Monday, June 17, 2019

Cheese

William and I read before bed. Although he is a very good reader, he likes to be read to. We're currently reading Laura Ingalls Wilder, one of my very favorite series from when I was a child. William loves hearing about 'the olden days'. I think in his mind, Laura Ingalls and I grew up together.

William is amazed by the thought that Laura and her family don't run to the store when they need something. We've made butter before, so he knows how that works. He helps in the garden, so he knows about how things grow. His grandpa is a hunter, so he knows that you bring home meat when you shoot a deer. At the family bread baking last year, Tim's cousin Carol gave him a piece of honey comb which sparked a real curiosity about bees, and so he understood the story about Pa and the Bee Tree. We pick berries. We bake. He knows from whence his food does come.

What dumbfounded him was cheese making. He had a thousand questions about cheese, and cheese curds and whey.

I explained. Back in the day, when the kids were little and I was a stay at home mom, we made cheese and yogurt. William listened in fascination. He'd be interested in making cheese except Laura's mother used the stomach lining of a calf for rennet. He loves the calf at his Aunt Anna's. I explained about vegetable rennet.

I think that we'll be making cheese soon.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Diocesan Picnic

Today was the diocesan picnic for our church. The tickets were bought long before we knew the weather report. It was 67 degrees and raining when we set out. By the time we reached Waldameer Park, which is about an hour and a half west of us, it was 54 and raining harder.

We had an outdoor church service in a covered pavilion lead by our bishop, but for me, what made it all worth the price of admission was the words of the 85 year old owner of the park. He welcomed us all to the park, and reminded us that our church (the Episcopal Church) played a pretty big role in the founding of our nation. Without condemning anyone, he managed to make it clear what our responsibilities are in these times. His speech could not have lasted more than three minutes, but it was impressive. He spoke of gratitude, of his good fortune, and of his responsibility to others. He donated the ticket money back to the church to be used to benefit youth programs.

We had a good hot meal, and set out to ride the rides. The good news is that because it was 54 degrees and raining, there were no lines at any of the rides. The bad news is that it was 54 and raining.

William lasted all of an hour and a half before he allowed that he was cold and wet and ready to head home. Nobody argued with him at all.

On the way home he chattered away in the back seat to his mother. "It was a good day! I had fun today!"

His happy chatter warmed my heart, but I still needed that heated seat for the rest of me.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Weather

We've got it set up for our house to get a new roof this summer.

If it ever stops raining. 

What's the weather in your neck of the woods?

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Motivation

I am in an historical play, about the first Women's Convention, which was held in Seneca Falls, NY. (Read more here).

I just happened to be scooting out of a store at the same time that the director was scooting in, and she said, "Hey, we were talking about you last night."

I'd done this play with her and some of the others several years ago, locally, but this year the play has been picked up by the Park Service. We will be putting it on IN Seneca Falls, at the very church where it was held in 1848, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment. There is a lot of attention paid to historical accuracy and costuming and the like.

It's a far bigger deal than it was the last time I did it.

Anyways, I'm not a professional. I did it last time, because I was on this kick that I should do stuff for no other reason than I'd never done it before. I never had been in a play before. A coworker talked to me about it, and so I did it.

Last time, it was a group of friends, some with more experience than others, but it was sort of laid back. We did wear costumes. I thought they were historically accurate, but what do I know? The first time that I sat down in my hoop skirt, it popped up and smacked me in the face. There was an art to being a woman back in the day.

Anyhow.

At one of the first rehearsals, I did my line, and the question came, "What is your motivation?"

I looked at the director. I sensed immediately that the right answer was NOT "well, my motivation is that it says that right here on page 4 that my character says this, and so I said it..."

I just listened. 'What was my motivation?' It actually sounded kind of pretentious. But I tried to give it serious consideration. But in being asked this question over and over, in hearing others being asked this question, over and over, I find that now, I am sort of applying that question to real life.

"What is my motivation?"

Sometimes I surprise myself with my answers.

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Keegan

I stood before the stone. It's a nice one. It gives his name, Keegan Joseph, a big name for a tiny boy, and the day of his birth, August 17th. The date of his death, August 18th.

The inscription reads, "If ever comes the time we can't be together, keep me in your heart. I'll stay there forever." Three years ago, in the middle of the night, I found those words and knew that they were right. The next morning, when I showed them to my grieving children, they knew that they were right too. 

When I go to visit that little grave, I usually do it by myself so that when I cry, no one sees. Dylan and Brittani have had all they can do to handle their own grief. 

Everytime I get out of that car, I stand before that little stone. I usually get as far as a wistful, "oh I wish..." and it gets no further than that. Because the memories rush back. There are things that I will carry with me forever: the sound of my daughter in law's crying, the look on my son's face as he carried his own son's tiny coffin to a tiny hole. I will never forget the helplessness of those days, the heartbreaking desire to fix it, to make it right, to DO something, ANYTHING...even as I knew nothing I could do would help.

A lot of marriages do not survive the death of a child, but they have weathered it. They almost seem stronger for it. 

After almost two years to the day, along came Iris, their rainbow baby. 

Last weekend, I sat rocking her in the rocker Tim and I bought for them when they decorated that nursery for Keegan. The pictures that Brittani and I found frames and mats for hang on the wall above the toybox. The hunny pot lamp sits on the bookshelf we bought. So many memories. We helped them put that nursery together 3 summers ago, and it was such a precious time, the calm before the most terrible of terrible storms. 

The robin egg blue curtains has been replaced by pink curtains. The changing table now has a pink pad. These small changes make the nursery just as perfect for Iris as it would have been for her brother. 

Iris and I had a beautiful weekend, our first weekend together, filled with rocking, and stories, and playing together, stroller walks around the neighborhood, splashing in the new water table I had shipped ahead. Dylan and Brittani had a beautiful weekend, but I enjoyed my time, learning my beautiful grand daughter. It really was perfect.

I stopped by the cemetery on the way home. It was raining and as I studied the stone, interestingly, I didn't cry this time. My heart was so filled with gratitude, gratitude for Iris. Gratitude for the joy she's brought to her besotted parents. Gratitude that Brittani's eyes are happy, that her old giggle is back. Gratitude for Dylan's obvious pleasure in his little daughter. 

I studied that stone. I realized that for the past 3 years, as Dylan and Brittani grieved for their child, I was grieving for my own children and their pain.  I never got to meet him. I never got to hold him. In a strange way, it suddenly felt as if I'd never really grieved for Keegan himself.

What would he have been? I know that he looked like his father from the few pictures that they have of him. I know that he would be turning three. I imagine that he'd be all about super heroes and running and jumping. I know that he would have loved books. He couldn't have helped it, being read to every day. He would have been beloved. I can tell you that for a fact. Never was a little boy wanted so very much. 

I stood there in the rain and thought of these things. When it was time, I walked back to the car. I drove out of the cemetery. As I waited for traffic to clear so that I could pull out, I caught sight of the balloon that I left behind, one of those big vinyl ones like I got his sister. It bobbed and bounced in the rain. My heart said good bye and once again, I began the 5 hour trip home. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

Ellie K.

Ellie K.? Just checking in. Please drop me a message. I'm concerned about you.

Iris

Back from my trip to Dylan and Brittani's. The last time I saw Iris, she was a pretty fussy child and to be honest, I went there expecting that she'd be the same little girl I saw the last time.

Surprise!

Dylan left for work the first morning, and Brittani had not arrived home from night shift. When I heard her on the baby monitor, I went into her room expecting the worst. Iris looked through her bed rails at me, a bit surprised but perfectly content to be lifted out of bed and cuddled on the way to the changing table.

We had breakfast and playtime, and it was wonderful fun. Such fun that the following night, I dropkicked Dylan and Brittani out the door for a bonus date night. It's been a long time since they went to see a movie. Their theater has reclining leather seats, beer and appetizers. Quite honestly, if I went to a theater like that, I'd never see an entire movie to save my soul. I'd be snoozing in a half hour. But anyways, Aquaman got two thumbs down, although the time together got an enthusiastic two thumbs up.

I spent a lot of time playing with Iris. When I went to see her the first week of April, I bought her first balloon. I got a vinyl one. The thing lasted until the first week of June and she loved her balloon. I even got a darling picture of the time she took it to breakfast with her, sitting in her highchair clutching the string in her little hand. What's a grandma to do? I replaced that balloon for her. When we walked into the store and she saw the net 'cage' full of helium balloons, her eyes got wide with the wonder of it all. We also bought her a water table, which kept her well and truly entertained.

Her parents had their first overnighter Saturday night at a resort about a half hour from home. We sent them off with a good bottle of champagne and our very best wishes for a very good time. I rocked Iris contentedly, remembering once again how a baby fits perfectly into the curve of your arms, against your shoulder. It was beautiful. I rocked her long after she fell asleep, simply because I could.

It was such a successful weekend, we're going to do a repeat in July. I'm looking forward to it already.



Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Iris

Tomorrow, right after work, I head off for Blandon for 5 days. It is Dylan and Brittani's fifth anniversary. Grandma will babysit while they go out for their first overnighter.


Grandma's pretty excited about all of this. 




Sunday, June 2, 2019

Stand Up at the Dollar General

We've seen him before. Come to think of it, most of the time we see him, it's at the Dollar General. We stopped in to pick up some kitty litter, and there he was with his patter, handing out hard candy to everyone.

His shtick is basically runs along the lines  of "If a woman's sucking on a piece of hard candy, well, she's less liable to be nagging at you."

He is tall and rail thin, white haired, with brilliant blue eyes. He loves it when you rise up and meet his prattle with a line of your own. He laughs as loud as anyone and explains, "Don't mind me, I just love to have fun."

Yesterday, there was a long line. We had yet another string of bad storms with heavy rains and thunder and lightning come through and they were having trouble running their credit card transactions. A friend from work was standing behind us in line. Our chatty friend moved down the line handing out candy and blabbing on. An elderly woman showed up and insulted him in mock disgust.

He looked astonished and whispered, "It's HER again! I don't know who she is, but everywhere I go, she's there too."

My friend's husband said, "I think that's your boss right there..." The man clutched his face in mock horror as the elderly woman said, "You got that right!"

I leaned forward to the woman and in my most comforting voice said, "Oh, HONEY, you have everyone's deepest sympathy..."

Everyone laughed, the man the very loudest of all, as he gave me an extra peppermint.

I love uncomplicated souls like the two of them.


Saturday, June 1, 2019

I Stand Corrected

We have most of the garden in. We had to take a run into town to get tomato cages. Honestly, where do those things GO? We always seem to lose a number of them from year to year. The problem was that when we went into town, nobody had them. Sold out.

Finally, we ended up at the Tractor Supply. They were sold out as well, but we decided to buy a cattle panel, and some t-posts and made a 'wall' for tying up our plants. That 16 foot long cattle panel should be a bit easier to keep track of.

While we were there, browsing (Seresto collar for the cat, and what do they have for deer forage seed? and oh, yeah, we need to get some diatomaceous earth for some ant hills, and hey, they have wonderful geranium baskets for $4.99 and so on and so forth)

William darted over and grabbed his grandpa's hand and said urgently, "I need to show you something," and dragged Tim over to a display of kids cowboy boots. He wanted those boots in the worst kind of way. I could tell right away that Tim was not going to tell him no, either. They discussed things as William tried boots on. "These fit perfectly," he said, and his grandpa answered back, "The way you grow in the summer, these boots will be outgrown by the time school starts. I think we need to buy a size larger," but lo, they did not have the size we needed.

William was very disappointed, but his grandpa said to the manager, "Call the Warren store and see if they have the size we need." She did, and they did, and a pair was put back under the counter for us to pick up the following day.

William marched into the Tractor Supply wearing sneakers and boot socks under his shorts. He walked out wearing his new boots and he was very excited. He liked the way they tapped when he walked. He couldn't stop admiring his feet. He suddenly gave a jump and clicked his heels together and said, "I did that just like a real cowboy, didn't I?"

You learn something new every day, don't you?  I guess I never thought of cowboys as heel clicking fools before. Evidently, I was wrong.

Sunday, May 26, 2019

Summer Begins

We went to the camp to open it for the season. I was pleased that our rodent proofing was mostly successful, which saved a lot of time cleaning.

I scrubbed and vacuumed and Tim mowed. He has built a patio area on the front, and we had our first cookout, and my sister and brother in law walked over to help us eat a watermelon that I did not have room in the fridge for.

We watched our grandsons play together, and walked down to the bridge Tim built across the creek. The boys played in a pine tree and scampered on ahead, stopping to blast shrieks from blades of grass held between their two thumbs, a new trick that my sister taught them that very day.

William said to Danny, "Hey did you know you can chew on grass?" and he reached down to pluck a piece hay which he promptly stuck in his mouth like any ol' country boy would. It made us all laugh.

When they left, we went inside, and William got ready for bed. We tucked him in and went to bed ourselves, and much to our amazement, given the cold spring and the unpromising start to summer, we saw a goodly number of fireflies blinking in the woods at the edge of the freshly mowed grass.

And that is the view I drifted off to sleep with.

Tomorrow we will begin to plant our garden.

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Happy Birthday to Me

Today is my 62nd birthday. My sister and brother-in-law kidnapped Tim and I and took us out for our birthdays. We came home and had cake and ice cream with Brianna and William. 

It was a fun celebration of a day, but the icing on the cake was this: 
Tim bought me a banjo clock I had seen last year at my favorite clock place. I admired it, but it was more than I could see my way to paying. It's not the best picture because it was getting dark outside, and I haven't had time to rearrange the pictures on that wall, but I was anxious to get the clock hung and hear it chime. 

I think it might be my favorite clock. 

Disclaimer: I say that every time I get another one. 

Sunday, May 19, 2019

Customer Service

I went into a beauty salon to pick up a hair product. It was something that I'd been using, and I liked it. I was about to run out, happened to be in the area and so I stopped in. I was looking at the rack of products to find what I was looking for.

One of the beauticians hovered.

I found what I needed and turned to go to the register. The beautician said, "Wait a minute," and took my product from my hand. "That won't work. With your hair type, you need this," and handed me another product from the same line.

A little flummoxed, I said, "Actually, I've used that (indicating what she'd put back on the shelf) before. It was recommended. I tried it and liked it so I'm back for more."

She said, "You'll like this better."

Me, a little firmly, "Listen, I'm not trying to be ungracious here, and thanks for your help, but I really do like the product I selected."

She rolled her eyes, tossed her perfectly coiffed head. and headed for the register.


Friday, May 17, 2019

Abby

I was doing a favor for an old friend. Her youngest girl, Sarah, and my Cara were good friends all through school. It was nice to catch up with Sue again. It's been a while since we've seen each other.

It left me thinking about when the girls were young. Sarah spent so much time at our house that she had her own room. Other members of the marching band marched in an out of our house on a regular basis. I miss all those exuberant teenagers, and it was fun to sift through the memories.

I always check facebook before I go to bed, just in case one of the kids has messaged, and the first thing that popped up on my feed was a post: "My Abby died. My life will never be the same." Abby was one of those who marched in and out of the house regularly. Her mother's post practically dripped pain.

I contacted Sarah, now a teacher in NY and Cara, in Spain.

I still can't believe it. Abby had the very best giggle, and it doesn't seem possible that it is gone from this world.

I'm so glad that I had a chance to hug my Cara last month.

Thursday, May 16, 2019

In Which I have a Close Call

I've been putting in my time at work and then working on clearing out the hoarder's house in the evening. I'm beat, but we have gotten so much done. Tim hauled a dump truck load to the transfer station yesterday, and we filled that dump truck again today. But today, for the first time, I feel like we're making headway.

My friend, Deb and I worked hard today. We were on the second floor, and she began tossing old mouse damaged suitcases out the front window so that Tim could load them on the truck. We noticed neighbors watching in interest, so she bellowed out, "AND DON'T YOU COME BACK, EITHER!" Tim looked shocked, and I about fell on the floor laughing. Before it was done, Tim was laughing too.

We took up the carpets upstairs, and tossed them out the window too. The dust. Oh my gosh, you cannot imagine the dust. Years and years of dust. But now that those nasty carpets are out of there, I think the house will smell much better.

That's about all I got. I'm beat.

Funny/not funny story, on the way home from work yesterday, sitting at a red light, I caught a sudden glimpse of movement in the side mirror. A large branch fell from a tree, onto the car behind me, and blocked two lanes of traffic.


Monday, May 13, 2019

Those neighbors

One of the kits.

 Another one of the kits.
As they get older, they are increasingly nocturnal. Here, mama has just delivered a meal. My sister is missing a chicken. Coincidence? Who knows. She's not too upset about that because she understands the circle of life, but I imagine that if chickens begin to make a habit out of coming up gone, there might be repercussions. 

Goosebumps

This will sound horrible. 

You know how you have friends on facebook that you don't actually know all that well? This person is the daughter of friends that I haven't seen in years. I'm sure she must have sent me the friend request, because I usually don't do that sort of thing, and, well, she's the daughter of some casual acquaintances. 

Anyways, I went scrolling through my facebook, and I saw a picture that was posted on her timeline, from a guy. An older guy. And not the young man that she was engaged to. 

I clicked on his name, and there it was, immediately, an announcement that he and his wife were separating, posted not long before the cozy picture he posted on that young girl's time line, the one labeled "Just want all the light that the universe has to offer!"

He was married, with teenagers. She was engaged to a very nice young man, one that I do know, and think very highly of. 

I know, I know. The only two people that know what's happening in a relationship are the two people involved. There are plenty of reasons that a marriage breaks up, or engagements are broken. Good reasons. I know all that, but the suddenness of it all was kind of mind boggling. 

In his announcement that he and his wife were separating, he mentioned that wife by name, and I clicked on her name. (I know, I know how horrible that sounds) I was astonished to see a woman that was an older version of my young 'friend'. They had the same hobbies. They were both nature girls. They were both beautiful with long blonde hair. You might have mistaken them for mother and daughter.  The similarities just gave me goosebumps.

I don't have the inside scoop, and I hate nosy people, and I'm not judging, but I can tell you, I'm really praying for this girl. 


Saturday, May 11, 2019

Mack Goes to Spain

Cara has flown back to Paris, met up with Colin who flew into London a couple weeks ago to pick up their things, their car and Mack.

For those of you who are not familiar with the story, Maki is an Afghan street cat that Cara found in Kabul at the Nowzad animal shelter five years ago.

He's living a charmed life these days and is now visiting his eighth country.


Tornado

A tornado went through while we were gone.

We couldn't believe it really. I mean, we think of all the times that there were tornado warnings and tornado sirens...and it all came to naught. A little random damage, somebody's shed got knocked over, a few trees downed...but this was different.

Houses badly damaged, a local business destroyed, the sign for that business found 4 miles away, across the river from us, where trees were downed. Our priest lost his garage, his truck and his camper. A lot of people on his quiet corner had some serious home damage.

When we got back, I went up to Terry to find out if he was okay, if he and his beloved dog had a place to stay. I reminded him that Tim and I are pretty handy at this sort of thing, and to yell when he's ready to begin work.

He's got his house tarped off and he's waiting for insurance to settle with him. Everyone got to work removing the debris and stuff, but everything else is at a stand still, while they wait for the insurance to come through. It's been nearly a month. I guess I never thought of that.

The building debris from the business still hangs from the trees and power lines, and the traffic light is still out.

Small potatoes really, compared to the tornado damage you see on the evening news, but it affected the area in a big way.

It never ceases to amaze me, the randomness of nature. That storm came down the river, bypassed two mobile home parks full of mobile homes. Things could have been disasterous. But they were not.

Our house lies between Starbrick, where the storm touched down, and across the river where it touched down again. We were unscathed. Since we're re-roofing this summer, Tim was hopeful of some small damages that could be turned into the insurance. No such luck.

William has long been mesmerized by tornados. That day, had he been home, he could have looked out his playroom window and seen one with his very own eyes.





Thursday, May 9, 2019

Gone Girl

When we were in Washington DC last month (how does that HAPPEN? Time just flies...), there was one night that two of my kids, Dylan and Brianna, took William to China Town to meet up with their uncle.

That left Tim and I and Cara and Colin with a couple hours to ourselves. We took ourselves to a great eatery and there was wine. Walking back towards DC, on quiet dusky streets, I caught a glimpse from the corner of my eye of a man with a woman pushed up against the door of a closed store (it was recessed, set back a bit from the side walk). She was saying "Let me go, let me GO!" in a quiet voice, and he had her backed up, with her shirt bunched up in his hand. I could not hear what he was saying, but it was obvious that whatever was happening was not what should be happening at all.

We were a group of four.

My surprised mind formulated the plan to stop right there, to not take one step. I thought that I was witnessing a sexual assault, and to my thinking, by standing there, we would stop it from going any further.

Before my mind could get any further with my plan, there was a blur that was Cara. She darted in there and pushed the man back. In a very loud voice, she began to upbraid him. He did not let go of the woman, and he was not embarrassed. He began to argue with her. Cara did not back down. She said, "You're not a man if you put your hands on a woman."

Shiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiit....

At that point, I knew neither one of them were going to back down. I asked a passerby to call 911. In my shock, all I knew was that neither Colin or Cara's phones worked in country. In my shock, I forgot completely that WE had a cell phone. The passerby hesitated and then kept on walking.

I saw a police car a block a way and I ran. (When an old fat lady runs, you KNOW she's scared.) I got the police officer and explained what was going on as we jogged back. Cara and the man were still going at it. The man had the woman's purse and was explaining that he owned everything in it, and had spent a great deal of money on the lady. Cara was pointing out that 'he had NO right', etc. etc.

The officer asked for the purse, the young man did not release his hold on it, although he did let go of the woman. The request for the purse was repeated. The man ignored it and found himself in cuffs. At that point, Cara was deep in conversation with the woman. "You don't put up with this. Do you have a place to go?"

Before we knew it, there were four police cars pulling up from all directions. We filled out reports, and the officer thanked me for stopping. "Most people wouldn't have," he said.

I said, honestly, "I wasn't quite sure what to do, but once Cara went nose to nose with him, I knew we all were kind of committed to stay."

Later, Cara was telling Dylan in her riotous way. "Mom was standing there gawping like she does when she's in a big city..." and they laughed.

I explained my thinking. I didn't know it was a robbery, immediately. I thought it was a sexual assault. I stopped to prevent it from going any further. Once a 911 call was made, we could leave when the police showed up to take over. People carry knives and guns. I had no desire to confront him physically, but every desire to assist the woman.

They laughed like fools and it was plain that they didn't believe me.

I've been thinking about it. I used to be every bit as bold as Cara. When I was very pregnant, with her, actually, I confronted a man who had just bashed a man over the head with a chair. at the place that I worked. (Sounds like a rough place, doesn't it...it was a bowling alley.) I backed him up and refused to let him go, and (probably because I was pregnant) he didn't fight. The police arrived. Turned out the man had a gun.

So, yeah, I had my moments.

Now I'm 60. I guess I still have my moments. The kids would call them 'senior moments'. We live in a rough world, and I'm more cautious.

Sometimes I wonder where that 'young me' went though.

Wednesday, May 8, 2019

Unsung

Choosing to discontinue treatment, to wait for your life to wind down...that takes courage

Endorsing your wife's decision to discontinue treatment, to watch her life wind down, putting your grief on hold to be present for her...that takes courage too. 

Many years after two lives were knit together, the threads of that life are separating, 

In the midst of all the stories you hear about heroes today, take a moment to reflect on the quiet courage of people whose stories are never told. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Beautiful Day

Conversation:

Me: (brightly) "Gosh it's a beautiful day today, isn't it?"

Response: "I hate warm weather. The hoes come out with their short shorts and bare midriffs, showing everything they got...it's DISGUSTING!"

Me: (smile fades...)

I swear. I don't understand people sometimes...

Saturday, May 4, 2019

New Car

I have a new car (new to me, anyway). It was an incredibly good deal. It is also a luxury car, which I have never owned in my life, all the bells and whistles.

Now I'm not a person who cares a lot about what she's driving. I drove my little Versa around with no complaints at all. But what I will allow to is that for the first time in, like, probably forever, there isn't an idiot light blazing on my dashboard. I like that. A lot. I was surprised how much I liked that, actually. 

And I drove my new-to-me car around happily for a week.

The battery light is on. 

Tim just came rushing in to tell me that I can't drive it until he figures out what the problem is. 

I'm starting to think that it might be ME....

Late Edit: battery cable was damaged, which led to the cable getting hot. It melted the protective cover. Tim replaced the whole thing, says if it wasn't for that little light, we wouldn't have known anything was wrong and that the car would have surely caught fire.

I drove it, cautiously. No idiot lights. For now.

*watches warily*

The neighbors on the other side


We do need to move the new game camera. We got some pretty nice shots, but they are too far away. The camera will be moved to the tree in front, facing this burrow, which seems to be the site of the most activity for this family. There appears to be 3 kits in this particular group. Here are two of them.



Thursday, May 2, 2019

The Neighbors

We went to check the game camera. A fox stood very still watching us. He zipped into a burrow and disappeared when we spotted him. We didn't bother them. There are three different burrow systems. We didn't check the new game camera set to capture pictures of the foxes, so as not to make them nervous, but across the road, one of the cameras there got a shot of this visitor at the cabin.

Tim can't wait to get back to the woods.

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Two Cans of Hairspray

Tim is a quiet kind of guy. Not really demonstrative. I know that he loves me, but he's not the hearts and flowers sort of guy. It used to bother me, but now I just take it as part of the package. He's a good man. Not perfect, but a very good man. The sort of person that you can be certain of.

Last night, I was cooking supper. He'd run to the Walmart to pick up an SD card for his new Browning Special Ops game camera. Across the road from our retirement property, there's a den of foxes with 7 kits. Cute as anything. Just watching them was enough to convince Tim that we needed a good trail cam to get pictures of them.

He came walking in the door, reading the package from his SD card and said, "I got you something," and casually tossed a bag with two cans of my hairspray on the table.

I was a bit gobsmacked. He's never done that in his life. I didn't even know that he knew what kind of hairspray I use. "What's that for?" and he said that they were having a sale. Buy one $19. can of hairspray and get the second can for $2. He headed for the livingroom to set up his trail cam.

I stared after him.

It's a strange thing how two cans of hairspray can make you feel so very loved.

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

Update:

In yet another change, the house closes on Friday, the day we leave for Blandon, all of us, this time, to see Cara and Colin and Dylan and Brittani and our darling Iris.

Trying to finish out the work week, pack, get all the last minute preparations done, meet with our friend who's taking care of the cat, fitting in the appointments with the lawyers, plus we've still got one truck, an air compresser and a rollaround tool box to get out of the garage before they take possession on Friday.

Feeling a tiny bit harried.

We won't be back until the 22nd, so happy Easter everyone!!

Sunday, April 7, 2019

Funny Story

Tim and I had a house on the market now since last fall. It's a very nice house, and I've posted pictures of it before, but it didn't sell. Winter is not a good time to sell a house.

The septic system needed replaced. We knew that. We had an inspector come out and tell us that we needed not just a septic system but a sewage treatment plant, since there was a small creek (with a stone bridge) in the side yard. We winced a little but set the $18,000 aside for the project. Permits take a long time in coming and the federal government shutdown in the early part of the year delayed DEP even more.

The realtor came to us and wanted us to lower the price. (His contract was half over.) Tim looked at the number of showings and said no. We had a steady stream of people looking at the place. He felt quite strongly that the right person would eventually look at it once the weather got nicer, despite the septic issues. After all, we had the designing of the system done. We had a contractor lined up to do the work and we had the money to pay for the project. It was just a matter of time.

I became aware of a pretty big need in our community, something that was kind of eating at me. I felt like I wanted to help. I'd been praying about it earnestly but in truth, I didn't feel like I could talk to Tim about it, Money was tight. We had money that we didn't dare touch and he was already at work on the sweet Craftsman bungalow, something which was going to require money to continue. In my prayings, I said, "You know, if this house sold, I could talk to Tim about that money without feeling bad, God."

Three days later, I came home from work. The realtor had called Tim. We had a couple who wanted the house. The realtor said, "Well, this has certainly come out of left field."

We were both a bit shocked, me, because I had prayed a prayer, him because we weren't expecting it.

The dicey bit is that they had a federal loan which required the septic to be complete before they would finalize the mortgage. We still had not received the first permit (three are required). We didn't hold out a lot of hope on this deal to be sure.

The next day, the first permit arrived.

The people contacted the realtor and said that they could get the loan BEFORE the septic was done.
The closing was set for April 7th.

Sunday morning, before church, I sat down with Tim and told him what I'd done, about my prayer and my promise. To his credit he wrote out the check on the spot.

By Wednesday, that deal imploded.

The buyers explained that they'd have to get a construction loan from the bank to get the mortgage before the septic was done. They gave two options: that, number one, we'd allow them to rent the house until the septic was done (something that could take months), or number two, pay them $3000 to get the place remortgaged after the septic was installed, to take that mortgage from a construction loan (higher interest) to a conventional mortgage.

Tim found that the people were being sued by their previous landlord and had just settled last month. (Tim is a man who dots all his i's and crosses all his t's). He also thought it was a bit demanding that they wanted us to pay for their refinance. He said no. The realtor tried to argue with him. Tim decided the realtor was not on our side, not really. I mean, say that the house deal (for whatever reason) fell through. We'd have people in our house that we could not get out. Furthermore, if they were not nice people, they could do quite a bit of damage to the place. We'd be stuck.

Tim said no, multiple times. By Friday, he was telling the realtor to put the house back on the market after the April 7th deadline. When I got home from work, he said fiercely, "The deal is done! It's fallen through!"

God confuses me sometimes. I mean, I prayed. I thought we had an answer. We gave in good faith. I drove to my son's and DIL's house alone, wondering about things. At the end of the five hour trip, I'd decided that, simply put,  if that door was closed, there was no sense worrying about it. I took a deep breath and refused to worry about it.

Next morning, in the middle of my getting acquainted with my youngest daughter's significant other, in the middle of admiring my grandaughter who was in the throes of teething, but still gorgeous to behold, I got a phone call from Tim. The people, deciding that Tim had been pushed too far, decided to go for the construction loan after all, which meant that they could move in right away. We'd simply reduce the price of the house by $18,000 and they'd get a construction loan. When the work was done, they'd pay to remortgage the house themselves.

Shocked, I said, "I thought the deal was done." He said, "I did too."  I guess the buyers were pushing to get whatever they could. When they realized that Tim wasn't going to blink, they backed down.

So that's where we stand now. The house closes at the end of the month, when we get back from another trip, as a family, to Dylan and Brittani's to see Cara and Colin once again before they head back over to the UK. They are spending the summer traveling through Spain this year.

Saturday, April 6, 2019

How Did We Get Here?

Tim went up to see an estate sale. Remember Roger, the story teller? He's quite a tinkerer (like Tim) and Tim was interested to see what kind of things Roger's family had for sale as they prepare to put his log cabin on the market.

He came back with quite a collection of stuff. One of our first projects at the retirement property is to build a garage with an attached equipment shed for the tractors and the dump truck. I successfully lobbied for a greenhouse to come off the side of it. Roger had a very nice greenhouse, and Tim came home with some triple walled poly carbonate panels.

He also got some very nice tongue and groove panels for interior walls of the house itself. He's on his way back up with the truck to load up. He talked about some bead board. All these things are new and unused and going for practically nothing. I told him that he might as well pick it up. We've got storage for the items and we'll certainly be using them.

It's funny to consider it. Retirement has always seemed like a far horizon. Now all of a sudden, we're actively working on it. We've got the land. We've got the producing well, which will provide us with free heat and a small quarterly stipend.  The garage work will begin this summer.

We're looking at a time line of 3-5 years.

It's a bit of a jolt to put the numbers to it.







Wednesday, April 3, 2019

The Lottery Winner

I'm tired. Just got home from a trip to see Cara and Colin who are staying with Dylan and Brittani. Bonus is that I got to play with the baby. Oh my goodness, she is adorable, for all that she's teething and miserable.

The trip home was long and tedious. Wind gusts coming from the west at 50 miles an hour. Once I hit the interstate, those gusts nearly blew me off the highway. The tractor trailers were swaying in the wind. It was a tense hour and a half portion of the trip as my car rocked and veered.

When I finally got off the highway, my shoulders and arms were tense and tight. My back was killing me. I stopped at a convenience store to get an iced tea.

I pulled in about the same time that an elderly lady pulled in next to me. She got out of her car with a fist full of scratched lottery tickets, presumably winners, to take into the store. The wind gusted and lottery tickets were everywhere. She screamed.

I helped her chase down her tickets. I fished one out from beneath my car. She wasn't sure how many she had started out with. Even after I handed her the ones that I had found, she was scanning the parking lot for others.

I went inside and got my tea. She came in as I was headed to the register and she thanked me again. "No problem, I said, "but if I were you, I'd cash those in and not bother buying any more today. Just doesn't seem like your lucky day!"

She agreed with me.

I walked out to my car and backed out. She came to the door to make sure no other tickets were hiding beneath my car, and then waved gaily as I pulled away.

Saturday, March 23, 2019

Working

I've been training in quality control. I like it, but although it is the same company, things are quite different in that department.

Thursday afternoon, I got quite a complicated pallet of work, and since I am new, I try hard to be careful. I went to the woman who trained me, and explained what I was doing and that it was likely to take me a while. She said told me not to worry about it, but she also told me to make sure that I put myself in off-standard work.

Off-standard means that they will not calculate your efficiencies using that time frame. In my last department, putting yourself in off standard was a big no-no. That was called 'cheating', pure and simple.

I met, and exceeded, the standards in my previous department but I always thought it was unfair that they calculated the time spent on replacing the labels in your printer, or having difficulty with the computer, or having any problem that required you to find someone to ask questions. It really rankled me to hear the word 'cheater' bandied about so freely.

I consider myself a person of integrity. That is not to say that I'm perfect, but it does mean that I try my best and that I don't think there is any reason that my honesty should be in doubt. I don't believe that I've given them any reason to doubt it. I was plain spoken about this, something which did not endear me to the supervisors there.

I worked away at my new job, patiently, carefully, working as quickly as I could, but still, I still had another pallet of mixed cases the next morning. I worried about that,  so when my supervisor came around, I explained to her that I would have a lot of off-standard time, and why.

She assured me that I had nothing to worry about. She said that if she saw I was in the same case for hours, she'd have questions for me, but she didn't see that as something that would ever be an issue with me.

It was a little shocking to hear that. She was saying, in effect, "I trust you. I trust your judgement."

Those are important words for an employee to hear.

I went back to work, and eventually I got through those cases and on to less challenging stuff. I flew through that.

Here's the rub. I'm not meeting standard there, and I do not understand why. It is frustrating to me. I'm not even in the ballpark. I've been asked several times if I plan to transfer to the department. I tell them, "I would love to, but I will not until I know for a fact that I can meet the efficiencies of this department." (Plainly and simply put, at this company, if you do not meet efficiencies, you will be fired.)

The supervisor in this department has taken it upon herself to insure that I meet efficiencies, extra work for her, and I appreciate it very much.

The first time that she watched me work, she gave me some suggestions. I spent the next couple days working more slowly but using that time to instill a slightly different procedure that incorporated her suggestions. She watched me again yesterday, and actually stopped me to tell me how pleased she was.

Later when we were talking, she told me that I worked at 105% efficiency while she watched me. She also wondered why I wasted time double checking myself. I blinked a little at that. She said, "You don't need to." We talked for a while, she answered a couple questions.  I thanked her. She said, "My job is to make sure all my people succeed."

I went back to my desk and went to work.

It is a huge difference to work in a department where you are treated with dignity and where your questions are not immediately perceived as challenging authority.  Seems like a small thing, maybe, but it's a big deal to me. I really would like to stay in this department.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Passing the Peace

I'm doing a Lenten study at my church. It's a small group and the discussion is good. This week's topic was prayer, and a very tiny elderly lady talked about her best prayer time is in the morning, in her silent house. I could imagine her sitting quietly, feeling close to God. 

But later during the discussion, we talked about the parts of our own church service, and her response was poignant. She loves passing the peace. She loves the hugs. 

She is a widow. The mother of six children grown and gone. She lives independently in her own home. 

Passing the peace can be controversial. I tend to stay in my pew and shake the hands (or hug) the people around me. Others roam the aisles. I think of this lady, tiny and frail. If she's in my vicinity, I do leave my pew to give her a hug. She always approaches me with outstretched arms and when I hug her, she says, "Oh Debby!" in such a glad way that always makes me feel as if I am, at that moment, the most important person to her. It's sweet, and it always touches my heart. 

Some folks cannot stand the wanderers. They consider it a disruption. One woman even sneeringly referred to it as 'Howdy Doody Time' (which did make me laugh). 

It doesn't matter to me, really. I like my church and the people in it. I'm also reserved, so I see both sides of the controversy. Last night, I realized how important those hugs can be.

Her children live far away. Those hugs my friend gets on Sunday are likely the only hugs she receives regularly, so they have to last her the week.

 I made sure to gently hug her before I left, one of those big enveloping hugs. She hugged me back, and she said, with her usual gladness, "Oh Debby!" 




Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Hallelujah!

It was the first day of spring. Even better it FELT like it!


Tuesday, March 19, 2019

Answer Me This...

Why is it that I can fall asleep soundly on the sofa and not hear a single thing? Not the news, not Wheel of Fortune, slept through a full half of Jeopardy.

It was a sound sleep, the kind of sleeping that you wake up from wondering, "What time is it?" "Where am I?" "What day is it?" 

I watched the second half of Jeopardy, trying to figure out just why the current champion annoys me so much. She won again. The woman played well and she certainly deserved to win, but gads....there's something about her. 

I blearily drag myself to the bathroom to brush my teeth. I nestle under my cozy electric blanket in my favorite flannel gown. I read a chapter of Howard's End (which I am enjoying as much as I did the first time I read it). I close the book, and shut off the light and stretch out luxuriously...

....and I am wide awake. 

Thursday, March 14, 2019

Iris and Izzy

My son and daughter-in-law have a little dog named Izzy. They got her as a puppy, and she was quite ill for a time with parvo, or something like it. She had terrible, terrible diarrhea and they were not sure that she would live.

But she did, and fast forward, Izzy is now a chipper little dog, a lot of fun. However, canine PTSD is real, because all these years later, the sound of a fart, or someone making a raspberry, will trigger Izzy to leap to her feet, sniff at her nether region, and run upstairs to her safe place beneath their bed.

Iris is 7 months old. Guess what new sound she's learned?

The dog may never come out from under the bed again.

Strange Thing

Today, we had a small party for a woman who is quitting to take a new position. I'd heard that she was frustrated with a personnel situation and I felt sorry for her, even though it is hard for me to imagine the woman she was having difficulty with as 'a bully'. I was shocked when I heard it. The woman in question talks a lot and it is plainly evident that she is not very bright. In truth, I feel a little sorry for her.

But the woman who is leaving is a nice person and I'll miss her, and so I told her that. 

She said, "It was a bunch of things, really, but the straw that broke the camel's back was when they raised the starting wage." 

I blinked. Of all the things to quit a job over! 

I listened to her vent about her 10 years with the company and her disappointment to see the new people rewarded. While the people who were there for years were given a raise, it wasn't equal to the raise in the starting pay. 

I remembered that day. We were all called in to an all associate's meeting. We were told that starting wage was going to be raised by $1.50 and that everyone there was going to get a raise as well. 

Dead silence. People were shocked. 

You could tell that the raise meant a lot to a lot of people who were struggling to make ends meet. I was very happy for everyone. So happy that I even dropped an anonymous note into the suggestion box thanking our general manager, and telling him that the raise would make a big difference for virtually everyone there. 

Not once did it ever occur to me to compare my raise with the new people. It surprises me that anyone would. 

I wish her well. It's not an easy place to work sometimes. I get frustrated too. But the company has been good to me personally, and I don't take that kindness for granted. I get 5 weeks of vacation a year. I have a very nice 401K and it provides Tim and I with the health benefits we need. I don't begrudge anyone the same. 

Friday, March 8, 2019

In which Tim sells a house and finds another...

We sold a house.

I got home and Tim said, "I want to take you out for supper."

I said suspiciously, "Why?"

He said, "I don't want you to cook."

I studied him. Something was up. He said, "I want you to come look at a house with me."

Me: "No. You've got Wayne St. waiting to be fixed up."

Tim: "This is a two unit duplex, a rental."

Me: (glowering) "No."

Tim, smoothly, and not missing a beat: "I want you to tell me why we shouldn't get it."

That shouldn't be a problem.

Update: We went to look at the house. I kept quiet. It had new windows, and was well insulated. It was also a work in progress. We went out to eat. Tim said, "Order anything you want. We'll save the coupons for another day." (The man was working it.) He discussed the house. I said, "I'm not going to advise you on this, because it is your business, and you make good business decisions." And I ate quietly.

Inside, I was doing math. We've got a renovation waiting. After a year or so, when that sells, we'll be able to begin on our retirement house. After a year or so, then we'll begin to ready our current house for sale. This takes us neatly into 2023. I want to retire. I want to see grandbabies grow. I want to go to Australia. I've been waiting ever so patiently....

This morning Tim woke up. Lying lazily in bed, he suddenly said, "I'm not sure I want to get tangled up in another house. It's a big chunk of money to commit.

I said, "You know, Tim...we've got the money to commit. I just am not sure that we have the time..."





Friday, March 1, 2019

Looking Ahead

March 1st. It actually came as a shock to realize that. Although the calendar indicates that spring is just around the corner, the weather doesn't. Single digit cold for the beginning of the week.

Cara will be coming home at the end of the month, and we will be meeting Colin in person for the first time (although we have skyped).

We plan to spend part of their visit in Washington DC. By then, it should actually BE spring, and there should be cherry blossoms.

I'm looking forward to every last bit of it.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

This is Roger, our 97 year old friend, with his wife, Agnes. 
The picture is from Agnes' facebook page. 



This is Iris. She's just discovered she has a tongue. 
William found his tongue a long time ago, and it hasn't stopped waggling since. 

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

Roger

We have a friend who is 97 years old and Tim and I both love his stories. His father was a logger who cut logs downriver from where they lived, at a place called Althom. Back in the day, a train ran through there, and the men would catch a ride up river, disembarking across the river from Grundeville Road.

They crossed the river by firing a shotgun up into the air. An old man who lived on the opposite side of the river would come in his boat to ferry them across, and they would begin the walk up Grundeville Road to their homes in Heart's Content.

One of loggers was a singer and he would walk along the road singing. His wife and small son would listen for the singing getting louder and louder the closer he got to home.

Roger has his father's pocket watch hanging on the wall. His father was taking a load of logs down the Allegheny River to Pittsburgh. The large raft hit a bridge and split in pieces, tossing the crew into the icy water. Amazingly for a boat man, his father did not know how to swim but managed to make it to shore, as did the rest of the men. Later, at the boarding house, his father shook the water from his pocket watch and set it on the radiator. It began to run once again.

The stories pour from Roger, and I love the look on his face when he tells them. He always seems amazed when we return to spend our Sunday afternoons with him. After our visits, he always sits in his little room and wonders if we'll come again.

We showed up Sunday with an armload of Fortune magazines from 1935, which he dearly loves to read. "I'm glad you're here! I wondered if maybe I hadn't talked too much last time," and he looks unbelieving when I tell him that his stories are what keeps us coming back.

We prime the pump by asking a question, and he's off and yarning once again. We listen intently, trying our best to gather all these details, asking questions.

After a couple hours, he leaned back in his chair. "Isn't memory a strange, strange thing? I could not tell you what happened yesterday, but I can remember a rhyme my father taught me when I was young," and he recited:

He stood upon a burning deck
His feet were covered in blisters
He had no trousers of his own,
that's why he wore his sister's.

He shook his head. "Now why would I remember such a thing? Why do you suppose all these stories just come to my mind one right after another?"

I don't know, but I'm glad for those stories and for the old man that tells them to us. 




Sunday, February 24, 2019

Avocado

You know, I have tried to sprout an avocado for years. YEARS. I cannot tell you the number of times that I carefully started this:

It never worked. Ever. Not once. 


So, I bought a special sprouting vase. 

That didn't work either. 

I don't even know how long ago, but I was making my avocado toast and impatiently thought, "Mother Nature does not stick a pit with toothpicks and suspend it over water. The dang avocado falls on the ground and it either grows or it doesn't." With that, I stuck the pit in a large pot and because I am senile, I promptly never thought about it again. 

Until today,  I noticed a 15 inch tall tree in a large pot and did an little gentle exploring. Much to my surprise, after 40 years of failures, I finally managed to grow an avocado tree. 

Sneaky

A couple years ago, Tim and I signed up for an Amazon credit card, enticed by a hefty discount on an order we were placing.  We signed up for it, and were approved immediately and upon checking out, we were offered free express shipping. We took it.

Big mistake.

We found ourselves signed up for Amazon Prime, with a hefty (to us) yearly charge plus a monthly charge. I called immediately to dispute the charge, and was told that I'd authorized the charge when I accepted the free shipping.

That irked me because no where, to my recollection was it explained that by signing up for the free express shipping you were enrolling in the "Prime" program. They removed us from the program, and they removed the charges from our account.

Tim and I do not do a large amount of on line shopping, so the card languished, unused. I'm guessing after a period of no account activity, they canceled it because at Christmas time, when we were once again doing the online shopping thing, it popped up again that we could have an Amazon credit card. Again, they offered us a hefty discount on an order (in this case we saved $25 on a $60 order). So we took it.

Being wise to the ways of Amazon, we ignored the free express shipping.

Long story short, I placed an order last month and we received our bill. We were charged for Amazon prime.

I disputed it. We do not do enough on line ordering to justify $13.77 a month charge, plus the annual fee. I had not authorized the charge, and we had accepted no free express shipping offers.

'Mira' explained to me that this was an automatic offer. I explained to her that I did not WANT an automatic offer that was going to cost us nearly $300 a year. She cheerfully told me that she would refund the charges and 'turn off the automatic offer' (whatever that means...)

I find it annoying that a multi-billion dollar company would resort to sneaking in extra charges. How many people don't catch this? Or think they have no choice but to pay it?


Saturday, February 23, 2019

Spring Time

It hasn't been an awful winter. It just seems like it's been a long one. The storms come with long advance notice, dire forebodings. When they come, we wind up invariably saying, "Well, that certainly wasn't as bad as they were predicting..." But the storms come. We had a couple of warm days, which really honed my appetite for spring.

I'm restless. Spring fever. 

Friday night, Tim and I went out for dinner. We stopped at the Goodwill. I was delighted to find a cast iron fairy. She was leaning back studying a bird on her outstretched foot. 

I picked it up. 

It will look great hidden away in the garden, come springtime.


Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Cupcake

We had bad colds going around.  Tim missed Iris' baptism because of it. I've been dealing with it since the last week of January.

I picked William up from school Friday, for the first time in a long time. His mother is working a job now that generally allows her to be home before he gets out of school, a nice change for both of them. She meets the bus, but this day, she had plans for the evening, and so we agreed to pick up William and keep him for the night.

I stood in the cold wind, excited to see how his day had gone. He took cupcakes for his birthday, Mario Brothers cupcakes, half with red frosting and half with green frosting, each one with a Mario or Luigi ring perched on top. These cupcakes were a big deal to him and he couldn't wait to share them with his classmates.

When I finally saw him coming out of school, his face was dead white, and his eyes had dark circles. I said, "Hey, are you okay?" He handed me the tray containing the four remaining cupcakes. "Can you carry these? They are so heavy." He looked ready to cry.

I took the cupcakes and we headed for the car. "Are you sick?" I asked. "I don't know," he said listlessly. But when we got home, he shed his coat and boots and hat and headed straight to the couch where he slept for 3 hours. He was running a fever.

Tim came home and said that he was headed to his son's house to do some renovating with him. He called out from the kitchen, "Hey do you care if I take a cupcake for Mike and me?" I told him to go ahead.

When William woke up, he was flushed and querulous. He came into the kitchen for some orange juice and noticed that his cupcakes were gone. He was plenty upset. Turns out he had been feeling so badly at school that when it came time to hand out the cupcakes, he didn't eat one. He told me that he put his head down on his desk and had a nap.

I was very relieved when Tim came home with the plastic tray, with the two remaining cupcakes. William wasn't though. "Where's the red ones?" he asked. "I ate one and Mike ate one," Tim said. "There are two green ones. They won't taste any different."

William wailed. "One of the red ones was MINE!"

Tim patiently explained, "The green frosting tastes the same as the red frosting. There's no difference."

William was not consoled. "They ARE different," he cried. "The red one was MINE. I licked the ring and put it back on my cupcake."

"Oh NO!" I gasped. Tim about fell on the floor laughing.






Saturday, February 2, 2019

The Guest

For this winter, when Paddy goes down to the basement to use her litter box, she generally comes tearing back up the stairs like something is chasing her.

When doing the laundry or cleaning aforementioned litter box, I've taken to casting wary glances around me. We have a big old coal room that has no light and it creeps me out. Whatever could be in there? Spooks? Rats? Boogey men?

After one of Paddy's recent screaming tears up the basement steps, I said to Tim, "I'd sure like to know what it is that scares her down there."

Tim says, "Well there is something down there. I've heard a chipmunk scolding me when I work down there. I never have seen him and I can't tell where the noise is coming from, but he's hanging out down there."

We don't know how he's getting in and out. We're not sure what he's eating. We're not sure if he's coming upstairs (we have to leave the door open for Paddy.) I suppose this is better than a spook.

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

It's so cold...

...that Tim said, "Hey, is my side of the electric blanket hooked up?"

And then he went in and turned it on.

The end. 


Friday, January 25, 2019

Cleaning

This is kind of an embarrassing thing to admit, but I have a big house. Seriously, there are rooms that I don't have much to do with. The library has sort of been one of those rooms. It's a nice room, but it tends to collect stuff. William likes to do his legos and crafts in there in front of the fire. There was a new light fixture for my kitchen laying across the big couch. There are three of my unfinished crafts in there. Tim has a collection of fans in there that he's been experimenting with to circulate heat from the wood fire through the house.

It has nice furniture, but it's not a room we spend a lot of time in, but with all of Tim's puttering, that room now has a fireplace insert and has seen more traffic than it has seen for a while.

I had an extra day off work this week, so I spent some time pondering this room today. Tim and I came to an agreement about his fan collection (one fan migrated to each spare bedroom upstairs, where they will come in handy in the summer). Since William wasn't here today, I just moved all his stuff back into his playroom.

I studied the room and got the idea to do some rearranging. Tim was a pretty good sport about it, even though I know he'd rather do just about anything than move furniture.

One of the things in that room is a curved front glass curio cabinet, like this. Oak China Cabinet, ca. 1905"
So I got this idea that instead sitting back in the corner, I wanted it centered between the two windows, which required emptying the stuff out of it. It's not jam packed by any means, but I forgot how much stuff was actually in the thing.

The wine glasses that I plan to take with me to Australia to toast Amanda and Sophie and her mother, four wine glasses that I got years ago on a shopping trip with Cara when she first moved to Indiana PA to get her master's degree. I remembered that day so long ago even as I anticipated a day that is long overdue, a trip to Australia. It'll happen.

I carefully lifted out my little collection of china and pressed glass critters. There was one that I meant to send to Pam. If I don't do things right away, I forget. Is this senility? I carefully set the little glass squirrel aside. I have a box to mail it out.

Cara's cup 'I love Afghanistan' I didn't, not so much, but I knew that she felt like she was making a difference. Everyone should know that feeling. A cup that Tim and I got on a trip to Dylan and Brittani's house. A little crystal salt cellar, It's a swan. It's silver wings fold back so that you can scoop out the salt with a tiny spoon. A hinged china egg, beautifully painted and hinged.

And vases. Honestly. I can't tell you the number of times I've muttered 'I know there's a vase in this house...' The tiny little crystal one from a dear friend's house, the beautifully shaped clear glass urn with the cobalt neck, the delicate glass one that a friend filled with flowers from her garden for my 60th birthday. A couple more.

The little tiny tea set for dolls. I'd found at an antique store, and bought it with a mind to building a fairy garden, which I didn't quite get around to.  At the back, tucked away for safe keeping, the bubble lights that Tim had thrilled to find. He was even more thrilled to find that they worked.

Two musical figurines, one that, as a child, I had wrapped for my father. He gave it to my mother for Christmas. Years later, as left her bedside as she lay dying, something (the vibration of my feet maybe)  set it off and it played, one slow note after another, 'let......me.......call..... ..you.... sweetheart...' and then it whirred slowly to a stop. I remembered turning to look at it on her dresser and I was comforted. All these years later, it is a comfort still.

 There's another music box too. It's a testament to the love of a 100 year old man and his beloved wife. I never met her, but he was a treasure. I'm sure he was right when he called his wife a treasure too.

So many precious things, and it was a little bit shocking that there was so much that I'd flatly forgotten about.

I cleaned everything, and I replaced it carefully, smiling at a thousand different memories of other times, dear faces of friends, some of whom are no longer here.

The library is done now. The couch and the love seat look nice in their L shape.  The arm chair is tucked into a corner with a reading lamp. I changed out tables, moving one upstairs to a spare bedroom, swapping other tables from the library and the livingroom. I vacuumed and dusted and polished, and when I was done, switched off the light and stood watching the flickering fire reflecting in the glass, in the gleaming wood.

It's good to take stock from time to time. I am a very blessed woman.



The Putterer

Tim is between houses right now, so he's got a lot of time on his hands. To make matters worse, he's been hanging close to home because the weather has been pretty bad.

He decided that we shouldn't finish the kitchen until we know exactly how much the sewage treatment operation is going to cost at the house we are trying to sell. He's right, of course, but, maybe, just MAYBE, he should be thinking about these things before he rips out half the kitchen. 

He, on the other hand, feels completely justified in the ripping out procedure because, as he points out, the window was a major source of heat loss. Plus I have a mudroom with a pantry. Which I noticed, the other day, stepping into my pantry, that I can't. Because there's an upright air compressor in there. And a shop vac....but I digress.

During this cold snap, Tim's been walking around the house with a temperature gun, shooting temps here, comparing temps, studying things, pondering things. I came home and there was a new vent between the kitchen and our bedroom. He explained it is for air circulation. 

"Tim. We have an electric blanket in the bedroom. The bedroom is not a problem."

He tells me once again that he doesn't like electric blankets. 

Two days ago, I came home and there's a hole in the wall between the library and the foyer. A ladder. A sheet thoughtfully covers the sideboard and the pictures and the antique clock.

 Last night I came home, and there was a new gangbox, with an outlet and two switches. He tells me that we need more outlets in that particular spot, which is actually true. He also flicks a switch and like magic, two wall sconces that I'd picked out years ago came to life. I was well and truly happy to see that. The back of the foyer is dark and those lights are just as gorgeous as I thought they'd be. 

I also see that he has a 'booster' fan to install in the vent he's making. The fan will pull heat from the library fireplace/woodstove insert and circulate it to our bedroom. He feels that the vent between our bedroom and the kitchen will be allow for better air movement.

He's very excited about this. He tells me that all we have to do is shut the french doors in the library at night before we go to bed, allowing the heat to build up. We'll turn on the fan in the foyer, and it will move the warm air directly into the bedroom.

I tell him I will still be using my side of the electric blanket. 

He laughs. 

That night, as we're getting ready for bed, he shuts of the foyer lights. 

"Um. Tim? The bathroom lights went off." 

I heard him laugh. "They must be on the same circuit as the foyer lights. I can fix that." 

The man is entertaining alright. I'll let you know how his theory works out next week when we get our -13 degree weather. In the meantime, any suggestions on how to keep Tim busy would be much appreciated. 

Sunday, January 20, 2019

Winter Storm Harper

The eastern United State got hard hit by winter storm Harper. In my little area, we got a foot of snow over night. Outlying areas had more. Tim got up twice in the night to shovel the driveway. I feel terrible, because, quite honestly, I never heard/felt him leave the bed.

Anyway, we got up this morning and both of us hit it hard.

The neighbor was trying to get his truck out without shoveling. We helped push him.

We met a girl from across the street. She didn't have a snow shovel to dig out her car, so we showed her where our stack was (we buy them in bulk at the end of season and keep them on hand for the rentals), and invited her to grab one whenever she needed it. We helped her dig out her little car and as we dug, we talked.

Her name is Kathleen, and she is from Williamsport, which we know, because both boys went to Penn College of Technology. She said that she has lived in her little apartment since August, but we're the first people she's met on the street.

I hate to say it but we know who lives where, but we don't really know people that well. A lot of the houses on our block are rentals and people come and go. We try to be good neighbors, but it is not always possible.

Mentally, I began to make a list. When the weather turns, I'll take her for a walk and introduce her to the folks I do know.

For now, however, it is cold. Bitterly, wickedly cold. I had high hopes of watching the eclipse with William tonight, but it's way too cold for that. The house is cold, even with a wood fire. The floors are just awful. The warning says that windchill will be -30.

We were set pretty well for it. I got groceries Friday evening after work so that we didn't need to go anywhere if things were difficult.

Whenever we needed to go outdoors today, there was a pot of hot homemade soup waiting when we got back inside.

Yesterday, before he went home, William and I baked a coconut cake. Winter storms are easier to take with cake.

And God bless electric blankets.







Thursday, January 17, 2019

Generation Gap

We went out for a quick shopping trip to get some books to send to Iris. Tim spontaneously decided to take William out for supper at Burger King.

While I was waiting for someone to give me my unsweetened iced tea with double lemon, I listened to the elderly man talking to the young man at the register. The young man asked him if he wanted his receipt. The old man humorously replied, "Not unless I can spend it." The young man stared at him, unsure what to say next. He flipped the receipt over to show the man that he could get a free something or another if he did an online survey. The old fellow shook his head and moved down the counter to wait for his meal.

I said to the old man, "Do you ever notice the older you get, the harder it is for the young folks to understand your humor? I think I'm pretty funny stuff, until I'm talking to teenagers. They all look at me like I've grown an extra head or begun speaking a foreign language." He said, "I've noticed the same thing." So we talked while we waited, and laughed at each other's jokes.

After we ate, on the way out the door, I passed his table, and I said, "Hey, don't take any wooden nickels now!" and he laughed and said, "I won't!" and I leaned in to say, "See there? We're funny as heck. But try that line on anyone under 30..." and he said, "They'd have no idea what you're talking about."






Monday, January 14, 2019

Understanding

I had to work until 11:30 at work on Friday. When my day was finally over, I got out of there quickly, and hightailed it for home where Brianna and William and Tim were waiting for me. The car was packed and ready to go to Dylan and Brittani's house for Iris' baptism.

The first surprise was hearing Tim's voice when I walked in the door. He was raspy and hoarse. I looked at him in horror. "Are you SICK?" He had awakened with a sore throat, and his chest was feeling tight. Tim was staying home.

The bad part of it was that I'd been so excited about going that the previous night, I'd been tossing and turning until after 11. I had to get up at 3 AM to go to work. I was extremely short sleeped, but had comforted myself with the thought that I could get five hours of sleep on the drive to Blandon. Suddenly, now, I was driving there. 

I took a deep breath, bought a large unsweetened ice tea with lots of ice and headed out. We made it by 6PM. I guess the excitement of seeing Iris and hugging my kids was enough to counterbalance the exhaustion. I'm certain that the caffeine did not hurt either.

It was wonderful. Iris laughs now and I am happy to report that she finds her grandmother pretty funny stuff. I had her squealing with laughter by singing "the baby on the bus goes wah, wah, wah!" I can also induce delight by crinkling a crouton bag. We all cooked together making meatballs for the the spaghetti sauce for the baptism dinner. It was a wonderful evening. 

Sunday was her baptism. She was perfectly behaved. When she heard the splashing of the water, she wriggled in the pastor's arm, trying desperately to get her little hand in the baptismal font. She came home and was passed around the room without a word of complaint. I had her cackling hysterically once again by kissing her noisily over and over again. 

Brianna and I chased Dylan and Brittani out the door for a date night. It was only their second one since Iris was born. Worn out by her big day, Iris slept the whole time they were gone. 

This morning, we all packed up and headed home. 

William cried and cried. He adores Dylan and they played nintendo together and talked a lot. William fell asleep in the back seat for a couple hours and when he woke up, we were almost home. A quick glance into the back seat showed us that the tears were silently rolling again. He's old enough to be embarrassed to be caught crying. 

When we got home, I suggested calling Dylan and Brittani on skype to say that we had arrived home. William quietly agreed, his lip quivering once again. Dylan said, "William, can you do one more magic trick for me?" William got his black suitcase labeled "William's Life Thrilling Magic" and opened it up. There, tucked in at the side was the nintendo console and game controllers. 

William gaped and stared at his uncle on the computer. "How did THAT get in there?" he asked. Dylan thought perhaps it was because William really WAS magic after all. William disputed this. Dylan explained that he'd enjoyed his time playing nintendo with William and that he wanted him to have it. 

William stared incredulously and then burst into tears. He cried hard. He finally remembered to thank Dylan. After we hung up, William kept looking at the nintendo. Every time that he tried to talk about it, he'd start crying again. He cried so hard that I cried too, He looked at me in surprise and then threw himself into my shoulder and cried very hard for quite a while. 

"Here, here," I said, "For pete's sake, are you happy or sad? I'm having a hard time telling for sure." I rubbed the back of his head.

He stood back from me and said, "I am both." He brought one hand up, and said, "One one side, I'm happy." He brought up the other hand. "On the other side, I'm sad." He clasped them both together and said, "It's all mixed up together and that's what makes it beautiful." 

It was a profound moment. I looked at his tear streaked face and his earnest desire for me to understand, and I did understand. I understood perfectly. 


Sunday, January 6, 2019

Librivox

We're heading off to eastern PA on Friday. Iris is being baptized on the 13th, which is, incidently, her 5 month birthday. My lovely daughter in law was concerned that I'd be disappointed, because since we saw her last, Iris has become much more wary of strangers. I'm okay with that, really, and was quick to point out that if all that I got to do was sit across the room and make faces at her while she giggled, well, I'm good with that. The last time we were there, she wasn't giggling.

She also hadn't found her feet.



It's a long trip out there and Brianna and William will be carpooling with us. It's always a challenge to find something that will keep William entertained, because, really a car ride that lasts almost six hours is a hard thing for a little boy to tolerate.

William loves to read and he loves to be read to. Unfortunately, I get carsick when I read in a car, and a portion of our trip will be made in the dark, so reading out loud to him is ruled out. I've been looking at audiobooks for him, but they are pretty pricey.

I planned to see what they had at our library, but in browsing on line, I discovered Librivox. William loves to hear stories from my childhood. I love reading them to him. I discovered that at Librivox, they have quite a selection of old books narrated out loud. I downloaded three books for him. I'll upload them on my MP3 player. Most amazing? Totally free.

I've downloaded Beatrix Potter. William loves those books. He's heard some of the stories from Wind in the Willows, but now he has them all. I also downloaded a book by Thornton Burgess which I'm sure he's never heard before, but he so loved hearing the stories of Uncle Wiggily Longears that he'll get a kick out these stories as well.

I'll give him the MP3 player when we're on our way. I'm betting the trip will be a lot quieter than usual.

Speechless

Today, Tim went to church with me. I counted, and after dropping off the deposit, we popped into the antique store across the street. We roamed around discussing our finds. I found a plate that needed to hang in my hallway. I found a pair of earrings that I needed badly. I got a chance to hug my friend Dan and to wish him a happy New Year. We left our e-mail for them to contact a vender to get a price on a painted cedar chest.

When we came out into the cold wind, Tim said, "What should we do now?" So we took ourselves out for a leisurely lunch out.

In the middle of our meal, we were shocked to see a couple lay their baby on the table and change her messy diaper. They stood her up to get the mess that had gone up her back. This was not even a quick change. This was a drawn out process that involved multiple wipes, standing up, clothes removal, and cream.

I gaped. So did Tim.

The waitress happened by, and she gaped as well. "We have a changing table in the bathroom," she noted.

The people finally finished and left. I've never seen anything like that in my life.

The waitress apologized that we had to see that while we were eating. Me? I've got to say I was more inclined to be very concerned about sanitation. About the condiments on the table, and the decorations, about how that table would be sanitized, and about immediately discarding those cleaning towels to be washed separately.

*gag*

What is WRONG with people?

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

New Things

I did something that I have not done in years. I bought myself a new pair of jeans.