Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Our New Old Home

The lockbox is coming off the door, the inspection sheet is no longer on display. Crews of people are  not showing up to at random times of day, needing access to our house.
Old Kitchen
New Kitchen
 Our remodel is done and we are thrilled.

It's not just that we have a mudroom or a new kitchen, it's what that change in space has meant to our family.
New main floor powder room.

Previously, with four of us sharing a bathroom, we've gotten into a habit of wandering while preparing for bed. For example, one person uses the sink to wet a toothbrush, then walks around the upstairs to brush teeth because the next person is using the sink to wash her face. By the time the tooth brushing is done the face washing is done, but then I'm leaning over the side, getting just a bit of mirror space so I can take out contacts as the face-washer wets a toothbrush.

Now when I want to get ready for bed, I go into my bedroom, shut the door and use my own bathroom. No one else needs to use the sink. No one else needs to use my mirror. It takes me half the time because I'm not waiting for someone else to be done. Ironically, though, we are all accustomed to walking around while brushing teeth, so now we have to train the girls to not wander into our bedroom while readying for bed.

New master bath.
The new kitchen has changed our family dynamic.

I used to enjoy cooking, but for me part of the enjoyment is being able to visit with other people while I'm working. This hasn't been possible for years, as there wasn't a suitable place in the kitchen for others to be. Many times Wayne or Kristi would stand in the kitchen to chat, but would have to move while I opened a drawer or needed in a cupboard. Trying to share in preparing a meal was practically impossible. I often felt cut off from the rest of the family, alone in the kitchen while everyone else gathered in the living room or on the patio.

Now, more than one person can be in the kitchen at the same time. The girls sit at the island and do homework while I cook; I don't have to keep stopping and walking into the dining room to look at a problem or hear a question. Homework feels less of an interruption and annoyance and more a part of the evening's activities.

I enjoy cooking again for the first time in years. And I can't wait to be able to finally get some of the kitchen gadgets that I haven't been able purchase before because there was no place to store them.

The new space has also allowed Wayne and I to have much-needed couple time.  We can sit down and share a glass of wine in the kitchen while the girls are in the living room, meaning that our conversation is a not open for commentary.
Our original bathroom, refreshed for the girls' use.
Our bedroom feels like a retreat. Even though it is right next to Marissa's bedroom, it feels a bit more secluded and private. We have a chair in our bedroom -- a chair! I have sat there in the early morning with a cup of a coffee and a computer, writing. What a joy.
My new coffee and writing corner.
I am so grateful that we were able to make the location we love into the home we love. 

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Arkansa Edition

Terry and Dad together; a good evening on the patio.
My dad has not been in the best of health for some time. He is living with stage IV colon cancer,  with all the trials and tribulations that come along with that condition. He has been on a chemotherapy regimen for about a year, which doctors tell him should keep the tumors from growing and spreading, if he can withstand the side effects. As soon as the chemo stops working or his quality of life is such that he decides not to continue treatment, the cancer will probably continue to spread and grow.

This is a tough diagnosis to take. Quality of life has been less than ideal, not just for Dad but for my stepmom, who has been thrust into the role of primary caretaker.

I have not been to Arkansas to see Dad for some time, not to say that I haven't seen him or don't talk with him, but he came to Minnesota twice last year. He understands that my life is busy and it's hard to get away.

But at some point "busy" becomes "bullshit," and the people who are really important in your life must come to the surface. On some level I've been holding off on visiting, waiting for him to have the energy to have company. I finally came to the realization that I need to make the trip.

Kristi and I planned a trip over Labor Day weekend, flying from Minneapolis to St. Louis, then taking a 10-seater directly to Jonesboro, Arkansas.
We ain't in Minnesota anymore. A drive-through liquor store. They'll hand you a cup with ice with your vodka. No lie.
We had ourselves a time. There was plenty of "gabooning," as my grandfather Vern used to say (his term for visiting). The weather was divine, with plenty of opportunity to sit on the porch in a nice breeze, taking in the peace and quiet while three white dogs played the part of immovable porch rugs. Hummingbirds flitted from the feeder to trees; crickets and other insects provided the background music to their wings.

The largest and most immovable of all the white dogs, Jack.

Can you find all three?
We ate some good southern fare, and I made authentic Minnesota Wild Rice Soup, with wild rice smuggled from Minnesota. (Apparently bags of wild rice look like weed when viewed through a security x-ray machine, and warrant extra screening.) My nephew Sam decided it looked like bird suet, and leftover soup the rest of the weekend was donned "liquid suet."

I spent time with family members that Kristi has gotten to know so well through her many visits. We had a feast of pulled pork, barbecued ribs and smoked chicken.

Kristi and I helped with chores that escape doing in the midst of caring for someone else. We made trips to the store for victuals and supplies, vacuumed, helped organize the week's pills, cooked, and cleaned dishes, usually accompanied by laughter and banter.
Terry gives me a tour of the yard, including a fig tree.
By the end of three days Kristi and I were ready to get back to the land of North, and I think Dad and Terry were ready for us to leave. They themselves had to travel to Nashville the next day. What is it they say about fish and company?

Memories were made, and that's all that matters.