Introspection

The world has gone a bit surreal, and I’m not quite sure where to place myself in it. Thirty one years ago I left Hayward, Wisconsin for life in Florida. It was a completely new life in every way. Now I am back, but again it is a new life in nearly every way. The actual “work”of moving is done so now I have time to think about what has happened. Introspection is a mixed blessing.

We arrived last night, like we have for many vacations over the years, after a long drive, suitcases in tow, with plans to catch up with family members and visit childhood haunts. The surreal part is that we won’t be packing up again in two weeks for the trip back to Florida. We will stay here and see the seasons change, make new friends, start new routines, and settle in. Instead of calling Mom every morning I will meet her in the kitchen as we get our first cup of coffee.  Instead of cleaning my own house and taking care of the oneacrewoods, I will be looking for ways to help others with their homes and yards.

For months, this change from one life to another has seemed so far off and so slow in coming that it was hard to believe it would happen at all. “If you ever get here…” Mom would say. I would reassure her that the “challenge of the week” would be met and that we were making progress, but honestly, I had moments when I cried and felt like I couldn’t do it.  The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I should not spend a lot of time looking at the large picture – it can be too daunting viewed as a whole. One day, one step at a time is all that I was designed for. Each small accomplishment should get its full measure of satisfaction and celebration. One by one the hurdles got crossed and now I am sitting at the end of the course wondering how I got here. Once again, the passage of Time has created a miracle, a change.

I learned about home improvement, about hiring painters and contractors and overseeing projects. I learned about getting medical and financial records in place and ready for a move. I learned about selling and buying trucks and what goes into the making of a good trailer. I learned I had friends. I learned that hard things become easier when I pray about them and decide to trust that I’ve been heard. I learned that some things must be waited for and are beyond my control. I learned that having even one concrete task that I can do is a comfort and a blessing – get busy and do it – then look for the next thing.

The house in Florida has not sold yet, but we joke around saying we are homeless, because the house is empty and our “things” are in storage. Instead I’m going to remember that my goal was to be with more of my family and that has come to be.  If “home” is where my people are, I’m not homeless. Instead, I’ve come home.

 

More to come, because this is going to be interesting, a new page. Just sayin’…

Container Queen

I am in the middle of a revelation.  I am the Container Queen.

I have been paring down, cleaning, throwing away as I go through the various rooms in my house.

Someday, someone will be glad I did this.

 Today, going through my gardening supplies and equipment it was suddenly, glaringly obvious that there were containers everywhere.  Boxes, tubs, baskets, carry-alls, jars, vases – all sizes, made of many different materials, some full, some empty but waiting for just the right thing to go in them. I have to acknowledge this “thing” I have for containers and maybe (???) do something about it.

Yesterday I spent about an hour breaking down cardboard boxes that I had saved for someday when we move.  Some of the boxes had come from FedEx or USPS, from Mary Kay, and some I even hauled home from work because they were a handy size.  My garage shelves are stacked with boxes of canning jars,Tupperware that I can’t bear to throw away and plastic containers to hold … other containers, yes. I have baskets and bowls that I couldn’t resist, but at least they are decorative.  I even pick interesting containers out of other people’s garbage (painful confession).  My employer buys expensive almond soap in these really cute boxes which she thinks she throws away, but they are containing my button collection now. 

Almost anytime there is something to be contained, I can think of something I have that is just right for the job – because at least half my containers are empty and waiting.  Do I have a problem?  I don’t know.  But I have to say it does feel kind of good to finally be queen of something.  

how about this one?
how about this one?
or this one?
or this one?
or this one?
or this one?
this one?
this one?
how about these?
how about these?
i will need this, probably, someday...
i will need this, probably, someday…
containers in containers
containers in containers
containers under other containers (I really did find the top one in the garbage)
containers under other containers (I really did find the top one in the garbage)
this has to be useful
this has to be useful
these are TOO cute!
these are TOO cute!  I could go on and on… hmmm, guess I did. 

 

 

No not now, not ever, never…

…is a home owner ever FINISHED working on his/her home.  As much as we love living in our home in the oneacrewoods we know there will come a day when we will sell, move and downsize. It’s on my mind these days and just this morning it was also on the husband’s mind.  He came to me asking about a list that we should make of all the needed repairs.  The list is in my head – no problem there.  The problem lies in finding the available manpower.

Several years ago when the husband and I were talking about our future goals and bucket lists I mentioned how cool it would be to build a house of our own, with all our ideas for energy saving, all our favorite features, the perfect abode.  He said he was looking forward to working possibly for another decade and wanted to come home each night and avoid stress, rest, watch TV, read. No house building.  No, period.  This is just a clue as to how interested he is in tackling any project involving crowbars, hammers and other such weapons of war.

That leaves me.  I was reading my niece’s home renovation blog, http://www.missmeadowlawn.blogspot.com, and remembering how all my DIY projects had nearly ruined important parts of my body. One’s own labor is easiest on cash flow but there are definitely other costs. And of course, in making a decision on where manpower should come from you have to factor in the fun of it all.  Definitely, hire someone.

This is only a partial list, I’m sure. Josh, you know who you are, you need to come over and give us a house inspection so we can get all the rest of the crucial things on it.

ugliest door ever, that never got painted with the rest of the room.
ugliest door ever, that never got painted with the rest of the room.

 

backsplash area that never got tiled when kitchen was redone...
backsplash area that never got tiled when kitchen was redone…
something has eaten this for lunch...
something has eaten this for lunch…

Oh, and the master bedroom still has only a temporary, painted, concrete floor because we want to renovate the master bath first.  That is the logical order of doing things if you don’t want to mess up a nice, new cork floor.  We decided that four or five years ago when we tore out the aged bedroom carpet.  Waiting, waiting…

It really is a wonderful thing to own your own home and work on it yourself but I’m just sayin’ don’t think you’ll be finished with it anytime soon.

A to Z Challenge: K is Kicking

The really strange thing about dreams is that they turn people into unrecognizable variations of themselves. They think and do things while dreaming that they probably would never do in real life – and I don’t mean that they dream they are doing those things. They actually do those things.

To preserve anonymity, I’m not going to say who did this, but the other night someone was dreaming that they were being threatened by a huge bad guy. The dreamer (not saying who) knew that they couldn’t get away by running. The only good strategy they had was to lie on their back, wait till the bad guy was above them, and then swiftly and decisively, kick their head off (the solution, of course!). This they proceeded to do, followed by several loud noises and the sound of breaking glass.

This woke me up, searching for a light and looking to see if the husband was in bed and okay. The dreamer (anonymous) was rubbing his ankle and surveying the damage. Somehow the bedside lamp had totally lost it’s lampshade and was hanging from the wall on a strange angle. On the marble top bedside table was a broken pitcher vase with it’s flowers all awry.

There are two points to this story. The first is this – if you sleep with a dreamer make sure his feet are pointing away from you and sleep lightly. The second is, if you are a bad guy, don’t sneak in our house at night unless you want your head kicked off. Seriously.

Alas, she is broken
Alas, she is broken

A to Z Challenge: E for Eh?… Ecology?

one of many leafy villains
one of many leafy villains

 This would have to be ecology of the yard, not the university classroom or workplace. And although this subject would seem to have nothing to do with my evolving theme of “family”, it does. It’s really meant to be a torture diversion for my family up north as they savor their 10 inches of new snow. (he he he, you could have stayed down here longer.)

Ecology defined:  the scientific study of interactions among organisms and their environment, such as the interactions organisms have with each other and with their abiotic environment. Topics of interest to ecologists include the diversity, distribution, amount (biomass), number (population) of organisms, as well as competition between them within and among ecosystems.

In other words, looking at the yard to see what grows well and what doesn’t, and taking care of it so it doesn’t completely bury you in vegetation. I’ve been working on this for years in the oneacrewoods. And this is the time of year where I stage for the growing season to come. Plants aren’t mean on purpose but they are. Mean.

This morning I spent four hours and got about 1/8 of the way around the house, cleaning gutters of leaves and flowers from the oaks, raking, pruning, and washing dirt and pollen off everything. Everywhere I look there is a plant needing attention and I could just keep at it for days but for the sake of a more balanced life, I’m breaking it down into sections.

As I’ve said before, we do have fall in Florida – we have it in the spring. My oak forest drops tons of leaves on the lawn, house, driveway, and garden beds. Some people like to rake, bag and send their leaves to the landfill. And then they buy mulch to keep their soil moist and protect their plantings. I’m just not going to do that 1) because I don’t have that kind of money for labor, bags and mulch and 2) ecology tells me that there has to be something good about leaves falling on the ground around trees or the trees would all be dead by now. I use the leaves as mulch and most of the time it works.

Another ecological move on my part is to quit fighting nature and grow only things that like living in my yard. Ferns love my yard. Flowers, most of them, do not. They are slug food and it’s pitiful to see them disappear one bite at a time. I also have bromeliads everywhere because they multiply like rabbits and like to grow around trees where it’s hard for me to mow anyway.

Okay, northern friends, come in and have a look at my green, growing, sunny, warm Florida yard.

Prune me, please
Prune me, please
Me too
Me too
Bromeliads move from here...
Bromeliads move from here…
...to here.
…to here.
One of several mega fern beds
One of several mega fern beds
a huge plant finds its favorite spot
a huge plant finds its favorite spot
Roses? not so much.
Roses? not so much.

They Left

Crying lately, sometimes outwardly, mostly inwardly. I think it helps. Crying maybe leaves room for hope because I have never been able to cry forever.

Today my so ordinary life has been putting the furniture back in place. The air mattresses are deflated and rolled up. The sheets and towels are washed. The extra dishes are back in the cupboard. All my secrets have been exposed, like the rolls of cat hair under the sofa, the disorder of my physical, mental and emotional worlds.

I love to have family visiting in my home, so why didn’t I end up with a home that had room for visitors? Didn’t God know? That’s silly. He knew we needed a few things to be inconvenient/gross/dangerous in order to bond. In order to make memories. I hope they remember how much I love them. How good it was to know I could still put the kayaks in the water and paddle a ways. How good it was to know I could still survive a little sleep deprivation. How good it was to become more familiar with their ways, their sayings, their pastimes, their clothing, They were easy keepers and I loved every minute. Maybe they will come again if I don’t make them sleep outside in a tent, and if the dog next door doesn’t bark all night. But we would have figured all that out if they had stayed longer than three nights. We would have.

A small inward cry as I miss them.

Ode to WH

This is to commemorate the death of WH (water heater) who died last night after 35 years of faithful service.  In this day and age lasting in a useful fashion for that long is truly remarkable.  The only other thing that approaches such a record these days is a package of hot dog buns which will last forever with no trace of mold.

WH was preceded in death by his brother WH2 who died late last year in the house next door. He had been suffering for several months from old age clicking, moaning and pinging and as some who knew  both he and his brother remarked,  “same equipment, same age, same water”.  His death was not a surprise, but the family had hoped for a few more years.

His absence was first noted during what was supposed to be a hot water load of laundry. Following that he was found in the foyer closet where his “water spirit” had been set free.  The papers, books and clothing that were with him when he died will never be the same. He was quite a water heater.

Fondly remembered for the many hot showers, clean dishes, and his warmth and faithfulness.  Rest in peace WH. You will be missed. CIMG2096

Dirt

I have noticed that I feel so good after spending a day outside working in the yard, and I’ve decided it’s the dirt. Therapeutic dirt. I always make sure I have a lot of contact with it – wear my sandals and shorts, and somehow manage to get smudges from head to toe.

Today’s dirt was AMAZING stuff.  Two years ago it was a huge leaf pile and now it is all broken down, dark brown with nice fat earthworms crawling through it.  It grows healthy looking weeds, which I pulled out and put in next year’s compost pile.

In Florida it’s the time of year to plant the spring garden.  At the vegetable stand where I get the weekly fresh things for our meals, they also had tomato plants so I decided to get some instead of growing my own.  An interesting aside – the stand is at our church and is “donation only” for whatever you want to pay and goes to the orphan homes in Cambodia that I visit. I call that a win-win transaction when I can support my special kids and get something to eat at the same time.  I know the farmer who supplies it and he farms very successfully. Bet his tomato plants are going to do wonderful things for me this season.

So I pulled my earthboxes to the only sunny spot I could find in the oneacrewoods.  It happens to be right near the fence line.  The neighbor has cut down a lot of his trees and has a much sunnier yard than I do and some of the light sneaks through to my side of the fence.  I think that my somewhat “iffy” results from the gardening I do is because there is so much shade.  Good for keeping cool, bad for growing plants.

The other outside chore for today was harvesting my carrots.  They have been growing for a whole year and are pitiful.  This is what happens when you don’t thin out the seedlings.  I’ve never been able to get carrots to germinate in my Florida gardens so I was really excited about all the fluffy greenery and couldn’t bear to pull any of it out.  This is probably why they are so small after a whole year! (could also be the shade, or the inconsistent watering, or the general inattention they received).

wpid-20140202_164956.jpg

So, other than the fact that some bug is eating all the leaves off my strawberry plants, things are looking much better in the garden today. And I feel great.

I Have Wondered Why It Happened…

We were a fairly young family with two daughters, ages 8 and 5. This was our first big move, leaving friends, family and a comfortable home in the north for unknown circumstances in a state as far south as one could go. Almost everything was unfamiliar. All our belongings were packed into two trailers for the trip. My parents helped us move by towing one trailer and we pulled the other one behind our van.  I remember the end of that long trip – I was driving in the early morning on the interstate and hit an armadillo. It was our introduction to Florida.

After our first day of resting in a motel, our Realtor helped us to a temporary furnished apartment near the famous Siesta Beach with it’s wide, white sand beaches.  We found a storage facility and unloaded pretty nearly all our earthly possessions into two rented rooms to await the new house I was sure we would find within a short time.  We weren’t wealthy but we were blessed with enough. Our “things” were dear to us, having either been received as wedding gifts or handed down as heirlooms from both sides of our families.  We had only some clothing and personal items with us in the apartment.

A week and a few days later we went back to the storage facility to get something we needed.  I walked down the second story corridor to the rooms at the end and tried to figure out why the door on one of our rooms was standing open. I looked in the empty room and tried to tell myself there had been a mistake. Was I somehow in the wrong building? the wrong corridor? What could this mean? I was in a state of repressed panic. I tried to remember all the things we had put in that room but it was impossible – there was too much.  My grandmother’s china cupboard, our best (only) dishes and flatware, our few pieces of art, clothing, my precious knitting machine I had worked so hard to buy… where was it all?

As the next hour unfolded we learned the truth about what had happened that was stranger than anything I could have made up.  It took a while to figure out because, at first, the owners of the storage facility were clueless and defensive.  Gradually putting it all together, this is how it came about.  Previous to our arrival, the now empty storage room had been rented to a customer who was delinquent in paying.  The manager had put an overlock on the room and notified the person that they had X number of days to pay or the contents of their room would belong to the storage facility.  Sometime before that deadline, the customer managed to get in the facility, remove the overlock and get all their belongings out without the manager knowing about it.

I entered the story.  Having been sent up to inspect the building where I was told there were two empty rooms, I saw two rooms, adjacent to each other, empty with the doors standing open.  They looked the right size and we paid for them and filled them up.  I don’t remember even looking at the numbers on the doors.  There were actually three empty rooms off that corridor, one  that I didn’t know about. It’s door was closed and I didn’t even notice it. Unfortunately that was one of the two rooms the manager thought we had rented. The third room, now full of our things, was the one that had belonged to the deliquent customer. And now the deadline had come.

The customary action when the account for a storage room is delinquent is to offer the contents for auction, hoping to recover the delinquent payments (think Storage Wars on reality TV). Our belongings were bought, sight unseen, by a business that accumulated goods from estate sales and storage units and then held a weekly auction on a Friday night.  We learned this on the Saturday after our things had been auctioned.  We were allowed to go through their warehouse and look for anything we recognized that hadn’t been sold.   We bought back the wooden highchair that had been mine as a child.   We found our family picture albums in their trash. There was nothing else. We were devastated.  Although they knew names and addresses of those they had sold to, they would not release any of that information to us.

We felt it was a shared mistake, and attempted to collect damages from the storage company.  Because we had no receipts for the missing items and no appraisals of the furniture and antiques, we were told that legal precedent would be against us.  We would be better off to accept a small settlement rather than take the matter to court and get nothing.  Our lawyer felt so sorry for us he did not charge us for his services.  That was the only overt blessing that I’ve ever been able to recognize concerning this event.

Did life go on? Yes, of course.  But there are differences since then.  I wish I could say that I learned never to make a quick decision, always to check every transaction thoroughly – but that hasn’t always been the case.  What did change was that I hold loosely to “things”, in order that they might not get a grip on my heart.  I’ve bought very little furniture, invested very little in things that might fit into a packing box, spent more time in Goodwill, second hand shops and garage sales for the things I do need.  I’m not sure I understand why God allowed this to happen at a time when so many other difficult things were also taking place, but He did.  I think I will understand it better some time in the future.  And I’ve never given up hope that some day, in some backwoods antique shop, I might see Grandma’s china cupboard again.  I’m just sayin’ it would be kind of like God to do that…

Back at Home

Cambodia, what a time it was! This time last week I was still on the other side of the world saying goodbye to everyone and now it feels like it was ages ago. I made so many new friends, strengthened bonds with others, wandered a bit out of my comfort zone and survived. I saw God doing the things he does best – changing people.

One of the joys of travel is getting to come home again, back to a life that seems familiar but altered and fresh in some weird way.  I love being home again.

It’s taking me forever to get all my photos of Cambodia in one place and organized.  I put an album up on facebook but didn’t have the heart to tell people that it was only half of the pictures that I had taken.  The rest have yet to be posted. One thing I did take time to put up was a new profile picture of me in my tuktuk riding garb.  I was told more than once that I looked like Audrey Hepburn (when all of her facial features and hair were covered up… right, striking resemblance.) We all rode around with masks because of the dust and because of the Stinky River, aka open sewer running along our street.  It’s a good look and I’m thinking of trying it here at home.

dressing for tuktuk ride
dressing for tuktuk ride

Back in my usual Florida life I’ve been cleaning house, washing clothes, grocery shopping, going to work AND buying a different car.  Different as opposed to new.  I am now a proud Mazda owner, zoom, zoom.  It was quite an ordeal and I’m going to write about it in a different post but for now I just want to say hi to the guy who  drew up the final papers, the one and only Jim Carey.  Not really, but he did look and act just like him and can you imagine what it would be like – in a movie, buying a car from Jim Carey? I just sat looking at him and not getting over the resemblance, which probably creeped him out a little but he deserved it.  He’s a car salesman.  He did say he wanted to check out my blog and we’ll see if he did the next time I’m in for an oil change.

Have you ever toured a rubber plant?  Well, I have (in Cambodia) and there are pictures to prove it.  Check back in a couple days and you will know all about it.  I’m just sayin’ it was pretty interesting in a third world kind of way…