Sunday, July 30, 2017

Yesterday, we took William fishing. Well. Tim took William fishing. I was there to watch, being squeamish about hooks, worms and thrashing fish.

We went to an old friend's pond, with the intention of kidnapping him and taking him out to dinner afterwards, but he was not home, so we settled for walking through the field to his pond.

William was delighted, casting his line out, and watching the greedy blue gills take the bait every single time. He reeled in probably a dozen fish. He was having the time of his life.

We made our way around the large pond, casting out from different places. At one point, he managed to snag a bass. It was not one of the super sized ones, but it was decent and it put up a whale of a fight, and William was beside himself. Just as he was bringing it to shore, it managed to pull away, taking the hook with him (which made squeamish grandma all the more squeamish).

William set up a huge hullaballoo about that and his grandpa said 'Settle down. Sometimes that happens. Sometimes the fish wins. You can't have a tantrum every time things don't go the way you want, etc." William swallowed his gulping sobs. Grandpa doesn't often raise his voice, but when there is a stern note, William attends immediately.

The fishing continued, and more blue gills were caught. Some of the larger ones put up a struggle. William would exclaim, "I think it's another bass!" and when he reeled it in, he was very disappointed to see it was another blue gill.

We fished until William got hungry, and packed our stuff up and headed up the hill to the car, and although he was hungry, he still fretted about leaving. He wanted to try again, just one more time, because he really wanted to catch a bass. (The last time we went fishing there, he caught a two foot long bass. He was so excited he nearly went into the water with it.)

"No," we told him firmly, "it's time to go now," and we headed off to the car, grandma carrying the bucket with the worms, grandpa carrying the vest with all the fishing tackle, and William carrying his trusty little fishing pole.

On the way up there, William began to complain that he had not had any fun, because all he caught were those blue gills.

We looked at him, both of us, and said, "You had a lot of fun. If you're going to act like that every time that things don't go your way, you're going to have a very disappointing life, mister. We also mentioned that maybe we should not take him fishing anymore, because if he did not catch the fish he wanted it would make him upset.

William digested this, and offered up that he would really like to go fishing again. We suggested he think about his attitude.

When his mom came to pick him up after work, he said "I had a fun day! We went fishing! I caught many fish. They were blue gills." He even talked about the one that got away.

It was a simple moment, but I think about that. Children are so catered to sometimes. They must never be disappointed. They must never be sad.

But that is not life.

Learning to manage disappointment is important. Fishing will do that for a kid.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

We've come a long way, baby.

Tim left his job over a year ago and has been working on houses full time. I work to provide our benefits.  It is going well for us but slow, because finding skilled help is rough. 

We found a man, but he was stealing from us. We took him to small claims, and won. We'll never see the money. 

We found another man. He worked out well until he didn't work out well. And then he stole from us. 

We had another guy who was fast. He could do just about anything. We were paying him $22 a hour. He could not be trusted to work independently, because he would cheat you (case in point: One time he called Tim to tell him that he was at the house and hard at work. Tim said, "Good. I'm out in the livingroom if you need help.") The phone went dead immediately. Probably a half hour later, the guy made it to the house. 

He'd be working for us still (supervised), except that Tim needed to work on a roof. The man assured Tim that he could do it. Partway into the job, he decided that he no longer wanted to work by the hour. He wanted to be paid by the job, and wanted $3000 to do the roof because that's what roofers were making. Tim explained that when roofers put in bids, their bids included the materials (which we'd already bought) and a team of men. The man got upset and began to blab it around town that we 'ripped him off'. We quit hiring him. 

He's called several times, looking for work (he's a freelancer, and what we were paying was well over what he was making at his regular work). Having a good reputation matters to both of us, and that worker does not seem to get it. Why would we hire him back after he claimed we ripped him off? 

So Tim works mainly by himself. When he needs help, well, that's me. This morning, he needed my help so we got up this morning and headed down the street. The job today was insulating the second floor of a house down the street that we gutted. 

Insulating is a rough job to do on a hot day. You wear long sleeves and a mask. It's itchy and messy, even though we were using Roxul, not fiberglass. We went at it hard with the intention of just getting it done. We did.

You know, we've grown a lot since our first house (this is our 11th). We worked side by side, and there was little need for words. I knew exactly what he needed. I cut the batts one at a time and handed them up. He'd call out a measurement (11) and I'd cut the strip to that width and hand it up. There was no irritation, no impatience between us. We worked as a team who knew exactly what we were doing. A far cry from how we worked together on our first house nearly 9 years ago.

In the shower, later, thinking about how far we've come, it occurred to me that I could say the same thing about our marriage. There is a certain loveliness in knowing each other that well. 

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Bright Moments

Now that Tim is working on his properties full time, he has become William's daytime caregiver when his mother is at work. He helps his grandpa work on houses. He was quite excited because for the first time, he got to help his grandpa make the buy. He became the darling of the realtor's office, and got to play with the realtor's fidget spinners. He got to play with Mabel, the office bulldog. So he's having a pretty fun summer. 

Yesterday, when I got home from work, one dirty faced happy little boy met me as I got out of the car. "Guess what? I helped grandpa take the tires off your car! I helped him with the rotors." He beamed. They also went fishing, but they did not catch anything, but some days are like that, don't you know.

I said, "Let's get you cleaned up, and you can help me make supper," and so we did. He made his own hamburg patty, and he shucked his very own corn. The macaroni salad was already made, and we had cottage cheese with peaches for a treat, because William and his grandpa like cottage cheese with peaches. ("Me and Grandpa are just the same!")

After supper, William wanted to do some net surfing. Sunday, he had worn his little aloha shirt to church. It has tiki faces on it. He was intrigued by them. Because he is a little boy with a very questioning mind, he wanted to know all about them. So I brought up some stuff on the computer and we learned about them. He watched them being carved in a few videos. He was well and truly taken with the subject. 

He came rushing out of the office. He wanted to make his very own tiki face. I had some cardboard that I made into a tall box, and we cut out the eyes, and a ferocious mouth. We drew the designs on the face on either side of his nose, and across his forehead. William was delighted. He had his $1 pay from his day's work with grandpa, and so we went to the dollar store to buy some battery powered tea lights. 

On the way there he chattered on about Hawaii and for some reason, he got side tracked with coconuts. He loves coconut. He would like to get a coconut someday, because coconuts grow where tiki faces are. He went on at great length about coconuts, tropical islands and tiki faces. 

When we got to the store, we got the candles. I had to pick up some hand soap, and noticed that they had coconut hand soap. William was so delighted with this find that I looked a little more. I found a bar of coconut soap. I got some coconut lotion. The peak of the day was buying a mounds bar. 

We got home and he lit up his little tiki man. He set him carefully on his stool in the bathroom, and I filled the clawfoot tub with nice warm water. He luxuriated in the water, scrubbing himself over and over with the coconut soap. I cleaned the bathroom as he bathed and played and talked about tropical islands and pretended he was swimming in the ocean, talking a blue streak. 

I finally ran out of things to clean, so I pulled the bathtub plug, but he couldn't leave the tub until he saw the whirlpool as the water went down the drain (did you know that whirlpools and tornados seem a lot alike, but they are not. Whirlpools start at the bottom. Tornados are formed at the top. This little factoid is offered free for your thinking pleasure from William and his scientific mind.) 

He slathered himself with coconut lotion, declared that he smelled so good he thought he might be good to eat. We brushed his hair and his teeth, and went out to read the book that he and Grandpa had gotten when they went to the library. He's really getting quite good at reading but he still likes being read to. 

He leaned against me and talked about what a fun day he had. He was grandpa's big helper, and he was a great cook, and he thought that his tiki face was the best tiki face ever and didn't he smell good? Just like coconut candy?

An acquaintance was fretting about what to do with her niece. She doesn't have a lot of money. If there is one thing that I could teach this world, it would be this: you don't need a lot of money to entertain a child. A bit of imagination and your full attention, and you've got all you need to make the best day ever. 

Saturday, July 15, 2017

The Craftsman House.

Tim finished the house we bought last spring and it is rented out.

We've bought another house. It is a craftsman bungalow with wonderful woodwork and leaded glass windows. It belonged to a hoarder.

As we understand it, the fellow that owned the house got it through his second wife's family. She had inherited it from her family. When she died, the house became his. He married again and lived with his new wife in her house. The beautiful Craftsman bungalow was used to store stuff.

Some of the things that we have discovered: a box full of pictures dating back to the mid 1800s, including post cards sent to the family from France, during WWI. We handed those over to a local historian to go through. My 70 year old historian friend was amazed to find pictures of his own mother during her high school years.

We found a box full of old (1935) Fortune magazines which are fun browsing, court transcripts from a fatal car crash, deeds, a wicker doll carriage, some great furniture, old Swedish books from the 1800s in a tall secretary desk with glass fronted book shelves. German crystal wine goblets still in their paper, a peugeot coffee grinder, an old pearl necklace in a bank envelope in the back of the china closet that seems to be the real deal (it will be taken to a jeweler), a brand new milk can, Christmas lights still in their boxes, two cedar chests and one steamer trunk, an armoire, dressers, tables. There is so much to go through, and everything must be gone through because the man is reputed to have misplaced an envelope of $100 bills. There is plenty of trash but some very awesome treasures.

Right now, the roof is being replaced and once that is complete, the contents of the house will be safe.

We were taken aback that such a home would sell with all those contents un-gone through. Sad to think that all of those things had no meaning to the children.

As she cut my hair, my beautician asked, "Do you feel any creepy vibes there? Any presence?"

I said, "I certainly hope not!"

From all reports the man was a real bastard. He was involved in almost every local social group you can imagine. Lions. Moose. Elks. Zem-Zems. Masons. Shriners. The list goes on and on. There are boxes and boxes of his life. His first wife left him, and fled with his children to California. There are boxes and boxes of the receipts for his child support payments. He married again. She died. He married one last time and was soundly hated by her children. She died too, but before she did, she threw him out of her home. She died shortly after that.

He moved back to his cluttered old Craftsman bungalow with the hole in the roof. Although the roof leaked and the house was floor to ceiling with stuff, one thing he did religiously was had the house painted. I told Tim that it seemed fitting somehow, that he should have been so concerned with outward appearance, paying no attention to the decay and rot and junk on the inside. A metaphor for his sad life, don't you think?

The children of his last wife ended up with the bungalow by default we surmise and did not want the headaches of fixing up a place that had belonged to a man that they could not abide. It was placed on the market. Tim saw it, and moved quickly. Our offer was accepted almost immediately.

I said to Tim, "This is the last house we buy, right?" and his answer came as it always has: "Oh, we'll never see a deal like THIS again."

And so it goes.




Friday, March 17, 2017

Happy St. Patrick's Day

I love that the world  has begun to speak up.

I love this too, for completely different reasons.


Happy St. Patrick's Day! I don't drink green beer, but I DO like bad puns: What is an Irish furniture that stays out all night? Paddy O'Furniture.

Bahhahhaaaahahhahahaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!

(And you are not the first people to suggest that I take up drinking).




Thursday, March 16, 2017

Falling into Bad Habits.

Habits are a funny thing...so easy to slip back into, right? It's very easy to neglect the blog.

We've been (predictably) busy here. A woman at work was having a lot of trouble with her landlord. Her apartment is all utilities included, however the landlord doesn't pay the utilities. She's come home and discovered that her electricity is out. She just got a shutoff for the water. Frustrating when you've got a small child.

I pick her up for work.

I was appalled at some of the things that she said. Landlords amaze me. When I hear a landlord complaining about being regularly ripped off by his/her tenants, I always wonder why. Tim and I have been blessed with tenants, long term tenants. We've had some problems, but those folks are an exception to the rule. I questioned one angry ripped off landlord and was shocked when he said that one of his apartments did not have heat. He also baldly proclaimed that he was not going to fix that. He looked shocked when I said that the reason he was being ripped off regularly was because HE was ripping people off.

Anyway, Tim and I talked about my rider. She's really in kind of a desperate situation. We bought another house.

I took vacation, and we have gutted the house in record time (NOTE: just say no to wallpaper. My gosh. The bathroom upstairs was so very heavily wallpapered...seven layers. The CEILING had cut out designs from the last wallpaper snaking across it, with stenciled leaves to make the flowers more realistic I guess. Ye GODS! Dylan commented that when you remove that much wallpaper you're actually adding square footage to the room. Funny boy, my Dylan!)

The big accomplishment was heat. It had been improperly winterized and the pipes for the hot water heat had burst in a hundred different places. The refrain rang out again and again from the basement: "Okay, I am turning on the water!" Which has answered again and again from various points through the house: "Turn it off, turn it off! We've got a leak." Finally, yesterday, at last, the call came up from the basement, and there was no answering cry. Tim cautiously asked, "No leaks?" and I said in hushed tones: "There doesn't seem to be." There weren't. The next step was firing up the boiler, which had not been used for at least a year and a half. We expected problems. The thing rumbled to life, and within minutes, the pipes began to feel warm...and then hot...and then the house began to heat up. It was a great moment.

Tim is cutting out the stairway today. An open stairwell will make moving easier and minimize the risk of damage to the walls.

Next week, we will put in the new kitchen and backsplash and stainless steel appliances. We will begin painting. The bathrooms will go back in. It will be a little bit harder because I go back to work tonight.

There's a change there at work as well. The first night of my vacation was also the beginning of the scourge. My department was eliminated on third shift. We were the lucky ones. We kept our jobs. The firings continued on for 3 more days, and there are ominous rumblings on the horizon about what happens next.

Tim and I are lucky. We do not financially depend on any company. We do, however, need the health benefits that come with my job. To that end, I will continue to be flexible and do my best to meet the needs of my company as I use them to meet the needs of my family. I'm very grateful to look at this situation squarely, without fear. It's not like that for everyone. No one had any idea of what was coming and there are a lot of people who were taken by surprise, and have no clue what they will do next.

Monday, I'll begin my new shift. Day shift is a different animal. The women are sharp and mean, watching each other closely for signs of 'cheating'. We did not have that on nights. We were a small group and got along. I'll take a book for lunch and break and wait for kindred spirits. I'm sure they are there...just need to find them.

Head over to Bob's. He's found out his grandbaby will be a boy.

Head over to Mrs. Spit's . She could use an encouraging word as she grapples with a new treatment for her MS.

Head over to Amanda's to give her your best wishes. She's celebrating her 50th birthday this weekend. May you ALWAYS sparkle, my friend!

Me? I reckon I'll get back to work now. Tim and William have gone on an adventure to watch the trout stocking and I've got a house to set to rights.








Sunday, February 26, 2017

WIlliam

William is the little boy in the front left of the picture. He is now six, and this is his birthday party with four of the 8 cousins who were there. The party was held in a place called The Treehouse. It is very hard to plan birthday parties in February because you can never be quite sure of the weather, but it was a beautiful day, and 9 kids ran their hearts out climbing and crashing and generally whooping it up.
 There's never a bad excuse for a good time with your cousins.
Pictures courtesy of my niece Kellie who was there with her three children, Rachel, Chance, and Greyson. There was also Brady and Brandon and Abby, Danny, and Caleb. 

It was a great day and a lot of fun. William chose to go out for 'China food' for supper. We met his mother there after her work day. By then, William was tired and managed to fall out of the car backwards in the parking lot. Never fear. He was not so tired that he could not tell everyone there it was his birthday and 'Now I am six'. He was so vocal about it that people from the next table came over to wish him happy birthday. 

He has grown into a happy child who does well in school. He has begun to read and he's good at math. He is the joy of his grandparents hearts and the apple of his mother's eye. 

Today he's going to see a play with his mother. "Knuffle Bunny: a Cautionary Tale." He is pretty excited about that as well. 

One of the greatest feelings in the world is watching that little boy grow. 

He generally sleeps over at our house Friday nights when his mother works late and then gets up early to open the store on Saturday. It is just much easier to have him where he needs to be. He loves a bath, and will beg for the chance to be in a warm bathroom soaking in the clawfoot tub full of bubbles and toys. 

He also loves lotion, and is quite a fan of the scent of vanilla. ("I smell good enough to eat!") I got some Gold Bond Men's lotion for him. He read the label carefully and then said, in a shocked voice, "But Grandma, I am not a man!" I told him that he was growing into one every single day. He was surprised at this and asked Grandpa for verification. Grandpa assured him it was true, that it was happening right in front of our very eyes. This has set him off on a tangent, where he will have long discussions with himself about what kind life he intends to have. 

One of his announcements: "...and when I see a house with a sign in front of it, well, I will tell grandpa and he will buy it and then we will fix it up and we will sell it." 

Speaking of that, we did buy another house. Work is slow for me right now (a blessed relief after the 66 hour weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas), and so we intend on getting in there, ripping it apart and putting it back together at a record pace.  

That's it, really. 



Sunday, February 5, 2017

Love Letters

A few years back, I met Mr. R, a lovely man who was beloved by all. Plans for his 100th birthday party were unfolding. I was looking forward to it very much, but three months before the big day, Mr. R. died.

He was a wonderful person who loved his life. He loved his job. He loved his friends. He loved books. Words, Art, He was a widower that cried when he thought of his wife. He talked about how they were avid ballroom dancers. He talked about how they read to each other every day, and when she grew to weak to read, he sat at her bedside and read to her still. It was so sweet, so touching.

When Mr. R passed, there was a massive estate sale. I wanted something to remind me of my friend and so Tim and I went. One of the things that I bought was a small vase. As we were leaving, I ran into a mutual friend. Seeing that vase, he said, "You know something neat about Mr and Mrs. R? Every night they sat down to supper. There were always flowers and there were always candles.

Every. Single. Night.

I wrote a Valentine column about that a few years back.

Last week, there was a message on the answering machine. I did not recognize the name. He spoke of his grandfather.

It was Mr. R's grandson. Mr. R was a WWII soldier. He wrote faithfully to his wife. She wrote faithfully back. The entire correspondence was saved, as I understand it, treasured by both parties. He's sending me a flashdrive.

He thinks it would make a lovely book.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Bob

Bob has been gently nudging me to return to blogging. I should. It was something that I truly enjoyed.

2016 was a year old long hours at work. I worked 56 hours a week, every week for months at a company that dangled the promise of a full time job (I was only a part time employee. I did not have benefits. As a part time employee, that meant that I worked all holidays, since the full timers were given those days off as part of their employment/benefit package). Since I loved the job, I accepted thing, and waited for the promises to be honored. They were not. Despite being short 6 full time positions, they decided after months, to replace only two of them...and that the employees who wanted them would have to compete with each other to convince the company who deserved the positions the most. I left that job, and I still miss it, but the company policies were unbearably unfair.

Tim was also being laid off, and so we needed those benefits. He's spent most of the year working on a house. He claims that I helped design it, which I don't think that I had such a great hand in that. After a year of working on that house, it was put on the market. Like the previous house that he'd done, it sold the very first week. Turns out the people live right down the street from us and are familiar with Tim's work. They'd been waiting for the house to go on the market. It was a cash offer for the full asking amount.

Ironic side note: My former employer tried to buy the house as another home for more clients. Call me petty, but I sent them a letter through the realtor that briefly stated that due to their unfair business practices that were not good for the employees or the clients they serve, we decided not to accept their offer. We also hoped that they'd use the experience to reconsider how they run their business. Petty? Perhaps. But it was a fine moment for me, and my former co-workers were thrilled. Most of them have left as well, with the the same mixed emotions at leaving our clients.

I'm working at a job that I don't love, but one that provides me with benefits and some very generous vacation. The company likes me just fine, and have been very kind to me. 2016 brought some heartbreak. Dylan and Brittani had a baby boy who died shortly after birth. A grandchild was born, and gone before I ever got a chance to hold him. It was a heartbreaking time, but with one phone call, I was enroute, given a week of bereavement to be with my children. The general manager came out to tell me how sorry he was after my return.

We worked some awful overtime during our 'peak season' right before the holidays - 6 weeks of 66 hour/7 days weeks, mandatory - but at the end of it, Cara was home for her annual Christmas break. Vacation had been closed - our allotted personnel had already scheduled their Christmas off long before I even began the job, but once again, the company stepped up and gave me my week due to the circumstances and told me that if I wanted more time, I needed only to call and it would be approved. I was grateful for their kindness once again.

It's not an easy company to work for. They expect performance, and you are required to meet efficiencies. I'm able to do that, but many are not. It is hard to see people coming and going at such a rate. I try to pay back their kindness to me by being a flexible employee. That means volunteering to train in other departments and helping out when needed. I like mixing it up a bit and not doing the same thing every day. I'm also finding that I'm at a stage of life where a five day work week/with weekends off (when it is not peak season) appeals to me very much.

So that's the job.

We bought our retirement home, a small cabin just across the road from my sister and her husband's property, so the neighbors are fine. Tim wanted property for hunting. Now he has it.  He took an 8 point buck there. The land has it's own oil well (free heat), and the deer are very attracted to the brine well, which is like a giant salt lick. It needs some extensive repairs. I like the little house, but Tim is not sure if it is worth fixing. It is old, and we've found some very neat things. Tim bought a tractor. He wants to put in a food plot, and we need to keep it brush hogged. I am excited to have a garden this year. Despite my best efforts, a garden in town did not work out. Our yard is shaded by two huge old maple trees.

In the meantime, we still live in our big home in town. I still love that house. We've spent a lot of time this year buying antique furniture. Two antique bedroom sets, one massive set with a marble topped dresser from the 1800s, the other only about 100 years old. We've got some cool guest bedrooms! It's been a fun time doing the estate sales, and we've found some great things.

William is the light of our hearts. He will be six very shortly and he is beginning to read, which is very exciting. We've begun the Laura Ingalls Wilder books, and he loves to hear those stories, one chapter at a time, There is nothing more soul satisfying to me than one freshly bathed little boy curled up with his head on my shoulder as we read.

There's more. So much more. It's been a big year for us. But I need to get back to bed. The recent elections have shocked me mightily. I marched locally, and found the experience very moving. I've become a lot more openly political. I call my my representatives regularly. My column has become more political as well, and despite the fact that our newspaper backed our president, they've not tried to stop me. It's opened the door to some new friendships.

Tim and I continue to plod along. There will be pictures later, but for right now...I just wanted to post something because Bob missed me. You all should head on over to Bob's right now. He's just discovered that he's going to be a grandpa. Congratulate him, and tell him Debby sent you!