to savor these simple delights which are sprinkled bountifully throughout our days.

Thursday, January 10, 2008


I was startled to realize that soon we will plan our 40th high school reunion. I have worked on the reunion committees before and thoroughly enjoyed the planning and camaraderie. This one should be especially interesting, since we haven't held a reunion in ten years. It will be fun to catch up on everyones' lives.

I wasn't particularly attractive or popular in high school, so I don't have any image to uphold. I attend strictly for the fun of seeing people I haven't seen in years. The passage of time is kind to some and brutal to others. There are wonderful success stories which fill us with envy, as well as grief for the classmates whose untimely deaths shock us. For the most part, our previous reunions have been happy gatherings. The cliques and elitism which were so prevalent in our suburban high school in the 1960's are merely a memory. We come together as one to celebrate those important growing up years we shared in this little town and to share what we have become.

I must admit, though, I can't believe it will be our 40th!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Extreme Home Makeover

I was disturbed to read that the filming of an Extreme Home Makeover segment in our area was voted the top newpaper story of 2007 in our local paper.

What rock are people living under if this was the most memorable story for them. We have serious issues to be dealt with in this world, and I find it difficult to understand why so many people can shut their eyes to the problems facing our society and instead live in a world of "TV reality." I'm sorry, folks, but as entertaining as TV's reality shows may be, they are not the news of consequence in our lives.

Contrary to popular opinion, I believe that Extreme Home Makeover is simply a Cinderella story which makes huge money for its actors (and, yes they ARE actors of a sort), its sponsors, its producers, and the network. If you read closely between the lines, most of the "contributions" for these projects are made by the local contractors, suppliers and volunteers who do the actual work and provide the materials. If this program was a truly philanthropic endeavor, the money expended on one of these lavish homes would be much better spent on two or three modest Habitat for Humanity type homes. But, then, that wouldn't sell commercial time, would it?

I have been involved in the construction industry for over thirty years, and feel that Extreme Home Makeover and similar popular home improvement programs have fostered a practice of extremely fast-paced construction schedules. People see a home built from start to finish in one week, or a room renovated in a day, and they believe that this is the norm. Our "need for speed" culture has also impacted commercial construction. We are noticing increasingly abbreviated construction schedules for commercial buildings. Often these schedules are unrealistic. Quality work takes time. There is no question in my mind that because of the current demand for speed in our industry, quality and safety are being sacrificed.

My hope for the New Year is that people spend a little less time watching reality TV and a little more time thoughtfully considering the important issues -- the election of a new President, the ever-widening gap between the rich and poor in this country, affordable energy and health care, and the urgent considerations of climate change.