Saturday, December 21, 2013

A Tale of Two Piccies

I have two photos of my house as it looked many years ago, long before I was born and long before bad things happened to the house in the name of convenience and maintenance.  I've shared both these photos here before, but while I was sidelined from my injury I ran them through a photo editing program, which improved them both quite a bit so I thought I'd share them again.

Please click photo to bigify.
This is the first photo that was given to me.  It was taken in 1947.  The people in the photo are Clarence and Theresa Kinney, and they lived in my house less than a year when they were first married.  Theresa is a friend of my mother's and when she found out I'd bought the house, she gave this photo to my momma to give to me.  This photo inspired me to tear off the cedar shingles which had been covering the original clapboards.  Theresa told me that when she and Clarence lived here the house was divided smack down the middle into two apartments.  I can see evidence of this in the marks from locks on interior doors.  The front entryway was shared and one apartment was what's now the front parlor, the dining room, and the kitchen; the other was the second parlor and what's now two bedrooms.  There was only one bathroom, shared, at the back of the house.  The Kinneys' landlord, Aubrey Kelly, (called Aub by the family and A.O. by everyone else) was one of the sons of James Kelly, who built this house.  A.O. kicked Clarence and Theresa out of the house when he learned Theresa was pregnant, saying "I don't want any crying baby in here!"  They moved next door, to the house that's visible in the background of this photo, and rented a room.  A.O. continued to live in the house his father built until his death in 1951.  

But if you look past the dapper Mr. and Mrs. Kinney at the house itself, you notice right away a big difference between the house's appearance in 1947 and its appearance now:  that front porch.  Sigh.  It's beautiful, isn't it?  Hipped roof, spandrel, three porch posts at the corner, and that gorgeous iron roof cresting along the edge of the flat roof.  I'd been told by several locals that the iron cresting was removed in a scrap metal drive during World War II, which certainly seems plausible, but the cresting on the porch at least was still present post-war.  The front steps went all the way across the front porch and there was a railing and spindles only down the side of the porch.  This confirms the recollection of a little old man who told me he played on those steps as a child.  I notice several other things too:  all of the stained glass panes are intact (one was replaced with clear glass prior to my ownership of the house), the small vent at the front of the house for the cellar (to the left of Clarence, almost at ground level) hadn't yet been stuccoed over, and by this time the whole house including the trim had been painted white or some other light color.  

Please click on photo to embiggen.
The quality of this next photo is still pretty poor, but it's a photo of a photocopy of a newspaper photo, so I suppose considering all that it's not so bad.  A neighbor of mine, Roger Slusher, who was a local historian, teacher, and author, found a newspaper article from 1981 (which, if memory serves, he had written) in the archives of the Lexington Museum and photocopied the article for me.  The newspaper caption says the photo was taken in 1906.  I contacted a Kelly family member a few years ago, hoping she would make a copy of the original photo, but she said she didn't have the photo and had no idea who did.  I still hold out hope I'll find it someday.  That's Mr. Kelly in front of the house with one of his horses, a horse who probably resided in the small stable which used to be located in my back yard and was torn down sometime in the 1920s.  From the Sanborn Maps of my neighborhood, I know the approximate dimensions of the stable and that it was a two-story brick and frame structure.  That's Mrs. Kelly on the front porch, seated on the left.  (This same photo appears in the Kelly family history, with the people in the photo and even the horse identified by name.)  

This is the photo that, honestly, makes me a bit queasy to look at.  So many of the beautiful details of the house and property are gone now.  The porch, of course.  All that gorgeous iron cresting and the lightning rods.  Two of the three chimneys have been demolished down to the roof and covered over and the third, the one on the far left, is just a stub.  The brick walkway that branched off from the main walkway and went around the east (right) side of the house is gone.  If you look closely at the edges of the photo, you can see a wooden fence on the west (left) side that looks similar to what we'd now call a privacy fence.  It's gone.  On the east side of the yard was a wood and iron fence, and nothing remains of it but the base of one iron post that sticks about an inch out of the ground and is only visible during the worst of summer when the grass is dry.  All the trees are gone too, although my neighbor Floyd and I planted a small dogwood in the front yard near where the horse is standing in the photo, and pretty close to where the tree on the left in the photo must have been planted, although we didn't have this photo to go by when we planted the dogwood.  

Some of this could be replaced:  the brick walkway, the low fence on the east side, the porch, the evergreen tree by the house.  The chimneys are less likely to be rebuilt, because of cost, but not ruled out completely.  Two things are all but impossible:  the privacy fence on the west side, because my neighbor's side porch is built almost on the property line and putting a fence along there would not only look odd but probably not be allowed by the Historic Preservation Commission; and the iron roof cresting, which is considerably outside my present budget.   

At least one of the things that used to be here but now isn't will be rebuilt this coming spring.  Can y'all guess which one?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ten Weeks and Four Days

This past Monday I went to the ortho clinic.  I had xrays and then I waited nervously as the FNP looked them over.  "It looks good," he said.  "Actually, really good.  I'm going to go ahead and release you.  Merry Christmas."

Ten weeks and four days.  From the date of my fall to the date of my release from treatment, ten weeks and four days.  The doctor originally predicted it would take me twelve weeks to heal.  This might be the first time I've ever gotten anything done ahead of time.

I wished him a merry Christmas too and turned to go.  He paused in the doorway, grinning.  "Now this doesn't mean you can go straight to the lumberyard, pick up fifty pounds of materials, and start working on your house."  My reputation precedes me.  I laughed.  "What can I do?" I asked.  "Anything you want," he said, "as long as it doesn't hurt or put too much pressure on that collarbone."

Anything I want...anything...

First things first:  get rid of that damn figure-of-eight splint.   As soon as I got home I threw it on the floor and stomped on it.   Then I grabbed a lighter with the intention of destroying the splint by fire, but since my entire yard is covered with about six inches of leaves and it was really windy that day, I decided not to risk burning down the whole neighborhood.  

Then I called my friend Tom, who's been a coach and a trainer for years, and asked him how best to rehab my shoulder and right arm.  He advised me to use my arm as much as possible without pain and to work on flexibility.  I've been working diligently, and every day I make a teeny-tiny bit of progress.  (Kinda like when I was scraping paint off the house--work hard, barely visible results.)  

And last, I called Mare to tell him the good news.  Y'all know I can't stay mad at him for long, and especially not when he blames himself for my injury.  He says if he hadn't come along and pissed me off, I wouldn't have passed out and gotten hurt.  I counter that I could've passed out at home all by myself without him there to put half a roll of paper towels on my dented-in head and then drive me to the hospital, and that might've been worse.  

So what's next?  This winter I'd planned to pull up the subfloor in the back bedroom to investigate why the floor slopes sharply down towards the back of the house (I suspect decades-old termite damage to the floor joists, which was noted in my house inspection) and repair that, and then, if I hadn't run out of winter yet, I planned to put a new ceiling in that room.  There's no chance of any of that happening now.  So, I'm taking the rest of the winter off from any serious work on the house.

And I'm making plans for spring.  Big plans.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

To Arms!

Of all my friends, neighbors, family members and assorted townspeople who make appearances in this blog, I'd venture to guess that none is more beloved among my readers than White Trash Bob.  Heck, he has his own fan club and he's been nominated for sainthood, and for good reason.  In the seven years I've lived across the street from him, he's never failed to provide advice, tools, muscle, and encouragement every time I've needed it.  Sometimes even when I didn't know I needed it.  He built my picket fence without once pointing out that I didn't know what the heck I was doing, talked me down off the roof when I was too afraid to climb back down, let me help him tinker around with motorcycles, and made me chicken noodle soup when I was brokenhearted.  In short, he's helped me out of many a jam.

And now White Trash Bob needs some help out of a jam of his own.

Without going into detail and invading the man's privacy, I'll just let you know that WTB has contracted a particularly evil cancer, with a long treatment and an uncertain prognosis.  I'm sure, although I haven't talked to him about it, that he's royally pissed off about the whole situation.  

So rally round, WTB Fan Club members!  To arms!  If y'all are the praying type, could you send a few up for Bob?  If you're otherwise inclined, please send WTB love and light and positive energy or whatever you believe might help the man.  I'm sure he'd appreciate it, and the elegant and erstwhile Mrs. WTB would appreciate it even more. 

Thanks, y'all. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Just Because

Note:  I wasn't going to share this story with y'all, but the fact that it's so telling of my personality and my life on so many levels, coupled with a recent comment made about one of my tweets, inspired me to say what the heck.  Karen Anne, this one's for you.

Not much goes on around the Kelly House these days.  I stay up as late as I want and wake up when I want and eat whatever I can manage to cook using mostly only my left arm and watch some television and read a lot.   I still have to wear that damnable figure-of-eight splint, but at least now I get to remove it when I take a shower.  Getting ready for the day goes something like this:  unbutton jammie shirt and remove it awkwardly, cursing because it catches on the splint; rip the velcro off the left side of the splint and take out my left arm and then sort of do the Harlem Shake until the splint falls off my right arm; take a shower (being really careful not to lean over or move my right arm too much--just try that sometime), towel off; put on bra by fastening in front and scooching it around to the proper position; thread my right arm carefully through the splint, stick my left arm through the splint, pull the webbing strap with my left hand across my back, under my left arm, and stick the velcro onto the left side of the splint by my neck; put on big plaid flannel shirt very carefully without moving my right arm too much; put on either yoga pants or sweatpants; sit on my butt and have a cup of coffee because I'm already worn out.  Repeat in reverse at the end of the day.  It's aggravating. 

I haven't been to work at The Real Job since October 1st and haven't worked on the house since October 2nd, and so temporarily my life is nothing like it used to be.  It's not going to last forever and none of it is Big Stuff, but it's all the little stuff added together that irritates me:  I haven't put my own hair in a ponytail in weeks, or worn a baseball cap, or swung a hammer, but the thing that bugs me most is that I haven't been able to wear any of my own shirts.  See, everything in my closet is pullover:  long and short sleeved t-shirts, camis, hoodies, tanks tops.   Since the injury, I've alternated wearing two big plaid flannel button shirts that I borrowed from my son. So not only do I not feel like me, I don't look like me, either.  Then last Saturday I got a cardiac monitor in the mail.  I have to wear it for four weeks, 24 hours a day, except when I'm in the shower or doing "other aquatic activity".  It has two leads (long wires) on it, one that I attach to the right side of my chest and the other to my left rib cage.  I think getting that cardiac monitor was the beginning of the breaking point.

On Monday morning I snapped.  "By gum," I told Louis Cat, "I am gonna do something today that makes me feel like the old me."  I decided to wear my new Kansas City Royals t-shirt.  It's long-sleeved, v-neck, and super cute.  "Girl cut", I think they call it, because it fits close to the body.  It took me almost four minutes to get that shirt on.  I know, I timed it.  Add my favorite jeans and my Chucks sneakers and I was a happy girl.  Never mind that I looked like a hunchback or possibly an FBI agent carrying a shoulder holster under my clothes because the splint stuck out in back.  Never mind that I had wires sticking out of the bottom of my shirt and going to a little black box that was definitely not a cute handbag.  I was wearing a t-shirt for the first time in several weeks and I was happy.

Now, y'all who have read this blog for some time know that one of my biggest faults is that I do not think ahead.  Tear cedar shingles off the house with no plan for what to do if the clapboards underneath are rotted and need to be replaced?  It'll all be fine!  Knock down an ugly wire fence to replace it with a picket fence without the slightest idea how to build a picket fence?  No problem!  Climb up on the roof without considering that I might be too scared to get back down?  That's me!

So about 11 p.m. my plan to put my jammies on and then read a couple hours before going to sleep ran aground when I discovered that I could not remove my shirt.  First I pulled on the left sleeve with my right hand, thinking that I could pull my left arm all the way out of the sleeve and then push the shirt over my head, but the shirt was too small and my right arm too limited in movement for that to work.  I tried variations of this six or seven times. Louis watched me with his ears laid back.  Then he got Florian and Gracie, and all three cats sat staring at me like, "Really, dumbass?  Didn't think this through, did ya?"  Then I thought that maybe I could pull the back of the shirt up over my head, like when you're in a fight with the fat kid at school, and take it off like that.  The shirt kept getting caught on the back of my splint.  I was scrunched up awkwardly with my left elbow pointed up toward the ceiling and my right hand behind me, trying to reach the shirt hem in the middle of my back, when I got a text message from my neighbor Jeff.  

"Whatcha doin?" it said.  

"Nothin much," I replied.  

He texted back about his lack of success hunting that day.  

"I can't talk right now," I texted, "cause I'm kinda in the middle of something."

Jeff was immediately suspicious.  "Middle of what?  Are you doin something you're not supposed to?"

"No," I said.  (Which was sort of the truth.)

"You're not up on a ladder are ya?" he texted.

Hell's bells.  "No, I'm just busy." I texted back.

"Busy with what?  Don't hurt yourself again." Jeff is nothing if not persistent in his worry.

Then the phone rang.
For the love of Pete.
"What in the world are you doin?" he asked.

"I'm--nothin--I'm just..." I faltered, trying to think of a reasonable excuse.

"Why are you out of breath?" He laughed.  "Did you find a boyfriend?  Am I interruptin something??"

"No, of course not.  I don't have any boyfriend.  I just--well--I just--I kinda did something stupid and I'm tryin to fix it."

"You need some help?" he asked.

"NO!" I said, a little louder than I meant to.  "I mean, no, it's okay."  I was in the kitchen with scissors, seriously considering cutting my brand new Royals shirt that I paid 40 bucks for off my body because that seemed like a better option than telling this guy what was really going on.

"It doesn't sound okay.  If you need some help, just ask."  He paused.  "You know what?  That was a dumb thing to say.  I know you.  You don't ask for help.  So I'm gonna assume that something happened and you need help and I'm just gonna come over there and help you unless you tell me right now not to."

Oh crap.  "Um...give me thirty seconds to consider this, alright?"  My mind raced.  I weighed both options.  For the past ten minutes I'd been trying to get this shirt off with no success.  I was sweaty and tired and my right shoulder was starting to hurt and I really did not want to chop into a brand new shirt.  On the other hand, I really did not want this guy to come over to my house and help me take my shirt off, and in the process see my stretched-out pink Walmart brand bra and my pit-stained splint.  (Hey, you wear a splint under your arms non-stop for three weeks and see if you can avoid pit stains.)  On the other other hand, everybody else I know is already in bed.  "Come on over," I mumbled.  I didn't tell him what the problem was, preferring the element of surprise.  In the time it took him to walk down the alley, I made a couple of last-ditch efforts to get the shirt off by myself, which of course failed, and when he tapped on the back door I was close to tears from frustration and embarrassment.

He walked into the laundry room.  "What's up?" he said.  Then, seeing my face, "Uh-oh.  Are you all right?"

And then I kinda lost it. "I feel like an idiot.  I put this shirt on because I just wanted to wear a t-shirt for once, for God's sake, and now I can't get the shirt off, and it's stuck on my splint, and this stupid cardiac monitor is in the way, and I feel like an invalid and I can't do anything at all by myself, not even take off a shirt, and I feel dumb because you have to help me with something so simple!"  I may have been wailing a little.  I was certainly sniffling and teary-eyed.  

"So you need me to take off your shirt?" Jeff asked.  And then he hugged me and said, "Honey, that's no big deal.  I think you might be over-reactin just a little bit here.  Go and get another shirt, and let's go in the kitchen so we're not standin right in front of the window, and we'll fix you right up."  

And then he very carefully pulled my shirt up over my head, and I pulled my left arm free of the sleeve, and then he slid the shirt off my right arm, looking pointedly at the floor the whole time, and when I had my other shirt on and buttoned, Jeff said, "You shoulda just called me in the first place instead of gettin all upset about it."  I started to answer and he said, "Oh, I know.  That's not what you do.  You try to do everything by yourself and never ask for help.  I think you think it's weak or something to ask for help.  That's why I've been clearin the snow for you out in the alley and by your carport every winter without askin you first."

"That's you who does that?" I asked, amazed.  

"Yep, that's me.  For the past three years."  He paused and then, anticipating my question, "Just because."

Thursday, November 21, 2013

I Am Old-er

Satchel Paige once said, "How old would you be if you didn't know how old you was?"

I know how old I am.  Forty-six.  Two months from today, I'll turn 47.  I hadn't really given my age a whole lot of thought until I got hurt and they screened me for heart attack and stroke at the hospital.  "Pish," I thought, "I didn't have a heart attack or a stroke.  That happens to old people." To begin with, I know from working in emergency services that those things sometimes happen to young people as well, but it's the slow dawning that I'm not one of the young people anymore that took me aback a bit.  I might be 46-almost-47 in Real Years, but in Jayne Years I'm about 30.  Thirty sounds good.  I can handle being 30.  Most days (before this happened) I felt about 30.  Heck, most days I acted about 30...or 12.  But I'm pushing 50.  My cholesterol is a smidge high, arthritis made itself known about five years ago, my son's pushing 30, and I haven't been able to drink more than 3 beers in a night without a hangover since about 2006.

On Monday I went to the outpatient clinic at the hospital again.  I've been there more in the past six weeks than I have in the past six years.  Chris, the Family Nurse Practitioner in the ortho practice (who should tour the country teaching other health care providers how to be just the right blend of intelligent, attentive and caring) told me that my fracture's healing but not as fast as he'd like it to be.  Apparently, fractures of the clavicle build tissue first, and then bone on top of that.  I have some good tissue building, but no bone growth yet.  Chris explained, "If you were a little kid, your fracture might be completely healed by now.  But because you're--" he paused to look at my chart, probably to get my age.  I helped him out.  "Because I am old."  He laughed, "I wouldn't say old, but I'd say old-er."  He continued, "Because you're older, it takes longer to heal.  I'm not comfortable with you going back to work yet or resuming much activity until you get some good bone growth."  Off work another three weeks, and the only activity I can do with my right arm is some small range of motion exercises, which I've been doing diligently.

I tried to explain to my son how weird it is to know in your head that you're 46, but to feel in your heart much younger, and that realizing you're middle-aged is kind of a kick in the pants.  Dylan said, "Mom, you're only middle-aged if you live to be at least 92.  If you die younger than that, then you're already over the hill."  Thanks, son....

Saturday, November 9, 2013

What It Isn't

Way back when, the day I'd injured myself and I was sitting in the ER (which seems like a hundred years ago but was really only 6 weeks or so) the ER doctor told me, "We might not be able to find out what it is that caused you to pass out, but we can find out what it isn't."

In the ER I had a list of isn'ts:  it isn't a heart attack, or a stroke, or low or high blood pressure, or some weird cardiac episode, or low or high blood sugar.  That's all very good news.  I'd rather not have any of those things.

But I still wanted to know what it is.  So I went to my regular doctor, and she ordered more bloodwork, because I couldn't remember if I'd eaten the day I took the header into the corner cabinet and the door jamb, and some things are better measured after fasting.  And now I have another list of isn'ts:  it still isn't low or high blood sugar, or thyroid, or a weird hormonal thing.  (I was wondering if maybe it was some monster hot flash that felled me.)

In other news, I visited the orthopedic surgeon a couple of weeks ago (and got to see the nice Family Nurse Practitioner rather than the not-nice surgeon) and found out that my collarbone is knitting together, but the ends of the break are overlapping rather than being side by side.  The overlap isn't much and he said it can heal that way, but to keep it from getting worse I had to further limit my movement.  So, I've been reading a lot lately, and I've watched more television in the past six weeks than I have in the past six months.  (Is it just me, or are the same shows on every night?)  I'm still in the awful figure-of-eight splint, but apparently the thing does help.  I'm still off work until I go back to the ortho on the 18th and I'm really hoping he releases me to go back to work then.  

So we still don't know what it is, but I'm inclined to go along with my doctor's theory.  She thinks that because I was arguing with Mare just before I whacked my head that maybe I was so angry and frustrated with him (gee, you'd think she knows him) that I might've had an episode of vasovagal syncope.  In plain language, that means he pissed me off to the point that I lost consciousness.  This is not difficult for me to believe.  Usually when he makes me angry I throw a hammer at him, but I didn't have one that day.  I'll have one close at hand from now on.  Better he should get hit with a hammer than I should break another bone. 

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Not The Smartest

Three weeks post-injury.  Nine more to go.  Ugh.

The first two weeks were ugly.  The less mentioned about those the better.  Suffice it to say that it's possible to move your shoulder or sternum, and therefore your broken collarbone, even while trying your darnedest not to, and that narcotic painkillers are a wonderful thing.

This week has been slightly better as far as my injuries.  The cat-shaped scab fell off my head and left behind a small red divot.  I was pretty disappointed that I won't have a cat-shaped scar on my head to forever mark me as a Crazy Cat Lady.  It's been slightly worse as far as how I'm dealing with inactivity.  I texted my son with a long list of things I thought I might be able to do, and his responses to them varied from "probably not" to "hell no".  

But today I thought I'd figured out something I could do:  run the ShopVac on the floors, which are pretty dusty and furry after three weeks.  The ShopVac was already in the middle of the back bedroom, so I wouldn't have to drag it out of the closet or lift it up the step between the laundry room and the kitchen; there's an easily accessible outlet in the back bedroom (no reaching for it); and it has a great long hose and wand on it, so I won't have to extend my left arm out very far.  I never thought I'd be excited about vacuuming, but I was.  Thrilled, even.  I ran it all around the back bedroom and my bedroom (which took three times longer than normal with only one arm and the restrictions on my movement) and then I went into the kitchen.  I should mention here that I have a contractor-grade ShopVac, so the thing's pretty powerful. Florian Cat's toys were scattered all over the kitchen floor and I was pushing them out of the way with my foot when I sucked up one of them partway into the wand.  The canister of the ShopVac was all the way across the room, so instead of turning the thing off, I pinched the ShopVac hose between my left arm and my body so I could yank the toy out of the wand.  Nobody came over this morning to put my hair in a ponytail for me, so I had a full-on Roseanne Roseannadanna thing going on today.  You can guess what happened next.  Yup.  Sucked my hair right into the ShopVac.  I let go of the wand, thinking gravity would help me.  Not so much.  The ShopVac traveled up my hair and stuck to the crown of my head, and I couldn't pull it off because I'm not supposed to lift either arm, right?  So I hobbled across the room with this thing stuck to my head, turned off the ShopVac, and the wand dropped off my head.  Not the smartest thing I've done lately.

I think I'll go back to sitting on the bed reading a book.  It's safer that way.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Twelve Weeks

Monday I went to see the orthopedic specialist. 

He walked into the room and said, very accusingly, "I looked at the x-rays from this morning and your fracture has shifted.  What have you been doing?  It was perfectly aligned on Thursday and now it's shifted. You must decrease your level of activity."

I fixed him with my best you're-an-asshole glare, a look that I've perfected over years of, well, being surrounded by assholes.  It must've worked.  (I think the black eye and my crazy hair helped the effect.) The doc actually took a step back, tilted his head to the side, and said, "I apologize.  Do you live alone?"  I nodded.  "It's very hard to manage a clavicle fracture if you live alone."

I sighed.  "Doc, I can feel the damn thing moving.  It clicks.  That's a little unnerving."

He checked my splint, a figure-of-eight brace that I'm pretty sure was once used as a medieval torture device.  "The splint isn't properly placed," he said as he hopped on the table behind me.  

Then he put his knee in my back and tightened the splint.  I said a bit of the Rosary in a way not typically prayed.

And then we had a little conversation about what I cannot do, which is pretty much everything, during which he scared me into compliance by threatening surgery if the break gets out of alignment again.  "Do not lift anything, do not stretch, do not extend either arm past 45 degrees, do not remove your splint," he warned. Got it.  He scribbled a note that I can't go back to work until he sees me again in three weeks.

As I left his office, he paused in the hallway, looked back, and said, "If you need anything, just call the office. You're my patient for the next twelve weeks for the same price, so don't hesitate to call if you have questions or needs."

"Twelve weeks?" I said.  "I won't really take that long to heal...right?"

"It will take every bit of twelve weeks for that fracture to heal, yes," he said.

"Twelve..." I gulped.  "Twelve weeks...."

Thursday, October 3, 2013

About Those Plans...

Somebody said, "We make plans and God laughs."  (I don't know who that "somebody" is or was.  The interwebs says John Lennon, a Yiddish proverb, the tv drama Private Practice, or Woody Allen.  Take your pick.)  I don't think God really laughs at us, especially not at our misfortunes, but I do think that every once in awhile something happens to make us remember that we're not as much in charge as we think we are.

I started out this morning full of plans:  help my son move some furniture, get the second coat of paint on the back wall of the house, get under the side porch for a better look at what's needed to fix it, run some errands...but it was storming when I woke up so I decided to take a little nap and re-adjust my plans later.

About noon Mare knocked on the door, and I went to answer it in my favorite Hello Kitty jammies.  He apologized for not showing up to hang the clapboards (whatever, Mare) and we chatted for about half an hour.  Suddenly I felt yucky, really yucky, so I walked into the kitchen to sit down.  I made it to the kitchen doorway before I, in Mare's words, "dropped like a sack of taters".  Passed out cold.  On the way down I somehow managed to hit the door jamb at an odd angle, which broke my collarbone, and then I face-planted into the corner cabinet and opened up a small cut on my forehead.  That'll teach Mare to no-show when he's promised to help me!  He drove me to the hospital and spent the next three hours in the ER waiting room while they ran me through x-rays, a CT scan, bloodwork, and an EKG.  All in all, it's good news:  everything came back normal and the break is clean so the bone guy doesn't think I'll need surgery.  My glasses are shattered and my Hello Kitty jammies look like something out of a horror movie.  Come to think of it, I look like something out of a horror movie.  

I'm lucky.  Lucky that I wasn't alone, lucky that I wasn't hurt worse, lucky that I have health insurance to help pay for all this, and especially lucky that I have friends and family who care about me.  I'll try to remember all that in the face of the ortho doctor's warning: "No construction for you for the next six to eight weeks."  Ugh.  




Poor Little Porch

Poor little side porch.  She's been sadly neglected for many years.


This porch is on the east side of the house.  She still has her original spindles and beadboard ceiling, but she's suffered a lot of indignities over her lifetime.  I thought she was original to the house, but when I found Sanborn maps for my neighborhood, this porch wasn't shown as part of my house until the 1910 map.  (Incidentally, that's about when the back of the house was added on, too, the part that's gray in this photo and what I showed you in the last post.)  There were doors at either end of the porch at one time; the thresholds are still there and I can faintly see the ghost marks of some small hinges, probably for a screen door.  When I bought the house, the porch floor was covered with icky brown carpet and there were no porch steps.  I ripped up the carpet right away, and bought the steps that are there now.  (They're actually interior stairs, salvaged from an old house, but it's better than having to jump off the porch.)

The porch floor is tongue-and-groove and it has some damage.  After extensive testing--which consisted of jumping up and down in various places--I concluded that the damage is water-related and that it's mostly at the front edge of the porch.

Those two holes you see at the edge of the floor, though, aren't damage.  I think they're from porch railing that used to be there.  Back before I painted that trim board green, I could see the outline of the rail post on it.  I think the railing went along the edge of the porch to where the original steps were.  There doesn't seem to have been a railing on the other side of the steps, though.  I really wish the porch could talk, so she could tell me what she used to look like.

If she could talk, I think she'd shout, "Get that stupid, ugly plywood off of me!!"

I don't know much about the porch's history, but thanks to my neighbor Floyd I do know why the porch has plywood all over it.  Seems the previous owner, a sweet little old lady named Esther, had a live possum in the basement once (which kinda puts my dead rat in the ceiling to shame) and was convinced that it had made entry via the side porch somehow so she had the whole thing boarded over.  I tore the plywood off and looked underneath the porch.  For a couple of seconds I considered getting under there for a better look, and then it occurred to me that I could stick my phone's camera under there and get the same end result.  This is what the camera saw:
I'm not sure if that's a basement window or what--so it seems I will have to crawl under there, eventually--but whatever it is was possum-proofed by another piece of plywood and a couple of cement blocks. Note the big gap at the top.  Why, a clever possum could squeeze through there in no time.  This whole contraption makes me laugh.

What I don't find funny at all, though, is this rotten board on the front of the porch.  Part of it looks like chocolate cake and has about the same consistency, too, so it needs to be either replaced altogether or have a new board sistered in.  
I'd like to at least get that board fixed, as part of my tucking-in-for-the-winter plan.  If I'm being really ambitious, I'd like to get the porch floor painted too so that it survives the winter.  I'm worried that if I don't do repairs to it now, I'll have to replace it in the spring.  Poor little porch.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Pride Goeth Before A Fall

I've made great strides on the house the past couple of days.  On Friday I scraped, caulked, and primed the clapboards that Dylan and I (mostly Dylan) hung the day before.


On Saturday, in between the rain, I accomplished a whole list of things without incident or injury:

Cranked open the basement trapdoor
Located the correct (unlabeled) breaker for the outside lights
(And labeled the breaker so I don't have to go through that again.)
Did not get trapped in the scary basement.
(Even though I ran up and down the steps at least four times.)
Cut an electrical cable to the proper length
Stripped the cable
Installed a new outside light
Tested the light (It works!)
Slammed the basement trapdoor shut without mashing my fingers or toes
Got the first coat of paint on the back wall


Picked up that big pile of junk in the middle of the yard
Mopped the floors in the laundry room and kitchen 
Went back outside to admire the back wall again


Boy, I sure did get a lot done.  I was feeling pretty proud of myself.  Pretty proud indeed.

And then I walked into the kitchen, stepped on a cat toy on the wet floor, skated halfway across the room, and nearly knocked myself unconscious when I slid into the closed kitchen door.

Pride literally goeth before a fall.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

Serendipity

I love the word "serendipity".  I like the happy way it sounds; I like even better the idea of happy accidents, of stumbling upon good luck.  (I like the movie Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale too.)  I don't find serendipity too often, and maybe you don't either...but maybe that's part of what makes serendipity so wonderful.

A little serendipity happened this week, and this is my story of it.

Tuesday night I was at work when my son texted me to ask: "You need some help on your house?"

Out of the blue, no prompting from me, and neither he nor his wife are readers of this blog, so there's no explanation for it besides pure serendipity.

I quickly ran through my head all the things I need to get done before winter, and which ones I could do alone and which ones I truly need help with, and while I was sorting that all out, Dylan sent another text.  "Did you ever get those clapboards put on?  If not, I'll be over Thursday afternoon to help with that."

Serendipity, I tell you.

So Wednesday afternoon I started doing this:
Which I finished in about 45 minutes and then forgot to take a photo.  You get the idea, though.  

Thursday afternoon Dylan came over right on time, and then the exciting stuff started happening.

"Jeez, Mom, where did you find these things?" he asked.  "These boards look like they're a hundred years old."

"Most recently they were in Chris's basement, down the street," I explained, "but before that they were on that old house out east of town, Old Oaks.  You know, the Slusher place?  So yeah, those boards are more than a hundred years old.  I think that house was built in the 1870s."

He laughed.  "Most people would just buy new stuff.  Not you!"

"New stuff costs like $250," I countered, "and it's not as good.  This is from old-growth cedar, and even better, it was free."

"Do not take a picture of me, Mother."

"I'm not.  I'm taking a picture of what you've done so far."

Oh, looky there, I accidentally got Dylan in the photo...how 'bout that?

Three hours later, including a break to get drinks at the gas station and sit down a minute or two, we were done.  (And by "we", I mean Dylan was done working and I was done holding clapboards and mostly watching him.)

"Isn't it beautiful?!" I said when we stepped back to look at it.  "Doesn't it look amazing?"

Dylan was skeptical.  "It might look beautiful when you get done scraping all that old paint off and caulking in those seams and painting it.  Right now it looks like a mess."

I think it's beautiful already.  I think it looks like serendipity.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Rose Colored Blinders

They say some folks wear rose colored glasses.  Me, I wear rose colored blinders.  They keep me from seeing anything except what's right in front of me, and even that is tinted pinkish and positive.  I like it here in the narrow little view between my blinders.  But sometimes, just every once in a great while, it's good to take off those blinders and get a little dose of reality.  Like when you wake up and realize that somehow it got to be the end of September awfully fast and it'd be a good idea to figure out what needs to be done on the house before winter.

I've showed y'all the nice-looking part of the front of the house, but here's the other piece of it, over towards the west side:



It's a little slice of ugly in the middle of that nice gray paint, isn't it?  I'd like to get the really loose paint scraped off and have this part of the house at least primed before winter.  I don't like the thought of those clapboards going through winter bare.  They need a coat, even if it's just a coat of primer. The part of the house up under the eaves is still yellow too, but the paint's not flaking so badly there, so it can make it through the winter like that.

I walked down the west side of the house really, really slow so I could take a good look at it.  It's the only side of the house that's done, and I wanted to rest on my laurels a little bit and get up my courage to look at the rest of the house.  (Truthfully, there are a couple little pieces of trim to paint and a window to repair before cold weather, but in comparison to the rest of the house....  Yeah.)

Then around to the back of the house....

Oh lordy be.  It's an unmitigated disaster back here.  The house is all different colors, and not in a Victorian Painted Lady way, either.  That's not pretty, but it's not really the trouble back here, either.  The gutters need to be cleaned out again and the flashing between the tall part of the house and the shorter part needs to be fixed so it doesn't leak at all.  I've gotten up there a couple of times and now the leak's smaller and it only happens when there's pouring rain or a lot of wind, but I want the leak gone.  That's a priority.  Those clapboards Chris gave me ought to be put on the house before winter, too, or stacked in the scary basement until spring.  (They would already be on the house--three weeks ago--if Mare had showed up to help me when he said he would, but the less said about that the better.)

On to the east side...


This is a really flattering angle because it makes the back addition of the house look gigantic, and so in the photo it appears that most of the east side is done.  In reality, not so much.  The addition is about the same width as the side porch and the yellow mammoth up front.  So, about one-third of the east side of the house is done.  Sort of.  Well, not really.  That window in the addition needs to be repaired, caulked and primed (preferably, painted) before winter because part of it is bare wood.  The gutters over here need to be cleaned out, too.  Something needs to be done about the floor of the side porch, because it won't survive another winter without some serious help.  I mean, serious help. Either it needs to get that help or be written off as a lost cause and allowed to die a slow and terrible death over the winter.

So.  Now I know what needs to be done to get her all tucked in before cold weather:  gutters cleaned out, some primer put on, flashing fixed, repairs here and there, porch triaged....

I'm putting those blinders back on.  They let me see one thing at a time.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

If Weights Could Talk

The other day I was poking around under the side porch--more about that in a later post--and I found this thing in the dirt under the porch.  It's metal, about a foot long, and heavy.  I asked on Twitter and Facebook, what the heck is it??  "It's a window sash counter weight," my friend Jim said.  Others agreed.


I'd seen window sash weights before, but not ones that look like this.  The ones I'd seen were much smaller, square, and much lighter in weight.  For smaller windows, I suppose.


But that got me thinking...

How did this window weight get under the side porch?  Who put it there and why?  Did it come from this house?

I'll probably never know the answers to those questions.  If only window weights could talk...

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Fiddly Bits

 
Here's a short list of things to know about me:  I don't like painting trim.  I'm at the age where I have to look over the top of my glasses to see things up close.  I detest doing little fiddly things that take hours and hours and require me to concentrate really hard. 

Y'all knew all that stuff already, right?  I sure did.  I mean, I know me.  I know how I am.  I know what makes me want to scream and throw things.  And yet, painting the little fiddly bits of the porch posts three different colors and painting the brackets to match still seemed like a good idea.  It stopped seeming like a good idea about halfway through the first afternoon.  

By the second afternoon, I was questioning both my intelligence and my sanity.  So was my neighbor Floyd. 

"Dark gray stripes on white posts," he observed.  "Boy, you're brave, aren't you?"  

"No, I am not." I said.  "I am out of my mind."

Friends, that dark gray stuff about did me in.  

However, I managed to keep some shred of my sanity together long enough to finish the porch posts and brackets, even though I wanted to throw my teeny-tiny paintbrush into the street. 

Believe me when I tell y'all, I am very glad there are no more posts and brackets on this house.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

One Day's Work

This.

This is one day's work.

Oh, I know it doesn't look like one day's work, but it is.

That pale blue ceiling, now not streaky.
The crisp white trim around the door.
The black sash around the transom window.
A second coat of paint on everything pale gray.
One piece of trim painted, there on the right.

Please excuse the half-dead geranium.
She had nothing to do with this.
And pay no mind to those paint cans huddled together.
They'll only be there a little while until they're put to work again.

One day's work.
This is what happens when I sleep until noon.


Monday, September 2, 2013

Long Story Long

Some things I can predict.  Like the weather being dangerously hot every one of my days off last week. That prediction caused me to actually plan ahead for once and consider that four days of being trapped indoors would be a good time to make some progress on the ceiling in the back bedroom.  Y'all remember that ceiling, right?  The one with three layers of ugliness and, as an extra bonus, a petrified rat in the insulation.  When I got off work last Wednesday morning, I very nearly went to Lowe's to buy the planks for the new ceiling.  But I was tired and cranky, so I drove home instead.

Some things I cannot predict.  Like walking in the house to see Louis Cat sprawled out on the laundry room floor with his eyes glassy and his breathing shallow and raspy.  That was an oh-schidt moment.  Y'all know that Louis is my little sweetheart and that I love him so much that The Hottie Priest told me it's almost a sin. (Probably calling Father Stephen "The Hottie Priest" is a sin, too, but I digress.)

Anyhow.  I called the vet but she couldn't see him because she was in surgery, so she told me I should take him to the animal hospital in Concordia, 30 miles away.  I was scared.  Louis was scared.  Cats just don't feel the same way about car rides that dogs do.

Florian is very happy
that his friend
is home.
Louis had fever, but right away the vet ruled out really terrifying stuff like poisoning, heart failure, respiratory failure, leukemia, AIDS, and thyroid trouble.  Dr. Liz suspected a urinary tract infection and said that Louis would have to stay until he provided enough pee to confirm this diagnosis.  I waited around for a couple of hours, but since Louis showed no inclination to pee and I'd been awake for a really long time, I reluctantly drove home.  Louis began a hunger strike and the hospital began pee-pee watch.  The pee-pee watch lasted about 30 hours, until Dr. Liz decided that since Louis wasn't voluntarily providing a sample she'd catheterize him.  Apparently the sight of the catheter was enough to motivate Louis to pee.  Poor guy.  Dr. Liz's diagnosis of UTI was confirmed.  Louis still had fever, so he had to stay again Thursday night. The hunger strike lasted until Friday afternoon, when Louis's captors--I mean, the animal hospital--caved in and let him come home.  Louis is still a little bit cranky, but he's feeling much better.

All this is a long way of telling y'all that I didn't work on the house last week at all.  Maybe this week will be better.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

The Rule of 150

Back in the 1950s and early 1960s, before I came along and then my little brother ten months later--before you bend your brain thinking about that, I should tell you we're both adopted--my momma worked in the Lafayette County Courthouse.  It's affectionately known as the Cannonball Courthouse because it still has a cannonball stuck in one of its big white columns from the Civil War Battle of Lexington in 1861.  Up until fairly recently the Cannonball Courthouse did not have air conditioning, and even with big windows and high ceilings I imagine it got pretty darn uncomfortable in there during the summer.  The County Commissioners instituted The Rule of 150: if the outside temperature plus the humidity was equal to or greater than 150, the Courthouse closed for the day.  That seems like a good rule.  In fact, it seems like that rule could apply quite well to working outdoors in the heat, too.

The next several days are predicted to be hot and humid, highs in the upper 90s with humidity at 50% or higher.  The Rule of 150 is likely to kick in and keep me from working much outdoors.  As my cousin David said, "Any paint you put on the house in that heat would just blister right away."  Weather that hot doesn't seem conducive to standing on a ladder scratching away at old paint with a scraper, either. 

So I'm making other plans.  Like pulling staples out of the back bedroom ceiling and maybe getting some planks up there.  Playing hooky with my momma for an afternoon and picking through heaps of vintage linens at an antique shop outside Warrensburg.  Chowing down on one of Mr. Bruce's hand-breaded tenderloins at Riley's Pub.  Watching movies on my new Roku box, which my son has renamed "The Box of Magic".

If it's hot where you are, too, please be careful.  We've had a cooler-than-normal summer here in the Midwest and folks just aren't acclimated to this heat.  Stay indoors if you can.  If you can't, drink lots of water and take breaks frequently.  Don't forget to check on elderly neighbors who might not have air conditioning, and be kind to your animals, too.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

An Unlikely Journey

This is what the back of my house looked like in--well, judging by the snow on the ground in this photo it could be anywhere from October to May--so I'll just say this is what the back of my house looked like earlier this year, and what it still looks like (minus the snow) today.  I'd like to call your attention to the wall behind that ladder.  See that patched-in place?  With all the uneven clapboards?  That's where the back door used to be, long before I bought the house, and I hate the way they patched it all sloppy and uneven.  I think I know why they--whoever "they" are--did it that way:  because they knew that their sloppy patch was going to be covered up almost immediately by cedar shingles, which used to cover the whole house.  (Remember how ugly that looked??)  That's also why they didn't make the patch by the existing door look nicer, too.  It used to be a window, which was slightly wider than the door, and they just stuck a scrap piece of lumber on the side there. 

Last fall I decided that I'd buy new clapboards and run them the length of that wall, from the trim there on the left clear over to the door, all nice and even.  Then I went to the lumberyard and priced new clapboards and decided that $250 was too much to pay for cedar clapboards just to get rid of a patch in the wall, especially when they're so thin I could cut 'em with a Dremel tool.  I complained about this one evening last fall while drinking a beer with the guy down the street, and Chris flung open his garage door to show me a giant stack of clapboards salvaged from an 1870s house.  "I'll sell ya what I don't use to fix my own house," he said.  We shook hands on the deal.

And, in the way of things around here, almost a year went by before we talked about those clapboards again. 

A lot's happened since then, some of it not too good, and without getting into the details I'll just say that Chris has decided reluctantly to pull up stakes and leave our little town.  That meant I needed to go get those clapboards right away, so I drove The Toaster down the alley last Friday and spent what will probably be my last afternoon at that house with Chris.  (In the basement, no less, which is where he was storing the clapboards.)  That house is the house that Mare and I lived in once upon a time.  We split up, Mare ran out of money, the house sold before I had the money to buy it myself, and it's been sold twice since I bought the Kelly House.  Now it's for sale again. 

Loading the clapboards into my car, I asked Chris where they came from.  "A house out east of town on 24," he said, "before they tore it down."  Oddly, Mare lived in that house, too, until he lost it to foreclosure.  Then someone with good intentions but bad advice gutted the house before they ran out of money to restore it, so it sat vacant and in disrepair for several years until the farmer who owned the surrounding land had the house torn down.  The siding was salvaged by the previous owner of Chris's house and stored in the garage for several years. 

Those clapboards have made an unlikely journey from the house east of town which no longer stands, to the house down the street where some of them replaced broken clapboards there, and now to my own house.  I think it would be fitting, given their history, if Mare helped me put them on my house, but I suspect he'll see that a little less poetically than I do.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Almost Scary

In spite of declaring one day last week as The Day of Sleep, and playing hooky the next day to go shopping with my momma, and then spending half of an afternoon in someone else's basement (more about that later), I did get a little more paint on the front of the house.

I'm almost to the scary part of the house, where I have to face my fear of heights and step off the ladder and onto that little roof above the windows to scrape and paint.  Gulp.  It's terrifying.  Wish me luck and courage.

Saturday, August 17, 2013

The Domino Effect

This business of "one thing leads to another" is a common theme around here, and this is just the latest example of it.

There I was, painting the trim around the transom window above the front door when I looked down inside the storm window covering it and noticed a chunky piece of beautiful trim.  "It's too bad that's hidden by the storm window...." I thought.  And then, almost before I even finished that thought, came an idea:  Why not pull the storm window off there? The transom hardware on the inside is long gone, and the window's sealed shut by about a thousand coats of paint, so it's not like the storm window really had any purpose.

So I removed it.

Then I stepped back and looked at the front door and thought, "Well, now the storm door looks really dorky without the storm window above it."  I hate that storm door with a passion, always have.  It's aluminum and really flimsy, the screen panels for it are gone, and one of the glass panels has been replaced with plexiglass.  "Guess I better keep it though," I sighed, "since I don't have the money for one of those full-view glass doors right now."  So I painted it.  And that storm door bugged me for the rest of the day.  Towards dark I gave myself a little talk. "Hell's Bells, you took the storm windows off every window on the entire house and despite the dire predictions of the haters, it didn't cause the utility bills to soar.  The damn door doesn't fit in the frame anyhow, so it's hardly energy efficient.  Besides, if you take the storm door off then you can see the front door."  (Talking to myself like this might be part of the reason why the neighbors think I'm nuts.  That, and painting my whole house by myself.)

So I removed the storm door, too.  Because it really did look dorky on there.

And now everybody can see the front door, which is the best part of my house.  

(Everybody can also see my arm and the top of my head in the reflection, which is not the best part of my house!)  

Looking at it, I realized that the strip of wood above the door (it's gray in the above photo) wasn't original to the house and was put there when the storm door was.  My son had stopped by when he saw the storm door out in the yard, so he removed that little piece of wood for me.  

Then it occurred to me that without a storm door, the post office would be willing to use the mail slot in my door, so I took the mailbox off the front of the house too.

A doorknob and backplate this gorgeous should not be hidden behind a storm door, am I right?

Here you can also see the paint history of the trim:  white (me), cream (me too), bright yellow, gray, and dark blacky-green.

A better photo of the front door.

(Note the icky storm door in the reflection.)

Twenty-four hours later, I took this photo...and realized I'd come full circle.  Painted trim, removed storm window, removed storm door, removed trim piece, removed mailbox, and now back to painting trim again.

Is it any wonder it takes forever for me to get things done?



Sunday, August 11, 2013

Under The Weather

Thursday I worked ten hours on the front of the house and I have this to show for it.


Some of that primer was already there.  

Yep, that's it.  Not really much of a difference from last week, is it?  That paint's really tough to take off.  I thought about just painting over it, but it's really cracked so it does have to come off.  Eventually.

Friday I was determined to make visible progress.  And then it rained all day.  Not pouring rain that would've improved the drought conditions around here, just a light misting rain off and on all day.  Enough to keep me from scraping paint, because when the clapboards are damp they're soft and the scraper damages them.  After messing about aimlessly inside the house for a few hours, two things occurred to me:

Hey, I have really wide eaves on this house.

And, I have a front porch.

(It should also occur to you, and me, that I'm not very smart because it took me until mid-morning to figure that out.)

So I worked "under the weather" beneath the eaves on the front of the house and got it primed...
Photo taken Saturday afternoon in the sunshine.

And "under the weather" on the front porch to put one coat of paint on this (which didn't need to be scraped, so it went fast)...
 ...and the little fiddly pieces of the screened porch too...
and by dark on Friday night I felt like I was making progress after all.

Which motivated me on Saturday to put a coat of paint on the front of the house...


...and now I'm hopeful that I might finish the front of the house by mid-September so it looks presentable when people come into town for the Old Homes Tour.


Sunday, August 4, 2013

A Double Loss

About 2:15 a.m. the morning of August 1st, a sheriff's deputy standing outside the jail heard the noise, a long rumbling sound that seemed to end with a sigh.  He sent someone to check out the noise and they discovered, a block away, that one of Lexington's old buildings, located on Main Street in the National Register Commercial Historic District downtown, had partially collapsed.   Built in 1890, the building had most recently been the home of Riley's Irish Pub & Grill, a business that was known as much for its beautiful architecture and the vibrantly welcoming personality of its owner, Katherine VanAmburg, as it was for its delicious food.  People met there for lunch or supper or just to talk and all of them were greeted by Katherine saying in her faintly Southern accent, "Welcome to Riley's!  Have a seat anywhere you'd like!"  Katherine's family had been in Lexington even longer than the building had, having come here in 1835 to build houses, raise families, and own businesses that included the famous Pony Express.

In recent months, both the building and Katherine had fallen on hard times.  Katherine had cancer and recovered, then had a stroke, and then the cancer returned.  In May, a hole had formed in the outside wall of the pub after hard rains and the building was declared unsafe.  Employees hurried to remove what they could of the building's contents, moved to a new location at 12th and Franklin Streets, and the building was left vacant.  The plan was to move back into the Main Street building after repairs were made.  But the insurance company dragged their feet on authorizing those repairs, and the plans to return to the historic building ended when it collapsed in the wee hours of the morning August 1st.

When the sun rose that morning,
 the extent of the damage was heartbreaking.



 The pub's iconic leaded glass keyhole window lay shattered in the street.


A set of shelves balanced on the edge of the collapse, 
stacks of plates unbroken.

More heartbreak was to come.  
Shortly before 8 a.m., we learned that Katherine had passed away.
Becky Morton, the pub's manager, said sadly, 
"Katherine has left and she took the building with her."
It seems both terribly sad and at the same time 
somehow absolutely right that we lost two Lexington icons in one day.

The city decided that the rest of the building must come down.  
The fire department showed up to hose down the debris after the Department of Natural Resources said the site most likely contained asbestos.  The track hoe started its terrible work.
 The back of the building had been mostly intact after the collapse, and when the track hoe started to tear that down, it peeled away the front wall first.  For a moment we could see inside the building, the bathroom doors with the Lads and Lassies signs on them, boxes of Katherine's family history stacked at the top of the steps where they'd been left behind the day of the move, a coat rack on the wall.  Then the machine clawed it all down to the ground.  A group of us watching, including Riley's employees, burst into tears.

After the machines finished the awful business of bringing the building to the ground, only the stained glass window at the front of the building remained.

Two Riley's employees and I scrambled over the debris picking out Katherine's belongings until the city arrived to fence off the area and we were told to leave.  We found almost 200 photographs Katherine had taken, a serving plate, and three of the six boxes of her family history.  The back bar, original to the building, many of Katherine's possessions, and some pub fixtures are buried in the rubble now. The city's Public Works department salvaged the frame of the keyhole window, two corbels, and the large stained glass window and have them in storage.  It's unclear if further salvage will be allowed.

At Katherine's memorial service on Friday, Reverend Liz Deveney often spoke of Katherine VanAmburg and the Riley's Pub in the same sentence.  She told us how she arrived here from Austin, Texas used to big city ways and that it was Katherine who first extended a welcome to her and who taught her to "sit down, sit all the way down" and be present in the moment.  Reverend Liz told us that hospitality knows no physical space, and although the building is gone, Katherine's warm welcome can live on in the pub's new location or wherever we are as we welcome each other as family.


NOTE:  All photos are mine with the exception of the first one, which Katherine took some years ago. More photos can be seen at the Facebook page for Riley's Irish Pub & Grill.  You are welcome to use my photos but please give credit or link back to either this post or the Riley's page.  Thank you.