Thursday, June 30, 2011

Okay okay, I'll stop whining now

With the fresh new layers of beautifully- restored wood brought to the surface, I suppose my cover is blown. I do have a beautiful house. Stunning, actually.

And I am extremely grateful for that.

Ian built this house for us. Have I ever told you the story?

Maybe next time.  For now, I will let the pictures talk.

Seems a shame to fill it up with furniture. Ian suggested I just get some puffy bean bag chairs, throw them around the room and leave it at that.

The girls think that's a good idea. And maybe a couple of easels, with a drop cloth, of course, set up in the corner. And two berets for my young artists in residence.

Most importantly, I'm starting to visualize us inside.

Like the persnickety Mrs. Mallard in Make Way for Ducklings, I think I'm finally convinced this is a safe place to make our nest, again. 

This is good.

  If you are curious about what I've been doing instead of moving in, I've got pictures to back up my story over here at Momformation. 

Friday, June 24, 2011

Floor refinishing is better than Prozac

As I write, a capable carpenter/friend (as much as I want to, I won't mention his cuteness) is refinishing our downstairs floors. I am paying him to patiently sand layer upon layer, however many it takes, and strip all the evidence of debauchery, disrespect and corruption away.

We peeked through the windows the day before yesterday to see him barefoot, God-like, walking slowly, intently, behind a large sanding machine contraption thingy.

And, with just a few day's work transformation has occurred. With the first sanding, the floors looked exposed, infantile, like a blanched almond. Innocent and new. Esther wants it to stay this way, but it needs to be treated. I imagine there would be a hazardous splinter factor otherwise.

Seeing the floors in this new, purified state, unfortunately made me take a closer look at the walls. They are grungy. And I can actually see myself making hypnotic passes with a roller, feeling more and more optimistic with each delicious pass. This, if I may state the obvious, is progress.

Yesterday, we peaked in to see the floors had gotten a first, or second, coating of sealant, or stain, or whatever it is. No longer bleached, they looked like honey, rich, golden sun-tanned honey. Honey that would make Winnie the Pooh swoon. They looked like something straight out of Swiffer advertisement. Shit, I can't let kids in there. I might have to rethink my liberal views on indoor bike riding and rollerblading...

Today, after another go over with the sander, the floors looked as if they were actually enjoying the attention. I think the old house might be considering forgiving us for so heartlessly prostituting it, simply because we wanted to taste the grass on the other side of the fence.

We'll be making up to it, one day at a time.

Sorry no pictures. I stuck my camera through the hole in the plastic, dust curtain and snapped a few shots of this perfect floor. Problem is, my startup disk is still moaning and creaking from being "almost full" and I am sick and tired of deleting photos to try to make room for more photos. I need to figure out what is making my startup disk suffer from indigestion so regularly, before I import any more photos. Any clues?

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

I can stand the rain

I walked my dog through the foggy meadow today as the softest rain I have ever felt fell on our heads and rolled off. I have missed soft rain.

While everyone curses the water that falls from this swollen, bruised, overwrought sky, I have been rejoicing in all things rainy and wet. I have missed the rain.

It rained in France, sure, but never for long. I cannot remember a single rainy day. Rainy mornings, sure. An afternoon rain shower, maybe. But never did I spend a fully-committed, all-day, or all night, under the clinging roof of a sagging, leaky gray sky. I have missed rainy days.

My daughters have learned to love rain, like me. While everyone looks to the sky and frowns, grimaces, and complains, they have learned the benefits of smiling at the rain. They notice how colorful the world looks when it's wet. Leaves are greener, dirt is richer brown, rocks go from drab and unremarkable to strikingly beautiful. And those orange effs are psychedelic. 

And the inside world changes too. Warmer. More inviting. Shelter. Our roof is a drum, the skylights are cymbals.

And no one expects you to go outside when it's raining. No one calls you on the phone midday, then says, "What are you doing inside on a day like this?" when you say "Hello."

"Oh I love days like this when it's so dark and wet outside and so cozy inside," Esther said just now after an entire, boring afternoon spent inside.

"So do I," I said. "So do I."

I love the rain.  

More words have fallen out of my mouth over at Momformation. 

Friday, June 17, 2011

Mailbox is up, anybody home?

It's done.

In what was an elaborate, somewhat messy, collaboration, our custom-designed mailbox is fully painted and fixed to its new perch-- a solid, beefy post stuck firmly into the ground. Let's see if it's vandal proof.

I still haven't done a thing on the inside of the house, other than blow some dust around and stare in disbelief at the wide-pine floors on the first floor and wonder just how many parties it took to trash them like that. And were the party guests wearing hockey skates, or crampons, in the house?

Remarkably little progress has been made towards us ever making a home of our house again.

Day after day goes by and I remain in hiding, ensconced in this little cabin in the woods, just a stone’s throw away from our real home, our empty home, our home which stands empty and hollow, just waiting for us to come back inside and fill its every cavernous inch with love and noise, peals of laughter, shrieks of anger and wails of sorrow, and the smell drying clothes and burnt toast and curry and the feel of stickyness--not spilled beer but strawberry jam and honey-- on the floor, all mixed together with the hair of our old dog.

“When are we going to our real home?” Isla asks me day after day. “I want to find my dress-ups, that green cape you told me about. I want to set up my bed.”

And Esther wants to move into her attic bedroom, and be with the horses every day. She wants to be able to wander outside to the barn without me escorting her down there.

But I.... I don’t seem to want any of it. Though I occasionally get glimmers of longing, moments of nostalgia, when I’m out in the weed choked perrenial garden, looking back on our home. I discovered, hidden under the messy tangle of dried and fresh weeds, our old strawberry patch. There under the blanket of dead wood sat perfect heart shaped leaves and dangling, bright red fruit.

But I don’t get that sense of promise and excitement when I’m inside. I feel nothing in there.

How could eight years of raising children in one house, a house my husband dropped sweat and pounds and years building for us, get pulled into a swirling funnel and sucked down memory drain?

What does it mean that I don’t have any desire to make a home for my children? When I was pregnant with Esther and we first moved in, the place was still a construction zone, yet I took on the role of the expecting mother and wife and trotted off to town to pick up things, little and big, things to fill up the empty space with, things to surround ourselves with, to feather our nest with.

Now all these things have been put away, stored in the attic, left behind for two whole years and, honestly, I don’t have the desire to ever see any of it again.

There is nothing in our living room but two rotten couches, a handed down Ikea chair and a kitchen table. I feel empty when I stand in that room. I cannot imagine it ever feeling anything but empty. Is this normal?

I expected some depression from this whole reentry to America experience. But not quite of this depth. 

Anyone know a good, cheap therapist? Is there such a thing as a "find your old life" service?

Slightly more encouraging words can be found over here at Momformation. 

Thursday, June 09, 2011

Signs of life

Not my photo. I stole it from here.

After a week of fantasizing about delivering a festering couch and various other scraps of junk to the new front lawn of my pesky rental tenant, I pulled into my drive this evening to discover that said couch, which my grunting dad and I hoisted and dragged out to the porch, and those other unsightly life scraps, were gone. My porch was empty again. Mine again. Exhale.

The boy was good on his word. Guilt.

Of course the infamous minifridge is still in the attic bedroom and there was that onerous pile of dog puke on the porch where the couch had been, but I'm choosing to overlook that at this point.

More important still, on the way into the practically-vacant supermarket I was beckoned by a forlorn, but bright, hanging geranium plant by the front door and plopped it down in my cart before I went in to shop.

On the way back to my parent's cabin, the one I have been feeling like I may never move out of, I instinctively pulled onto our road and into my driveway and stepped out into the watery evening to hang the geranium from the wrought iron plant hanger by the front steps.

Symbolism is a good word, a word that feels right and safe in my mouth at this very moment. Having the energy and optimism and motivation to stop and hang that plant up on my porch is nothing to be ignored.

This is progress. This is something. This.... is noteworthy.

On another worthy note, I went into ask to the post mistress to hold my mail, since I discovered the mailbox was not actually attached to its post--I tried to open it and it fell into the ditch-- and she said she would. I told her I was working on getting a new mailbox and post set up, but just needed to find myself a rent-a-husband. At that very moment, my neighbor, one of the many handsome carpenters in town, walked in the door. (I mention that he is handsome simply because, well, he is.)

"There is your rent-a husband right there," the postmistress said, laughing. 

He told me he would put a new post up for me and I should keep my eye out for exactly which model of mailbox post I wanted and now I can't stop commenting on each and every mailbox post I pass.

Who knew there were so many styles to choose from.

All this to say, things are happening.

And, just in case my real, not rented, husband reads this, here is a love song to reassure him. 

Essie and Isla are in charge of custom designing our new mailbox.

More oversharing over here at Momformation.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

I'll deal with it tomorrow, or next week, maybe

The day has come. My tenants, who were actually down to one, the last man standing, in recent months, have officially moved out.

Strangely, I am not leaping at the chance to move myself and my children back into our beloved house. Not just yet. Because, you see, I'm still in the processing stage. The girls and I wandered around our sadly uninhabited home, lingering in every single room, for the first time last night. It was weird.

Everything that made it once feel like a cozy home, our home, seems to be missing. Esther was amazed to discover all her old toys still in the wooden toy box in the living room. She sifted kind of listlessly through them on the floor while I was making my way through waist high grass to find my perennial garden. Our copy of Once upon a Potty was on a side table. I could imagine that book is an interesting read while stoned.

Isla, ever oblivious, amused herself by doing laps around the chimney, just like old times, on the rusted red, Radio Flyer tricycle, with the wobbly back wheels, I unearthed in the basement.

Most of our stuff is stuffed into the attic, I guess. But some part of what's missing feels irretrievable. Nonmaterial. As if nothing in the house will never be, or feel, the same again. I hope I'm wrong. I hope all it needs is our family living within its walls again to regain its shape.

It also needs a power wash and a floor sander and a coat of paint. Oy. 

The students, how many were there in all?, may have left our home, but they left behind their aura. They also left a disgusting flea bag couch in the living room, the frame of another couch on a ghetto bonfire on the lawn, a giant old television and several horrible faux wood pieces, a totally -trashed wide-pine floor, some dirty socks, two pairs of smelly sneakers, a bong made from a Sunny Delight carton, a fallen- down, makeshift greenhouse on the lawn, A classic Grateful Dead vinyl album: Cats Under the Stars, a plethora of bottle caps, microbrewery stickers stuck to every surface, including the bathtub (is that really necessary?), and a thick layer of grime throughout.

Surprisingly, they did not leave behind a single tye-dyed tapestry anything or Jerry Garcia poster. Only thumbtack holes in the walls where they once hung.

To their credit, the toilets, and the refrigerator, were clean. I think we can thank Mommy for that. Thank Goddessness for Moms.

The master bedroom survived relatively unscathed. Parties seemed to have stayed downstairs.

Master bath looks the same, aside from the bathtub sticker.

Bonus: I forgot Ian built me us a laundry table before we left.I didn't check inside for cats.

Oh yeah. I almost forgot the mini fridge in the attic bedroom, all the way on the third floor. The Sharpie message scrawled on top speaks volumes.

Esther spotted this first.

 How the hell am I supposed to carry that beast down the spiral staircase?

Just thinking about it all makes me want to lie down. Or maybe it makes me want to drink a cold beer, smoke a cigarette, inhaling deeply and dramatically--like a pensive single mom in a movie-- then lie down. For a week.

My pics aren't showing the half of it, I know. I couldn't bear to point the camera at the ugly stuff. Maybe tomorrow.

Thursday, June 02, 2011

A girl and her dog

 As much as I have complained about my dog over the years--I just spent a good ten minutes with a friend, lamenting the ways in which adding a needy, shedding, dirt spreading, tick-attracting, barking, begging, drooling dog to the mix of an already chaotic household takes a certain amount of mental imbalance-- we are ever so happy to be together again, flesh and fur, with our favorite dog.

Despite the gaping hole where Ian should, and soon will, be, she makes us complete. She makes us realize what has been missing in our life: A furry friend. Two years of doglessness was enough.

Isla is the most affected by our new, old family addition. She is a new girl. A girl with a dog to love. Thank goodness because she has gobs of love to give and I can't always field it all. It comes at me in swirling cyclones and sometimes, I find myself ducking when I should be opening my arms wide, simply because I'm daunted by its fullness, its depth, its pulling power. 

Now it's Ruby's turn to get caught up in the cylone. To be smothered with little girl love. And I have noticed a slight break, a lessening in the urgency of Isla's need to express love and affection. But I do have to be ever vigilant that she isn't suffocating, or strangling, the dog. I did catch her trying to play wheelbarrow with Ruby in the kitchen the other day.

Not good.

 But Ruby lets her know when she's had enough, or is being tugged too hard. And she does her Houdini act. But she always lets herself be captured and contained and dominated again. Eventually

 She's a loyal companion. With a wary sense of duty, fidelity, devotion, to her people. Especially the ones who feed and even break biscuits with her.

Dinner's coming.

One for me, one for you.

Isn't that delicious?

But I think Ruby has benefited from our reunion as well. When I first saw her after we got back, she seemed diminished, tired, old. That's because she is tired and old, and, according to the vet, five pounds overweight. (Staying with grandma, who keeps cookies in every pocket, can do that to you.)

Right now she is lying with her back against the back door. Her entire side is undulating up and down in time with her breathing. Inhale, exhale. It sounds like she is struggling to get enough oxygen but maybe she is just congested somehow. Do dogs get congested?

But I fluctuate between seeing her as an old dying dog and seeing her as the floppy, silly puppy she has always been. Just today, on our lap around the front meadow, I looked back to see her trotting gaily along the back stretch, suitably behind me as she prefers to be, her ears flapping like black washcloths in the wind, her nose up fishing for scents, her tail wagging. Just like old times. A happy dog.

It brings me joy to see her trotting happily through the grass. Just like she's my kid. My first born. I have to wonder what she thinks of me, of us, back here so suddenly, just picking up where we left off with nary an explanation. Does she need one, or does she know.?

She doesn't seem to be holding any grudges. But she does manifest more separation anxiety than I remembered from before. When we return from going out without her, she whines and yelps and talks to us, her body in a full-body wag, for a solid five minutes. If only I knew what she was saying.

Maybe I should ask Isla.