Apr 30, 2014

Demolition Phase II

Tonight we scraped the popcorn/glitter ceiling and started tearing out bad places in the drywall for repair.
This is my demolition outfit.  I knew enough to wear a hoodie but only after starting to scrape did I add the safety glasses and bandanna.  I was like a ceiling scraping ninja, I tell you, and then we took turns.  It didn't take that long, but the dust.......remember in my dream home I had a removable roof?  This is one of those times then it would really come in handy.  We couldn't even figure out how to get the kitchen table out of the doors.  So not my kitchen hosts the piano, all of the flooring and the kitchen table.  We just work around it.  You can't even get into the Beautiful Redhead's room, but you can shut the door.  I continue to feel completely at ease with this state of construction.  I don't even wonder why anymore.  Just come on in.  Don't take off your shoes.  Drop a big glop of stuff on the floor?  HA!  No problem.  Just let it dry.  If we have to we can SAND it off!

I really should have bought some masks......but at least I was patriotic.

Scraping that glitter and popcorn off made me think of the sweetest 6 year old boy, who had cataracts, that I babysat when we first moved here.  He looked up and asked me if they were stars.  He had such a magical way of seeing things, and I've always had a fondness for that crappy glitter ever since, because I always thought of his little voice asking that sweet question.
Babies always liked it, also.

But enough.
Goodbye, glitter.  Thanks for the memories.  Those I will keep, you, not so much.
We continued getting everything off the walls and then we started pounding in nails and mixing up the mud.

Real men at work.
Before long the cracks in the walls and ceilings looked like this.
That is the ceiling.  It looks vaguely like Texas from this angle.

After cutting out all the cracks and HOLES in the walls, made by boys and hammers, we were ready to mud and tape.

After being filled, taped and mudded again.

The boys learned how to cut a square around the hole to be fixed.

 For some strange reason, people apparently come into our house and knock holes in our walls.  It's a mystery how this occurs, but it has happened quite a few times.  How lucky that I have boys to fix them.  Ahem.

Then they inserted a small piece of board behind the hole, which was screwed right behind the bare spot, to serve as an anchor.  Then they cut out a piece of drywall about a 1/4 of an inch smaller than the hole, and screwed that to the anchor piece behind.  From there, mud was packed into the cracks and covered with mesh tape, and then covered again.  The cracks will take about 3 layers of the mud, with sanding in between layers.  I am recording this because according to The Angel, this is the right way to do it.  We are not going to waste the time not to do it right.

So now we are all covered in drywall dust, and I do not believe it would be an exaggeration to say we even have drywall breath.
I am buying masks tomorrow.  I may even wear two.  Not that that will help the damage done to us all today, but what can you do.  The boys acted like I was over reacting with the masks until The Angel backed me up.

I do not know why boys (or girls, they are even worse-ai yi yi.  Not that you don't still love them) of a certain age don't think their mother knows anything.  But I don't fight it.  I don't really even care anymore.  It's a phase.  It will pass!  This is not my first rodeo.  All I have to do is to arrange for men they respect to throw in a word here and there.
Thank God for Angels.
And good night.
Tomorrow is coming, and we have much more demolition and reconstruction waiting for us then.

Apr 27, 2014

In Which I Confront My Fear of Color........

We tore out carpet in the living room and hallway last Sunday.  I am shamed to admit it was Easter Sunday, but that is just the way things worked out.
 Real men at work again.  Man am I ever glad we all survived their early years.......

Our yard hadn't yet been mowed either.  While all the neighbors had beautiful yards and their families over to take pictures in their nice Easter clothes, we were carrying out big wads of carpet neatly duct-taped into rolls and putting it on the curb.  Then, for added fun, while the rest of the neighborhood barbecued, we swept up dirt, using the new snow shovel for a dust pan.  Sigh.  I guess we should just stand behind who are.  We can't seem to change.

We played a fun game called "name that stain" and see the gray stuff?  DIRT!  We wrote our names in it with the shop vac for fun.  I am even kind of proud to report both boys are seriously anti-carpet now.

We had a shower for Charli the Saturday before and it is just the way things worked out.  Sorry neighbors, but I think it cannot be denied that we were certainly in the spirit of re-birth.  The worst and dirtiest early stages, to be sure, but the spirit, undoubtedly!!
Is this going to be one lucky child or what??

On the upside, I have never been less embarrassed to invite people into my house.  I just open the door wide, smile, say "Come on in!  Everything is a mess!  Don't take off your shoes!"  I have found it freeing, to say the least.  You would be surprised how nice life is when you quit worrying about how your house looks......and smells.
Actually, I have seen big improvements in both of these areas already.

Me and my girls.  :D

So I have been trying to decide on color for the walls.  I am doing beaded board (fake, cheap, and paintable) half way up, and I am 99% certain it will be a navy blue.  The flooring is in and it will be light.  Kind of gray, kind of honey, the kind of floor that just gives a general impression and light overtone that hopefully no one will notice much at all.  It won't show dirt or dog hair and I may well do my vacuuming with a shop vac from here on out.  Durable, low maintenance, cheap yet homey: this is my goal.  How can I fail?

I was stuck between a navy blue, a dark green and a color called Dark Vermont Currant, which looked to be very deep red or brown, or even purple, depending on what it was beside at the time.  But I think I'm too scared!!  So then I told myself that while you can liberally slop paint all over the floors of plywood now, at least pick a color for the top of the walls.  So I think I did.  For the kitchen I want a soft butter yellow, which is adorable with the navy blue on bottom, and then for the living room and hallway I think I'm going with a color that is called Flying Dove, which is a little blue but really looks like another version of white unless you put the navy blue beside it, and then it looks very light blue.  It all goes together and I'm so tired of trying to decide I'm just going to do it.  Frankly, I have so much stuff that hangs on my walls I am not even sure how much of the top will show anyway.  At the end of the day, I seriously doubt anything I could possibly do will look worse than this.  I mean, come on.  Nowhere to go from here but up!

Seriously, folks, this is the TOP of my wall in the kitchen.  Can you see those stains?  Were they shooting cool aid in water guns or just water?  You decide.  I won't find out for another 6 or 7 years at least. 
This is what we are living with now and to tell you the truth, it simply does not look any worse, and it smells 100% better!!

I could have had all this done this week, easy, but I was terrified of making a choice.  I remembered when my mother was building her house, and she was talking to the wife of the man who made her cabinets.  They were Mennonites, and apparently used colors on all their walls, because she said to my mom, in discussing another house, that their "walls were white, like your people's".  We collapsed in laughter when she reported this to me.

I have been wondering ever since just who are our people, and why are we afraid of color?  I didn't know, so I called my other mother, and we spent the next 4 hours drinking coffee and comparing colors and laying out floor tiles to compare, and danged if I haven't decided now it will be the Dark Vermont Currant on the beadboard.  In a shiny kind of paint, whatever that is called.  I forgot to ask, but it doesn't matter.  That is a detail that I will worry about later, when it's time.  Right now it's time to mud some walls and throw something that goes with it on the top half of the wall before we have to worry about protecting the new floor.

What color?  "Answer cloudy, ask again later".  Ok, that's a Magic 8 Ball answer but it works, and it doesn't really matter that much, because my walls will be full of stuff anyway and it won't show that much.  In the kitchen the walls will be a soft butter yellow that matches the currant color beautifully.  It will probably be a version of gray in the living room and hall, although I did see a kind of paint that included metal that was really pretty.  I liked it but immediately started thinking of all the ways I could mess that up and figured I would spend twice as much when I had to cover it up with white after it didn't work out.  I cannot escape the realism.  I've tried.  I just cast my mind back to the hot glue burns from the handmade Christmas gifts and decided not to go there.

Nowhere to go but up.  I just keep telling myself that.  Stay tuned for improvements as they come.  I'm just going to jump in and keep going, because soon I will have a grand baby to take up my thoughts and my time.  I just can't see the color of my walls taking up a lot of my mind in the future.  I'm very thankful to admit freely that I am just not that kind of girl.  I will be the girl with the gorgeous Dark Currant Simulated Bead Board.  You know, Charli's grandma.

Apr 22, 2014

The Long and Winding Road......

One of the things about getting older is learning to treasure what you have when you have it.  That day.  That hour.  That moment.

As we get older, one of the most poignant losses is being able to go home.

The places that have been our homes have been sold, moved away from, burnt down, changed beyond recognition.  They no longer contain the people who loved us or any traces of our ever having been in them.

You can't go home again.
We all know this at some point in our lives, and yet we really never get over that particular heartache.
Unless we get Alzheimer's of course, may God forbid it.  Bad as that would be, it may offer it's own comforts, should it give us the opportunity to return to our home, if only in our mind.

Which brings me to the point of this post and lovely song.
I have a friend who is blessed to still have her family home that she can visit.  It is true, her parent's are no longer in residence, but to be able to sit in her mother's kitchen, to look at the books her dad was reading, is still very, very good.

She came home and I drove to see her.

I drove this road.

The farmers have already been in the fields.  Don't you just love farmers?

This road that I have driven since I was 19 years old.
This road is long and indeed winding.

I have grown to respect the potholes.

I used to drive it at 60 or 65, except up hills and around corners, for fear of farm machinery.
I am certain it used to be in better shape.
But, then ,so did I.
Now, in the last 3 years, I have noticed that I top out at about 40.  Not out of fear of anything whatsoever, but just to enjoy the memories.  The scenery isn't bad either.

I look like I'm driving somewhere on purpose but really I'm many years away.

I'm remembering when we used to drive it in our little hatch back cheapy cars, remembered chiefly for what color they were instead of what model.  We could push those cars by ourselves for quite a ways when we ran out of gas.  We were tan and our hair was mercilessly whipped around and snarled from having the windows down.  Our sunglasses were actually picked out then, and we were willing to pay more than $1 for them.  Our hair was big and permed.

  The best times are always when you are the only car on the road.
Between 3 and 4 in the morning is the best time for this to happen.
Some things never change, thank God.  Just sayin'.

There are family cemeteries.  One is on the left here.

So many trips have I made down this road.  Trips as a teenager, in the wee small hours of the morning, to be met by my friend's mother, and harangued for coming in (staying out?) so late (early?).  It is a testament to your age when you can look back lovingly at being yelled at by any mother, whether your own or someone else's, with fondness.
May you be so lucky, and live so long.

Trips as a mother with my babies, because any mother who cares enough to harangue you for being out and about "at all hours of the day and night, smelling like cigarettes and alcohol!  I know what you girls have been doing.  I wasn't born yesterday, you know!!"  will not rest until you bring your babies for her inspection.

So I drove this road then too.
And then, once I was considered an adult, (notice I did not say "once I was grown up") I basked in the glow of the pride she took in me.  (Then.  After I had straightened up). And her smile is still there, in her house, for me.

Over the years there have been additional trips.  Trips for weddings on nights with huge, full moons.  Trips for funerals, with brazen, sunlit fields standing sentinel in the afternoons.
I know these roads like I grew up on them.
In some ways, I did.

 I rarely go past a certain point on this road, because this home is the one that has always held the people I love.  I have never had any reason but that house to drive this long and winding road at all.
In the last few years I have been haunted by the thought that the day will come when this house will no longer by my destination.
Either I will drive past this house or I will not drive down this road ever again.  I don't think I will want to see the changes that will come, as changes always must.  I think I might want to keep it the same in my memory.

I am old enough to know that this is just a natural part of life.  It comes to us all if we live very long at all.  We do not have to like it, but we do have to accept it.  In this, we have no choice.

I am extremely aware of the privilege and the pleasure that driving this road has always been for me, and remains to be still.
 I am treasuring every moment of it, right there in the moment.  I am trying to fix in my mind how good that feeling is, that going home feeling, while I still can.  I have learned not to take things for granted, to mindfully be grateful for having them.

My friend's mother is in heaven now, but I know she is with me in that car, in my memories and in the anticipation of being around things that are the same.
The forks are still in the same drawer, and I can get a glass of water without looking at the cabinets before opening them.  Nothing has changed much, and how wonderful that is to me.

I still see my friend's mother in her kitchen, laughing.  I hear the echo of that laugh in every single one of her daughters.
I still see her father, sitting in the driveway, sipping on his own beer and looking at the place where the "other house" sat.  That spot has been empty for years, but not to him.
That house was his home once, for many years, and while I never saw it standing, I listened to every story he told me about it and
I see it too.  In it, he was young.  They had their babies in that house.

So if you see a lady driving slowly along and you notice her wiping tears away, don't be sad.
Because she is not.
She is just lucky enough to have known them.
She is so very grateful, and even joyful, to be there, to be driving that road, and to be headed to that house, and to her friend who waits for her there.
   Always, and through everything in her life, right up to this point, including the haranguing.

"That's where the old house was, right over there......."

Apr 12, 2014

Random Spring Rambling and The Magic Man......

Well.  It's that time of year again.  Time to Hit It.  Again.

One thing about putting things off, is you can get a lot done in a hurry.  Or at least make it look like you did. 

I have always wished that you could just move out your furniture and use a fire hose for your house once every year, much like farmers burn off their fields.  My dream house has concrete floors with big drains in the middle, plastic walls at least half-way up, and a removable roof for those days when you are mad enough to actually kill bats with your bare hands.  Also really, really nice furniture and soft warm rugs.  But that's just a dream.  Some young architect should get on this idea and make it happen.  Like with a 3-D printer or something.  Just a thought.  

Maybe The Beautiful Redhead's smashing boyfriend, The Magic Man, could make that happen.  He seems to be good at all kinds of cool stuff!  He makes me so happy, for one thing.  And if you think he makes me happy, well, just look.  Happiness seems to kind of pour out of people around him, if you ask me.

Just my opinion, of course, but that looks happy to me.
He requested his own nick-name for the blog, I was so touched.  Then 5 minutes later he showed me a video of him rolling smoke filled bubbles up his arms and blowing them around, and viola, there is was.  In addition to being an unself-conscious showman, he knows all kinds of the coolest stuff, and well, suddenly he was The Magic Man!  I hope he likes it.  

If you think it's easy for me to drift away and ramble on in print, you should be sitting on my porch right now.  I've already decided that the wind is blowing too hard to start burning leaves any time soon, so no hurry with the leaves.  Also, I have my first dandelions blooming, along with jonquils and crocus' and hyacinths and some cute little purple flower that I never known what to call, but visits every year and I think of as a dear friend.  They are all either bright yellow or bright purple, and the grass turned green Thursday, so it is just beautiful.  Thus, easy to put off things, which is just how I like it, God help me.

To Do List:
1.  Store.  We have to eat.  I could do this in my sleep, and sometimes do, I'm pretty sure.  I do not even actually consider this a chore anymore, except for the house that I have to take a shower and leave the house.  Into every life, a little rain must fall.

2.  Flooring trip: I've reached the point where I am so sick of the carpet in my house that I am ready to tear it up and haul it out of the house.  In fact, my Youngest Baby dropped an entire gallon of milk on the living room carpet 2 weeks ago.  Then he just stood there calmly and watched it soak slowly in, as Jack and Shadow paid close attention and I was stuck in the doorway behind him, also loaded down with grocery bags.  No one got the least bit excited. I pondered on whether this was good or bad and decided that it didn't really matter right now.  Then my beloved Bissell, who I had placed my trust in, would not squirt out water, the traitorous rotten scoundrel.  And I don't know, maybe 13 years with the same crappy carpet is just my magic number, but something snapped inside me.  It was like a switch had just flipped and I said SO BE IT.  I was going to get this crap out of my house and my life and it was all I could do not to just set the whole floor on fire right then.  The voice in my head said, "Easy, now, it has taken 13 years to get to the point.  Let us not mess it up at this point." And I just calmly knew that it would happen. I wasn't mad, or sad, or even dreading the physical work of it.  It was going down, I had that certainty that has never in my life failed me, and I calmly went on making my plans for it's demise and disappearance from my life with no regrets whatsoever.  I love it when that happens!!  SOOO MUCH!!! So today I am going down there and picking something out and paying for it that is going to be that.  It will not be carpet.  Other than that, I don't even care.  In fact, the Angel just last night almost begged me to "decorate a little".  (Actually, that happened right after the chalkboard idea that I plan to do a whole half-wall of in the kitchen/living room area.  High enough for me to write copious notes to myself and low enough for Abigail, Rose, and our Charli-girl, not to mention all the kids that come along for years and years, to draw anything they want and never get in trouble.  Yes, never.  I can take anything they can dish out.  I am highly trained in this area!! :D)  Do not worry, Angel, I got this.  We are going to have new flooring, paint, ceiling, and I have 30 years of stuff to "decorate" with and I need to get it all down and group it.  Clean it.  Sell some of it.  Hang some of it back up and have it look fabulous.  
It feels right, now.  It feels like it's time.  I have put this off for 13 years, not caring about it one whit, and now that time is over.  SO BE IT.  I do not even pretend to understand it, I don't think that understanding things matters much.  You know it when it happens, that is all.  And that is enough.  I am pretty sure this feeling is peace.  And I am going to do my best to keep it.  Wow.  That turned into a beautiful rant.  :D  I hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.  This is one of the best things about getting older for me.  I have always flown by my own lights, so to speak, but as you get older, you don't pressure yourself so much.  You don't second guess yourself either, and you are now without that horrible dread of not knowing what will happen next.  You know what's probably going to happen next. You've seen the same things happen over and over again until you know the patterns.  You know that unless you die, the world is just going to keep going on and you will deal with it as it comes.  Best of all, you no longer care what other people think, if you ever did.  There are so many things you simply do not care about anymore, and that makes me very happy.  I cannot speak for anyone else, but look at women around 50 years old.  If they seem relaxed, comfortable in their own skin, to have some secret peace about them, it's probably because they are, and they do.  They have earned it after years of working hard for it.  That is just life, and it is something to look forward to.  You don't have to understand how or why.  Just trust that someday, you will not feel those pressures and you will no longer wonder where you fit or what you are supposed to do.  You will know.  It will happen to you.  Let it.

3.  Rake leaves, possibly burn some, but probably not until later, especially if it's going to rain tonight.  Jack and Shadow love this more than just about anything, and race from pile to pile.  If you make the pile big enough, Shadow will jump into it and hide, with only her eye exposed, waiting for good old clueless Jack to come by so she can attack him.  Either Jack loves her so much that he lets her do this to him every year because it makes her so very happy, or Jack is just never going to catch on to some things in life.  I'll let you decide which one of those things is true.  Jack is not the smartest dog I have ever known, but he is the sweetest, which is really good during the times you want to kill him.  Like right after he eats about 15 of the peanut butter balls that your kids like best and you have just spent 45 minutes rolling into balls and freezing and dipping in peanut butter and white chocolate.  Jack also has a sophisticated palate, for a dog, and very good taste.  If you found yourself suddenly homeless and hungry, you would be well advised to follow Jack, because he would not steer you wrong.  Shadow, on the other hand, would keep you well supplied with squirrels and rabbits and I don't like to go further than that because it makes me sad, but you get the picture.  You would not starve, at any rate.  (The voice in my head started saying STOP as soon as we passed the peanut butter balls, for the record.  I think it is taking on the same kind of personality as Jonah Goldberg's couch.  And for that I thank you, Jonah.  You all help keep me laughing and on my toes).

4.  Grab paint samples for inside AND outside, although I already know what color I'm doing outside.  Steel Blue.  Paired with white it is just perfect, and I don't know why I always want to live in a blue house but I think it might vaguely have something to do with the South, and blue doors to scare away haints.  It's just right for me, and that is all.

5.  Tear up carpet.  If you have ever done this, you already know the dual feelings this inspired.  The dread at how disgustingly gross and creepy crawly you are going to feel until you get it out, that is equally balanced with the joy of knowing how much frustration will then be absent from your life and the beckoning siren's call of clean, possibly shiny, brand new space that can be cleaned with the swipe of a dust mop.  Dust mop's are what we had before Swiffer Sweepers for you young folk.  In case you didn't know that word.  I can never be sure anymore, and sometimes find myself speaking a foreign language.  If you don't know what I mean, try explaining the game where you drop the clothespin into the milk bottle to anyone under the age of 25.  

Anyway, that is my weekend, and it is high time I got it started.  I have wasted the entire morning, or added another chapter to the story of our lives, which ever way you want to look at it.  I think you know, by now, where I stand on that, aye?   

I've had all the coffee I get for the day and I've wasted enough time on the porch, enjoying the sunshine and breeze and colors.  Thanks for sharing my rambles.  Stop in again any time.

Apr 5, 2014

Top 'O The Hill To Ye, Matey.........

Today I am 49 years old.  I have been christened a Warrior Princess and I will become a real grandmother for the first time this year.
Grandma's got a whole new "hair look".  Let us hope it's a good one.
If it's not, I'm just going to focus on the fact that I don't have to spend any more of what life I have left fixing it, worrying about it, or perhaps most importantly, buying product for it.
If you are a woman, and still in the throes of worrying about how you look, take a moment right now and do me a favor:  add up all the hours that you spend fixing and/or worrying about your hair.
Your hair, for God's sake.
It's kind of a lot of time, is it not?
Now, for added clarity, add the time you spend looking through your purse.
My bet is that these two things will add up to enough time to do a whole lot of things that matter a whole lot more.
Am I right?
Well, I'm done.  I've paid my dues.  I chopped that crap off and bought a little purse that only holds a few things, which turn out to be only what I need.  I've drug around a heavy old purse most of my life and those days are over.
The days of worrying about my hair?  Behind me now.
I have made peace with a lot of things, my hair being just one of them, and it has been time well spent.
Lately I've been feeling terrible about my house falling down around my ears and my not caring.....
And I realized that I have been working on things inside for about 10 years.  And I have done a pretty good job of getting everything in order there.  It has not been easy, but what worth having ever is?
Now, it is time once again to turn my attention to outside.  I have a lot to do.  This house has to be "grandma's house" by June, man, and I have got stuff to do.  Ripping up carpet and painting and...well, lots of stuff that does not include worrying about my hair, my purse, or anything else that used to matter so much to me.
I kind of hate to tell you this, but I grew up.  Yes, it happened to me, and it will probably happen to you.  It doesn't hurt except for mentally, and don't spend more time kicking yourself for stupid things you did, of which there will be many.  That is just a waste.  When you know better, you just do better.  You have to make yourself, no one is going to follow you around and make you.  (Well, this could actually be debated, but if I have my way, no one will ever do this.  We'll see, but I just choose to have faith.)
Should someone show up and start ordering you around, I suggest you resist strongly, immediately and permanently, because I can promise you, not only will you not like it, but it will not be good for you in the end.
You have to take responsibility for yourself and be willing to pay the price for whatever happens from there.
Yes. It's true.  Otherwise, there are no adults in the world and things get..............realllllly stupid.  Look around!  We are there.
I look out from the top of this hill I've been climbing for so many years, and I am just ready for whatever happens next.
I don't even really care what that is, because it's going to happen anyway.  All I can do is be ready.
I no longer try to imagine what that will be, partly because it makes me almost suicidally depressed, but mostly because I use the trick of remembering that my imagination is tainted by this world, and my mind cannot even imagine what God has in store.
I find a lot of comfort in this.  
I hope you do, too.
It's a good trick and if you live long enough you will master it also.
Practice, practice, practice.  Life provides nothing but, really, once you catch on.
Whatever comes next, here's to you.
I'm ready.
Here's to growing old gracefully, fully aware of all that you are and are not, and knowing what's really important.
No one will tell you, and I'm not going to either.
Some things you just have to know yourself, and you will.
I promise you, you will know when it happens to you.