Monday, September 30, 2019

Happy ending

When I drive down the brick street that intersects my brick street, at the stop sign, on the opposite side of the intersection was a big neon sign. LOST: ORANGE CAT NAMED RUSTY. NO MARKINGS. REWARD. Beneath that was a phone number.

Since that house is about 4 houses away from mine, on the opposite side of the street, I did keep an eye out for that cat. I checked our garage to make sure he hadn't got himself shut up there. I looked for him every time that I drove home from work. Every time that I saw that bright neon pink sign, I said a little prayer for that orange cat with no markings. As the owner of an orange cat with plenty of markings, I knew how badly they must feel about their cat.

Monday, coming home from work there at the intersection was another neon pink sign: WE HAVE THE BEST NEIGHBORS! RUSTY IS HOME! THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR CALLS OF CONCERN.

Made me smile.

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Blue

I got some of those tank tablets that you drop in the toilet tank. Usually, if I'm using them, I buy the bleach ones. I never really thought much about it when I grabbed the blue ones.

Later that day, I heard the toilet flush. It flushed again. It flushed again. "William," I called, are you having trouble in there?"

"No matter how many times I flush the toilet, the water is still blue!" he shouted back.


Saturday, September 28, 2019

The Little Boy

I ran into the Dollar General Store to pick up some cat food and a card. One the way back to the cat food, a little fellow stood holding a stick horse, one with a plush head and reins. It whinnied when you squeezed its ear.

He was enthralled with it. His mother stood in front of him with a shopping cart filled with staples: toilet paper, soap. some basic food items. She was telling him to put it back. He stood there clutching it to him, telling her firmly, "No." He reminded me of Iris right away. She's such an independent little gal. But this fellow was a couple of years older than Iris, about the same age that her brother would have been.

I got that familiar little clutch in my heart that I get when I think of Keegan.

His mother stood firm. "No. You can't have that. Maybe next time."

I listened to the little drama playing out as I got Paddy the next cat food she would hate. When I came out of the aisle, Mother and son were headed down another aisle and the stubborn little guy was debating the issue the best he could with his limited vocabulary.

On the spur of the moment, I picked up the stick horse, and took it up front to check out. I said to the cashier that a little boy with a cartoon t-shirt was headed up with his mother. He would not be happy when he got there, but he would be very happy when the cashier gave him the stick horse.

At that moment, mother and son came around the corner heading to the counter. "That little guy right there," I said as I grabbed my little bag and headed out the door.

I walked to my car and sat there for a minute or two. I just wanted to see the look on his face.

It was worth the wait.

I put the car in gear and headed home.


Friday, September 27, 2019

Messes

One of the biggest problems with heavy duty cleaning/clearing out is that as I move from one room to the next, I get irritated when clutter begins to encroach on my newly cleaned rooms.

I go to bed early because I get up at o'dark-thirty. William and Tim follow along later. I know that it is ridiculous but William had his blocks and action figures strewn across the living room one morning. I'd asked Tim to have him put his things away before he went to bed. There was also a glass and a plate on the coffee table.

It irked me. It also made me feel stupid to be irked by it. I gathered up the dishes and took them to the kitchen. I noticed that Tim had a pile of his things by the door. I suppose they were a reminder to him not to forget them when he headed out the following morning.

But, despite my best uncaffeinated efforts, I was irked. Even after I had my coffee, I was still a little irritated. That night, after work, I took a deep breath and I said to Tim, "Listen, I'm really working hard on the house when I get off work. I know that I'm being stupid about it, but it would make me feel a lot better if you would have William pick up before he goes to bed. And if you could run the dirty dishes out to the sink. Or if you could maybe just take the things you need straight out to the truck instead of piling them at the door."

He listened in a non-committal way.

He's been doing a little better and I've been working steadily. The library was a big job and I'm putting it back together now.

Tim spent a lot of time doing some rewiring on the first and second floors and once that job was completed he decided to blow in some insulation. Our office was actually the old front porch of the house and in desperate need of extra insulation. Tim got the insulation in the front the house on his own, and when I got home from work, I got supper in the oven.

 He needed help to do the attic/crawl space above the office, so while I was getting supper in the oven, he loaded the machine up with insulation. He fed the hose in through the front window. He climbed into the crawl space holding the hose and sealed it up. By then I was standing at the front window, and my job was to turn the machine on and watch through the window to make sure that the insulation wasn't blowing down into the office.

It wasn't.

I stood at the machine, pushing the insulation down. It didn't seem to be using very much insulation, but I stood there, pushing the insulation down. Next thing I know, Tim comes bursting out of the house. Nothing was coming into the attic but air. He was hot and cranky and said, "You need to push the insulation down!"

I said, "I am! It doesn't seem to be doing anything, though."

Tim shut the machine off, and looked down. "The hopper is empty!"

I said, "Well, I don't know what I'm supposed to do. I was pushing the insulation down. I can't see down into the hopper. You have the thing so full I can't see where the moving parts are..."

You get the picture.

Tim figured out that he needed to open the chute a bit more. Mollified, he pushed the insulation down and turned the machine back on. I heard a clunk from inside the house and headed for the window to see what it was.

You guessed it. The hose fell from the attic and insulation was blowing all over the office.

On the up side, the insulation was shooting out well.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Still at it.

There's a lot of stuff in the library. Books have a lot of memories. I got about halfway through. Will forge on tomorrow.

Tim has been busily replacing all the windows in the basement, and a window in the livingroom, in addition to doing some rewiring.  A company is coming in to replace 16 windows all in one day. Tim and I are blowing in some extra insulation this weekend. We hope to see some savings in our energy bill this winter.

Tim also cleaned out the attics today.

Guess I'm not the only one who's been bit by the cleaning bug.

Another load of stuff to the Goodwill.



Onward...

Got the livingroom done last night. The library tonight. Which will involve getting rid of books.

*deep breaths*

Monday, September 23, 2019

De-Cluttering

I have an awful tendency. I see things and sometimes I want them. Bad. I'm a sucker for things for the house.

We have a big house, and it has not been an issue, really. I felt like I was making progress when some of my purchases began to find homes on the second floor. As the second floor was decorated, well...

As the kids left, they left stuff behind. Dylan said firmly, "I don't want it, just get rid of it." But his wrestling trophies...his newspapers write-ups...his letterman's jacket...all those memories of his growing up years, I packed carefully away, because I have this feeling some day he MIGHT want them. Cara? Jees. Cara bleeds stuff. She started out in a dorm. Every year she came home and packed stuff away in the attic. It's a huge attic, and we've got two of them, so it wasn't a big deal. But when she went off to Penn State to get her master's degree, she got an apartment. But the time she was done with that, she brought everything home and took off to Afghanistan. When she got left Afghanistan, she shipped three large boxes to our house. We've never opened them. They went up to the third floor.

Everything was fine...until the roof started to leak on one side. All that stuff was pulled out into the hall. We contacted a guy who said he would do it in June. We're still waiting. He'll do it before winter. He promises.

We were pushed over the brink when we bought a hoarder's house and a house that people had simply walked out on, locking the door that final day and leaving everything in it. Then we began to have problems. Tim finds stuff and brings it home because he's sure are worth money. A crap ton of record albums for instance. Until I pointed out that even if I researched every stinking record, I still have to play those records to see what condition they are in...and I don't have a phonograph. Or the time. Or the desire. There were three pieces of furniture I wanted from the hoarder's house. A secretary which got dropped twice going upstairs. Now it's a secretary that needs fixing. There was also an interesting side table and a Lane cedar chest, both of which I had a mind to put in one of the spare bedrooms.

Tim brought home a stove he wanted, and it wound up in the foyer until it goes where he needs it. And he brought home the china closet, which I didn't want, but he didn't know what to do with, and he parked that next to the stove. Every day, some new curiosity came home to be marveled over, appraised and then set down in the office.

This past weekend, I walked upstairs. It was the first time I'd been up there in a while. My knee is pretty bad. I discovered that he's been bringing stuff home and stashing it up there.

The scales tipped.

I started the great hoe out this past weekend.

I did the kitchen and moved stuff immediately to the goodwill before I had a chance to think about it. I did the foyer. The china closet I didn't want has become William's 'curiosity cabinet' a place for his collection of interesting things he discovers. Rocks that sparkle, or that the iron or copper in them has oxidized, bird eggs, mushroom prints, pressed leaves, the crystals we've grown. (I guess pack rats are not born...their grandparents help them become that way)...Tim and I hauled that upstairs, one painful step at a time. The stove? I helped him move that out of the house and onto his truck (that was a killer).

I cleaned and dusted and decluttered two rooms so far and it is wonderfully cathartic. I've got a 13 room house, so I've got a ways to go, but it is exciting to reclaim my house.

Sunday, September 22, 2019

How to Feed a Cat

Paddy has always preferred dry cat food. It's odd, but she has. As she's getting older though, she's having some digestive issues, and so we are supplementing her diet with canned catfood.

I found a brand of cat food that she seemed to tolerate. In an amazing coincidence, the following week, I was able to buy a case of that cat food on sale.

She decided in pretty short order that she no longer liked that catfood.

One of our tenants has a new kitten and so we handed off nearly all of the case to Maisie, who was delighted with HER dinner options.

We experimented around again. After several failed attempts, we once again found something that she liked. After a couple weeks with no feline fussing, I found a store having a sale on the brand of cat food. My mama didn't raise no fools. I didn't buy a case, but I did buy 9 cans.

Just like that, Paddington PawCat began to turn up her nose at dinner time, which was pretty darned aggravating.

Maisie benefited once again and Maisie, being an easy going sort of critter, had no complaints.

I started over with my cat. One again, I found a cat food that she seemed to eat well. This time, I did it differently. Instead of feeding her half a can a day to supplement her kibble, I feed her a quarter can a day, twice a day.

Paddy is a very dramatic cat. When she glimpses the bottom of her kibble bowl, she goes after you, patting your ankles and trying to herd you to the bag of cat food, even though there is a couple more meals in that dish. I guess the little china dish of wet food has the same effect; she is certain that starvation is imminent.

Saturday, September 21, 2019

Stories

I had a newspaper column for 14 years and one of the most common questions was "How do you find stuff to write about?" The quick answer was "It just happens before my very eyes..." 

So Tim and I were up at the camp. We were headed into Titusville (home of the world's first oil well, if you're interested) for a bite to eat, but we wanted to stop in an pay our property taxes. The tax collector collects at her house during evening hours. 

There were two people ahead of us. An elderly woman was chatting away, while another man sat on the wicker settee. When Tim and I walked in, the woman jumped up and said, "Here's more people! I'm holding you up!" 

Tim said, "Hello, Mrs. W-----, and she looked surprised. Tim said, "I worked with you at Rexnord years ago." She was enthused to see him, and she 'knew' me from the newspaper.

She asked Tim what he was doing, and Tim said, "Buying houses, fixing them up, and selling them. I have some rentals." She thought that was interesting. She wondered where our property was in Grand Valley. Tim said, "It's right there on 27, at the curve across from the Newton Cemetery. 

She said, "Oh, I researched that cemetery! Some of the old graves aren't marked. We mapped it all out, wrote down names from tombstones and then went through old records to get some of the names from unmarked graves." That was her third cemetery. She was hoping to get to the Loomis cemetery but didn't know if she'd have time. (She appeared to be in her 70s.)

I said, "Well, when we get moved down here, maybe I can help you out. I like cemeteries." She was delighted to hear that.

She said, "I'll teach you how to use the wires!" I envisioned stabbing wire down into the ground looking to a casket or whatever, which sounded kind of ghoulish. "No, no," she explained, making motions as if she were holding two stiff wires in each hand.

My grandfather was a dowser, a water witch. and he held his hands like she was holding hers. I said, laughingly, "So you dowse for dead?" and she said, "EXACTLY!" in a satisfied tone. "And if you know what you're doing, you can tell whether the person is a woman or a man. I've never been able to test myself though. I'd have to be with someone who knew the sex of the person, and could hide it from me and let me try to figure it out." 

Me? I just stood there a little dumbfounded. 

She said, "Well, it's like the old way of telling if you were going to have a boy or a girl...you'd hang a pencil from a string and suspend it over your wrist...."

I looked at the tax collector who was probably in her 60s, as am I, and back to the white haired lady in front of me. "Which one of us is going to get pregnant so we can give that a try?" And we all laughed.

Where do I find the stuff to write about? I'm telling you. It just comes to me.

Thursday, September 19, 2019

New Shoes

The area that I live in is a hard place to live. 23% of our children are growing up in poverty. The local churches try to deal with this, providing new sneakers and school supplies for kids. The local Eagles Club provided back packs to any child that showed up to get one. Enough children qualify for free lunches at the elementary school that the school qualified for a state program that provides free lunches to any child who asks.  Some kids get bags of food to take home over the weekends.

Comparatively speaking, William's a very lucky little boy. As the son of a single mother, his situation would be much more dire if he didn't have other adults ready, willing, and able to step in. He's living below the poverty line, technically, but he doesn't have a clue.

In any case, a local mother was upset that her child had gone to school in his new Walmart sneakers only to be mocked by some kids on the bus for not having 'name brand sneakers.' She vented on facebook.

It reminded me of last year. William saw some sneakers that he wanted very badly. Sooooo badly. They were at Walmart. They lit up. They not only lit up, but they could be changed to different colored lights. The lights could be blinking, chasing, or just a steady light. They came with a remote control, for goodness sakes, and they charged with a USB.

He was wild to have those shoes for school and because he has suckers for grandparents, he got them.

There was an open house at the school and he begged to wear his new shoes. He couldn't wait to show his friends. We agreed and walked over to the school. William was so intent on what was happening with his feet, I thought for sure he'd wind up tripping over those fancy shoes and damaging himself.

We managed to get him into the school all in one piece and he was showing his friends his new shoes. The remote was passed around so that other kids could do magic with his shoes. He was the center of attention and he loved it.

We were in a hall. Tim and I were leaning on one wall. Across the hall, a boy watched William and his friends. His mother asked him, "Do you like those shoes?" The boy looked in a considering way and said, "No. Those look pretty cheap."

His mom looked at me and gave a smile, while shaking her head.

Personally, I thought it was a waste of a teachable moment. The boy was maybe a year or two older than William, old enough to know that he was pretty lucky, and that not all children are as lucky as he is. His mom could have used that moment to remind him of that.

William never heard a thing and I was glad for that. All kids deserve to be excited about their new shoes.

Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Credit where Credit is Due

Remember my flat tire? I took that piece of reinforcing wire to the Municipal Building. They took a picture of it, contacted PennDot who said that they would fill out a 430 Claim.

In the meantime, I couldn't keep drive back and forth to work on a 'donut' so we replaced the tire. We actually ended up getting two tires replaced so they matched. We hung on to that bill. We hung on to that wire. I'm still driving that trashed tire around in my trunk.

After 3 weeks, I called PennDot. The nice woman said that the college intern must have submitted the paperwork to the contractor incorrectly. She'd do it again.

After another 2 weeks, I called back. I try hard to be a nice person, but I was getting irritated.

The nice lady at PennDot told me that I should talk directly to the man in charge of the contractors. She gave me a number.

That man said that I needed to be speaking with the contractors. I said, "Well, a 430 claim has been filed twice. Seems like they should be speaking to ME!"

He explained that 430 Claims are filed when a car is damaged by PennDot road work. Contractors do not receive 430 claims.

By the time that I finally got a hold of the person that I needed to be speaking with, I was prepared for battle. I explained my situation, the fact that this had happened on August 15th, that I had the wire, the tire, and the bill. I said that I didn't want to be nasty about it, but I was a little grumpy about the fact that something so straight forward should take so long to sort out.

He agreed. He said, "Do you have an estimate?"

"No. I've got a bill. We had to get a new tire. We actually ended up getting two tires because the damaged one was an expensive tire, and we didn't want to pay for two of them. So we opted to replace both tires." I told him that while the bill would be for two tires, we only expected payment for one.

I was a little gobsmacked when he said, "No. We'll pay for both of them. It's only fair. You wouldn't have had to buy two tires if our roadwork had not damaged the one. E-mail me the bills and I'll have payment on its way to you within two days."

I e-mailed him the bill along with the proof that we had paid it. He replied back that he'd received it and that it would be taken care of for us.

Nicest surprise I've had in a while.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Autumn, take two.

There's a quiet guy at church. Don't get me wrong. He's pleasant, but he's just a quiet person.

This past week, he posted that his partner of 17 years was very ill. I messaged my condolences and prayers to him.

At church this morning, he was talking to the priest. I was talking nearby with Diane and our ears pricked up. He was talking about driving over an hour to get to the hospital every night after work. Since he had already posted the facts on facebook, we felt comfortable to approach and ask to listen in, saving him the necessity of repeating himself when we asked him later.

So we listened to him talk in his quiet way, giving us all updates and much to our shock, he said, "It's not likely he's going to recover this time." And one tear slid down his cheek.

Yesterday, I was thinking about life, with all its seasons, about the sweetness of a ripened, rich life. Today, I realize again that the season can be all too short.

I need to savor it. Every day of it.


Monday, September 16, 2019

Autumn

This morning, I got up and headed for the coffee pot as usual. Paddington PawCat waited at the heavy oak door to be let out. I let her out and was amazed at all the colored leaves on the ground.

We noticed that the weather changed abruptly about the same time that we changed the page on Bush Babe's calendar.  They are moving into spring there as we are moving into autumn, but here, the nights got cool very suddenly and when we set on the deck of our camper in the evening, the little fire is nice. The surrounding hills show wispy shades of yellow and orange and red.

We are also in the midst of a dragon fly invasion which is also pretty mesmerizing. At any given time, you can stop and almost be guaranteed of seeing them around you.

Tim is buttoning up the Wayne St house for winter. It's been a productive year. New windows, partially sided, most of the rewiring done, wall paper stripped. There will be a break for hunting season, and then, once the heating system is installed, Tim will continue to work on the house later in winter after the freezer is stocked. The exciting part begins: we restore the interior of that lovely, lovely home. We see our ideas becoming reality.

Yesterday, we went up to his parents' home to remove the three furniture pieces that Tim had requested. We wrestled them onto the pick up, and took them to store down in the house on the retirement property.  We've got one more trip back to that old house, to pick up two sets of very old stacking barrister bookshelves.

It seemed a little sad to me coming down that hill knowing that we had little reason to ever drive back up. I asked Tim if it made him sad too. "No, he answered. "I never felt like it was my home."

As a son of a Methodist preacher, they moved a lot. We didn't move a lot, but my family was a pretty volatile one. When I left it, I did not look back. I never really thought much about that fact until I was coming down that hill with my husband in his beloved 37 year old Chevy truck with a load of old furniture.

Autumn comes every year to our little corner of the world, but Tim and I are in the autumn of our lives. With any luck it will last a good long time. We've carved out our own comfortable place.  and discovered that home is not where we have been. Home is where we are.




Sunday, September 15, 2019

Break up.

It was a Friday the final day of a week of 10 hour days. Everyone was about done in. On top of tired, my knee is now making a grinding noise. So yeah. Long week.

We were all standing at morning meeting. The question came at the end of the meeting, as it always does: "Anyone got anything for us?" Usually nobody has anything, but this time, a voice rose up: "Yeah. If anyone wants to buy wedding stuff, I have a lot."

Everyone looked. The comment came from a girl who's been joyously planning a wedding for quite a while now. She wanted it perfect. She works two jobs, and she works every bit of overtime that she can get at work. She is trained in virtually every job, so she just signs up for the overtime no matter what department it is in.

I felt terrible for her standing there with her red eyes.

Walking back to the room we work out of, I said, "I'm so sorry..." and she answered, "His drugs meant a lot more to him than I did.."

I tossed an arm over her shoulder and said, "Well, if he had a drug problem, he was certainly someone you didn't want to be married to anyway. It will take your heart a while to come in line with what your brain already knows."

"Yeah," she said.

What I noticed is that during the course of the day, she came to me several times to discuss the matter.
I'm guessing that it is because she worked such long hours that he was able to fly under her radar for the length of time that he did, but she found out that he was trafficking, and it scared her. Visions of ruthless drug lords from a thousand scary television shows danced in her head. She demanded he stop. He decided he wouldn't.

I told her again, "You dodged a bullet, really. If you had not discovered this until after you were married, you would have had a choice: turn a blind eye to it, or not to turn a blind eye to it. Either way, you would have been paying a lot of money to a lawyer. If you ignored it, you would have been at some point considered an accomplice and you would have to hire a lawyer to defend yourself. If you didn't turn a blind eye to it, you'd have been hiring a lawyer for your divorce. You dodged a bullet."

Every time she came to me, I repeated some version of the same thing.

Every time, she looked grateful for the words.




Saturday, September 7, 2019

Souvenirs

My husband's mother was known for her elderberries. She took them to the farmer's market. A friend of mine was a regular customer, turning them into jam.

When Tim's mom entered a nursing home, Karen asked me about those elderberries. By then the property belonged to his brother and it is a strange family dynamic. His sister once told me that they liked Tim's first wife better. (What a strange thing to say!) His father had dementia at the end, and Tim and I wondered, once he was in the nursing home, if he hadn't been suffering from it for years, which would account for a lot of his angry  and irrational behavior.

Tim and I have been together for 20 years now and we've done that by simply making a pact to keep the chaos outside our home, not inside. People are what they are. So no. I wasn't asking anyone for elderberries.

Tim's parents are gone now and his sister contacted him. The siblings were all getting together to go through the old family home. I told Tim to get himself something that reminded him of his mom and something that reminded him of his dad. I also reminded him that it might well be the last time that the six of the kids were all together.

So he went up there yesterday. He thought that the only thing he really wanted was his father's tool box full of hand tools. He really didn't know what he wanted to remember his mother by, but he felt like it would come to him.


They sorted through the house and his brother brought over his skid steer to pull some cars out of some out-buildings. He had to plow a way through to them, going right directly through the elderberry patch. Tim set the bushes carefully aside and went up with his dump truck today to get a truck load of them to take to our retirement property and plant.

Hopefully they will produce for us just as prolifically as they produced for her.

He got that toolbox he hoped for and with any luck, those elderberries will remind him of his mother for years to come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Perfect Moment

Is there anything more perfect than being curled up in bed with the one you love best beside you, listening the the wind blowing in the grumbling of distant thunder in the night? Watching the trees silhouetted over and over in the flash of the lightning?

If so, I really cannot think of it. 

At least, I couldn't until he started snoring. 

Loudly. 

Tuesday, September 3, 2019

Soup

I was invited to a benefit put on by the Phillipino women at work for one of their own. Tim and I decided to attend.

This time it was a soup that caught my taste buds. I thought it was pork, in a deliciously flavored broth. I caught sight of two very large poblano peppers in that pot and something else that I couldn't identify. Not to find myself in the same situation as last time, I made sure to ask my questions while I was standing at the pot.

I said to Christine, "What is this?"

Her teenage daughter popped in with "Soup."

Christine chided her as I laughed. "Right. I figured out that much, but does the soup have a name?"

Christine said, "Pork soup."

Hm.

Christine began fishing around in the pot. "It has ginger," and she pulled up a very large piece of ginger with the ladle.

I said, "Those are poblanos, but what is that, and pointed to an herb that was twisted together in a bunch as thick as my wrist.

She said, "That is lemon grass. That's all it is. The longer you simmer, the spicier it gets."

Sounds like another recipe for the crock pot to me.



Monday, September 2, 2019

Youngsters

At camp, William and I were setting up to prank his grandfather, like this. I purposely do night time activities with him because he is a bit afraid of the dark. He's much better than he was but he still is not a fan of the dark.

In any case, I'd forgotten the scissors in the car, so I walked out to the deck with him and sent him off to the car. He stopped to ask a question and when he turned towards me, his eyes suddenly went very wide in the dim dusk night and his arm raised up and pointed. I thought, "Oh Lord, what has scared him now", but when I turned, there was a young fawn standing about 20 yards from him, in the lawn out of the brush. 

William said not one word. He had frozen stock still with his arm extended. The fawn looked at him with twitching ears and extended its neck, sniffing. We all held our breath in wonder as the fawn took a step towards him. 

Behind him in the brush, there was a wild series of snorts, mama doe's way of saying, "DON'T YOU DARE! I MEAN IT! DO NOT MAKE ME COME OUT THERE!"

For probably 30 seconds, the two youngsters stared at each other, neither making a sound. I imagine that if William's ears could twitch, they would be twitching just as wildly as the fawn's. 

In the end, the fawn listened to its mama, as all good youngsters do, and darted into the brush.

William could not stop replaying that over in his head. As I was tucking him in on the sofa bed, he said "I think that little fawn was curious." 

I said, "Yes. I saw two curious creatures out there in the yard tonight." 

William got big eyes again. "Who was the other curious creature?" he asked curiously.