Praying for boredom

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There are times in life I struggle feeling like I’ve got nothing exciting going on, nothing to talk about, nothing to share. And there are other times– like right now when I am begging the good Lord for a dull moment. Please Lord, smite me with a little boredom!!

In the five weeks:
I flew back from an awesome trip to Europe
We buried my beloved grandfather (who died a few days before Christmas)
We rang in 2018 (without heat at the Little House)
I got influenza and spent a week on the couch
My dad had a heart attack
I finally got antibiotics for the sinus infection that developed after the flu (and ended January finally feeling 100% well again)
I attempted to fill my dad’s shoes at work– no small task

Yeah. It’s been a lot. Being some kind of sick for the entire month didn’t help, especially considering everything else going on.

In the midst of a grueling few weeks, there are really good things to be thankful for and I am so very thankful.

I am thankful for friends and community that care for me so well. For friends that drop off soup and life-saving cough syrup and pumpkin bread when I’m dying on the couch. For a puppy that is finally potty trained. For heat. For down blankets and sweatpants and heated mattress pads.

More than any of that, I am thankful for modern medicine and quick intervention so that my dad is doing well and it looks like there’s no long-term damage from the heart attack.  As scary as it was, I can’t help but be thankful it happened where he was surrounded by people (at Church) where they could call 911 and get him to the hospital so quickly. He is recovering and has a long way to go but is on the right path and following doctor’s orders, which I appreciate. God is good!

While I usually dread February, this year I’m looking forward to leaving January in the dust. I’ve had a lot of exhausting seasons in my life and January 2018 seriously tested my limits. I am confident 2018 has got to get better from here on out.

Happy February!

Making a list, checking it twice

I wrote this and tried to post it on my first leg of a journey– alas it never posted, but I’ll post it now for good measure.

I’m going on a grand adventure for Christmas this year. I couldn’t be more excited. Some of my dearest friends are in Europe for the year, in residence at Oxford. I was planning to go visit while they are there because it is the perfect excuse to go. We’d talked of an excursion to Ireland while I was there perhaps. I had toyed with the idea of going for Christmas but it is more expensive, etc. so I kind of dismissed it as an unrealistic dream.

And then in a flurry, plans changed. Someone offered them use of their vacation home in Ireland over Christmas. I spent two weeks scouring the internet for flight deals and paying the extras fees to rush my passport application, while they worked out details on their end. The long and short of it is that it is more expensive to fly meaning I’ll be there longer to be able to afford it… and I’m going. I’M GOING!!!!

It will be my first Christmas not at home and that’s a little weird but honestly, the last few years Christmas has been challenging for me in the details and dynamics and a year off is just what the doctor ordered. And by a year “off” I obviously mean Christmas in my favorite country with some of my favorite people who are like family to me. Not a terribly hard trade-off. (Have I mentioned just how excited I am?!?!?!)

At work, things tend to slow down for a few weeks around Christmas- more so than early spring when it gets crazy getting projects on the street so the timing works out nicely there. I’m so excited for a vacation without having to be on call at work– something that hasn’t happened in years. At home, my dear sister (who may never forgive me for leaving her at Christmas) and a friend have agreed to hold down the fort at the Little House and try to keep the puppy out of trouble. I feel awful about leaving my puppy for so long while she’s a shit little … which really just means I feel bad leaving anyone else to contend with her insane puppy antics.

It is odd to be missing my favorite Christmas party with friends, to be not Christmas shopping. I’m not sewing or painting or building anything (other than the Project). I’ve done some online shopping to take advantage of the sales but it has been mostly just to replace some things I needed: jeans without holes, warm socks, hiking boots, etc.

This week I have lists everywhere. What has to happen at work, at home, with the Project, last minute visiting with friends, gah. So many details to pull it together. And then I’ll blink and it will be time to board a plane, put in some headphones, and go see my people.

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Sliding Glass Door Replacement

It has been awhile since I posted about the Great Project Spiral of 2017. Never fear, the project is still going and still spiraling. I’m trying to get back to actually making progress and sharing some of the details…

Let me just say that the old sliding glass door wasn’t in great shape. The exterior has numerous chunks out of it. The track had parts that were broken and allowed in some cold air. And the glass itself was old and not terribly energy efficient. Mmm hmmm.

I’ve wanted to replace this door since moving in, but this is a pretty pricey replacement and this project has already gone significantly over budget. Bah. So I was trolling Craigslist earlier this summer to see if they had something to offer as a more budget-friendly alternative. Voila! For $100 and the inconvenience of driving out to the sticks, I got an Anderson sliding door, just a few years old, recently removed from this guy’s house (and yes, I can tell you exactly what he’s doing on his project, that his brother in law is flying in from Georgia to help install the new cabinets, that if I’m interested in cabinets, he’d sell me those as well…)

The door is in great shape and weighs about twice what the old one did and looks 1000% better.

Earlier in the summer, I proposed a project swap to my friend Nick, because he recently put in a sliding door at his house, and this project was kind of daunting to a newbie like me. So I watched their dog for a weekend and Nick installed the door with me helping. I clearly got the better end of this deal.

Naturally, I put it off until the weather turned cold and it gets dark really early (smooth move, Reenie, smooth move). So I snuck out of work a little early, went home and started disassembling the existing door. By the time Nick got there, it only took a few minutes to get the old door completely removed and start installing the new one.

It took us a couple hours but really impressively smooth for a project in this house (and it isn’t because everything was perfect!). I couldn’t have done it without Nick! We had to shim and level a fair amount, but by the time it was truly dark, the door was in and operational! And heavy! And beautiful!! The inside of the door is stained wood, but I’ll probably paint it all white when I do the trim.

The only truly unexpected glitch is that the door opens from the opposite side. I never even thought about that as an option. It isn’t a bad change, just a change. I’m going to be trying to open the wrong side for years to come!!

The only problem, as I discovered when I went to lock up for the night, is that the new door was missing the lock grab. It had the lock on the door part, but just this opening and no hardware for the wall side. Sigh. Naturally the next day I stopped at Lowes to find they don’t carry such a thing, just whole handle/locksets, which I don’t need. So I pondered it on Saturday for awhile and then realized “HEY! The old door has one!” Sure enough, it isn’t a perfect fit, but it does fit and I can now lock my sliding door. Woooo!

There you have it: a new used sliding glass door. Maybe the best $100 I’ve spent on this project.

I’m baaaaaccccccckkkkkkkkkkk

Well I want to be back anyway. I have dozens of started-but-not-finished posts that I should dust off, add some photos, and post. Buuuttttt instead I’m gonna go ahead and share one of my favorite holiday recipes because I feel you’ve earned it. And it is super easy and involves cranberries and rum.

Without further ado, I offer you my top secret recipe…

Cranberry Infused Rum

You need exactly two ingredients:

1. Bag of cranberries

2. Rum (or any kind of booze you want)

Directions:
– Chop the cranberries (I use my pampered chef chopper because it is easy but you can also just use a knife. The goal is to just rough up the cranberries so the skins are pierced.) Put chopped berries into a jar – I guess it is about a cup of chopped berries.
– Fill the jar with rum

 

– Put a lid on the jar and wait a few days.
I also recommend saving your rum bottle so you can re-use it for the flavored rum.

After the berries have infused for a few days (or as long as you want to wait), strain out the berries.
In my experience, there’s no wrong way to enjoy cranberry rum. One of my favorites is to serve it in ginger ale with a lime garnish.

 Cheers! 

 

Crate training and Night time wailing

 

I don’t think of myself as a naturally hard-hearted person, but I do believe in the importance of crate training a dog. So I brace my mushy heart and prepare for the agony of listening to a tiny, lonely pup losing her mind as I try to sleep.

Izzie came home on Saturday. Saturday night she cried for about half an hour when I put her in the crate – loud, heartbreaking cries. And she woke up and cried a couple times in the night but they were short in duration so I didn’t get up. At 6.30 on Sunday morning, she frantic so I got up, took her out, fed her, played with her. And then went back to bed for a bit (more wailing from the crate).

Sunday night wasn’t much better. She cried for only 20 minutes when I crated her, but there was an urgent 3.30 am plea so I took her out- and she had to go bad. In my tired haze, I just didn’t want more crying. I curled up on the couch with her hoping she’d snuggle and I could sleep. Nope. She wanted to play so she starts chewing my face, my hair… no rest for the weary. I got up and played with her (toys and all) to wear her out for 10 minutes before crating her, ignoring the wails, and stumbling back to bed.

Monday I came home at lunch to let her out and play and put her back in to blood-curdling wails. Oh Izzie. It isn’t that bad.

So far, Izzie has not had accidents in the crate – which is miraculous.  She’s very responsive when I take her outside, put her in the grass and say “Go potty” — she squats to pee immediately every time. Hooray!! (I mean she can also piddle on the floor seconds after doing that outside- so it isn’t a perfect system).

Monday evening I had some pears to can and after letting the dogs play and running them around the yard a lot, I decided to crate Izzie. I just cannot trust her yet. Bracing for the wailing, I crated her. She looked up at me with those darling puppy eyes and then curled up on her blanket and went to sleep. WHAT??? I canned my pears in peace, marveling at the silence.

I wore her out really well again before bed- and after one yip, she went to sleep and slept ALL NIGHT without a peep. The last few evenings, we’re developing a pattern. From about 10 – 11 pm, Daisy and Izzie go wildly crazy in the living room. Running, pouncing, biting, tug of war, all out puppy insanity. And then at the end of it, we go outside and eveyrone goes potty and then sleeps peacefully all night. This is living!!

She’s my favorite puppy in the whole world!!

The Dog Pack

When you’re a two-dog household, there’s this delicate balance to maintain. Long, long ago, when I first had Maggie, my roommate Lisa went out and got a rescue dog, Rita. Those two became best friends, spending all day together while Lisa and I worked. When Lisa and Rita moved out of state, Maggie cried for two months straight. All day, all night. I started sleeping on the couch just so she had company through the night. It was horribly sad. And thus started my search for a puppy — it was time.

Suzie came on the scene shortly after, an 8 week old darling little pup, full of energy and love. Maggie and Suzie were two years apart in age. They grew old together and were best of friends. Maggie, for all her faults, loved Suzie fiercely. She turned into a blubbering mess if I left the house with Suzie and she was left behind. I’m pretty sure she needed Suzie more than she needed me.

Two years ago, I sensed Maggie was nearing the end. She was 13 and though there was no specific illness, I just knew it wouldn’t be long before she exited the scene. So I brought home 12-week old Daisy in April, and in August, I had to put Maggie down. For the summer, three dogs was a lot of dog, but the overlap was good. When Maggie died, Suzie was depressed and only got up because there was an energetic puppy jumping on her head and dragging her outside to play.

I’ve realized in the last two years that a 10-year gap between dogs ages is harder than a two-year gap. Daisy is in her prime- full of vim and vigor- and Suzie is fading, more interested in napping than anything else.  She’s approaching 13 now and isn’t doing so well. She could still stick around for awhile, but I don’t think it isn’t going to be terribly long. Time to grow the pack and get the next pup trained up and ready to go before Suzie leaves us. I shudder at the thought of 65 lbs of terribly sad, lonely Daisy on my hands. I also realize exactly how much work a new puppy entails. In fact, having just done this two years ago, I remember too much. And yet…

Meet Izzie.

     
She’s a rescue dog so it hard to say what kind of dog she is exactly. Mom looks like a Pharoh Hound mix and is a petite 40 lbs (similar to Suzie’s size). I suspect Izzie will end up in the 40-45 lb range which is awesome. Clearly, this pup fits the mold for the Little House. Eeeeeeekkkkk she’s cute!
Introducing Izzie means I’m going to be home for lunches for a while, cutting back on outside commitments, and cleaning up a lot of puppy messes. I will re-learn how to put away my shoes and keep everything out of the puppy range to limit the damage from little puppy teeth. And I should probably plan on getting nothing done for the next couple months…
I brought her home Saturday and over the weekend we got lots of visitors. My people love me well and have been so generous in celebrating the new puppy with me- even if it isn’t their thing. I’m the luckiest.
Everyone loved Izzie — of course — because how could you not?!?!? Daisy wanted to make sure no one forgot that she is also quite lovable, and Suzie came around for all the scratches. It was a busy weekend in which I basically accomplished nothing. And it felt just right. Sometimes we all need that. Not to mention needing an excuse to be outside for the gorgeous 80-degree sunny day in mid-September. Mmmm. Yeah, just about perfect!
 
Daisy is a bit confused but loves having a pal. She doesn’t realize just how big she is though and those first couple days she sometimes scared Izzie a little with her rambunctious affection. Suzie is taking it in stride- between giving me long, hard judgemental looks, she’s put up with most of Izzie’s shenanigans. She does not appreciate being woken from a nap (stay off her cushion) and she actually nipped when Izzie stuck her face into Suzie’s bowl while she was eating – fair enough.
Prepare yourself for a lot of puppy spam in the weeks and months to come.  

The hens have names

Operation Chicken Round 3 is going well so far. Not dissimilar from Round 2 at this point. The chickens are getting bigger — making me think they need a larger covered pen and a better coop. I want to build this coop.  But in the interest of having some kind of standards, the chickens can’t get a nicer coop until my house is more livable.

These chickens, more than the last batch, seem interested in upward mobility. Maybe it is because they have a full view of the pigeons next door who are always flying overhead and doing upwardly mobile things. Mmm hmm. That must be it. Anyway, these chickens cannot be trusted without a cover on their pen if they want to survive.

It seems that pet chickens must have names. I don’t necessarily consider them my pets but all my young friends do, so naming them was necessary. One came with a name: Streamers. My friend Kitty, who is looking forward to chickens of her own next year, informed me that she is saving “Queenie” for her favorite chicken when she gets them, but would help name mine in the meantime. She came up with Mrs. Eggs, Goldie, Syrup, and Alpha. My niece Jane named the remaining white hen Pearl.  There you have it. I’m putting these into a blog post because I am unlikely to remember them otherwise. Don’t tell my young farming friends.

Black Raspberry Goodness

It’s that time of year again… the black raspberries are ripe. This spring I was busy tearing apart the house so I didn’t get out there to cut down the invasive species surrounding the raspberry jungle. It is bad out there right now. Nettles. Poison ivy. Buckthorn. Russian olive. Lots of other weeds. (Does anyone else hear how necessary goats are out here??) But… those little black juicy morsels make it worth braving the jungle for. They started ripening last week. I’ve only done a bit of peripheral picking and introduced a couple cute nephews to the magic of black raspberries. The Hobbit couldn’t cram them into his mouth fast enough.

Monday night was my first time to go out prepared to take on the jungle. Long pants, shoes, socks, bug spray, long sleeves. I got half a German Park bucket full before it started raining. Black raspberry picking is slow. The very definition of slow food really. They are tiny. They are covered with pickers. They are in a jungle. And they are completely delicious. Sometimes we all need to slow down a bit and savor the goodness of summer.

I used the last of the rum in the cupboard to start some of them infusing. (Note to self: buy more rum).

Then I made cobbler which my cousin and I had for breakfast. I’m pretty sure I’ve shared this before but it bears repeating if you have any fresh berries of any kind sitting around. It is incredibly easy, not too sweet (because I’ve cut a lot of sugar from the original recipe) and buttery goodness in every bite. Believe me, you want some.

Fresh Berry Cobbler

  • 2 1/2 cups berries (I used mostly black raspberries with a few mulberries– but whatever you have will work)
  • 1/2 cup sugar (I cut the sugar from the original recipe a lot! If you are using more tart berries, add more in)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat oven to 375. Mix berries and sugar together and let them sit while you put the rest of it together. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Add milk and stir. Add melted butter and mix together.

Put the batter into an ungreased 8×8 pan (ish). Glop the berry/sugar mixture over the top (or just mix it together- I’ve done it both ways). Bake the big pan for 45 minutes until the crust is golden brown.

Top with ice cream if you like. Eat it for breakfast (it is practically a health food, right?? Something about antioxidants and organic, locally sourced berries). There’s no wrong way to eat it. Ready go.

Update: I bought more rum. Who wants to come over for black raspberry cocktails? 

Bittersweet

Sometimes I am particularly struck by how bittersweet this life is. The same day a friend delivered her baby several weeks prematurely, I heard my friend’s mother is at the end of her battle with cancer. She hasn’t left us yet, but the news isn’t good and her time here is short. Little P is beginning his fragile journey here with us as Mrs. M is wrapping hers up. Joy and sorrow bundled together.

On the one year anniversary of a young mother’s death from our community, I was struck again by how intertwined joy and sorrow are. I wasn’t close but her family is constantly in my prayers as they move forward without their mother and wife. That same day I found out my cousin and his wife are expecting their first baby. What a gift!! A new baby cousin to love on for years to come! Joy and sorrow bundled together.

My grandpa is 94 and living with my parents. His dementia continues to progress and it takes it’s toll on everybody sometimes. A few weeks ago my mom was out of town and my dad was helping at my house, so I took Grandpa out for a spin. As we drove through town, stopping for errands, he reaches over to squeeze my hand. He tells me what a good driver I am and I tell him that I enjoy driving with him. He can’t comprehend a lot of what I tell him, but I repeat it in short cheery snippets I think he can grasp and answer the same question 12 gazillion times. His days here are numbered. The days where he can communicate how much he appreciates my driving are numbered. It gives me pause to realize that I am driving around with Jesus– sometimes in his most distressing disguise (as Mother Teresa put it) as the endless question loop. If Jesus asked me that same question over and over again, what would I do? Squeeze his hand and explain again that we’re heading to the dump where I’ll empty the trailer. Smile and tell him what good company he is, put on that 1968 baseball game for the 500th time, and cover him with a blanket. Joy and sorrow bundled together.

Living in community, I see examples of this over and over again. As much as I wish it was all joy, there’s something incredibly raw and beautiful and important about sharing our sorrow with one another. It strikes me that we are all part of this continuum, in and out of each other’s lives and stories and joys and sorrows. It’s a beautiful and intricate and confusing braid of lives intertwined. It isn’t MY story, it is OUR story. I’m just a small but important thread in the tapestry being woven into something beautiful with the people around me. And ultimately, we are made for heaven. It isn’t just about our story here, but our story for eternity. Home.

I can’t help but think this is the good stuff and also the hardest stuff there is. Loving other people means we hurt with them, mourn with them, and rejoice with them. We can’t and shouldn’t try to separate it. If I didn’t invest in people and relationships, my life would have a lot less suffering in it — and it would be missing the joy that comes with loving people. Joy and sorrow bundled together. Recognizing that we need each other so very much.

So today, my heart is heavy for the loss and the suffering around me and at the same moment filled with joy for the gift of new life and the gift of so many dear people to share this road with. Joy and sorrow bundled together. Intricate. Complicated. Raw. Breathtakingly beautiful.