Sunday, April 17, 2016

Orange Azalea

Once upon a time I met Corinne, a hospice nurse who's presence with her patients touched me to my core. She lived next to my mother, and she precepted me during a clinical rotation with hospice - my chosen community nursing experience. She was an avid gardener with a green thumb who loved growing the unusual as well as the ordinary. She was an extraordinary nurse and an amazing human being. One time when my mother's side yard flooded and then froze, she grabbed her skates and my kids and their skates, and spent a joyful day in the side yard, slipping and falling and just having fun. 
I watched her during our days together as she navigated end of life issues, financial issues, fear issues, family issues, medication and pain issues with her patients and their families with an amazing level of pure unconditional love and selfless presence. She brought only herself - no judgements, no opinions, just herself. They adored her, rightly, and would tell her their deepest fears without even a glance in my direction - she made them feel so safe, and so secure, that I disappeared from the space, and she was just there with them, holding hands, opening hearts, loving. She was the epitome of nurse to me. 
Then she developed cancer. And many hearts broke and many prayers went up as her friends and family rallied around. I wasn't lucky enough to be that close, but I watched from next door and prayed along with the rest that God would heal her. After some time and treatment, her cancer went into remission. So she made it a priority to LIVE. She and her husband traveled more, to places mostly familiar and nearby. They rode bikes together, adopted a new healthier lifestyle to help keep cancer at bay, and spent lots of time with family and friends. It seemed as if a brush with death had taught her how to live in a way even more open and more giving and move loving than she'd lived before, which felt impossible.
She once tried to grow an orange azalea - not common in Massachusetts. But it didn't do very well in her yard, so she gave it to my mother. I coveted it, and my mother didn't give it the attention it deserved. When my mother lost her house, I stole it from her back yard. It was a scrawny puny thing, but I loved it. 
Then the cancer came back. Again we prayed, and my mother and I made soup, and her friends from hospice moved into her home and stayed by her side and gave to her and her husband what she had given to so very many. And after a long and hard battle, Corinne died, and the orange azalea suddenly took off. I'd moved it it to my house in Bernardston, and it thrived and grew huge. 
When we sold that house, I cried over the azalea. I had actually included it in a list of things we would be taking with us, but time grew short, and no one could be found to help me dig it up. And it needed help by that point. It needed a truck, and a chain, and a group to pull it up. So it stayed behind.
After we moved to West Northfield, our realtor and very dear friend Pam found one, and brought it to me. She wouldn't let me pay for it. I cried as I planted it, because it felt like home. It grew and bloomed and did very well in the back yard right outside the bedroom window. When we left, I had to leave it behind. I didn't think it would do well in a pot in Plymouth for however long our time there lasted, and I didn't know if it would thrive wherever we landed next. It made me very sad. Orange azaleas somehow now mean home.
When we got here and I started to get to know my very beloved neighbors Troy and Wilma, I discovered that Troy and I share a love of flowering shrubs - although he is a genius and an expert with them and I am a novice. Camellias and azaleas are his favorites. My yard is very barren for the time being because the former owners weren't into the whole yard maintenance thing, and Troy will often call me over to see specimens he thinks are worthy of note. 
The other day he called me over to see his newest azalea - only one year old - a native orange azalea; Tangerine Delight, orange with a little lick of yellow on one side, the exact one Corinne tried to grow, that followed me to Bernardston, that Pam found for Northfield, that I once again had to leave behind. I literally choked up when I saw it. I asked where it came from (Asheville) and promised myself I would get one sometime this spring.
Just now there was a knock on my door, and Troy and Wilma were in my front yard. Troy pointed to a big pot between my bigger maple trees, and said "Well, now, where did THAT come from?? Don't you think you should get that thing into the ground?"
It's my orange azalea. It has a few buds coming - things are colder in the mountains and a bit behind here, and it should bloom in a bit once it's planted. And they won't take a penny for it, and Wilma told me about the iris she bought for $3 each, and Troy bragged on his new red azalea that should bloom in a few days - these are from the mountains and are a little behind us down here - and I tried not to cry (unsuccessfully).
I think I must be home.

Sunday, February 28, 2016

The Game Continues

Dear Jacinda Again - 
These entries are going to be pretty light on words and heavy on images...or at least for now they will be. We're gonna do it like I just opened an envelope from FotoMat. Remember them? 
So much has happened since last time. I finished the bathroom. We had a hole in that wall under the window, and no art up. So now there's art and the hole is fixed and the towel bar is up. Tell Greg not to look too close. It's up. That's what matters. 
So. Electricians. Yeah. I called a plumber to fix a couple of small things - run a line for the ice maker that Lowe's generously gave me for free with my fridge purchase, and while he was here maybe move the washer fill hoses up from floor level (as in on the floor, no kidding) to a more normal three or four feet up the wall. While he was doing that there was a zzzaaap and some swearing. And then a second ZAAAAP and a lot of swearing. Louder, and with sparks inside and out. He hadn't hit anything; just leaned on a wall, and he got hit pretty good. I asked if my bill would go up - and said I'd provide the electrocution for free if he wanted. So I called electricians. Many, many dollars and many, many days later, I have a new panels inside and out and everything beyond that (super pretty, right? Just what I wanted. Everyone will notice it, I know), and some extra things just for kicks - like ceiling fixtures and outlets that aren't all (yes, all) tied to a wall switch. I am also mostly rewired. The thing that bit the plumber was the 220 to the cooktop. It broke and shorted. But the breaker didn't trip until he hit it a second time, and the old panel was proved to be some older model known for not tripping and causing house fires. A lot of the breakers were melted, there was a ton of corrosion. I won't bore you with the details, but it ate the whole kitchen budget, or enough of it that everything came to a grinding halt. Except that I don't do "halt" well at all as you'll see below.
Violet really loved getting into the cabinets. It was driving me really crazy. Couldn't keep her out. And really I was so sick of looking at my stuff. I like things put away. Between the stuff on the counters from the electricians and plumber needing to get in everything and the darn cat climbing up there it was getting annoying.
Oh! We went for tacos on my birthday! I found this place called Burrito Loco. So, so good. I had these - gringa tacos with pork (because one cannot be a vegetarian when there are these kind of tacos. Just cannot) and fresh lime and cilantro and tomatillo...sigh. SO good. Gene had shrimp tacos which were also AMAZING. Love it there. Remind me to take you.
Gene hung out with the boys which made them very, very happy. I don't play ball right. I don't rough house right. They miss him a lot. And I really enjoyed not walking them for potty time ONCE for DAYS!
I got a birthday present from you - and it totally made me day. So excited about the syrup, the seeds and the picture. The seeds are started along with my cherry tomato seeds from farmer's market cherry tomatoes I got back in Greenfield. Don't know who sold them to me, don't know what they are, just know Gene loves them. Started tomatoes. Before my birthday. Love it here. April. Sad Omie face.
Gene hung the Algot shelving from Ikea in the craft room/office closet. Now we both have room for all the stuff we think we need but totally don't. It's come together. I could work in there if I wasn't all over the rest of the house.
 Dad had a birthday, too, or would have. We celebrated with KFC, just like we did last year with him. We sat and ate in the restaurant and I remembered how he would take me to the one in Keene on the way back to Dublin and we would talk. It was a right thing to do.
And Rusty Nails, because he would want me to. Then I watched the Dayton 500, because he would also approve of that. Since then I have watched three other races. It's not a bad way to pass a few hours; watching cars or trucks turn left while knitting with dogs on my feet.
We went to this place on our last night before Gene left - Lancaster's. It's ... well. I don't need to go again. Tacos, I need. I don't need this. It wasn't bad. But it just wasn't for me.
 Or for Gene...
Love this fixture in the dining room. Love it. So do the neighbors, who all complimented me on it after I left the shades up the first night it was hanging. In case you wondered if the neighbors are in your business, they most certainly are. And it's ok with me. If something is out of place, off, strange, they will be the first to know, and will have no problem asking about it. Feels very safe.
We started getting the cabinet doors on and finished them just before Gene left. Again, Greg should not look. They are up and that's all that matters. I need to sand in spots, do some touch ups, and hang the last few handles. I sort of lost interest in this after Gene left. I got kind of mopey. Kind of.
He will be back in March. But it is hard to do all this separation stuff. It's not who we are. I am sure some shrink would tell me how healthy it is - look, I can live alone, and isn't that great. Well, I already knew I could. And I chose not to, until now. I will be happy when it is May.
The electricians took away all the baseboard heaters that weren't functioning, and I started scraping the mess left behind. Since this they've been tapped and patched where needed and skim coated with joint compound and sanded once. I need to do a couple more coats, and then I can paint and put up baseboard. They left the wiring for the heaters in boxes at the floor. I can cover them with white plates after I put up the baseboard around them, and they will sort of blend in since the baseboard will be white. It's better than blank white plates on the walls, I think. Pulling it all out is complicated because the crawl space under the house is insulated and they all come from down there. This is the best fix for now.
These two guys came and cut a hole for a proper range after the glass cooktop electrocution incident. I really needed an oven that could hold a sheet pan. The wall oven I had is a 24 inch model. Nothing fits in it. Teeny thing. The cooktop had been dead since the plumber got hit. Now there can be cooking. They bartered me the cooktop for half of the work, which worked out well for everyone.
I wanted the ceiling fan in the bathroom replaced, and got one with a light so that you get light in the shower and a new, modern fan that vents to the soffit vent instead of the old one which was venting to....the attic insulation. Tipped right over, face down in the insulation. Because one wants one's shower steam to go into insulation. But I could not find a fan that would fit the old space, so I had to fix the ceiling. 
 See. No fit. Very sad. But that fix Greg can look at, because so far it's going brilliantly.
We lost power. We had tornado warnings and such while the guys were making the space for the range. We never would have known if Neighbor Troy hadn't wandered over and come along to tell me. I battened down, closed the garage, and the storm passed by pretty quickly. The guys finished and left, and about an hour or so later the power went out, and stayed out until after dark. We had some intense wind for about 16 hours.
The power was off long enough that I decided to cast on a sweater (because that's what you do when you have no lights...). It came on later that night, but the wind howled away until morning.
I got miserably bored with the black front door and decided it was time for a change. This is not the's the pre-change!
I fried eggs. Repeatedly. It is true that 'you don't know what you've got till it's gone'. I was SO happy to have a stove again; I could eat fried eggs every day just so I can use the stove.
More ceiling's actually almost done now. I will be glad when there's a light and a cover there. But this fan? Wow. Before it was like there was no fan, just a ceiling based noise-maker, and now the mirror doesn't even get the slightest bit wet, and I take insane long hot showers. Very happy I made this choice, even though it requires more work.
Red door - it's really orange, like a bittersweet crayon (or like the berry). I am debating bringing that color on to the storm door too. Today when I came home from shopping it really felt like I need to bring it out all the way. More will be revealed.
I bought this fabric to cover this chair. The chair was Aunt Blanche's. I need to refinish it and then make covers for the cushions. I had been using it as my porch chair in Plymouth, but now I am undecided. It's feeling heirloom-y now. Maybe it deserves to be inside. It is a perfect sewing and knitting chair in height. My feet actually touch the floor. Unheard of!
 Violet. Found. Yarn. And she loves it. A lot.
Today I was bored and really actually... ok look. I wasn't bored. I was heartbroken. Sad. Crying a lot. Dad's dead. Gene's gone back north. I'm alone. Not alone-alone, but alone. I had a pity party and decided that I needed to DO something about it, so I did. I did something. I grabbed my maul and a wrecking bar and a hammer and a broom and a box of black trash bags.
I stopped here. I said that wall was coming out. I meant it. I only stopped because when you do demo alone you realize that there's clean up. And dogs to walk. And maybe lunch to make. And there isn't anyone to pick up the slack when I decide to remember I am not 25.
I need someone to come and tell me for sure that I am right about what's structural and what's not, and then this puppy is coming DOWN. Down and out. Until the sun went down I could not stop looking over there at the sun pouring in the front window. This is going to be amazing.
And then next week I can make a few trips to the dump and get rid of all this... which down here is pennies a pound. It's crazy. 800 lbs of carpet and padding for al of about $16? Sign me up! If the quantities were smaller, they'd come and get it at the curb. Actually, they may do that now based on some of the piles I've seen outside of people's homes, but it's easier to just load it up and get rid of it rather than carrying it all up to the curb.
That's it for now...more later when there's more to see!

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Jacinda, This is For You (And Anyone Else Who's Reading Along)

I don't think you ever saw "before", so we'll start there. You know we took a long weekend to NC, and accidentally bought a house. It needed love - still does need more love, but it's coming along. If it hadn't been for Rebekah it would be some slow going. Thanks to her help the biggest things that needed doing right away (carpet, paint) are done. The bigger things, like a new kitchen and removing a wall, adding lighting, changing up the footprint a bit - those things will wait for a year. For now I want it to be as pretty as it can be, and then I can take my time and live in it and decide how I want it to be in the end.
Without further ado, I present the "before":
 This is the "big bathroom". I initially wanted to paint out the cabinets, but you'll see later that a little hardware and a new color really made a huge difference. It's kind of a bummer that you can't see the whole wall - the light bar was a 1980's classic brass with 5 round lights. I fixed that just about first thing. It's a totally changed space now.

Den/living room. The fireplace is to the left, just out of frame. The hallway ahead leads into the bedrooms. It's really nice to be able to close off the sleeping area from the living area. 
Dining room empty, after they'd moved out. There's a picture below of it with furniture in it. I am too tired to reorder these pictures! 
Den that I am making a living room. Behind the shooter is the kitchen. If you could pan left, you'd see a door to the deck. Nice little deck. I got it a pressure washer the other day, so when it's a bit warmer I can wash it up and coat it with something durable. It overlooks a wooded brook-ish space. The bugs and birds and such make a racket - it's SO peaceful and sweet!   
 1963 called...they want their kitchen back. And I can't wait to send it along. Look familiar? Shades of Last Owned House, but with less Eau de Schnauzer. Built in cabinets, all too tall for me. Can't wait to get rid of this and start over. For now it just got a facelift.
 This was a formal living room - now it's just a big empty. It's going to be a dining room and an entry space in the future. Right now it's just empty/full of boxes.
Into the dining room from the kitchen...the table is back north, so for now this room is really a holding area for painted cabinet doors and craft room stuff.
Front entry - the closet to the left is on the deletion list. It will come out with the wall it's attached to - there's an "after" picture below that shows the wall from the living room side.
 The Master bedroom...very Carolina Blue, and looking tiny. 
This is the house itself. Mr. Wonderful always wanted a full brick house - now he's got one! The shutters need some work, and I want to pop color on the front door. I haven't decided what just yet. I am going to replace the solid door with one with some glass. First, it will bring more light into the entry/dining room area, and second I'll be able to see who's here. It also needs new light fixtures. The ones there are quite old and small. I want something with more presence, and more wattage.
So now I assume you're slightly curious about the "after". Really it is the "in progress", because there is still much, much to do. For now, it's livable and much cuter. Ready?
 This is the dining room, where nothing has changed except that the carpet is GONE and my plants are wallowing in southern exposure. It's become a staging area for boxes and such, sort of a catch all area. I am very glad we didn't wait and move everything at once. 
Living room with a facelift. When we pull out the kitchen and a wall and rejig the entry, the paneling will come down in here. For now, it has been transformed with color. Totally changes the feeling of the space. I have taken two shelves out of the built-in, and my plan is to finish it as an entertainment center. It's in process. I need an electrician for a couple of things, one of them is running an outlet into the built in so there's no visible cords on the outside.
Kitchen, phase one...the doors will go up this week. We wanted them up before Rebekah left so she could see it, but time just ran out. I am resting today (and blogging!) so it's on the menu for tomorrow. NONE of the old hinge holes are usable because I am swapping out the hardware. So I am in for a fun, fun time. Luckily, the door and drawer pulls go on easy.
 This is just my orchids. I got them at Ikea for cheap. They make me happy. And my crock pot, currently full of curry, because I can - Gene hates the stuff!
Another view of the fireplace - I love it so much. I had thought to cover it, paint it, re-tile it; something. But now that the wall color has changed, it pops and I won't change a thing except to add a gas or electric insert at some point. We won't burn here. Snakes love woodpiles, and snake here doesn't always mean cute little garter or corn snake. 
 Closer shot of the built-in in progress. Gene may have to get a bigger tv now to fill the space. I am sure he will be heart broken...
 Guest room - this was white and now is peachy. These floors are almost everywhere n the house, under all the carpet. Most are in AMAZING shape. I have some scrubbing of old paint in spots, but they mopped up beautifully on the first pass.
Office/Craft/Stamp room - this is the worst floor, and I am just going to leave it. Between our work chairs rolling all over, dogs scratching, my own potential paint and glue spills, it doesn't make sense to put money into this floor. I wanted to spatter paint it with all the colors from the rest of the house, and then poly it...but Rebekah convinced me not to. Kind of wish I had just done it, really!  
Master bedroom - still blue, but more like heron or hazy beach day. The linens and furniture will change this - for now it's just all gray velvet drapes and camel colored old bedding. The duvet is coming! The duvet is coming! And I can't wait to hang our art here. 
Big bathroom - total transformation with such simple steps! We painted it green, changed out the hardware, and changed the lighting fixture. I no longer feel the need to paint the vanity. This bathroom can sit as it is for a few years now. Initially it made me twitchy. Now I love it. 
See, just pretty. I LOVE the mirror, love the new lighting, and love that the hardware saved me from a long painting job. I took out almost all of the brass hardware, towel bar stuff. The toilet paper holder appears to have been attached with super glue, so it's staying. Luckily I can't really see it most of the time.
 Boys! And living room toward kitchen. To the left is the wall destined for deletion. The wall ahead is what the cabinets will look like when I get the doors on! 
Another look at the fireplace. I should have shut the shades. I have curtains and hardware, but I am not sure I want to hang them because I love the light. There's so little space on either side of the windows that I am afraid curtains will choke out the sun. 
This wall straight ahead, and the closet visible just beyond it are totally going. We will carry the hardwood from the dining/entry through the whole rest of the living space, create an entry space, and reno the kitchen. Just not this minute! If you look closely at this picture, you may notice
This is Violet (formerly Priscilla...I changed that). I went to PetSmrt one day and accidentally came home with a cat. Rebekah loves her. Yoshi loves her. Bradley is just scared of her, and won't make eye contact with her. He stands with his head down and shivers a little if she gets close. 

So, in a biggish nutshell, that's where we are at. Now for a little "memorable days" action, because you don't do the Facebook... 
This was the day we discovered what was under the (old and really gross) carpet. It was a very, very good day. And for the most part, they all look this good! 
This was the day I accidentally got a cat. Or actually a couple of days after. We let her adjust to the chaos by sticking her in the big bathroom for a few days before she met the boys.  
This was the day we bought an awful lot of paint at Lowe's. That was a day where I questioned my sanity. That's a lot of paint. 
 The day of these guys!! So, we were supposed to leave on a Friday, but then there was snow coming in, so we wanted to leave Wednesday. Problem was I'd gotten food poisoning on Sunday night and was still on rice and broth. Walt, Cindy, Rachel, Nathan and Rebekah came out on Wednesday morning and stuffed the truck. That meant Gene could work as much as possible to make up for the two days early departure. We left MA around 3pm Wednesday and drove till about 10, staying the night in PA, then drove to NC Thursday. We got here after dark. Our across the street neighbor was in our driveway before the truck was parked. I love him. He gave us directions to a Food Lion so Rebekah and I could shop before the storm. Once it started, everything stopped. Nothing was open, the roads were covered in ice and sleet. No plows, no sand, no salt after the initial "brine" that washed away in the first hour of the storm. It was an adventure, to be sure! 
The day I bought myself a lamp! I LOVE this. It's all mirrors and shells. Love love. 
The day I discovered that I probably should have stocked up on maple syrup before I left Dodge City. 
The day the luck ran out in hardwood land. The kitchen and living room side are a mix of 90's-ish vinyl and this...stuff. :P It's in great shape. And I am gonna rip it right out and make it hardwood one of these days! 
The day Violet got to see the rest of the house. She spent a couple of days in the bathroom, then a few more in the bedroom/hall area, and then was let loose. Curiosity, thy name is Violet. 
The day I realized we were commingling roller cages, lunch dishes, and putty knives, and I didn't even care one little bit. We JUST got here. And we've ripped 800 pounds of carpet and pad from 6 rooms, and prepped and painted six rooms. At this point, not much bothers me.
 The day these guys reminded me that they used to go for a walk EVERY DAY for THREE MILES, and hadn't done that more than twice since we got here. I took them today. They were most pleased.
The day that Yoshi admitted that he loves his kitty. We've referred to her as "your kitty" since she got here, and I am convinced that he believes she's really his. Brad remains terrified. 

That's the update in a really big nutshell. It's been amazing and fast and hard work. Rebekah is gone, and I've slowed down a bit. Still getting a lot done, just at a more controlled pace because now I have the time. The big stuff is done - big furniture bought and assembled, big carpet and paint jobs done. Now it's stuff I can do alone - put the cabinet doors back on, I did pop in a bit of trim on one wall where the carpet removal revealed a big gap between the floor and the wall, I still have the office/craft room to finish up with shelves and the addition of my stuff, and curtains to hang. Then I can move on to repainting shutters and cleaning up the yard. I'm hoping to get chicks, but they need a shed, and am hoping to build a pedestal for the washer and dryer we just bought. And a garden - we need to decide where it is going to go, and break some ground SOON, before it's tomato time! Comes early here.

More as we go along, but for now, this is where I am at - and I am thrilled to be here!