Two Little Birds

Earlier this week at church, we had a “paint and sip” fundraiser for an upcoming missions trip. It was my first time participating in a paint and sip (the sipping was sparkling cider and hot cocoa). The attraction to the event was that it was a fundraiser and the painting was two birds in a tree.

As I have been gradually settling into the house, it has been fun for each room to have a theme. In the apartment, the only room that really had a theme was the kitchen. The theme was fruit. In the house, the fruit theme does not seem to really go anymore. The kitchen theme is now birds.

The bird theme simply fits. The cats and I both love all of the windows in the kitchen because they are optimal for bird viewing. Since I live with two indoor only cats, bird watching is their primary form of “outdoor” entertainment.

The kitchen windows are original to the house and an unusual size for modern day window treatments. I purchased fabric and have hand sewn curtains not only for the kitchen but also for most of the downstairs of the house. The kitchen curtains are red cardinals on a blue background.

The kitchen walls are blue and I have exposed red brick in half of my kitchen. Red and blue come naturally to the room.

Our new Fiesta dishware are solid colors that will go with any theme. So the key decor elements to the new kitchen theme of “birds” are the curtains, the wall calendar, and the tea bag holder. I am also looking for bird place mats. I may make them myself – we will see.

With the paint and sip at the church this week, I have added my painting to the kitchen to complement the bird theme. In addition to being my first paint and sip, the painting was significant to me for another reason.

The example painting showed two black birds sitting in a tree looking up at a red heart. I was the only one in a room of about 20 who painted my birds something other than black. For me, it was very important to specifically paint a blue bird on the left and a red bird on the right. I made my heart pink so that I would not have both a red bird and a red heart.

Why was I so specific on this painting?

For me, the painting signifies a way to include Kip and Kitty (both deceased) in the new house. Yes, I brought their urns to the house when we moved. However, I hold some guilt over the fact that when they were both alive, life was very difficult for us.

Kip and Kitty had both experienced homelessness with me. I’m pretty sure that months on end of living in the car may have been a contributing factor to Kitty’s anxiety disorder. When I bought the house, it was a huge relief to have permanent housing – something I have struggled to obtain my entire life. I first remember being homeless at age 4, and it occurred on and off for many years after.

Kip and Kitty did not live long enough to see the house. They never experienced “permanent” housing, although the 14 years I spent in the apartment was the most stable housing experience in my life up until the last 6 months I was in the apartment.

So, the blue bird on the left in the painting is for Kip. The red bird on the right in the painting is for Kitty. Blue was Kip’s color, and it seemed to fit his personality. Kip was very happy-go-lucky, and blue makes me think of a blue bird of happiness. Kip was also left hand dominant. I did a red bird for Kitty, because red was always his color. His favorite blanket was red and Kitty was primarily right handed.

I’m also drawn to the old legend surrounding red cardinals. There is a saying that a red cardinal is like a loved one in Heaven saying Hello. In the few months we have been in the house, we have seen both blue birds and red cardinals outside.

It’s probably really corny, but for me, this painting of two little birds helps me feel like Kip and Kitty are included in the house even though neither of them lived long enough to see it. Kitty had been with me almost 19 years before he succumbed to cancer. Kitty was with me longer than any human being in my life. Kitty was with me through every major struggle.

Jude and Simon are here now and are benefiting from the stability that has finally been achieved in my life. I’ve never seen Jude as happy as he is being in this house. His attitude since being in the house is like night and day from being in the apartment.

The three of us are very happy in the house. The painting of the two little birds in the kitchen makes me fee like Kip and Kitty are in Heaven looking down on us. I’m sorry they aren’t here to see the house, but I know that Heaven is a much better place to be. And who knows? Maybe in Heaven, Kip and Kitty are in a house just like this one waiting for me, Jude and Simon to join them.

 

Welcome, Storm Harper!

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Frequently cursing snow, storms, ice, and winter, the fact that I am excited about a snowstorm is momentous. So momentous, we should talk about why this storm is exciting.

This is my first significant snow storm my first year in my house as a new homeowner. We’ve been getting snow since October, and I have been loathing it for the past four months. Driving since my stroke is a challenge, and driving in winter since my stroke is a near impossibility I somehow manage to overcome. Not to mention, snow cramps my training schedule. I can’t run in snow.

When we first got snow in October, I felt a twinge of happiness. With snow, I don’t have to deal with the grass. Mowing lawn is a problem for me. I injured myself severely for weeks and almost required physical therapy to overcome the injury. This is why I now pay for lawn service and was happy when it snowed. Snow means no grass to have to maintain.

I had 11 days off for Christmas vacation and was hoping we would get a storm then so I didn’t have to drive. We didn’t get one.

The best part about winter storm Harper is that it came on a weekend. Monday is a holiday, so I have three home days. As long as this thing wraps itself up tomorrow so we can dig out, I should be good.

There was 2-3 feet forecast for my area. I’m not sure how much snow we actually got, but there is well over a foot.

Luckily, we got the light and fluffy snow. I shoveled a few inches yesterday afternoon and again last night before bed. They had forecast 1-2 inches of snow per hour in the overnight.

I’m thankful that with all the snow we got, I have power, heat, water and food. I don’t have to go anywhere until Tuesday.

One significant change now that I am in the house is that the road is plowed. When I was in the apartment, our road was never plowed. When we got 4 feet of snow in 2017, the county decided to plow the road on day 3 of that storm and ended up getting the county plow truck stuck at the end of the road (and the road still did not get plowed). The snow plow was stuck at the end of the road an entire day before they could get it out.

My house is in a Village, and the Village plowed the road. Yay (and thank you)!

A second significant change now that I am in the house is that there are not snowmobiles directly outside my bedroom window at 3 am. When I was in the apartment, it was near a snowmobile trail. The snowmobiles would decide to deviate from the trail and ride through my backyard. I was often woken up in the middle of the night by the roar of the machines and their headlights shining directly on my bed. Thankfully, again, the house is in a Village. There are no snowmobiles directly outside my bedroom window in the wee hours of the morning anymore.

This storm is so significant that when I went outside today, I had to wear my snow pants. I have not had to wear my snow pants since that big storm back in March 2017.

I made a snow angel. In my own backyard.

Sure, I’ve made now angels before. This was my very first snow angel in my OWN BACKYARD. I just think it’s really cool.

I mean, it’s not like I have to go to a park or something to make snow angels, only to have them destroyed by people running and sledding around. I made a snow angel in my own backyard.

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We are really fortunate that we got the light and fluffy snow.

I shoveled it. One of my neighbors has been using his snowblower to help me this winter when we get a good amount. We have had many times this winter when we get 8-9 inches at a time, like that first snowfall in October. I’m pretty sure this is our first storm that is well over a foot.

However, my neighbor’s snowblower is not working right now, so I was shoveling. I would have shoveled anyway. While I am grateful for the help, I try not to rely on it completely. I shoveled the front walk and the sidewalk. Unfortunately, if the utilities need to read my meters, they’re going to be screwed, but whatever. We have a lot of snow, and I’m one person who weighs about 100 pounds soaking wet. I’m just happy the sidewalk and driveway are done.

We got so much snow I didn’t quite know where to put it all. So, I got out the trusty wheelbarrow that I used for the leaves in the fall. I am so blessed that the people who sold the house left me some tools in the garage and basement. The wheelbarrow is one of the items they left me. Today I used it to take snow from the end of the driveway (where the road snowplows tend to “block in” driveways). I got sick of putting snow on the shovel and then having to walk it to the pile at the side of the house, so I was happy I thought of the wheelbarrow.

I am able to shovel snow with much more ease that I can use a lawnmower. I may despise snow, but snow is easier for me to maintain than grass. I prefer grass and sunshine. I just can’t maintain a lawn. Oh, the joys of homeownership.

I have been thinking about getting a snowblower. However, given my physical inability to handle a lawn mower for the grass, I am thinking I would have the same challenge with a 40 pound snowblower. I’ve been spraying the snow shovels with cooking spray. Luckily, this snow is light and fluffy, otherwise I would be screwed.

I’m actually looking to purchase a snow sleigh in lieu of a snowblower. I have heard that snow sleighs are the next best thing to a snowblower and are easier for those with physical challenges and those who are older to handle. We will see about that. I am going to have to order a snow sleigh because everyone here is out of stock. Hopefully, I will have a snow sleigh for the next storm to try out.

Clarence (the outside homeless cat) is nowhere to be found. I do not see any little paw prints or anything that looks like a cat trying to get through snow. Hopefully, where ever he is, he is warm and safe. It is supposed to be 30 degrees below zero tonight and tomorrow. If Clarence does make it here, there is the cat shelter in my garage for him, and I replace the food and water twice a day. I’ve also been taking a microwaveable rice bag, heating it, and putting it in the cat shelter to try to provide a little heat.

Feral cats have their hiding places, and this one has survived this long before I lived here for the winter. Hopefully he is someplace where he can weather this storm and make it another year.

The last reason why this snowstorm is significant is that church was cancelled today. Yes, church was cancelled. Whoever heard of that? I have heard of school closings and business closings for snow, but not church. Every single business I have worked for over the past 25 years, with the exception of my current employment, has followed the schools for snow closures. However, there is no school on the weekends.

There is so much snow, there was no church today.

I think that is the other reason why I was so happy to make snow angels today. Making a snow angel for the first time in my own backyard was kind of a way to make a happy sign to God to say thank you for this house.

Along with all the snow, we have to get through the below zero temperatures tonight and tomorrow, hopefully, we can continue to weather this storm safely. I feel very privileges and really blessed that I am handling it as well as I am. Well, given that it is a weekend and I don’t have to call into work helps also.

Hope that everyone out there is warm and safe with water and food in this storm. Be well!

Welcome, Storm Harper!

 

 

Happy Veterans Day

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Happy Veteran’s Day. This is the phrase I was attempting to say two years ago today. I’m not sure exactly how it came out, but that was the day I landed in the hospital with stroke symptoms. Today is my 2 year anniversary of the day that changed my life. Nothing has been the same since. I’ve had to slow down whether I like it or not. And, I don’t, by the way. I don’t like it – the slowing down or all the changes.

To celebrate the 2 year anniversary of my stroke, I participated in communion at church today for the first time in my life. Today was the first time that communion has ever been accessible for me since the onslaught of the multiple food allergies in my mid-20s. The most difficult allergen to avoid in this situation, is egg. Have you ever tried to find gluten free bread that is also egg free, dairy free and completely nut free? Let me know, because I don’t think it exists on a widespread commercial basis.

Someone at church went out of their way to find a local bakery in town who was willing to take on, tackle and accommodate all 5 of my food allergies. It was achieved successfully. I can’t tell you what it meant to be able to participate in communion with everyone else today and not be left out. It’s one of the few times when I have actually felt like God loves me. Someone actually baked something that didn’t kill me. There’s a first time for everything.

This is significant because I’ve been struggling lately. Ever since I bought my house, I’ve been experiencing negativity from the community. Pretty much, I’m being kicked while I’m down. I’m still down, by the way. But at least I’m not being kicked any more.

There are some people in this community who are not pleasant to me due to one of my “identities.” It happened again today. I try to blow it off and balance it with all of the people who are going out of their way to make me feel welcome. I figure there is no point in trying to make anyone else happy. I’m just going to be myself and people can either take it or leave it. I think that’s a pretty good attitude even if it doesn’t make the hurt any less.

Even though my life feels like a free floating shit show with no anchor right now, I am thankful and grateful for so many things. I just need some time to get my feet back under me.

I still have challenges post-stroke, but am considered “fully functional.” I am thankful that I am healthy, working, providing, and running. Running is definitely the greatest gift I have ever received in life. My goal for 2018 this year is to exceed the number of miles I ran in 2017. That would be an improvement.

I’m happy that two years after 11/11/16, I can say “Happy Veterans Day,” and it actually comes out sounding like “Happy Veterans Day.” I’m not in the hospital connected to tubes and machines being rushed into a machine that takes photos of my brain.

Happy Veterans Day. Thank you for your service that allows us to be free.

 

 

Grow Where You’re Planted

I’ve had a hard time finding my groove in retirement. It’s been 9 months since my 20 year career as a college student has ended. I feel sort of like a recluse. No one talks to me now that I’m no longer in school. It’s almost as if I’ve lost my voice and nothing I say or do matters.

So I’ve been struggling to fill the large, gaping hole left in my life now that I’m not in school. I had joined a book club. I had joined a writing club. I’m not one for bars. Running is a solitary sport, and I have no interest in group sports. What is there to do?

To the seemingly surprise of many, I returned to church about 6 months ago after a significant hiatus. I was raised very strict Baptist, and even married to a minister – until he got his girlfriend pregnant. I tend to be extremely liberal in my views with a laid back personality, so many people did not see me as any sort of Jesus freak.

In these past few months of drifting, I have gone back to old habits and old coping skills in my quest to find both an anchor and my next direction in life.

After the numerous negative experiences I have had as a Baptist, I was cautious to go back to church. I was basically just looking for some peace without the politics. I knew I could not return to the Baptist church after everything that has happened, and decided I needed to convert. On recommendation of a very good friend, I tried a Methodist church.

In June, I went through my official confirmation ceremony to join the church. Good bye, Baptist. Hello, Methodist.

I mostly keep to myself at church. It’s a traditional service that provides familiarity, and brings fond memories of services attended with my grandparents in my youth. Plus, most of the congregation is older than me. I really haven’t met anyone my age, and there’s only about 40 people that go.

The friends I’ve made at church are slightly younger than my grandparents would be if they were alive and well. So, it fulfills that sense of safety & joy I had attending church with my grandparents growing up.

There is one gentleman who stopped me dead in his tracks. When he sings, he sounds just like my grandfather, and it brings me to tears. My grandfather was the one person in my family who was ever supportive of me. He was such a role model. This gentleman at church is the exact age my grandfather was when he passed away.

While book club and writing club did not work for me (mostly, my work schedule changed), I had been thinking of getting involved at church. I have such a sense of peace there. But, I don’t want to be involved in the politics like I was as a pastor’s wife. Plus, while I long for a sense of belonging, I am not looking for a huge commitment. I don’t want to replace the rigors of school, but I need something to do.

I had been thinking about volunteering for the food pantry, but with multiple food allergies that react by touch, that doesn’t seem like a good idea. At one point, out of frustration, I actually asked God what I should be doing with myself. I’ve been out of school for almost a year. I’ve spent the entire time drifting, and have at times been in a bad place.

Well, today, out of the blue, the woman in charge of the food pantry asked if I could help with the August food pantry, as the usual person is on vacation. They know how severe my food allergies are, so I will be doing the people and paperwork part – checking people in, and being sure they get enough to get by – like inventory, without having to interact with any of my allergens.

Also, the woman who is the church gardener is moving south to be closer to her children and grandchildren, and today she stood up in church and asked if anyone would be willing to take over the gardens both to serve God and to keep them up for the enjoyment of all the people.

Before I knew what was happening, I was volunteering.

I know nothing about gardening. I can’t keep a plant in the house. The only plant I ever had that I didn’t kill was a spider plant, and Kitty ate the entire thing until it was gone (this was years ago).

So, I know nothing about plants, but now I’m the new church gardener.

I had the lady walk out with me after service to explain everything that needed to be done. She even told me the plant names. I didn’t know them.

Right now, it will be mostly weeding and getting the plant beds in shape. I can spend a few hours a week doing that before work. Maybe growing plants in soil outside will be easier than having a house plant inside with two cats.

Lets hope so.

I’m looking forward to some quiet time weeding, reflecting, thinking. If I wanted to serve the church without being involved in the politics of church life, then maybe the garden is it.

Apparently, somehow in this transaction, I’m also now doing the flower arrangements for the alter. I don’t think they know what they are getting into. I don’t know names of flowers. I’m just like, this is pretty, put it here.

I mostly went back to church in my quest to peace. I’ve been trying to unwind and relax. That’s the entire purpose of rewind real slow. You can’t enjoy the good things in life if you are frantically going from one thing to another and trying to keep pace.

Lets hope that church gardening is my groove. When they say grow where you’re planted, they weren’t kidding. Hopefully the gardens keep growing under my care