Kansas Snapshots by Gloria Freeland - September 27, 2013

Routine or rut?

For the first time since about mid-May, I'm following what I would call a normal routine - getting up at about the same time every morning, going to work, doing laundry and making meals at regular intervals, reading my local newspapers, perusing home and garden magazines, taking care of little odd jobs around the house ... and more.

And I love it!

After the spring semester was over at Kansas State University, our family headed to Denmark for 10 days and then Germany for two and a half weeks. The trip was lovely and filled with new adventures. We slept later than normal, ate different foods and visited places we hadn't been to before. We spent days with old friends, too.

When we returned, sister Gaila was here from her home in Bolivia. We fell into a fairly-regular schedule, but not my usual schedule. I had to work extra hours to get caught up from our time spent in Europe.

After Gaila's month-long stay, husband Art, youngest daughter Katie and I took off to be at our northern Wisconsin cottage for three weeks. We slept late, grilled a lot of meals, drove through the woods, watched late-night TV and lazed around. German "kids" Nadja and Tim joined us the second week and we all did more of the same.

We returned home Aug. 11, but the next day, fate intervened and Art was laid up with a case of kidney stones. I canceled a dental visit and some committee meetings scheduled for that day and eventually was able to convince Art to go to the emergency room. Luckily, he got better quickly.

Nadja and Tim stayed with us until Aug. 24. The fall semester at K-State began two days later.

But it still wasn't quite time to settle back into my usual schedule. Art and I traveled to upstate New York over Labor Day weekend to attend my cousin's daughter's wedding.

Shortly after, Art headed back to Wisconsin for his annual fishing trip.

With my body and mind having almost completely forgotten what my former routine had been, it took nearly two weeks to rediscover it.

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines routine as "the habitual or mechanical performance of an established procedure." Something is routine if it's steady, rhythmic, typical or familiar. Synonyms include rut, treadmill, rote, pattern and grind. The word's origin is from the Middle French from route or "traveled way."

Rut, treadmill, grind? Those words certainly make routine sound awful. But at least for now, I find it pretty comforting.

I love waking up in my own bed and seeing the sunlight come into the bedroom window just so. Padding out to see Art, who usually wakes up an hour or two before I do. Feeding my cat Cookie before having a cup of coffee and getting ready to face the day. Passing by fields of soybeans and the gently-sloping hills on the road between home and town. Stopping to visit Mom. Seeing familiar faces at work. Reversing my path at the end of the day. Slipping under the covers in the evening and feeling the cool sheets against my skin.

Thornton Wilder's 1938 play, "Our Town," explored the lives of ordinary citizens in the small town of Grover's Corners. At the end of the third act, Emily Webb Gibbs is in the cemetery with others who died before her. Emily had died in childbirth, leaving her husband and 4-year-old son. She longs to return to life for a single day. Her wish is answered, and she chooses to return on her 12th birthday. But she discovers that people overlook the joy found in simple everyday activities

"Does anyone ever realize life while they live it...every, every minute?" she asks.

The stage manager responds: "No. Saints and poets maybe...they do some."

Emily observes:

"Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners... Mama and Papa. Good-by to clocks ticking... and Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths...and sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you."

We all tend to take simple, routine things for granted. Still, Art has often said I like a combination of adventure and comforting routine. How true! Routine is anything but a rut to me!

This picture of Cookie on my lap was taken several years ago. It was - and still is - a comforting part of my at-home routine.

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