Friday, November 16, 2012

A little of this, a little of that

I extend a hearty thank you for all the kindness and supportive words that were extended to me after my last post.  I was deeply touched by the outpouring of compassion and empathy you showered upon me. As one you you wrote, some days are harder than others, and it is not always predictable when those waves of grief will hit.  As part of my self-care, I always take Ryan's birthday and the anniversary of the day he died off of work.  On those days, I reflect and remember, make a point of treating myself gently, and spend time with my daughter.  

Thank you for the genuine support and for allowing me to share some of my process with you. 

 Big hugs to you all!!

Last month we traveled to Arkansas for a few days, staying in North Little Rock at the lovely Baker House Bed & Breakfast (above)

and then moving on to Hot Springs, where the following photos were taken.

 Hot Springs is actually located inside the boundaries of a national park.  

Water emerges from the springs at 147 degrees fahrenheit, and is cooled by the bathhouses before being pumped into bathing pools or tubs.

In its heyday, there were over half a million visitors to Hot Springs each year.  Many celebrities and mafioso partook of the healing waters.  My time at the bathhouse was pure bliss!  Merely soaking in the various pools, getting out to cool off, getting back in to float in mineral-steeped warmth was the highlight of my year up until that point in time.

A grand promenade sits on the hillside overlooking the downtown.  This view is from the far end of the promenade, just outside the gates of the former naval hospital that looms over the town.

Our house drama continues.  We were supposed to have the closing today, but due to a few hiccups, things have been delayed.  We are now in the process of negotiating an extension.  By the end of the day, some things should be clarified, and we should have a definite timeframe.  

I hope this finds you all well and happy, as the Thanksgiving holiday approaches.  

Until next time...


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Roses for remembrance and some promising news

Some lovely fall roses bloomed just for this occasion:  today would have been my son, Ryan's, 23rd birthday.  I am honoring and remembering him today.

On another note:

We are under contract on the house purchase.  Please continue to keep your fingers (and everything else) crossed that the bank accepts our offer, as this is a short sale, and they have the final say.  

Here are a couple of pictures taken the day of the inspection...

Living room with true divided-light windows and wood burning fireplace insert.  The floors are oak.  All original doors and trim are intact.  The house was built in 1934 and was moved to its current location in the 1950's when the university in town expanded.

Back side of living room showing original french doors leading out to a screened porch.  The huge back yard can just barely be seen through the doors.

Kitchen.  Not sure about the red pendant lights or the cutesy curtains, but I love the layout, the butcher block island top,  and the cabinet space.

More photos to come as the deal progresses.  The house needs some system updates and fixes, such as a new boiler and cleaning up of some of the wiring.  Structurally, it is quite sound.

I hope today finds you all well and happy. 

Until next time...

Monday, October 15, 2012

Seeking a little solitude

Yesterday afternoon we got out for a short walk in a secluded area of the Shawnee National Forest close to where I live.  This is the scene there this fall, with trees more beautiful than I have seen in years.  Nature is my solace.  

In regards to questions about why I am wanting to move (again), I will fill you in.  Those of you who have been with me for awhile know that I have moved 3 times in the past 2 years.  Two of those houses were rentals, and I have a deep need to set down roots in a place I own.  This summer we moved into my sweetie's former law office, which is a building he owns.  This home is quite lovely, but it lacks the one things that realtors constantly harp on-- location, location, location.  An ideal location for a home and for a business are 2 very different things.  The house sits on the main street running through town, and there is near-constant traffic noise.  And since it was once an office, it has no back yard; there is, instead, a parking lot behind the house.  The other annoyance is that the neighbor to the west is a carryout pizza restaurant, whose light blaze all night long.  If it were possible to air lift this house to a piece of small acreage outside of town, I would find that to be the best of all worlds; alas, this is an impossibility. Sometimes it feels to me like apartment living, which is something that does not fit my needs for connecting with nature in my own backyard.  My goal in moving here in the first place was to try to allow some time to pass in order to recoup some of the money we invested in renovating it and to wait for the real estate market to improve before selling.  It was never meant to be a long-term arrangement.

My sweetie also longs for the open spaces and greenery of the tiny cottage we rented last year.  We miss being able to hear the owls in the evenings, being awakened by birdsong, seeing deer in the yard, viewing stars without the visual noise of street lights.  I deeply miss having a garden.  And now that we have Sadie, we NEED a yard for her to romp in, and, as my mom says, "do dog stuff."  We have found a house with a fabulous location, just outside of a nearby community.  It is closer to work for both of us, closer to friends, and closer to good grocery stores and restaurants.  There is space and privacy outside, and the inside is charming.   

Thank you so much for the positive energy around this house.  Nothing is finalized on paper yet, but things are heading in the right direction!

I hope this clarifies things.  

Until next time...


Sunday, October 14, 2012

Changes that accompany fall

Fall brings many changes:

trees blaze amber, crimson and persimmon,

nights lengthen,

temperatures begin to drop.

For many of us, thoughts turn to hearth and home.

We long for cozy evenings by the fire,

pots of soup simmering on the stove,

good books to lose ourselves in,

snuggling under a bevy of blankets.

In honor of Halloween, I brought in a couple bits of orange, a color I have never used in my house before.  Black, grey, and cream keep it from being overbearing.

My reading corner gets into the game, with iron and orange accents.

The buffet in the dining room boasts a collection of earthy accents and a spooky mirror, perfect for Halloween.

Pyewacket sits next to the coffee table centerpiece.  She blends well with any decorating scheme!

 Another view of the living room, bathed in natural light.

This fall has been particularly busy.  We have traveled to Chicago to take Sadie to puppy boarding school, where she is going through an intensive training program.  She comes home next week.  We have also traveled to Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we discovered the bliss of soaking in the thermal baths there.  

And we have also been doing some serious house-hunting.  We made an offer on an adorable cottage that I have fallen in love with.  Please keep your fingers crossed that the deal goes through.

Wishing you peace and wellness as the fall progresses.

Until next time...


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Meet Sadie

Sadie is a little lady with a storied past.  She followed us home one Sunday evening while we were out walking around our neighborhood.  We decided to keep her overnight and gave her a bath to rid her of the worst flea-infestation I have ever seen, and then we got her set up in a crate on the front porch for the night.  

The next day, my honey took her to the vet and had her immunized and treated for a multitude of other parasites.  We continued to hang onto her for a few more days.  She is only 4 months old and full of as much love as exuberance, being a lab (and possibly border collie) mix.  Considering that we had not planned to get a dog and we have very little yard, by the end of the week, I had decided to take her to a local no-kill shelter to hopefully be adopted by a loving owner.  So, with tears in my eyes, I turned her and all her medicines,  leash, and harness over to the nice woman at the shelter.

A few days went by.  I started checking the shelter's facebook page to look for updates about her.  She was officially available for adoption.  Seeing her face on the computer caused my tears to resume .  It's silly, I know, but I got so upset over giving her up.  It felt like my heart was torn from my chest.  I missed her terribly.  Despite her youthful energy, she was also extremely smart and loving.  I knew that as an adult dog, she would be just perfect for my family.  

On Saturday, one week after I had surrendered her, the shelter was hosting an adoption fair at Petco.  I had to go there to get supplies for my cats and told myself that if she was available, I would see about getting her back.  In the meantime, we had spoken with some friends who are professional dog trainers about the possibility of working with her intensively, and they agreed to do this as a favor to us.

So, I anxiously went to Petco, and there she was, sitting in the crate chewing on a bone.  I let her out of the cage and she began kissing me all over and wagging her tail furiously.  "Where have you been," she seemed to ask me.  I started getting teary eyed again  as I told the worker that I was the person who had found and then surrendered her.  I said that I was interested in getting her back, and the worker made a phone call to the owner of the shelter who agreed to let me adopt her officially.  

So now, we have a puppy in the house.  She has changed my life dramatically.  We are diligent about twice daily walks and chew toys and giving her little tasks to keep her from being bored.  She is gentle with my cats, although sometimes she is driven to chase them until they reach a higher ground.  I guess falling in love is always inconvenient and complicates things, but every time she sits on my foot and looks up at me with those deep, brown eyes, I realize how smitten I am.

Until next time...


Friday, September 7, 2012

Misty Morning

Here are some vacation pictures that were taken last month in the Cumberland Mountains of east Tennessee.

We stayed at a lovely Bed & Breakfast, The Garden Inn at Bee Rock, and this was the view from the terrace the morning we headed home.

It has been raining for about a week in my part of the world, and the crunchy, brown-ness of the summer drought has given way to lush landscapes once again.  Rain makes me pensive.  I am looking forward to the quiet of fall, after the noise of summertime.

Wishing you a peaceful weekend.

Until next time...


Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close

I recently saw this movie for the first time the, not really knowing much about it other than that it was quite well-received by critics and fans alike.  

The Warner Brothers film, starring Tom Hanks, Sandra Bullock, Max Von Sydow, and Thomas Horn, was directed by Stephen Daldry, who also directed The Hours.  

It is based on the novel by Johnathan Safran Foer, which I have not yet read.

  It is about a young boy named Oskar Schell, played by Thomas Horn, who is a bit different from other people in the ways he both sees and interacts with the world.

His father, played by Tom Hanks, has a way of drawing him out and building upon his strengths of intelligence, focus, and sensitivity. 

Oskar and his father go on elaborate treasure hunts through Central Park, a strategy developed by  Oskar's father to get him out into the world, instead of shrinking from it.

A disaster befalls the family, and Oskar is left without his dad.  He struggles to hold onto his father in any way he can, and this desire leads him on a quest of his own to uncover a mystery left behind by his dad.

He meets and is aided by hundreds of people along the way, including a friend of his grandmother's "from the old country," played by Max Von Sydow.  

Sandra Bullock, as the mother, does what many mothers find hardest to do-- giving their children freedom to go and discover what lies beyond the sheltering walls of home and family, while still providing the safety net they need should they stumble and fall.

His adventures bring them close together as they both grapple with the worst loss either of them can imagine.

My own experiences with loss are deep and on-going, as my long-time readers are aware, which is why this film impacted me so dramatically.  There is one scene where Oskar talks about the days since his father's passing slipping away and his dread as this occurs, as if the march of time could further the disconnect between the living and the dead.  I remember being in this mindset after my son, Ryan's death.  Each day, then week, then month, then year was another jab to the heart, drawing him further away from me.  Now, four and a half years, and additional losses, later, I realize that time was not the enemy.  I have since stopped fighting it.  The clock ticks, the days roll, the seasons turn, and my life has gone on. 

By the end of the film, Oskar finds a way to keep living with this loss, partly by losing his self-imposed isolation and enriching his connections to others, partly through forgiveness of himself and those around him.  About four months after my son died, I remember consciously choosing to live.  There is a difference between existing, which involves taking up oxygen and space; and living, which involves a conscious engagement with one's life.  Just because Ryan's life had ended, did not mean mine was over.  I had other people, including my daughter, whom I continued to love; things I wanted to experience; places I wanted to see; poems and stories I wanted to write; art I wanted to create; gardens I wanted to plant; houses I wanted to revive.  Those needs and wants compelled me into this life I have now.  My eyes are open to the life I have chosen, my heart is open to the pain and the beauty that surrounds me, my mind is open to all there is to learn.  Oskar goes through the same process on his wild-goose chase.  In the end, his own life is affirmed.

Some works of art resonate so deeply within the psyche, we are forever enriched by having experienced them.  For me, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close was one such piece of art. 

Until next time...


Sunday, August 26, 2012

Summer into Fall

"Departing summer hath assumed an aspect tenderly illumed..."
~ William Wordsworth

As the summer light is changing and nights are coming on more quickly, my cottage decor is transitioning to fall.  All the pale blues that made up my summer color scheme have been replaced with warmer reds and tiny bursts of goldenrod.

The beauty of decorating with neutrals is that a simple change of throw pillows and accessories, such as the bowl of apples, yields a completely different mood.

The items on the shelf above the sofa, which is my substitute for a mantel, have become darker and more mysterious, in anticipation of the coming of autumn.  Mercury glass accents remain a constant, however.

This is the view from the front door looking toward the back door.  The house is open feels spacious, with the abundance of light and high ceilings.

The vignette on the dining room buffet still whispers of summer dreams, with the pond sailboat, starfish, driftwood, and large sea shell.  The photograph was taken by my dear artist friend,  JoAnna Johnson, whose 30 dresses series of photographs is simple haunting and evocative of dreams.

This is what you see as you look back toward the front door.  At some point I would like to acquire some black windsor dining chairs, but for now, the white pressback ones I have had for 20 years will suffice.

Tibetan prayer flags hang in the dining room doorway.  A air conditioning duct is close by, and they flutter in the man-made breeze.  These flags represent the five elements and are hung where they will be stirred by breezes.  The belief is that prayers will be blown by the wind and spread compassion and goodwill into the nearby spaces.  They bring a tiny burst of color into the creamy white spaces of my home.

Wishing you and opportunity to get outside and enjoy the late summer light, as it bathes the landscape in gold.

Until next time...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Spending Sunday in the Kitchen

Late summer is apple season in my part of the world.  
The crisp color and taste of Granny Smith apples make me smile.

Here they are, prepped for apple pie.

The completed pie, a request from my daughter in honor of her birthday. 

My white galley kitchen has loads of open shelves for displaying everyday dishes and glassware, along with a few treasures.

In addition to pie-baking, I tackled the stained porcelain of the kitchen sink.  This sink was probably installed in the 1950's, judging by the pattern on the formica that surrounds it.  It has seen many years of abuse and neglect, leaving some stains deeply etched into the porcelain.  

This was the sink after cleaning it out with regular dish soap.

My first round of serious stain treatment involved making a paste of baking soda and peroxide, scrubbing it into the basin, and letting it sit for about 15 minutes.

Some improvement was made.

The next phase involved using oxy clean and letting it sit on the surface for 15 minutes.

The final product, while not perfect is certainly a major improvement. I can live with it if or until we decide to replace it.  My fondness for old porcelain over cast iron fixtures runs deep-- they feel so solid and timeless.
 I used the same approach on the cast iron bathtub, which was not as badly worn, and all the stains disappeared.

After traveling earlier in the month, this is what I have been up to.  This week I started back to work.  How are you enjoying the last weeks of summer?


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