Sunday, December 25, 2016

Merry Christmas

"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace and goodwill towards men.'"
"...And that's what Christmas is all about, Charlie Brown."

Friday, December 23, 2016

A Quiet Morning

Sunrise this morning
Sometimes I make comments about how I'm up at the crack of dawn and I am busy, busy, busy. But you know what? I was up at the crack of dawn today and didn't immediately start on my to-do list. I just laid in bed and enjoyed the quiet of the house.

I slowly woke up with the rising sun and let my thoughts form. Of course, I mentally went through what I want to accomplish today, but I spent more time thinking about my life.

As you well know, I've been pretty intense about the whole process of moving and buying and selling houses for several months now, and things will continue to be intense because that's just the nature of the process. But during this whole undertaking, I've had a warm house to live in with all of the amenities. I realize that this is not the case for many in the world and many right here in our own country. Especially when nature gets involved, there's not much you can do except recover. Case in point, Baton Rouge, Louisiana. They had horrible flooding at the same time we started our house change, and as I sit here in my new house, many of them still don't have a place to live. A few are still in tents. Some are in sheds, and others are cramming their large family into one room. The list goes on. They are dealing with house issues on an entirely different and more serious level than I can ever imagine.

We all know that no matter what challenges our lives present, there is always someone who has more to deal with than we do. I don't always like that argument because it suggests that your particular circumstance isn't difficult because someone else's is worse. But sometimes, that's a good thing to remember. I've been telling myself all along that the stress during the last few months is a good thing and how lucky we are to be able to make this change. But I hadn't heard it until I took a moment to be truly quiet this morning.

I hope each of you gets a chance during this busy time of year to be quiet and hear what you already know. I know for me, it's been a great way to start the day.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Thankful Sunday, December 18, 2016

Look carefully and you'll see two cedar waxwings among
the icy branches, berries, and fog.

I am thankful for a morning at home.

Most days, I'm up early and dashing off to work. Then it's off to the stores and back to the old house to work on things. Consequently, I'm not spending as much time in my new home as I would like. Well yesterday morning, things were covered with snow and ice and it wasn't safe to go out, so I stayed put.  I did a little tidying and made a pot of turkey soup and biscuits. And a great thing happened while I was working at the kitchen sink. Out the window, I saw a flock of cedar waxwings eating fruit off a tree in the front yard. They were joined by several starlings. It was a sight to behold. And for the quiet morning at home that allowed me to see it, I am thankful.

Starlings were enjoying the icy berries also.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas ornaments, again

We put our tree up this week, but since Wally and Theo were busy with their own lives, it was just me and Ward working on it. And mostly just me. What all of this means is that I lacked my usual audience to tell my stories to about each ornament that we have.  Remembering where we got everything and sharing that with the rest of the family is a long tradition of mine. Since I didn't get a chance to do that with them this year, I'm going to share a few of our decorations with you. I've done this in previous years on this blog, so if you happen to be "busy" when it's time to read this post just like my family happened to be this year I'll understand.

Ward and I got married at Thanksgiving and our friends used Christmas decorations they found in the local store to decorate our car. This bulb was one of several that filled our back seat. Thirty five years later, we have five of those bulbs left. Make that four. I dropped one and broke it this year. :(

The next year when we had our first tree, my aunt sent us a dozen handmade ornaments to help us get started with our collection. This was one of them.

We have several places represented on our tree. WV, of course, where I grew up.

Virginia, where Ward grew up. (That's a state quarter in the middle.)

and Texas, where Wally and Theo spent their early years.

A Zulu doll from Ward's cousins in South Africa.
Notice in the background is another doll a friend brought me from Mexico.

The dinosaurs get hung on the tree every year. These were a gift to Wally when he was a toddler.

This is a knitted cover over a clear bulb that a friend made for us.
Some day when I get all coordinated, I'm going to try to make some of these.

Every year the leader of our book club gives us something for Christmas. This year it was this reading snowman. I smile every time I see his happy face.

Last year we had a craft party to make these origami stars. Mine didn't quite turn out, so my friend made me several that I have placed around the tree.

This God's Eye was made by my nephew. When he was young, he detested anything that involved fine motor skills. So when he made this for us, I was very touched because I know it took tremendous effort for him.

And the tree wouldn't be complete with the apples we hang around the bottom for the cats. They bat them off the tree and chase them around the floor. The apples act much like ping pong balls and the cats love them. Every day we do a roundup of the apples and put them back on the tree.

So there's a small sampling of my stories. Thanks for listening.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Yes, still...

Like many of you in the blog world, lately it's been difficult to spend as much time as I would like writing, reading, and commenting on posts. The are a couple of reasons for this. One is this time of year is busy with holiday preparations and the other is we are pretty much still in the "all house, all the time" mode.
This is what I much prefer to pillows, comforters and paint colors.
Yesterday morning, we woke up to snow and this red-bellied woodpecker
at the seed feeder. This was unusual since there was a suet cake nearby.
That's what they normally prefer.

Actually, the latter is the bigger reason I haven't been posting. I got really tired writing about how busy I was and how stressed the whole house thing was making me. About how until we got the other house sold and some money back in the coffers, I was going to be worried. That was part of my money anxiety talking. Not always rational thought, but that's the way my brain works.  Although steady progress is being made, I am still feeling overwhelmed in the house area.

We are cleaning up the old house with lots of cosmetic work--painting, small repairs, cleaning, and staging. Staging. That's my new obsession. I decided that I could stage the house cheaper than the stager who would stage it and rent us her stuff for three months at a time. And we could use some of the things in our new house.

However, I've had to do a lot of educating of myself in this area. I'm not naturally gifted in decorating in the first place and I had to learn the difference between decorating to live in and decorating to sell. And that involves, among other things, taking away personal things but not making the place look too sterile. A fine line to walk for sure.

Aunt Martha and I went out recently, and started to scope the stores to see what was out there and how much it costs. We found out quickly, that we are behind the times in what is current in decorating, and our tastes are not the ones to sell a house. I am drawn to detailed nature themes and Aunt Martha is drawn to Southwest themes. Neither one is neutral enough for staging. In fact, we figured out that if we liked it, it probably wasn't appropriate for the job at hand. Ward went with me recently to do a little shopping in this area and figured out the same thing.

I am using all of our large furniture like couches, tables, beds, etc., so we haven't move those yet. It's funny how the furniture that seemed good enough when we were using it every day, looks pretty shabby when you look at it through a stager's eyes. Sofa covers, new comforters, and lots of throw pillows have helped in this area some.

But here's the frustrating thing with this process. I don't have the eye to perfectly visualize what I find in the store and how it's going to look when it gets in place or will coordinate with the other pieces that we already found. So there's a lot of buying, trying it out, and either keeping or returning. I am pretty tired of shopping for household goods.

But I have learned a few things. There can be individual parts of a room that I don't like, but when combined together make a very nice complete picture. And a couple of times when this has happened, it's been very satisfying.

So I'm still here and fretting about house stuff. But I'm trying to look at the positives and what an incredible amount we've already accomplished. And when I take a minute to let my thoughts slow down, I remember how fortunate I am to be fretting over something like getting a new house.

Until next time...

(You would think that I would have some pictures of all of this work to share, but I don't.)

Thursday, December 1, 2016

One Special Bird

Recently, I told you about my morning with Sarah and her friend, Beth. Here's what Sarah and I did the rest of the morning after we left Beth and her singing. It was a simple, routine morning, but one that gave me a smile for the rest of the day.

The air had a chill to it as Sarah and I did our regular walk from one building to the other on a short path that goes through the woods. Sarah enjoys these walks because she loves everything to do with nature. We always stop and examine a leaf, bug, or bird along the way. Actually, we examine many leaves and bugs- some of which we collect. More often than not, our pockets are full of her treasures. This morning as we were walking along, Sarah said she saw a skunk. I told her, I wasn't sure it was a skunk and suggested that maybe it was a cat. I then told her about a black and white cat I used to have named Samantha.

I shared stories about how Samantha would stand up on her hind legs and hold her paws like she was praying. I also told her how Samantha would drag clothes into a pile and how one time she made a pile of my mother's underwear by the front door. Sarah was amused by these stories and asked how old Samantha was. I told her that Samantha lived a long time ago and she had died.

We finished our walk to the other building and sat down to examine our treasures. However, Sarah had other things on her mind. She was obviously still thinking about Samantha because she told me that it was okay to be sad sometimes and gave me a big hug. She said that she had my back and she loved me. But to top it all off, she dug through the bag of stuffed animals she had with her and picked out one specific one for me. It was a very well loved Beanie Baby bird that she told me was a kookaburra. I was afraid that Sarah would miss this bird when she got home so I suggested that she could keep it for me and she could bring it back every time we met. You see, even though Sarah has dozens and dozens of stuffed animals, she has given each one a name and personality. She would definitely know if one were missing. But she insisted that I keep it, so I did.

After our very tender moments of Sarah consoling me about the loss of Samantha, we started to sing Kookaburra Sits in the Old Gum tree laughing as we sang. A perfect ending to another special morning with Sarah.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

Thankful Sunday--November 27, 2016

I don't have a picture of Beth.
Instead, here's a picture of a few leaves still hanging on.

I am thankful for Beth.

I spent the morning at church with my special buddy, Sarah. We met in the youth chapel and had breakfast before singing with the praise band (kids playing guitars, drum, piano, etc.). The songs were contemporary and fun to sing. Sarah loves music and she usually has one of the stuffed animals she brings do motions to the songs. We both have fun with this. This morning while she spun her stuffed dog, Riley, I danced with Beanie Baby ostrich, Stretch.

While all of this was enjoyable, that was not the best part for me. It was watching Sarah's friend,
Beth sign the songs. Beth is a young adult with Down's Syndrome who goes to the front and "sings" each song with sign language. She is very expressive and is beautiful to watch. She truly moves me each time I see her. For Beth and this special gift she shares, I am thankful.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

Thankful Sunday, November 20, 2016

I am thankful for my new house.

The moving trucks showed up and we've actually moved! We have enough stuff in our new house that this is where we sleep at night. Now to empty the boxes and figure out how to fit things into their different spaces.  I think we have have all of the utilities switched including the internet that we got turned on yesterday.  It was a nice break to not have it for a few days, but I'm happy to be connected again. You may we remember that we are a dinosaur family with no smart phones or devices with internet.

The cats are adjusting better than we had expected, but still need a lot of attention. Both to calm them and to keep them out of places they shouldn't be. They have already figured out how to get around one barrier we set up. So much for the theory that our geriatric cats couldn't jump that high.

The old house now needs some serious painting and other cosmetic fix ups so it can go onto the market. I've said it before and I'll say it again, I'm really looking forward to concentrating on only one house. Soon enough.

Below are a few pictures from our move.

There are a lot of moving companies out there, some good and some shady. I picked one after selecting three to interview from Angie's List and the BBB. They all seemed good so I chose the one with the cheapest hourly rate since local moves are charged by the hour. We did all of our own packing and had already moved some of the more delicate things ourselves before moving day. They did an excellent job and we will definitely use them for our next move when we move the things we left for staging. 

All of our boxes had both a color code and writing on them to help the movers to know what room things went into. We had the tape on all four sides and the top so they wouldn't have to rotate the box to find the label. If you study the list above, you may notice that we have a Bedroom #2 and a Master Bedroom, but are missing a Bedroom #1. When we were boxing things, we were too tired to go find another color of tape, so they didn't get labeled. However very quickly the movers figured out if the box didn't have a label, it went into Bedroom #1.

Each room also had a sign to identify which room it was.

So far, we have not found one misplaced box. I think the organization also sped things up because the move came in under estimate. All three moving companies estimated approximately the same amount of man-hours for our move and they finished two hours faster than that.

Monday, November 14, 2016

Another step forward

We finally have a moving date scheduled for this Thursday. Hooray! Well, actually, it's the first move date as some of the things will stay in the old house for staging and will move when it sells. We will be stretching some areas a bit during this transition time, but that should be okay. It won't be the first time that we've used moving boxes as furniture.

So you may have surmised that if we're moving the new construction on the new house is done. Almost. The new master bath is done and looks really good. There's nothing like something new and shiny. :) Also, the floors are done. We can walk on them now and they should be cured enough for the heavy traffic of the move by Thursday. There's still a bit of construction going on in the basement and we've found three different leaks last week that need some attention, but those can be dealt with later.

Not surprisingly, we have been packing in earnest this weekend. We are lucky that the houses are only 20 minutes apart so we have been packing delicate and awkward items and taking them over ourselves. This way we don't have to do the extra packing it would take to put them in a moving van. And in some cases, we've been able to put them in their places which is so much the better.

Better get back to packing so I can get another box or two done before I go to work. Below are before and after pictures of the bathroom.

The old toilet and shower were in a separate room and very cramped. This was the main motivation for changing things.

The shower stall was opposite the toilet and you had to sit on the toilet to get out of the way of the door when it was opened.

The other part of the bathroom was not too bad. There was a reach-in closet on one side and vanity on the other. However, we wanted two sinks instead of one. The carpet was also pretty worn.

In the new bathroom, you can see the wall is down between the vanity and the toilet. The toilet is just peeking up on the far side. We took part of the closet away to enlarge the shower. Also, I'm really looking forward to the heated floor.

A look inside the shower. While not huge, we're thrilled because this is a bigger shower than we've ever had. We expect to get a lot of use out of the bench.

Another view of the vanity wall. You may have noticed the walls are very blue. It reminds me of the the color of a bluebird's egg and was chosen to specifically be something cheery in the morning. This is a big departure for us. We're more of the variation on beige people.

Thursday, November 10, 2016

A Second Look--November 10, 2016

While turning into my driveway yesterday, I noticed an unusual sight--a day lily blooming. Not something you usually see this time of year. Well, all of the work that was waiting for me inside just had to wait a little longer while I went to get my camera. And as long as I was out there, I did a quick Second Look around the yard. Once again, there was nothing like a look at nature to put me in a good frame of mind. 

Here are a few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

There were two more little day lily blooms besides this one.

I also found a coneflower blooming in another part of the yard. We have had a couple of hard frosts, so I was surprised to find this.

I have been collecting seeds from plants, including these marigolds, to take to the new house.

The squirrels are beginning to enlarge this hole on the birdhouse for a winter home. We already had to repair a large hole they made another year.


Ailanthus webworm moth on mum

While there is still plenty of color to be found, many trees have now lost most of their leaves.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Card

My grandmother died when I was nine. She lived her last few years with us when she was bedridden and my mother provided round-the-clock nursing care for her. Not an easy job with four young children and a husband working a lot of overtime.

We, kids, all had jobs to help with my grandmother. My older sisters had much more responsibility than I did and helped with some of the nursing care.  Since I was younger, I got more of the comfort care jobs. I would brush my grandmother's hair or crawl in bed with her and rub her back. She said I was better medicine for her than anything the doctors could come up with. I was proud of that and enjoyed spending this close time with her.

Then one day in third grade I came home with a headache and a fever. Soon there were spots all over me. I had the measles. The big measles we called them because they lasted two weeks sometimes, and mine did. During this time, I had to stay upstairs away from my grandmother's room downstairs. She was much too weak to handle something like getting the measles. While I was sick, my mother would deliver messages to me from my grandmother and I would send messages back. One day, my mother brought a card to me from my grandmother. It was a get well card with a rabbit on the front against a blue background. She wrote me a letter inside and told me how much she missed me. I loved getting the card and have treasured it ever since.

However, somewhere along the way, it got lost. I've always been a bit sad about that although I told myself that the memory of it was what was really important. Then a few days ago while going through papers to pack, I found it! I was elated. It was stuck between some other papers in box of mementos from my high school days.

You know, they say that when you move, you will for sure lose something. Well, this time I found something. Something very important to me. And I am very happy about that.

(Unfortunately, I packed the card away before I could take a picture of it.)

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

What I've been up to lately.

While in the old house, I am enjoying the view out the kitchen window.

First let me say , "No, we have not moved." And, "No, we don't have our old house on the market." That's pretty much how every conversation I have these days starts. Sometimes I feel like I'm eight months pregnant and fielding comments like, "You haven't had that baby yet?!" Believe me, no one wanted to have that baby more or no one wants all of this house stuff to be over with more than I do. It's been three months of total focus night and day on practically nothing but houses and it's getting a little old.

However, I realize that this is a good reason to be tired. A short time ago, we were worrying about cancer surgery and before that we were worrying about a fall my mother had and placing her in a nursing home. So making a late night trip to Lowes to get a new shower diverter because the other one didn't work is not too bad.

We are tying the new floors into the existing floors. The new stain will
have more of a brown tinge and a bit lighter than the old.
Where are we in this moving process? Al, the floor guy, is actually working on the floors now in the new house and hopefully they'll be done by the beginning of next week. He is matching and tying into the hardwoods that are already there and doing a great job. He is truly a craftsman. Anyway, the floors are the key to much of this whole process. Obviously, we can't move much until we have a floor to set it on. And we can't pack up a lot of stuff if we're still using it. And we don't want to move it into all of the construction dust. And some of the things can't be fixed on the old house until we move some of things. So the floors are what much of this process is hinging on.

On other fronts, the bathroom remodel is almost done and should be finished by next week also. It is shaping up very nicely and I think we're going to really like it. After the work is done in there, the contractor will move to the basement to install some new duct work and a bathroom fan. We have finished painting the master bedroom, but the rest of the painting that needs to be done will wait for a later date after we've moved in.

Back at the current house, we are continuing to purge things. Today, I have a pickup scheduled for a large load of things we're giving away including furniture. Among other things, we are prepping rooms for painting with removing wallpaper being the most time consuming.

The most interesting part with the current house work has been talking with stagers about how to set up things for showing. Selling a house these days is all about pictures. People do their first shopping online (that's how we did it) and if you don't have a set of appealing pictures, you won't get them in the door. We hired a stager for a small fee who carefully went through the house and made suggestions on what to take, what to leave, what colors to paint, etc. This is all part of getting good pictures. Not surprisingly, our house is old fashioned especially for the demographic that is moving into the neighborhood right now, young families. In case you are wondering, gray and more gray are the colors of the day. However, since we have an older house, taupe is the color for us. Gone are the days of painting everything white or off-white to sell a house. Gray and taupe are the new whites.

After we had the visit from the first stager, our real estate agent brought another agent, who also stages, and she took a look. Her suggestions were similar to the first with a few exceptions. The conclusion is, while our house is in good shape overall, it need a lot of cosmetic fix ups. None of it is hard work, but all of it time consuming especially when we're trying to do the same thing in another house. So now, we're reworking the budget to see how much of this we can afford to hire out. We want the house on the market. The sooner we can get it on, the sooner we can sell it, and the sooner we can recoup money.

Otherwise, we are enjoying the fall weather and I have decided not to take a trip to deliver some door knobs to the new house this morning before work and am having breakfast with a friend I haven't seen for a while. That's my small attempt at balance.

So I'll see you guys out there in cyberland when I see you. I'll try to keep up with your blogs and comment when I can. And I'll post then and again. Especially when I have something else to talk about other than houses. Hope that's soon.

Thursday, October 27, 2016

A Second Look--October 27, 2016

It's that magical time of year when the leaves are giving a colorful show while flowers are still blooming, which means we haven't had a hard frost yet. The squirrels are especially busy as they are preparing for the coming winter. In fact, most of the time now when I see a squirrel scurrying by, it's got a walnut in its mouth. Then it buries it in one of the flowers beds for me to pull up later.

Unfortunately, I haven't had time to get out much with my camera to take pictures and consequently take a Second Look at most of this. (Did I mention, I'm still in the all house, all the time mode?) However, here are pictures of a few things I saw this week at the new house during a Second Look.

The mums are in full bloom which is making a lot of bees and flies very happy.

Does anyone know what this purple flower is sticking up above the ground ivy?

Ailanthus webworm moth on mint

Vincas, or as I call them, Real Estate Flowers. Vincas can stand a lot of neglect so they seemed to planted at every house we saw for sale.

I am always fascinated as I watch leaves change colors from the top down. This tree is directly across the street from us.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Thankful Sunday--October 23, 2016

I am thankful for an empty bird feeder.

A week ago, we put up a bird feeder at the new house to give the birds a chance to find it before the winter. Well, we checked it yesterday and it was totally empty! I'm not sure what ate the food, but Ward reports that he saw two little, gray birds* on it one day. Meanwhile, back at the present house, I stopped feeding the birds a few weeks ago. I didn't want them to get used to finding food here before winter. However, they're not suffering as there is plenty of natural food around. Yesterday in a short five minutes I saw crows, sparrows, Carolina wrens, blue jays, tufted titmouse, chickadees, and bluebirds.

Watching birds always brings a smile to my face, so for an empty feeder and visits from birds at both houses, I am thankful.

*Except for cardinals, blue jays, and woodpeckers, all birds are little gray birds to Ward.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Houses update

I can't imagine how this can be that interesting to anyone, but I'll do another update on how the house transition is going because some of you are curious.

Pick a color, any color.
At the current house, we continue to sort and purge things. There's not too much we can pack yet because we are either using it or might use it for staging. However, most of our books have been gone through and packed and some of the mementos and craft items.  We continue to give several bags, boxes, or van loads away every week including some furniture. However, the house is still full. You can accumulate a lot in 19 years even when you get rid of things regularly.

What I'm most interested in is the new yard and transferring some of the things from the current yard to there. However, several of the new beds are overrun with poison ivy so we are going to have to hire someone to pull it before we can work in them.  Poison ivy is hard to get rid so it may take a couple of years. However, we have found someone to mow the lawn at the new house and we are mowing the lawn at the current house after we got the lawn mower fixed. Not an easy task, but it's done. Also, we set up a couple of bird feeders at the new place hoping the birds will find them before the winter. There was not an obviously good place for them, but we can work on that when we move in.

We have finally gotten all of the wallpaper off the walls in Wally's old room. Now it's time for all of the prep work for painting. Yuck. But even more yuck, we have wallpaper to remove in Theo's old room. Still lots to do here before we put the house on the market.

Work is finally progressing at the new house. The bathroom is about half done and floor work started yesterday. I'm not sure a day's gone by in the last month or two that we haven't been in some kind of home improvement store picking out something. We pretty much remain confused with all of the choices. Today is paint color.

The furnace doesn't work in the new shop, so Ward has been researching other heating methods. Well, actually, the furnace does work, but the tech cut the wires on it so it wouldn't work because it's not safe.

Computer time is up for now, so there's a partial brain dump from the swirling that goes on in my head pretty much all of the time. It's all going to be good in the end, but still many miles to go before I can sleep.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

Thankful Sunday--October 15, 2016

I am thankful for the beauty of a full moon.

Last night we had a full moon.  It was both bright and shadowy giving hints of craters. Occasionally, thin clouds covered it, but mostly it was in view. What I always find amazing is how bright the moon can be and how, it can light your way in the dark. For this beautiful moon in the night sky, I am thankful.

Just in case you were wondering:

The full moon is the brightest object in the night sky. It has an apparent magnitude (measure of a space object´s brightness as seen by an observer on Earth) of -12.74 compared with the Sun's of -26.74.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

A Second Look--October 12, 2016

If there was any doubt that fall is here, the doubt is all gone. The mums are blooming and we've had our first frost. (However, it seems like I say something like that every week--look, another sign of fall. I guess the transition seasons are like that.)

Here are few things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

Rozanne Geranium among the fallen oak leaves.

Begonias--They are getting a little leggy but are still blooming nicely.

There was a bloom on the cherry laurel. This usually blooms in the spring.
(So much for the signs of fall.)

Rain over the weekend brought a new crop of mushrooms.

The marigolds just keep coming. :)

I did my Second Look early in the morning before the dew had been burned off by the sun. You can see it in some of the pictures like this one.

In some areas the dew was frost.

This skipper butterfly was waiting for it to warm up before it started the day.

The mums are blooming at the new house. These are doing well in their sunny spot. Back here at the old house, the mums haven't bloomed yet. However, they are somewhat shaded.