Archive for 2016

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Which is your favorite season? I’ve always found it difficult to answer that question. As one who loves the beauty and variety that the universe offers throughout the cycles and seasons of the year, I find answering as difficult as though someone had asked, “who is your favorite child?”

The answer is difficult; but I must admit that, if I am honest, it is “Autumn.”

There is a peculiar and paradoxical feeling that comes over me at the changing time of Fall.  Fall is a flicker of light, a splash of color, a hot and steamy afternoon, a cold and chilling morning. In the tapestry of the year that draws to a close, Autumn is the thread that stitches it all together – the bright sun of summer, the fresh green of spring, and the cold wind of winter all meet in Autumn days that showcase, review, and commit to memory yet another journey around the circle of the seasons.

On this overcast morning, in my backyard world, I discovered a meeting born of Fall – morning glories and moonflowers blooming together on the arbor designed to celebrate their uniqueness – one vine on the left and one on the right, so that one or the other is always blooming to delight me no matter when I pause to sit and reflect.

But here they were – ruler of the daylight and ruler of the night, blooming side by side in the ambiguous and overcast morning. They reminded me to take in Autumn and love it completely. They reminded me of all the contrasts we accept in our world each day – living and dead, warm and cold, day and night, near and far – and how this season, my favorite, brings the balance to the center and challenges us to believe that the differences we define may be more similar than we know.

Like two neighbors – one of whom works the night shift, and one who chooses the daytime – the moonflower and the morning glory crossed paths today. Each was reminded that the other exists. Each had a fresh look at the life of the other. Perhaps they discovered that they are more alike than they are different.

If Autumn is my favorite season, I suppose it is paradoxical collisions like this one that drive me to love it so dearly. I must go now and sit on the small bench in the center of the arbor. I must feel the merger of day and night, of challenged boundaries, of Autumn. Once again, I must take it all in before I blink and discover that the stitching is done and only memories remain.

Yes, my favorite season is Autumn.

My Blog usually is a place where I come to wax philosophical or share my heart with the world. Today it will be a news outlet, so I can give an account of our recent remodeling project to all the inquiring minds who have wanted to know. Here it is – in words and pictures – how we got floored in 2016.

Most of you know that we moved into this old house in February of 1986. We had a two-year plan for renovations at the time, but with Mark’s accident and subsequent back injury – not to mention seven kids – we just sort of settled into life as it already existed. We loved our old floors and carpet, because they meant we didn’t have to be cranky about water or mud coming in on the feet of the slip-and-sliders or sandboxers or mud-makers. But they are grown. And we are ready for a grown-up floor – in brown tones that nod to the grandchildren who will continue their parents’ quest to bring the outdoors inside.  Here it is: Floored.

Begin with one very old carpet – I know it’s 1950’s vintage, because it’s the same carpet we had in my family home in Emmaus – built in 1952. As you can see, “threadbare” doesn’t even begin to describe the condition.

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Over the years, we added area rugs to cover the bald spots and told ourselves that there was no point in changing out the carpet while the kids and their friends still were in full swing.

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When I pulled out the carpet steamer before Christmas this year, I told Mark it was the last time I could risk running it. As this picture of the truth shows, with furniture and area rugs gone, we really got our money’s worth out of that old rug. So we began cutting.

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From the department of They Sure Don’t Make It Like They Used To, we were really surprised at how well the padding had withstood 60+ years of living – although we did find ourselves coated in a microscopically fine blue dust. I’m really hoping this will eliminate some allergens!

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Instead of the sub-flooring we expected to find, we were surprised to uncover some stamped linoleum – backed in burlap.

IMG_1238   I’m sure it was quite lovely in its time, and I have to say that I kind of enjoyed spending a few days with it between demo and install.IMG_1259

Room # 2 – the TV room – was exquisitely carpeted in a chunk of green shag (duct-taped around the edge to prevent fraying) that lay over a pad that was the ancient area rug that was in the house when we bought it. The perimeter was done in 1950-vintage linoleum. Just to prove our status as Clampetts and not Drysdales, we inherited the green shag when friends were pulling it out of their family room 20 years ago.

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The sub-floor was done in wide plank, tongue and groove fir, which would have been lovely refinished except for the large area by the window that had been patched to cover the former location of a huge fireplace. At least it was sturdy and well-sealed.

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Poor Patches seemed more than a little bit bewildered as we removed roll after roll of his favorite scents and hauled them out. He says it will take quite a while to get the house smelling the way he likes it again!

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Demo was done. Time to call in the workers. Although there have been many times when I’ve wished our floors were done, I have to say here that a huge benefit in waiting for the kids to grow up is having them show up to do the work. Daniel works as a small contractor, so he took charge of the job. (If you like what you see, hit me up for his business contact information).IMG_1264

Older brother, Dave, was a powerhouse at securing the old floor to the joists below and learning the art of flooring from Dan. (Thanks so much, Dave!)

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Mark hopped right in, and one of the best parts for me was watching all my guys work together. Some would say that Patches was underfoot – he would say that his job was to supervise.  He was very thorough. In this picture, he is making sure that nobody takes the floor boards before they are secured.

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The first row was quite a challenge. Suffice it to say that old stone houses (ours was built in 1792) do NOT have square walls. Dan’s patience in fitting the first boards was rewarded when he ended up with a perfect run on the other side of the room.

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Did I mention that we have old radiators? Did I mention that they weigh about a bajillion pounds each (give or take)? How to raise them required creative thinking and only the finest of modern tools.  Good thing these guys paid attention in Physics class!IMG_1266

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I call this one “Surfin’ USA.”  Apparently, Mark’s wife didn’t take into account that if she turned the heat up to stay warm, it would mean that he had to hold onto a hot radiator. She is very sorry that it was hot, but delighted to have this great action shot of her sweetie!

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Trying to level the patched area of the floor presented some challenges; but ultimately, the guys were able to add a board below – in the basement – that let them draw down the added ones and get them level.

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Before we knew it, Dan was down to the wire…

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AND DONE!!!

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It’s this kind of fit around the door frame that reminds us why a professional job is different from the one we would do on our own.

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Thanks, Dan, for transforming our home into something even better than we could have imagined. You’re still my favorite little redheaded boy in the whole world!

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Love,  Mom

 

 “What makes the desert beautiful is that somewhere it hides a well.”

   — Antoine de Saint-Exupery

The desert can be a beautiful place.  I’ve never experienced an actual desert, except through pictures; but still I think that my soul understands the desert.  It is a place of few distractions, a place without crowds, a place to find the solitude that returns us to the very core of being and reminds us of who we are.  I have spent significant time in the desert of my soul for the past two years; and at last, I think it is time to return from my solitude.

Some friends have been nudging me recently, asking when I would start writing again. I have had no answers for them.  Even as I put words to paper this morning, on the occasion of my sixty-sixth birthday, I make no promises, except to be authentically myself and only to write what has meaning for me.

In the past two years, it seems as though everything has changed. My parents are no longer with me; and the time I once devoted to checking in with them and making sure we stayed connected now stands empty. My last child has flown from the nest, and all those years of active parenting are done, leaving a vast chasm between my old life and my new one. I have celebrated successes, suffered losses, laughed, cried, grieved and wandered through the desert of my soul. And I have discovered many wells.

When we wander through the desert, and the sun beats down relentlessly, our only hope of survival is to find some shade, crawl inside, and be still until the cool evening breeze brings relief. If we are lucky, we discover the oasis that dwells in our own being – the one that sustains us, defines us, and restores us when life seems harsh and challenging. When we drink from our own well, we are reminded that who we are is much more than what we do.

There are other wells in the desert. Some wells flow with the memories of surviving difficult times. Some nourish us with memories of celebration and joy. Some refresh us with the stories of courage and wisdom and strength that others have told us – and that we have written for ourselves as we walk through life.

Today, as I begin my sixty-seventh year on Earth, I celebrate the desert and the perspective it offers. More than that, I celebrate the wells; because they are what makes the desert beautiful. And I celebrate the family, the friends – the old and the young – whose wells are the stopping places that nourish my soul. I celebrate the river that flows deep underground and connects us all as we journey through life.

I have been to the desert; and it is a beautiful place, because at every turn, just when it is needed, it hides a well.