To Read, or… To Read!

Today’s (yesterday’s?) Bloganuary prompt:

What book is next on your reading list?

So many…

My read books are arranged by color; it’s so calming to look at shelves with books in order by shades of red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, black, and white, as well as by size, largest on the left to smallest on the right. And then there’s half a shelf with unread books stacked horizontally. So that when I’m done with a book, the “next in queue” are easy to spot, and I can choose based on what mood I’m in.

I’m about halfway through “Finding Dorothy” and am re-reading “Difficult Conversations.” I just finished “Seven Days in June” so I’m up for a new one to add to my rotation, as I like to read several books at once. I’m guessing it’ll probably be “Dying For a Paycheck” or “The Nightingale.” Or maybe both!

Books to Read!

I Scream! You Scream! We All Scream for Snow Cream!

With so much fresh, powdery snow, we couldn’t miss the opportunity to make snow cream. It’s part of the magic of snow days in the south. You take what has fallen from the sky and turn it into the most delectable sweet treat ever made.

Secretly, longingly, I hoped that making snow cream would trigger memories for Mom. We had made snow cream during the few big storms of my childhood. Would that be far enough back that she might remember?

As we finished our chicken noodle soup, I asked her if she’d like to do something special. She stared at me, not really comprehending what I was asking. “We’re going to make snow cream!” She continued to stare. “Like ice cream! Sweet and cold!” When she heard “ice cream” she got up. I pointed to her bedroom slippers. “You’ll need to put on shoes that cover all your feet.” She said, “Oh, yes,” and walked into the living room. “They’re by the stairs, Mom.” She started towards the fireplace. I followed her and gently touched her arm. “This way, Mom.” “Oh, yeah, yeah, yeah.”

In the kitchen, I set out what we’d need: a large bowl, a wooden spoon, vanilla, and a can of sweetened condensed milk.

Getting ready to make snow cream

On the back porch we knocked the icy top off of the mound of snow, then began scooping the powdery fluff into a bowl. Always better to have too much than not enough, so I filled it full.

Fresh snow!

Back in the kitchen, we sprinkled vanilla over the top, then began pouring sweetened condensed milk over the mound of snow.

Adding vanilla and sweetened condensed milk

Then we stirred, and stirred, and stirred.

Stirring and stirring and stirring

And then the finished product! Perfection!

A bowl of fresh snow cream
Yum, yum, yum!

Sadly, this didn’t dislodge distant memories for Mom. She kept saying, “This is so good. I’ve never had this before!” And as soon as I washed the bowls, she came into the kitchen, asking for some more of the cold white stuff. All in all, a win.

Blah, Blah, Blah

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is a superpower you’d love to have?

I remember being asked this question in RA (Resident Assistant) training my junior year of college. My answer hasn’t changed in the 30+ years since.

I’d love to be able to speak every language in the world fluently. Can you imagine the connection that would happen if you could communicate with every person you met? Not just transactional conversations, but sharing jokes, understanding humor. Asking for or giving directions. Offering comfort. The ease at which visitors would feel, hearing their language spoken. This would be the most magical power of all.

Getting Older

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is a cause you’re passionate about and why?

There are a few.

Ending mass incarceration in the United States.

Eliminating food insecurity.

And one that I’ve thought about more and more over the past few years: systems to support the aging population in the US. This wasn’t top of mind until I became my Mom’s guardian. And as I have navigated everything on her behalf, I have to wonder how people (especially aging persons with dementia) address this if they don’t have an advocate. I am incredibly grateful that we have resources to make this easier. Before I became her guardian, I was living close by. My father had the foresight to procure long term care insurance that mitigates the financial burden of care. I live in a city with a large retired population which has incredible healthcare resources. And as I’ve navigated this, I’ve noticed that caretaking generally falls to a child or another family member. What happens if there isn’t a child or family member?

It’s not just logistics. What about quality of life? Making sure that there’s a place they can call home. That is safe. That is stimulating. With healthy food. That may have been what assisted living facilities set out to provide when they were conceived. And COVID exposed the limitations of those facilities. One of the most dehabilitating factors for someone with dementia is isolation. And that’s what COVID forced upon folks in assisted living facilities. So. Much. Isolation. I understand they were doing the best they could with the information at hand. The isolation, though, was one of, if not the main, reason I decided to move Mom in with me. And had I known at the time how difficult it would be, I may have thought twice about that decision. But it makes me wonder what will happen when I reach that stage. And what options will be available.

“I’m curious…”

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What is a life lesson you feel everyone can benefit from learning?

Be curious. There’s usually more to learn. Ask questions, focusing on understanding. “Why?,” as in “Why did you do that?” will often result in defensiveness. “Walk me through how you got to this decision…” invites conversation and an opportunity to learn a person’s thought process.

My team teases me that my favorite thing to say is, “I’m curious…” then I ask a question. It’s true, though, I am curious! 🙂

Snow Day!

The big news is that Izzy is coming to town. Over the past few days we’ve heard we’d get a dusting of snow, 3 – 6 inches, 12 – 18 inches, or even 24 inches. That’s a pretty wide range. It honestly doesn’t matter. Regardless of how much we get, things will essentially shut down. And I’m kind of looking forward to it.

There’s something magical about a snow day. About waking up, looking outside, and seeing everything transformed, covered in a blanket of white. Quiet. As if the covering of snow dampens sounds, a hush encompassing the world.

Snow days as a child were an adventure. We didn’t have many, but the ones that we had were doozies. We often lost power during snow storms. When I was maybe seven or eight, there was one storm where the power was out for a week. And I loved it. We huddled in our den, the room closed off to the rest of the house to conserve heat, wood stove burning. We each had multiple quilts and blankets that we snuggled under, the weight of the blankets providing comfort. We cooked our meals in a dutch oven in the wood burning stove. Soup and bread. With snow cream for dessert. Snow, vanilla, and sweetened condensed milk. And the belief that snow could be transformed into the most delicious treat ever with a few stirs. We read during the day and talked at night or played board games by candlelight. I was sad when the electricity returned. I loved being together in our cocoon.

We’re ready as we can be for the weather this weekend. The pantry is stocked, there are flashlights (with new batteries) and candles in each room, the gas fireplace is working, blankets are easily accessible, all devices are charged.

And there’s a large bowl ready to put out on the back deck, ready to catch a fresh bowl of snow for snow cream, if we should be so lucky.

An Ideal Day

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What does your ideal day look like?

The day starts by waking up naturally and well-rested. I love having visitors, so the house will be full of friends. We’ll drink tea and coffee in our pajamas and talk, lounging about. Someone suggests breakfast (though by this time it’s likely brunch), and several of us will head to the kitchen to make waffles, eggs, bacon, toast, and a fruit salad with fresh mint from the herb garden. We’ll eat on the deck, warmed by the sun, conversation flowing easily and lots of laughter. So much laughter. Afterwards, we’ll get ourselves together, and head to the mountains for a hike, marveling at the blue in the Blue Ridge Mountains and enjoying a waterfall or two. We’ll come back home, order in some barbecue (likely Luella’s), share a nice bottle of wine, then sit on the front porch, chatting and watching the fireflies light up. We’ll stay there til we can’t keep our eyes open, then head to bed, ready to enjoy another perfect day in the morning.

An Emoji Is Worth 1,000 Words

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What emoji(s) do you like to use?

Ooh! Dancing emojis are my favorite. Dancing panda, dancing monkey, dancing Pikachu. It seems these may be custom for our Slack instance, so I’ve pasted a screenshot here:

Dancing emojis!

Also anything that seems to be happy. The bouncing rainbow sheep. The joyous pig.

Happy emojis

Though this ages me, I also do love the crying/laughing emoji. 😂

A Beautiful, Bold Life

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What does it mean to live boldly?

Doing the things that you yearn to do, but that might be a little scary. Sometimes they will work out, sometimes they won’t (and it can be crushing when it doesn’t). You won’t have to worry that you didn’t try, though.

There have been times that I was sure of a path: a career path, a relationship. And I threw myself into them. And they didn’t work out. But I gave it a go.

And there were times that I wasn’t sure of a path, and the uncertainty was scary, but I moved forward and oh my goodness, the richness that ensued. So, I guess living boldly is being okay with the uneasiness and moving forward anyway.

These Are a Few of My Favorite Things

Today’s Bloganuary prompt:

What are 5 things you’re grateful for today?

  1. The first paperwhite bloom. I bought 5 paperwhite bulbs as an impulse purchase in the checkout line at Ace Hardware. They were piled in a cardboard box and I thought, “how difficult could it be to grow these?” I brought them home and placed them in a shallow dish of water. A week later I transferred them to a pot with rocks and dirt. Each day the stems grew a little bit taller, a little bit wider. And today the first blooms opened. I inhaled deeply, intoxicated by the sweet scent.
  2. Laughter. Mom and I held hands as she prepared to say the blessing. “Oh, lawd,” she began. We both giggled, which turned into all out laughter before she continued, “Lord, it’s a good day. That’s all.”
  3. Radiant heat. The weather has been hovering around freezing the past few days. Our house has radiators as the heating source. When I first saw them during the house tour, I thought, “Oh, noooo….” The only experience I had previously had with radiators were in old apartment buildings in San Francisco. Radiators were either on, clanking loudly and emitting extraordinary heat, or off. These radiators are different. They’re silent. They quietly heat the house, emitting a cozy, encompassing heat.
  4. A welcoming kitchen. Cooking is one of my favorite things to do. Especially preparing meals for others. I love the counter space in my current kitchen to prep all the ingredients, and a gas stove to cook on. And a spice drawer where I can keep ALL my spices organized alphabetically. Heaven.
  5. Friends. My goodness I’ve been blessed in this category. I’m not quite so sure how I got so lucky, but I am surrounded by incredible people, near and far.

And bonus – the USPS. I love mail, sending and receiving. I’m amazed at how efficient the service is; I can send a package from a small town in North Carolina and it reaches its destination in two days. Such a way to spread joy!