Monday, April 16, 2018

Snowstorm Evelyn Brings On Spring Cleaning

We've just spent a long weekend being snowbound, as with an all-time record-breaking flourish, Snowstorm Evelyn bestowed upon us an epic amount of the white stuff, rough estimates around 29 inches in two days, breaking 128+ year records.

There's a driveway in there somewhere....
The excitement started Friday with a few claps of thunder and rain on and off all day.  The meterologists were abuzz with excitement, we were all supposed to dust off our recently stowed snow shovels, look out, here comes Evelyn!  And yes, I will admit, they were right.

By Saturday afternoon, we had over 15 inches of snow and we weren't going anywhere anytime soon.  I had been in town on Friday morning when I visited Carl's parents at the nursing home and I'd debated stopping at the grocery store, but decided against it because it was raining and I was lazy.  

I should have heeded the nagging little voice in my head (and the louder ones on the car stereo) urging me to take this storm seriously.  But, I didn't.  And thanks to me, we had no toast all weekend.  (I know, oh, the humanity!  And I really shouldn't be eating much bread, anyway, so there.  I had an enforced diet.)

I have to admit I am so glad we decided not to put up the greenhouse this year for the first time since 1995.  Normally, by March we would have dug the greenhouse out of the machine shed and I'd have annuals of all sorts growing, but this year, we decided against it because we were going to get an early start on our garden construction projects instead.  Ha. Best laid plans of mice and men...

 Right about now, it is very hard to believe the garden should have drifts of petunias in a few short weeks.
Driveway in July 2017

Driveway tonight April 15, 2018
Mountains of Petunias in July

Mountains of Snow in April

Carl, wading out to the road on Sunday afternoon

 Since we were going to be snowed in for two full days, Carl and I took advantage of the time on our hands and decided to clean out the hall closet.  Yes, we really know how to have fun here, don't we?  (Hey, it beats going bonkers and coming down with cabin fever; at least no one was wielding an ax and hollering, "He-e-r-r-e-'s  JOHNNY!!")

I recently joined a decluttering support group on social media and being inspired by the members and their success stories, I thought it was time we tackle the hall closet, our biggest and baddest closet of all.  Lurking in this 5' x 2' space was an amazing collection of gloves.  And I mean amazing.  We had piles and piles of gloves of all kinds lying on the kitchen floor in semi-organized groups; brown jersey gloves, nitrile coated gardening gloves, leather gloves, rubber gloves, and finally, warm winter gloves.  After getting all of the gloves into their various categories, we tackled the right-hand, left-hand pairs dilemma.  

Apparently, both Carl and I are only left-handed people.  We were stunned by the amount of left-handed gloves with no right-handed counterparts.  I suppose the right-handed gloves must have gone on an adventure with the mates to the socks we never can seem to find, too. 

A few weeks ago, a dear friend of ours told me about a book about the life-changing magic of decluttering. I haven't had time to look into a copy, but I did read some online reviews.  The gist of the tidying process is to take all of your clothes from wherever they are in your home and make a pile of them in one place and then, one item at a time, decide whether the item in question brings you joy or not.  If it does not bring you joy, it is to be discarded, donated, whatever you need to do to remove it from your home. 

Well, that's essentially what we did with the gloves, and for the most part, it worked.  The only thing I had some trouble with was the author's assertion about inanimate objects having 'feelings' per se, as in, 'Don't roll up your socks into balls, do you think they can rest in that position?  They've already done so much for you being on your feet all day.  Store them so they can rest easily.'  

I'm not sure if that is taken word for word from the book, but I did see it pop up in several reviewer's critiques.  And something about emptying out your purse at night and letting it rest after working hard all day lugging around my junk.


The problem with this philosophy of thanking my items for their 'work' and giving them 'feelings' brings Carl and I full-circle back into the problems we both have (though mostly Carl) with keeping almost everything to the point of hoarding.  

Carl freely admits he has a problem in his workspaces in the basement and most alarmingly, his shed(s), which I not-so-nicely refer to as the SOS buildings. (Which stands for Sheds O' S#$t.)  I know, that's no way to be supportive of my spouse.  But, well, you'd have to see it.  No, on second thought, no one should see almost forty years of marriage, I can honestly say the junk has been the only problem we have ever had.  And it's a big one, because, let's face it, one person's junk does affect the entire household, just like any other addiction.

And then we have my problems with 'things'; ever since childhood, I have had a bad habit of giving inanimate objects 'feelings'.  I don't know when it started, but I suspect it has a lot to do with a rather violent upbringing and wanting to protect helpless things from destruction.  (Long story, too painful to tell, so I'll spare us all the grief.)

For instance,  when I was little, I could not bring myself to eat my chocolate Easter bunny because, well, it was a bunny and it had a happy little face and bright eyes and a little bow around its neck.  How could I bring myself to destroy it?  It was so cute!  

I remember my father becoming angry with me because I wasn't like normal kids who would have had the confection gone in a matter of hours; instead mine sat in the refrigerator awaiting its demise for months on end.   

One Sunday summer afternoon, Dad decided enough was enough. He'd gone into the refrigerator to retrieve his pack of cigarettes and saw the Easter rabbit sitting on the shelf.   He sat me down at the kitchen table and demanded that I eat my bunny.  Oh, dear.  I sat there and tried not to cry; treacherous tears always got me in more trouble, but no matter how diligently I tried to stem their flow, flow they did, followed by great, gulping sobs. 

"Well, I have never seen anything like you!" Dad said, probably truly worried about my mental health. "C'mon, for godsakes, just eat the damn thing!"

Since I sat there helplessly blubbering, he grabbed a cutting board and a butcher knife and whacked off the chocolate bunny's ears, thrust them at me and hollered, "Here, eat it!"

I'll never forget the taste of chocolate mixed with salty tears.  It was a dreadful combination.   I did my best to try to eat the bunny, but I failed miserably.  Dad was disgusted with me.  (Too bad this didn't put me off of chocolate for the rest of my life; I still do love chocolate, just not in cute shapes.) 

So, by anthropomorphizing inanimate objects (socks! purses!) both Carl and I would be in a whole heap of more trouble.  The last thing either of us needs is to feel sorry for everything we have that would be discarded by normal people.  But we're not normal.  Yes, we know it.

Still, Carl was making impressive strides this weekend.  In the past, he would have saved every leather glove he had (he gets them from work's trash cans when his coworkers toss them out after getting a hole in them somewhere.)   He had plans to cut the holey gloves into circles and make a hammer handle with stacks of circles (to tell the truth, there would be no landfills if Carl ran the world, he can find an alternate use for just about anything.  Except cigarette butts, I don't think he could find a use for them...) but after two days of sorting through gloves, Carl decided the really worthless ones could go into the trash can.  Success!

Carl says he doesn't give inanimate objects feelings.  His problem is he can't stand to waste anything and feels he can make something out of nothing (which, in his defense, he can and has; case in point, the dome:

The dome was made from a combination of recycled copper sheeting and reclaimed steel pipe with the addition of aluminum castings.  What was once a pile of scrap metals turned out very well.  The problem is, Carl has so many ideas and so many raw materials that even he knows he will not live long enough to create everything he wants to do.  

He sees something of value in everything.  And yes, it is hoarding.  The same bitter tears I shed while being force-fed my Easter bunny have been shed while trying to come to terms with the piles of stuff he has around here.   

Since we've both turned sixty, though, even Carl is starting to think a little differently.  What sounded so hopeful in the past, as in, 'Some day I want to do ___________ with this," has now come down to, "How much time do I really have left to do these projects; in twenty years, if we're blessed to live that long, we'd be eighty." 

 Yes, the passage of time does change things, and I think Carl is feeling his mortality.  Will there be a huge purge of everything we own overnight?  Probably not.  But as one member of the support group said, "How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time."  (Which also did work for the Easter bunny from fifty years ago, I did eat it, one bittersweet bite at a time.)

And as the snow piled up outside, so did our garbage bags in the house.  We got so lost in the process of discarding and sorting that we were both stunned when we looked out the back door around 5PM Sunday night. 

Whoa, that truly is a lot of snow.
No toast for awhile yet
By evening the snow had slowed down considerably and the woods across the road had ceased to roar with the onslaught of high winds.  Time to put on our winter gear (and use some of those dang gloves!) and venture out into the snow-pocalypse.

Carl broke trail for me.  We debated skiing, but the snow was very sticky, making it impossible. We had to get to the tractor (remember, silly me took the snow blower off in March) and the only way to get to Mom's house was to walk.  

The town had plowed several times during the blizzard, which was such a change from my childhood.  When I was a kid fifty years ago, we were stranded every winter for several days as only the highways were tended to.  If you lived on a side road, you learned to wait.  (Or use your farm tractor to get yourself out.)

We made it to the road and trudged along.  It really did feel good to be outside after almost 48 hours even with the biting wind and still-pelting snow.

We both gave thanks for the tractor; shoveling this much snow would have taken us days.
Carl, on the road, looking back toward the house. 
When we arrived at Mom's house, I was stunned.  I have never seen that much snow in the yard.  Ever.

I had driven the tractor in after the last time I drove it, now we had to turn it around to put the snow blower back on.

Just as Carl and I arrived at Mom's house, Joel called to ask how the digging out was going and that he was on his way to help.  I was worried about the roads; everyone was told to stay off of them unless it was an emergency.  But there were a few cars now and then on the highway in the distance, so the world was starting to come back to life.

In the meantime, Carl and I put the blower back on the tractor and got started.

By the time Joel arrived, Carl had made one pass down the middle of Mom's driveway.  Joel took over and did our yard and then we followed him over to Carl's parent's home to take on the mess there, too.  The normally busy highway was down to only a handful of cars, everything was glare ice underneath.  We were glad there was no traffic on the two mile drive.

Luckily, Carl's parent's yard was not as bad as our two previous ones had been.

When we got back to Mom's house with the tractor, Joel posed for a picture with the snowbanks.  (Joel's well over six feet tall.)

We didn't do a complete removal of all the snow, after all, this is April, and it won't last forever (and we were running short on gasoline.)

All in all, it was an interestingly productive weekend; we tackled projects we normally wouldn't have and gained ourselves some useful space.  There may be hope for us yet.

I'm hoping that someday soon, Carl and I will be able to conquer the piles of stuff and come to a happy compromise.  It's all about attitude, really.  

And setting the junk free also sets us free. Things don't have feelings, but boy, oh boy, people sure do.  

Our takeaway reminder:  How do you eat an elephant?

 One bite at a time. 

Sunday, April 8, 2018

April Snowstorms Bring May Flowers?

Though the calendar says April, Old Man Winter wasn't quite done with us yet.

On Tuesday night, the meterologists were predicting up to ten inches of snow and though I didn't get my ruler out on Wednesday morning, I would say they were pretty close.

When I woke up, I looked out the window at the driveway and debated; do I want to put the snowblower back on the tractor? 

But wait, back up the truck here; why did we take the snowblower off the tractor before June in Wisconsin?  What was I thinking?

Well, it all started off fairly innocently.....we'd had a very dry fall and winter and near the end of March we got the urge to get at some garden remodeling.   

For some time now, Thing Two has been bugging me.  Thing Two was a repository for a bunch of spare limestone boulders we had leftover from the Pachyberm and it had been my bright idea way back in 2010 to make a small garden feature out of them instead of leaving them in a pile out in the Eight.  Thing One (on the right side in the photo below) is actually bigger than Thing Two (on the left) but for now, I'm thinking I'll keep Thing One. 

The Things
While the ground was still fairly frozen, off went the snowblower, on went the forklift teeth and we started hauling the rocks back out to the Eight for storage.

 (Just think, some husbands complain when their wives want to move the living room furniture around, 'On second thought, honey, I think the couch would look better on the other wall; oh, no, I guess I liked it better where it was'....well, around here, Carl has to put up with, 'I think we'll take those rocks out and do something else with them.'   Just for the record (and marital harmony) let me reiterate, Carl was the one who wanted to leave them on a pile in the first place, but he humored me.)  

We worked on dismantling poor Thing One on March 25th when there was no snow left on the ground.

Audrey and Daddy on Easter
Even our little Audrey, now almost two years old, came to help for awhile (with her mommy and daddy, too.)  Audrey was carrying rocks to the pallets for us.  I wish I'd gotten a picture of her first experience with her Crazy Rock Grandparents.

Then life got in the way again a few days later and we had to hustle off to work on something else, so Thing One remains forlornly half-disheveled in a heap of nothingness.  

And then it snowed.

 Snow is not unusual around here this late in the season, but our cold temperatures are breaking a few records at night and the snow isn't disappearing as quickly as it normally would.  
Snow Cone and Snow Balls

I really didn't want to go through all the work of putting the snowblower on by myself, so I walked up to the machine shed at Mom's and fetched the tractor.  

The tractor has nice, wide tires, so I simply drove around in circles, squashing the snow flat.

There, problem solved.  Until it snowed again, which it did, the next day.  Oh well, I'll just leave it be, we can still get out of the driveway, sort of.

For now, I'll go along with Carl's philosophy on snow removal: no matter what time of year it falls, up to and including January:

"Don't worry about it.  It will melt by July."

Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Sixth Decade

I turned 60 last week Saturday.  

Yep, the Big Six-O.  

 I remember in the past, a few acquaintances of mine said they wanted to stay in bed all day upon turning thirty.  In our youth-oriented society, they now felt so old; all the good times were over.  Alas, they failed to remain forever twenty-one.
Don't let the sun go down on me.......

 Curiously, I don't recall ever feeling sad or alarmed on my milestone birthdays.   Forty was noneventful.  Fifty was half a century.  And sixty?  Well, I woke up on my birthday, cautiously stretched my limbs while I was still in bed to check for any new malfunctions, and decided I felt pretty much the same way I'd felt the night before; not great, but still here.  

I've been accused of going from zero to sixty many times in my life, so now I have the actual years behind me.

 There I am at fifty-nine and seven-eighths, a rather rare picture of me....I was buying new eyeglass frames without lenses and since I cannot see myself, Carl insisted on taking a picture of the ol' gray ghost at the optometrist's office in early March.  

Though I'm ok with the passage of time and the ravages to my appearance, apparently not everyone is.  I was at church one day and an elderly lady asked me why I was letting myself go, "I didn't even recognize you!  Why don't you dye your hair?  You look so OLD!"  

You'd think I would have been offended, but I wasn't.  I suppose I should have been?  Her unfiltered commentary did unnerve me a little bit at first, but I feel I've earned all the gray hair on my head.    It makes me look more mature, even though I'm not as wise as I should be yet.  I feel as if my age is finally catching up to my personality.

Since my father was forty-five and my mother was thirty-eight when I was born, I have been around older people all of my life.  My friends in school used to say they felt sorry for me because my parents looked like my grandparents.  The odd thing was, I never noticed; in fact, I used to feel sorry for my friends because their parents didn't look dry behind the ears yet.   How could those mere children be parents?

Well, moving on.......the winter passed by so quickly, it has all been a blur.  We've been spending countless hours at the assisted living facility with Carl's parents.  They are doing as well as can be expected, but we've had many adjustments and challenges to deal with since they were admitted in November.  I'm just about done with my mother's estate, thankfully.  So many lawyers, financial institutions and hoops to jump through, and it all takes a vast amount of time.

Due to our life at the moment, for the second winter in a row there was nothing done with our stained glass obsession. Well, I guess I shouldn't say nothing has happened; we didn't finish any stained glass projects, but we certainly did acquire more stained glass to work with.  Yes, we added more to the hoard we already have.  I know.  When will we learn?

I was having a hard time sleeping one night, and wandered over to Craigslist online to see what trouble I could get into there.  That site and me have a scary history; I keep finding things I think we can use.  Yes, just what we need, more projects.  (Has no one invented a Sarcasm Font yet?)

Back in September, I found the listing for the tree grates (we still haven't found the perfect spot for them, yet, nor have I drawn up or created the stained glass inserts, either) but since we already owned two of them, we had to have four more.

Carl is hard at work making some frames for the grates.  With any luck, we'll have them done before summer.  But I won't have the stained glass ready, that I do know.

So where was I?  Oh, yeah, I was bumbling around in Craigslist when I came across an ad for twelve pieces of stained glass included with pictures of some very high quality material.  I was immediately interested.  We don't have a wholesale account so we have to purchase glass locally at retail prices (or make a run directly to a factory nine hundred miles away when they are open to the public for sales.)  Retail stores don't carry much in the type of glass we need, either, so it was worth the one hundred-fifty mile drive to pick up a dozen gorgeous sheets.

Long story short, the seller was about three hours from us and we had a bit of a problem coordinating our schedules, but we finally made the trip two weeks ago.  We decided for a small amount of glass we did not need the trailer, so we clambered into the Buick and headed to southern Wisconsin.

When we arrived at the seller's home, we were stunned to find he actually had over one hundred sheets of stained glass of various sizes and a myriad of colors he was hoping to sell at some point to someone.   His uncle was an artist and had passed away a few years earlier and the family was trying to sell off his inventory.  He'd listed the twelve sheets as a start to see if he could move a little at a time.   So far, prospective buyers had not been interested in the stash because it wasn't suitable for suncatchers; many people prefer very transparent (or cathedral) glass for hobbies.  The glass in question was not see-through; this was true high-quality art glass, ideal for lamps and the type of work we do. 

We made him an offer for everything he had and he accepted it gladly.  He was very happy to have it out of his basement and his garage and we were thrilled to have found such an amazing collection of stunning art glass at a wonderful price. 

The only downfall was we hadn't brought the trailer or a crate to haul our purchase with.  We didn't have the time to make the six hour round-trip to get the trailer and come back,  so Carl made the decision to load up the car and hope for the best.  

FYI: Stained glass should never be stored horizontally and never stacked more than a few sheets together due to the weight.  Unfortunately, we had no choice but to stuff it into the Buick's big trunk with cardboard from the seller's stash between each sheet.  
The LeSabre trunk load
 There was some cathedral glass in with the art glass, but that is fine; we can use everything we purchased (if we live to be one hundred, but hey, we're a little bit goofy, so don't pick on us).   

 Once the trunk was full, we started stacking the bigger sheets in the back seat along with totes full of glass cut to square foot dimensions:
Even as we were loading it, we heard glass cracking, but there really wasn't much we could do about it at that point.  We drove very cautiously all the way home.  Luckily, only ten pieces broke which is a shame, but they are all still useable.  

We called Joel when we arrived at home who came out to help us transport the glass into the house.  We stacked it up on every available wall in the dining room, living room and hallway.

We've been slowly but surely trying to find room in our racks in the basement for the new acquisitions.  Much of this glass is not made any longer, either, as the factories had gone out of production decades ago.  Every piece is a treat to behold.

One thing is for certain, this should keep us busy for at least another few decades.  

While Joel was still here that night, I waved my arm around the house and announced in my best Monty Python-esque voice:

Poor Joel.