Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Machine Shed

If you stop and listen, really listen, you can hear the life that once was there.

A tractor starting up, its long, slow crank to life. The clanking of tools. A command yelled over the sound of work. Perhaps a word of frustration. 

At the end of the day, the doors would pull shut and relative silence would fall over the machinery, interrupted only by the small scuffles of cats chasing mice, or birds in the rafters.

The machine shed is mostly empty now, or at least more empty than it's been in a long time. Favorite tractors have been hauled away, to be cherished or used by other family members. Cars that were in good working order are living their second or third life with someone else. 

Two cats remain to keep the mice population down. They are friendly and still call this shed home. Perhaps they will stay when the new owners come, and continue their useful lives for a new family.

Soon the final pieces will be hauled away, and the shed will be quiet and empty.

Monday, June 06, 2016


I walked to the lake and to the fishing dock to see the sunrise.

By the time I arrived the sun was up but clouds were obscuring it. I decided to wait to see if it would eventually break through the clouds.

My watch said the time was 5:56 a.m. I decided to absorb the morning until 6:00, then would walk home.

I watched the sun in an epic battle with the clouds. It looked brighter, then darker. Rays of sunlight escaped and colored the entire sky, then were obscured again.

Puffy clouds floated close to me, occasionally lit from beneath by the rising pink light, other times dark with the remains of night.

Fish jumped. Seagulls dove. Ducks fluffed their feathers, and geese chased each other across the lake.

It was beautiful, peaceful and quiet. I filled my lungs with air and my heart with gratitude, then looked at my watch to see if it was yet 6:00.

It had just turned to 5:57.

I was in awe at all I had seen in one small, little minute.

How much more slowly life would go by if we only took the time to enjoy it.

Friday, June 03, 2016

Learning Not to Judge Others

Photo credit
While we are sprucing up much of the house, other parts of it that will remain untouched need a little work as well. The doorknob on our bathroom gets more and more jiggly as time goes on. I fear that one day it will come off in my hand and I'll be stuck in the bathroom. Wayne's tried to tighten the existing one, but it is old and tired and the screws won't hold any longer.

Wayne bought a glass doorknob that looks like others in our home, and started working on replacing the doorknob. He easily got the old one off, but the new hardware didn't fit with the original hardware in the door.

The girls and I were preparing to go shopping just a few blocks from our house. Wayne decided he had to buy a new cylinder that would fit the door, but before leaving for the hardware store, he jumped in the shower and shut the door.

The door with no doorknob.

We were about to leave the house when Marissa noticed that there was no doorknob on the door and that it was tightly shut. "How's Dad going to get out?" she asked.

Um, yeah, he isn't.

I inserted the cylinder and used the doorknob from the outside to open the door.

That would have been awkward -- we would have gone shopping and he would be locked in the bathroom -- naked -- with no way out and no phone to call anybody. I wonder how long he would have lasted before he would have bust through the plywood separating the bathroom from the addition, out of sheer frustration.

An hour or so later, we are in the dressing room at Athleta and Lindsey is trying on some items.

My phone buzzes and I read a text from Wayne:

Where are you guys? I'm locked in the bathroom.

I respond that we're close by and we'll leave shortly to let him out. I then go to the dressing room door and say, "Lindsey, we have to go, Dad's locked in the bathroom."

"Again?!" she replies rather loudly.

I bet all the people in the dressing room that day thought I married a super smart guy. I have to give him credit for bringing his phone into the bathroom before he started working on the door.

The girls left the store immediately to head home while I bought the items they had chosen, then walked home alone. As I get closer to our house I spy Marissa on the sidewalk walking toward me. I yell, "Did you guys get Dad out of the bathroom?"

"Yep," she says, "He's out. At least this time he wasn't naked."

And this is why you should never judge people based what you overhear them say.

The accursed doorknob.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Learning and Living Through Remodeling

Our remodel project sped along for a month with very little impact to our family. Sure, we couldn't use the backyard, or enter the house through the side door, but for the most part we lived in the home as we always have.

This changed when our kitchen was demolished about a month ago.

The shell of our old kitchen.

Our new "kitchen," aka desk.
Not only do we not have use of a water source on the first floor, but our house is cut in two by way of tarps over the kitchen doors. For the first week, in order to do laundry in the basement we had to go out the front door, back in the house through the side door and down the stairs to the laundry room. Talk about airing your dirty laundry.

The path to our laundry room from the side door of the house.

The first week we had take-out nearly every night. That got tiring. And expensive.

I spent a weekend morning at my sister's house preparing slow cooker recipes that could go from freezer to slow cooker, and prepping spaghetti sauce that could be frozen and used in small batches. Winner!

We accepted an invitation to dinner at my sister's house, and had a divine and relaxing evening, visiting and eating food she had prepared. Such a treat!

The girls had to move into a bedroom together while Marissa's old bedroom is converted into our new master suite.

 So what have we learned?

1. Gratitude. I am grateful that we have the resources to take on this remodel, to make this home our dream home. Nearly every evening I come home from work to a pleasant surprise. Oh look, they took out the kitchen cabinets! They put the arch up in the new entryway!

2. Appreciation. The crews working on our home have a very high work ethic. The framing crew in particular was incredible to watch. The speed and skill at which they could frame a window was amazing. I remember struggling for hours to put together a dumb shelf in shop class -- they framed a window and a wall in 30 minutes. All of the experts who come through our house do their work with efficiency and skill, and I am humbled by their talents.

3. Neatness. It only takes two items out of place in our "kitchen" to make the whole space unusable. Sure, the girls' shoes are left all over the floor because there's no room in the closet they are sharing, but for the most part everyone understands that they need to pick up after themselves so we can all live in the space.

4. Creativity. I learned how to cook pasta in a microwave, we've improvised a pantry out of a dresser, and discovered all the kitchen essentials aren't really essential when you don't have a kitchen.

5. Tolerance. The girls are getting along in their shared room better than I had expected. I hear them chatting together at night, and they negotiate the use of a favorite lotion or book. While I know Marissa will be excited to move into her new room, I suspect that both of them will be a little sad and miss the camaraderie of sharing a room.

Monday, May 30, 2016

(Passive) Aggressive Pitbull Behavior

You'd never know it from this photo, but this is one passive-aggressive dog.
Beauty woke Wayne and I up at 4:25 this morning to go out.

She snuck into our room from the girls' at about 2 a.m. -- I heard her because I was awake (Not shocking). She jumped up, nudged her way under the covers, curled up in a ball and didn't move for hours. She was warm and comforting to snuggle with while I lay there suffering from insomnia.

At 4:25 she got up, stretched, yawned, and sat next to my head and looked at me. I, of course, was awake.

I did not move. I did not want to give away the fact that I was awake.

She did her "ear flap" thing -- she shakes her head really fast so that her ears make a loud flapping sound against her head. It's insanely loud and will wake the dead. It's her way of informing others that she's ready to make a location change; she does it whenever she moves from one room to another. She yawned, stretched again, and made her way to Wayne's side and stared at him.

He did not move either, because he actually WAS asleep.

She did this a few more times, each time getting more disruptive in her moves. Instead of stretching between our bodies, she would stretch OVER our bodies, so that you could not ignore that there was a 40-pound dog leaning on you. Finally, I was awake enough to do something about this.

At 4:30 I let her out to piddle. She did.

We went back in. I went back to bed.

She went back to staring at us, yawning and ear-flapping. We put her outside of the room and shut our door tightly. We heard her pacing the hall and coming back to our room, nudging our door with her nose to see if it would open. It wouldn't. But it was annoying to hear.

Finally Wayne got up and took her for a walk about 5 a.m. He got back at 5:30, now awake for the day.

Beauty came back to our bed and slept with me until 7 a.m. while Wayne made coffee, read the paper, and then swept and mopped the entire downstairs. He was grumpy and annoyed the rest of the day.

Beauty doesn't know that it's Memorial Day and that even though she NORMALLY goes out at 4:30 a.m. and goes for a walk or run, it's a holiday and we get to NOT get up at some insane hour.

Our next dog trick?

Teach her to tell time. And read a calendar.

Is it 7 a.m. yet?!

Miniature Woman

Lindsey at her murder-mystery themed birthday party.

Lindsey just turned 13. This is an amazing time of her life, and it is incredible to watch.

Her wit was brought to light when my family played cards when my mom and stepdad visited. She was funny. Witty. Intelligent. And won every game.

She is kind to her friends. She gives advice when it is asked, none when it is not, and a joke when the tension is high.

She speaks to adults with confidence and politeness, and has appropriate conversations and not awkward silence.

It is hard to believe that this independent, confident girl is my child, and not someone else's. Wasn't it just yesterday she was a little tiny baby, brought home from the hospital, with a mother who wondered how the nurses could entrust such a little life into her care?

Yet here she is, despite my foibles, a young lady growing, becoming her own.

I am so amazed and grateful.
Lindsey was "The Goose" in the middle school play. "Squacks" were never so funny!

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Why We're Remodeling

It's time.

We've been living in our house for nearly 14 years. It's time that it finally fit our family's needs.

The location is amazing, the neighborhood unbeatable. And we love the charm of our older home.

What we don't love is that there is no bathroom on our first floor. There's only one actual bathroom in the whole house. (There is a toilet and sink in our laundry room downstairs, but they don't count as a bathroom, according to the appraiser.)

Did I mention that in less than a month our first-born will be a teenager? She is already up to 45-minute shower/private time in the bathroom, God help us if she begins wearing make up.

We don't love the cramped kitchen, where the main traffic pattern through the house goes straight past the stove.


Oh, the stove. Did I mention that there is no countertop space next to it? If I need to take a lid off a pot to stir some spaghetti sauce I take the chance of whacking a family member in the face with it as I search for a flat surface to place it. You can often hear "hot pan coming through!" during dinner prep. And I can't open the oven door if someone has the fridge door open -- they collide.

It's time.

For years Wayne and I have sat on our patio in the summer, looking at the back of the house and dreaming. What if we expanded the kitchen? What if we expanded the bathroom upstairs? What if...what if?

And now, we find those "what ifs" becoming reality. We are in disbelief that we are actually doing this, even as I look out at a new crawl space and framing wood stacked neatly in our backyard, about to become our addition.

"Where am I supposed to poop?" thinks Beauty.
Best of all, we are incorporating parts of our history into our home. One wall of our kitchen will be adorned with wood from Wayne's grandfather's barn, the original homestead of the Horsman family. We hope to fill the walls in the dining room with photos of the Upper Peninsula, where I spent many a summer as a child.

We cannot wait until it's all complete. But, we get to live through the middle part. Marissa will have to bunk with Lindsey for about two months. We will be without a kitchen for about that amount of time. Hopefully it'll be grilling weather most of that time.

Somehow I think we'll survive as a family; we've got our eye on the prize.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Not the Real Mexico

The view from our balcony.
When our family took our trip to Mexico, we all were more than a bit nervous about traveling to another country. It's been years since Wayne and I had been to Mexico, and we all wondered about the language barrier.

As I expected, everyone working in the resort spoke English. We got to practice saying "gracias" and "por favor" a lot, but otherwise all transactions occurred in English. We didn't even have to change our money, we paid for any cash transactions with US dollars and tipped in dollars.  Can you imagine someone from Mexico coming to our country and trying to use pesos?

Early on in our stay Lindsey asked if Mexicans who vacation in the US can stay in places that only speak Spanish. I said, "If they vacation in an area that has a lot of Spanish-speaking people possibly, but for the most part they need to know English."

"But that's not fair!" she said., You are correct, it is not.

One day when went shopping in Playa del Carmen and had a taxi take us to "5th Avenue" (which is actually on 5th Ave), with blocks and blocks of vendors with tables out, stores and restaurants. The drive to leave our resort was a boulevard lined with lights, sculptures and palm trees. The driver then took a left and we were on a city street lined with half-tumbled down buildings and ramshackle lean-tos. A clothesline hung under a bridge held tiny t-shirts for boys and dresses for little girls. The heat was oppressive and there was no escaping it -- no pool to dip your toes into, no one to offer you a cool drink.

I felt like we had been living in Capitol City in the Hunger Games while District 13 was right outside our door.

Our luxurious bathroom.
Our family talked about it for some time after our shopping excursion. I would like to think that our visiting the country, going to a resort that employs local people and tipping generously throughout our trip helps. Yet the poverty we saw in a few blocks was no different from the poverty I saw in Honduras 15 years ago. Of the thousands of dollars we spent on our vacation -- airfare, the resort, food and shopping -- the majority of that money went to Melia, the company that owns the Paradisus line of resorts, and the airline. How much of that trickled down to the employees themselves? I can't imagine very much.

Our girls got a glimpse of how extravagantly Americans live compared to people in other countries. We talked a bit about the girl our family sponsors in the Philippines and how we can't help everyone living in poverty, but we can help one girl. And that has to count for something.