Common Thread

So, here’s some observations from my Saturday morning.  Daughter is away at a sleepover…Hubby is sleeping after working an overtime night shift.  I am enjoying some quiet and thinking and observing life…

  • When making art, the space clearing and tidying up can be just as important as the actual creating part.  Clutter and lost stuff hinders effective art making.
  • It is probably a good idea to clean out the fridge more than once every three months or so – no matter how busy you are.  Avoiding the fridge because you aren’t sure what you might find inside (science experiment wise) complicates life immensely.
  • Clean sheets and a welcoming bed make life so much more pleasant even if you think you haven’t time for the effort.  Sleep is important.
  • If you forget to water your plants over a period of time because of higher activities on the priority list, drenching them to try and make up for it doesn’t work.  A dead plant is still dead after you water it…it’s just really wet. This also seems to apply to relationships that are neglected during said busy times (except for the whole watering and wet part).
  • Your children never really move out.  For months after the big move, you will keep finding stuff and the new guest room becomes a holding area – kind of like the lost luggage area at an airport.

I’m seeing a common thread here…

It involves my less than stellar approach to cleaning up, and housekeeping in general.  It’s a good thing that I’m having a good day and am able to realize that I have other good qualities besides housework.

And that’s why I’m going to go back to making some stuff right now…

…right after I clean up the work table in my studio because I can’t seem to find a single bottle of glue in this entire house.

Walking

If I had to name the top 10 most influential people in my adult life, there is one person who would certainly be at the top of the list.  She was a spiritual mentor, a life coach, an encourager (this word flags as misspelled, but I like it so it stays), and a partner in my creative endeavors.

She was a pastor at a church that I used to attend. As our relationship developed, she learned that I was an artist – although at that time I was just somebody who made stuff.  She started sharing her sermon plans with me and I started to create art that illustrated the sermon.  Some of it was pretty bad, but she hung it on the wall anyway.  Eventually, it got better and she hung that too.

Sometimes she would come to me with a sermon and verse and we would find that I had already started the canvas that went with it.

I would sit and draw her sermons on Sundays.  It’s how I learned that art is my form of worship…a lesson that I still value today.  I did a complete book of sermon drawings for her.  When I visited her a month or so ago, I saw that it sits on her hearth along with some other things that she treasures.

We rarely see each other any more as we live on opposite side of Austin.  Though our lives no longer intersect as they once did something interesting is starting to happen.

I faithfully read her postings on Caring Bridge as she chronicles her experiences with metastatic Stage IV colon cancer.  Lately, her posts are becoming more and more applicable and relative to my life – just as her sermons often seemed to be written just for me.

A couple of days ago she wrote something that inspired my post, “Doors”, which turned out to be one of the most popular things I’ve ever written here.  Don’t worry, I’m not going to get a “big head”.  By popular, I mean that more than 10 people read it.  It’s all relative, right.  I favor quality over quantity any day.

Today, she wrote about going through the interview process to try and get selected for a clinical trial of a new treatment.  Although our situations are totally different and I would never try to compare my struggles with hers – when I read the words she had written about being overwhelmed, I could identify with her completely.

First, it put the circumstances of my life right now in perspective.  I’ve reminded myself that the problems that I am facing are manageable and most likely solvable.  The challenges to come are not insurmountable.

Second, her words helped me gain my footing again.  She wrote that “sometimes people who are overwhelmed don’t do anything because they can’t do everything.”

She added that we should “acknowledge it (the situation) , pray, and just do one thing at a time.”

I can do that.  I can acknowledge that while my situation could be worse, it’s still hard and I’m both tired and overwhelmed.  And while I can’t do everything, I can do something.

So here’s what I accomplished today:

  • I went to work
  • I visited my sister in I.C.U and initiated a discussion about what her discharge plan might need to look like
  • I spent time with my husband although I did forget to make his lunch
  • We started planning what needs to be done to fix our second bathroom so that it is easily accessible for my sister as her recovery continues – I did not figure out how to pay for said renovations – that would be too much for today and would lead to feeling overwhelmed again.
  • I am committing to filling one bag with trash as I begin to catch-up on housework. Some (most) of it will just have to wait.
  • I took a short walk in an effort to get back to walking two miles a day so that I can lose the weight I have gained.  A long walk just couldn’t happen.  That’s okay.
  • My daughter and I are going to do one math lesson as we work on getting caught up.  It won’t solve the problem, but it’s something.
  • I am going to sit and prepare the bag of worn out T-shirts into strips for my rug as I watch a stupid T.V. show and allow myself to rest. Oh, and by the way…here’s my efforts so far. Barret, the dork dog seems to like it just fine.

Perhaps most importantly, she reminded me that I’m not alone.  I have friends that are thinking of and praying for me.  I have people that I can call on if I need to (even if I’m too stubborn to admit that I need help).

Just because people are no longer physically present in our lives doesn’t mean that the lessons we learned from them, or the experiences we shared with them aren’t still valuable resources that we can draw from when we need to.  Special people who have once been in our lives never really leave us.  They become a part of us…often the best part.

Short and Sweet

This post shall be short and the day was sweet.

For the first time in a long time we took it easy.

My sister is hanging out at our house for a bit as she recovers from surgery.  In honor of her convalescence we decided to rest with her. We woke up when we woke up.  We didn’t worry about breakfast and therefore, we didn’t have to worry about the undone dishes. Hubby brought donuts home when he came home from the nightshift.  We all ate the donuts and didn’t worry about calories or nutrition or balancing the diet.

We made a Sonic run for lunch because my sister’s appetite is returning and she wanted chili-cheese fries.  We couldn’t let her eat Sonic alone now, could we?

We grabbed a couple of Sunday papers and actually read a real newspaper.  Got black ink all over our fingers and everything!

No computer for me today.  I didn’t check email or facebook or my bank balance…  It will all still be there tomorrow and I will deal with it then.

We watched episodes of Columbo, and Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries, and Rosemary and Thyme on Netflix.

We still had to go clean the offices we do on Sunday night, but even that didn’t seem as much of a chore as it sometimes does.  The work went faster and it was easier than usual.

Back home, we binged more T.V. and I even did a journal page!

As folks got tired, they wandered off to bed.  I am ready to follow.

Bring it on Monday.  I think I’m ready.

The Riveting Tale of Barret the Dog

For those of you who have been anxiously awaiting the promised tale of the glitter eating dog, the moment has come!

The story begins with a mention of my son who has yearned for a Bernese mountain dog. This is unlikely to happen as they are fabulously expensive.

As luck would have it though, several weeks ago while just happening to drive by a Petsmart on dog adoption day, the next best thing happened.  Or maybe, the next, next best thing.

There, right before his eyes, was the almost dog of his dreams.  It was a mixed breed (mutt), but part of the mix was obviously a Greater Swiss Mountain dog.  I must add that this was mainly obvious to my son.  A “Swissie” for short is closely related to the Bernese Mountain dog and shares many of the same characteristics.

My son still lives at home and he dutifully asked permission to adopt the dog (along with all the earnest declarations pertaining to all future care and feeding of said dog).

And so Barret came home with us.

Upon reading Barret’s history, we found out that he was two years old and had been surrendered to the shelter 3 times.  The first owner became homeless, the second lost their house and had to move into an apartment, and the third returned him because of his aggression toward their cats.

Now is when the story gets interesting.

Within two days of bringing Barret home, he started to get aggressive…towards our dogs and us.  He was unpredictable and moody.  On day three he became lethargic and then started running a fever.  A trip to the vet was in order.

He was diagnosed with a serious ear infection.  He tried to bite the vet and everyone else in the office and had to be muzzled.  He howled when the medicine was put in his ear.

Twenty-four hours later, his fever spiked and he was obviously worse. Back to the vet for an overnight stay for evaluation and I.V. fluids.  He was extremely aggressive and hostile towards everyone.  He had to be sedated to be examined and treated.

I read through all of his paperwork again and found a teeny-tiny reference to a swollen spot on his face that the shelter treated with Benadryl, of all things.  We conferred with the vet who diagnosed Barret with meningitis, probably related to the untreated injury to his face.  Barret was very ill and it wasn’t clear if he would survive.  Since we didn’t have a clear understanding of his previous disposition, we didn’t know if he was a naturally aggressive dog or not.

At this point we were all emotionally invested in Barret, so we gave the vet the go-ahead to treat him.  Several days later, we brought him home provisionally.

As it turns out, he is the sweetest dog ever.  He has an incredible urge to protect everyone in the house, so beware anyone who come to the door, but with a little training we can work through that.

He is a gigantic dork and has a few quirky traits which or may not be related to the 105 degree fever.  We were warned that there could be brain damage.  That could explain why he eats glitter (among other things).

After feeding him humongous amounts of food and stopping him from chewing on anything in the house including furniture and toes, we have determined that he is most definitely not two years old.  Barret is a puppy and not fully grown.   Did I mention how much this dog eats?  He eats a lot.  All the time.  We have no idea how big he is going to get.

Oh yea, here’s the best part (sarcasm).  Shortly after bringing Barret home (along with a pretty hefty vet bill), our son got invited to move into an apartment with some friends.  He has been trying to save up money and work out the logistics of moving out on his own.  We live in an expensive area so moving out of the house is a complicated thing.  It’s all good. We are very happy and excited for him.  He’s moving in with some good guys and they found an affordable apartment.

Just one little catch…

Have you figured it out yet?

He can’t take the dog with him.  0803162117c

So now, I am the proud owner of a gangly, dorky puppy who follows me everywhere, wakes me up in the middle of the night to make sure that I’m okay, and is eating us out of house and home.

But that’s okay because he makes me laugh (sometimes).

 

 

 

 

Alliteration is Good…unless it’s Saturday’s Snake

We’ve had a very wet spring season following an unusually warm winter.  As a result, the news has been full of dire snake warnings and reports of snakes in homes.  Ugh.

Kind of everyone’s worst nightmare unless you are one of those weird people who like snakes.  Some reptiles are okay – even interesting – from a distance.  One or two are even okay up close.  Snakes are horrible.  I’m not going to apologize or try to understand snake lovers, at all.  I understand, intellectually, the necessity of snakes in the whole ecosystem thing.  I don’t want to exist peaceably with them.  I want them to live somewhere else.  If they venture into my world…they will die.  They have their space – somewhere else.  I have mine.  I really, really, really don’t like snakes.

Last night, when my youngest went out to lock the chicken house, she heard a rustling in the leaves and saw a snake.  With relative calm, she came to let me know.  I encouraged her (shrieking) to go tell her Dad.  There are, after all, women’s jobs and men’s jobs.  Snakes – definitely man work.

Husband deftly shot the head right off of that 5+ foot rat snake.  End of story, right?

Tonight, youngest daughter quietly suggested that it might be my turn to shut up the chickens.  Sure, no problem.  Son bravely volunteered to accompany me armed with his sword:  A Dunedain chieftain’s longsword that was used by Aragon.  Not the actual sword, but a replica.  Inwardly I was laughing at him.  As I was locking up the chickens, he asked why we had left the snake in the netting surrounding the chicken yard.

I replied that the snake had been thrown way across the yard to be part of the ecosystem – to be eaten by some kind of predator farther up the food chain.

He replied that this had obviously not happened as the snake was right there in front of him.

Sure enough, there was another snake.

Oldest daughter comes to the rescue with the shotgun.  Son and oldest daughter argue over who will shoot the snake.  I will spare you the ensuing lengthy discussion (argument) between siblings.  Oldest daughter shoots snake with the double barrel shotgun.  Son claims she missed and she claims she winged him.  To be fair, the snake had a very small head.  It was dark.  It is unclear whether she mortally wounded the snake.  Son hacked at the snake’s head with his sword.  Son’s friend removed the snake’s head with a bowie knife.  I’m pretty sure the snake was dead at that point.

During this process, I have called husband at work.  He is listening to the play-by-play commentary by youngest daughter as she sits in the house watching through the window.

He repeatedly asks what kind of snake it is.  It was hard to tell at this point.  Remember, it was dark outside and the snake was not in one piece anymore.  Closer examination of the corpse revealed it to be another rat snake.

A cleansing ceremony with fire has completed the evenings’ events.  The snake has been doused with lighter fluid, cremated and finished off with a fire extinguisher.

Oldest daughter is online looking for ways to discourage snakes from taking up residence around here.  A brainstorming session came up with numerous possible solutions including ordering mongoose urine online.  I’m encouraging further research.

Decluttered today:

  1. a snake
  2. more construction left-overs
  3. a shirt
  4. a pile of cardboard boxes saved for some unknown future use
  5. a bowl

As the Crow Flies

As the Crow Flies is a pretty common saying around here.  We really just live a few miles from a state highway if you look at a map, but it’s about 15 miles driving distance.

A friend once hiked it as the crow flies on the recommendation of my daughter while looking for a lost dog.  This was a bad idea for two reasons.  My daughter is both direction and distance impaired on a major scale and cross-country involves two river crossings, wildlife fences, wildlife including snakes and wild hogs, and ranches with gun-loving owners.  Luckily the friend looking for the dog has advanced military training, enjoyed seeing a zebra in real life and only suffered a spider bite.

Anyway, I’m using this phrase to refer to my decluttering journey.  As the crow flies is a simple enough plan.  Get rid of the stuff you don’t want or need, find a place for the stuff you keep and regularly pick up after yourself and clean afterwards.  Simple, right?

Today, I’m in the master bedroom.  After a fit of sneezing last night, I took a good look around the room.  (No judgement right?)  Piles of stuff, dog hair, dust, spider webs, a few dead June bugs, and more dust.  I had considered this room fairly decluttered.

Found on top of the blanket trunk

  •   three comforters that are used when it’s cold around the house and by spontaneous over-night guests.  It’s summer and we don’t have central air-conditioning right now.  How many blankets do we need?  More importantly, why didn’t whoever used the blankets fold them and put them up?  Two comforters gone to the thrift store. But first, I have to wash and dry them – in the poverty washer.  That’s more than a few miles or a few minutes.  I also found two pillows that look pretty on the bed but we don’t actually sleep with. That’s why they are in the pile.  Gone into the trash.  I’m living in real life, not a magazine!

Found on top of the dresser

  •   a lot of pens which explains why I can never find one at the desk.
  • Various earrings with no matches. Hmmm?  Did I take my earrings off in two different places?  In the jewelry organizer to try to match up.  I need to re-evaluate what’s in there.  I don’t wear a lot of jewelry.
  • A phone charger that I moved to the drawer that holds electronic stuff – most of which I can’t identify.  I need to ask one of the kid’s to figure out what’s good and what’s not.
  • Stuff the kids made me that I don’t know what to do with.  Obviously I’ve just been moving this stuff from one place to another to avoid making a decision.  The easy answer is to keep the kids and get rid of the stuff.  It’s not easy.  I’ve started a plastic storage box labeled “treasures” and placed it in the new storage space.
  • My missing hair brush, two pair of scissors, a Hercules hook, a pile of change and the change bank that I should be collecting it in, batteries, a Band-Aid (new, thank goodness), hair ties, two clean socks with no mates, expired coupons for free salads, and my missing bra

Under the bed

  • a long-sleeved shirt that I bought for the winter never worn with tags (yes, months ago)
  • 6 dirty socks.  3 of them belonging to my children and why are my children’s dirty socks under my bed?  None of them have mates.
  • two more phone chargers which explains why we can never find one.  I guess I need to apologize to my kids for accusing them of stealing mine.
  • coat hangers
  • two food storage containers and a paper plate – all licked clean.  That would be Matilda the Basset Hound and thief extraordinaire.
  • three books that I’ve already read and thought went to the thrift store

Okay, not a lot gone unless you count the dog hair and dust:  a couple of blankets, some jewelry, chewed up storage containers, 3 books and two pillows.

Total time is almost two hours.  The room is clean and tidy. Some more stuff is gone.  I’ll sleep better.  This is not a journey as the crow flies.  I’m definitely taking the long way ’round.

 

A Different Picture

When I think of simple, intentional living that includes avoiding debt, reducing purchases and living a more self-sufficient life, I get a picture in my head.  Green gardens with chickens roaming free, uncluttered living spaces, and a general air of peace and calm.  You’ve all seen those photos in magazines and all over the internet – living “green”, paying off debt, seeking the good life.  And it’s a great dream!  I’m working on it myself, but sometimes I’m disappointed in how this whole concept plays out in the real world.

The reality is a different picture entirely.0506161701a (3).jpg

So, this is my laundry room (sort of).  I did move the dirty laundry out of the way to make myself appear tidier that I am.  I also picked up the wads of lint that were hiding under the dirty laundry.

The plywood is temporarily covering the ginormous hole from the water leak that remained hidden until the floor caved in.  We’re replacing flooring paycheck by paycheck (no more debt here).

A loooooong time ago, the washer started making a noise.  Not just any noise.  Imagine the most ear-splitting, hair-raising, metal grating on metal sound you can possibly imagine and multiply it by 100.  That’s the kind of noise I’m talking about.  I even blogged about it here and posted pictures of our do-it-yourself washer repair.

In general, the washer has continued to work okay.  It tends to forget what it’s doing and shut itself down mid-cycle.  That’s alright.  I sometimes forget what I’m doing mid-project also.  Did I mention that it’s paid for?

The problem is this:  you can’t balance it and it’s making the noise again.  The dryer (by the door) is level.  The washer thinks it’s level in the position that its in now.  So, I’ve rigged this simple machine lever to hold the washer in the position that makes it happy.  If the washer is happy (and quiet) then I’m happier.

Sometimes the simple life I’m seeking looks pretty crappy.  A worn-out (but paid for) washer rigged in a uneven position using a broken broom handle and a vacuum cleaner. You can’t get to the dryer holding an armful of clothes without stepping over the stick.  My shins are covered in bruises.  If the movement of the washer knock the stick out of place, you have to run down the hall with your hands over your ears and try to get the washer back into it’s “happy place”.

But, today was payday and another $15 went into the new washer fund.  I figured out a solution to the problem.  We had a homeschool lesson about simple machines.  It’s not a pretty picture, but it works.

And by the way, when you let your chickens free-range, they poop on your porch.  That’s not so pretty either.

 

Weekend

We’re hustling and bustling around getting ready for a busy weekend.  Always so much to do on the weekends.

Hubby and son are working at their jobs and planning on some home improvement projects.  They are hoping to splash some paint on the walls of our main living area – a clean and bright white shade to lighten things up.   Plywood “flooring” has also been purchased.  It’s going to be installed in full sheets over the existing floor and coated with some shiny polyurethane. I’m hoping for a clean and simple “Scandinavian” look.   We’ve researched and pondered many different flooring types and decided that this is an affordable (and therefore, possible) option.  If we get rich later on in life (HA) we can just floor over the plywood.

This has been a good learning and growth experience for me.  I’ve had to think about what I need and what I want.  I’ve had to discern what I can be happy with and let go of what others might think of my choices and decisions.  It all comes down to what will make us happy when we walk in our front door. In my struggle to be “normal” and balance that desire with who I really am, I’m constantly comparing myself to others.  But, that’s changing.  Yea!

I’m happy with our new floor plan.  But, more importantly, I’m comfortable with it.  It’s a good decision for us.  I think it’s going to look great and suit our lifestyle.  Even better, it’s not going to cost a fortune.  We’ve saved up the cash to pay for it outright.  As we save more money, we can continue it throughout the rest of the house and not have to worry about matching the flooring. No debt.  No overextending ourselves.

While the family is slaving away here at the homestead, I will be off once again to Sherwood Forest Faire for another weekend of fun and merriment.  Well, mainly I’ll be slaving away in the kitchen while others are making merry.  Never fear, though.  I’ve managed to have a bit of fun myself. 

I don’t watch a lot of television. (I thought about not sharing this and fostering an image of an intellectual who reads the classics and eschews television in favor of more life-enriching experiences.)

But, the fact is, I freakin’ love Supernatural.  It’s just about the only show that I watch, other than British mysteries.  And I have an embarrassing infatuation with Dean Winchester.   And this happened last Sunday!  I always hoped that I’d be the mature individual who saw a celebrity and calmly walked past without becoming a flaming idiot.  Nope.  Didn’t happen.  I turned into a crazy, stalker-fan.  Sigh.  At least I haven’t printed it out and framed it…yet.  It would look great next to my life-sized cardboard cut-out of Jensen Ackles that currently lives in my studio.  For the record, I didn’t purchase said item.  It was a Christmas gift from my son.

Well, off to another adventure filled weekend in the Forest.  Wonder what will happen this weekend?

 

Spring?

There are signs all around Faith Acre that indicate spring is imminent…except for today’s weather.  It is rainy and icky and cool.  I’m not complaining.  We need all the rain we can get to make it through our dry, hot summer. Cool weather is definitely better than cold or hot.  It’s just the kind of weather that makes me want to take a nap.  Well, honestly, I can pretty much be in the mood to take a nap no matter what the weather, but you know what I mean.

Nonetheless, I know that spring is here for two reasons. First of all – remember last year when the bird tried to move inside the house? https://wordpress.com/post/faithacrestudio.com/461

Well, he’s back.  Maybe not the same bird.  It’s hard to tell.  They all look alike to me.  Building in the same spots as last year – above the kitchen cabinet and the ceiling fan light fixture in the dining room.  I cleaned the nests out this morning.  They are being rebuilt this afternoon.  I’ve closed the door.  I’m letting the dogs in and out every five seconds.  Maybe every five minutes.  A whole, freaking lot anyway.  Definitely doing a doggy door this year.  Of course, I’m not sure that the bird won’t figure out how to use the doggy door before my dogs do.  They’re not the brightest pups in the pack.  I know the raccoons, possums and field mice will figure it out.  Maybe letting the bird live inside is the best option.

And last night we forgot to lock the chickens up in their coop at dusk.  The ladies go into the coop on their own, but we’ve still got to secure the door to keep them safe from predators.  We got home around nine and there was one of the chickens running around the front yard braving the dark and stormy night.

When we headed towards the chicken yard, she followed close behind vocally letting us know that we had failed at being competent poultry farmers.  As we approached the yard, it became evident that something was amiss.  The other 12 hens were running around flapping their wings and generally raising a ruckus.  When my daughter pointed the flashlight into the coop we saw a pair of glowing eyes.  A very pregnant possum had taken up residence in the dry shelter of the chicken coop.  She was reluctant to leave.  My oldest daughter tried to shoo her out.  She hissed.  I suggested that she push her out.

I received the “glare of death”.  You know the one I’m talking about.  The one that daughters learn about the time they turn 11 or 12.  The one that silently says that you are quite possibly the stupidest thing that manages to survive on the planet.

“You want me to poke the possum?”

“Well, yea.  She doesn’t seem to be listening to you when you tell her to get out.”

“You want me to poke the hissing possum?”

“Yes.”

“You want me to poke the hissing, possibly rabid, sharp-toothed possum?”

“Maybe you could use a stick.  Possums are almost blind.  She can’t see you to bite you.”

This went on for a while as we stood in the pouring rain.  Finally, the possum was removed from the coop.  The chickens were placed in the coop. They weren’t excited about it.  We put one in and two came out.  They didn’t like the smell of the possum.  Forty-five minutes later the job was complete.

I wonder how many babies that possum is going to birth?