Lazy Sunday: Rain, Laundry and Quiche

Sunday morning. Memorial Day Weekend, 2011.

I am sitting on the sofa in my living room. Outside the closed shades is a sky dark and gray with rain. Thunder grumbles. I take a sip of my hot coffee and stretch my toes. Breakfast is ready except for the quiche baking in the oven, I’m warm and comfortable. And Mike is folding laundry.

In revealing what I am about to share, I will likely be showing myself to be an easily entertained simpleton. So be it. The truth is, I love watching Mike do laundry. I’ve never seen anything like it (well, except the other times I’ve sat enthralled while Mike folded).

I pull clothes out of the dryer, often after they’ve sat there for days. Already hopelessly wrinkled, I hold each item up, twist it, turn it, put it in a pile in a shape reasonably approximating “folded”. Mike removes them immediately from the dryer, divides the clean load into items which will be folded in a similar manner. Each piece is shaken out, then laid carefully on the floor, wrinkles smoothed, then folded in crisp one-at-a-time folds. T-shirts are perfectly square packages which will fit perfectly into their cubby in his closet. Towels and pillowcases each have their own style of fold, and I love watching the ordered piles of clean laundry build on the floor in my living room. Flat sheets are crisp, fitted sheets make neat, flat piles – elastic, rounded corners pose no obstacle to Mike’s skills. Bedding gets stacked in sets so that there will be no searching through a messy pile for a matching pillow case.

While Mike folds, we chat idly about the weekend, or about the laundry itself. I could tell you about Mike’s undershirts…but then I’d have to kill you. I think Mike enjoys these moments as much as I do. When you live alone, as we both do, these humble household tasks are undertaken without much thought and always in a solitary fashion. Company makes them pleasant in a way that they never are otherwise. Also, laundry folding is usually at the end of our shared time together, when neither of us feels compelled to fill the moments with deep conversation or frenetic activity. When we have settled into an easy companionship and are savoring it before we go our separate ways again for months.

Mike folds a pillow case beside piles of clean laundry, and loves that I am snapping a photo!

I must tear myself away from Mike and his laundry to pull the individual quiches from the oven. Another thing I love about having company for the weekend is the opportunity to cook for someone other than myself. I always try new recipes, rather than stick with tried and true – there’s an element of risk, but I know Mike won’t mind if the results are disastrous – he’s sick of solitary meal preparation at home, too!

My breakfast menu for today: individual quiches, fruit salad with vanilla yogurt, hashbrowns. The quiche uses herbs de provence, which I have not cooked with before. As the herbs saute with the vegetables, their fragrance fills the house. (As always the recipe is included on the recipes tab on this blog).

Too bad you can't see the delicious veggies and goat cheese filling the quiche! Yum.

After we eat, we load Mike’s van and he departs for Minneapolis. I am not a fan of that first half-hour after company leaves – the house is quiet, I’m tired, and living alone suddenly feels terribly lonely. But that moment passes, and I am able to luxuriate in my still-clean house and my refrigerator stocked with tasty leftovers. Besides, I’m pretty sure that if I play my cards right, I’ll live to see Mike fold another day!

Do Overs.

Remember when you were a kid and sucked at something, like maybe serving the ball over the net in volleyball? When you were unsuccessful at what you were doing (and the ball snagged in the net instead of sailing over it), you would yell, “Do over!”, and by golly, you got to do it over. Sometimes, you even managed success the second time around.

As adults, do-overs are pretty much non-existent. We get this moment, and if we flub it, we live with the consequences.

For a long time, this fact held me in a tight grip of fear. I’d be lying if I said it doesn’t still, sometimes, hold me back. But then I began to realize something – my best growth experiences, my proudest moments, even my best stories tend to come out of those terrible moments I wished vehemently for a do-over. My mistakes, my wrong decisions, my open-mouth-insert-foot moments are often the very ones which propel me further in the right direction.

A few weeks ago, I happened to come upon the video of a TED talk about being wrong which I found to be really affirming of this truth! Please take a few minutes and watch it – you might find yourself appreciating the growth potential of being wrong!

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Actually, in the interest of honesty, I have to say that this photo was taken on Wednesday, since I am at an overnight retreat for work and knew I would be unable to step on the scale this morning!

Triple Word Tuesday

won’t let go!

Rascal Flatts performed this song on the Oprah Surprise Extravaganza. As an audience member, I sang along at the top of my lungs and waved my arms with twinkle lights attached to my fingers. Silly, but I really felt like I was singing these words to all of the people who mean so much to me. Happy Tuesday, friends!

Flashback Friday (a day late)

In this photo: (back: Jeff, Marsha, Jack; middle: Shirley, me; front: Rachel, Myka)

Unfortunately, I don’t have any of the photos from Rachel’s youngest days scanned onto my computer, however, you can still see what a sweet little girl she was in this one! Today, I’m heading up to Cedar Falls to attend Rachel’s high school graduation party. I can’t believe its here already. Rachel is still one of the sweetest young people I know, and funny, patient, kind…really amazed by the person she is becoming!


64,288 (give or take)

Wednesday. May 18, 2011. 5:34 a.m. My alarm had been ringing for four minutes before I woke at its insistence. I got up, feeling like a tub of something 72 hours past its use-by date. I was too tired to pee, so I got dressed first, then went in search of the bathroom. After vainly attempting to locate the light switch, I decided I could brush my teeth without looking at them. By 5:54 I was out the door, in my car, pencilled street directions in hand.

Trying to follow detour signs through the Loop in Chicago is an exercise in futility. There is one sign, telling you of the detour. Once you’ve followed that one instruction, the detour pretty much becomes DIY. Luckily, 6 a.m. downtown is not a heavy traffic time. Also, I have a pretty good sense of direction. I eventually found I-290 W and headed home in earnest.

It was raining. Morning rush hour was in full swing on the expressway. My brain was alert and fully occupied through the bottleneck that begins at Austin and ends just past Harlem (every/any day, every/any time, including Sunday afternoons). Eventually, though, the traffic thinned. I paid my first tolls, and I was out of the city. Another 3 hours of driving with the monotonous swish swish swish of the wipers. Unrelenting gray. And eyes that burned with the desire to close.

To keep myself awake, I began replaying the previous night in my head, attempting to reconstruct it from the moment Oprah drove past in the back seat of a taxi (filming the 25,000 people, mostly women, waiting to enter the United Center for her tribute show). In order. There were so many stars, so many video clips, so many images. I couldn’t timeline it. And that’s when the number at the title of this post came to me. It may not be the exact number -though I think it is at least very close. (I was not taking notes.)

64,288. This is the number of people who have received an education because of Oprah. (They didn’t have footnotes explaining how they determined this number, so for once, let’s agree to take it on faith that the number is accurate.)

64,288. I couldn’t stop thinking about how many people that is. How can one person have made such an important difference in so many lives? During one segment of the show, Oprah Winfrey Scholarship winners from Morehouse College filled, and overflowed, the stage. When Oprah joined them, they mobbed her, with hugs and thank you’s. That might have been my favorite moment of the night.

As I drove, I was thinking that these 64,288 people could change everything. I could see the assistance that came from Oprah as the catalyst, like a stone dropped in the middle of a still pond. The first ripple, the lives directly affected by her generosity. The second, the way those lives changed course and affected their families, friends, communities. The ripples, and the number of people affected, could grow exponentially, moving outward into larger and larger circles of influence.

And then I started mentally following the ripples back inward, toward the center. From 64,288 back to one. The still point at the center: one person. OK, so it was Oprah, not exactly your ordinary individual.

Still. I am one person, too. I can be that point from which change ripples outward into the world, if I choose. What would that look like, coming from very ordinary me? One thing I know for sure, to borrow Oprah’s phrase, is that it wouldn’t happen accidentally. Creating real change in the world – whether it is generating a greater atmosphere of kindness, educating the masses, building wells so that whole communities have clean water, or ending hunger – real change doesn’t happen without both intent and action. It isn’t accidental.

And this, my friends, is what kept me awake on the drive home, the morning following the Oprah tribute show. Not remembering the amazing celebrities or their incredible performances, though that was truly an unforgettable experience. Instead, remembering the 64,288.

I am one person. What will I do to change the world for the better?

(note: Thanks to my sister Anne for giving me the ticket to the show! It was a wonderful experience, sis! I love you!)

Surprised on Saturday!

What I saw when I walked out my door at 8:00 a.m. Saturday, on my way to workout at the gym:

The soggy stream of toilet paper can’t be read, but it said, “T.P.U. :)”

I don’t know how it is for student life administrators on other campuses, but I tend to think I have a truly great cadre of students – they egged and tp’ed my house without creating a mess or damaging anything! End of the school year high spirits expressed with humor AND thoughtfulness. Go MUSTANGS!

Flashback Friday

On May 17, 1984, four buildings at Clarke College (now Clarke University) burned in a disastrous fire. The buildings lost included the beloved Sacred Heart Chapel, which was the symbol of the college. Students put up the sign, above, the following day. What you cannot see in my version of this iconic photo is that, just above the arched doorway, stood the charred remains of the two floors of this building obliterated in the fire. Catherine Dunn, BVM had been president of the college for 11 days when the fire occurred. The college library, which had been housed beneath the chapel, sustained smoke and water damage. Along with many students, local residents, and other alums, I took part in the effort to salvage as many books as possible from the remains of the library building.
I LOVED Clarke, and being a “Clarkie”/”Woman Aware”. Never more so than when I saw how students, faculty, staff and alumni pulled together into one community after the fire. I like the new buildings the college built to replace those lost, including its glass atrium, the new symbol of Clarke. However, every time I pass the campus, I still miss the old center of campus, and the chapel spires.