The Quest for the Perfect Night’s Sleep

princessOkay, I will admit it.  I am ridiculously particular when it comes to my bed.  In an earlier post I talked about making my bed  https://gstoutimore.wordpress.com/2012/12/, and I can tell you that nothing has changed about my obsession with an unwrinkled surface on which to lay my head at the end of a hard day. 

Except I think the obsession is worse than ever.

It started a little over a year ago after I received a tax refund.  I don’t easily spend large sums of money.  I prefer to let it slip through my fingers in small insignificant sums that are hard to track and end up in the age-old question, “Jeeze…Where did all that money go, anyway?”

At any rate, when my refund check arrived, I decided to break tradition and spend the entire wad on a new mattress.  My old one was over fifteen years old, and had a trench several inches deep in the center.  In the morning, I would wake stiff and sore, and spend the next hour stretching and cussing out the matted stuffing that had obviously seen better days.

The weekend after making THE DECISION, my search began.  I surfed the internet, reading reviews, making price comparisons and otherwise schooling myself in the ways of the mattress.  Memory foam sounded the most comfortable, but the reviews said it gets hot. 

“Hot” and “menopausal woman” should never exist in the same room, unless it is a description of the woman and not her temperature, which at my age is more fantasy than reality.

I decided to speak to some real-life sales people someone who knew mattresses like a Ford salesman knows cars, and headed for one of the several mattress stores in town.

 “I’m looking for a new mattress,” I said, after entering the display room.

“Um…sure… try out anything in the store and let me know what you want,” responded the salesman, who was busy sending a text on his smartphone.

I scanned the room, trying to compare the mattresses. They all looked pretty much the same. 

“Thank you for your time,” I called out as I exited. The salesman never looked up from his smartphone.

A few days later, my son and I were in a large department store and I wandered to the mattress department.  Before I had time to read the sale signs, I heard a voice from behind me, “Zat one eeze on sale.”

The speaker was a slender woman with faded blond hair and a strong German accent.  She swayed a bit and leaned against the bed frame.  “Lie down on eet and try eet out,” she coaxed.

I couldn’t tell if she was slurring, or if it was just her accent, but I carefully perched on the edge of the mattress she was pointing to.

Eet is a special combination of memory foam injected with gel that keeps you cool,” she cooed.

She was definitely slurring.

 “Try lying down on eet.”

A bed that keeps you cool.  I thought I heard angels singing the “Halleluia”chorus from Theicomfort mattress Messiah.

I gingerly stretched out on the bed. 

Heaven on steroids.

The slurring woman knew her stuff.  She explained how the mattress was made. She told me about its warranty.  She knew the regular price and the sale price.  She explained that if something were to go wrong with the mattress, I did not need to call the manufacturer because the big department store would make good on the warranty.  She staggered to her desk and I followed, and in a few moments the deal was done.

A few weeks later my bed was delivered by two men who carefully put booties over their shoes before entering my apartment, and every night  since then, I sink into my bed and sigh, “God, I love this bed!  Bless the slurring staggering German lady!” before falling asleep.

But with everything in life, there is a catch.  My favorite sheets are wearing thin.  I thought it would be easy to find new ones.  Little did I know that my specifications were so difficult to meet.

They cannot have deep pockets.  Most new contour sheets are for mattresses that are at least fifteen inches thick.  The slurring lady didn’t mention this when she sold me a mattress that is nine inches thick.  When I put deep pocket sheets on my mattress they do not stay smooth, and to me, sleeping in a wrinkled bed is like sleeping on rocks.  I would never claim to be a princess, but I do suspect that I would feel a pea if one was put under my mattress.

They have to be all cotton percale, 280 thread count.  When I was a child, all my mother’s sheets met these specifications. They lasted forever.  They smelled like fresh air. They felt cool and smooth against my skin.  Apparently, more people have taken to sateen, or Egyptian cotton, or (ugh!) microfiber (what kind of mini fibers is microfiber made of, anyway?)

bedThey have to be white.  When I was a kid we always had white sheets, and I longed for printed sheets like those my friends had on their beds.  But now I know that my mother knew.  White sheets are like fresh snow- cool, serene, smooth.  For me there is nothing that smells better than white sheets dried outside in the cold winter wind.

Alas, such sheets are evasive, and as my search for the perfect sleep continues, and I’m open to suggestions.  In the meantime, I still bless the slurring German lady, because God, I love my bed.

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A Grand Dilemma

You know that you have entered a new phase of life when you realize that you want to become a grandmother.

Five years ago, if you brought up the topic, I would have said that I wasn’t yet ready for grandchildren.  I thought of grandparents as being old, with wrinkled skin and gray hair.  Like my grandmother.  And my mother. 

But then my siblings-even the younger ones- began to have grandchildren.  My friends began to have grandchildren.  None of them look old with wrinkled skin. Okay, some of them have gray hair, but then so do I.  It’s just well-hidden by my hair colorist.  I saw them with their grandchildren and recognized the special bond they shared.

I began to notice that it’s been more than twenty-five years since I’ve had a baby to snuggle.  I began to miss the scent of baby breath and tufts of silky baby hair tickling me under my chin.  I missed the weight of an infant’s head resting on my shoulder and the way a newborn’s droll little face contorts when she pulls up her knees and stretches out her arms upon waking.  In short, I miss having a baby in the house.

I’ve heard some people say that they were happy when their children outgrew the infant stage so they mompainting_G could do things with them.  While I loved having older children, I also cherished the years my kids were babies.  Crazy as it sounds, I especially loved getting up with a hungry baby during the night.  I would quietly pad to the living room so we wouldn’t wake the rest of the household, wrap a blanket around the two of us, and settle in a rocking easy chair to nurse.  It was peaceful and quiet- time for my baby and me to stare into each other’s eyes, stroke each other’s cheeks, and feel the warmth of each other’s bodies sway back and forth with the rocker.  More often than not, the baby would stop feeding long before I could bring myself to put him down and go back to bed. 

Too quickly those days faded into the past and I moved on to basketball games, band concerts, and waving goodbye at airports, and one day my little ones were all grown.   I adjusted to life without children- eating at odd hours, leaving scissors on low tables, sleeping through the night without opening my eyes to find a three-year-old staring me awake.  Indeed, it is easier.  No running out late at night to buy Pedialyte and popsicles for sick tummies.  No wrestling to assemble toys at 2AM on Christmas morning.  No snowsuits and mittens and boots and “now-I-have-to-go-to-the-bathroom!”  I can come and go as I please.  I do not need to plan meals, or trips to the store, or shuttles to practice.

But then there is the empty arms thing and my friends and siblings with their toothless grandchildren bouncing on their knees.  And I know it’s time to once again have a baby in the house.  So when my daughter Abby and her husband Johnny not-so-casually announced that in June the two of them will become three, my heart leapt with joy.  We refer to the unborn child as “the little cub” and I can’t stop hoping he or she has red hair. john and abby pregnant

There is one dilemma, however.  What shall I be called by this precious little bundle?  It is complicated.  Johnny’s father’s name is Gary.  You cannot have a grandmother named Garrie and a grandfather on the other side called Gary.  The poor little cub will be too confused.  “Nana?”  No- it doesn’t suit me.  “Grammie?”  That’s reserved for Johnny’s mother.  “Granny?”  Not while I have breath in my body.  I thought of a long, trilled “Grrrrrrrrrrrandmama” but that’s just plain ridiculous.

And so, I extend an invitation to my readers to weigh in.  What shall the little cub call his or her grandmother-on-her-mother’s-side?  I await your suggestions.

‘Tis the Season

carly xmas card0001

Photo by Sarah Swan Photography, courtesy of my friends, Carly and Jeff Gartside, whose two little boys are more often full of smiles than this image suggests.

I love Christmas.  I love the surprises, the planning, the decorations, the food and the time spent with family and friends under the glow of twinkling lights.

But not every Christmas is a Hallmark moment, especially when kids are little. White Christmases, filled with late night television specials, trips to the mall and holiday concerts often produce sniffling noses and melt-downs in the line to see Santa.

We experienced one of those years when my children were little.  Abby was to sing in her first Christmas cantata at our church.  I had sewn a cheerful red plaid dress with a white collar and bought her black patent leather shoes for the event.  For weeks she rehearsed with the other children from our church, until she knew every word and every note.  Her father and I were excited to experience our first-born’s debut as a choral singer, and looked forward to the performance the day before Christmas.

The morning of the cantata was bitterly cold, but it was warm in our apartment as I brushed Abby’s long blond hair and helped her dress. She looked a little pale and tired.  “Perhaps she had been up a little too late the night before,” I mused. “I’ll get her to bed early tonight.” Usually she was ferociously hungry for breakfast, but today she refused the eggs I had cooked.  “You have to eat something,” I coaxed.  “How about a little yogurt?”

Abby shook her head, but I insisted.  “You cannot go to church without eating breakfast!”  Reluctantly, she spooned some yogurt into her mouth, and I turned my attention to Elizabeth, who had her own new plaid dress, and Gabriel, who needed help with his white shirt and tie.  Finally they were dressed and as I sat back to admire all three in their Christmas finery, their dad arrived from gassing up the car.

“Time to go!” he called as I buttoned Elizabeth’s coat.  I hustled the children to the front door of the apartment building, shivering in the icy wind.  Gabriel stood by his daddy as he buckled Elizabeth into her car seat, and I turned to Abby, still standing on the front stairs.

Her big eyes met mine, and she blanched a deathly white, saying, “I can’t do this!” With that she promptly vomited her breakfast, which immediately froze on the brick steps.

In that  instant, our holiday plans changed.  It was not long before Gabriel joined Abby on the couch, barf bowl by his side.  The cantata took place without us.  We bowed out of the family Christmas celebration.  Fancy dresses and ties were hung in the closet, exchanged for flannel pajamas.  And instead of the turkey dinner I had planned, we ate broth and toast.

Our experience was not unique.   Most families will have some holiday horror stories to report.  Every year I hear blurry-eyed mothers remark that they can’t wait for the holidays to be over.  Parents are so stressed from trying to fit in all the parties, plays and concerts that they spend most of their time wishing for some quiet time.  We listen to our children sing constant choruses of “I want, I want, I want!” so we stretch our budgets too far. We buy and buy, and then we are overwhelmed at all the wrapping to complete before the children rise on Christmas morning.  We chastise our little ones, warning them that Santa may not stop at our house, or the Elf on the Shelf is watching, or “If-you-do-not-stop-teasing-your-sister-this-very-minute-I-will-return-everything-I-bought-to-the-store!”

The Christmas of the stomach flu taught me a few things.  First, it taught me if your child looks pale and doesn’t want to eat, chances are she shouldn’t.  But more importantly, I learned that as much as the Jinglebells of Christmas- the lights and sparkles, noise, parties, commotion and concerts- are fun, a Silent Night is sometimes the better choice.

It’s not by accident the birth of Jesus was in the quiet of a stable.  Yes, there were angel choruses.  And no, I don’t think that all the commotion that we associate with the holidays is bad.  I just think that sometimes we need to take a step back.  Breathe.  Turn off the television specials and say no to some of the activities. Limit our rich foods and our running around and our spending.  Cuddle the ones we love and tell them that we will love them forever, even when they are sick or cranky, or tone deaf, or disobedient. birth

Because really, all this craziness-all the singing and the parties and the gifts, wrapping and decorating- all this celebration is because a small child was born in a desolate location, heralded by a single, noiseless star.

Sleep in heavenly peace.

Back in the Saddle Again- A.K.A. New Tricks for Old Dogs

I’ve been spending the last several weeks recuperating from back surgery.  It was much more invasive than I had anticipated, and although my recovery has been steady, it has been much slower than I expected.  Before surgery, my plan was to spend a few days resting, and then the following weeks reading and writing.  I was disappointed to find that my body needed every ounce of energy just to heal, and I felt exhausted and ill most of the time.  Books didn’t hold my attention.  I couldn’t sit for more than a few minutes at a time.  Even conversation was difficult, and putting words to paper impossible.  So I napped, watched snippets of daytime television, and dabbled on the internet.  The worst part is that I’ve barely been able to string three sentences together. It is as if the part of my brain that translates concepts into words seeped out with the excess spinal fluid.
 
Numerous times I have tried to post on my blog and become frustrated with how clumsy my writing has become.  My WordPress account is riddled with abandoned paragraphs waiting to be expanded upon.  Stories are left untold.  Opinions left unstated.
 
But we all have times to start anew, and now that I have left the confines of my apartment and returned to work,  I know I must post again.  But where to start?
 
This evening I read a blog written by a photographer.  Her post reminded me of one I crafted as a guest blogger on the website of my photographer friends in 2011. (http://www.dachowskiphotography.com/
 
As I read her post and re-read my own, I was reminded of the common truth both posts hold, and how timely a reminder right before the Christmas holiday.   I thought that for me, my new beginning as a writer might be to rework something done once before.  So, dear reader- enjoy, but be gentle.  The saddle is not so easy to climb into once again.
 
Photographs
 
family photoI don’t usually categorize myself as an old dog, but I’m thinking it’s time to learn a new trick.

I’m one of those people who hates to be photographed. In snapshots, I always seem to be caught at the exact moment I look my worst. When I look at them later, I always cringe. I focus on the bags under my eyes, or the way my chin looks like it has doubled, or how much heavier I seem than when I last looked in the mirror. In fact, the photograph to the right is probably the last candid one taken with my family, and it was 1991.  Consequently, at family outings I am the person who is nowhere to be found when the cameras come out. I was okay with this until the winter when my mother died.

After the funeral I sifted through piles of photographs- black and whites from the fifties, colored ones that had yellowed with age, even faded Polaroids from the seventies.

Images of my mother smiled back at me from all stages of her life- Mom swollen with pregnancy. Mom dressed in a black lace party dress and red lipstick. Mom disguised as Elvis for Halloween. Mom digging in her garden.

Some of the pictures are flattering. Some are not. In most of them, she is surrounded by her family. There she is with Dad. Here is one with my siblings. And in this one she is with all of her grandchildren. However, there were no images of my mother and me together. There are no reminders of how close we were, of how we laughed together, and worked together, and loved each other.

I realize that this is because I avoided having my picture taken, and now it is too late. I wonder if I will remember, and if my children will remember. And I wonder how their children will know.

When I look at photographs of my mother, I don’t see the lines on her face or that her chin had doubled. I see the love in her eyes, and the laughter in her heart. For me, looking at her images is comforting, and uplifting, and precious. Her images warm me and make me smile. mom beach

They remind me of how capable she was, and how she enveloped me in her long arms and how she was strong and gentle at the same time. I look at the gray eyes in her photographs- eyes that were stern when I was disrespectful, and steady when I was afraid, and soft when I was sad. I have the same gray eyes. Someday, my children will need to look at my picture and remember my eyes. But just as I cheated myself out of photographs with my mother, I have cheated my children out of the same thing. 

So I’mcamera rethinking this camera-shy thing I’ve had going on. Maybe  this Christmas I’ll consider sitting in front of a camera- especially if the photographer can disguise my double chin and baggy eyes. After all, even Momma G can learn a new trick or two.

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