Almost a bedroom – 2

We are making great progress on our master bedroom, thanks to hubby’s talents, and somewhat thanks to unemployment, which gives him way more time for the project. The molding us up, and the contrast with our taupe color scheme is quite lovely.  IMG_0014

We have a bed being delivered soon, and then our new mattress-the old one is 20 years old and the caverns and depressions are, well, depressing!

 

IMG_0633

So by the end of the month, we hope to have a bed set up, a floor deprived of paint cans, compressor, tools and lumber, and an actual beginning of life on the first floor.  IMG_0010

The bathroom, however, though functional, is not complete with lights, shelving, paint retouch and finishing touches, so I am hesitant to say it is finished. The problem is gauging how much of our resources we should apply to finishing touches when the paycheck has stopped and unemployment hasn’t started.

IMG_0015        IMG_0018IMG_0019

We will see. But, don’t forget, only a short time ago, the bedroom looked like this:

Getting ready for dry wall
Getting ready for dry wall

In the meantime. isn’t it always the case that when you have money, you have no time, and when you have time, you have no money. Life’s challenges are ever presenting, and our response has to be faith, hope and love. That’s the way we are.

 

 

Feng Shui and Ch’i

Feng-Shui-Remedis-e1360538276283Let me start right out apologizing to all of the people who will read into the following some “tone” or disdain for the practice of Feng Shui that are not intended.

But, let me also say that I do not practice these philosophies in the manner in which I am sure I would need to do to be approved. I am not sure if Christians will allow me to embrace an ancient Chinese practice with Eastern spiritual implications. (This is the part where I expect to offend almost everyone.)

That said, I have to tell you that in reading a news article about Feng Shui-ing bathrooms, I was intrigued. Not intrigued enough to buy into this with any kind of ritualistic or spiritual commitment, but intrigued enough to take a look at our space in a new way.  I thought it fascinating that bathroom color shouldn’t exaggerate water (blue and black), so that energy there is more controlled.Unknown

I may not know which things are tall or circular or even life endangering about my bathroom, or my kitchen, living space, bedroom or any other rooms in our home, and I may not be paying enough attention to the positive or negative (Ch’i) forces or yings and yangs of my decor, but I am now convinced that some changes are in order. And, really, how could this balancing, as those practicing this philosophy believe, be bad?

images I know what makes me feel good: green things (plants), soft and vibrant colors, order and cleanliness. I know what things make me feel bad: dust, clutter, drab colors, and decor that never changes.

So, I have begun my own version of Feng Shui-ing my rooms.  I started with the kitchen. I cleaned the countertops, put away 30 per cent of the clutter (things sitting there to make readiness and convenience, but not beauty).  designing_your_kitchen_feng_shui_kitchenrk_3.jpg.rend.hgtvcom.581.436

I lit candles. I like good aromas. I put a pretty glass bowl of fresh fruit in place of a line of empty bowls, empty candle jars (pretty sure this is bad Ch’i, and empty cups. Then I threw away the pads under my teapots, got some fresh, clean ones, and put away many of the dishes, again sitting out for convenience.

In the bathroom, I disinfected the shower curtain, and I threw away products that were older than a year, emptied out the drawers containing old medications, almost finished tubes of creams and gels, and lit another candle. I placed the flowers on the bathroom table in a more attractive place. I closed the lid cover to the toilet (okay, I yielded to one actual Feng Shui suggestion just to see if the negative forces I have been living with in my many bathrooms, will turn more positive).

Unknown-1    In the entry-way, I discarded the pots of dirt that no longer contain plants, and bought new, living plants, which will remain on the table until I kill them. I will eventually kill them. I always do. Unless the Feng Shui works, that is. My Ch’i is awaiting the verdict.

That is all I have done for now. And, yes, Feng Shui or no, I should have been doing these things all along. So I feel better, happier, cleaner, prettier already–well, my home does.  Unknown

Winter. It’s almost over. Really we totaled about three weeks of actual winter weather this year. And, rather than yielding to the doldrums the last of winter usually brings, I am trying to change some of the external cues, as well as my internal ones (my spirit, my heart, my thinking), to let in the light, of which we have an abundance on the river, and to celebrate the emerging season, refresh the environment, and become more aware of the impact my space has on me, my husband, and my guests.

I’ll let you know how it goes.

In the meantime, let me know about your own Feng Shui efforts. I want to know.

Almost a bathroom

Oh the progress is exhilarating! I l keep telling kitty we all want to get into that bedroom, but because the shower tiles and flooring are being installed, we have to wait.  IMG_2949

Waiting is hard. As I have said before, when the waiting is for a year, it is easier than when we are down to weeks, because we can see the possibility.

Hubby has lovingly, painfully, laboriously laid one tile at a time, all by himself.

He is saying things like–“A smart person would have done this an hour at a time on weekdays, instead of ten hours on a Saturday.”

IMG_2920     I’m pretty sure “smart” is not in question. But, I know he will be thankful when the bathroom shower and flooring are finished, and the sinks and toilet can be installed.

Then the bedroom flooring can be finished, the moulding can be installed, and, WOW, THE NEXT STEP is a bed!

It’s only weeks now, Lord willing, until we have a first floor bedroom, complete with a master bath and master closet.   IMG_2929

We can’t wait. And, kitty will be so happy when that cardboard barrier is removed.

IMG_2923

I can see my clothes! I have a closet!

I had looked forward to the day, had hoped, had waited with great anticipation and not a little patience. And, lo and behold, the day has arrived!  I can see my clothes.

IMG_2936
You have to understand that I have been using cardboard movers’ wardrobes as my closet, with a small rack in our upstairs bathroom, behind the door fronted, I might say, by the cat litter box. Not the ideal environs for things I would like to wear and have people’s sense of smell exposed to.  And, did I mention the cat likes to jump on top of the cardboard box? To her it is a perch. So, you see the cave-in, while my clothes were still resident. I tried to make the best of it, but, the 17 months since we moved into the river house were even a little harder than the six years of waiting for a house, because having a real closet seemed possible, and even probable.IMG_2937

 

But, now, thanks to my talented and hard-working hubby, I have a real closet. And, it isn’t just real, it’s a big, walk-in, with shelves and rods and light, and no trace of cardboard.

There is so much room, I can peruse what I might have a whim to wear, and I can see every, single shirt, blouse, sweater, trouser and jacket, before I grab it to don. Wow!  IMG_2929

You may not have ever had your clothes in cardboard, or stored in storage for six years, or had a year and a half in a hotel, where your wardrobe is whatever you could fit in a couple of suitcases for the airplane. I have.

IMG_2930   So this accomplishment is so ready to happen.

I do think of all of the peoples of the world who may only have one garment to wear–and not the wildness of so many things to wear as I have. And, I am grateful. I will never take this privilege for granted. And, some of the benefits of seeing my clothes, are that, now, I can quickly realize I do not need another pair of black trousers, or another black sweater; and, I can, now, quickly separate out the things I want to give away–things I have not worn for six years, but are sitll in good condition. Things, with my weight loss, that I am not likely to wear again. And. just things I don’t want or need that someone with less can appreciate.

IMG_2931

Life is good.

Almost a bedroom – the renovation on the river house continues

So in between the “getting out of winter” trips to Spain, California, and soon Jamaica, my hero-of-a-husband is working hard on getting us a first floor renovation of our bedroom by mid-March. We have been looking from the kitchen side at our little bi-fold door leading to the bedroom, and kind of pining away for it being “our space” as soon as possible. I might mention that kitty is also very keen on getting into that space-although, for now, she is banned. Too mucIMG_2923h concrete work, dust, and an aversion to wads of white cat fur in the work area. Not that we have succeeded completely in getting that ban accomplished.

IMG_2911 (1)We tried multiple blockages, which kept US out, but was un-daunting for a masterful prowler-type (cat).  Turned out a simple piece of cardboard did the trick. She is still trying though.

The area has been under construction for so long, getting dry wall and paint seemed shocking. Renovations, even with a gorgeous view of the river, do seem to take forever.

IMG_2914

But getting everything finished is no small order: we, and by we, I mean–he–has to finish hooking up the electric everywhere–although we do have lights in there now; he has to install the tile in the shower, put in a ceramic bathroom flooring; install the pedestal sinks; build shelving; do the flooring for the walk-in closet and the bedroom area; install the closet “system” for shelving, hangers, and storage; finish the molding and edging around doorways, windows, and French doors; attach all of the light fixtures; assemble anything we buy that needs assembly (read everything!); and generally clean up the mess after all of that is finished. We didn’t even mention picking up 15 cartons of bamboo flooring from Home Depot and then carrying them to the deck and into the house. Big job! (Um, I don’t do heavy lifting.)

IMG_2918

And…you know this is all on weekends and evenings. He does work full time!  As I said, no small order.

Most of this work he is doing himself. We have been fortunate to have some talented friends help. IMG_2920                      IMG_2917

 

IMG_0597 So if the man wants a little beach time, I think we can manage that.

And, when we return, this stark indoor view, should be almost transformed into a completed first floor renovation.      Wow.

Winter is here–or is it?

Everyday, I listen to our local weather on WTIC. The weather guy is taking great pleasure–sounds like glee–in telling us this is the warmest December on record in Connecticut.  images

Now you have to understand that our little river house, right on the Connecticut River, is probably one of the greatest delights of my entire life. My hubby has torn down, gutted, rebuilt, remodeled, and generally made it beautiful.

So when he informs me, as he regularly does, that he hates winter, hates being cold, I translate to that someday, he will want to take me away from my little river house. That would make me very sad.

IMG_1734      So I have an elaborate plan to “get him out of winter.” That involves taking a big portion of my retirement money–whatever is not going into the renovation–and saving it up for “getting out of winter.”

In order to communicate this intention to him, I planned, this year, for the most expensive, most elaborate vacations–out of winter–that we have ever taken. I wanted him to taste and see.

IMG_2360We just returned from Costa del Sol, where we had a fabulous time. But the temperatures were only in the mid-60s–so not exactly beach weather. We still loved the people, the scenery, the food, and the Mediterranean.

We loved Malaga. We walked everywhere in center city Malaga., celebrating our blessings with lots of red wine, sangria and lots of especial Dos Equis. No worries. We walked everywhere.DSCN1910      IMG_2612 (1)

But, as we checked our weather back at the river–it was very similar to Spain.

Now we are planning to fly into Las Vegas, en route to California, again to avoid winter, and, of course, to see the kids and grands. But, I look at Las Vegas and Los Angeles weather forecasts, and it will be “about the same” as Connecticut weather for the week.

Ironic. If we had stayed home this year, and waited for a colder winter to travel, hubby would have reveled in the “warmest winter on record in Connecticut.” It’s supposed to be mid-60s on Christmas Day.

IMG_5147Isn’t life interesting.

We are still having a great time, home or away. And, I suspect, I will get to live out my life in my little river house,

because, hubby looks at his handiwork, and he is pretty proud. And. He loves me. Very much

Reflections on connections and waiting

I have to say right out, I am addicted to technology. I wish I had grown up with more of it so it would be as intuitive to me as I see it is to my grandchildren–and less so, but still more than for me, to my children.

So, when I say that I am in daily communication with my youngest “food blogger” daughter in California   c33a8027-dee1-4215-a435-c96b194e330a(www.foodscape.vanillaplummedia.com), frequently the other three kids, and sometimes even some of the eight grands, I like it. Like when she sent me pictures of her yoga poses to make sure I was doing my stretching and breathing. Instant reminder. I would really miss not having this audio and video connection.

But, I got to reflecting on “the olden days” when I would wait for the mail, the way my cat waits for me to pour her food into her bowl. Great anticipation for a personal note from someone made mail delivery the highlight of my day. Today, as you all know, mail delivery is mostly about junk mail and the stray bill that hasn’t made its way to my online, paperless system. One of my mail carriers even told me that if it weren’t for junk mail, he wouldn’t have a job. Wow. That gave me pause. Sad to say the least, since most of that mail doesn’t even make it inside the house, but goes directly to the grey bin in the driveway.

Yet, I have to say, wonderful as it is to be messaging away, with pictures, of whatever whimsical activity (mostly food and recipes) I am into for the day, and much as I appreciate that instant answer, I do kind of miss that “highlight of the day” mail delivery experience.  Unknown

It’s a conflict. I love having the daily connections, and that a visit doesn’t seem like we have too much catching up to do. But there is an ordinariness to this instant method, and that makes the virtue of waiting a thing of the past. Patience isn’t the virtue we value anymore, and I suspect that lack of enters into our relationships more than we realize. When we want everything in “now” it brings an entitlement attitude that we see in so many places.

My girlfriend just told me she watched her granddaughter asking her father if he had finished working on her car. It was more of a demand than a request, and there was no tone of gratitude, thanks, and yes, patience, in the question at all. She needed the car, and she wanted it right then–not later.

black-phone   We don’t wait for much anymore. It’s not only about instant gratification, it’s really about non-stop communication, even when we want to turn it off. We don’t feel we can turn off our phones even to sleep. Granted the old home phone was “on” even when sleeping. But it didn’t beep. chime and buzz every time a Facebook message came in or an email or any of the other “icons, badges, and whatever,” day and night. It usually just rang when someone really needed to talk, especially in the wee hours of the morning.

Of course, I am not the only one to point this out. Nothing new here–except maybe to say that there is value in waiting for something, looking forward to a note from family or friends, and having the excitement involved in having to wait for people, things, and events.

I doubt if that kind of waiting often enters the minds of the young, so used to the instant communication. They don’t need dictionaries, encyclopedias, print media or much else in the way of references, since information is only a click away–however faulty it may be in accuracy, not to mention spelling and grammar. They, and we, can type in a question, or even say it aloud to SIRI for any tiny little wonderment. Who was the star of that TV show? Instant answer. No waiting.

I remember having my daughter put a purchase on layaway, just to try to give her that excitement of anticipation. She had the money for her precious antique trunk at the antique store, but that was her entire savings. I was trying to teach her to leave something in her account, as well as having this wonderful thing to look forward to. Well, my lessons completely backfired. Not only did she not have excitement in waiting, she was very annoyed with me for staging such a silly exercise, in her opinion. She had the money, she wanted the trunk, and she wanted it immediately. (I expect her to comment on this, to reiterate how silly she thought this was.

But, to me, it is not at all silly. Patience is really a virtue, even if we have to construct learning about it.

I wonder a lot about what we lose with our disdain for waiting. Are we more shallow in our relationships–meaning less able to let things work themselves out, rather than demanding instant resolution? For instance, so many of the things in my relationships that used to be annoying, have become so much less important as I have let them go, and not responded immediately to every nuance of behavior or words…as I have allowed maturity to temper my thinking. I have found that most little things resolve themselves as we allow others to also mature. If our happiness depends on demanding instant change or answers, we often worsen the conflict rather than allowing it to mellow.  
Unknown

So enough from me. What do you think? I really want to know.

Squirrels, cats, and life on the river

IMG_2205

When I look out my wall of windows and French doors, I see my beautiful Connecticut River, the October artistry of leaves beginning their changing to a rich palette of autumn color. But, I have to say, my view has begun to change to appreciating what my cat sees.   IMG_2218

I am  pretty sure her view includes the river and the trees, but what she gloms onto, focuses on, are the three squirrels who run along our deck railing multiple times a day, gathering their acorns from the oaks, and preparing for winter.

IMG_2787 IMG_2207

Watching the squirrels through cat’s eyes has given me things to ponder this October that I am not sure I have ever pondered at this level:

  1. We need to prepare for winter
  2. We need to gather while there is time
  3. We need to be busy, working, for when the time and weather don’t allow us to do so

 

I used to think about this a little bit when I subscribed to Martha’s Stewart Living, and would read her monthly calendar, where she would let me know when it was time to rotate closet clothing for seasons, and when to do the cold weather gardening, and when to bring in the plants, and when to wash and put away summer linens, and things like that. I didn’t actually do most of those “to do” things, but it did give me pause, and allow me to see an order to life that I had not appreciated fully in my busy, modern,  rushing around life.   marthacalendar

6a00d834537f7169e200e553d8ce528833-400wiNow that I have no little ones at home, I could actually do the Martha-Squirrel things. But, that is probably next year.

This year, we are still renovating. The bedroom side with its master bedroom, master bath and walk in closet should be dry-walled by November. If the flooring gets in this year, I could conceivably start to rotate my seasonal clothing by bringing down my winter things to the walk-in, and using one of the upstairs rooms to store our summer-spring clothing. That luxury remains to be seen. It could be moving down my summer clothes and storing winter ones if the work-vacation schedule make completing the flooring and shelving impossible by Thanksgiving.

IMG_2208

Stay tuned. I will let you know our progress. In the meantime, cat never tires of watching the squirrels, and I am now much more conscious of the cycle of seasons and their various tasks.

A different September

September is usually one of my favorite months. Cooler weather, crisp breezes, and signs that fall is about to burst its pallet of color. Living on the Connecticut River, this is an added joy.  IMG_1365

So far, this September, however, there has been one of the worst heat waves in this area’s history. It’s not that I’m anxious for ice and snow, wind chills, and gloomy days. And, I really am not usually a complainer. Even my handwriting has evidence of my extreme optimism.

Unknown But, I have to say, this heat wave, with its extremely high humidity, has me not only feeling lethargic, instead of my usual September vigor, but has been so constant it’s hard even to sleep or work.

Yes, I know the heat has to subside–eventually. But, like a winter that hangs on through March, and a summer that starts in May, losing spring, as we had this year, what I don’t like is a summer that creeps through September, so that we lose fall too.  Unknown

Today, I attempted a short walk to the boat dock, about a quarter mile, because my weight loss has plateaued, mostly, I believe, from the weeks of humidity that have caused me to give up my two miles a day. I decided I just had to tough it out. I came back feeling like a human heater, gulping down water, and not sure I should be doing so much moving as the temp climbs to 88 degrees F. (Weather info says “feels like 92) and the humidity climbs higher.

Unknown-1 There is even an air quality alert–most likely intended for seniors. Beware.
Oh my. Even this much complaining is starting to affect me. I really am so grateful for our river house, and so amazed that I get this amazing view every single day, probably for the rest of my life, that it is just not right to find things not to like.

So, with perspiration rolling down my face, humidity that seems to require two showers a day–or a dip in the river, which I still haven’t tried–I suppose I will just sit in the heatwave on our deck and celebrate life anyway.   IMG_2160

 

 

 

A Pause for the comma

I believe I suffer from comma phobia. You heard me right. I have a sincere wish to avoid the little rascals altogether. They frighten me.

Unknown   I think it started when I proofread school papers for my daughter, and she would get downgraded from my removal of her commas.

This was then exacerbated when my best friend, Gail, a former college professor, raised her eyebrows at my journalistic use of commas, far sparser than her academic comma usage.

Let me also tell you, it is a point of honor for me that I scored 99th percentile in punctuation and grammar on my high school achievement tests. Every year. It is the only academic area where I can say that–except for my ability to recognize and name every instrument in the orchestra. But, that’s irrelevant here. I could diagram sentences with the best of them; I rarely got below A+ on any English grammar, spelling or punctuation test.    Unknown-1

So it rattles me that I am insecure in my use of the innocent comma.  I think some of the confusion stems from the transition from high school and college writing to journalism, where different expectations for comma usage exist, as I have already said.

Unknown-2   But, something inside tells me it is more than that. Lately I find myself insecurely adding commas where commas have never gone before. It’s a mixture of respect for Gail and her ilk, and fear of seeing them furrow their brows at my dearth of commas. I can almost hear the clicking tongues of the schoolteachers as they read my well-thought out commas.

I am no longer sure whether or not my meaning is clear without them; I end up giving the comma the benefit of the doubt, then I subject myself to more pain and suffering by re-reading my text and wrestling over whether to remove many of them.

I realize I cannot have this conversation with just any Tom, Jane or Sally, but  I know you care. I implore you to consider how much anguish we writers endure for the sake of clarity versus creativity, and accuracy versus enjoyable reading. Therein is the real problem: for some, enjoyment has nothing to do with accuracy; for others it is the very rock on which they stumble when their rules are not followed, and they cannot, for the sake of incorrect grammar, allow themselves to enjoy even an artistic sentence or phrase. It’s the old chalkboard squeak or the symphonic dissonance that they just cannot bear.

Much of the dilemma has become clearer to me in the readinUnknowng of Lynne Truss’s delightful book, Eats, Shoots, and Leaves, where she devotes an entire chapter to the worthy, small, but mighty, comma. (Truthfully, she is mostly an apostrophe kind of gal, but she does wax humorous in the comma chapter). Since the title of her book belies her disdain for misuse of the comma, I guess those little dears are important to her too. I mean, in case you haven’t figured it out, her title refers to Pandas who eat shoots and leaves. But, if the comma is erroneously inserted where it doesn’t belong, you will think the Panda has visited an eatery, had some dinner, shot the patrons, and exited. All because of a comma. Imagine!

Truss carefully explains that where the college student (or professor) might write: red, white, and blue, the journalist, me, would likely (definitely) spare you the “third degree” and write: red, white and blue. Actually, I get as frowny over Gail’s excessive use as she does my lack of. It seems to me that Gail and her colleagues simply insert commas, willy-nilly; I pride myself on deciding whether inserting that comma will better clarify the meaning of the sentence or not. If not, I restrain myself. I consider that a virtue.

The most illuminating part of Truss’s explanation is the origin of the little mark, and how it was used as much to allow the reader the proper tone, like in music, where pauses become part of the joy of reading aloud, as it was for clarity. She points out that the whole problem began when we started reading silently. So, now, I really get it.   Unknown

This is the pith of the matter: I write for audio–always have. My stuff is meant for radio, bedtime sharing, reading aloud to one’s self.

UnknownI think audio. Maybe that is why I need to be alone to write. I can’t have other noises around, or I don’t know what my words will sound like.

There you have it. I am giving myself permission to place commas only where they will “sound right.” I will know. Hopefully, you will agree. Not sure I will persuade Gail though.