Home renovation


2007

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Because I was a teacher, I’ve never really gone off the school calendar. My year begins when school resumes in late August. I have longer weekends nearly every month and life is regularly interrupted by early out days, oddly placed vacations and the occasional night duty.

So when everyone else (and by that I mean normal adults with real jobs) were heading back to work after January 1st, I was still in “off” mode because Dee had another week of Christmas vacation to go.

Today, however, she is back to school and Rob is back to work and I am officially beginning 2012 with a schedule of my own, which includes 3 nights of teaching yoga, one night of soccer, one late afternoon running of the child to her own yoga class and two yoga classes of my own to attend. Monday thru Friday is beyond packed and the margin for error or the unexpected is slim to none.

But you still have the weekends, I hear you thinking. A long one at that. This is true. Aside from soccer practice on Saturday mornings, the weekends are blissfully free of obligation. Happy Year of the Dragon to me.

The only thing I have not settled on is my writing focus, but that’s hardly new. I am leaning towards going back to fiction and the memoir. I like Abel’s idea for a theme for the latter and my e-copy of Game of Thrones has made me nostalgic for fantasy. Some of the first good fiction I wrote was fantasy because that’s primarily what I was reading at the time.

I will say that I have lost the fire for freelance. The class I took in the fall was a good experience. I learned a lot. I discovered, however, that I still dislike journalism. Essays and opinion pieces suit me much better. And, I am still burnt out on activist political posting. The world has become such a sad, dirty place in terms of politics and issues that I think it’s bad for my soul and not all that good for karma to immerse myself in that kind of writing at this time. I don’t need the extra negativity. I have family for that.

I have a couple more things to say about widowhood, dating and remarriage though but I am still running them around the track in my mind’s eye.

Last thing on the agenda is organization. It’s past time for the next great purge and there are a few legal things that need to be taken care of in addition to the fact that the house is screaming for all things to find a place and just stay there – no more musical chairs.

Did I just make resolutions? Good gods!


Garage sale

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Spent some time purging drawers and closets in anticipation of the hamlet-wide garage sale later this summer.

Dee has outgrown nearly everything, which caught me off guard because normally I shop for her every other year. She’s put on exactly zero pounds but shot up an inch-ish or better. It’s all legs. Devilish hard to fit the child’s waist. Girls’ clothing these days are vanity sized and reflect the chunkier body types that have resulted from our processed food/low-level of energy lifestyles. Dee is not the shortest kid in her class anymore, but she’s got a Scarlett O’Hara waist compared to nearly all of her peers. Tiny waist and coltish legs spells difficulty in sizing her, so just about every pair of pants I got her back in late February are now floodies and still a tad too big around her waist. Hobbit-legged and thick-middled, the girl ain’t.

I rummaged and purged my own rather meager collection of apparel myself, sticking slavishly to the rule that “if it hasn’t been worn in a year, its history”. I continue to pride myself on the fact that every article of clothing I own could be neatly packed into a large Rubbermaid tote should the need arise.

All this pro-activeness called to mind the agony of purging and packing for the move to Canada before Rob and I married back in June of 2007. In fact four years ago yesterday, we left Des Moines behind.

I sometimes miss the idea of that house.  The openness and space. Some of what we’ve done in our recent renovations replicates it in a way, but we are far from done and even farther from achieving liberation from boxes of packed away stuff that is never thought of much less in danger of every being used again.

Over lunch today, Rob ruefully expressed what he called his “buyer’s remorse” about the renovation project that never ends. Selling and buying new, however, was never an option. Real estate around here is overpriced and much of the newer stuff is poorly constructed. For a little bit of debt, we can create spaces in our existing home that will more than suit as opposed to taking on the monumental debt of a brand new mortgage for what amounts to overvalued real estate on a prairie that is downwind of various petrochemical plants. It’s somewhat of a no brainer.

It’s doesn’t make the process less cumbersome or tiring.

The last time I purged a house, it was slash and burn. Goodwill, friends and friends/relatives of friends benefited tremendously from my zeal to simply lighten my load. I gave away more than I sold and simply threw away everything else. And with only the occasional exception (it would have been nice to have kept that Pampered Chef pizza cutter because the one I have now bites in comparison), I haven’t missed anything.

That’s the thing about stuff that most people can’t wrap their minds around – it honestly won’t be missed once you are able to pry your fingers loose of it. In all likelihood, you will never waste another thought on it again.

I toy with the idea of just getting a waste-bin  delivered and just have a chuckfest. But, of course, I won’t. A lot of what constitutes clutter isn’t mine, and though I am convinced that it would be years – if ever – that anyone would ask after the departed items, I respect the fact that what I deem useless and spent embodies something important for others.

Accumulation of stuff seems to be a condition of life – unless one is a monk of some kind. Renunciates are what they are called in yoga. Renunciates eschew things in an effort to seek the balance between living in a physical world without placing too much attachment on it while Householders do the opposite while still being expected to rise above it all. I think the latter is the more difficult. Having fewer things, as I have learned, spoils a person. The more room I acquire the less I want to fill it up. The more stuff one has, the harder it is to decide what’s necessary and the greater the likelihood that one won’t recognize the tribble like nature of stuff. Stuff breeds because it feeds want.

Too much stuff blinds us as well because it fairly demands that we attach value – monetary and emotional – to it, making it harder to get rid of and easier to let pile up in one way or another.

I suspect I will spend the better part of the rest of my life waging a quiet war of attrition with clutter and accumulation. Most days I am zen about that but today it’s raining and cold and my hair is frizzy. Not that this has any bearing, mind you, and I have just been thinking  – again – about how to lighten Rob’s load without any success. Maybe banana bread and cookies? At least that’s not permanent clutter.


Home Improvement (TV series)

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Because we don’t experience enough reno, Rob and I spent some evening sofa time (a sofa being something else we don’t experience these days) watching television, specifically home buying/selling and renovating shows on HGTV. There were shows about reno disasters put right. Lemon homes made right. Virgin home buyers. Jaded home buyers. Greedy, whiny home buyers and sellers. Decorating. Deck pimping. A smorgasbord of wood, plaster and tool-belts with nary an ass crack in sight.

One of Rob’s favorites is Mike Holmes, who is a contractor out east somewhere who’s built a home improvement empire. His show, Holmes Inspection, solicits home owners with issues that need correcting and these issues? Nightmarish and potentially hazardous to the unsuspecting who’ve entreated his guidance. If nothing else, this show should make even the most savvy home owner/buyer suspicious to her marrow of contractors and realtors. One poor couple called Holmes with a sewer back up problem in the basement that turned out to be termites that had eaten away the entire foundation of the side of their just purchased home. AND there was asbestos. Shudder.

Another program is all about the building of one’s dream deck because – apparently – we all lust for THE deck of decks and a London park manicured back yard in the bargain.

My favorites are the home buying shows. There is Love It or List It, which pits a renovator against a realtor. One tries to upgrade the existing home to coerce the owners to stay put while the other shows them listings in an attempt to get them to list and move away. Another show trots increasingly larger homes in front of couples looking to buy a new home, shining a white-hot spotlight on the true cause of the current housing debacle in the U.S. – greed. I watched dumbfounded as a couple argued that a 2000 sq foot home was not large enough for them and their toddler daughters. They eventually opted for a nearly 3000 sq foot home that they could barely afford and had no extra money to furnish or pony up for a lawn.

It’s all about the square footage. Two people – often – living in caverns. And everyone wants the largest master bedroom they can find. But to my mind, unless your sex life includes gymnastics and Tantric yoga, the space is wasted. Do people hold dinner parties in their bedrooms? No, they sleep. They don’t even have sex off the bed, which renders the master baths with separate showers and swimming pool like tubs a waste as well.

We are entering month six of the kitchen/living room reno. Rob simply doesn’t have time enough to progress any faster than he has, and between work, family and a winter of the child bringing home every disease under the sky, progress at times has been snail-like in movement.

“You know,” Rob said as we were watching the Deck Pimp, “maybe we could write in and get him to come and build us a deck.”

But if we are going whore our lives out (more than I do blogging anyway), I think we should think bigger and send a plea to Mr.Holmes.

I know what you are thinking though. They spent their holiday watching television?

We got to the Villa late Sunday because Dee came home from school the Friday before with a raging fever. It’s still going around up here and you luck out with a 24hr virus or one that lingers for a week. She was right as rain by Sunday morning, but the late start and the cold weather kept us indoors mostly Sunday evening and Monday. Rob brought his computer along because he had to check his work e-mail. No, really. He had to and I can’t say much more. And though I brought my netbook, I can’t say I really cared if I logged on or not. In fact, I was off-line until about Thursday and even then, I had no enthusiasm, barely checking the blogs.

So, it was television. And tv is awful. How do you people stand it? Reality and terrible drama and sometimes both at once.

There is a channel that’s devoted to hooking up, staying hooked, hooking. One centered on a matchmaker in NYC who actually schools ordinary folk in the art of landing millionaires. It’s like some awful Marilyn Monroe movie on Botox and pretension.

Anymore I am as bad as Dee, staring at flat screens as though I have never in my life seen one or didn’t spend most of my childhood glued to the tube.

But we always came back to the home based reality shows. I don’t know what that says about us. Boring things, no doubt. A sofa, a snuggle and a roaring fire is more holiday for us than you know and a little television a couple of times a year is less a brain rot than most people inflict on themselves.


Persephone ~ goddess of Spring

Image by ihave3kids via Flickr

Today is the literal if not the figurative first day of Spring. A glance out our back door, and at the weather forecast for the next few days, would hardly be reassuring, but it is spring. The post-nuclear apocalyptic looking jack rabbits that roam the fields are flecked with the warm brown of summer as they shed their white camo, and the chickadees can be heard on the mornings that are frosted over.

And the pavement is peeking out from under a mix of ice and chemically laden slush.

Today is a day of equal standing. Light and dark is perfectly balanced and the march to Summer Solstice begins.

Many traditions and myths have been fashioned around the Vernal Equinox. Resurrection mythology abounds, and I don’t blame Christians one bit for ignoring or trying to suppress because they pre-date Jesus by a lot and call his reality into question. A fascinating example?

In ancient Rome, the 10-day rite in honor of Attis, son of the great goddess Cybele, began on March 15th. A pine tree, which represented Attis, was chopped down, wrapped in a linen shroud, decorated with violets and placed in a sepulchre in the temple. On the Day of Blood or Black Friday, the priests of the cult gashed themselves with knives as they danced ecstatically, sympathizing with Cybele in her grief and helping to restore Attis to life. Two days later, a priest opened the sepulchre at dawn, revealing that it was empty and announcing that the god was saved. This day was known as Hilaria or the Day of Joy, a time of feasting and merriment.

We will celebrate spring with the continued dogged pursuit of renovation. It’s resurrection-ish, wouldn’t you say?

Silver and Edie will be over to help with the drywall again as I am still forbidden to lift and the walls need to be up before Spring Break week. That’s when the new kitchen cabinets and countertop are scheduled for installation.

They were here yesterday as well along with Mick and her friend Dare. He goes back to her high school days, and though they are just friends, I couldn’t help noticing the obvious Rob traits in him. I am fascinated by the way the women in Rob’s life look for him in they men they admit into their lives. Silver, the new FIL and now Dare. It’s uncanny.

Rob is a taskmaster though and his Virgoian need for perfection and having his eyes and imprint on all he surveys within the boundaries of his kingdom needs to totally be reckoned with by all.

“Try not to be too hard on them,” I remarked on Friday evening.

“What do you mean?” he asked.

“You know,” I said. “The heavy sigh, the eye-roll and then walking away in telling silence.”

“I don’t do that,” he protested.

“Totally you do,” I said. “Maybe you should practice toning it down tonight so it won’t be so harsh.”

Yesterday that became a running joke, and as we were discussing it, the older girls chimed in with tales of their own which provoked Silver to pipe up,

“So that’s where Edie gets it.”

“I don’t!” she protested.

And Dare replied,

“You do.”

Apples and trees.

It was a good pre-spring day Saturday though not as stunning as the near 10C temps of Friday when the whole of the Fort seemed dressed for summer. This coming week will be chilly with snow but the following promises sun and warmth, and I fully expect to see the little high school girls running about in shorts and sandals soon. Dee is chomping to be rid of her snow pants and the battle of the inappropriate for school summer footwear is soon to recommence.

We’ve called off our trip to the South this month to accommodate the reno, but I am determined that this will be the last major deconstruction this year. Our summer will be that of any self-respecting Albertan and include a weeks long sojourn with the holiday trailer and then taking it out to camp every weekend. Living at a breakneck frenzy in the great outdoors for as many hours as one can stomach and beyond in is the Western Canadian way after all.


Dead Snow Angel

Image by CarbonNYC via Flickr

Nagging health issues continue to plague me and keep me from focusing on writing in specific and general. I rouse myself for the occasional pet issue here and there about the web, but I haven’t written for the paying gig in about a month and am still mentally sorting through ideas for a longer offline project. Like winter, I guess, I am all about the hibernating and waiting.

Ruminating before leaping is not out of character for me. Really. When it appears as if I am pouncing like a rabid werewolf, it’s only because I’m unleashing on a subject that’s been throughly hashed out in my mind and is, in fact, an older than dirt topic for me.

New things? I window shop with glacial intent.

For example? I made a purchase via Old Navy last week. Yoga togs that I eyeballed near daily for over a month before committing to them.

So in matters of writing, I am more James Joyce than twit blogger.

Aches and pains and the fact that navigating a Canadian healthcare system designed more to befuddle and irritate than be helpful adds to my general lack of forward momentum.

Doctors don’t listen. Test results meander their way from one part of the labyrinth to another, and helpful insights like “it’s probably not cancer” add to the stress.

On the only bright side, today, an appointment with the physio went surprisingly well. As I go to each appointment with expectations one could sweep a floor with, finding a healthcare professional who makes eye contact in addition to being able to let a person finish a sentence or more without interrupting is positively soul cuddling.

My thoracic back, left shoulder and neck are totally fucked up though not in a unfixable way. Huzza.

And, it’s stopped snowing. No telling how long this will last but there is actual sunshine and the wind isn’t slicing through the house.

Which brings me to the house.  No, the reno is not done, and both Rob and I are weary past words of the whole thing. Drywalling may commence this weekend if he keeps up the same pace with wiring and plumbing but between my totally fucked back and iffy neck/shoulder and his recent gout attack – well – sigh*.

Dee chomps at the bit to be allowed to help but at nearly four feet tall and not 50 lbs drenched, she falls short of being useful.

Here is the worst thing right now – the hamster wheel effect. Since Christmas at least, it’s as if there is not one iota of difference from yesterday to tomorrow. I am Bill Murray living the same day over and over. People jet off to warmer climes. They throw dinner parties. Or have nights out without children. But we might as well be living in Pleasantville for all the difference in our white one white world.

Does that sound whiny? It’s not meant to. Just observing and wondering how much longer the quo remains at status.

 

*The worst of it is the lack of space with half the house in shreds. Barely room to spread a yoga mat most days and don’t get me started on the continually shifting of stuff necessary to even cook a meal. Weekdays I manage, but on the weekends – that’s at least two or more preps and I sometimes just want to sit on the floor and cry because it’s like Sisyphus and the rock.


In Simon Ushakov's icon of the The Last Supper...

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I haven’t commented on the wedding. It was a wedding. They are all the same on the surface, varying only slightly depending on the personalities involved and the tales told in the aftermath.

Dee loved being a flower girl but she has no use for Catholic ceremonies that involve/revolve around the mass. The last time she was in church was for my dad’s funeral in ’08. At that time, she and N2 entertained each other a bit and the ritual still fascinated her with its exotic qualities and mystery.

No more.

Cannibals At the Altar

At nearly nine, she listens. And her reactions ranged from frustrated – because she couldn’t participate in the rote recitation and response that is so drummed into me that I could follow a mass while in a coma – to horrified when she finally comprehended what the priest was saying at communion.

“Body of Christ,” he intoned as he placed a wafer on each tongue

Horror. That was her expression.

“He doesn’t mean that literally, ” I whispered.

Incredulous horror.

“Do you remember the Last Dinner painting?” I asked her.

She nodded. Da Vinci’s Last Supper is a favorite of hers. The Canadian public school system recognizes no separation between faiths and state though Christianity in its Catholic form gets the most play. Dee loves to talk about the “last dinner” and what happened.

“Do you remember that Jesus shared bread with his followers?”

Eyes begin to widen in growing comprehension.

“The priest is just doing what Jesus did,” I assure her. “It’s not really anyone’s body.”

“That would be gross,” she said.

Indeed. And yes, I know perfectly well that Catholics believe (or should at any rate – it’s so hard to know what Catholics actually understand about their own faith) about the host, but transubstantiation would sail over the heads of adults and I didn’t have time to get into that with Dee then.

Witnessing

Rob and I ended up being matron of honor and best man. It’s a better gig than reader though I spent an inordinate amount of time trying to explain the role reassignment and by the time I had to reassure Fr. Pat that all was well and truly figured out, I was thoroughly reminded of why patriarchal systems irritate me so completely.

Domestic Air Travel in Canada

The weather was wonderful. It warmed our spirits up considerably to be somewhere that snow wasn’t, and the air travel, aside from a few minutes of disaster movie like turbulence on the return trip, went smoothly.

Did you know that Canadians don’t remove footwear as they move through security for domestic flights? Nothing even slightly Gestapo-like in the screening area at all. Just quick, suspicionless inspection of bags and jackets.

However, I did find the security wonks at the Kelowna airport a bit lax in their reaction to an abandoned backpack. I noted it and, being an American I suppose, pointed it out to Security agent. When he radioed it in, he was told to simply “take it to the break room and I’ll look at it later.” As I haven’t seen any news reports about the Kelowna airport blowing up, I will assume that someone – who is clearly not an American nor has ever traveled by air in the U.S. – just forgot the whole “unattended bag thing”. Understandable because in the domestic travel areas of Canadian airports one doesn’t hear that automated voice droning on about responsibility and how “only you can prevent a terrorist incident”.

On A Break

This week, I officially asked for some time off at my paid blogging gig. Between reno, teaching and recurrent health issues, I need a real vacation.

For example, I didn’t take my netbook along last weekend. I didn’t check mail or blog or Facebook.

It was nice.

More than nice and has jumped-started my quest to balance virtual and actual reality toward the latter. Rob’s opinion is that until the Internet completes its inevitable split which will leave those without means trolling a UHF-inspired tier like bottom feeding fish, one should enjoy what is left of the web. It is a shadow of what it was even just a few years ago as the “entrepreneurs” continue to destroy its actual quality for the fastest bucks possible. But my eyes and interest are open to opportunities to free myself though probably not from my personal blog. I still enjoy my little corner of the blogosphere enough to resist attempts to make it bigger or shinier.

Family Matters

Rob picked out a movie for us at the bookmobile last evening. It’s never a good idea to watch a film on a weeknight and now with Dee’s bus driver on a mission to get us up as early as possible, it’s even less of a good idea, but we haven’t snuggled and viewed in a while (unless you count the “Hoarders” thing this last weekend and I don’t).

A 2010 flick called Mother and Child, which takes all the worst aspects of adoption from every possible angle and mushes them into one film. I am used to the misrepresentation of adoption – good and bad – but there was one thing in the film that made me incredibly sad. Sad enough that I cried when the movie was over.

There is the notion that it’s difficult for adopted children or birth parents to find each other. If the agency is known, most allow adoptee’s and birth parents to place contact info/letters in the file that both parties can easily access. Agencies will sometimes contact one party on the other’s behalf.

Both the mother and the daughter in the film write letters for their file, but due to miscommunication the mother doesn’t learn about her daughter until after the young woman dies.

Which was sad, but not what upset me.

The upsetting thing was being reminded that neither of my birth parents have ever contacted me. My information has been on file with the agency for 25 years. I haven’t thought about that for sometime now. Not looking for sympathy, mind you. Just an observation.

Last But Most

Both Rob and I are tired. In the last 6 weeks obligations have been plentiful and while we took care of them, the reno sat by idly a lot and we have gotten run down, over-tired and illness/injury prone. That’s being the grown-ups, I know. Suck it up, Buttercup.

But we now have a bit over a month to move a few mountains around before the obligatory family holiday to see folk down south and it’s just him doing all the work and just me trying to make the trains run around it.

This last weekend was a two nighter of bad mattress that has stove up both of us for much of this week, and a week or better at my mom’s (not to mention hotels there and back) promise more back and shoulder issues on top of exhaustion. Tripping to the States is about family. Not fun. Not relaxation. However, Christmas was exhausting and I don’t foresee resting up in advance of the trip. A dilemma that I am rolling around with now and for which I have no solution. Having pulled the holiday rug out from under Dee in November, I can’t see doing that again, but a hotel is a pricey option given the expensive Christmas followed by an unplanned for in the budget wedding and other miscellaneous.

“I am content never to leave home,” Rob pointed out as we discussed this today. I’d called him from the truck with the latest dental update (I’m not ready to discuss that).

“I suppose we could just start telling everyone that if they want to see us, they will have to come here.”

“No one would come then.”

A sad but true point. He and I are the wheel hubs in our families. If we don’t make it so, it just won’t be.

Just a good night’s sleep. That’s all I need. Oh, and to avoid further illness. At Christmas the new father-in-law left Rob and I the cold from hell as a parting gift. Today Rob got an email from his mother describing some virulent stomach/intestinal flu that they came down with last evening.  Nice.


The morning begins with this:

Only in English.

Followed by a little of this:

Although because Rob is a Virgo, there will be proper work attire, precautions to prevent unnecessary inhalation of dust and debris and probably I won’t be allowed to handle the crowbar.

An afternoon practice:

And then endless hours of destruction to be followed by Rob and I questioning our priorities and sanity.

How’s your day going?