My favorite spot on the planet is Pocahontas County, West Virginia. From June 24th to June 30th, I attended Allegheny Echoes Writing Class. Wow. Just wow! I am renewed.
A couple of weeks ago I was sitting, minding my own business, at the laptop drinking coffee when Emmylou surprised me with a running leap into my lap. It ended with coffee all over the keyboard. I did all the things you’re supposed to do in such a situation to no avail.
The laptop keyboard refuses to work. It’s had plenty of time to dry out. The mouse and touchpad work fine, but no dice on the keyboard.
So, I bought a refurbished laptop with Windows 7 Pro on it, but that’s going back. The wifi wouldn’t work. In a fit of desperation, I found an older model, but brand new laptop with Windows 7. It arrived today.
I hate setting up computers.
Part of my job is tech support and I’m responsible for setting up new computers. Right now, I have 10 laptops and 2 desktops waiting on me. I didn’t need a disaster at home.
But I love Emmylou, I do I do.
No matter how many times I do it, there’s always a glitch, a problem, a snafu, a something. Right now, the user interface for Facebook on the new laptop is unusable.
It’s been a lovely day, though. Today is Veteran’s Day and I’ve been deep in thought about my dad’s Marine Corps experience as well as my own military brat upbringing. I had my contractor out here to do a bunch of honey-dos that aren’t really honey-dos if you have to pay, but you know what I mean – just minor repairs to this and that. Well, minor, except maybe for the roof. Hoo boy, I don’t need bad news there.
I’m getting my mojo back. It’s been a long two and half years, but I feel like I’m settling back into myself. We’ll see. I’m hopeful.
I commented on Facebook that I have a lot of candles and the attendant candle holders. Once I got to thinking about it, I was, truly, astonished.
I wandered about the house taking photos of candles and candle holders. I do, quite literally, have candles in every room of the house.
I don’t light them as often as I should.
If I lit them all at once, the barn would probably burn down.
There is nothing, almost nothing, I guess, that isn’t improved when viewing it by candlelight. I know that I love how candles (and oil lamps of which I have more than a few) soften the harsh edges of life.
I’m always ready for the frequent power outages even if I do bitch about the lack of wifi.
Doug, too, enjoyed candles and many of those that I now have were his.
It’s been a long time since I’ve lit the house up and wandered from room to room marveling at all that life has given me. I love my home. I love my candles. I love my candle holders.
I am too fond of stuff and, hopefully, my newly adopted meditation practice (more on this tomorrow) will help me loosen the bonds of stuff, but, mostly, I find my treasures to be blessings and not burdens. Mostly.
There’s a great purge coming.
The past four days have been an adventure. Between Wednesday night and Thursday, I found 10 inches of snow outside The Barn. With great glee, I celebrated the announcement that a certain community college was closed both Thursday and Friday. At my place of employment, this means we are also closed and I don’t have to burn vacation days due to heavy snow. It doesn’t take a lot of snow to trap me on the hill and nearly a foot was way overkill.
We had eight inches of snow over the President’s Day weekend. I ended up with a full week off of work. It was a lovely respite, but I did nothing but sleep, eat, read and watch Downton Abbey.
I had big plans for these four days off, but as John Lennon said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making plans.” I seem to be in major nesting mode – I want The Barn to look as wonderful as I think it is, so a thorough cleaning was in order. I also was looking forward to cooking. After not cooking for most of the past ten years, I’m suddenly interested in it again.
Day 1 of my four-day weekend, Thursday, I did some triage cleaning (Chez Barn was/is a Superfund Site) and finally finished putting all the Christmas stuff away. Yes, yes. I know, March, but, hell, it was July one year. I’m ahead of schedule! It was so nice having my living room back that I wallowed in that room and admired the gorgeous snow and sunshine out my window. It was very Dr. Zhivago-ish. I also made the starter dough for a new sticky bun recipe. I’m on a quest for the perfect sticky bun. The potato soup I made for dinner was spectacular! I could win a soup contest, my potato soup is just that good.
Friday morning, I woke up with a head of steam to clean and bake. I turned the starter dough into finished dough and had it set to rise when the power went out at 9 a.m. I trundled my butt-that-doesn’t-need-even-a-single-sticky-bun-much-less-a-dozen down to my folks’ house to see if they had power.
They didn’t. But they had a fireplace and the hearth proved a perfect spot to make old-fashioned percolator coffee. After visiting with them for awhile, I took the big camera out for a photo shoot of Ma Nature’s glorious handiwork. I tromped around Onafork and took some stellar photos, some mediocre, and some just bad. (See the gallery below.)
When I returned, I called Appalachian Power and reported the outage. I was told it would be repaired at 10 p.m. Sunday. SUNDAY! I was miffed. One cannot clean and bake in a cold, dark house with no electricity. I mean, really, it already looks like I clean in the dark.
By the afternoon, The Barn was getting cold – 55F, to be exact. I trundled back down to my folks’ after defrosting the windows of my car and cleaning off the snow. I wanted to be ready in the event of an emergency.
We all sat around drinking coffee, laughing about how we were out of wood and having to burn old software manuals, and eating the leftover potato soup I made on Thursday.
Software manuals put out a great deal of heat. We were comfortable and told stories. Eventually, I went back home to sleep. I have a heavy down comforter on my bed as well as a heavy bedspread. I was confident I would be warm enough. And I was.
Saturday, I went back down to the parents’ house, because the only way to be comfortable in my then 42F house was to be in the bed. One can only stay in bed alone for so long. Plans were made for them to go to a hotel. I decided to stay here and tend to critters. By that time, we were down to broken furniture to burn in the fireplace. A cheesy “wood” chair made in Yugoslavia doesn’t burn nearly as well as do software manuals. Surprise, surprise.
Nonetheless, I was all zen and accepting of life’s curve ball when I discovered I had left my car running, ran the battery down and my phone was down to 10% power. The only way I had to charge the phone was the car charger and that wasn’t going to work with a dead battery. I lamented on Facebook and my friend/contractor sent his son over to jump my car.
I have been so blessed with the people in my life. My boss texted me often to see if there was anything she could do to help. Other friends called. My Facebook world fretted about my well-being. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve the friendships I have, but I’m very grateful.
Saturday evening was spent in a haze of wine and contentment. It would have been nice to have had some music, but, alas, I was short of that perfection. I left my folks’ house at about 11 p.m. and returned to my toasty bed. If nothing else, I did get a lot of sleep. I drifted off convinced that the power company was lying to me and I would wake to power on Sunday morning.
Well. I woke up this morning and I still didn’t have power. Zounds!
Back like a boomerang, I went to my parents’ house yet again. The fire had gone out and I couldn’t get that Yugoslavian chair to light to save my life. Besides the cold factor, the more important problem was that I couldn’t make coffee. I have a serious coffee addiction. It was a dire situation. After about an hour, in walked my parents with coffee and sausage biscuits. Again, I was suffused with gratitude.
And then the power came back on, well before 10 p.m. There was great celebration and I returned home to bake and clean and blog and upload photos and do laundry and put emergency light sources away…and…and…
It’s been a wonderful day. The sticky buns turned out a tad gummy, but recipe tweaking should take care of that. The house is still a mess and laundry isn’t even half done, but I am happy and content. These days it’s good to be me – the winter of my content. Contentment may well be the best state of being. I know I’m certainly enjoying it.
2400 sq. ft. and here we all are
It’s a dreary Saturday morning.
The sound of the gentle rain on the roof and that of a snoring, old dog are comforting.
I’m on the sofa. Next to me is the old, snoring dog that I’m taking care of while my parents are out of town. Dolleigh is snuggled underneath the sofa throw and seemingly content. Behind me, on the back of the sofa, is Izzy, my black and white cat. She, too, is sleeping but without the snoring – she’s far too young for such indignities. Maggie, the old champagne-colored cat, is sprawled on the coffee table in front of me. While old enough, she is quiet in her sleep. Perhaps her cat nap isn’t deep enough. Phoebe, my somewhat Shih Tzu puppy, is nestled against me. She is not sleeping.
Phoebe is jealous – the first sign I’ve seen that she is even a little bit territorial about my affection. She loves Dolleigh and this whole dog-sitting thing is a great adventure for her, but nonetheless, she does what she can to distract me from loving on Dolleigh, an impossibly fat and affectionate dachshund.
Dolleigh, in her old age and rotundness, invites affection. When I pet her, she lifts her muzzle to give me kisses. She stays close to me, unlike Phoebe who is usually too busy with a toy or a cat to snuggle with me. But with Dolleigh here, Phoebe is bestowing great gifts of affection and staying very close to me.
2400 sq. ft. and here we all sit.
It is a gray, gloomy day, but, still, it is beautiful. The damp causes the changing leaves to glow in the mist. I’ve sat here, loving on pets, and drinking coffee for several hours while staring out the atrium door to the backyard. It’s just that kind of day – one that provokes a lazy stillness. Later, perhaps, I will curl up with a book and read between my own cat naps.
This is a three-day weekend for me. I feel quite comfortable at the idea of spending this day doing nothing of any import. It won’t surprise me, however, if I turn into a whirlwind of activity and tackle some household projects.
It’s that kind of day too– one pregnant with possibilities, but no agenda. I may wallow in the comfort of this sofa or I may tackle the disorganized mess of this house. Either way, I’ll be steeped in contentment. It’s just that kind of day.
2400 sq. ft. and here we all sit. I know if I get up, so will the animals. All of them will follow me to whichever room I go. If I do turn into a whirling dervish of activity, all of them will make their way back to the family room where they will continue to nap and snuggle with each other.
Whatever it is I end up doing, I think I will do it without music or television. I am loving the sounds of this rainy, dreary Saturday.
I loathe mice. Loathe them. More embarrassingly, I’m afraid of them. I think it’s the surprise of the scurry factor – a startle and a cringe. Since they arrive each year about this time, I’ve come a long way. A long time ago, I lived in a rental house that had a mouse. A mouse so brazen, he or she would pop its head up from the burner, saunter across the counter and dip into the dishwater for a drink – the same dishwater that I’d had my hands in nanoseconds before. I was so unnerved by this mouse that I moved into a motel until The Ex could offer proof the evil creature was dead.
I would prefer to have snakes in the house over mice. Snakes are cool and they eat mice. The brief period of time I did have a snake camping out in my home, the vermin problem was nonexistent. Worse than mice are squirrels. Those creatures are nothing but big mice with a flamboyant tail and damaging incisors.
I’ve had squirrels in the house. I found pockets of acorn stash here and there. It took quite a bit of money and perseverance to evict the squirrels. I was pert near ready for the insane asylum by the time that problem got solved. To my credit, I guess, I did not move into a motel. Like I said, I’ve come a long way.
There was the summer of the possum that wanted to sashay about my family room. I put an end to that pretty quickly. And then there was Willy’s Toad. I wasn’t fond of the toad either – that startle factor again.
Yes, I do have cats. But they’re decorator cats good for nothing but draping themselves across the furniture and looking good. It would no more occur to them to chase the mouse, bite the mouse, kill the mouse, eat the mouse than it does to me.
Me? I put out rat poison in ramekins strategically placed. It works like a charm. It should be just the matter of a day or so before my new tenant is no longer with me. I used to catch and release them, but then I discovered it was less than 12 hours before they were back in the house. Now I kill the suckers. I’m not generally a poison kind of person, but I do, yes I do, loathe mice.
Life in the barn can be exciting given that I live in the midst of a forest. All kinds of creatures lurk about. The barn is a little more airtight than it used to be, but there are still lots of nooks and crannies where they can get in. However, it’s ever so much better than it was The Night of the Bat.
Picture this: I’m lying in bed next to The Ex in that peaceful nirvana between wide awake and deep sleep. It’s been a brutally hot day. But now it’s midnight and the unairconditioned house is cooling off. To call it a house is a ridiculous overstatement. At that point, the barn was still very much a barn. We had walls upstairs, but the only room with a door was the bathroom. Bear that in mind, it’s important.
I do what any sane person would do. I brushed it off, leapt out of bed while shrieking while something, later established as a bat, darted and swooped about the bedroom. The Ex was a light sleeper, but even if he wasn’t, my screaming would have easily woken him.
Chef Boy ‘R Mine was a wee thing and I woke him with banshee cries. I did what any mother would do, I took off at run, snatched the kid out of the crib, and made a run for the bathroom. The last glimpse I had of The Ex was he, completely nude, running about the bedroom with a tennis racquet. I have no idea why we had a tennis racquet in the bedroom. (But a few years later, he would use the same racquet to stand in the yard, swinging it to and fro, muttering Cicada Anyone? as we suffered through the 17 year locusts. I’m not sure the racquet was ever used for its intended purpose.)
I cowered in the bathroom cradling the now crying child. Through the door we could hear The Ex yell, “Die you [expletive deleted], die!” and the sound of the racquet slamming against walls, floors, furniture. The battle raged for quite a while. Both the child and I calmed down. We sat there in companionable silence listening to the mayhem, curses, and racquet whacks. Occasionally, we startled at a particularly forceful whack.
Finally, there was silence. I heard The Ex go down the stairs. I heard him come up the stairs. I heard some scraping. “It’s dead, you can come out now.” And there he was: naked, sweaty, flustered, a little disoriented and holding a dustpan with a dead bat in it.
I’ve learned an appreciation of bats since then and feel bad that this one ended up dead. While working at the university, I often shared my office with a lost bat. The maintenance crew would come and shoo it out and I would go back to working alone. I’ve come a long way. I’m glad there’s not a bat in my house, but I really loathe mice. Those suckers are going to die and I will show no remorse.
I’m busy procrastinating so I’m watching home remodeling shows.
Whenever I watch these tv shows, I see my house as others might see it. I see all the problems and the dirt and the projects. I see the mistakes. I see my bad taste. I see all of its flaws. It’s like plucking my eyebrows with a 10x magnifying mirror.
But I love my house. I can’t imagine selling it. (Never mind actually finding someone to buy it.)
It used to be a barn. Well, not even a barn. It used to be an outbuilding used to store animal skins and drying herbs hence the name of West Virginia Fur & Root. The Ex and I began turning it into a home. We gave up after a decade and hired a pro, but ran out of money.
It’s a mess, but it’s my mess. There isn’t one like it anywhere on the planet. It’s quirky. The layout is downright strange. It’s mine. I love it.
I watch these shows where people destroy the charms and quirks of their home to install the latest trend in home design. Almost invariably, by the time the renovation is done it looks like every other project I’ve seen on these shows.
I think one’s home should be a reflection of the people who live in it. I think every home should be infused and steeped in the character and quirks of its inhabitants. I don’t like cookie cutter design and that’s what all these shows seem to showcase.
Since I have always planned this house as if I would die in it, I’ve never been concerned about its resale value or if someone else likes it. Oh sure, we all want to hear nice things about our home, but I came to terms a long time ago with the fact that folks either “get” the barn or they don’t.
Of course, there are things I’d change if I could. There are projects I hope to get to when time and money appear in droves. All in all, though, I’m quite happy with where I live which is a good thing, because I’m going to live here happily ever after.