So...if you're just not doing anything, why don't you take a look at Kay's post. The dog's story is really pretty remarkable, and the money would go for a very good cause.
Vote for Frida, people!
My Dylan was a high spirited boy and he scared the mess out of his mother on a fair regular basis. He was a hard worker, and he wanted nice things. He worked two jobs so his work ethic could not be faulted, but he just seemed very uninspired in school, which was frustrating because he is a very bright boy.
He scraped by grade-wise, and was adamant that he was not being interested in college. Tim felt strongly that he needed to be trained in something, and that the training needed to be from a reputable school. Tim was dealing with the fallout from Ronald Reagan's NAFTA which wound up as a mass exodus of machinist jobs from our country. That once rock solid job was no more. Tim wanted our kids to have a better life.
Tim did some looking around on line and discovered Penn College of Technology. He knew Dylan's mechanical aptitude, his quick ability to figure things out, and even found the course for him: Electromechanical Maintenance. Tim sat the boy down and had a long talk with him at the computer, trying to convince Dylan that a two year degree was well worth his time. Dylan read up on the course, and decided that he was interested in college after all. He applied and was accepted that summer. He began his senior year knowing where he was headed and what he would be doing.
Just like that, all the reports I'd gotten from the school stopped. I marveled at that. The wild child had grown up. His grades were all decent (not stellar, but decent) just enough to make sure that the offer to attend Penn College remained on the table.
Fast forward: Now a married man, he tipped back in his chair just as he did as a kid, and said with a cocky grin, "You never knew this but..."
Turns out that he turned 18 the first week of school, and as an adult (legally), he was able to walk into the school office and change his home address to a PO box. A couple times a month, he'd stop at his post office box on the way home from school and pick up the poor progress reports from school. I never even saw them. I listened incredulously and I looked so gobsmacked that he couldn't stop laughing.
"You never figured that out?" and he laughed some more.
"No..." I answered.
"So did you just think I magically just stopped getting in trouble?" (Note, it was never anything serious. It was stupid stuff like eating a worm on a field trip because someone bet him that he wouldn't. Or diving into the eco pond in the early spring with all his clothes on because someone bet him he wouldn't. Once it was because he was bending a piece of metal while talking. His teacher told him to stop that the noise was annoying. He remembered not to do it, until the conversation got going again and he forgot. Stupid stuff. His teachers either loved him, or they hated him).
I said, "Well, yes actually, I did think you'd stopped getting in trouble. I thought that knowing you were going to school after all gave you a direction and motivation that you didn't have before."
And he laughed and laughed and laughed.
Today, (TODAY!!!!) I was dusting, and one of the things that I made up my mind to do was go through the drawers of an old sewing machine. They seemed to collect a lot of clutter over the years. And there, stuffed in the back of one of the tiny drawers was a pile of documents. From the school. Folded tightly and wadded into the back of the drawer. Turns out that I missed a lot of reports from school before his senior year too. I read through them all. 'Needs to try harder'. 'Doesn't pay attention'. 'Missing assignments'. One after another, His midterms were all failing grades.
However, he scored so well on the tests that he managed to pull those grades out of the gutter by the end of the term. He'd pick his report card (with his decent grades) up at the post office, and then pick up our mail from the mailbox at the end of the driveway. He put his open report card in with the mail. I took the fact that the report card was opened as a sign that he was taking his grades seriously. Since he was passing with decent grades, it never occurred to me that I should wonder where the envelope was.
Not at that time, anyway.
The treadle sewing machine sat just inside the front door. He must have neatly folded those negative midterms from his junior year and stuffed them at the back of the drawer where I wouldn't see them. And for 16 years, I didn't.
He's 34 years old now, so it's way too late to ground him. All's well that ends well, I suppose. He is the senior engineer at his company and he seems to be well respected.
Somewhere along the line he grew up. It just didn't happen at my house, I guess.
A joke was made on a post over at Northsider's blog about naming a progessive band 'Debby and the Pennsylvania Bible Thumpers'. There were a few jokes made between two very funny people (they really, really are too).
In my neck of the woods, a 'Bible thumper' is a wild eyed zealot. It is a perjorative term, usually applied to someone who takes the Bible literally, someone that preaches his/her point of view unceasingly, citing his/her Biblical 'evidence' to make the point.
That is not me.
Never has been.
Number one, I feel quite strongly that the Bible cannot be taken literally. Story telling and parables were a way of life in those times, and a great deal of the old testament is based on the stories and poems of the day. If you don't believe me, research 'Gilgamesh', and tell me that these stories are not familiar to you.
I have also long thought that many of the recountings were simply ways to keep a population in control using fear of God as a tool. I see it happening today. All around us.
I am taking a four year theology course, and nothing I have encountered to this has dissuaded me of this mindset. To be perfectly honest, I feel even more strongly about it. I have also discovered that there are a lot of scholars who feel this way.
I define God a little differently than most and I suppose that this is due to the fact that I was an atheist for the first 30 years of my life. I won't try to explain it to you because if you do not believe, you will not believe what I say.
But having walked in both worlds, I see both sides of the argument. 'Bible thumpers' do not even see the argument. Sometimes, I think "If I ever think I know all the answers, I hope someone shoots me..." If you believe you have all the answers, you are as far away from God as any atheist, in my opinion, anyway.
So...I guess it's a mishmash, and I am leaving myself wide open for shotgun blasts from both sides of the theological debate.
The one thing that I am sure of is this: we were all put on this earth to do good in whatever place we find ourselves. I try to do that. I'm not perfect though. Not even close. I am a prickly soul and nowhere near as patient as I would like to be. I struggle with it a lot. Another thing that I really have to consciously fight myself on is that I can be pretty judge-y. I'm better I think, but there is work to be done.
In Northsider's comment section, I responded to the 'Bible thumper' comment, and said that I was a little surprised to think that this was how I was seen by others. I waited for a response. Since they hail from a different part of the world, I wondered if perhaps the phrase 'Bible thumper' was viewed in a different light.
Both people assured me that no offense was intended. I believed them. But I did message the blog owner and ask that the comments between the three of us be deleted because I felt as if I was portraying myself as some sort of saint.
He took down the entire post.
Allow me to say, Northsider, that this was not my intent, and I am so very sorry that I made anyone feel badly. You and YP were quick to explain. Just as quickly, you were forgiven. I do believe that no offense was intended. There was nothing wrong with your post at all. I am sorry for my vanity, and for my concern about looking like a 'praise whore'. It is now my turn to ask your pardons.
After several wonderful days where I could roam around outside without a jacket, I woke up this morning to spitting snow. Later this week, the temps are set to drop to 19 degrees fahrenheit overnight.
I moved around the kitchen, packing Tim's lunch. He ducked out to warm up the car before heading off to work. He loves his heated seats and his heated steering wheel.
When he came back in, we talked about the snow and about how we hope the fire we light on that cold night is the last fire of the season. But will it be, really? Who knows?
But there's a patience about to our talk.
We have had a good taste of spring. The snowdrops are out, and the crocuses too. At the retirement property, the daffodils are heavily budded. The forsythia is ready to go. The spring peepers are out. (The old saying is that peepers have to look through ice 3 times before spring is really here. Hope that's not true.) Over at my sister's place, the new calves are being born. The red wing blackbirds are back, and the grackles and the robins. The little pond that Tim had dug for me when our excavator came is full of frog eggs. I guess I'd better wait a bit before throwing the barley bag in there to clear the water. The little tadpoles will need that algae for food.
Unmistakably, winter is breaking up, and we've had the opportunity to get some outside work done, to make exciting plans, to get a touch of sunburn on our faces, to play in the dirt...this communion with the earth and nature gives us the strength to endure winter's last hurrahs.
We have seen all this cycle before, and we are seeing it once again. Winter does not usually give up easily. Past experience proves that this too shall pass.
Tim has always been a collector. He sees stuff and he immediately has a vision as to how these things can be used. And so they go 'in storage'. He's got multiple garages full of things. The old house at the retirement property. Caches.
One of the things we've had on our 'want' list for quite some time is a greenhouse. The problem is that we needed a place to put it. We knew that we weren't going to be in town long-term. The house is too big, and the work on the rentals is dying down. He fixes things with an eye to doing those things well and correctly so that they stand the test of time. As he gets the tasks ticked off, there is less and less to do, so we can consider moving farther away from the work.
Tim found the retirement property on his own. We were at my sister's house and he went walking. And he noticed a derelict little property, over grown, ramshackle house, junk everywhere. Much of the ground was swamp from the flooding of a batch of very busy beavers. But he saw a place that would be good for deer hunting, a place for a large garden, something with its own producing gas well (free heat), sewage, water, electric already run to the site.
(Damn beaver dams! They already have another one started.)
But he saw that property and he wanted that property because he saw what could be instead of what was. He was desperate with the wanting of it, and bought the 10 acre parcel.
We just got the garage built. It needs the batten boards finished, but it is done.
Next on the list was my green house. It is too late in the season to get much use from it this year, but I am quite excited about it. The best part of it is that it is pretty much free.
We used the dump truck to drag an 8 x 8 deck into place. The previous owners had a modular home with back and front decks, well built. The modular home was repossessed (long before we got the land) for non-payment. The decks were pushed out of the way and left behind.
We pulled that deck up, and leveled it right close to the garage. Since we plan to collect the run off in a rain barrel to supply water to the green house, it needed to be not so far away.
We have a nice pile of hemlock 2 x 4s from building the garage. Those will be used to frame in the four walls. On the south end of the wall, we have a set of sliding glass doors from a renovation. They were in good shape but did not 'fit' the place they were in. They were just too wide, and we needed the wall space in a very small kitchen. So we removed and replaced them with sliders that were narrower.
On the east, west and north side, we've got 15 storm windows that came with a house that we bought. The storms are in perfect shape and probably have not been used in 40 years. The windows that they protected are long gone, replaced by energy efficient double paned windows. The previous owner stacked them neatly in the dry basement with no idea what to do with them. We bought the house probably 13 years ago, and immediately thought 'greenhouse!' when we saw them. The wood frames are perfect, and painted white. We will pull out 9 of them and haul them down next weekend.
The roof will be a 3/12 pitch. (late edit: now a 9/12 pitch) Long ago, Tim found a pile of poly carbonate greenhouse material, left over from a greenhouse build evidently, 5 sheets of it, still wrapped in their protective film for $20. They are normally $45 a sheet, so he snapped those up like nobody's business.
All this stuff has been waiting patiently to be built, and now it is finally happening.
I am very excited. Will post pictures when it is done. It will take a couple of weeks because we can only work on our project on weekends.
In the mean time, I remembered.
This is the table that we have stored away from his mother's house. It has two leaves that pull out from the sides, and a drawer beneath. I guess the pattern top is not exactly the same as yours.
A very bad picture of a very old truck. It is a 1981 Chevy Sierra and Tim does love his truck. I was the one who did not love it enough to stand in a windstorm and protect it from harm. Instead, I placidly sat inside folding laundry, waiting for things to blow over. Which they did.
Afraid I don't have a photo of our work horse, the dump truck. I will try to think to get one for you.
You meet a lot of people at the food pantry.
The old man, 83, who came in. A small wiry fellow. He took great pains to explain to me that he has worked all of his life, at the same place, too. When the owner of the business died, the job was done, but he was old, and it wasn't a bad thing, retiring. He had a wife, and between the two of them, their social security tided them over. There wasn't extra for luxuries, but they were making it, and they were happy enough. And then she died. On his pension alone, suddenly, he could no longer make ends meet. So, as I gave him his bags of food, he said, "If you happen to hear of anyone needing someone to do odd jobs, I'd be interested.
83 years old.
I asked him what kind of work he was looking for. He said, "I repair lawn mowers. I do lawn work. I'm not as fast as I used to be, but I'm a steady worker and I do a good job."
I took down his name and phone number, and promised to keep my ears open. I came back inside and sat down, picking up my cell phone. My friend, who lives on a tiny house up the river from us, was looking for someone to do some light yardwork.
I messaged her and said, "You're NOT going to believe this..." but she did, and she took down the number.
She was surprised to see two men show up at her door the next day, a younger fellow and the wiry little old man. She told them what needed doing, and it touched her heart to see that the younger man carefully selected the lightest work for the old man, and did the heavier work himself. After working for several hours, they got everything done. She asked how the young man how she should pay them and the young man quietly said, "Just go ahead and give him the money," indicating the old man with a slight nod.
My friend curiously asked, "Are the two of you related?" and the younger man said, "No. He has been a friend for a long, long time."
That's a touching story.
There's the grandmother who has custody of her grandchild. She was doing perfectly well too. Her job supported her nicely. But now there's a grandchild who is still in diapers, and her mother, the child's great-grandmother, is helping out with childcare, because Grandma can't afford it on what she makes. Those additional expenses made her life very difficult. but she was fiercely determined to do the best that she could for this innocent child who didn't deserve any of the crap hand that life had dealt him so far. She started out using the diaper ministry, but in talking with her, it was determined that she could use some help with food too. She was embarrassed to death, and we talked a long time with her. "Listen," we said, "you're doing a lovely thing for that grandchild, and we can help you."
You can see it written plainly on a lot of faces. They feel like they need to explain that this is temporary, that it wasn't always like this. It doesn't matter to me. I don't ask a lot of questions. Just the general stuff "How many in your family?" "Any allergies?"
It works out okay. I'm feeling my way along carefully. I don't want to fail.
Last week, a fellow came in. He's tall and thin, I had been introduced to him by another woman helping out. She explained that he and his wife had recently divorced, after over 30 years of marriage, to qualify for more assistance. They had it rough, my friend thought, because they had these children who had moved back in with them, and these children had returned with their children too.
Jill later related this with not one trace of judgment and she and the man stood and talked in a friendly way long after I'd given him 3 bags of food. I felt ashamed of myself as I listened to her, because I felt the curlings of ugly judgment in me.
Last week the man returned. We had been hard hit with food requests and we are a small food pantry. I put together two bags of groceries for him from what we had. I try to assemble things that can be put together to be meals. I'm pretty good at that, if I do say so myself. As I set the things down on the table, he said abruptly, "In three days, they are going to shut off my water. I need $50."
A little taken aback, I hesitated, unsure of how to advise him. He said, "I talked to my brother and he won't lend me any more money. Said he's done. If I have to get a job, I guess that's what I'll have to do."
I said, "Well...I'll keep my ears open..."
He picked up his bags. "You know, they used to give you gift cards and you could do your own grocery shopping. Why'd they stop that?" He seemed kind of angry when he said, "This needs double bagged."
I watched him walk away, and I found myself thinking, 'maybe I'm not right for this job...' because there I was, Judgy McJudgerson. Jill looked at him and saw a human being. She somehow was able to look past all that. Me? I was thinking some pretty uncharitable thoughts about the man and I was not happy with that response.
The man fit every single negative stereotype you hear about the poor, about how they use the system, how they are lazy, how they are their own problem, etc etc etc. The local bumper stickers that read, "I work hard. Millions of people on welfare depend on me" or the folks that believe that hungry children should remain their parents' problems, not ours. It goes on and on, the angry rhetoric about 'them', as if they are a subspecies, something less than us, as if they deserve their lot in life.
There I was feeding right into that mindset. I was ashamed of myself. What if I wasn't the right person for the job?
I'm not sure where the answer came from, but by the time that I was walking to my car, I was able to see one thing very clearly: Mr H was not representative of most of the people I meet. He was an exception to the rule. That if I allowed one negative experience to cloud my judgement of everyone coming for help, I wasn't fit for the job.
And with a little effort I turned my thinking to the other things.
Today, we walked over to the lawyer's office to finish our wills, to get it all notarized and legal.
It was a beautiful spring day. Brilliant blue sky, lots of sun. Snowdrops and crocuses everywhere. The newly arrived robins hopping around the big green lawns of the very old houses along the old brick street. Our world is awake and fresh from her winter rest.
We signed and initialed and received our instructions. Things were notarized and given to us to be placed in a safe place that our executer knows about, in case something happens to the two of us simultaneously. Everything folded neatly and tucked into two pockets labeled "Will" in very serious font.
It disposes of our worldly goods and divides things up between five 'children' who are now all adults in their 30s.
As we walk back home surrounded by spring busting out all over, I find myself thinking that about what we leave behind. I hope that it is more than divided up property and things. I hope there are happy memories, and 'remember that time...' and laughter. I hope there are things of ours that they want to have because it triggers some sentimental thought.
In the end, I hope that there are people who find time in the spring to return to sit by the lilac bush that is to be plopped in the hole my ashes have been dumped into. But even if they don't, perhaps in the spring, when the lilacs bloom they will catch a random whiff of the rich scent from some random lilac, and they will remember how their mother loved lilacs. I hope that they remember that she loved them too.
For the boys' joint birthdays, Tim's daughter bought them a trampoline. Tim hates them. He thinks they are dangerous, but this had a net surrounding it. The springs were covered. It seemed as safe as something like that could be. The biggest danger would be if they both got crazy bouncing and and bonked noggins or something.
We went to help her get it set up yesterday. The setup is definately not a one person job. It took a couple hours, but we got it done.
The boys were very excited. Over the moon excited. Their mother told them that the number one safety rule was that the net enclosure needed to be zipped shut before they jumped.
As we were getting ready to leave, I happened to look over and see them jumping away. The net enclosure was unzipped. I walked over and said, "What is the safety violation here?"
They both looked at me and the oldest boy stopped jumping and zipped the enclosure up. And I gave them a repeat of the lecture their mother had already given them. I wound it up with a waggling finger and an admonition: "Safety first, boys!" They cheerfully repeated it back to me.
After school today, they ran to play on their new favorite thing, and in their excitement, well...safety did not come first. One boy is headed to Pittsburgh with a badly broken arm. Both bones are broken, and the bones have twisted across each other. It's pretty gruesome.
Today was not a happy day.
My neck has been giving me fits. It cracks. I felt nauseous when when I turned my head. It seemed to be getting worse. I developed a headache that did not respond to aspirin. I figured that it tied into my marathon painting session, but had no idea what to do next.
Tim called at break. Listening he said, "Why don't you try that TENS unit?"
Answer: Because I am a nitwit, I forgot I even had one.
A one hour session with the intensity set as high as I have ever used it...and sweet relief.
Following up on yesterday's post, I found the biggest happy of all.
I saved seeds for the first time last year. The most amazing cherry tomato plant I've ever seen. It was as tall as I am, and covered with quarts of cherry tomatoes. My friend had been given a plant from her Amish neighbor. I have not seen anything like it. So last fall, I watched a youtube video on how to save tomato seeds and followed the directions carefully. Yesterday, I planted 30 of those seeds in their little toilet paper tubes in a wash basin. It sits in a sunny window right now.
I also saved some heirloom tomatoes from my niece. She had extra plants and offered them. I accepted even though I did not really need any more tomatoes. I wasn't impressed with the output but thought to give them another chance. They had been planted so late in the season so it really wasn't fair, was it? As long as I was saving seeds, I saved some of those, too. I have another basin of little tubes.
I also saved some seeds from the most massive green peppers I have ever seen in my life. These things were monsters. These were bought from an Amish vegetable stand. I planted a third basin full of those.
I've got my cucumber seeds started for my hydroponic experiment. The barrels are ready to be filled, and I have the required nutrients for when the danger of frost is past. I've also got a tray of cabbages. I've gotten the idea to try them raised off the ground to protect them from the critters.
It was a good activity for a day when my arms did not want to raise above my head. I planted my seeds with tweezers and thought happy thoughts. Now everything sits on a card table in the office in a sunny spot. But...it was my first time saving seeds and there was a bit of fear as well that I'd done something wrong or that they wouldn't grow. I planted way more than I actually need. If only part of them grow, I'll have enough (hopefully). If all of them grow, well...I'll have 150 plants to figure out what to do with.
I messaged my daughter in law later in the evening. I had started plants for her as well, and taken them with me when I visited. They are in a different planting zone and can get things into the ground earlier than we can. Not all of the plants in my basin for her had sprouted at delivery time. She set them in her basement under the growlights and I hoped for the best.
"Hey, how did the peppers and tomatoes I brought for you do? Did they 'take'?" She messaged back with news that all of my plants had sprouted nicely. I was amazed at how ridiculously pleased I was at this news.
Another little happy? I have never understood the how-to videos about folding fitted sheets. I have a different method. We have five beds in our house. They each have a set of sheets. I remove the sheets for laundering, take them out of the dryer, and put them directly back on their beds. Saves folding sheets and it saves trying to figure out where to store sheets in an old house with not enough closets.
I'm practical like that.
I buy sturdy heavy sheets that are guaranteed to last a while, and to be honest, I haven't bought sheets in in a few years, but the elastic on our bed sheets was wearing out. Makes perfect sense, since those are the sheets washed weekly. The fitted sheet kept slipping off the corners of the bed, an aggravation.
Last night, Tim needed to get some sandpaper. I said, "Let's replace our bed sheets while we are out."
We stood in front an aisle of sheets. As usual, I was looking comparing threadcounts with an eye on the price. They needed to be 100% cotton, because I hate sheets that pill. Down the aisle a bit, Tim said, "I want these," and he stood in front of a selection of 800 count bedsheets in rich jewel colors. We've never had 800 count sheets before. I stood beside him. "They'll last forever, but did you see the price on them?"
And he said, "They're not that bad, really. When's the last time we bought a set of sheets?" I didn't protest because I'd fallen hard for a set in a brilliant lapis lazuli color. We came home and made up our bed with the new sheets. We were like a couple kids waiting for bedtime, and when we finally crawled between those sheets, they were delightful.
Today, I made strawberry shortcake for Tim, with homemade whipped topping. I ate a green salad for supper so that I could have a small piece of cake for myself. There's a happy! The first short cake of the season.
This week, the prediction is for 3 days in the 70s. For you celcius people, 21 degrees. That is probably my happiest happy of all!
Painting a ceiling for seven hours is not advisable.
YP: 'Trimming in' means using a small brush to feather in the edges so that you can take the roller down between the beam work and not splatter paint on the beam. 'Trimming in' requires time and patience. Taping and papering the beams to protect them would have taken even longer. (7 beams running the length of the house).
After my marathon ceiling painting, my shoulders ached. My neck ached. My upper back ached. We had left overs for supper and I did nothing aside from a long hot shower (side note: the paint came out of my hair on the very first wash!)
Two days later, my right shoulder is still on strike.
Probably should have done things differently. Tim pointed out that there was no reason to get it all done in one day (after the fact). However, I stick to my original premise. That job needed to be done in one day, because it would have been pretty difficult forcing myself to return to it the next day. Glad it is done.
A local man came up missing last month. He's not yet been found although his bike was found in a local park a half mile down river from us.
Now that the weather is warming up, there have been a number of helicopter searches. It seems that bodies of the drowned rise to the surface when it warms up.
Last Sunday, a woman went missing. She is reported to have been last seen on a path by the river.
I watched the water through the back door glass yesterday as I painted. Melting snow and runoff has made it high and fast and muddy and it made me shiver to think of the secrets that water holds.
The ceilings that I painted today are from the old house (the sign says 1848, the deed predates that). It wasn't a simple matter of painting the ceilings. Tim loved the old beams, and so he left them exposed. We paint the spacing between them white to make the beams stand out more, and to brighten the rooms. This means that you have to trim in the edges of every single one of the areas between the beams. That's a lot of trim work.
I did not stop for lunch, although I did grab a keto bar out of the car when I started getting shaky. I painted for 7 hours and got the job done.
Tim believed that I should be able to run a roller down the middle of the beams, getting close to the beams but not actually hitting them. He believed wrong. I got myself a trim brush, and continued on.
It was a gray day outside and it rained for most of the day. Inside the snug old house I clambered up and down the ladder, moving from one place to another, and continuing on. I had my phone plugged in listening to Pandora, my favorite station being Mumford and Son.
The Fray found God on the corner of First and Armistad:
I remembered driving in a car with an earnest 16 year old discussing finding God in the most unlikely places and in the most unlikely people and now she's 31 years old, married and living in the UK after roaming the world for most of her 20s.
The GooGoo Dolls sang Iris, and I thought of my own little Iris, dear to my heart, my recent visit with her, and for the space of another song, I was with her again.
The music played on and the memories danced on. John Legend was the music for Dylan and Brittani's wedding dance,
Owl City was singing about the fireflies that William and I caught last summer,
Tracy Chapman brought the another time and the hunger to be someplace else doing something else, anywhere else, anything else.
...seven hours, I was gathering my things, done at last, A gray haired woman drove her gray car through a the drizzle of a gray day and slowly came back to the present.
This morning's cryptogram: "This (the Irish) is the one race of people for whom psychoanalysis is of no use whatsoever." - Sigmund Freud.
I actually had to look up his reasoning for such a statement and found that he believed that the Irish had no interest in picking apart their own brains. Made me laugh out loud. He is also believed to have said that the Irish are a mass of contradiction.
Well, today is St Patrick's Day, and I direct you all to Ireland's favorite son, NorthSider for the Irish take on the royal interview. (Warning: NSFW)
I saw the following picture described as the most Irish picture ever taken:
Everyone is a bit Irish on St Patrick's Day, they say, so enjoy the day everyone. I've heard that the Irish themselves do not celebrate the day. Any truth to that one, Northsider?
Know who else does not celebrate the day?
We lost some long time tenants today for the very best reason: they bought their first home. We met them at the apartment and did a walk through and returned their deposit and half a month's rent to them. We had a housewarming gift for them too. They are the sweetest couple, and we really are happy for them. Their house is just down the street from our current renovation, and so we will pop in to see them someday when we see them front porch sitting.
We hung out at the house making a list of small repairs we needed to take care of. This is a house that dates back to 1848 according to the marker on the house although the deed shows that the house was purchased over 10 years earlier by a young couple that raised 6 children in the tiny place. It is one of the oldest houses in the city. (I can hear Cro laughing himself silly from clear over here. He's sitting in a cozy 300 year old house.)
A wing was built on to the house, but in the basement of that side of the house there is a hand dug well, lined with old stone. (It would have been in the side yard of the little house. The wing was built atop of it.) Someday when people aren't living in that unit, I'm going in there and doing some excavating. I hear that wells are a good place to find treasure. However, we bought the house with Tom living in that side of the building, and he's shown no interest in moving. We've had the house for 8 or 9 years now, I believe that he was a tenant of the previous landlord for 10 years or more.
Our next prospective tenant showed up with two of her friends to look the newly empty place over. We showed her what repairs we had to make and told her to make a list of what she wants done. She saw one thing, a loose piece of ceiling between the exposed beams. It was already on our list of things to be done. We hung around for a while talking to the group, but headed out leaving them to figure out what their friend should do. We told them to shut the lights off when they left and lock the door behind them.
Tim and I had errands to run before bed and we got them finished in pretty short order.
I've got a list of things to get done tomorrow morning, utilities to be switched over and running to be done. I've got a class to study for. I'm taking a run to a town about an hour from here to pick up two food grade 55 gallon barrels for an experiment that I am pretty excited about. I've always been interested in hydroponics. Our cucumbers have been a miserable failure for two years running due to pesky groundhogs who dig their way under the fence and nibble. These critters can do an awful lot of damage from one weekend to the next. This plan will keep the vines high enough off the ground that they will be out of reach of those pesky creatures.
Between the mushroom project and this, I'm plenty excited to get going on this year's garden. As Ed has pointed out, maybe this will be the year of the asparagus. This is something that I have planted multiple times in 3 different places, and never had any luck with. It's the second year for this particular planting, the first time I've planted it at this particular site. Fingers crossed. All I know is that I'm plenty tired of hearing Ed go on about having so much asparagus that he can hardly keep up with it. My fondest hope is that next year, that will be MY complaint!
I just read the saddest obituary ever.
A woman with local ties died. The short obituary mentions her husband, and a sister, and notes that she had three children, one son, two daughters. It mentions that she and her husband moved to ___________ to be closer to their son, who "is and was as devoted to her mother as she was to him for her whole life." It goes on to say that "raising her son was the greatest joy of her life".
The daughters are not mentioned by their full names.
I don't know the circumstances. Maybe it's warranted. I don't know.
It just seems like one last slap.
Since I've been counting my calories, there is a thing that I've noticed. Tim and I went out for dinner, for the first time in months. I picked the place because it had salads. I like salads a LOT. I eat salads a LOT. But when I looked at the salads on the menu, I was shocked to see that my favorite salad was 1500 calories!
Who knew? Not me, at least not until I started keeping track of my calories.
Yesterday, working away at the retirement property for much longer than we planned on (it was just so nice outside, and we were really getting the job done), Tim decided to go to a fast food place down the road for a hamburger. It bothers me that I am starting to feel guilty about food, but I took a deep breath and told myself I was being ridiculous, that I could balance out the calories by having a salad at supper time.
In the drivethru, I was much relieved to see that Tim's fast food choice also offered salads.
But...theirs had 1200 calories!
Yikes again! I had an unsweetened iced tea and a hamburger. for at 1/2 the calories and STILL felt a little worried.
So, that night, for supper, I made myself a salad. A big one. 20 calories for two cups of spring mix lettuce, 30 calories for my roma tomato, 8 calories in my cucumber, 5 calories in the mushroom, and my splurge of bleu cheese sprinkles added another 100 calories. I use a vinagrette that is 60 calories for 2 tbls. This is a big salad for just under 300 calories.
How on earth do restaurants sneak in all these calories? This is very confusing to me.
We hired two guys to come in and take the trees off the house. It would have been very difficult to get the trees cleaned up from behind the house. The ground is uneven and slopes down towards a creek. We told them that we'd take care of the clean up.
So they did their part. They got the trees off the house which was quite exciting to watch.
We got the roof sealed up to protect the contents of the house. We don't ever plan to actually live in the house. For right now, it just holds stuff for the new house. The hickory kitchen. The ornate little woodstove for cool days on the sun porch. Decorative windows. The butcher block. We collect stuff and it is handy to have a place to stash it. Joanne, it did not occur to me to take a picture of his mother's table to compare with yours. The job is not finished, so we'll be going back up. I've made a mental note to remember to do that.
Anyways, we did not get much farther than winterizing the house before winter set in, because we were also in the middle of putting up the new garage. So, there were huge piles of huge branches on all sides of the house, and they've been waiting patiently for us all winter.
Today was the day.
We worked hauled seven dump truck loads of branches to the back of the property where they were dumped and pushed back to give the rabbits and birds cover. We were hefting branches that would have made awfully nice Christmas trees!
It was a cool day, but the skies were brilliant blue and there was (for a change) no wind. Working side by side, we made a good team, loading the truck ridiculously high, until we could no longer throw the pieces atop. Tim hauled the stuff back, and I continued clearing. It was a beautiful day to work.
After six hours, we called it a day, stopped over at my sister's place and visited with the two of them. They were burning brush. My sister was excited. She saw a mink down behind their house, a first.
I am sunburnt and worn out, but it was a good day.
PS I found my measuring spoon. Some idiot used it to scoop coffee and then refilled the canister, completely forgetting the spoon inside.
It was a wonderful visit. Little Iris is quite a thinker. They talk to her as if she can understand everything, and I have to say, I'm quite convinced that she very nearly does. On her parent's date night, she helped them pack and they explained that they were going out to eat at a restaurant (side note: it has been over a year since Iris has eaten in a restaurant and she was very interested in that). They were going to spend the night at an inn, but Grandma was staying at home with her and they would have SO. Much. Fun!
They asked her if she would like to watch Peter Pan and have pop corn for her special night with grandma, and the answer was a resounding 'Yes!'. Turns out that Irises love popcorn with every fiber of their being. So Iris gleefully came downstairs crowing about 'Popcorn! Popcorn! Popcorn!'
Everyone laughed and her daddy explained that popcorn would come after supper.
Preparations for the night out continued and Iris and I tried our best to help and stay out of the way as the situation called for it. Finally it was time for them to go, and we stood at the window to wave goodbye as their car backed out of the driveway.
I set Iris on the floor and she immediately headed for the kitchen. "Want to eat now!'
It should be noted that Iris must be preparing for a growth spurt because that small child was packing away enormous amounts of food while I was there. A hearty breakfast, followed by a midmorning snack, followed by lunch's first course. Followed by lunch proper, followed by a third course about an hour later, followed by supper and a bedtime snack. So 'want to eat now!' is a familiar phrase in the kingdom of that particular princess.
She wanted some of the 'asta that her mother had fixed just the way she liked it, with hamburger and mushrooms and peppers and onions and tomatoes. I asked her if she wanted broccoli and she told me that she wanted a banana. I prepared everything. I was having thai take out and so I had my green curry. We sat down at the table together, Iris took a couple bites of her banana and announced that she was done with supper.
I looked at her, a bit surprised. She didn't look back. She was clambering off her chair and heading for to the kitchen.
She looked at me, brighteyed and cheerful. "I all done with supper. Want popcorn now!"
The little stinker.
It was great fun though. For Valentine's day, I had sent her a piece of plastic that attaches to the window. It casts a large rainbow on the ceiling every sunny morning. As the hours pass the rainbow 'travels' down the wall, into the laundry room, down the hall, across the basement door, the door to the garage, and across the wall of the family room. That is a dreadfully exciting thing when you are not yet three, and the moment the sun had moved to the point that she could actually touch that rainbow herself was simply thrilling.
There were all sorts of small moments like that, and they were so very joyful, for both of us. That's what I miss the most: those tiny, perfectly ordinary thrills of her perfectly ordinary days. There are dogs to be fed, which she does herself. 'Baby plants' in the basement that wait patiently for her to switch on their grow lights. The gerbera daisy I bought her for her bedroom needs watered. She likes being busy. She likes helping.
It was a beautiful 6 days.
The miracles were not over though.
On the last day, we cheerfully said our goodbyes (grandma saved her wistful wishing and teary eyes for the car) and she waved goodbye. She had a busy day in front of her. She and her mother were going to work the dirt in the garden and then they were going to the LIBRARY! To get new BOOKS! To bring them HOME!
Grandma drove out of town, and started off on the hour and a half drive to the interstate. As she headed out of town, she reached for the mapquest directions, the same ones used for every trip ever taken to Blandon. Except she couldn't find them. Anywhere. I have been pretty sure right along that I no longer actually needed them, but it was always a comfort to have them, Just in case.
The miracle is that I got myself home, a 260 mile trip, without those instructions.
I got back into my own little town about 2:30. I stopped at the store to get a bag of lentils and a package of frozen spinach and some bread to toast. In my driveway at 2:45, smoked sausage in the pot simmering, carrots, celery, onions, garlic sauteed and tossed in with the simmering sausage, frozen spinach added along with the lentils.
I went through the house with the sweeper, did some quick tidying up. My sister was on call and staying in town.
We all sat in the kitchen and visited while I made up the yogurt for the week.
Is there anything more wonderful than family?
Another miracle is I continue to lose weight. I only lost a pound this week but it is steady progress in the right direction despite the green curry Saturday night and the Mexican food I had delivered Monday night as a special treat before I left.
There is also another miracle. One of the jobs that needed doing when I got home was watering my plants. I moved from room to room removing the dead stuff and watering and much to my surprise, I have another avocado tree growing! Several times throughout the years, I have tried to grow one from the pits, using the toothpicks and the glass of water. I've never been successful. Pondering it, I decided that Mother Nature did things a bit differently. The pits fell on the ground and they either grew or they didn't. So I began just pushing the pits down into soil of my potted plants. Much to my delight, I got an avocado plant growing in with my Christmas cactus. I let it get about two feet tall, and then tried to repot it. It showed its gratitude by promptly dying, and it broke my heart a little. Rushing around getting the house back to rights before Tim got home and my sister got here. I saw, once again, an avocado in the Christmas cactus. It is about 6 inches tall.
Tim's company is continuing with shutdown plans, but the employees began leaving in droves, not waiting for the last minute. The problem is that, upon hearing that the plant was being shut down, the customers who ordered these pipeline compressors have submitted orders to stockpile spare parts. They are busy and don't have enough machinists. They've given the people who stay a $2 an hour raise effective immediately. They've offered a very nice severance package, to include 3 months of insurance to keep the people on the job. Another miracle. It looks as if Tim will make it for another year and 1 month.
I have applied for a job that I really want and I am hoping for just one more miracle.
It was such a fun visit. Dylan and Brittani got their date night. Iris and Grandma got quality time. We did crafts and sang songs and did the hokey pokey. We read books, we planted plants, we did chores. We dressed up, we played, we had tea parties. She's lively and interested in everything. I got a plastic sheet that you tape to the window and it makes rainbows across the walls. The rainbow moves as the sun moves and that was pretty impressive.
I just got home 45 minutes ago, trying to set the house to rights, company coming, threw together a pot of lentil soup and it is simmering on the stove.
Once again, I'm feeling guilty, as if I am doing something wrong. Unlike the UK or Europe, there are no clear cut directives besides 'don't gather' and 'wear masks' to stem the spread of covid. Tim and I have been living pretty solitary lives since this all began, but it seems kind of futile sometimes. I care for grandchildren and they lead far more social lives than we do. 'Needs must,' as Weaver would say, and I am a fan of her practical nature. So, I home schooled two boys and hoped for the best, and it was all well.
Now it is the spring, and after an alarming jump in our number of positives last fall, we have declined once again, with the number of new cases in the single digits for weeks now. I putter around the house and apply for jobs, and long to see little Iris on the other side of the state.
Iris is two years and 7 months old and it has been 7 months since I saw her last. In that time, she's begun potty training, and she's talking a blue streak, and she's graduated to a big girl's bed and she's begun a very careful gymnastics program for toddlers. Brittani has had both vaccinations, being a nurse. Dylan actually came down with covid some weeks ago. They have a sneaking suspicion that Iris had it as well, as she had a bit of a runny nose while Dylan was isolating between his guest bedroom and his office across the hall (he missed not one day of work, although he did have a worrisome weekend in that stretch of days.)
So. Now that they have their antibodies, the question is: 'How safe is it for Grandma to visit?'
After some waffling conversation, we decided to plan a visit. I will be leaving tomorrow morning. I will drive the five and a half hours there without stopping, if it is possible. (Not going to wet my pants over this). Once there, I will remain there. Everything that I want to see is contained in the four walls of that house anyway.
Dylan and Brittani will be having their first date night in months, going for dinner and staying over at a picturesque inn a half hour from their home.
Grandma and Iris will be having a good time. I'm very excited over this. The car is loaded. I've got a dress up box for Iris, a fancy hat box filled with things like necklaces, bracelets, a tiara, a scepter, glamorous, glittery scarves, a tiny tea set. She can be a bunny, or a troll or a fairy or a princess or a unicorn.
She's begun to love plants, and so I bought a showy gerbera daisy for her room and sun flower seeds for when they plant their garden.
There's a bag of craft supplies for us to do together. Grass heads to be made, books to be read, a paint resist activity (we're making her name with a flower dotting the second 'i'), and I've got everything to do an ice block activity.
I'm overpreparing for this trip, because when a little girl is two years old, and has not seen many other people besides her mother and father for months now, a 'new' person walking in the front door might be a little unnerving, even if that new person is the 'ama' she videochats with. I have been gathering ideas and materials for a couple weeks now.
All I have left to do is one last stint at the food pantry. I will come home and assemble a lasagna for Tim, so that he won't starve to death while I'm gone. (The man hates to prepare his own meals.)
Tomorrow, he will get up at 4:45. I will pack his lunch. See him off at 5:35 and then finish my coffee. I'll get dressed, pack one last bag of my 'necessaries', and then I will hop in my car and leave for Blandon.
We can't eliminate covid risks all together, but we can minimize them, and we've been mindful of the risks and addressed them. As excited as I am to go, still there is this nagging guilt about 'sneaking off'.
I will catch up with you when I get back.