Snap, Crackle…and…POP!

Accidents happen. They come out of the blue, unplanned and unexpected. They disrupt your life, cause injury, and make you painfully aware of your own destructibility.

I was at a family party, celebrating the second and fourth birthdays of granddaughters two and three. The family was gathered at my son’s table, finishing lunch and laughing as we visited. In one smooth move, I scooped up the used party plates and was in the process of pivoting around in my chair while standing up, planning to deposit them in the trash container behind me. Instead I landed head-first in my niece’s lap! Somehow I managed to get a foot tangled up with the leg of my chair and the table leg.

The culprits: chair and table leg.

I think I managed to hook my little toe on the aluminum chair leg, bending the last two toes skyward. The remaining toes smashed against the table leg, pressing them downwards. Imagine a circus strongman ripping a phone book in half down the middle. Now exchange the phone book for my foot!

My foot immediately inflated and discolored. I could still wiggle my toes, so I assumed nothing was broken. It wouldn’t “flex” and I had a funny bump on the sole under my little toe, but I could still put weight on the heel and hobble along. Wearing a shoe was out of the question, but I managed an over-sized flip flop. Wrapping my foot in athletic tape provided some support and helped quell the throbbing pain and the swelling gradually decreased.

Tutti-fruity colors; the nail polish is hiding the bruises UNDER the nails.

I have broken a toe before and the remedy was to “buddy tape” it to the toe next door. I figured I was in for a long six weeks and was grateful that it happened in the summer so I didn’t have to try to wear real shoes. I slept with it elevated and outside of the covers to avoid the weight of blankets.

A nurse friend suggested that I probably should get x-rays and cautioned that if I broke the socket, I might need surgery. I was leaving the next day for a week-long trip and figured I would see a doctor when I got home if it wasn’t any better by the time I returned home.

Our first night of the trip was spent at a charming, rustic 1940’s style Lodge on Skyline Drive. No televisions in the room, no a/c, and no elevators! The down comforter on the double bed gave the room a European feel.

Our charming room at the Lodge.

We climbed the steep, double flight of stairs and I hobbled down the hall to our room. The narrow room could only accommodate a full sized bed, instead of a Queen or King, and the right side of the bed was only about a foot from the wall. I opted to sleep on the bathroom side, despite placing my sore foot on the center of the bed.

Sometime during the night I woke up yelling and moaning. Deep asleep, I must have gotten my foot wrapped up in the bedding and thrashed it into my husband’s leg as I tried to kick free of the covers. I remember feeling a “POP” as I hit his leg, and a white-hot flash of intense pain.

But in the morning, my foot was fine! I suspect I had dislocated my toe in the accident and the night-time impact realigned it. God’s chiropractic adjustment! God restored my foot during the night. The throbbing pain was gone, my foot could flex again and the odd lump under my little toe had vanished. I can walk again!

Isaiah 52:7 says “How blessed are the feet of those who bring good news.” One week after the “adjustment,” I am only dealing with minor bruising and muscle strain but am well on the way to full recovery.

Flipping the “Dog House.”

Why I haven’t been blogging for the past two and a half years….

The house-hunting ordeal had begun again. This was not a new game for us; we had lived at 16 different addresses in our nearly 40 years of marriage; this was not a corporate move as many of the prior ones had been, but finding a long-term home after retirement. And, after years of major renovations in the homes we had purchased, my handy-man husband had stipulated he didn’t want to buy another house that needed work!

We began looking on-line, ruling out hundreds of homes before ever driving by or stepping inside them. Wrong room lay-outs, not enough bedrooms, awful kitchens, no garden space in the back yard, lack of garage, or just out of our price range took its toll. Finally we narrowed the list to about 30 homes and contacted a real estate agent who drove us around for weeks, only to have us turn our thumbs down on all of them.

It was discouraging. This community has thousands of homes for sale, but every single one of them had some major flaw that eliminated it from our consideration. After all, this was not a house that we would need to resell in a year or two when the company needed my husband’s skills at a new location; this would be a permanent home until we were too fragile to live on our own.

One sunny Sunday afternoon, as my husband settled on the sofa for an afternoon of football, I dug back into the internet searching and discovered two “Open House” homes in an area we liked. He was involved in watching his games so I went alone.

I fell in love with the first house. From the moment I walked through the front door, I liked everything I saw. (Remember, we were looking for a house that wouldn’t need any work!) And this one was a beauty! There were no worn, dirty carpets to replace; there were no textile floors at all. All of the floors and even the stairs were finished in wood. It had real wooden cupboards in the kitchen.

Our dream list included a formal living room, formal dining room, large kitchen, family room with a fireplace, at least four bedrooms, a screened back porch, and a space in the backyard for a garden, a two car garage and a shed. And this place had it all…almost. The only thing missing was the screening on the covered porch in back, but that was an easy fix. It was at the high end of our price range but was the first house that actually fulfilled our list and it was beautiful.

I then drove a couple of blocks to the second Open House listing. Pots of dead plants peeked out from under the overgrown shrubbery and long grass grew from the multiple cracks in the driveway. The door was missing from the mailbox and the screens were tattered. Paint was peeling from the front porch and door trim and the front door and garage door were painted a hideous purple. Things didn’t improve much when I walked inside.

The floors were covered in original builder grade carpeting that was nearly worn through and filthy. The walls had recently been spray painted in a flat white, complete with paint runs down the walls and on the dusty, faded window treatments. Most of the window glass had broken seals and were completely fogged. The kitchen was big with a nice floor-plan but the condition of the appliances, cabinets and flooring were a complete distraction. Two of the four bathrooms had new ceramic floors, but the other two floors were worn and torn. Even the registers were bent and rusted.

Upstairs bedrooms still sported the original builder grade paint and an accumulation of all the dirt and abuse from the day it was first purchased by the original owner. Outdated light fixtures missing globes, filthy carpet, dirty walls and cracked door frames adorned every bedroom and peeling thermafoil cabinets in the bathrooms.

No shed or screened porch in the backyard, either. The two car garage didn’t even have an automatic door opener and was filled with boxes. The man door to the side yard was rusted nearly through.

The house was a wreck. I didn’t spend much time looking at it, mentally contrasting it with the jewel a few blocks away. My husband heard a glowing review of that house when I got home but was told, “Don’t waste your time even looking at the second house; it is a DOG!”

We went through the “Jewel House” a couple of times with our agent. And my husband’s engineer eye pointed out flaws that I had overlooked. The shed was too small, the backyard wasn’t large enough, and there was a foreclosed, crumbling house right next door. The street was busy, with lots of cars parked alongside because the driveways were so short.

We continued the hunt, but our selection was rapidly dwindling. So, we finally expanded our search to include “houses that may need some work.”

We toured houses with buckled floors, mold issues, holes in the walls and ceilings, and some that needed major foundation repair. Even despite these major flaws, we never found a floor plan that we agreed on. We wanted a house with a downstairs bedroom and bath so when we are too rickety to maneuver stairs, we would have a bedroom on the main floor. Surprisingly, they are very rare in our community.

Finally, he said, “Let’s go through the ‘Dog house.’” And, as he toured the house, he said, “I like it!” I groaned. Sure, it was livable in its current condition, because a family had lived here for years, but it was a wreck of a house.

There was a bedroom and full bath on the main floor but there was no shed and no screened porch. And, there was WORK everywhere! We debated its pros and cons at length, but I reluctantly agreed to making an offer when he asked, “Would you like it if it had wood flooring throughout, a new kitchen, a privacy fence, a shed, a screened porch, and modern light fixtures?” “Well, sure. It would be like a different house then.”

Despite not wanting to take on another home remodel project, we agreed on the floor plan, the neighborhood, and the largish sunlit back yard. We are not afraid of doing hard work and have the know-how to do many things ourselves so we placed an offer, subject to the house passing a home inspection.

The inspector said the house was well constructed, better even than some of the homes in surrounding neighborhoods, but refused to turn on the microwave oven because the plastic back of the box was melted off from an interior fire, the dishwasher flooded the kitchen floor when we tested it, and the carbon monoxide alarm rang continuously. A separate heat pump inspection revealed a cracked heat exchanger and owner’s bypass attempts that were pumping toxic gas into the home whenever you turned on the heat.

We threatened to withdraw the offer if they did not replace the heat pump and surprisingly, they installed a new unit. The appliances were ancient, and we decided not to make an issue out of something we would be replacing anyway.

In our area, the seller must vacate the house of all possessions before the final closing. The purchaser makes a final walk through the property, viewing it empty, and has a final opportunity to change their mind and withdraw the offer. And the sale nearly fell apart at the closing table.

During their pack out, someone had backed a truck into the garage door, and smashed it to the point of being unusable. We said we wanted a new garage door; they said it was like that when we placed our offer. I produced photos and our agents began to negotiate. I was ready to walk away from the table; the sellers were not happy that they were forced to replace the heat pump and did not want to replace the door. Finally they said that one of their helpers had backed up too far and smashed in the door and would give us the money for an equivalent door. Tense emotions calmed and we closed the sale.

We were moving into the “Dog House” but the overwhelming amount of work prevented us from making that move right away. We began stripping carpeting from all the floors, tearing up the worn hardwood in the entry, and taking down the dust-caked, paint smeared window treatments. The first week of home ownership was a flurry of appliance shopping, meeting with window repairmen, and multiple trips to the landfill. We hired a company to repaint interior rooms, and it was one of the best decisions we could have made.

The upgrades were not all cosmetic; there was rotted subflooring that needed repaired, and holes in the walls, as well as places where the plaster had fallen off from moisture damage. The house looked much worse once it was emptied, and we found surprises that were hidden by the worn carpeting.

We had purchased new stainless steel appliances and had no sooner arranged for delivery when the refrigerator died. The grease caked stove was the only appliance that was still functional when the new units were installed.

Instead of selecting solid hardwood flooring, we decided to install a laminate throughout the house, based on scratch and dent resistance reviews. We have installed and lived with solid oak hardwood floors in a previous home, and found them to scratch and dent easily. We had installed premium laminate flooring in the condo we were currently flipping and were impressed with the durability, feel, and luxurious appearance, as well as the ease of installation.

We figured it took roughly three 8 man-hour days per room to install the flooring and my husband, my daughter, and I tackled the project. We lay flooring in the critical rooms, like a bedroom and storage room so we could vacate and sell the condo, slowly moving our belongings out of storage units as flooring was finished in each room. Basically, we camped in the construction zone.

When the flooring was finished, the furniture brought out of storage, boxes unpacked and life began to settle in, we received a letter about a class action lawsuit concerning our flooring selection. We needed to test it for formaldehyde gassing as it might be a health hazard. After thorough testing, the flooring was deemed acceptable.

A five ft long tick list hangs on the side of the refrigerator. It details all of the things for each room, from replacing the rusted air vent covers, replacing window treatments, replacing the outdated light fixtures, replacing the paint crusted, mismatched door hinges and knobs, to replacing the torn screens and broken window panes. As we finish and item we scratch it off the list.

We purchased a shed from a company that delivered it to our lot, hired a contractor to build the screened porch on the back of the house, and hired a carpenter to install a privacy fence. I tackled the peeling thermafoil on the bathroom vanities, peeled them off with a heat gun and painted them. The guest bath on the main floor has been stripped out and upgraded.

Instead of putting bandages on the awful kitchen cabinets and worn out kitchen floor, we decided to gut and replace everything with new flooring, custom wood cupboards, and the prettiest granite countertop I have ever seen.

Two and a half years later, most of the rooms are done, but we still have some big projects to tackle. One bathroom is still untouched, sporting its 1980 wallpaper and broken acrylic shower stall. We are in the process of insulating and dry-walling one of the two large unfinished rooms, and still have one exterior door to replace.

The “Dog House” has essentially been flipped. It is beautiful, welcoming, and prettier than it was when it was new. We host weekly Bible Studies and it is a place of ministry. My daughter said, “You have flipped the “Dog “house. What do you get when you flip the word Dog? It is now the ‘God House!’” You can’t get any better than that!

Forget Me Not!

I hate forgetting passwords! Having multiple email accounts, ever changing passwords, and a hectic life makes for a cocktail of confusion whenever the rare quiet moment hits and I can write…only to find myself locked out again…and again…and again! I usually walk away in frustration but today I persevered and conquered the beast!

Now that I have recovered the proper formula, I am determined to do better.

For the handful who still “follow” me, I am not dead! I have finally surfaced from under the mountain of moving boxes and sawdust and all of the complexities of moving cross country.

Stay tuned. There is more to come, I promise!

P-NUTTY Experiment

We visited our winter home last week and did some general maintenance around the place. One of the chores was cleaning up the patio and pulling weeds. A large, shrub-like bush was growing in each of the flower boxes along the patio fence. 100_4274

When my husband pulled one out, we discovered peanuts! Being “Yankees,” we had never seen peanuts growing before and were shocked to discover them in our planters. 100_4270

I remembered the neighborhood squirrels digging in the planters last winter. Apparently they were the gardeners.

Feeling adventurous, we cleaned the legumes off and decided to learn how to cook them. Boiled peanuts are a southern delicacy, but we have never tried them.
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Recipes suggest boiling them in salted water for several hours. And, most recipes recommend you start with about 5 pounds of nuts instead of 5 nuts!
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The water was brown and yucky after a few hours on the stove.

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And the finished product was questionable looking but tasty!
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These little guys were far too young to be picked, so I’m glad we left the bush on the other side of the patio alone. More peanut fun is waiting when we return to the south!

Cat Tales

We spend our summers in a rural area, surrounded by dairy farms and fields of corn. Our ten acres is its own little wild-life sanctuary, populated by deer, pheasants, rabbits, and feral cats.

We sometimes stumble upon nests of feral kittens tucked away in the flower bed or woodshed They are wild little creatures. Perhaps their ancestors were once tame, ending up in this life by abandonment by their owners, or getting lost by their own wandering, these offspring have long forgotten how to be loved. They run when they see a human, exist by their own wits, and are frequently meals for the coyote and hawk population. Life is short and difficult in the wild. These feral cats will “visit” my tame cats through the window of my house, and hiss and spit at them, as if challenging them to fight.

Our first Maine Coon cat was rescued from this life. Riley was nearly starving when he found us, assumingly abandoned on our lonely dirt road. The vet gave him a clean bill of health and we adopted the cat into our home. He immediately bonded with me and was always at my side like a faithful dog. It was almost as if he remembered his frightening life in the wild and gratefully appreciated his redemption.

After Riley’s death we acquired another Maine Coon cat, this time from a breeder. Buster has always been pampered, loved and cared for. He has never experienced hardship and seems to take his care for granted and that his needs will always be met. He has been with us a number of years and is only just begun to show signs of bonding with me.

The state of these cats remind me of people and their relationship to Jesus Christ.

The feral cats make me think of people who are lost. Perhaps their ancestors knew the Lord, but influences of culture or bad choices drove them away from God. Their children and grandchildren have lived by their wits and without the knowledge of Jesus Christ. And, like the cats who hiss through the windows of my house, they often try to pick fights with those who follow Jesus.

Riley, my rescued cat, puts me in mind of people who come out of the wild, who make a conscious decision to follow Jesus and are infinitely grateful for being rescued. They remember their life before Christ and never want to go back to living without Him. They are faithful.

Buster makes me think of people who have been raised in a Christian heritage. They have grown up surrounded by a Christian culture and influence through their parents and grandparents. Perhaps they have always attended Christian schools and been raised in a church environment. They have never known a life without Christian influence. They are at risk of assuming that because their family is Christian, they are as well, and this is a dangerous assumption. God has children, but not grandchildren. Everyone must make their own decision to follow Christ.

What kind of a cat are you? Do you need to come out of the wild and be rescued? Have you been adopted into God’s family? The cry for salvation is a prayer that God always hears and answers.

Back in the Saddle Again!

There was a time when I felt like I lived on my bicycle. I rode it everywhere I went, did stunts on it – like jumping over earthen ramps in the vacant lot across from my house and riding without holding on to the handlebars – and hauled bulky things from one house to another, all the while keeping my balance and peddling effortlessly. I spent so much time in the saddle of my bike that I felt it became an extension of myself. I never really had to think about balance or turning radius or stopping distance. I simply rode.

Getting to that point was a long, laborious process. I just couldn’t “get it.” My poor Dad spent long hours running me up and down the street in front of our house, only to have me coast, screaming at the top of my lungs, and crash into a skinned up heap when the bike lost momentum. Multiple ear infections had left me with dubious balance. Eventually I mastered riding the bike, but a couple years after most of my friends did.

We had an old beater bike in our basement and one winter afternoon I decided to try it out. All of the components suddenly came together and I could ride! I was gifted with a brand new one speed cruiser-style bicycle on my next birthday and that became my transportation until I learned how to drive a car.

It wasn’t until my children were teenagers that I even considered riding a bicycle again. I bought a simple three-speed cruiser-style bicycle with a coaster brake at the local Kmart. It isn’t fancy, but it works.

We took our bikes on numerous vacations and did family rides around neighborhoods, campgrounds, bike trails, and beach boardwalks. But life and vacations changed as our children grew up, got jobs, and their own cars.

My old bicycle sat unused for years. We took it to Mackinaw Island for a week-long condo stay and rode all over the island, but vacations end and life intrudes on recreation time. My old bike sat in the barn for over ten years, untouched and unridden.

Until this summer! We dusted off our bikes, did some minor repairs, and hit the Kiwanis Trail, a bike trail that follows a deserted railroad track. No cars to dodge and perfect summer weather made for an incredible ride.

We logged 5 miles on the trail for our first ride in over a decade! I am not a long-distance rider by any stretch of the imagination, but felt like a kid again as I sailed down the trail! It doesn’t quite feel like an extension of my body yet, and I am far more aware of falling and breaking bones than I was as a child, but I am glad that the old adage of never forgetting how to ride a bike is true. I am delighted to be back in the saddle again!

End of Summer-time blues….

My husband and I have taken a sabbatical from working for the summer. This experience has reinstated some habits from our youth, chiefly summer vacation behavior! Our summer vacation has mimicked those school days summers when we stayed up late, slept in every morning and goofed off most of the time. It has been a wonderfully busy summer for us, with days filled with visits from house guests, out-of-town trips, sight-seeing excursions, staying up late, and recharging our batteries by waking up when we feel rested.

But fall-like weather has ushered in the reality that our summer vacation is rapidly drawing to a close, and our final weeks here contain a flurry of scheduled appointments like yearly physicals and eye exams, with most being scheduled early in the morning. Sadly, the majority of our mornings this week will come with a 6:30 am alarm clock, which means being responsible and actually turning off the TV before the late news and monologues air so we don’t have to resemble coffee-guzzling zombies in the morning. The adjustment is difficult, to say the least!

These cool, grey, rainy mornings make us want to pull the covers over our heads and snuggle in for a couple more hours of sleep. Why is it easier to stay up an extra hour or two at night instead of waking up an hour or two earlier? I suspect we are “night-owls” and not “larks.”

But, we are not alone. All across this country people with education jobs or school-aged children are joining the ranks of the bleary-eyed as we struggle to reset our sleep patterns to accommodate our changing schedules. Despite singing the end of summer-time blues, I am gearing up in anticipation for fall activities.

In the meantime, pass the COFFEE!!!