Monthly Archives: November 2013

Thanksgiving and Old Dog

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I am doing Thanksgiving Dinner this year!

Usually I just show up, perhaps with a pie or two, some dinner rolls or a vegetable dish. I arrive early to help, and generally read from my aunt’s stack of magazines while she watches whatever game is on the television. I follow directions: scoop this into a bowl…mash the potatoes…set the table. After dinner, cut and serve the pie. I’m grand with the clean-up, and when that’s done I can usually get cousin Bob involved in a game or two of cribbage. Easy!

This year, Aunt Katie has passed the torch.  Not only am I doing the entire dinner, I’m doing it at my own house!

With a long list to accomplish, I spent yesterday dicing and slicing, preparing whatever could be made ahead and baking pies.

I also spent four hours stuffing, sealing and stamping envelopes for one of my many jobs.

There were the routines of dog-walking, bill-paying and house-cleaning. With company coming, there were many extras added to the list, to make the house look holiday-ready.

In a classic demonstration of my multi-tasking frenzy, I also chose yesterday to rearrange my bedroom, and put down a rug.

Punctuating everything, with my new washer and dryer installed, I was all day catching up with a week’s worth of laundry.

My biggest concern, though, has been getting my house warm enough for my aunt. Her house is so warm these days, we dress in layers to go there, so that we can strip down to summer clothes if we plan to stay awhile.

My thermostat is normally set at 60 degrees. That can be adjusted, of course. Still, floors are cold and windows are drafty. The nice heater (a gift from Aunt Katie!) that I’ve used to make areas cozier quit working last week.

To top it off, in the process of flipping breakers on and off for my new appliances, I accidentally reset the thermostat to 0. Accustomed to the chill, I didn’t notice until this morning…when I woke up to a very cold house.

Forty-five degrees does not feel comfortable in any season!

I was very grateful, this Thanksgiving Day, to have a little dog curled around me for warmth!

This last week, I was glad for the chance to have a nice visit with “Drywall Mike” and his granddaughter, Chelsea, on Beaver Island just for a few days. When Mike was forced – by health and other issues – to leave the island several years ago, I ended up with his old dog, Maggie.

Maggie was too big for my house and too set in her ways to train. Arthritis kept her off the furniture; I would not have been able to otherwise. She was stubborn and smelly and absolutely obnoxious about food. Her medicines were costly and torn tendons demanded two expensive surgeries. At the end of her life, my house was like “sick bay”, and I was the nurse charged with cleaning up all of her messes. Still, she loved me fiercely, and she became like family. She was the first of my little family of dogs. Though Maggie’s been gone a couple years now, I’d grown so accustomed to having her always underfoot, I still look before I jump out of bed or chair, for fear of trampling her!

Maggie was an easy subject to sketch, because she slept so soundly.

The house is warmer now; I’m off to put the turkey in the oven.

Happy Thanksgiving!

 

 

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Jenny and Katey, Sleeping

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Yes, if you look closely,  that says “Jenny and Katey Sleeping / May 12, 1984”

Obviously, this is not current work.

I can remember it, though, as if it were yesterday:

I came home from working a night shift to find my daughters asleep in the living room, Jen on the sofa, Kate on the floor beside it.

I didn’t know where their father was, or why he wasn’t home with them.

I debated whether carrying them into their beds would wake them. At nine and twelve years old, they weren’t tiny, but I could lift them when I needed to.

I made a cup of herbal tea and sat down to unwind from work, so that I’d be able to get to sleep.

I picked up a book. I put it back down.

I sat and watched my beautiful daughters sleeping.

Then I picked up pencil and paper to make this sketch.

 

Presentable?

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There were a few – not many, but a few – times in my life when I checked the mirror to see just how good I looked.

In my sixty-one years, there have been a handful of instances where everything that I have to offer synchronized with the style of the moment…and I looked really good!

Kindergarten, no. Oxford-style saddle shoes emphasized my tiny ankles, skinny legs and knobby knees. White ankle socks continually migrated down into the shoes. Hand-me-down dresses were just a bit long for my small frame and I can remember having to frequently pull my underpants from where they’d wedged.

Most of my childhood followed that pattern.

There was a time, though, around 1969, when Twiggy was modelling mini-skirts and my skinny frame seemed to suit the styles.

There were days in the seventies where – in my worn jeans and tennis shoes – I felt very “of the moment.”

There was a brief period in the late eighties when slouchy socks, big sweaters and big hair made me look almost fashionable.

Most of my life, though, that quick look in the mirror was just to make sure I was “presentable.”

“Is my hair just awful?”

“Does this outfit make me look short?”

“Will the jacket hide my belly-fat, or make me look dwarf-like?”

These are the types of questions I would ask myself before heading out the door.

This morning, getting ready to walk the dogs, I put clothes right over the long underwear I had slept in: a paint spattered, long-sleeved black T-shirt, gray sweat pants purchased from the Re-Sale Shop and scissored to the correct length and a navy blue sweatshirt, inside-out. I added wooly socks in an off-white shade and faded red athletic shoes. Over that, the magenta parka that has seen better days. The front is stained and the zipper doesn’t grip, but it’s still warm. I pulled up the hood. Added gloves: one red, one blue.

I stole a glance in the mirror before I left the house.

This is November, after all.

Though – with their red plaid or blaze orange combined with “camo” and Carhartt‘s – they are not known for their fashion sense, there are hunters in these woods.

There is a possibility that I could encounter someone, while out on my walk.

I wasn’t pausing to appreciate my good appearance.

I wasn’t making sure I was presentable.

What I said out loud as I stopped to check the mirror was, “Okay, let’s see how bad I look…”

New Floor

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It was last July – when my granddaughter, Madeline, was here visiting (and her visit was generating a great deal more laundry than usual) – that I noticed that my washing machine was leaking.

Rather, I noticed that what I’d thought was a small dribble was actually a large leak.

It was July when I realized the chipboard floor was destroyed from the water seeping into it whenever I ran the washing machine. I had mushrooms sprouting from the boards!

It was July when I hauled the dryer – also ready to be retired – outside to make room to pull out the washer to investigate the problem. July, in summer’s sunshine, when I decided it wasn’t all bad living without a dryer, and that garments dried on the clothesline sure smell good. July when I started buying wrenches and socket-head screwdrivers and other devices that seemed like they might help me get to the root of the problem with the washing machine. July when I started – with hammer and chisel and mini-crowbar – to pull up the rotten floor.

Yes, it has been all the way since July that I have been growing accustomed to the washing machine as a fixture in the hallway to be navigated around when needing to get into the bathroom or either of two closets.

Three long months that the laundry room floor has been a mass of punky OSB board and dustpans full of wood chips as I whittled away at it. The more I removed, the more I revealed: there were crumbling 1″ x 2″ boards that were nailed to the concrete  underneath, slabs of blue rigid foamboard in between and a layer of wet tarpaper under all of that, put down to act as a vapor barrier on top of the cement slab.

There were days that I came home exhausted from work, just to drop to my hands and knees in the laundry room to chip away at the floor.

There were days and even weeks where I just shook my head in exasperation and ignored it.

There were times when I spoke to everyone I could about it, hoping for assistance, or a solution.

There were times I refused help out of embarrassment for the mess I’d gotten myself into.

My sisters, Brenda and Cheryl, came for a visit in September. “Let’s make a project of it,” they suggested. It was tempting. Brenda and Cheryl get things done! Neither one would live with an issue like that for weeks on end. We always could find the fun in tackling major repairs and dirty jobs. It might have been a blast. Or it might have occupied all of their vacation in the most frustrating way. Or I might have never lived down the shame of having them see the disaster I had created, and was living with.

I declined.

Let me tell you, hanging clothes on the line loses a lot of its charm in the cold, rainy days of Autumn! Many weeks, the rain started as soon as I finished hanging things out, and didn’t let up until – several days later – I hauled them in, soaking wet, to dry by the heater.

Spending my only day off in the laundromat seemed like cruel and unusual punishment.

When I took my aunt to visit her doctor on the mainland two weeks ago, I went shopping for new appliances. I arranged to have them shipped across on the ferry boat two weeks later. I needed time to arrange for delivery from the boat dock to my house. I had to find someone who would come out and hook up the new washer and dryer for me. And I needed to finish dealing with the floor.

I had my day off planned.

First, unhook the washer and move it out of the house. I had bought a new wrench that I was certain was going to enable me, finally, to undo the hoses that kept the machine attached to the wall. I had moved the dryer out on my own, and had been sliding the washer around for months; I felt sure that I could handle it.

Second, take my new Multi-Max tool with its oscillating blade and cut through the OSB board around the perimeter of the room. Then, use hammer and chisel and crowbar to remove the rest of the floor.

Third, measure the space. Take the measurement to the lumberyard and have a piece of chipboard – in the correct thickness – cut to the exact size. Bring it home, drop it into place and secure it.

Congratulations to me, pat myself on the back, pour a glass of wine to celebrate.

Two nights before that planned day off, my friend Vince came over to join me for a supper of soup and bread. When he saw the mess the laundry room was in, he was flabbergasted.

“You should have asked me to help!” he said.

Actually, I did. Or I at least strongly hinted at it. Unfortunately, my desperate cries for help too often sound like murmurs of, “It’s really no big deal,” or “No, I’m fine,” or even sometimes like an amusing anecdote. The despair I feel does not often come through in my words. Combine that with a summer season that was busy for all of us, and that had Vince taking on a challenging new position, it is no wonder he didn’t realize my dire need for assistance.

In any case, he stepped up, and offered to come Tuesday, on my day off, to help.

I couldn’t be any more thankful that he did!

First of all, even with my new wrench, I could not get the hoses unhooked.

I needed help to move the washing machine over the hearth and past the cobblestone walkway.

My Multi Max tool was missing the hex key that would tighten the necessary blade and – even after Vince used his hex key to tighten it – it wouldn’t cut through the boards.

All but one of the 1″ x2″ boards had to be cut, removed and replaced as well. I hadn’t even considered that!

The nails that held the boards into the cement were impossible for me to pull.

Finally, every one of the three walls were at least 3/4 of an inch out of square, from one end to the other. If I had – by some miracle – made it to that point in the job on my own, I would have come home with a piece of OSB that wouldn’t have fit into the space.

At that point, I would have broken out the wine that was planned to celebrate my success, and used it instead to drown my sorrows.

Vince saved the day!

My floor is down, new appliances will arrive this week and I’m retiring my clothesline until Springtime!

What a Difference a Day Makes

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Yesterday, the sun was out.

The wind had died down.

Fall colors were intense.

We took two long walks, the dogs and I.

Chipmunks were out, too, with their noisy chatter, teasing and scolding the dogs.

It was a great day to be outside!

I worked in the garden, pulling up some vines, moving some rocks and digging up a big patch of quack grass.

In a true optimistic spirit, I washed three loads of clothes, and hung two of them – all that would fit – on the line. Work slacks, long-sleeved shirts, socks, underwear, towels, washcloths, rags, one tablecloth and two sweaters. When they dried out in the sunshine, I’d bring them in and hang out the third load: sheets.

Things were still damp when we got back from our second walk, but close to dry.

I came inside and started supper.

Then the rain came, immediate and hard.

No warning to allow time for running out and snatching things from the line, to drape over chairs and curtain rods and drying racks.

Nothing to do but wait for the rain to stop.

It hasn’t, yet.

I look out occasionally to see the soggy dripping clothes. Work slacks, long-sleeved shirts, socks, underwear, towels, washcloths, rags, one tablecloth and two sweaters.

We are not venturing out into the cold and wet for a walk today.

Today, I’m in warm layers of T-shirts and sweats.

The oven is on: I just finished making granola. Cookies are going in next, to bring to work with me tomorrow. Soup is simmering on the stove.

It is a great day to be inside!

 

Spreading the Sunshine

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Mary, who writes a “Reflections from the Heart” blog at http://perezmemoir.wordpress.com has nominated me for the Sunshine award. According to Mary, this award recognizes bloggers whose writings “light up the dark corners of our minds”.

As someone who too often writes to work through anger, sadness or melancholia, it is wonderful to be appreciated as someone who lights up anything!

The rules are simple. Thank the person who gave you the award in your blog post, answer a few non-invasive questions (my favorite color is red, my own two spoiled dogs are my favorite animals and my passions – in alphabetical order – are Art, Family, Gardening, Reading, Walking and Writing), and pass the award on to 10-12 other bloggers, let them know and link to their blogs.

Now, at this point, I am going to regretfully decline this lovely award. I read and enjoy many other blogs, Mary’s included. If I could figure out how to do it, I’d have a “blog roll” on my own site, making it easy for others to look at my favorites.

I can’t.

I don’t know how to create the list, how to link to other sites, how to put the little Sunshine Award logo on my page…and, frankly, I don’t have the stamina to try to figure any of it out.

For me, it’s enough that someone thinks I deserve it.

Thank you, Mary!