Saturday, December 28, 2013

Doldrums


'Tis the time of the after-Christmas doldrums.  The tree is still up, but the baby who delighted in its lights has gone home.  The gifts are unwrapped; the cookies are eaten.  The mail no longer comes with packages and cards bearing news of friends and family.  The days are still short; winter has just started.  The holiday has come and gone and I blinked and missed much of it.

It's easy for me, during this time of short days, to fall into a listless state.  I dislike getting up before the sun, but my work schedule just doesn't seem to allow for my starting at 9:30.  I also don't care to work past sunset, but they don't seem to want me to leave at 4:15.  (what's with these people?)

I feel ungainly; those cookies didn't go far when I ate them - they seem to have firmly attached themselves to my hips.  I'm not exercising as much - the cold, snow and wind conspire to keep me inside.

All of which makes me extra grateful for days like these past two - the sun has been out, we've had a temporary respite from the cold.  I was able to get out and exercise and breathe deeply of the warm air.  (it doesn't take a lot of days spent below freezing for a temp in the mid-40's to seem heavenly warm...)

As I was out walking today, I was caught anew in the beauty of the leafless trees.  Without their cover of green, I can better see the lines of the branches as they reach for the light.  I can see the scars marking limbs sacrificed to passing storms. 

And if I look closely, I can see tight buds on branch-tips waiting for the sure arrival of spring.  For though it seems far away now in the midst of winter's dark, these doldrums, too, shall pass.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Silent Night

There are a few things in this world that transport me immediately back to a when and where that have long existed only in my dreams.  One of the transport vehicles is the carol, 'Silent Night'.

As soon as the song starts, I am a child again, just into my teen years.

It is Christmas Eve, and we are on our way home from church.  The car is icy cold with the chill of the Minnesota winter's night.  Outside, the snow is brightly lit by the moon.  I am tired, yet happy.  It's been a good Christmas.

We sang the old familiar carols in church, and on the way home, we start singing them again.  Mom is singing soprano; her voice soars.  My oldest brother has learned to sing tenor, my sisters and I sing the alto part, the little kids join in for the parts they know.  To my ears, the music is as heavenly as the chorus that first welcomed the Christ child.

Though the car is cold, I am warm. 
I am warmed by my coat and hat and mittens. 
I am warmed by the bodies of my sisters and brothers; we are tightly packed into the back of the car. 
I am warmed by my full stomach. 
I am warmed by the thoughts of presents waiting to be opened when we get home.

The trip to the past always leaves me with a glint of tears in my eyes; it's been long and too long since I last heard my mother sing.  Yet beneath the tears, I smile - grateful still and again for the gift of music she passed on to me.

Sleep in heavenly peace...

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Darkness

I always find this time of year, with its cold and dark days to be a trial.  It's been a bit worse since my camper van trip - before that I harbored the illusion that I could run from the darkness, now I know I can't; not and stay in the main part of the U.S.

The news is full of horrible things happening in other people's lives.  From Nature and her storms to the pain people inflict on each other.  Senseless deaths and beatings.  Hungry children and drunken fights.

Somehow, in the midst of this, the death of Nelson Mandela brought a bit of perspective to it all.  Among the many quotes of his in the news this week, this one struck home:

"It always seems impossible until it's done."

He was living proof of the power of light.  He forgave his enemies and worked for reconciliation for all races.  He spent twenty-seven years in prison, and made a good friend of one of his jailors.  He stood for what he believed.

Darkness is incapable of extinguishing light

I needed the reminder.   So often these days it seems that darkness is winning.  Then I hear stories of Malala surviving the shot meant to silence her, of a lady here in town who has begun a mission to pay it forward - to work to spread a message of good.  You hear of people who go out of their way to rescue lost children and pets.  Of those who work for the light anyways, even when it seems like the dark must be winning.

It doesn't seem possible that fighting the darkness can do any good - yet Mr. Mandela accomplished the impossible.  If he could keep spreading light from the confines of his prison, perhaps darkness is not as powerful as it seems.  There is hope.

In a few days time, the season will turn, the days will begin to grow longer and the year's cycle will begin anew.  There is hope.

There is hope.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Can You Hear It?

Can you hear it?
it whispers to me as I lay down in my bed to sleep
I open my eyes for a moment, and am surprised for just an instant to see the walls of my bedroom instead of the confines of the camper van.

Can you hear it?
it beckons, just beyond reach
I tell it of my daily cares, of bills to be paid, work to be done
not today, I tell it.  nor tomorrow, but I will follow you for a while again this summer
it sighs

Can you hear it?
it tempts me with memories of days filled with being and not doing
visions of sunsets, where so clearly, God Is
the memories are bittersweet

Can you hear it?
there are so many beautiful places you haven't yet seen...
so many roads not traveled
come.  follow me. 
come.  follow me.

Can you hear it?
Can you hear the call of the road?


Sunday, November 24, 2013

Thanksgiving

I'm working on the Thanksgiving thing.

It hasn't reached all the way inside just yet.  I've been doing the daily-thanks-on-FaceBook thing and it's been helping; since I know I have to come up with at least one thing each day, and I try not to repeat, it helps me to keep my eyes, mind and heart open to the good things in my life.

But.  I must admit I'm stuck in the doldrums.

I thought the foundation guy was going to come today to start on my remodeling project, but he didn't show.  I called him twice, but still haven't heard a word.  (Why do contractors do this????)  I didn't think I'd let myself get my hopes up that it was actually going to start, but given the way my attitude slumped once I realized he wasn't going to show, I think my hopes had gotten up despite my negativity.

It doesn't help that I have a stiff neck this weekend.  No looking up or to either side. With exercise and stretching, I've gotten it loosened up enough that is doesn't hurt constantly, but it's still pretty darn sore.  I think I'm going to have to break down and get a chiropractor's appointment tomorrow.  I haven't seen anyone since my practitioner-cum-therapist died last spring.  I still have her number in my phone; can't quite believe she's not going to come back to straighten me out.  I think this pain-in-the-neck is an acute reminder that it's time to get out of denial mode and find someone else I can see, at least on occasion.  **sigh**

This will be a short work-week, and I have fun plans for Thanksgiving, so perhaps the combination will help jolt me into a better space.  I hope so.  I don't have a lot of tolerance for me when I stay whiny for long.


Sunday, November 10, 2013

Waiting...

I'm not so good at this waiting thing, and this past week, negativity has been winning.

I can always tell when I'm letting it get the upper hand.  I find lots of 'nevers' and disastrous situations in my thinking.

For example:  They're NEVER going to come do the foundation and the plumbing leak is getting worse which means the pipe is going to break and water is going to get everywhere and RUIN my newly refinished floors before I can get this STUPID remodeling project started!

It's been hard to watch these last few nice days pass by with no progress on the project.  I was so happy when I finally had my permit in hand.  I NEVER thought it would take so long to get someone out to do the work.

My more rational mind tells me I've got someone lined up who I think will do a good job for me.  He's just got other commitments ahead of my little project.  And do I really want someone to work for me who breaks their commitments?  When we were talking about the work, he asked all the right questions.  Someone like that is worth waiting for, says my rational mind.

I've been trying to focus on what I CAN do.  I can get the basement shower ready to go, so that if that faucet does give up the ghost, I'll be ready to go.  If the faucet goes, it's not beyond my skill set to install a temporary faucet in the bathroom if I don't want to make the trek to the basement before I absolutely have to.  I know I'd have to tear up the kitchen to make the repair, but that wouldn't break my heart.

Stop.  Breathe.  Trust.  I'm working on it.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Miscellaneous

Last weekend, I was up giving the camper van its monthly drive and getting it ready for winter.  As part of my drive, I stopped at the local gas station, and filled it up.  I needed a funnel to add the gas stabilizer, so went inside and the gal behind the counter was nice enough to give me a paper one.  Later that afternoon, as I was heading home in my Mini, I stopped at the same gas station again.  The car was quite dusty, so I ran it through the attached car wash before pulling up at the pumps.  When I went in to pay for the gas, the same attendant from earlier looked out the window at my vehicle with a puzzled look.  She noted the water droplets hanging to the car and scolded, "you washed it in hot water and it shrank, didn't you!" 

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My piano is back home!  The living room is a little cramped, and I'm going to have to move some things around so it all fits, but I don't care.  Before I moved from my old house, I didn't play the piano often, but when I did, it was often because I was troubled - the music soothes me.  I'm glad to have it here - this house is starting to feel like home.

====================

I absolutely LOVE late October weather in Kansas City.  I love the way the light shines through the trees in the late evenings, highlighting the fall colors in gold.  I love the turn from the heat and humidity of summer to the light jacket temps of autumn.  

====================

These late few mornings have been cloudy and dark.  I've been back over a year now, and must admit I am still downright whiny when I have to get out of bed before the sun comes up.  I think I should get rain days at work.  I can hear the radio announcement now:  "Because the rain pattering softly on the roof in the pre-dawn darkness makes it well-nigh impossible to pry oneself out of bed, work and school will be starting one hour late this morning."

Wouldn't it be nice?

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Bicycle Ride!

It's been about a year since my friend Charlie died, and his family hosted a bike ride in his memory this past weekend.

I think he had a say in the weather, because mid-October can be cold and rainy around here.  This past Sunday, though, was 70 and sunny.  The morning started cool, just perfect for exercising.

The ride started just a mile or so from my house, but I still got there just barely on time.  I was a bit nervous about riding with a group (I've always ridden on my own before...), and kept forgetting things as I was leaving the house.  I had to go back in four or five times.  (How did I ever make it out the door with two young children?  I guess I was more organized in those days...)

But, I made it in time to leave with the group, and didn't have any trouble riding the whole twelve miles.  (I was pleasantly surprised with my ability to keep up with the more experienced riders; I'd had visions of them far ahead, me straining to catch flashes of the bright yellow-green of their jackets, making a wrong turn, having to figure out how to ride back home by myself.  Not that my imagination ever runs away with me...)  I did take one tumble.  I started out faster than the riders around me, had to brake - and caught my pedal on the curb.  I tried to correct, but hit the ground.  Fortunately, all I bruised was my pedal and my ego.  (my fun flashy taillight also fell off, but I didn't notice for another mile or so, and by then, it was too late to go back to get it.  sadness.)

It was way fun to ride with others.  Sometimes I was near the front of the pack, sometimes near the back.  I had people to talk to and people to watch.  The group stopped just often enough for me to catch my breath and snag a drink of water. 

It still doesn't quite seem fair that Charlie is gone.  He was one of the good guys and his family and friends all miss him lots; the Charlie-sized hole in our lives has not yet knit or healed.  Still, he wasn't one for dwelling on what he was missing - he was all about the joys he had.  In keeping with his life, though we were sad, we also laughed and talked and enjoyed being alive and with each other on such a beautiful day.  Charlie, here's to you!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Waiting... Not Very Patiently.



It took longer than I'd anticipated to get the permits approved - I didn't realize my house was in a Landmarks Commission district - which requires an extra layer of approval in the permit process.  Fortunately for my nerves, I found out in late August, just in time to get on the September meeting docket.  Also fortunately for my nerves, the city staffer who was in charge of my application was responsive, helpful and made sure I had turned in what I needed to have to ensure the application slid through easily.

As I was sitting in the meeting waiting, I was fairly confident all would go well.  But then came the case right before mine.  The lady wanted to expand her garage - but didn't have very detailed plans, and was significantly altering the street view of the property, so after about 20 minutes of discussion they sent her away to try again.

"Argh!", I thought.  "I don't have time to try again."  Instant panic mode.  When they called my name a minute later, I quashed the panic back down and put on my best smile.  My plans were more detailed, and the planned addition is barely visible from the street, so after just a few minutes of discussion, I was given the go-ahead. **whew!**

I'm not very good at waiting.  I know patience is a virtue.  And I've been practicing for a long time, really I have.  But I'm still not very good at it.

So now I have my permits, and I'm ready to go - and I have to wait until the foundation guy can fit me in.  He said, last week, that he should be able to do it in two weeks, but in my heart of hearts, I'm afraid that two weeks means that's when he'll think about maybe figuring out what he needs to do to begin pulling the resources together for the project which he actually might get to in the spring.

In the meantime, the year leaps towards winter, and my plumbing gets creakier by the day.  (The faucet for the shower has dying washers, and when you turn it on, you get a nice stream of water from the faucet itself.  I'm afraid to take it apart to try and fix it - old plumbing is not forgiving in the least!)

It's going to be a race between the plumbing giving way and the remodeling getting finished.  Each day, when I get in the shower, I pray that the faucet will turn on one more time, and when I finish my shower, I pray it will turn off again.  So far, so good, but this is hard on my nerves!

I'm trying to be patient and trust that it'll all work out - but I'm not patient, and I'm not so great at the trust thing either...

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Disorder

Entropy (definition):

a :  the degradation of the matter and energy in the universe to an ultimate state of inert uniformity
b :  a process of degradation or running down or a trend to disorder

I heard a part of a program on NPR this past week talking about order and disorder in the universe.  The professor (I'm sorry I didn't catch his name) on the program was talking about why it is so difficult to keep order in our lives.  It seems that five minutes after you clear a desk, its surface is again covered in papers.  Given that the tendency of the universe is towards entropy, why even bother?

His comments matched my mood well.  Why bother?

But then he continued.  Why bother?  Because life is the universe's way of bringing order into the equation.  Life depends on the orderliness of the cells within those who live.  Death comes when disorder among those cells (think, cancer) tips the balance towards entropy.

I've been pondering his words all week.  I like them.  They make sense at a deep level.  The clothes get dirty, I wash them.  The house gets dirty, I clean it.  The papers cover the dining room table, after a while I can't stand it, and I sort them and get them where they belong.  I take satisfaction in having restored order to my space, even though I know it won't last.  (I'm pretty sure the papers breed on the table at night after I go to bed...)  It's my way of affirming life.

I even took time this week to clean my desk at work.  (see photo)  It had been so long since I'd done it that one of the teachers came in, looked at the bare surface with surprise, and asked if I'd gotten a new desk.  I'm obviously going to have to work harder at that one...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Ladders

I've never been fond of ladders.

Back when I was repairing the eaves on my old house, I needed a 40' ladder to reach the peak at the front  of the house.  My daughter was working for a roofing company at the time, and they agreed to loan me one of theirs.

So, the weekend after it was delivered, I hauled it from the backyard, extended it and propped it against the side of the house.  Before starting my climb, I stepped back, and looked up - and up, and up.

OK, I told myself.  Lots of people climb ladders like this every day.  They don't fall off.  Ignore that voice that says, 'yeah, but what about the ones who DO take a tumble?'.  Start climbing.  Take it one step at a time.

Paintbrush and scraper firmly in my back pockets, I grabbed my paint bucket, told my daughter to hold the bottom of the ladder steady, and started on up.  Halfway there, I stopped to catch my breath and look around.  It wasn't so bad; things are pretty from 15 feet off the ground.

So, I continued to the top.  I rested my paint bucket on the top rung, and as I did so, happened to look down - and down, and down.  That was a mistake.  My hands froze to the sides of the ladder.  Reaching around to grab my brush out of my pocket seemed foolhardy at best.  Every move I made seemed certain to shake me off my rickety perch and send me tumbling.

Stop, I told me.  Breathe.  This work isn't going to do itself.  Slowly, one at a time, I pried my fingers loose from their secure hold.  (that prying was mental, of course.  I certainly wasn't about to let go with BOTH hands, now was I?)   Barely breathing, I marshalled my fears.  Clinging to the ladder with my other hand and my shins, I slowly dipped the paintbrush into the can and got to work.

Fortunately, the peak of the roof isn't all that wide, and it only took me a few minutes to complete the work at the highest point.  I gratefully grabbed my paint can and eased my way down to the ground and safety.

I lowered the ladder several feet, and started back up again.  When I got to the top, it suddenly didn't seem too bad - this time, I didn't look down, and I could look up and see that I wasn't as far off the ground as I'd been a few minutes earlier.  An hour or so later, the work was done.  And I was done in.  I was exhausted and shaking - that facing down your fears stuff takes a LOT of work!

Ever since that day, I've been able to climb my measly little 24 footer with relative ease; by comparison it's a piece of cake.  (even if I do still end up with bruises on my shins from using them to hold onto the rungs.)

But I'm still not fond of ladders.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Wiring Complete

A little over a week later, the new wiring is complete and the house is covered in dust.

The electrician was great.  As long as he was here, he added in a bunch of new outlets.  He had some great tricks for cutting into walls and studs, and only had to cut one hole in the ceiling.

He was helped along by the hack job on the wiring.  They hadn't replaced the old knob-and-tube wires, but someone had gone through the time and effort to install a ground loop to the grounded outlets.  (I can't figure this one out - why take the time and energy to run just the ground?  It would have cost almost nothing more to just do the job right!  The expense in running the wire is getting it through the walls, not the cost of the wire itself...)
Because they'd taken time to run the new wire, he was able to just tie his fish tape to it, and pull it back up through the walls.

What we found in the walls was downright scary - there was one spot where they'd wired the old aluminum fragile wires back to the box, then stuck the free ends up into the wall cavity.  Much pull at all on that circuit, and the electricity could have arced across those wires and started smouldering and...  we don't need to go there.

Back on a positive note, I learned a new wiring trick.  It only works when the wire you're replacing is in conduit, but if it is...  Instead of trying to fish a tape through the twists and turns of the pipe, you just tie a piece to string to a kleenex and stick it in one end of the pipe.  Go to the other end, put a vacuum hose to the opening, and turn on the machine.  As long as the conduit is relatively well sealed, it will pull the tissue and string along through the pipe.  Then, you can tie your fish tape to the string, pull it back through, and use that to pull your wire.  Do you have any idea how much time this trick would have saved me when we were doing the wiring in my old house?  I'm impressed - it's a great trick.  (Joe tried it on one of his jobs; worked slicker than banana peels.)

I'm almost done with the plaster repair, which means I should be able to start cleaning up the dust (and not having it immediately replaced) by the end of this week.

Baby steps.  baby steps.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Dithering

There's something to a theory I've heard about how having too many choices makes it harder to make a decision.

I've been looking at new blinds for the house for a couple of months now.  I usually buy my blinds from an online site called Blindsgalore.com; I've had real good luck with their products.  Twice now, in the last few months, they've had a great sale.

The first time, I missed it solely because I couldn't make up my mind.  Too many options, too many choices, what if I missed the best deal?

Brand name or generic?  mini-blinds or cellular shades?  regular or should I spring for the top-down/bottom-up option?  white, off-white, ivory, buff?  what if it doesn't match the paint?

Arrgh!  It's enough to drive you crazy!

So, this last week, when their Labor Day sale rolled around, I decided to bite the bullet.  I went to the site, found the cheapest cellular shade they had with a top down/bottom up option.  Then I got to the color selection.  Fortunately for my dithering mind, they only had six choices, and three were unsuitable.  But that still left three options - white, ivory or tan?

My fingers strayed.  My mind wandered.  But I persevered.  I went back to the page, and decided I wasn't allowed to navigate away from the website until I'd made my decision.  How hard could this be?  I sweated.  I pondered.  I chose.

Tan it is.  (I know, the suspense was killing you...)

Monday, September 2, 2013

Sleep In Mornings!


Pacific Ocean
My absolute favorite way to begin a morning is to sleep in - to wake when I wake without an alarm.  These past three days have all been sleep-in days, and it's been wonderful.

I went to bed just a bit later than I usually do - it's a treat for me to get to stay up late.  (I sometimes think I'm regressing - the last time my bedtime was so closely monitored, I was eleven!)  When I woke up in the morning, instead of hopping out of bed, I had the leisure to lay there and take my time in waking.  For thirty, forty-five minutes I drifted between sleep and wakefulness, dreams blending with my waking worries in bizarre fashion. 

And, to ice the cake, I did almost nothing yesterday.  When I finally got up, I exercised, then went to sit on the porch with a good book.  And then, I...  Oh, wait.  I didn't anything.  I didn't DO much of anything else all day.  And it was a delightful feeling.  It's been a long time since I took time to just sit and read.  The weather was perfect, with a light breeze.   The bugs weren't biting, the shade was inviting, the view when I looked up from my book, refreshing.




Work's been nonstop since I returned to town, and my house is turning into a money pit.  I've been tired and stressed and going and going and going.  I had a hard time convincing me to stop even for part of the weekend.  The to-do list is long and a lot of it needs to be done before winter.  I've been caught up in doing, and I forget I need time to just be.

So, it's good to remind myself to stop, breathe and relax.  Because if I don't, no one is going to want to spend any time in my company - including me.



Sunday, August 25, 2013

Two Steps Back

It's been a discouraging weekend.

When they put in the new furnace ductwork, the installers found a live knob-and-tube wire hooked up to one of the junction boxes in the basement ceiling.  Now, I can take a little older wiring in my house, but knob-and-tube scares me.  Especially when the insulation around the wires cracks off in your hands when you touch it.

So, this weekend, Joe and I found the right circuit breaker, flipped it off, and disconnected the wire.  Then, we went upstairs to find out what was tied to the wire.  Turns out that ALL the upstairs lights and all but two of the outlets were all tied to that wire.  Surprise, surprise.  We thought those outlets were properly grounded.  We were wrong.

We left it all unhooked - this way I won't be up half the night worrying about fires starting.

One of the parts that makes me angry (there are several) is that I trusted the home inspector when I bought the house instead of checking the wiring myself.  I'd heard so much about the hidden dangers of houses that I thought I'd go the professional route instead of just relying on what Joe and I would be able to find.  Silly me.

When we had the inspection done, I specifically told the inspector to check the wiring carefully.  I'd had my fill of replacing wires in old houses in my last place, and didn't want to deal with the mess again.  He gave the wiring a clear pass.

Obviously, he didn't take a flashlight to the new junction boxes tucked away in the basement ceiling.  If he had, he'd have seen the new wires going into the box, and the cloth-bound wires coming out.   And, if he'd closely checked the outlets upstairs, he'd have seen that they attached a new snippet of wire to the outlet, so it looked good, and attached the new wire to the old cloth-bound at the back of the box.

As mad as I am at the incompetent inspector, I'm even madder at the unprincipled person who did the hack job on the wiring.  Obviously, those who did the work didn't care at all for the safety of the people who would be living in the house after they finished their chicanery.

And as mad as I am at myself for not catching this mess before I bought the house, I'd rather it was I who ended up with it than someone who wouldn't know bad wiring when it stared them in the face.

My friend Max once said that if you can fix something by throwing money at it, it isn't a problem.  I can fix the wiring by throwing money at it, thus, I do not have a problem.  I have a mess on my hands, yes.  But I do not have a problem.

The bungling inspector, the unethical sellers who had to have known about the issue, the unscrupulous guy who did the wiring - now those people have problems.  I'm glad I'm not them.

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Somewhere Safe

Sonoma Coast, CA
Does anyone else ever put things somewhere safe?

I loaned my camera out shortly before I left on my vacation this summer.  The person I was loaning it to had their own SD card, so I took my little card out, and sent the camera off.

Now, this was shortly after I'd moved in, and I didn't want to misplace it (those things are expensive!), so I kept moving it around.  It was in my catch-all basket.  It was in the drawer of the buffet.  It was tucked into the corner of the sideboard.  Finally, I got tired of moving it around and put it somewhere safe.

The camera came back home, and I told myself, now grab that card and put it back into the camera.  But, I got busy with other things, and forgot.

Two weeks later, I was packing for my trip, grabbed the camera, and started looking for the card.  I was convinced I'd zipped it into either my briefcase or the camera case itself.  Nope.  I looked high and low.  I looked in ALL my favorite hiding places.  I looked in the catch-all basket.  I looked in the buffet.  I emptied my briefcase at least three times.  Nope.

Finally, I gave up.  I needed to finish packing and hit the road.  So, I grabbed my backup card - the 2GB one, which fills up FAST with my new camera - and made do while I was on the road.  When I got back home, I resumed the search.  I checked drawers and baskets and under and behind things.  After an hour or so, I gave it up for lost.

About a week later, I was getting out a wine glass, and happened to look into a small pottery bowl I keep on the same upper shelf.  And there it was!  Safe.  very safe.

**sigh**  

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Back to Work

Bryce Canyon, UT
I have nothing interesting to report since I last wrote.  My time's been spent in rounds of working at the school and at home.

Work's been hectic since I got back in town.  School starts tomorrow, and there's been a lot of work to get done.  Fortunately, I haven't had to do it all myself.  I had summer help to do some of the maintenance work, which is a good thing, otherwise about ten of the hundred computers would be ready to go.  And my partner in crime did a great job of keeping the work on track while I was out, so it was easy to pick up the remaining pieces.

I didn't quite get everything done that I'd hoped, but am having trouble mustering up the energy to care.  It's done enough - classes can start; teachers have their computers back, and the iPads are almost ready to go back to the students.  The missing pieces will be in place by the end of the second week of school.

I can't quite grasp how quickly this summer has gone.  It seems I just got back from my trip, but it's been three weeks already.  There are a lot of things in-progress in my life right now.  I have a lot of projects started, probably too many.  I switch from task to task, making progress, but not finishing anything.  I get close, but don't seem to find the time to tidy up the loose ends.

Joe and I put up the new storm windows today.  They've been sitting in the garage since the end of May - it feels good to be able to cross something off my list.  I swear I could feel the air movement in the house slow as we made our way around with the installation.  And, they look so much better than the old storms with their missing screens and window sections.  The house looks more cared for - and I think it appreciates it.  (take THAT, you bad karma cooties!)

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Welcome Home?

After a month on the road, I walked into the house to find the temp indoors to be a steamy 86 degrees.  I must admit, I harbored a momentary hope that my son had taken to a sauna fetish, but a quick look at his discouraged face told me that wasn't so.

While the two of us were in Minnesota enjoying an extended family reunion the previous weekend, the AC unit at the house froze up.  He turned it off to let it thaw when he got home, but the damage had been done.  I called in my favorite furnace crew, and they were able to come out that same evening.  $200 later, I had a unit full of freon and it was running as best it could.

But it didn't sound good.  It groaned as it started up, and vibrated the entire house as it tried to seek balance within.  (I can relate to the unbalanced thing some days...)  We turned the thermostat up the next morning, to tax it as little as possible, but to no avail.  When we came home that evening, with the temp outside only in the lower 90s, and turned down the thermostat, it gave up the ghost.  I have to give it credit; it tried.  It moaned.  It rattled.  It gave one last spectacularly loud bang, and quit altogether.  My $200 had bought me almost exactly 23 hours of additional time.

You win some, you lose some.

But, the sales guys were on it.  They came out the next day, spent a good two hours measuring, and I had a quote by Friday morning.  (Actually, I had quotes from two companies, both in the same ballpark, but the one I declined was selling York furnaces; I have to admit a preference for Carrier, the brand I purchased.)  Joe and I spent the weekend taking the old ductwork out of the basement.  (The old ductwork had to go because it was a carryover from the original gravity furnace installed when the house was new in 1922, and could not be modified to properly heat and cool the house.)  The installers showed up Monday morning to start the job.

They did good work - Monday, they removed the old units and remaining ductwork and started installing the new system.  Tuesday, another scorcher, I came home to an operating AC unit - the ductwork to the upstairs was not yet installed, but the new system has an overpowered fan, and it was able to get enough air to the second floor that it was comfortable.  Wednesday, they finished up the job, eight days after the system failed.

Just in time for the temps to cool off and the humidity to drop.  (**sigh**)

Now, I'm normally not one to leave the AC running if it's much below 90, but this time I made an exception.  My excuse was that even though it was cool outside, it was still humid as all get-out...  Not great as excuses go, but the new system does SUCH a better job of evenly cooling the house, I just wanted to enjoy it. And so I have been.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Left Tailrace

Left Trailrace Campground, SD
It's a great name for a campground; I have no idea what it means.

It was my last night on the road without family.  I wanted to drive about halfway across South Dakota, and picked the campground because it was a state park and not too far off the freeway.

It turned out to be a beautiful little spot.  As I pulled in, there was a guy standing there, signing up for his camp site.

He told me I looked familiar.  I said, "probably not".
He asked if I was going into town later.  I said, "no".
He took a look at my bike, and said, "Marin.  Nice."  I said, "you know how to fix a front derailleur?"
He said, "yup, used to work on bikes all the time."  I said, "you may get into town after all."

So, we went back to the camp sites, and he took a look at the bike.  The derailleur had frozen because I hadn't been riding the bike enough.  He oiled it some, had me work it back and forth while he went to take a shower, put it back on and tada!  Worked like a charm.  I took him to town to pick up a six pack and some OJ.  Fair's fair.

We came back and started talking.  Bill turned out to be a fascinating fellow.  He's a self-proclaimed narcissist, seventy years old, and when we met, had been on the water for three months, canoeing his way down the Missouri river.  (I asked how far he intended to go, he said he had no idea...)  The day we met, he'd traveled over 25 miles down river - to go .6 miles by land.  He gets up in the morning around 5, canoes until shortly after noon, then stops for the night - in a campground if one is available; on the riverbanks if it's not.

I don't think I could do it - he's lived for three months with the stuff he can fit into a good-sized waterproof rucksack.  Which might not be so bad if one didn't have to fit the tent and sleeping bag into the thing.  Talk about traveling light; makes my camper van seem downright spacious.

I had to admire him for taking on the journey.  What an adventure!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Crazy Horse Monument

Crazy Horse model
I stopped for two nights in the Black Hills, to make up for having to rush past Zion National Park because of the heat.  This meant I could just sit back and relax when I got to my campsite - and a beautiful place to sit it is - and I had a whole day to visit in the area.

I decided to visit Crazy Horse rather than Mt. Rushmore and the presidents.

They have set up a bike trail along an abandoned railway that runs through the town of Custer and up to the Crazy Horse Monument, about six miles away.  (it also goes another 100 miles or so in either direction, but I didn't explore that part of it)  The trail is beautiful, running through pine-scented valleys and the weather was perfect.

Along the Mickelson bike trail
Starting in Custer, the entire six miles of trail to Crazy Horse is a gentle but inexorable incline.  I did pretty good for the first three miles, but then my asthma and the altitude kicked in, and I had to stop.  Since it was a bike ride, and not a race, that was OK with me.  When I couldn't breathe, I'd hop off the bike and walk it along until my heart rate subsided, then hop on for another stretch. 

As a bonus, when you get to the monument, the entrance fee is only $5; half of what it is if you are in a car.  I spent a couple of hours in the park.  I watched the movie of how the monument got started.  (The sculptor started work back in 1948, his family has taken over the project since his death.  I have no idea when they plan to finish - it may well go into the next generation.)  I looked at the museum.  I admired the finished portion of the project.  I bought a llama wool jacket.  (Probably not the smartest thing to do if you don't want to wear it home and you're on a bike, but I managed with the help of the back rack...)

Once I finished looking around, between the walking and the ride, my legs were a bit tired.  I was not looking forward to the ride back to camp, but need not have worried.  That gentle incline I rode up?  On the way back, I didn't have to hardly pedal at all.  I pedaled easily or coasted all the way back to town.  Now, THAT'S a way to end a bike ride!

Campground Lottery

When in the camper van, I tend to travel day by day, not making reservations ahead of time; I'd rather see where the road takes me.  While this mindset serves me well most of the time, it's a little risky on weekends, especially holiday weekends when the state campgrounds that are my preferred stopping places are all booked well in advance.

When this happens, I end up picking from the lists of commercial campgrounds on my Woodalls app.  I take a look at the campground layout, the pictures posted, if any, and just pick one.  Since this weekend was a holiday weekend, I played it safe and called ahead to make reservations before leaving in the morning, to make sure I wouldn't be left high and dry.

Fort Caspar Campground, Casper, WY
 Well, when you do this, you lose some,


Big Pine Campground, Custer, SD
and you win some.

Either way, it's an adventure...

Saturday, July 6, 2013

Wyoming II

Eastern Wyoming
So, I'm driving along today, still poking around at that sore spot I found yesterday.

I realized that the events of the past eighteen months have shaken both my trust - in myself and in God, and my self-confidence - I don't trust myself to make the right decisions for myself.

As I once again reached out to God in wordless prayer, I moved to pass a truck on a long hill.  I had to punch the accelerator, and as I reached the crest of the hill, my 'check engine soon' light started flashing.  It stopped shortly after I eased off on the gas, but my heart was already pounding.  I checked my gauges, all were fine.  The engine was still running without a hitch, so I just kept going.

There I was, in the middle of God's country, on a beautiful road where I saw a passing car only once every ten minutes, if that.  All sorts of scenarios started running through my mind; how far can I really ride my bike if I need to?

About thirty miles down the road, I came to a gas station.  Across the street was an open NAPA Auto Parts store.  Now, I don't know about you all, but as far as I'm concerned, it was the closest thing I was going to find to an open service station on a Saturday afternoon.  I pulled in, and after checking the oil and transmission fluid levels (they were fine), went inside.  I described what had happened to the war hero in a wheelchair behind the counter, and he said it was probably a clogged oxygen sensor or something like that.  He offered to come out and put the code computer thingy on the van to see what it had to say.  (Note to self:  if you're going to have car trouble in eastern Wyoming, a Chevy truck is a good model to be driving...)  I, of course, took him up on the offer, and he rolled on outside to take a look.  The codes turned up clear - he even showed me the little green light that said nothing was wrong.

We went back in, and he sold me a can of expensive engine cleaner to put in my tank the next time I need gas - said, if it was a sensor, the stuff should clean it off.  And if the problem was water in the gas line, or bad gas, it would take care of that, too.

I went on my way with my fears eased - and realized that God had answered my prayer.

I am not alone, even when it seems like I am.  I can learn again to trust myself and my decisions and the road I'm on.  It won't be trouble-free, but I will make it through.  Baby steps....

Wyoming

Wyoming hills
As I was plotting out the general outline of my trip, and my finger was tracing the route through Wyoming, the friend I was sitting with observed, "It's a whole lotta nothing out there."

She was right.  It's been a whole lot of nothing.  A lot like western Kansas, only bumpy.  It's not as striking as Utah, yet the drive is still beautiful.

Yesterday, as I was driving along, I finally got into the thinking zone.  I was listening to the radio, and a country song came on, something about "Jesus, take the wheel".  And I found myself in tears, which is always a good clue that I've stumbled across a sore spot.

So, I poked at it a bit, to see what would come up. 

A feeling that no one's in control of my life right now, and I wish someone was.  I'm behind the wheel and steering along as best I can, but the past eighteen months have left me uncertain and unsure of the direction I am or ought to be going.

I'd like for God to be in control, or at least, pointing out the right road.  But, unfortunately, I have no sense of God's Presence, either.  I pray, but the prayers just die out in the emptiness.  (I envy those with a sure sense of God and Her Love.)  And I'm not putting it all on God, either - perhaps there is a response and I don't know it when I see it.  It's very possible.

definitely a sore spot.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bryce Canyon

My fridge died this week.  It started acting up when I left Colorado Springs, and wouldn't work on electricity any longer.  I stopped at an RV service center there to get it fixed, and was told they'd need to order in any parts, and didn't have a new fridge of that size in stock.  In other words, I was out of luck.  However, they took time to test it for me, and it still ran just fine on gas and battery, so I decided I'd replace it when I got home, and went on my merry way.

This worked until I got to my campsite at Snow Canyon.  There, after several minutes of trying, I was still unable to get it to light.  Which meant the gas option was now also out.  The battery option is really only good for kinda-sorta maintaining the temp as you drive; it doesn't actually work to cool things down.   (Did I mention it was 105 degrees in the shade?)

I pleaded with God to let it light just one more time; I promised I'd stop and buy a cooler and ice in the morning.  I tried it one more time, and lo and behold, it worked!  But the fridge was warm now, and I feared my milk would not survive the night.

Bryce Canyon, from the rim
So, I gathered up my courage and knocked on the door of the camper next door to ask them if they would do me a favor and keep the milk until morning.  Jerry and Sandra, Canadians transplanted to Phoenix and on their way home to Calgary for a visit, turned out to be the accommodating sort of people, and were happy to stash the milk for me.  We got to talking, they asked me where I was going next.  I said, "North, where it's cooler."  They couldn't believe I was going to be this close and bypass Zion Park and Bryce Canyon.  Although Zion was still too hot for me to handle, it didn't take much to convince me to stop at Bryce Canyon.  It's up at 8000 feet - things are cooler in the mountain air.

Bryce Canyon,along the trail
The canyon, which I'd never heard of, turns out to be a red-rock kingdom of giant chess pieces carved by the gods.  I took a three-mile hike from the rim down into the depths of beauty.  It was a bit strenuous - what goes down must come back up - but well worth the hike.  Magical even.  (Unfortunately, I stopped about halfway through to have someone take my picture, and they bumped the camera setting.  I didn't notice, and so all my pictures from there on out were overexposed.  **sigh**  and they were so beautiful!)


Along the trail some more...
I'm having trouble actually being grateful that my fridge is out, but I am most appreciative of the silver lining that came from my wish to have cold milk for my cereal.  If I hadn't knocked on their door, I'd have driven right by what will be the high point of beauty for this trip.

It would have been a shame.

Heat Wilt

My impression from afar of Los Angeles has always been that of traffic, crowds and Rodney King.  During my visit this past week, I didn't change my view one bit on the traffic, but was shown a gentler side of the city by my cousin who lives there.  It was a trip into the Beach Boys "Endless Summer" album.  I saw Palisades Park, and drove on Sunset Boulevard - way fun.  I must say, though, my favorite part of the visit was the trip down memory lane I took with my aunt.  She told me much I never knew of her growing up years - if my life turns out half as interesting as hers has been, I'll consider myself a fortunate person.

Calico Ghost Town, Yermo, CA (at 6AM)
From L.A., I had intended to spend some time in Nevada and southern Utah, but got chased away by the heat.  I stopped for the night at a tourist-trap ghost town (Calico) after leaving L.A., and discovered the heat pump in the camper van doesn't work on cool if the outside temperature is over 110 degrees.  (go figure!)  Since Las Vegas and Lake Mead were at 115 and above, I regretfully passed them by to head north.




Snow Canyon S.P., Utah
I found an unexpected gem of a spot near St. George's in Utah - Snow Canyon.  There I found beautiful rock formations, and because of the heat, was able to snag a prime camping spot - all I could see from the south side of my camper were rocks and trees.  I had a great evening amidst the quiet despite the heat.  My campsite was partially shaded, and if I sat real still and didn't breathe too hard, I didn't sweat too profusely.

Thursday, June 27, 2013

On to Monterey


Monterey Bay, CA

I'm pretty me-centric sometimes, and in my heart of hearts think the weather back home must be similar to the weather wherever I am, which is totally ridiculous, I know.  That said, I think the wonderful weather I drove through today felt just a little better after I checked the weather back home.  Here, it's 73; just a bit on the cool side.  At home, it's 91 and steamy.  Ahhhh....

I drove through San Francisco around mid-day today.  If I ever harbored any illusions I might want to move out here some day, today's drive squashed them flat.  Five lanes of bumper-to-bumper traffic - at noon!  I don't even want to think about rush hour.  That said, I've found California drivers to be courteous.  They give me and my out-of-state plates a bit of room; they let me in when I find myself in the wrong lane.  When I think back to my experience driving in Florida, this is a welcome change.

Tonight's campground is just a short bike ride away from the bay, and I took advantage of the evening to give my bike a spin.  It was beginning to look a bit lonely back there, acting as nothing more than a bumper ornament.

Monterey Bay, CA
Once I got there, I started to walk down along the beach, then decided I just wanted to sit tonight.  So, I did.  I found me a good sit spot and watched the walkers and the water and the waves for a while.  and found in my reflections a small measure of peace.

** happy sigh **

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Slippin' Away

James Robb State Park, Colorado River
It doesn't work.  As much as I try to hold the beauty of these days tightly in my hands, it slips through my fingers.  I want to hold on to these times.  Like trying to hold onto water, sand and children, it just doesn't work.  But I want it to.

This is different than the last time I was out in the camper van.  Then, I was content to see the beauty, but to let it pass by, knowing it would remain in my heart and mind's eye.  I think the difference lies in the stresses and strains of the past eighteen months.  My cancer is in remission, but one of the side effects of the disease is an acute awareness that I may never get a chance to pass these ways again.

Great Salt Lake, UT
I am more anxious, fearful even.  I'm not used to me being fearful.  In Colorado, one of my friends had to talk me into not taking the freeway.  That is SO not me.  I spent six months avoiding the freeways.  So, I gathered my fear into a tight bundle, and took the back road out of Colorado Springs and into the mountains.  The way up was fine.  Neither my van nor I could breathe well in the thin air, so I just slowed down and watched the road as well as the scenery. 

Then I crossed the summit, and started down.  My fears got into high gear, but the camper van and the rest of me were just fine.  We downshifted and took it slow, especially around those 10 MPH curves.  I slowed down to five, and let the people behind me fume.  (I also pulled over as soon as I could to let them pass...)  By the time I got to the
Bonneville Salt Flats, UT
bottom of the hill, my fears had quieted - whatever they were.  I'm just sorry I had to do all the driving - it's downright dangerous to take pictures and drive (talk about distracted driving!), so I need to be content with the scenes in my memory.

Also unlike my last trip, my time on the road is tightly bounded, so I went quickly (for me) from Colorado to California and my long-awaited date with a hot tub on the Sonoma coast just north of San Francisco.  I went from the mountains of Utah and across the first part of Nevada in just over a day.  The following day, I drove eleven hours (too many!) to get here to the coast.  It was raining for much of the trip across Nevada; not what I was expecting given my reading and the arid landscape.  It kept raining for the first two days here -
Elko, NV
unusual for the season, but it finally moved on this morning.  (I didn't mind the rain - the mist is beautiful, too.) 

Now, the sun and fog are playing tag across the rocks below.  One minute you can see a ways out to sea (I have yet to see the horizon), the next, you can barely see the birds perched on the rocks. 

Pacific Ocean, CA
Stop.  Breathe.  Relax

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Less Traveled Roads

Hwy 94, Colorado
Once I left the campground, I gathered up my courage, and took the road less traveled by between Kansas and Colorado Springs.  It took courage because the memory of the previous day's storm was fresh in my mind, and I knew the smaller roads wouldn't have a safe place to pull off. 

I'm glad I took the risk.  U.S. 40 to CO 94 took longer than staying on the freeway would have, but this way, I got to get back in touch with the wild loneliness of the plains.  CO 94 is a direct shot from 40 to Colorado Springs, but little traveled.  The cut takes about 90 minutes, and I saw no more than five cars along the way.

As I drove, I was struck anew by the beauty of the open sky and by how big the world is.  My world can get crowded and small.  A drive across the high plains does wonders to bring things into perspective just a bit.

Garden of the Gods
I decided to linger in Colorado Springs for an extra day so I could adjust to the altitude a bit, which was mostly an excuse to revisit one of my favorite spots in the world, the Garden of the Gods.  It's easy to see why the Native Americans considered it a sacred space.  I had delightful company on my walk; my friend Mary's daughter is home for the summer and hiked with me.  As we took the less traveled path up and away from the crowds, we talked of life and futures and pasts.  We spoke of dreams and plans and likes and differences.  We sat for a spell in the shade of the Siamese Twins rock formation and just enjoyed the beauty around us.

It's working better today - Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.

On the Road Again!

Cedar Bluffs State Park, Ellis, KS
I'm on the road again - time for my annual leave from work.

Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.

It's taken me a bit to shift gears.  The day I left town, I packed up, then stopped at work to pick up a few things, went to the grocery store, went back home for some stuff I forgot, back to the grocery store, then on the road.  About an hour down the road, I realized I'd forgotten the stuff from work - yes, the stuff that was the whole reason for my stopping there in the first place.  **sigh**  This relaxing stuff takes practice.

As I drove, I began to smile - I'm free!, if only for a month.  To keep the drive interesting for me, the weather had decided that I-70 across Kansas was the invisible dividing line for a weather front that day.  To the left, it was clear skies, to the right, thunderstorms.  The line held until I was about twenty miles out from my night's campground.

The skies grew dark, the lightning flashed, the wind picked up.  I slowed down.  The rain came down fast and furious.  I slowed down some more.  The wind blew harder, hard enough to blow my windshield wiper out of line so it no longer worked.  I pulled over, stopped, and took off my seat belt so I could find a tool to fix it.  The rain came even harder, the hail started, it was loud.  I sat back down and put my seat belt back on.  It was scary - this IS tornado season.  It was exhilarating - nature showing her fierce beauty. 

Either an eternity or about fifteen minutes later, the wind and hail let up, and I got out to fix the wiper.  I couldn't get the wrench to take hold in the rain, so, grateful for my waterproof raincoat, I just moved the wiper back where it belonged, and got back onto the highway.  I had to stop three more times to put the wiper back before I got to the campground.  The rain stopped about thirty minutes after I got there, so I was able to get a better wrench out of my toolbox in the back of the truck, and fixed the wiper.

The combination of freedom, fear and awe worked its wonder around sunset.  I fell into bed, and had the best night's sleep I've had in ages.

Stop.  Breathe.  Relax.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Cat Logic

I do not allow cats on my counter tops.  Period.

When Joe came back to town (he is using my place as a waystation), he brought his two white cats with him.  He brought them to the basement, where they promptly shot themselves up to the rafters and stayed for the better part of a week.  One of them is still spending a good part of his time up there, though he does venture out in the evening, but the other got bored much more quickly, and has deigned to join the household.

Unlike her old house, my new place has a window above the kitchen sink.  While she understands she is not allowed on the counters, she also understands she IS allowed to sit in the windowsills.  And, she's decided the window above the sink gives her the best view of the backyard.  I've been chasing her down to the floor, but yesterday morning, she decided she was right, and held her ground.  I told her to get down; I even got out the squirt bottle and tried to squirt her down.  She just hunkered down and glared at me.  I finally picked her up and put her on the floor.  It's amazing how much weight a cat can put into passive resistance when it doesn't want to be moved.

As soon as I moved away, she hopped back up there again, and looked at me as if to say she was within her rights when she went to perch on the sill.  The fact that she had to pause briefly on the counter tops to get to the windowsill didn't count in her book at all, as long as she wasn't actually wandering around on them. 

At that point, I conceded the battle.  It's hard to argue with a cat who's convinced she's right.

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Junk, Junk, Mess, Mess, Mess!

boxes!
A long time ago, the pool used by the Good Shepherd community, a home for developmentally challenged men here in Kansas City, was broken for the summer.  I heard of their predicament, and invited a group of about fifteen of them over to use my pool one summer day.  The gathering went well; some of the guys got into the hot tub and didn't get out until we pried them out several hours later when it was time to go.  (I know, don't think that direction.  That's why pools are chlorinated.)

At one point in the gathering, I went down to the basement to get something from the backup fridge we kept there.  One of the men, curious, followed me down.  When he got to the bottom of the stairs, and saw the pile of semi-organized tools, boxes and car parts my then-husband had filled the basement with, he went rigid.  "Junk, junk, mess, mess, mess!"  He turned, and stiffly walked up the stairs, hands fluttering in distress.  "Junk, junk, mess, mess, mess!"

I feel much the same way this week.

There are boxes everywhere, with paths through the rooms.  Last week, I pushed everything to one side of the rooms, and gave half the walls their final coat of paint.  Saturday, I pushed it all the other direction, and painted the other half of the walls.  (with some welcome help from a friend...)  Now, I finally have the furniture in place - and I've run out of energy to empty the rest of the boxes.

I look at the mess and am overwhelmed by the size of the task.  I tell myself NOW is not the time to get discouraged; the remainder of the boxes should empty quickly now that the various cabinets are ready to be filled with their loads.  Yet, I look at the pile, and all I can think is "junk, junk, mess, mess, mess!"

It's time to go back to the basics and break the task down into bite-sized pieces.  Each evening, empty just three boxes.  I can empty three boxes.  Even when I'm tired, I can do that much; that little.  If I stick with it, I'll have some order in the place by the end of the weekend.

Which will be good.  I'm slightly better at concealing my distress at the continued disorder than my long-ago guest was, but then I do have the advantage of superior social skills.  supposedly.

Monday, May 20, 2013

Moving On

OK.  I made it.  I'm into my new house.  To be a bit more accurate, my belongings are mostly in one location.  And there are paths between them.  That counts, doesn't it?

The last week and a bit have been quite the nonstop ride.

But the floors are done.  It took four days working on the floor to get them that way, but they're done.  The palms of my hands, my knees, the tendons next to my knees and my butt aren't speaking to me, but they're done.  (sensing a theme here?)  and, if I do say so myself, they look beautiful.

Joe came home Thursday and helped do a swipe-clean of the residual sanding dust in the house before the movers arrived Friday.  During the cleaning process, he managed to flush a cleaning rag down the toilet while emptying a bucket.  The toilet still flushed, so we moved on.  (you KNOW there's more to this part of the story.  just wait.)

Friday, we packed boxes until the movers arrived to transport the big stuff.  (I figured that way my small volunteer team wouldn't be worn out before the first box was moved.)  The movers were great; got everything loaded and over to the new place in good time.  They started moving stuff in; things screeched to an abrupt halt when it came time to move the box spring for my queen-sized bed upstairs.  The mattress had barely made it; they had to squeeze it up.  The box spring was just that leetle teensy bit too big to fit up the narrow staircase.  They squeezed, they turned, we all cussed just a bit.  and it wasn't going to go.  I was just about ready to cry, and instead, started to reframe the remodeling plans in my head, figuring out how I could add a second floor balcony and doorway to the design so we could get it up that way.

Then, one of the movers suggested we cut the frame of the spring in half - it would give it just enough bend to make it up the stairs.  I cringed at the thought of cutting my beautiful new bed, but neither did I want to sleep in the living room for the duration of my stay in the house, so I went downstairs and got the saw.  Joe, with his long reach, did the dirty deed, and they tried it again. 

I couldn't watch.  What if it wasn't enough?  What if I had destroyed my bed for nothing? 

But, it worked!  (insert huge sigh of relief here)  Once it was upstairs, we took a board, screwed the two halves of the frame back together, and it's as good as new.  Unless you crawl under the bed to see the patched board.  But I don't think I need to worry about too many people doing that.

For the rest of Friday afternoon, Joe and I brought over a load of boxes. which emptied most of the apartment.  Saturday, my volunteer crew showed up, and we got the rest of the stuff in the apartment and worked to empty the storage unit.  I'll admit; about 2/3 of the way through the boxes in the unit, I started thinking - "I haven't needed this in the last eighteen months.  Do I really need it now???" - and left a bunch of the boxes behind for later.  (Joe's stuff is still there anyhow, so I didn't NEED to get it ALL last weekend...)

The crew left for home, Joe headed back to Rolla, and I went down the basement for something.  There, I found a trail of water on the floor, and a tell-tale bit of TP clinging to the washer drain.  Damn.  That rag hadn't made it all the way through after all.  Hot, tired, sweaty, I cussed a bit and dug out the snake.  It didn't work the first few times, so I gave up and called a plumbing service.  They couldn't come out until the next afternoon, so I cussed a bit more (my cusser got a good workout this weekend), and decided to give the snake one more try.  This time, after a few more tries it worked!  Up came that nasty, smelly rag.  I treated it like the hazardous waste it was, and got it outside into the trash, then rinsed the floors down with bleach water.

Some showers, the most wonderful showers, are the ones you've REALLY earned.  Saturday's shower was one of the best. 

Friday, May 3, 2013

I Think I Can...

before 
All of my free time in the last few weeks has been spent at the new house. 

I am flunking floors and getting an "A" in windows.

I'd redone the floors a couple of weeks ago.  I followed the proper procedures, but the new coating didn't stick for reasons best known to itself.  It looks good, but when you ding it, big sections of it peel on up.  (I've talked to everyone I know who's ever done a floor to try to figure out why it didn't stick; the consensus is that there was some sort of wax or oil coating on the top coat of the original finish that didn't come off when I sanded.)  I discovered it when I tried to scrape up a bit of plaster that had fallen to the floor when I was redoing the windows in the living room.  **sigh**

The windows, on a much brighter note, are coming along wonderfully.  They're the original windows, and someone painted the ropes holding the weights. (that is, they painted the ropes that weren't already broken...)  Painted ropes don't slide along so well.  So, I'm taking apart the trim, replacing the ropes, adding some insulation while I'm in there, and putting it all back together.  So far, I'm 7 for 7.  (10 to go.)  It's a wonderful feeling when I finish each one.  The window goes up.  The window comes down.  It's a beautiful thing.

I had a schedule.  I had just enough time to get the painting and window work done before I moved in.  (the movers are scheduled for the 17th.)  I think God laughs at schedules.

I thought I could get all the trim painted in two days.  I was SO wrong.  The house is all trim.  There are three bedrooms upstairs.  Within the three bedrooms, there are nine doors and ten windows.  There is ceiling molding and floor trim.  When I haven't been doing windows, I've been painting trim.  I'm almost done.  Except for the windows.  Those will have to wait until after I move in.

I made a new schedule, to fit in redoing the floors.  again.  It involves taking several afternoons off from work, but I THINK I can get it all in.

Wish me luck. 

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Goodbye, Barbara

For the third time since October, I've found myself saying goodbye to a good friend.  It gets harder.

This time, it is my long-time chiropractor-cum-therapist, who died of cancer on April 1st.  She found her cancer just before I did, but hers was invasive and spread and never did go into remission.

The celebration of her life was last weekend.  It was beautiful.  It was fitting.  It ended with good food and piles of chocolate.  I bawled my way through the entire thing.

Her partner gave a beautiful eulogy.  She spoke of Barb's joy, her empathy, her gratitude.  She was the type who, on her morning trip to collect the paper, would look for wonders in the world around her - and most days she would find them and call Tamera to come share the beauty.  She was an intellectual dilettante - always taking classes, always learning new things.  Classes on music and nutrition and psychology and anything else that struck her fancy.

As a chiropractor, Barbara was good at inflicting short-term pain, which was definitely good for the long-term gain.  As you lay on her table, to distract you from whatever it was she was about to do, she'd ask you about your life, your cares, your joys, your plans.  She'd listen, really listen.  And, she'd give you her (unsolicited) opinion about it all.

Once, shortly after Joe left home, while I was still trying to decide what shape my life would take, I told her, "I want a change in my life."  She asked me to repeat it.  "I want a change in my life."  A third time.  "I want a change in my life."  Then she spread her hands, looked upwards, and said in a satisfied tone, "There!  It's out there in the Universe.  Change will come to you."  and it did.

At the end of every visit, she'd ask, "does this meet with your approval?"  (If it didn't she'd take time to fine-tune her work as best she could.)  As one of those who eulogized her said, "Today, I am honored to be here as one who knew her.  I am honored to have met with her approval."

I have to agree.  As tears fill my eyes for the umpteenth time since I found out she died, I am honored to be counted among those who loved her; those whom she loved.

Barbara - they said you are waiting in heaven with a glass of the finest wine.  May your time until your friends join you be filled with love and laughter, wry jokes and like-minded new friends.

Live, Laugh, Love.
Peace.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Not Worthy

"Lord, I am not worthy to receive you,
But only say the word, and I shall be healed."

The prayer is part of the Catholic Mass, said just before communion. 

I've always believed the first line, but have had more problems with  the second.  My sense of unworthiness has been helped along by a voice from somewhere in the past telling me that I must be good enough, or God wouldn't say the word, and I'd remain unhealed.  (unspoken is that part that I couldn't hope to be good enough.)

I am not worthy.  not worthy.  not. worthy...

This past week, too tired to do anything productive, I was trolling TED talks (my way of watching TV, I guess...).  I came across Brene Brown, talking about the connection between vulnerability and our ability to empathize and to love.  In her speech, she talks about a trait that whole-hearted people have in common:    they believe they are worthy.

I tried it on for size.

I am worthy.

It felt odd.  like I was boasting, full of myself, thinking I was better than I am, egotistical - a litany of comments from the past, all designed at the time to keep me in my place.

I tried again.

I am worthy.  I have worth. I am worthy.

It still felt odd.  But, somewhere down inside of me, a small voice piped up.  "Really?  I am?  There is hope and love and salvation for me?  Even though I am not good enough?"

I'm going to keep trying it on.

I am worthy.
I am worth loving.
Yes.