Monday, December 23, 2013

The Deck, Finished!

And lo, the new deck, finished! 

And I decorated for Christmas!!!

I am just loving this! 
More home improvement coming, in January! Merry Christmas to the contractors taking a break! Right now, the first thing I know of scheduled is the installation of the new wood stove for January 13th! Much excitement commences. The other project that will be on the schedule to be begun is fixing the nonfunctional bathroom. Which is SO NON-functional. Story coming on just why that is. 
Merry Christmas and Happy Solstice
to All! 

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

And Where We Are Today With the House....

Contractors were back in full force today, putting up shutters and working on finishing the deck...This is how we look at the end of the day....

The new shutters - the difference is incredible! 

And the new bench on the deck....still a few finishing details to add to that, but its so wonderful! 

Just cannot get over how amazing this all is, as it progresses! 

A Moment's Thought....

This thought was given to me by the priest at my church....

"I will unravel my wall
I will find the common thread
And so, assent that I am good
Not because I am the only one,
But because I am the one I am."

I am spending some time contemplating this. 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

New Wood Stove Coming Soon!

OK, fellows came by today to measure and so forth for the new wood stove and let us pick out what we wanted, what we're getting is pictured above. Wow.
Its a bit of a necessity, as the current fireplace is a fire inferno hazard waiting to happen. Also, the current fireplace is being totally removed to install the wood stove. Still trying to wrap my brain around this and sort of failing. However, it should actually give us more space. The new one may be this color or black, depends on what is ordered and available - either will do. Will be posting before and after pictures. Can't wait to see this, myself!
You have to understand....I'm a major fireplace kinda guy - ya know, I want the sort of big field stone fire place  with the roaring three alarm blaze you could roast an ox in, while the Riders of Rohan gather to toast the victorious dead!
So I'm kinda of going but, but, but....its so tiny! Realistically speaking, this thing has that whole efficiency system in it that will literally heat the whole trailer on one armful of wood a day. Not kidding - one arm load of wood will burn and heat the house for 9 hours. Really.
You would think we wouldn't need one here in the South. Anybody who has ever lived through 11 days of no power in a Southern ice storm knows better!!! Ugh!
So I'm delighted too and think it looks cool to boot! Very awesome!
But its not the big medieval fireplace I always see in my dreams.
The word I'm looking for is bemused, I think.
Maybe if we hung some antlers over it....
(just kidding, Dreamweaver, no...wait...OUCH!) 

Monday, December 9, 2013

This Autumn Just Now Past....

 Autumn is my favorite time of year, and I always do a blog post of the Fall leaves in my area - I'm a bit later getting them posted this year, due to blog difficulties, but here they are....
The Autumn blue sky is like nothing else
 in any other season, crystal clear and vibrant!

This tree always is the first to begin turning
colors in the neighborhood...

It was pointed out to me that my dog, MacDubh,
perfectly color coordinated with the fallen leaves...

Sometimes its just the little things,
 the fallen acorns on the ground in sprays of leaves
that bring magic...

This was taken a few weeks ago, and was literally
the last of the leaves hanging on -
most of them have fallen at this point.
Caught the last of the evening sun
 shining through them, nature's own
stained glass....

And saved the best for last....

It snowed the day before Thanksgiving here - given that this is
South Carolina, this is unheard of....
Found the last Autumn leaf, on my windshield. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

The Great Home Repair/Improvement Project Part One....with Lots of Pictures!

Some months ago, we developed yet another leak in our 30 year old trailer, this one in the bathroom. This has been very discouraging, as we are "working poor" and there is no margin for repairs, let alone home improvement.
Dreamweaver's dad got wind of this and contacted her, saying basically, "Lets get everything fixed up." Our response was hysterical laughter followed by a "Thanks for the thought, Dad, but there's too much wrong for you to take that on." email back to him.
Thus began the series of emails between Dreamweaver and her Dad....the irresistible force and the immovable object, tickets one day only. I popped popcorn. Basically, he was determined to fix up the trailer, and she was grateful for his intent, but thought that there was no way he could or should take on that much financially. Trailer was a mess.
Finally, he insisted she send him a list of what was wrong and what needed updating. Another round of hysterically laughter followed, and she sent him the entire comprehensive list. Mostly as a "See, its too much - no way you can do this but we truly appreciate it." point.
His response was go get the contractor.
Another week or so of "Seriously???" / "Yes, I really mean it!" emails followed. I was running low on popcorn. We were astonished. Finally, he convinced her he was serious and we went looking for a contractor.
After making a bunch of calls to various answering machines, we finally landed a contractor who actually called back and came out to give us an estimate. We were delighted with their willingness to work, and their really good "fit" with us - they loved our cats and the dog, they weren't the slightest bit intimidated by the condition of the trailer, and they were perfectly accepting of us being a "gay/transgender" couple - not a small point in this conservative area. An estimate was made, Dreamweaver's Dad was consulted and The Great Home Repair/Improvement Project was ON!
A rough list of what is being or has been done so far in no particular order -
Leveling the trailer

(this deserves an explanation so digression number one, there will probably be a few - whoever put this trailer here long before we bought it, put a double wide trailer on a single wide trailer pad. Uh-oh. Really? Seriously? So, over the years, the back of the trailer, NOT on the pad, has been sinking like the Titanic, going down by the head. We had enough of a tilt to feel it when we walked around, almost a roof pitch. Food cooked on the stove slid to the back of pans and pots. The first thing they had to do, was level it. Which they did. We almost couldn't walk around the first day! We had to get use to not feeling the slant. It was amazing right there!)

Fix the leak in the ceiling of the bathroom (did that the day they came to give us the estimate, no charge. See why we kept them?)
Complete redo/update of the kitchen, including building a pantry!
Complete redo/update of both bathrooms.
New wood stove - old fireplace is not really safe.
New flooring.
New windows, weather proofed.
Painting, and wainscoting for the walls.
A 10'x12' deck on the back!
Fixing electrical problems.
New doors - front and back. Note on the doors....the new doors have the double paned glass with the blinds INSIDE in between the panes. In other words, no more cats, swinging from the blinds! The back door was a particular major change, because we had the door moved over to the other end of the trailer, there by getting rid of an insanely non ergonomic mess between the conjunction of the original back door, the kitchen cabinets, the stove, the refrigerator and the washer/dryer. The other thing we did with the back doors is that the new ones are French doors! This in particular made Dreamweaver rather giddy, is the only word for it!

We are in the middle of all this as I type...and there is no doubt that there has been chaos and will continue to be chaos. We still have part of the kitchen stashed in the living room until we are able to organize at the end, and we still have some months to go. So...let me toss a few pictures out of what this has been like!

Basically, the following pictures are of the installation of the back double french doors and the new deck, which took place over a period of days.

Where they have cut out the opening for the French doors used to be a window.
The original back door is at the other end and now no longer exists.

Feels VERY odd, to have a gaping hole like this! 

Now we see the progress!

Next is the deck....
Framing in the deck....

Next, the ramp will be added.

We elected to do a ramp because we have had enough mobility issues in the past
with my hips before surgery, plus we have friends with mobility issues.
So we wanted to do this instead of stairs!

And Ibn here thinks this was all built JUST for him! 

The railing will be added after they side the house, so they don't have to work
around and over it!

So, that was the great deck and door part of the process. Also note, the new windows have also been installed around the house. In fact, they are finishing up the deck today....they left the railing off, until they finished up the siding on the outside, which will be one of the next posts!
Part two here will be The Great Kitchen Saga!
Hope these posts are enjoyable - we're just so excited, but I suspect its a little like being subjected to pictures of pets, children and grandbabies!
More to come....and I can not express how grateful we are to Dreamweaver's Father for stepping in and helping us in such a magnificent, generous way.  For the first time in years we are going to have a home we can be truly proud of, enjoy living in, and feel comfortable inviting people over to visit! We are truly blessed!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Remembering those who've Passed....

This has NOT been a good year, in terms of cat losses. We knew we were going to be losing some, due to age and time and attrition, we have an aging population, and there have been 5-6 of them we've had growing concerns about; cancer, chronic illness and aging end of life issues. However, the past few months/weeks have been a perfect storm of loss, as four of them have passed away one right after another due to these issues.

We lost Legba to old age and basic health issues....the last of the grey and white band of brothers living with us whom we have loved so much....

Legba, curled up asleep on the futon....

Legba with a very young Firedancer....

And then there was Tanis, our regal, elegant grey cat, very much Dreamweaver's cat, period. I was grudgingly accepted as useful, since I would bring food. It took years before he would deign to let me pet him.
Tanis, much loved and missed....

And then we lost Rascal on October first to asthma, which had never been diagnosed correctly. He was our orange loving cat who would jump into your arms and give you hugs. He was only about 8 years old and we were shocked to lose him. However, that was about a normal life span for a cat with asthma, we found out later. He and Tanis were avowed enemies arguing over who got to sleep the closest to took years, but they grumpily evolved finally into buddies who always slept together.
Rascal, our sweet hugging orange boy....

When Rascal was wrestling to breathe with the asthma,
he hung his nose over a jar of Mentholatum and it seemed to
truly help his breathing!
And then we have been shattered just two days ago by the fourth loss - our little one-eyed "pirate cat" Xian. She was 13 years old, and had cancer and other end of life issues, so her passing was not entirely unexpected...except that there never is anyway to "expect" something like this, for any of them. We love all of our cats and lavish attention on them....but every now and then there is one or another that is just....special. Precious. And Xian was one of them. Xian's passing leaves a hole in our lives and our hearts that is so painful. And yet we rejoice in the 13 wonderful years we had with her and her sweet loving heart that never met a stranger. I promise you, she loved EVERYBODY who walked through the door of our was "Hi, glad to meet you!" and Xian in their laps, "Pet me, pet me, pet me!"

Xian, the wonderful one-eyed "pirate cat who loved to ride

So. It has been one hammer blow after another, even though we knew we would have these losses soon, we never expected them back to back to back like this. And yet, there is comfort in the memories, and love shared with these precious cats, and in knowing we cared for them and loved them, were with them in their last moments and let them go with love and comfort. 

Legba, Rascal, Tanis, and Xian....
Go before us into the Summerlands,
Join those who have crossed before us....
Run and play and find us when we join you ourselves.
What is remembered, 
Blessed be! 


Brief explanation here - I haven't been able to get into my blog  for awhile due to password etc difficulties...have been about to go nuts over it.
I'm back.
Blogging will now proceed forward again. Whew!
And many thanks to Dreamweaver for being the wonderful geek who straightened it out!

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

On Tuesday, September 11, 2001 as all the world remembers, four coordinated terrorist attacks occurred here in America. Four planes, flown by the terrorists on collision courses caused the collapse of the Twin Towers in New York, damaged the Pentagon, and due to the resistance of the passengers, the fourth plane crashed into a field, killing all aboard. The attacks resulted in the deaths of 2,996 people, including the 19 hijackers and 2,977 victims. The victims included 246 on the four planes (from which there were no survivors), 2,606 in New York City in the towers and on the ground, and 125 at the Pentagon. Nearly all of the victims were civilians; 55 military personnel were among those killed at the Pentagon.
I'm already seeing memorial posts sprouting all over the place on the internet. Some are patriotic, with symbols like the American Flag, or the Bald Eagle. Some pictures are linked by inflammatory text to the current Syria crisis. I'm also seeing posts and articles saying its time to move on and forward and stop all the heavy mourning.

I think that first of all, mourning is a process. Its not black and white, it doesn't have a time limit on it and the expression of our grief takes many forms. It takes as long as it takes, be it an individual or the collective heart and soul of a nation. Those that need to post memorial posts or talk about it, really *NEED* to do so, to express their hearts, to process the pain and memories. We need to respect this process, to understand it, whether or not we need to participate in it.

Secondly, the remembrance needs to be unhooked from the political polarized debates, raging rants and divisive arguments. I know the current international issues hit very sore nerves that are connected straight to the events of 9/11 and the years that followed. And people need to be able to express that, too. But honoring and grieving and remembering who died and the horror that gripped the nation and the world should just on one day, this day, be free of political dialog and manipulation, rhetoric and demagoguery. It should focus on those who were lost, and those who remain, on the collective soul of the nation as we continue to work our way out of the emotional pain and damage of those days.

Thirdly, I do think that as the healing process continues, that looking forward *is* as important as looking back. That remembering what happened and what we learned in those dreadful hours and days should spur us, today, to current compassion, critical thinking, and honorable behavior. But moving forward and looking back occur simultaneously. The cannot be independent of each other. We cannot make them exclusionary of each other. We cannot say "we have to stop grieving and carrying on and move forward" - it doesn't work that way, and that can be a painful statement for someone who still has grief and pain to live with and work through. Whatever our personal processes, we need to be respectful of how other people need to work out their grief. Even, after what I said above about unhooking it from the political, even if it isn't how I or you or the other person needs to express themselves. I admit, the distaste I feel about the politicization of current issues coupled with 9/11 is a *personal feeling*. I feel strongly that I have good reasons to feel that way...but I'm not going to be un-friending, if its Face Book or some other social media, or publicly criticizing anybody for their posts tomorrow, even if I don't like or agree with their contents. It may be how they work out *their* grief and anger.

May all those who grieve and mourn the events of 9/11 
still be comforted by their communities, 
by their faiths, 
by their philosophies, 
and by finding ways to express their hearts. 
Even as I am doing right now. 

For all those who died, 
may they be honored, 
remembered, and their loved ones cared for and comforted this day. 
What is remembered, lives.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The World's Not Owned But Held In Trust

Buddha at the Bodhi tree (Sri Lanka)

Here, to the oldest living tree
Pilgrims have flown, sailed, crawled and bussed
To feel its shade to know its strength
The world’s not owned but held in trust

It never withers, fresh shoots grow
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust
Does not apply to such a tree
The world’s not owned but held in trust

Buddha, in this tree’s motherland
Had conquered self and fear and lust
Now every seed the message gives
The world’s not owned but held in trust

Treasures you covet, things possessed
Silver and gold all turn to rust
Others will claim your home, your land
The world’s not owned but held in trust

Your little self’s a puff of smoke
To every living thing be just
Power brings responsibilities
The world’s not owned but held in trust

The fluttering leaves eternal tell
Man’s not immortal, die we must
Live a full life but live it well
The world’s not owned, but held in trust

(Author: sheena blackhall)

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Question To Ask....

F-5 Tornado tears into Moore, Oklahoma, May 20, 2013
When tragedy like the tornado of May 20th in Moore OK occurs, we hear the question why. 
Why did God let this happen? 
And we see people run to provide quick answers - some I've heard so far have been "people didn't pray hard enough to prevent it" (seriously, heard that one) or its "God's judgement on sin" (that one too.) 
And of course its God's judgement on gays, Islam, pagans, abortions - go fill in the blank. 
Running into all those too. Its as though we are so desperate for answers that we will take any answer and hug it to us, and trumpet it loudly - however negative or abusive it may be. 
Answers make us feel safe. 
Particularly answers that create an "us/them" dichotomy. 
If it could happen to "them" because of __________, then it cannot happen to "us" because we are righteous and not like them. "Therefore we are safe." 
How tragic. 
How negative. 
How fearful.
I don't have any answers to the "Why!?" question.
I'm not that wise.
What I think is needed is a different question....a "What..." question.
A question that can be posed and answered by anybody, be they Christian, or Islamic, or Pagan, or Jewish, or agnostic or atheist. A question that is powered and driven by love and compassion. 
And tears and depth and pain. A question that is not shallow or quick to seek easy solutions and then walk away. A question that expresses all things regardless if the person's belief is in God, or the Gods or the intrinsic moral depth of humanity in the face of tragedy. Whatever you believe...
The question is -
"What can I do?"
What can I do to help? 
What can I do to alleviate suffering? 
What can I do to make compassion and love real in the face of suffering and shock and pain?
And then you go do it. 
Whatever it is, however small your part is. 
You make it real.