Saturday, July 27, 2019

Busy Hands Are Happy Hands, but we could use a break!

It has been another busy month.   We had turkeys, a hen and two young ones, in the back yard of my husband's "old"  house much of this month and that has been delightful.  They show up early in the morning and that's been perfect since we are up late at night and up again early each morning for appointments involving work and repair estimates for all three houses.    The turkeys have been our consolation prize for feeling a little overwhelmed!

Friday, July 26 -- We got the keys to our new house a week ago exactly, finally!, but then began the endless parade of estimates from painters.  My husband and I have always done our own painting but we promised each other that this time, hopefully the last time for a move, we would hire the work out.   He is a stickler for getting what seems like a MILLION estimates, so no actual painting has begun, which has made me a little crazy.   Since I can't move furniture in, or hang pictures, I've contented myself so far with buying the new washer and dryer (to be delivered next wednesday) and three Christmas trees (since I know where they will be stored and that area doesn't need painting.   (this last act horrified my husband, who has not had a Christmas tree in decades, and I refuse to comfort him with the fact that two of them are very small.  Hopefully he'll figure out that I could be otherwise distracted if the painting could get done so we could move in!)

The only other things I've moved in are the matched pair of duck decoys my brother made us as a wedding gift.   They are buffleheads -- did he intend a hidden message there??   And Jack played the bagpipes out in the back yard.   Both of us  seem to be finding our way to make the home our own even before we can live there.  Oh, and a coffee pot.  That goes without saying, and we have enjoyed drinking coffee in our empty rooms while we wait for painters to arrive.

But wait -- Do you hear the trumpets, the choir of angels?????    My husband just chose a painter!!!!!   He starts early next Monday!!

Saturday -- There were no early morning appointments today for a change and my husband let me sleep in, sneaking out of the room early, turning off alarms, and taking devices with him.   Good grief, it was nearly noon when I finally woke up,  both rested and horrified.   That meant I needed to fit lots of errands into half a day, so it was a mixed blessing.  But I got a few things done, including some cooking and household chores and errands.  Guilt work, mostly.

Tomorrow I hope to get back to the New House to start removing wall  plates and finalizing paint color decisions.   We missed the early summer flowers there so I am not sure what plantings we have, but it will be fun to observe.  We have a few pretties now, though, and lots of towering trees.  I bought my husband a surprise hammock that will arrive next week so he can better study those trees!

There will no doubt be lots more photos to come as we explore and take breaks at our new abode.   There is lots of work to be done before we are there full time, but my true goal is to get to the point where we can just be lazy there.  :)

Saturday, June 22, 2019

The Slow Slide Into Summer

The weather continues to be unseasonable.    Yesterday was in the 50's, today the mid-70's, and nights have temps as low as the 40's.   As my Grands point out, no swimming weather yet because we haven't had the string of warmth necessary to take the chill off their pool.   I absolutely agree with them, even though I grew up swimming in the St. Clair River, a shipping channel that never gets warm.   Those cold weather days are behind me.

It is probably just as well, because I seriously need to get packing now that WE'VE BOUGHT A HOUSE!!!  We don't get occupancy until July 20, so we wonder from time to time whether we found a house we love or whether we just got worn down after more than a year of looking.   It definitely has aspects about it that were on our NEVER AGAIN* list, and is lacking qualities that were on our MUST HAVE** list, but we were won over before we even walked inside by the trilliums in the front yard and the huge bleeding heart plant and small creek in the back.   We had given up our dream of a county home because Jack can't drive since his stroke and we felt we needed to have some city-type services within walking distance.   This house is smack dab within the city limits, but has a very country feel.   And when we met the sellers at closing, they remarked that they've had deer and turkeys raising their families every year in their back yard by the creek, a definite bonus for us!   

My sewing and cooking mojos ebb and flow.   After grabbing restaurant food all week, I cooked two meals today.  I've recently sewed thank you gifts for a few people who have helped us this summer, but lots more gets added to my list than gets done.   I am hoping that once I am in a single kitchen and single sewing room, rather than dividing time between two houses, that I will get my mojo back.

We have been working at some Together Time, too, and just got back from a short trip to Washington D.C.   We traveled by train, as Jack prefers to do.  His daughter lives there so visiting her was the highlight of the trip.    And we ate Oh-So-Very well!   

The only 'touristy" thing we did was to visit Jon Stewart's Presidential Twitter Library, a two-day exhibit of Trump's tweets up to this point.   The premise is that, since he has stated that he doesn't keep a diary, his tweet's will be what is left to historians when he leaves office.   It was interested and disturbing and largely presented without comment.   One hysterical political dig that apparently they couldn't resist was to have name tags for visitors automatically generated so that we would know what the president would call us if he ever tweets about us.  In keeping with Trump's pattern of giving women physical insults and men insults about their character,  I was "Bowlegged Gail" and my husband was "Aimless Jack."

I also spend time whenever I can with my busy Grandchildren.   This week I took them to a "Drawing Class" as a local museum, which was fun for all of us.   We were told to draw either a head, a torso, or hip and legs, and then the 'teachers' randomly assembled them.   

Fun.  The teachers pulled my 12-year-old Granddaughter aside to encourage her to pursue art; no question, the girl loves to draw!  But I also love my Grandson's more subtle style, especially his kilted legs.  :)

Friday, May 10, 2019

A Blooming Slow Start To Spring

The days have been (mostly) beautiful this week.   Sunny and almost warm.   I had to laugh as I was taking my walk this evening -- there were people jogging in shorts and tank tops, while I had on my mid-winter coats, hands deep in my pockets for warmth, with a short neck gaiter and wishing I'd brought another to cover my ears!  I thought the joggers were crazy and no doubt they thought the same of me but in my defense, there IS a frost warning for tonight.

Still, despite the too-chilly weather, my grandkids' Youth Orchestra had their Spring concert last weekend,   I am so very proud of those kids; the orchestra is pretty amazing.

I drove north to visit my brother again this week, he is always so glad to see me, although he tires of it pretty quickly.   My sweet husband made him a shirt -- Jack sews everything, so far, out of fleece, and he saw this fabric covered with lake fish and thought of my brother, who has always been an avid fisherman.   These days my brother is always cold, so he appreciated the fleece and put it right on.  My brother is coming to the end of re-habbing yet another house, and he hopes to have this one done before he dies.   He has done the hard work -- even curing his own wood to reside it the same way as was done when it was originally built -- so now it's just finish work.   The carpet was being put in today but I probably won't get to see it until afterour Illinois trip.

We saw 3 houses today, none made us fall in love.   It is almost a game now, although not all that much fun.

In the sewing world, not a lot has gotten done, but I did finish another celtic heart -- I am hoping to make several of these for my sisters in law.    Lots to do, new things on my list all the time.   Taking one step at a time!

Thursday, May 2, 2019

Needle and Thread and a Bandage

I finally did it, I sewed through my finger.   I have nipped myself a time or two over the years, but this time I did an actual through-and-through.   Thank goodness I didn't break the needle; thank goodness I didn't hit the bone.   When I saw the point of blood on the other side,  I wanted to take a photo for your enjoyment, but I was unexpectedly queasy for a bit.   It did hurt like billy-o, but not for long, and I am only somewhat sore now, two days later.

In the meantime, though, I sewed a little.  I have a couple of friends, I met them when our Search and Rescue group was looking for their missing father.  They were grateful for our support and have done a lot to support us in the three years since his body was recovered.   They love the legend that the sighting of a cardinal is a visit from the soul of a loved one, so I am working on cardinal towels to take them as a small gift.   

And I made this cute little fox pouch for my granddaughter, whose favorite animal (aside from a pangolin) is the fox.  Pangolin patterns are hard to find, but I thought this little fox was cute.

It is still cold, or at least too cold for me, but we continue to have hopeful little signs of spring.  Just a few more weeks and I should be able to complain about it being too hot again!

I talked to my oldest brother today.  I make up every dopey excuse I can think of to call him lately.   He talked about wrapping his mind around the concept of hospice, about the idea that they won't treat his infections or do anything to prolong his life.  That is not an easy pill to swallow, so he decided to focus on the silver linings of it all.   And he said that becoming so close to me is the silver-est lining of them all.   Tears in my eyes, that come so easily these days, all over again.

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Sewing and Stuff

My husband and I expected to break in the newest embroidery machine right away when he bought it in January, but life got out of hand, as it tends to do lately.   We did not set it up and turn it on until March 31, and 2 1/2 weeks later it is already in the repair shop with a long list of troubles.   This is never what you hope for, especially when you are buying the top of the line in anything.    I will be using the machine at an Anita Goodesign seminar this weekend and, if there are any problems then, I will be leaving it at the same shop for another week.   Bummer, I have a long list of projects in the line-up that I am eager to keep going, mostly from Sweet Pea designs.  They are well written and quite inexpensive for machine embroidery designs.  Although it's been hard to find time at the machine, I did manage to get a few projects and one pillow finished before I "lost" the machine, but I have several more that I'd like to get finished soon!

Meanwhile, my husband is going nuts with his serger, and has made nearly a dozen t-shirts out of fleece.  He didn't know that we don't make t-shirts out of fleece, so he did, just like he made countless pairs of socks out of fleece.   I wear the socks all the time because they are comfortable and have such fun patterns, and the t-shirts are also amazingly comfortable, and they wick moisture away; he's made a few a little longer so that I can wear them as nighties as the air is still very chilly at night and he prefers to sleep with the windows open.  

I like open windows, too, but a little later in the season.   It is supposed to go up to 70-F today, but snow is in the forecast for the weekend. 

Despite the forecast, the trees are starting to wake up, and it's a lovely time of year.  

Last weekend my three siblings and I (and my husband) spent an overnight in our childhood small town, where both brothers graduated from high school.  Our lodging, the Inn on Water Street, overlooks the St. Clair River, and it was fun to watch the local ducks and freighters again.  We lived on the river as kids, and used to be able to identify every smoke stack.  My oldest brother always loved the ducks, and has been making decoys since he was just a kid in high school.  I treasure the ones he's given me.

Off to do the day's errands.   We are going to look at an unlikely house that's for sale, and pick up ice cream for my step son's birthday tomorrow.   It is sunny for a change, so it will be a nice day to get out!

Thursday, April 11, 2019

Always Winter and Never Christmas

The inhabitants of Narnia complained that it was always winter and never Christmas when the white witch was in charge, and that's pretty much what this winter  has felt like to me.   Because of sibling medical needs, we didn't celebrate Christmas or even live together last year, despite our December 8 marriage.   We've woken up a few times in the last week to snow, again.    But I have seen a few crocuses in bloom and the red-winged blackbirds and robins are back, so surely surely surely Spring must be planning to arrive soon.

On the other hand, my Christmas cactus is blooming for the third time since Christmas, so anything is possible.

On one of the nice days in between falling snow and painful cold, we took my brother for lunch and a long drive and, mid way, we visited an Elk Park in Gaylord.    I very much want to go exploring the area of the State where wild elk still roam, but this had to do for now since no one was up to more time in the car.   I would like to go elk-seeking in the autumn when they begin their mating behaviors and are supposedly very vocal.

I have finally started to use the ridiculously expensive embroidery machine my husband thought we absolutely had to have, and I am enjoying it.   I have the benefit of the machine without any of the angst . . . although its purchase was not a shared decision, it wasn't bought out of shared funds, either, so I have guilt free use of the machine.  Meanwhile, he has taken over the serger he also bought and has already made himself two t-shirts in addition to countless pairs of socks.  With all the family stuff going on, we are enjoying the distraction.

Today is my 12-year Blog-iversary.   So much has changed in my life, my family, and our world since I first started writing.   Thanks to you for sticking with me for however much time you've been visiting!

Saturday, April 6, 2019

Off Target

My brother is ten years older than I am,  just turning 79.   He is something of a character, but good as gold.   He has never knowingly cheated anyone and, although he can be as bullheaded as the best of them, and quick to judgment, he is always open to reason and quick to take responsibility when he decides he is wrong.   We were not close when we were young; the age difference was too great, and just about the time my daughter started to show signs of mental illness, he took on the too-common ideology of those who do not live with that kind of illness.  He was sure that my lax parenting was to blame, and I disliked what I considered his ill-informed conservative views.   At about the same time, he was going through difficulties of his own, and I was as sure that he was the cause of his troubles as he was sure that I was the cause of mine.   So neither of us were good listeners, and both of us were too full of certainty to let the other one topple our world view.   

Despite ourselves, we got older.

About ten years ago, actually almost exactly ten years ago, my daughter underwent a crisis and to my surprise, my brother called and said he had been an idiot to think that any kind of parenting issues could have caused her problems and that he was sorry he hadn't been there for me.   It turns out that he always has been the bigger person, genuinely wanting, even if sometimes failing, to do the right thing.   

We have become very close since then, and for years we have been the first person to hear the other's news, good or bad.   He still sees the world with fewer shades of gray than I do, but we respect and love each other in a way that both of us treasure.  And so, over time, I have become his patient advocate and the person who gets the call when things go awry.   As a result, I have been close at his side during his treatment for bladder cancer, and then for treatment of the very rare side effect that the cancer treatment caused.   Lately, things have gone from bad to worse, more quickly than we could have imagined, and now he has been diagnosed with an inoperable aneurysm that is steadily growing, untreatable because it is part of that rare side effect.   The doctors were candid:  it will kill him.   They do not know and will not predict when.   It could have been last week, but it wasn't.   So now it could be today, or next week, or next month, or even next year.  There is nothing they can do to treat it or to stop it.

And so we wait.

Meanwhile, he and I are scrambling to get his affairs in order.   Things we meant to do years ago have suddenly become as urgent as they should have been all along.   He and I disagree, a lot, about where his estate priorities should be, but I have spoken my piece more than once and am trying to step back and let him do whatever he has to do, no matter how foolish some of it looks to me.   I am afraid he will insist on continuing to support someone, a woman to whom he is not married, who has brought him nothing but pain for the last 20 years, at the expense of grandchildren who have brought him nothing but joy.   Whenever he asks, I state my mind, but he did not invite me to join him at the meeting with the estate lawyer, and so it is time for me to let it go.   

But honestly, we most likely would never have had the kind of talks we have had lately without this diagnosis.  I would never have been as candid about his relationship if the stakes weren't so high.  And we are not, by tradition, a demonstrative family.  He is uncomfortable talking about feelings and I have always gone easy on him, but no more.   Now he has to suffer my telling him I love him whenever we talk.   It's been a silver lining that I have had the opportunity to tell him that I will miss him terribly and cannot imagine a world or a life without him, and he has managed to tell me how much he values me in his life.

This morning I got a call from  hospice saying they couldn't reach my brother.   It didn't help that I had already awakened from a nightmare about missing an emergency call about him.     I told myself not to panic,  but he is so good about answering his phone, and even better about calling me back.  Both the hospice and I tried for well over two hours with no answer before I couldn't take it anymore.     Certainly, the hospice lady didn't help by telling me he could be lying there in pain.  I finally got into my car and drove the 2 1/2 hours to the house where he lives alone, calling him every half hour, and trying all the way there to ready myself for the worst.   When I arrived, he opened the door with a happy smile, delighted to see me.   Where was his phone?   Shut in a closet, on the charger.   He said he was sorry I had to make the drive, but really, really happy that I cared enough to do it.   We are both new to this threat of eminent death, obviously we still need to work on some of these little details.   We decided that my panicked drive north was a dry run, and went out to dinner.

I had a lot of nervous energy when I got back home, but now I'm ready for bed.  It's been a long and stressful day but, against all odds, it turned out to be a good one.   Because in the end, at least for now, we've dodged the bullet.

Tuesday, March 26, 2019

It is 25 degrees this morning, still chilly enough to enjoy our matching fleece socks!    Making socks has been my husband's favorite project these past few months, and everyone in the family has a variety of patterns.  Most of our days are very casual and I am still living and dressing out of an overnight bag that I refresh at home every few days, so it is always a happy accident when we find that we have dressed to match.

Although it is chilly again today, the sun is already shining and it should be a lovely day, filled with the promise of eventual Spring.  Yesterday was nice enough -- about 40 degrees -- to take a short walk in the local Dow Gardens and visit the annual Butterfly Exhibit.  It was good to shed our coats and spend a little time in a sunny, lush little building, surrounded by a variety of colorful butterflies.   I had forgotten that this week is Spring Break from the local schools, so there were lots of children there, too.  Perhaps we will try to go back next week when it will be a tad more quiet and with fewer small obstacles so that we can spend more time looking up than watching out for little ones!

We are more than ready for Spring, so the fresh flowers at the local grocery store seem to call my  name whenever I shop lately.

I am also just on the verge of being ready to start a sewing project, but first I need to take another unexpected trip to the Ann Arbor Hospital, where my brother was taken to the Emergency Room this morning after his routine doctor's appointment turned up some wonky test results.   I hope we get some answers this time . . .

Sunday, March 17, 2019

March On

I had a bit of my wedding bouquet made into a bead that I can wear as a necklace.  I have no idea why I did it, it was expensive and I am usually not so frivolous, but there it is.  A local shop dried petals from a few of my flowers and somehow turned them into jewelry.  It was an impulse purchase, but I am determined not to regret it.

I am not much of a jewelry person, so I always have second thoughts when I do buy something.  Years ago, I bought a pair of blue diamond earrings that were REALLY expensive and I felt so foolish and guilty, but my sister finally advised that I should wear them every day until I had worn them SO much that I could say they had only cost me pennies a day.   It's been quite awhile since she told me I had definitely gotten my moneys worth, and I doubt I've worn them since.   My bouquet necklace will be the same, I expect; I will wear it a lot to justify the cost, and then pack it away.   But I want my granddaughter to know what it is, since it will eventually go into her hands.  Since she was a musician at our wedding, I am hoping it will be a fun keepsake for her some day.

I have had fun lately with the Grands.  I took them to a fiddle concert last week, which was also, coincidentally, the night of our latest ice storm.  My granddaughter, who plays violin and flute, wants to learn to fiddle, and my grandson (who plays cello, baritone and tuba) enjoys hearing different techniques and styles.  Besides, they perform regularly and know what it is like to be on stage, so they are always a respectful and attentive audience.  Unfortunately the octogenarians in the row in front of us were decidedly not good listeners.   They had imbibed to excess of the wine sold at the concession stand, served in sippy cups like the kind they give to toddlers, and their group was loud and foul mouthed.  The old lady in front of my granddaughter held her phone up high, encased in a large leather folder that also contained her checkbook and cards, to video the concert, blocking out view for much of the concert.     At one point, a group of them stood up to cheer and yell at the stage and then one of them sat down, missing her chair, and landing right on the floor.  After hearing their  verbal reactions, my granddaughter whispered to me that she had heard the same language from middle schoolers, but it seemed even worse from someone as old as a grandmother.   I had to agree so it was a good reminder to me to mind my p's and q's.  We enjoyed the concert, but not as much as we could have, and that was a shame.

Dominoes Day is today on St. Patrick's Day so I made the American-Irish traditional meal of corned beef and cabbage, potatoes and carrots.   I made (not much of) an effort at green cupcakes, using a box mix and a packet of green jello -- they were very soft and crumbly; they overflowed the cupcake tins and had to be cut out, leaving a craggy mess that I covered as best I could with frosting.  But we are not a fussy crowd - they will no doubt get eaten even though they are not fabulous.   

My husband and I (yes, I do enjoy saying it)  are starting to work in earnest on the wedding celebration we promised to have with his family in Illinois in May.   Some of them live much further south and it would have been difficult, impossible, for most of them to travel to Michigan in December.  We have booked the hall and the hotel rooms and have placed inquiry calls out to a caterer and bakery.  Since we are traveling there I will need to think of simple decorations that I can pick up when we arrive -- balloons maybe?   I am starting to play with the wall hanging/quilted throw that I will eventually make as our wedding registry -- Jack and I signed the moon, my family in Michigan signed stars in blue, and Jack's family south of us will sign on yellow.   I won't tack the blue stars down yet for fear of running out of room, but I am excited to see it all come together after all the stars are in.

I am almost in the mood to sew again . . . It has been a long time.

Meanwhile, we are no closer to finding a house.  As I've said before, there is surely no hurry since we currently have two, but I will be glad when we are able to really settle down.  I have started just a little bit of organizing in my own house, hoping that Spring Fever will motivate me once the weather starts to warm a bit.   This week, in the course of decluttering,  I found an old chart that I had on my refrigerator when my Grandson was very little and kept there because he loved it so much.   His math brain enjoys charts, and we both thought this was a good one.   A good reminder for me, and hopefully to you, too.  Be happy.  :)

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

Snow Moon and Snow

It is snowing again today, which makes sense, I guess, since this week was the rise of the Snow Moon, another gorgeous super moon.   My new little camera -- a gift to myself, surprise! oh you shouldn't have -- takes better photos than my cell phone did, but so far I haven't figured out the right settings to pick up the moon's features, which were striking in real life.      But what all of this means to me is that we will put off our trip further north to visit my brother for at least another week, which is a disappointment to all of us.   Cabin fever is starting to itch a bit.

The local deer are feeling it, too, and they are grazing closer and closer to the edge of the road.  Last week I saw several lying down underneath trees, no more than 20 feet off the highway.   Soon they will lose all sense of caution -- again -- which can make driving a bit more nerve-wracking than usual.    I have never hit a deer, knock wood, which is a pretty good track record for a life-long Michigander.

Not a lot is new since we are not venturing far from home these days.   I am making long lists of the things I should be doing, but not doing many of them.  I have gotten a couple of test recipes lately for cocktails, which makes me thing that the America's Test Kitchen people are finally starting to understand me, so that has been fun.    We are not really big cocktail drinkers, so I have been making a single serving for 3 or 4 of us to share, but it's been an enjoyable experiment.   And I've been  baking more than usual, yogurt cakes and banana bread and such -- comfort foods.    All in all I  have no complaints.   Life is slow right now, but it's all good.