Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bah. Humbug.

The house is conspiring against me. My own lack of planning has caught up with me again. I am in a decidedly Scrooge-y mood now. I decided to start decorating my house for Christmas this morning. This is the tale of what happened instead.

I always put the Christmas tree in the front window, which means I have to rearrange the living room furniture. So...shove the sofa sideways from the middle of the room up next to the long library table against the wall, move the recliner and the end table along the other wall, turn the area rug at a right angle so it's parallel to the sofa. Remember that when I tore out the hideous living room carpet, I didn't move the sofa to do it, leaving a sofa-sized rectangle of ugly carpet across the middle of the room. Look for the Bulldog carpet knife to assist in tearing out the carpet. Discover it's nowhere to be found. Decide to start the decorating in the entryway. Put the Obama/Biden sign in the back porch closet, pick up all the cat toys, and push that dry sink into my bedroom two rooms away. That's better. Take the Fenton lamp off the little Eastlake table in the living room, roll the table into the entryway, leave enough room for the front door to open, put the lamp back on the table. Not bad. Now to get the Christmas decorations out of the basement. That involves opening up the trap door in the back porch/laundry room floor and making sure three cats and a blind dog are all accounted for so no one falls down the stairwell or gets left behind in the basement. Better get some breakfast first. Eat a Pop-Tart, drink some cocoa, take note that it's getting along towards naptime before work tonight. Flip on the kitchen ceiling fixture to read the local paper and---nothing happens. Decide to check email and change the lightbulb later. Go to the laptop in the bedroom and discover that the internet's not working. Scurry into the dining room to unplug the modem and router for 30 seconds (the never-fail solution) and note that the modem and the router aren't on. Flip on one of the buffet lamps and---nothing happens. Get a sinking feeling. Walk into the living room and flip the light switch. Nothing. Darn breaker's tripped. The breaker box is--where else?--in the basement with the Christmas decorations. Herd three cats and the dog into the kitchen, shut the door, hope it doesn't lock, push the laundry table against the back door, roll up the area rug covering the trap door, turn on the basement light, yank open the trap door, hook it against the wall, and scramble down the uneven basement steps. Open up the breaker box, flip the tripped breaker all the way to off, then back on. Run up the steps, open the kitchen door, push four protesting animals aside with my foot, shut the kitchen door again, and turn on the kitchen light. Nothing. Run back downstairs, note breaker's tripped again, remember that most house fires are electrical in nature, worry, and repeat process three more times before restoring power to half the house. Resolve to call an electrician on Monday morning while wondering if he'll accept a post-dated check or believes in bartering. Run back down basement steps, locate Christmas tree and three other boxes of decorations, and carry smaller boxes up the steps. Pause to remove a splinter from right foot. Return to basement and note that the Christmas tree appears to be moving inside its carton. Cautiously poke open one flap of the box to find Big Cat inside nestled among the branches. Drag 7-foot Christmas tree and 20-pound behemoth cat up the steps. Wrestle an unhappy giant cat into the bathroom, shut the door, unhook the basement trap door, and watch it slam down into its frame. Release Big Cat, open the kitchen door, unroll the area rug to cover the trap door again, push the laundry table back into place while trying to keep its legs from folding underneath it, and accidentally step on Baby Cat. Make it up to him by zipping him up inside my sweatshirt while pushing the stack of Christmas boxes into the middle of the living room floor. Atop the swath of ugly carpet. Where they remain. And where they are likely to remain until Wednesday morning.

Write this post, send the whining out into cyberspace, and decide that a nap is well-earned. Bah. Humbug.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Attic Insulation Day!

So Wednesday was the eagerly-anticipated Attic Insulation Day. Just before 9 a.m. the boys from Alma Building Supply backed up their pickup and trailer to the fence in my back yard and started tearing open bales of insulation. The attic access is in my bedroom closet ceiling, so no sleep for me after having worked all night Tuesday night. I'd been told that the access hole was "very small indeed" (a direct quote from the house inspector's report) so I warned Jeff ahead of time. After Big Cat climbed up Jeff's ladder I had a chance to look for myself. Not so bad. So when Jeff came back from outside, I said, "That hole's not nearly as small as I was led to believe." He laughed. "'s not that hole that's the problem. Climb up there and look at the one above it." So I did. Yikes! The hole in the closet ceiling is gigantic compared to the tiny hole carved out of the plaster bedroom ceiling. After Jeff got up there, he called me on my cell phone and asked me to hand a hammer up to him. A hammer? Turns out he snagged his arm on a nail poking out of the lath on the scuttle hole. Hope he's had a recent tetanus shot.

I'll spare you an account of watching fluffs of pink insulation blow through a tube for three hours. It was thrilling to me, but I think it might lose something in the retelling. The important thing is this: my house will be warm this winter. Heck, it's already warmer. There's no longer a ten-degree difference in temperature between the kitchen and the living room. Happy Attic Insulation Day!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!
I am most thankful for my family, my good friends....and attic insulation!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Swirling Excitement

I had a short to-do list for the daytime hours today: get an estimate on the cost of the attic insulation, put the new slipcover on the sofa, start on the deed history of my property, check out the preview of tomorrow's auction, and visit Bloody Bill's grave.

I'll start with the last first. Briefly, "Bloody Bill" is William T. Anderson, a Civil War guerrilla fighter who took part in Quantrill's infamous raid on Lawrence, Kansas and led a massacre in Centralia, Missouri. He carried a string of scalps from his Unionist victims on his horse's bridle and terrorized eastern Kansas and west-central Missouri during the Civil War until he was killed in Richmond, Mo. in 1864. William Quantrill is the more well-known; Bill Anderson is the more ruthless of the two. Anderson's probable burial site (Union soldiers destroyed the pile of rocks that designated the actual site shortly after his burial) is in the far corner of the Richmond Pioneer Cemetery, as far away as possible from the decent folks whose graves are also there. Looking down at the small headstone placed there by the Richmond Historical Association, I felt my hair stand on end. Bill Anderson both horrifies and fascinates me.

So I shook off the creepy feeling I got walking across Bill Anderson's grave and went to the Lafayette County Courthouse to look up the deed history of my property. (Climbing the steps to the second floor, I remembered that Archie Clements, an associate of Anderson's, was killed in Lexington in 1866 by Missouri State militiamen shooting from the Courthouse windows. I just can't get away from those bushwhackers!) David, my neighbor a couple houses down, had explained to me how to trace deeds backwards to find out the previous owners of my land. In this way, he traced his own property back to 1821, as far back as Lafayette County records go. He warned me that it's time-consuming but interesting work. After half an hour or so--all the time I could spare today--I got all the way back to...1982. Yep, nineteen-82. Only eighty or so more years to go! Here's the recent history: I bought the house from the Cameron sisters, who inherited it from their mother's estate and re-titled the house in their names only. Previously the property was titled in Esther's name as widow of Lloyd Cameron, and before that the property was listed in the names of both Esther and Lloyd, who bought it from a local couple who are realtors, who bought it from a woman named Mary Louise Ely, whose mother deeded the house to her after the death of Mary Louise's father, a man with the interesting name of Quirk Bernard. I expect the previous deed is listed in the names of Winifred and Quirk Bernard as husband and wife, and that deed will tell me who the Bernards bought the house from. I knew about the Bernards already, because the National Register of Historic Places inventoried the historic properties in Lexington back in the mid-1980s and listed the houses by the owner's name at that time. So, no new information today. Well, that's not completely true--my mom did tell me that she knew Quirk Bernard, who everyone called Bernie, because he owned a local Ford dealership and was "crooked as a dog's hind leg". From Cadillac Woman I know that Charlene Wyper lived here in the 1970s, and from the beloved Mrs. Kenney (she of the 1947 photo of the house) I know my house was two apartments around the World War II era. It's the pieces in between--and earlier--that I don't have yet.

With all of that excitement swirling about, can you stand any more?! Well, hold on tight. The new slipcover fits the sofa like a glove. With no help at all from the cats, who I shut up meowing in the dining room during the slipcovering process, I managed to stretch the thing over the sofa and pull and tug it into something that actually looks decent. (Milah, you were right--I did have to keep stuffing fabric into the cracks!) Now I have to find some throw pillows.

And the rest is pretty anti-climatic. There was absolutely nothing at the auction preview that I wanted enough to leave a bid on, Jeff has the estimate for my insulation but wasn't in the office when I called him and can't remember what it is, and I still have Bob's RoboGrips in my possession. Just another whirlwind day in the life of me.

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Tag! I'm it. I was tagged by my friend Sandy, and I really like this one.

This is how the tag works: Share seven random or weird book facts about yourself. Then tag seven other people. Notify the seven others that they have been tagged.

My seven random or weird book facts:

1. My mom had to make me go outside to play when I was a little kid. I always had my nose stuck in a book. Now I'm all grown up, but I'd still rather stay in the house with a good book and a big cup of hot tea than do almost anything else.

2. When the going gets tough, the not-tough (me) go read Winnie-the-Pooh stories.

3. One of my favorite books is Willa Cather's "O, Pioneers!" and I've read it several times.

4. The Edgar Allan Poe story "The Tell-Tale Heart" so terrifies me that I've never read it all the way through, not even when it was assigned reading in college.

5. When I dispatched at the police department I worked 12-hour shifts all by myself with not much to do, so I read at least two books a week.

6. I collect books about the Lewis & Clark Expedition and 19th-century American history.

7. The book I'm reading now is "Bloody Bill Anderson: The Short, Savage Life of a Civil War Guerrilla" and I might go visit Bill's grave today.

Now about that tagging seven other people...I don't know who might like to play along and who would rather not, so I'm not going to tag. If you liked this and you want to blog your own weird and random book facts, then consider yourself tagged. Happy reading!


As I admitted the other night, most of the time I don't know what I'm doing. I tend to just sort of leap into things and then figure them out as I go along. Sometimes the things I leap into are gigantic--like taking the shingles off the house--and sometimes they're small. Like putting a slipcover on my sofa. Guess which one I found more difficult? Yep, the slipcover.

I love my sofa. It's the perfect size for my living room, it's really comfortable, and I like its camel back and curved arms. It's the upholstery I'm just not too crazy about. Hence the slipcover. I found the perfect one at Target: a two-piece stretchy slipcover in a tan fabric that reminds me of wide-wale corduroy, but softer. My sofa is 74 inches long. The loveseat-sized slipcover is for furniture up to 73 inches long. The sofa-sized slipcover is for furniture 75 to 90-something inches long. Hmmmm. Well, I don't want the slipcover to be baggy. And the fabric is stretchy, right? So I bought the loveseat-sized slipcover.

I took it out of its plastic case and threw it over the sofa under the careful supervision of the three cats. And did I read the directions? Of course not! It's a stinkin' slipcover--how difficult can it be? Un-stretched, the slipcover is about two-thirds as long as as the sofa and has elastic all the way around the bottom edge, like a fitted sheet. So I tugged, and pulled, and yanked for about 15 minutes until I realized that there was no way the stickers reading ARM COVER were correctly placed. I tore them off, stuck them together, and gave them to Baby Cat to play with. I tugged and pulled and yanked some more until the entire sofa was encased. Well. Um. The sofa looked like a fat kid wearing a t-shirt a couple sizes too small. Thinking it might look better after the seat cushions were placed on it inside their separate, zippered slipcover I spread that out on the sofa and attempted to stuff the seat cushions inside. At about this time the cats realized a piece of furniture was present in the house that had not yet been coated with cat hair, so they began running up and down and all over it. Marie squeezed herself under the front edge of the sofa and popped out the other side, Louie (formerly Lucky; I re-named him) hopped along the back of it like a little rabbit, and Christopher hung off the arm by his hind legs. I had the seat cushions propped upright along the back of the sofa partly inside the envelope-like slipcover, jamming them down inside it while zipping it up. Louie jumped on top of Chris and began gnawing on Christopher's back leg, Christopher leaped from the arm to the back of the sofa, Marie puffed herself up and hissed at poor Chris, and Christopher swung one of his ginormous paws at Louie. With a muffled mee-rawr! baby Louie fell down inside the seat slipcover just as I zipped it up.

And that's how I found out that while the stretchy slipcover will mold itself perfectly around a little kitten trapped inside it, it will not fit on my sofa. In the morning, after I vacuum off all the cat hair and make my best effort to fold the thing back up inside its plastic case, I'll exchange the loveseat-sized slipcover for the sofa-sized one. Stay tuned for Round Two.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Retail Therapy

I hate shopping. Wait, let me correct that. I hate shopping in a mall. A mall is everything I detest: it's huge, impersonal, loud, and full of stupid people. Yes, I said stupid people. As in, "God bless the stupid people, for they are job security." Shopping in a mall makes me feel like my cat.

No, not that cat. (Photo taken by Mel, when he lived with her.)
This cat:

Fortunately, when my mom asked me to go shopping on Saturday we spent less time at the mall and more time trolling through the antique stores and gift shops in Lexington, the small town we call home. We had several good finds. The first "find", though, wasn't so good....

We were eating lunch together at, um, an un-named local establishment (not the pub) when I saw something small, gray, and very still on the white octagonal tile floor under a chair about five feet away. "Mom," I whispered, "Is that a dead mouse over there?" She turned to look, but couldn't make a positive ID from her angle. So, me being me, after I finished eating I walked over there and crouched down to get a good look. Yep. Curled on its side with a terrible snarl on its face, a little mouse. What we in emergency services call DRT--Dead Right There. I pulled the owner aside and quietly told her what I'd found. She shrieked, "Oh my GOSH!!" and swept it up in a dustpan. We did not get a free lunch. We might not go back.

Things improved a whole lot after that. My mom tried a free sample of coffee at Enigma Rarities, a local shop that specializes in historic documents and artifacts and liked it so much she'll buy a pound of beans after she finishes the ones she has now. (My mom is very picky about her coffee and always grinds it fresh.)

At Lexington Antique Company I found a unique doorstop for my dining room/kitchen swinging door. It's an iron rabbit, quite heavy, with a handle about three feet long. The top of the handle looks like a hand grasping a ring, similar to an old hitching post, but smaller. That solves the problem of how to hold open the swinging door, which needs to stay open to prevent Little (blind) Dog from running into it. Since I've removed three layers of carpet there's a sizeable gap between floor and door and a conventional wedge doorstop isn't large enough. I drooled over the M Frye Wille jewelry at Lexington Antique Company, too, especially the Monet Collection, but it's a little out of my price range. (You can see some of it at the above link.) Besides, I'd just get paint or caulk or something all over it.

Sometimes it was enough just to browse. We carefully picked our way through the beautiful, jam-packed Il Bel Carrello and left before we noticed they sold spa products, which my mom had been looking for as a present for a friend of hers. We'll go back sometime this week. My mom and I ooh-ed and ahh-ed at all the gorgeous stuff inside the Velvet Pumpkin but didn't find anything, as my mom put it, "that we can't live without", although that pair of deer carved out of walnut was pretty tempting.

At my favorite bookstore, River Reader, I found a book about Bloody Bill Anderson that I'd been looking for. (Anderson was a Civil War guerrilla fighter with Southern sympathies who terrorized Central Missouri. Horrifying and fascinating.) Finding that book five minutes after I walked into the store didn't keep me from spending another half hour in there looking through the bookshelves and wandering downstairs to check out Bruce Burstert's Antiques. (You can read more about my neighbor Bruce here, although that article has the date of his house wrong--it's 1838, not 1938, and is the oldest frame house in Lexington.)

At my friend Sue's store, Missouri River Antique Co., (the guy who did her website went out of business, leaving her with a bunch of dead links) I found a terrific three-drawer antique file cabinet which I'm seriously considering putting on layaway. She'd already sold the Asian-themed black folding screen inlaid with mother-of-pearl cranes before I got there--and I promised her it was the first thing I'd buy if I ever won the lottery! Guess that's really not enough to put a forever hold on the item....

But I'm saving the best for last. I'd admired a Godey's Lady's Book print from 1859 at Sue's store, picked it up, put it down, stood in front of it pondering some more, before finally deciding it was a little too pricey. When I got home that afternoon, my mom handed me a package wrapped in plain brown paper. The Godey's print! She bought it for me when I was in another part of the store and had Sue hide it among her other purchases. Hooray for early Christmas presents!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Perhaps Potential Progress

Sick the first three days of this week; dragged out and cranky on Thursday and Friday. This has not been a week of progress. Potential for future progress perhaps, but very little actual progress.

Actual progress: I took the bedroom curtains down, clipped rings onto them, and re-hung them to make them easier to open and close. I cleaned up my laundry room/back porch and bought an area rug to cover the ugly trap door to the basement. I managed to unclog the drain in the bathroom sink. I raked a small pathway for Little Dog through the gobs of leaves in the back yard. That is all.

Potential for future progress: I called Jeff, the friend of a friend who's going to put in my attic insulation for me and learned that Alma Building Supply has run out of insulation. Apparently everyone in Lafayette County decided to insulate their attics at the same time. Jeff says they'll be getting some back in stock in a week or so and is planning to come over Thanksgiving week to blow it in. (He's a school bus driver and it's easier for him to do this when he doesn't have to hurry to make his afternoon bus route.)

In other news, Lucky (aka Baby Cat) is back at my house after living with my son and his Doberman for just two days. The Doberman wasn't the problem; Lucky being nocturnal was. Poor cat's lived with night-shifters--first Mel and then me--all of his short life and doesn't understand that some folks would rather sleep at 3 a.m. than have their ears nibbled on by a kitten.

And this is for Christine, who mentioned she has black tar residue on her floor. I ordered the adhesive remover from an almost-local lumberyard last week, but I won't get it until this Thursday at least, so I don't know the brand name of it yet. The lady at the lumberyard read me a description that claims this stuff will remove glue residue, carpet adhesive and even mastic. Wow. That's some serious stuff. Have you tried Goo Gone Xtreme Remover? Not the Goo Gone in the little bottle; this is in a red-and-black metal can about the size of a small charcoal lighter fluid can. (For all I know, it is charcoal lighter fluid.) Goo Gone Xtreme will take tar footprints off white carpet so that your best friend can get her security deposit back from the landlord, this I know from personal experience. And if, just for instance, your son's Doberman should bite your Pomeranian in the head, causing the dog to run panicked through the house stringing blood all over the wood floor, area rug, sofa, and painted wall....well, it'll take blood out of all that too, even if you don't get home from the vet for three hours. Just a little real-life testimonial for ya, there.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Old Homes Tour Revisited

Ever since 1950-something, my little hometown has had an Old Homes Tour. Local people open up their private homes for a weekend and let strangers and friends tromp through and admire (or not) the architecture, their restoration, and their taste in decorating. Brave folks, these. The Tour was about a month ago, but I'm just now getting around to blogging about it now that my restoration interests have moved from exterior to interior with the change in weather. Which reminds me: My gigantic, insane exterior renovation is--unless unseasonably warm weather dictates otherwise--put on hold until spring. I did manage to tuck in my house nice and tight for the winter. Every nail hole is filled, every crack repaired, every broken clapboard mended, every bit of loose paint scraped off, every gap caulked. Well....except for the front porch and part of the side porch. But they're under a roof.

I had great fun on the Old Homes Tour. I am by nature a nosy person, and I like to see what the inside of someone else's house is like. Doesn't everyone? Isn't that part of the appeal of, after all? The informal tours, led mostly by the homeowners or their friends, were a smash hit. More interesting, more personal, more real, than the scripted tours of the past. (Sometimes a little too real--you can't get more authentically off-the-cuff than A ad-libbing about the washability of modern fabrics after one of her cats vomited on a chair in front of a parlor full of tourists. Hee hee.) The thing I liked second-best about the tour homes was the personal history on display: the groupings of family photos, an antique doily framed under glass, the furniture passed down from one generation to the next, a grandmother's hand-stitched quilt on a bed...These are people's homes, not museums, and it was satisfying to see historic homes really lived in, as they were intended to be. Even though I walk through museum homes every chance I get, there's something a little sad, for me anyway, in knowing that no longer does that old house shelter a family.

But the best part by far was being able to use the Old Homes Tour as resource and inspiration for my own house. Malinda Hall is a light-filled and colorfully-decorated house built shortly after the Civil War and as I walked through it admiring the paint colors and wallpaper and furnishings, I realized they don't all match perfectly and they're certainly not all from the same time period. That freed me from the thinking that my mismatched furniture and eclectic tastes couldn't be pulled together into a pretty home. As soon as I got back to my own house, I threw away the "Better Homes & Gardens" magazines that were giving me house inferiority. (A bit of trivia: if you'd like to see the exterior of Malinda Hall for yourself, rent the movie "Ride With The Devil". Malinda's the brick house that's set ablaze in that movie.) From the Old Edwards House (a misnomer, but that's a different story) I learned what I didn't like--old houses with contemporary furnishings and no personality. No photos and virtually no artwork on the walls, no knick-knacks about, every surface sleek and shiny as if it was just manufactured. That the house is soon to become a bed-and-breakfast didn't surprise me. But it was at the Tilly House that I struck the inspiration motherlode. One of its two parlors is the "men's parlor", with more masculine colors and furniture, a display of military memorabilia, books stacked on a table, and reproduction maps on the wall. That gave me the idea to turn my second parlor (the less fancy one, which used to be my bedroom) into a men's parlor. Stuffed away in boxes I have photos of four generations of men in my family who have served in the military. (I even have my Great-Uncle Walter's World War I draft card and the ribbons and sergeant stripes from my dad's World War II uniform.) Those things ought to be displayed. The Tillys' kitchen, while modern, has some architectural details that help it fit in with the rest of the house. I can adapt some of their ideas in my own awkward 1950s kitchen. The polka-dotted countertops will still be departing, however. As I stood in the Tillys' wide entry hall waiting on the shuttle bus, I remarked on how beautiful their wood floors are and lamented the state of my own. Mrs. T laughed and said, "You should've seen them when we bought the house--shag carpeting two layers thick, and the bottom layer of either carpet or linoleum glued to the floor!" Glued, did you say? The wood covered with black adhesive that's been troweled on? Just like mine! Mrs. T said they'd used a product called adhesive remover that "took the stuff right off". I ordered some from the lumberyard across the river today.

Paint colors, furnishings, room ideas....I have all kinds of inspiration! Now, if only I had all kinds of money. Sigh. I'm remembering the snail and his trip to the ark.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Eight Below

I saw this on a friend's blog and thought it would be fun to do on my own blog.

8 Favorite TV shows:
This one was hard for me because I don't watch much television except when I'm working. Note the conspicuous lack of HGTV and DIY programming. Surprisingly, I don't like most of it.

1. Crusoe (eye candy and the coolest treehouse ever)
2. AC360
3. Rescue Me (which returns in February, supposedly)
4. Cities of the Underworld
5. Two And A Half Men
6. Nancy Grace
7. My Name Is Earl
8. Big Love (if it ever comes back)

8 Favorite Places to Eat:
My favorite category, because I love love love to eat!

1. My kitchen with my son, preferably with big plates of Fettucine Alfredo.
2. Aunt Babe's house in Delavan, Illinois. My great-aunt is almost 91 and the matriarch of our big family. At least 15 people around her table, and you just know someone brought broccoli-rice casserole.
3. Chick-Fil-A. First tried it in South Carolina this summer and have loved it ever since. Try their breakfast sometime. Yum.
4. Riley's Irish Pub, my hometown pub. Best Reubens I've ever eaten, and the coldest beer in the county.
5. My church (Trinity United Church of Christ) when we have potluck dinners. Had one today that I was forced to miss because of work. Darn. Lots of good cooks in my congregation!
6. Maid-Rite. What's not to love about loose meat sandwiches?
7. Hawg Shed BBQ. Bad name, great barbecue. A local place.
8. Somerset Cottage. A new tearoom in Lexington. Very girly, with mismatched teacups and china plates and little tables. Wonderful sandwiches and soup.

8 Things That Happened Yesterday:
1. Big Cat and Little Cat decided suddenly to tolerate Baby Cat.
2. My son talked me into letting Baby Cat come live with him.
3. A patient died at the end of my shift, which was very sad.
4. My best friend Sharon called me, which very much cheered me up.
5. Laura in Mississippi and I watched the clock together. Night shift is very long sometimes.
6. I told my mom I wanted a Tassimo coffeemaker for Christmas and she said I could have hers, which she's used once.
7. Inky Guy called me to confirm that yes, it was him who fell through the floor in an apartment house fire on Friday. (With only minor injuries.)
8. I realized I consider chicken fried rice and egg drop soup to be comfort food. (I have a cold.)

8 Things I Love About Fall:

1. The smell of burning leaves.
2. Drinking hot chocolate every night. Real hot chocolate, made with milk, cocoa, sugar & vanilla.
3. The leaves changing color. (Until they end up in my yard.)
4. Turtleneck sweaters.
5. It's not winter. Yet.
6. Chilly weather is an excuse to make Rachael Ray's corn-and-crab chowder.
7. Getting to wear the little suede jacket Jill gave me.
8. Fleece jammies.

8 Things On My Wish List:

1. An end to war. Everywhere, but especially in the Middle East.
2. A remodeled bathroom with a big claw-foot tub that has jacuzzi jets.
3. HVAC in the back part of my house.
4. For my son to be healthy and happy and have a wonderful marriage.
5. For my mom's heart to heal itself so she doesn't have to have surgery.
6. A litterbox that never needs to be emptied.
7. A remodeled kitchen with new cabinets so I never have to look at polka-dot countertops again.
8. A marriage proposal from Sen. Patrick Kennedy. (That would certainly take care of the house-related wishes, I think.)

8 Things I'm Looking Forward To:

1. My son's wedding. In May now, not June!
2. Having attic insulation installed in the next couple of weeks.
3. Finishing some of my inside-the-house projects this winter.
4. Baseball season again. With baseball season weather.
5. Seeing my friend Robben, a high school friend who's visiting from London.
6. Sleeping in my warm bed for hours and hours when I get home today.
7. Getting a haircut next week.
8. An Obama presidency.

Friday, November 7, 2008

The Watcher

This is not my usual light-hearted post. You should know that before you read any further, just in case you're not in the mood for any TruTV-type stuff. This is not like the cute Flower Man story that NV told us a couple days ago. This is a different kind of admirer altogether....

Ever since the night of the last presidential debate--whenever that was, seems like mid-October or so--I have been visited by an Army Lt. Col. I met at the pub that night. Forget the studly soldier image that comes to your mind when you hear "Army Lt. Col". This guy is short, chunky, balding, beady-eyed and definitely strange. He evidently works at the local military school, but no one seems to know much else about him. The night I met him, he insisted that we'd met a year or so earlier and recalled the circumstances. I politely told him I didn't remember him at all and he might have me confused with someone else. He so pressed the issue that the pub's cook said at last, somewhat sharply, "Dude, she doesn't remember you." Usually I walk home from the pub; that night I did not. The guy had me weirded out just a bit, and I got a ride home from my friend Randy, who took a circuitous route to my house, just in case.

We need not have gone to that trouble, because the next day when I was outside working on my house, the LTC showed up in my yard. I brushed him off rather rudely. The next day he came back. Same reception from me. And the day after that, and then a couple days later, and then two or three days in a row. And every single time, I was rude to him. I am not usually a rude person, but... This guy does not live in my neighborhood and I have never once invited him to my house. He's not a preservationist, not a local person, not a friend of a friend. He has no reason to be in my yard. It makes me uncomfortable. I don't like it.

Well,'re saying to yourself, maybe he just likes you and is trying to work up the courage to ask you out. Maybe so. And those girls thought Ted Bundy was just a cute guy with his arm in a sling, too. You can't be too careful. When he's not actually in my yard, he's driving past my house, either in front of it or through the alley behind it. Weird. Creepy. I know the law. The street in front of my house is a public right-of-way. So is the alley. Like it or not, he has the legal right to be there. But once I've asked him to leave when he's actually on my property and he does not immediately depart, he's trespassing. Three weeks of his sudden and intrusive visits is enough.

So tonight, almost a week after his last visit... I pulled into my carport from having had supper with my mom and saw an SUV parked at an angle beside my neighbor Martha's garage. At first, I thought it was hers until my headlights hit it and showed it to be blue and not silver. The LTC. I started to back out of the carport and he backed down the alley and cut his wheels behind me, blocking me in. That put him on my property. I jumped out of my car just as he got out of his and I shouted as loudly as I possibly could, "Are you f---ing STALKING ME?!!" (Nice language, I know, but I am at my limit.) He stammered, "Well, no, I, uh, was gonna ask you--" I yelled, "GO AWAY! NOW!!" and ran through my back yard and into the house, where I locked the door behind me. He did go away. The police did not find him lurking anywhere in the neighborhood. I wanted them to see if he was at the school, which is only two blocks away, but they declined, saying they had no reason to bother him there.

So I called my son, the soon-to-be-cop. My son has a gift for separating the wheat from the chaff. After listening to my extended rant about the guy, this is what Dylan had to say, "At best, he's just a weird little guy with no social skills who can't take no for an answer. At worst, he's a creepy stalker dude looking for his next victim. Either way, don't put up with it. Next time he comes on your property, call 911 immediately and then call me. Walk into the front yard where everyone can see you and be as loud as possible. Stay in your yard so it's trespassing if the idiot's still there when the cops arrive. It might be a good idea to buy some Mace. Do not put up with this s--t again." Succinct and excellent advice. My son will make a good cop.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

The Great Mouse Detective

Ever since I moved into this house, I've wanted to know more about its history. The title company couldn't locate the abstract for this property, so I don't have the benefit of the history that would contain. I wonder...who built this house? When? How many people have called this house their home?

And lately, as some of you know, I've been asking for a bit of considerably more recent history. Who the heck put those darn shingles all over the house?!? I still don't know the answers to my other questions (although my neighbor David says he'll help me try to unearth them this winter) but I now know from whence the shingles came.

Monday afternoon I was brushing on the last few strokes of primer when I heard someone calling my name from the alley. I walked back there, paintbrush in hand, to find an older woman with an enormous hairdo dyed the color of poison sumac sitting in a white Cadillac. (Think Flo from the old "Mel's Diner" series, only with red hair.)

"Hi, honey," Cadillac Woman said. "I've been wantin to meet you and tell you that I really admire what you're doin to this house. I knew the last two families who lived here and I remember when those shingles went on. I'm glad they're gone."

So of course I asked her who the guilty party was, and she said, "It was Charlene Wyper who did it, honey, back in the '70s. She was a single mom and worked as a nurse over at the hospital. They about killed her working her all these crazy shifts and so many days in a row, and she just didn't have time to take care of a house. She told me if she put those shingles on she'd never have to worry about the outside of the house again." She went on to tell me that Charlene and her daughter lived here a few years before moving to northwest Missouri, where Charlene passed away some years later. Charlene sold the house to Esther and Lloyd Cameron sometime around 1980, and I bought it from the Camerons' daughters after their parents passed away.

So that explains it. My friend John was right when he speculated that whoever put the shingles on did so because they wanted a low-maintenance exterior. It also explains the word WYPER written in black marker on the inside of the storm windows. Because I'm a single mom who works "crazy shifts" too, I can empathize a little bit with Charlene. Cadillac Woman seemed to think that Charlene did it reluctantly, after some neighbors were pretty outspoken against the idea. (The Historic Preservation Commission, which would never have allowed the shingles, didn't exist at the time.) Well, apparently none of those neighbors offered to help Charlene with the maintenance of her house, leaving her (in her mind) with no choice but to shingle the house. Maybe Charlene realized later that it was a bad decision. It had to have cost her a pretty penny to have those shingles installed: whoever did it took the time to notch the shingles around all the original trim left on the house, put quarter round on the windows and under the eaves, used aluminum flashing on all the corners, and certainly hammered in an abundance of nails to attach everything. I can't imagine that it would have been any more expensive to hire someone to paint the house. Would it? Not that it matters now. A single mom in the 1970s put the shingles on; a single mom in the 21st century took them off. I like that.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

That Darn Cat!

Lucky, meet my blog-friends. Blog-friends, meet Lucky. Lucky was found sitting on the yellow line of a very busy street by a police officer friend of mine while she was out on patrol. She took him first to the police station, where Animal Control told her they had too many cats and Lucky's lifespan would be about that of salad greens in the fridge, and then to her house, where her husband said four dogs took up too much space in the bed already. First too many cats; then too many dogs. So this morning, Lucky came to live with us. You can't tell from the photo, but he's just a little kitten. No match for the sometimes-deranged Marie and the gigantic-pawed Christopher, so I'm watching them very closely as they trade hisses and growls. Little Dog is the only furry occupant of the house with a welcoming heart. He wags his tail hopefully whenever he hears Lucky meow, but Lucky can't quite overcome his dog-hating instincts just yet. The next few days should be interesting.

The Arc of History

"It's the answer that led those who've been told for so long by so many
to be cynical and fearful and doubtful about what we can achieve
to put their hands on the arc of history
and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day."
President-elect Barack Obama

Out of that wonderful, moving and historic speech that President-elect Obama made last night, that's the line that stays with me. The arc of history.

Political consultant Paul Begala felt that history, too, when he wrote in an AC360 blog, "People have kept faith with the American Dream and Constitution even when they were left out of it. This is a wonderful and powerful night for everybody who believes in the Constitution and the American Dream."

Film-maker and political activist Michael Moore was moved to write, "In a nation that was founded on genocide and then built on the backs of slaves, it was an unexpected moment, shocking in its simplicity: Barack Obama, a good man, a black man, said he would bring change to Washington, and the majority of the country liked that idea. The racists were present throughout the campaign and in the voting booth. But they are no longer the majority, and we will see their flame of hate fizzle out in our lifetime."

What an arc of history it's been. And just imagine what we have still to see in our lifetimes, in our children's lifetimes.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

5 More Friends

Yeah, what they said. :)

Saturday, November 1, 2008

The Fog

I didn't go to Preservation Day. I wish now that I had, especially after reading the comments on my last post. It was almost unanimous for Preservation Day. Sigh. Thanks, everyone, for saying that I deserved a day off. I didn't take a day off, but I did let myself sleep late.

I got up around 9:30 a.m. and let Little Dog out into the back yard, where he disappeared into a haze of fog almost as soon as he jumped off the stoop. The fog was so thick I couldn't see my neighbor's house across the alley. I retrieved my political signs from their Halloween hiding place in the shed and stuck them in the front yard again. Not a soul anywhere. Not a sound anywhere. So when I started scraping paint the SCRITCH-SCRITCH-SCRITCH must have reverberated through the neighborhood. Out of the fog behind me appeared my neighbor George, nearly scaring me out of my wits. "I was wondering what the heck that noise was!" he said. So I filled nail holes and cracks instead until around noon, when I resumed the scraping. And the hammering, because there were several loose clapboards on this part of the house. I'm working on the back part of the east wall which you can see, not very well, in this photo from back in August. So much needed to be repaired that it took me all day just to fill all the nail holes and cracks, caulk the gaps around the window and where the porch joins the house, and reposition loose clapboards and hammer them in just right. (I just realized that I should have taken before-and-after photos. Darnit!) Besides that, I also cut back an old rosebush so I could get to the wall, and tore off about 20 feet of painted-over telephone wire that ran up the side of the house and along the porch spandrel. But here's the good news: I have maybe two hours worth of paint-scraping and priming left to do tomorrow and then my house will be all tucked in for winter!!