As I was driving home from dropping Sean off at school the other day, I noticed the long line of cars wrapped around Starbucks and the crowded parking lot and I got to thinking how no one drops by for coffee anymore. It seems that everyone goes to Starbucks instead.
Friends dropping in for coffee is all but a remnant of another era and I think that is kind of a shame that we aren’t available for spontaneous interaction anymore, that we don’t open our homes for that sort thing, that we are just too busy or that we don’t think our homes perfect enough or clean enough or whatever enough.
As I have mentioned here before, my parents live in the same house they bought in 1956. In that time, they have served approximately 23,436 cups of coffee to neighbors, wayfarers, odd-ball relatives and the occasional long-lost friend who just dropped in. My parent’s coffee pot has been on for 54 years.
My parent’s kitchen defies everything Southern Living tells us we need to create a warm and welcoming space for visitors. Their home is not big and bright and you certainly will not find anything new or matching or from Pottery Barn there. Their kitchen would make Martha Stewart cry.
The avocado green paneling is circa 1972. The pattern on the linoleum floor is all but worn off and slick from the constant ironing of the rolling chairs. (Aside: I’ve always thought that chairs with rollers were an interesting choice for a kitchen so small you can reach anything without having to get out of your chair. And in a 100-year-old house that has settled substantially, rolling chairs on slick linoleum means you could potentially roll out the back door if you are not paying attention.)
The refrigerator is covered in pictures of grandchildren and great grandchildren and postcards and magnets with wise sayings. The table is always so cluttered that you have to scooch books and puzzles and prescription bottles aside just so you might carve out four square inches of real estate to set your cup down. The trick is scooching it all en masse, like a tectonic plate, to just the correct degree, so that whatever is on the other end of the table doesn’t fall off like California into the Pacific.
The 45-year-old Melmac coffee cups don’t match, nor do any of the not-silverware.
My mother does not serve fancy or flavored coffee — it’s Folgers or whatever is on sale and if you want cream, it’s store brand Coffeemate.
Their kitchen is teeny tiny and cramped and cluttered and woefully out of date. It’s not fancy or comfortable and would not pass the white glove test.
Nonetheless, people want to go there and hang out for a time and chat, and they have for more than half a century. Something there draws ’em in and it ain’t the kitchen or the coffee.
Must be the conversation and the company.
1. Trying to get a shot of a cardinal. Those little boogers are fast and camera shy. See that little bright red dot? That’s a cardinal.
2. Walking the local nature trail with Sean, pretending to be Lewis to his Clark.
3. Trying to become one with my camera. My goal this year is to get off green. As it is now, I have to think really hard about the settings and dials and exposure values and the other technical stuff.
4. Writing up a little story I told Sean the other night while he was in the bathtub. At school, they are studying the concept of fantasy versus real and he asked me to tell him a fantasty story, so I made one up on the spot. He said he really liked it, so I’m going to write and illustrate it and make him a little book.
5. Writing several posts that I can’t seem to get out of my head and into the computer.
6. Making awesome gourmet grilled sandwiches for my husband. I am the sandwich making queen, always have been. Ask my dad.
7. Working out a little bit, walking and lifting weights.
8. Playing with Photoshop.
9. Unloading and reloading the dishwasher. Shouldn’t there be a limit on how many times a week one has to do this task?
10. Drinking entirely too much Bigelow’s Vanilla Caramel tea.
11. Watching the Olympics, critiqueing the figure skating and imagining what it would be like to do some of that trick snowboarding.
12. Thinking about all the things I should be doing versus all the things that I want to be doing and considering which will add greater value to my life and how much I can get away with.
What are you doing?
This morning, I looked out the back windows to see my yard filled with robins. They were the biggest, fattest flock of birds I have ever seen. It was fun to watch them nibble and peck invisible delicacies out of the wet earth, their orange feathers glowing in the pink morning sun, sharp black eyes gleaming.
Naturally I grabbed my camera and tried to get some pictures. I came away with a huge appreciation for wildlife photographers. I neither have the equipment nor the patience. I did manage to get a few shots through the window without scaring them off but nothing that came close to capturing the wonder and beauty of the moment.
But what I love about Photoshop is that I can make something nice out of a cruddy photo. The picture directly above is the original picture. I applied a Photoshop action by PhotographyBB to it which gave it a painterly effect that I like very much.
I may make them into note cards and give them as gifts to everyone I know.
I turned 50 a while back. Or maybe I’m going to be 50 soon. I forget which. I like to be coy. Nonetheless, I jotted down a random list of 50 things I’ve learned or observed in 50 years. These things may not be universally true, but they are true for me.
* * * * *
1. If you want to be really really good at something, you will probably have to forsake something else in your life. The pursuit of excellence in any given field is not conducive to moderation or balance. Either balance is overrated or excellence is — I’m not sure which, but you can’t really have both.
2. Being average is not a bad thing – there’s a lot of good company in the middle of the pack.
3. In most matters, done is better than perfect. But done right is better than done fast, except for housework. Then good enough is good enough.
4. Never say “It can’t get worse.” It can get worse. It can definitely get worse.
5. It’s better to be content than rich. Riches are easier to come by than contentment.
6. You can disagree with someone and still like them.
7. You can dislike someone and still be kind to them.
8. Education is as much about enlightenment as employment. Education is never a waste.
9. You’ll never know how much your parents love you until you have your own child.
10. You’ll never know how much you hurt your parents until you have your own child.
11. No one will remember what shoes or earrings you wore to the party.
12. Getting drunk is extremely uncool. Always has been.
13. Honor your father and mother so that it might go well with you.
14. There are three things you can do to make your life very very difficult – making babies too young and without commitment, using drugs, and getting involved in credit card debt. I only know of one first hand; the other two I managed to avoid by the grace of God.
15. Teachers and nurses are two of the few vocations where you can really make a difference in the life of another human being. The rest of us are just pushing paper.
16. Maintaining flexibility is the key to aging well. Stretch your mind and body a little each day.
17. Life is a series of peaks and valleys. Like the weather, it’s always about to change.
18. Nothing in the mall will make you happy. For very long.
19. We can’t all be leaders.
20. If you can’t be a good leader, be a good follower.
21. Make sure the person you are following is taking you where you want to go.
22. Nothing good comes of a secret.
23. On the other hand, every thought does not need to be expressed.
24. Anger poisons the soul. A grudge prisons the soul. Forgiveness purifies the soul. Forgive with haste.
25. When you win an argument, you really lose.
26. Concede whenever you can.
27. Career is a fancy name for a job.
28. No matter how bad you think you look right now, 10 years from now you will wish you looked as good.
29. The only thing that makes me smarter than when I was 20 is that now I have an awareness of how little I really know.
30. Whatever stylish thing you are wearing right now will look ridiculous in 10 years.
31. Encourage more, criticize less.
32. Use the guest towels.
33. Television is anesthesia. Watch as little as possible.
34. Life is short. But it could also be long – start saving when you are young.
35. Quality Time is a big fat modern lie when it comes to your kid. Go for Quantity Time.
36. Life is too short to spend time trying to get curly hair be straight or straight hair to be curly. Find a hairstyle that suits your hair.
37. The only way to lose weight is to eat less and move more.
38. Fashion magazines are designed to make you feel badly about yourself. Save your money.
39. Speak less, listen more.
40. Every day, no matter how cruddy, is a great day to be alive.
41. Smoking is ugly, smelly, stupid and looks silly. Don’t smoke.
42. Anyone who says they have no regrets is lying. We’ve all done and said regrettable things.
43. If you haven’t done anything regrettable, you haven’t lived. Or at least not long enough.
44. The perfect purse is worth every penny.
45. Grocery store make up is just as good as department store make up, but if paying 3x as much makes you feel better, that probably makes it worth it.
46. Say please and thank you to everyone, but especially to those who do the cruddy stuff no one else wants to do. Your kids are watching.
47. Be quick to tell your kid you are sorry when (not if) you mess up. That in and of itself is a teaching moment.
48. Don’t underestimate the power of silence to make a point.
49. Let your children (and those you love) know every day that you delight in them, that they are a source of joy in your life; that you are glad they were born.
50. The person who most needs your kindness is likely the last person to whom you want to be kind.