Life Goes On

Photo by Akil Mazumder on Pexels.com

While we had to take a moment out of our regular life, for the crackpot warning yesterday . . . life does go on. Today is Mabon or the autumnal equinox. See my IG account (to the right and scroll down) for a list of things to do today to clear the way for the changing season.

With the cooler temperatures, we’ve ventured outside to do some yardwork. Leaves to be raked and burned, flower beds to be weeded and thinned, overgrown shrubs to be trimmed back and in some cases, removed.

I had a friend who sent me a photo of her plant. She believed she had a brown thumb. This was a Mother’s day gift. To be honest, it looked sad and forlorn when I first saw it – a fern with a wandering jew in the same pot. There were numerous dead leaves from the heat and it hadn’t been watered. So, I suggested she clear out the rubbish . . . all the dead leaves and stems and water it twice a week. It is now flourishing, the leaves are beautifully green and the wandering jew is spreading and climbing out of the pot. It’s amazing what a bit of care and attention can do.

People are a lot like plants. Or maybe plants are a lot like people. Either way, there is a lesson to be learned from the example above:

  1. Take care of yourself with plenty of water and sunshine.
  2. Get rid of the rubbish in your life. Throw it away, it’s taking up space.
  3. Give yourself room to grow.

We have a few saplings that need to be removed via chainsaw. Several hedgerows needing trimming and English Ivy . . . what the heck is the deal with all the ivy? It spreads everywhere. You can grab one end of the ivy and start pulling and it will go back 4-5′ into the bushes. Of course, there are 10 years worth of built up leaves under those bushes, so we’ve been raking and raking and raking and piling up and burning. Repeat the next day. And the next day. Did I mention raking?

On top of all the ornamental plantings, there is a huge bare spot in the back yard, as well as an overgrowth of kikuyu grass. This is a grass native to East Africa that spreads by propagation and by runners both, so trying to get rid of it will be quite the interesting feat. Because the runners have an almost sucker-like quality to them, pulling at them causes them to break off in pieces.

The weeding and brush removal in the front flower beds uncovered some additional Liriope plants that have beautiful, conical purple flowers. Those can stay. The English Ivy and the Holly bush are what I refer to as “gotta go’s” — they gotta go!! While the Holly bush is beautiful with it’s dark green color, it is also painful when you get poked with the spikey leaves. The goal is to plant some Knockout rose bushes on either side of the porch with some ground cover that isn’t that damn ivy, perhaps some iris near the sidewalks. Because of the house’s age, we’re aiming for more of an old-fashioned feel with the choice of plants.

I hope that everyone is enjoying the cooler temperatures, getting their homes ready for fall and winter. The seasonal changes remind me that life does go on — from one season to the next, making way for new beginnings.

When the storms come. . .

“When the storm has passed, put your energy into rebuilding your life, don’t waste time looking back.”

Leon Brown

We’ve had some gnarly storms blow thru in the past year that I’ve been here. Last year, the winds were so fierce it took out two panels of my privacy fence. Last week, the rains were so frequent that a water-laden dead tree branch broke off, falling onto the highway. This resulted in the tree being cut down. With all the other storm damage around town, I thought I’d have to wait but the tree company decided mine was emergent and came the next day. The price they quoted was a steal and he explained that he cut me a deal since they were already in town. Not that the cost was prohibitive but it was going to put things a little tight for a couple months in the finances department. BUT. . . God is good!! No sooner did the main trunk of that huge tree hit the ground but my phone dinged advising me that there’d been a deposit in my checking account and there . . .was my stimulus check.

This past Thursday morning, another branch broke from a tree in the backyard. The privacy hedge broke its fall and today I summarily cut up the branch with the chainsaw for city pickup. We’ve spent the past two days raking up small bits and pieces and branches and pulling them up on the curb. We are very fortunate to live in a community that provides removal of yard waste following the storms and then twice a year in the spring and fall. Otherwise we are free to burn leaves and branches in our yards.

Pile 1
Piles 2 & 3

With the removal of the tree branch that fell, I also had to cut back the hedges that caught it. While cutting those back, I not only found a small scrub cedar that had taken root (and is now in that pile above) but 10 years worth of built-up leaves along with trails of English Ivy. I raked out the top layer of leaves that were dry and started burning them. As they dry out more, I will finish burning them and then destroy the ivy that spreads worse than COVID-19.

and that’s just one small corner

Eventually, we will put down grass seed and then start working on our privacy fence and the cellar doors to match. The cellar doors will be created first to allow us an opportunity to work with the galvanized metal and determine the best way to frame and fasten it. The fence panels will proceed from there. Eventually the yard will be a beautiful, private oasis to enjoy.

I can hardly wait!

Directionally Challenged

“Blessed is she who saves furniture from dumpsters, for she shall embarrass her husband and children but have AMAZING projects.” ~ Unknown

This desk did not come from a dumpster.  It was actually given to me by a friend almost 20 years ago — oh my gosh, has it been that long?!?!?!  For most of those years, I was mentally and emotionally in a place where I just did not have the energy or creative juices to give a whit what this piece of furniture looked like. At that time, my focus was on survival and keeping my kids safe.

However . . . the past year has given me an opportunity to embrace my creative side again, and this desk is one of my projects.

Structurally , the desk is in good shape.  It is sturdy and currently is sitting in the crafting/sewing room awaiting it’s fate.  The plan is for it to hold the sewing machine as it will allow plenty of space for fabric to rest while sewing.

The dilemma is:  What type of design element do I want to go with when I refinish it?

I could go the shabby chic route with chalk paint or a few layers sanded down to reveal the layers of color.

Perhaps like this:

shabby chic

But then again, the details, such as the sections of the drawer, and the turns on the legs present the possibility to lend it a little more personality.

I could go the whimsical route, a la Mary Engelbreit, and do a bang up job something like this:

So there we have it — the quandary that has been keeping me awake at night. (Not really, but it sounds good.)  Do I go for a sewing room of understated elegance and chic or do I go the route of colorful whimsy and creativity.

Decision and choices . . . oh my!

 

So Much To Do, So Little Time

“Lack of direction, not lack of time, is the problem.  We all have twenty-four hour days.” ~ Zig Ziglar

assorted silver colored pocket watch lot selective focus photo

Photo by Giallo on Pexels.com

If I had a penny for every time I’ve been told, “I don’t know how you get so much done!” — I’d be a very rich woman!  It’s really not rocket science, it’s just planning.

One of my favorite sayings is: Plan your work and work your plan.

I start every day by reading my devotional verses from the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).  These are emailed to me and appear on my phone about the time I awaken.  My entire days seems to go better when I start with my Scripture reading and prayer.

I plan my meals by using a printed menu template that I created.  From there I plan the grocery list which is planned around my paydays.  Everyone gets to make suggestions as to what goes on the menu.  If a suggestion doesn’t get included in the present menu, it is added to the next one.

Cleaning the refrigerator is done on Sunday evenings as the trash goes out Monday morning.  Scrubbing the sink happens every evening after the dishes are done.  I absolutely hate coming downstairs first thing in the morning to a sink full of dishes and gunk.  Setting up the Keurig at night is also a staple event — when I’m stumbling to the kitchen each morning, all I have to do is push the buttons to get my wake-up Java.

I plan the housework by the day of the week or around the activities taking place.  Each of us has specific days to do our laundry.  Sheets and towels are done at the weeks end.

I plan my blog posts *gasp* – they are written on Sundays and scheduled to post on various days.  UNLESS . . . something comes up that would make a compelling post, then I may add it in and delay the next scheduled one.

Each week I focus on renovating a certain room of the house.  There is so much to do — some of it major tasks such as painting, some of it not so major such as deep cleaning and scrubbing, but when you toss it all together, it becomes a mish-mash of confusion and utter wonder at what to tackle next.  Each room has a “to-do list” of needs and if I can only spend 15 minutes a day it eventually gets done.  Some days I may spend more than 15 minutes, but that is the minimum and you’d be amazed at what you can accomplish in that amount of time. By portioning it out to one room per week, the work never gets old or  relentlessly mundane (such as pulling carpet staples out of wood floors).  Besides, I have found that taking a break from a certain area leaves me free to brainstorm and consider ideas for those spaces that I may not have considered were I to get boxed in and develop tunnel-vision.

I schedule time to read.  I am an avid reader but it goes in waves, either I want to sit and read and let everything else go by the wayside, or I get busy and end up having books gathering dust.

I plan time to create.  Whether it is sewing, or crocheting or photography or looking at paint colors, or simply wandering through Lowe’s to get ideas . . . that creative outlet is fed on a regular basis.

I plan major purchases.  I do my research and cost analysis and then plan for the purchase and set the savings goal in place.

I plan time to be silly and relax and play with my kids.  Whether it’s going to the movies, or thrifting, or staying home and playing card games or board games, family time is very important to staying connected and in tune with what’s going on in the kids lives.  One of my favorite times of day is when we do the dishes together — it gives me some 1:1 time with each one to listen to their thoughts and ideas.

I plan time for myself.  Going for a walk alone, exercising, taking a hot bath, pedicures or just applying a foot mask at bedtime — all these things contribute to a sense of well-being for myself.  I cannot be a good Mom, employee or friend if I am running out of steam.  Self-care is just as important as taking care of everyone else.

I plan time with my sister.  Every Monday evening we talk on the phone.  These calls are full of laughter, anecdotes, and prayer requests.  There is no bond quite like the one between siblings, and being 700+ miles away, this is our time to stay connected.

If you were not gifted with planning genetics, start small.  Plan a week’s worth of meals.  Then two weeks.  Then add something else.  Anticipation is the key.  Review what is going on so you can adjust your schedule accordingly.  This requires being able to stay on top of kids school schedules and work schedules.  Above all, remain fluid.  Do not get so locked into your plans that you become rigid and unbending.

For example: Our menu is set, but if we don’t feel like having X for dinner, we can switch it to another evening and substitute Y.  Why?  Because I have all the ingredients to make any meal on the menu at any given day during that two-week period.  Occasionally, about once in a two-week period, we plan an evening out.  Sometimes we know where we’re going, other times we’ll take a vote to see what we’re doing.

Every one one of us gets twenty-four hours in our day, it’s up to you to decide how it gets spent.

Weekend reads

“You only get one life.  It’s actually your duty to live it, as fully as possible.”

black and brown stairs beside window

Photo by Octopus soul on Pexels.com

Living life fully isn’t always about being on the go.  There are times that it is more important to slow down, and relish those things around us . . .loved ones we don’t see often, memories we’ll cherish, sights we’ll only see once.  Life is meant to be enjoyed, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone.

Much like pouring a fresh cup of coffee, we savor the aroma, feel the warmth as we bring the cup to our lips and let the delicious flavor swirl around our tongue as we take that first sip.  THAT is how life is to be enjoyed.

I was actually intending to make this blog post last night, but after the rush of the holiday dinner, shopping on Black Friday, visiting family and then getting the children back to their father . . . nah.  I got back to my cherished home-away-from-home and it was quiet.  Just me.  The wind was blowing outside, the furnace was running, and inside it was warm and snug.  I made a bowl of oatmeal for my dinner and snuggled in the loveseat silently watching a movie via closed captions.  And it was good.

Living life fully also means recognizing the need to rest and recharge.  Peace and quiet.  Alone.

I took a few moments to check in on three of my favorite blogs which I’ll share here:

  •  If you LOVE old houses and have longed to restore one, but don’t have the means, you can live vicariously through Ross’s adventures in Emporia at Restoring Ross.
  •  I have followed her blog for years, since Sam was a wee one and he’s 12, and Rhonda Jean Hetzel lives what she shares.  She and her husband Hanno share their simple methods to being frugal and having more at Down To Earth.
  •  I first followed her mother, Jewel, whose blog is now private.  Unfortunately, she passed away this last year, but her wisdom shines thru in her daughter’s blog, Rosie’s Ramblings.

Now, it’s time for me to leave and head home to Alabama.  While I will be traveling alone, I will have my books on CD, my Spotify playlist and phone calls from loved ones to break the monotony.  Until next time . . .

Of Pools and Tents

When you’re the one-woman renovating team. . .things go slow sometimes.

Pools

When I bought the Alabama house, there was an above-ground pool in the back yard. Woo hoo said everyone! Except me.

Ummm. . .guys? The house was vacant for 10 years. Therefore the pool was neglected for 10 years. No cover. Not cleaned. Not maintained. As in. . .the liner is torn in pieces, the aluminum sides are rusted and there’s a pine tree growing in the pool. There will be no pool! It’s coming down.

I started working on it before it got hot. Between work, driving to Missouri and unloading loads of stuff and furniture, I had neither the time nor the energy to address it. And then it got hot. Standing in the sun, working with hot aluminum in 99 degrees is NOT where I choose to be.

Today, we had a break in the weather. Cloud cover coupled with lower temps. I was able to get quite a bit done (when you’re going it alone). You will notice there are now TWO trees growing in the pool.

I placed the metal posts and pieces in the alley and within an hour, somebody pulled up and picked them up. More power to them! I am too tired to find the scrap metal recycling location.

Temperatures this week will be in the 90’s again, so until it cools off, that pool will sit — as is — until I decide to attack it again.

Tents

Awhile back, a friend borrowed my small tent. He brought it back but. . .because it started raining as they broke camp, they hurriedly rolled it up and shoved it in the bag. Last weekend, I decided to pitch the tent in a spare bedroom. If it had any rips, tears, mold or mildew it was going to the trash.

It was beautiful! So I kept it up all week and let it air out. Not many people probably pitch a tent in their spare room, but. . .my house, my rules!!

Now. . .if the kids were going to be here anytime soon, I would have left it up for Sam to sleep in for fun. However, with not a clue as to when they will be back to visit, I took it down this evening.

I wonder what I can accomplish this coming week? Probably nothing to do with pools or tents.

Shrinking stairs

“Always expect the unexpected. You’ll still be surprised” ~ Karen Steele

An evening or so ago, I decided to finish unloading the furniture from my van. How I got it out is a whole ‘other story, but one piece in particular. . .

A chest of drawers. . .

Caused me to notice an idiosyncrasy in the structure of my home. Something I probably wouldn’t have noticed otherwise.

Being smart (and alone) I removed each drawer and brought them inside. I cleaned and vacuumed them and then carried them upstairs. That left the skeleton or bones of the chest of drawers to bring in. My neighbor came and helped me get it into the kitchen. After she left, I cleaned it up and proceeded to move it upstairs.

The beginning was easy, as many beginnings are. I turned it sideways, tipped it and pulled it up the three steps to the landing. Doing good.

Seeing as how there wasn’t enough room on the landing to turn it sideways,

And the stairs were just a bit wider than the chest,

I decided to tip it back and pull it up the stairs one at a time. No problem, right?

Wrong!

As I got closer to the top, I began to question my sanity. Surely the steps weren’t more narrow at the top (because I sure knew the dresser wasn’t getting any wider). But the closer I got to the top, the less space I had to maneuver. It took me a few seconds to realize that between the extra bit of width of the newel post and the curve of the bannister, there really was less space in which to maneuver and manhandle my chest of drawers.

Two steps from the top I had to stop and balance the back legs of the chest on a step. One, because I was roaring with laughter and two, because I could no longer tip it back and get it through the space. The extra 1/2″ on each side of the top of the dresser was not going to fit.

I was in a quandary: I wasn’t sure I had the upper body strength to lift it straight up the steps. I knew that if I let loose my grip, it would teeter for a moment before dropping down the stairs and breaking. Neither could I get around it to try to turn it or push as the furniture itself was blocking the stairs.

After taking a few moments to gather my wits and my strength, and to explain to my sister who was on the phone what was happening. . .I got my “uuumph” on. I lifted that chest of drawers straight up and across the two remaining steps and onto the carpet.

Yes! I did it!!

Starting Point

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Beautiful Sears & Roebuck house c.1923

I’m not sure how old this photo is, probably 8-10 years old, taken before the paint started peeling. This was taken from the real estate listing found by my daughter when I mentioned I’d had a job offer in Alabama.

I fell in love with the photos included in the listing. I fell in love with the house even more when I saw it. Four bedrooms, 1.5 baths. From the first moment I stepped inside, I felt as if I were home.

Structurally, the house is great! Original hardwood floors. Original French doors with the cotton candy glass. Original windows and doors, complete with glass doorknobs. The original coal-fueled steam boiler remains in the basement. Although the pipes have been disconnected and the radiators are long gone, it stands as testament to the changes thru the years. The old coal-chute door at the corner of the basement is present as well.

Most of the work required is cosmetic.

Some of the beautiful hardwood floors had been covered in carpet. The carpet was pulled up before I saw the house, but the carpet tackstrips along with the accompanying nails and carpet staples remain. One bedroom still has carpet along with the upstairs landing and hallway. It will soon be gone.

The remaining floors are sound but it appears as if a drunk person refinished them using a mop. Literally. It looks as if someone poured the polyurethane in a puddle on the floor and then used a mop to swish it around. You can see the swiping strokes across the wood. Those will have to be sanded and redone.

All the woodwork, windows, baseboards, stairs, railings, doors — ALL of it has been painted white. Not just painted mind you, “glopped” with white paint so thick you can cut your teeth on it. In fact, every window has been painted shut. Not sure if this is a Southern thing or what.

At one time there was a fire in the kitchen. The underside of some of the upper cabinets is black with soot as well as a portion of wall between the cabinets and the door leading to the basement. What appeared to be laminate flooring is actually linoleum. I can hardly wait to pull it up and see what lies beneath. The ceiling is plaster and lath and has a few cracks which will require some scaffolding and repair.

The exterior paint is peeling. Due to the age of the house and the lead content, that will require some care in removing. Underneath the siding is good. The detached garage on the other hand . . . it will require the replacement of some siding from the ground up. Not extensive, but needed.

The privacy fence, if you’ve read any previous posts, has already decided to come down on it’s own. Actually, nature has assisted with high winds.

The above-ground pool, having been vacant for over 10 years, is not capable of holding water. I have started removing it, and soon I will have more yard with which to work.

All in all, this is where the journey starts. Check back for updates and progress pictures. I look forward to sharing it with you.

Bits and Pieces

“God made rainy days so gardeners could get the housework done.” ~ Anonymous

I’m not so sure about that as it seems as though every time it rains or there is a bit of wind, another section of my privacy fence falls over. I finally purchased the hex nut bit I needed for my impact driver to remove the screws holding the boards together. This week I managed to tear one 8-ft section apart and set it out for the trash. The section that had blown into the neighbors yard was pushed over into mine which I appreciated since it was too heavy for me to lift and move. Tonight, I noted a third section had fallen, but I was too tired to walk out in the yard to see which way it landed. I’ll find out tomorrow.

Below is a photo of a privacy fence idea that I found on Pinterest and saved. I like this but to add a bit of eccentricity to it, the wood panels would be 4-feet as well as each corrugated metal panel. Those would be joined together to form an 8-foot section. I’m pondering using old hinges to join the sections together with a piece of rebar running through the hinges, and then a 4″ post between each 8-foot section. I don’t know. I’m still playing with the idea.

fence

Between training, the heat and humidity and doing things like tearing the fence apart, I am beat most evenings when I fall into bed. Some days the rain helps keep me inside to do the things, but then there are days when I feel like taking a few hours to catch up on my reading. I just have to remind myself that I work hard and it’s okay to relax for an hour or two doing something just for fun.

Earlier, as I was doing laundry, I was thinking of some of the books I’ve read that have largely influenced my life. The first book that came to mind (besides my Bible) is Joshua by Joseph Girzone. Based on the life of Jesus, this is a story set in modern times. This led me to consider a conversation I had the other night. The other party had concerns – quite valid concerns – about spending time together as friends and the ideas that others might have based on their likely erroneous perceptions.

Unfortunately, we live in a day and age where people no longer choose to see the good in just about anything and everything. Even the most innocent friendships are judged to be inappropriate or scandalous or worse. Which reminded me of the story line in Joshua. A single man, who lived simply and only did good for others was found by members of the community to be suspicious because he had no ulterior motives. Why does society have such difficulty accepting things at face value? Is it a testament to our decline as a civilization that truth is no longer spoken?

Much like my fence has deteriorated and decayed over the past 10 years the house was vacant (and probably a bit before then even), the world is not what it was 10 years ago and that makes my heart hurt.

Gone with the wind . . .

I don’t even have a picture for this one.

30374-windy day dog

Correction:  I found a picture.  An appropriate picture even.

Last night, the EMA for the county sent out a notice for high winds.  And high winds they were indeed.  Estimated to be at 60 mph.  (Not that I stepped outside to personally measure the windspeed, I took the estimation for what it was worth.)  The winds were SOOOOOO high that it literally blew down a section of my privacy fence into the neighbor’s yard.  And then another section blew into MY yard this afternoon.

Actually, the fence that landed in my yard did not actually BLOW . . . I mean, it blows that it’s laying down in my yard, but it more likely just . . . fell over.  It’s a 10-year old privacy fence.  When Sam and I attempted to pick up the section in the neighbor’s yard, pieces of it broke off in my hand, yet the section was heavy enough that we couldn’t lift it. And that part sucks!  Additionally, there are several tree branches that blew out of the tree in my front yard scattered about the house.

I am so thankful that nothing was broken, no windows were struck by branches, my car wasn’t damaged by flying objects and most amazing of all, I was able to get back to sleep rather quickly after waking up momentarily to the sound of the wind pushing against the house.

Hopefully, soon, things will be on an even keel around here and I can get back to spending time working on around-the-house projects.