Thursday, February 21, 2008

I just woke up and my brain is not fully functioning yet, but I don't see why that should prevent me from pecking out an entry.

It's damn cold here. My thermometer says it's below zero and I am longing for Spring more than ever. Winters are always rough for us. Marty's work tends to be seasonal and it's difficult to establish work in a new place, but we're hanging in there. A friend loaned us an electric furnace for the winter, and the SOB costs a friggin fortune to run. It's running right now and, while I'm thankful for the warmth, I can't help but think about the enormous electric bill we're going to have (we've had some real doozies already). Oh well, this too shall pass, or so I keep telling myself...

The last few days have been peaceful and pleasant, with Valentine's Day, my Dad's birthday and my parents' 42nd anniversary. We were dirt poor, and they are in a perpetual state of decluttering, so we ruled out your standard gifts. Pie wrote them each a note: "Grandma is very nice. She likes to read. I like to go to the book sale. She saves me books. I love her.", and "Grandpop is very nice. He likes to fish and grow vegetables. I like it when he cooks me dippy eggs and pancakes. He gives me tooth money. I love him." I especially like the part about the tooth money. Every time you turn around, Pie has a tooth dropping out---I think she's up to 8 now, but we may be in a lull for a while. All she has to do is walk up to grandpop and smile a newly gap-toothed grin and out comes the wallet and a five dollar bill.

We also made up a coupon that entitles them to the "Goody of the Month Club", wherein Pie and I will bake them a homemade treat every month. They like to eat, so that was a winner. One thing about being poor---it forces you to be creative. I think the homemade gifts are nicest anyway:)

Aside from the festivities, we've mainly been huddled up, plugging away at our schooling, doing a little home improvement, watching stupid tv...waiting for Spring... Pie and I are reading Little Women.We tried it once before, but she was too little and lost interest. This time it was a go. I made it through the toughest hurdle yesterday---the death of Beth. I had prepared Maggie for it for weeks so she wouldn't be completely shocked, and I only cried a wee bit---nothing like the Little House debacle when Jack the dog died and I cried so much I had to quit reading for the night. I guess I handle fictional people deaths better than fictional animal deaths---LOL. If she ever wants to read Old Yeller or Where the Red Fern Grows, she's on her own.

Marty slapped some paint on some of the walls this weekend, just to give us the illusion that we are living in a home and not a construction site:) The bathroom is now a very pale blue, the living room a lovely shade of buttery cream, and one wall in the kitchen is a very deep red. It's so nice after years of rentals to finally have a place that we can paint as we see fit. His brother made us some beautiful shelves for around the kitchen window. We're not going for the upper cabinets, but more for an old-fashioned kitchen. One thing about living in the house while you work on it over an extended time---you can kind of tweak things as you go and figure out exactly what you want:)

I'm torturing Marty with another season of American Idol (and the poor man is in mourning over the fact that "24" has been put off til next year). Hell, we even watched the Daytona 500 last weekend...I'm not sure, but I think it's required watching down here:)

When I get a chance, I've been poking around J-Land finding out what every one has been up to. Some good things, some sad things... I've been out of the loop so long it's going to take me a while to get caught up. I was saddened to find out that Lahoma (mzgoochi) had passed. I "met" her way back when I first started journaling here and my heart always went out to her. I always hoped for a happier ending, but then I always do. No getting around it, life just sucks sometimes.

I could go on and on, but I have to stop somewhere:)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Candy and Flowers, Dearie

Maggie and I are blessed to have a man in our lives who brings us flowers often and for no reason. Not big expensive bouquets---I would have to kick his ass if he ever brought home a 39.95 box of roses---but small bunches, picked up at dollar stores and grocery check-out lanes. He chooses carefully; purples and other bright hues for color-loving Maggie (she wants her room painted seven shades of purple), the palest pinks for me, to match my skin he says. Last week he found single roses crafted of some kind of balsa wood---they're surprisingly pretty. On special occasions, he'll buy plants---butterfly bushes, roses, herbs, azaleas. I like those better, but the bouquets are nice too:)

He was away a lot last summer/fall. Maggie and I would bide our time, and then, the day he was to return, we would mosey out with a big basket and a pair of scissors, to collect whatever wild blooms were in season. We'd agree on a theme beforehand---all-white; shades of purple; yellows, oranges, and reds; fall leaves, goldenrods, sunflowers and various drying pods, etc. It was fun, and Pie was always pleased as punch to present them to her Dada.

I think about this, because I was talking to someone the other day who told me she has only gotten flowers three times in her life, and never from her (now ex-) husband or any other significant boyfriend. Maggie heard me say this and said "In her whole life, or just on Valentine's Day?" When I said "her whole life", her mouth fell open, then she lowered her head and muttered "It would suck to be her." (I had to laugh because it was so unexpected and she said it with more conviction than you would expect from a 7-year-old).

Needless to say, we're giving this person flowers for Valentine's Day. I hope everybody gets some. If all of the people in your life are idiots, then buy some for yourself---you're worth it. Or send some to somebody else---it might make all the difference in the world.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Early in the morning, cold as all get out here---was about 5 degrees when I looked at the thermometer a bit ago. I am so ready for Spring, but I hate to wish any of my time away, so I am struggling to enjoy the moment, even though I can hardly wait for things to start popping up out of the ground. I know Maggie would like to get in a few more snowfalls. She was sorely disappointed with the amount of snow last winter, and we seem to have hit the jackpot here, weather-wise. Enough snow to make her happy, a good thunderstorm at least every week in the summer---fun now that we have a new roof on the house, not so fun when I used up my army of pans and buckets trying to keep the back half of the house reasonably dry:)

Marty's job is to re-hab the house, as I am not at all handy. But the yard, I can handle . I've spent the winter looking through gardening books, and staring at the yard through the windows, noting what needs to be moved and what I want to add. When we moved down here, we moved as many of our plants as we could and basically just chucked them in the ground wherever until we figured out where they should ultimately go. We made a few adjustments last year---the azaleas moved closer to the woods, a couple of rosebushes by the fence... But I've got more plans:) This is the first yard we've ever had that has sunlight, so that's a novelty for us and opens up all sorts of gardening doors. By the time we're old, we should have a really nice place---LOL.

Marty headed off to Pittsburgh before dawn, until Wednesday or Thursday... I don't know what Pie and I will do...Have "girl time" and maybe work on some Valentine surprises. I'm at a complete loss of what to give the man. At this point I'm thinking of tying big bows around us and saying "here's your gift!". But I'm having second thoughts now that I recollect that I live close enough to my parents to actually be returned ;) Which reminds me of something my sister told me my dad said. He informed her one day that if she ever gets remarried, not to even tell him, because he gave her away once and she came back---LOL. He told me once last year that he "had to go out of state to get married, to put some branches on the family tree"---LOLOLOL. I guess I did the same thing:) After having a look at some of the specimens of boyhood around here, we've pretty much concluded that Pie will have to do the same when she grows up. She's got it pretty well worked out. She's either going to live in a house that's already fixed-up (LOL) or she's going to live in this house with us. She will marry a painter who can work for Dada, and, while her career is uncertain, my job will be to look after the grandchildren. I hope she is not as prolific in real life as she is in play life. Some days, every time you turn around, she's got a baby up her shirt, sometimes "borning" up to 17 offspring in one day. It seems to happen when she goes "to the store"---she goes out slim and trim and comes back in labor. I wish I knew which store it was, so I could advise folks to stay away from it.

Actually, she has no idea yet where babies come from. I'm not sure at what age this comes up and I have no idea what I'll say when it does. When you think about it, it seems like such a crazy thing to explain. I'm not sure she'll believe me when the time comes. She might just put it in the same category as Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny---"yeah, my parents are making that shit up, now where do they REALLY come from?"

We had a wind advisory yesterday. I usually like nature in all its forms, but after a while the howl gets a bit unnerving to me. Maybe it's a reminder of what a harsh, inhospitable place the world can be. I loaded up the suet and seed feeders, figuring it was going to be a hard night for my feathered friends. I've got about 22 species coming to the feeders this winter, including one of my little favorites, the white-throated sparrow, a winter migrant. They have the sweetest little song, and when I'm sad about the catbirds and hummingbirds taking wing for warmer destinations, I know I can look forward to these little fellows. I've always lived more by nature's clock and calendar than by man's and now I guess I do so even more:) I consulted one of my many bird books yesterday, and concluded that I have seen 52 different species down here so far, and I'm sure there are more who will reveal themselves over time. More new discoveries to look forward to:)

I'm so pleased that Pie has turned into the reader that she is. She comes by it honestly. I've had my head in a book since I was four, and my mom is the ultimate book woman, reading all the time and running the local library book sale every Friday from 8:30-4:30. It's the best-run book sale I've ever seen, and she's like a bar tender, remembering what her "regulars" read, and setting things aside for them. The prices are dirt cheap too:) It's always a treat for us when we get to go. Pie heads for the kids books and keeps taking her haul up to the front desk. I find a lot of homeschooling stuff, some good novels and usually a stack of women's magazines for recipes and inspiration. Sometimes I feel like a throwback to the 1950's (hell, maybe even the 1850's), but what the hell. I'm mostly content (there's always room for some improvement somewhere, right?)

Guess I've rambled on enough for now. And not to get sappy on you all, but you have no idea how surprised I was to see how many of you still cared about us. Quite frankly, I had a Sally Field moment. I feel as though I have a new spring in my step the last couple of days, maybe because I have an outlet that is just for me where I can be "just me" and not Mama, wife, catmother, Crazy Bird Lady, etc. What the hell was I thinking, being away so long?

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Home Sweet Home

I guess I should tell you a bit about where we've put ourselves...

Rachel is a tiny town, unincorporated, with a post office that's not much bigger than a postage stamp. The general store is about the only business, unless you count the cemetery and a greenhouse two miles up the road. Pollock's Store has been there for decades and still has the wooden floors,countertops and glassed-in cases of yesteryear. They have an adding machine, but most of the time add up your purchases on the outside of a brown bag. They sell everything, though I suspect some of the less popular inventory has been there since my childhood, if not before. You can buy things in any increment---for instance, once my sister bought a dozen eggs, only to arrive home and find two were missing. Apparently someone came in earlier in the day and needed two eggs for some baking, so the shopkeeper promptly sold them to her. You can also run a tab, which is nearly unheard of in this day and age.

It used to be a coal-mining town, but the mine has been shut down since 1982. Most of the houses began life as identical mine houses, circa 1917, including ours. There are a few exceptions---Boss's Row has large, elaborate homes, and the original farm house looks to be from the mid-1800s. Across the road from us is a long, two-story house that used to be the miner's boarding house. There are 7 houses in our part of town, 4 mine houses, the boarding house, and two new constructions. We are 1/2 mile from the lake, 1/2 mile from my parents in the opposite direction, and 1/4 mile from my sister's. Hell, I could see her house if it weren't for a huge pine tree in the way. As it is, we are literally within hollering distance.

We are at the end of "The Camp" that is the quietest and the darkest. No one has the dusk-to-dawn lights that plague the more populated part of the camp. The dogs don't bark all night. In August, we spread a blanket on the hill and watched the Perseid Meteor Shower late into the night, and Maggie saw her first shooting stars. On a clear night you can see the Milky Way and the satellites gliding smoothly overhead. The owls call in the distance and the crickets chirp. In the day, it's so quiet you can hear a cardinal cracking seeds in the feeder on the far side of the yard, and the wings of the titmice as they flutter back and forth. It is heavenly after years of the constant dull roar of traffic and the orange glow of the suburban night sky . You can hear the rain on the roof and the rush of the creek in high water. I could go on and on, but you get the picture.

We're still sort of misfits of society. The perfectly manicured lawn seems to be the norm down here. Even the laziest, drunkenest lay-about has his riding mower up and running on the weekend, ensuring that his lawn is clipped short and smooth. Ours runs more toward the raggedy side, with patches of Joe Pye weed, brambles and multiflora rose left intact for the critters. When asked why I left the Joe Pye weed, I said "for the butterflies" and was told "They've got wings"... But I got an extra bonus when I found that the goldfinches love the seeds in late summer. I could look out my window at any given time and see a flock of the squeaky little charmers flitting about, so that's better than the neighbors approval. I'm now contemplating turning part of the upper hill into a meadow of sorts...I say "turning", but what I mostly mean is letting it go to do as it wishes, and supplementing it with some seeds. I imagine this will cement our "eccentric" reputation, but I see no need to hoard the whole yard to ourselves, when it's more fun and entertaining to share it with our wildlife friends. Oh yeah, the reduction of mowing time is a plus too:)

Pie is getting restless, so I'd better wrap this up for now:)

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Prodigal Comes Limping Home

I thought I'd try taking the plunge into J-Land once more.

But Toto, we're not in Yuppieland any more.

I debated what to call this thing. "Hippies in Deliverance-land"? "Hell's Half Acre"? But "Green Acres" is pretty appropriate, even though I don't long for 5th Avenue and Marty hasn't taken to wearing a vest in the fields...yet.

I can't promise a post every day...for one thing, dial-up down here is hella slow, and I have my Domestic Goddess things to attend to, plus homeschooling, and generalized polishing of the turd. But at least the turd is ours this time around.

Put it this way, when we finally got the house, my Dad handed us the door-knob and said "here's your key". (You might be a redneck if...) You can only go up from there, right?

As I write, Marty is working his shitty maintenance job in the nearest small town. The place used to be government housing and is fondly referred to by the natives as "Plywood City" or "Mannington Manure", if you want to get fancy about it. Apparently every woman there is either a whore or was a whore in their prime---LOL. Or they have a substance abuse problem, or both. The guys---I don't know. He usually comes home with an intriguing tale every day. It's only a part-time job, so he fills in the gaps by working for another painter and working back in the 'burgh from time to time. That got lonely at first, but me and Pie, we go with the flow.

The Pie loves it down here. She didn't care when she had to use the outhouse until we finally got a septic system. She thought the fact that it rained inside the house was funny. She thinks it's interesting when a bat gets into the house and lands on Mommy's neck in the middle of the night when Daddy is out of town... Right now she's sitting in a chair reading herself The Secret Garden. She's quite the little bookworm these days, but she reads in bulk. Right now she has a huge stack of chapter books that she reads piece-meal as the mood strikes her...Little House today or American Girls? She still likes every subject and has a knack for math that she must have inherited from Grandpop, cuz Lord knows it skipped me. Maybe that's why my finances are still an unholy wreck (some things NEVER change).

As for me, I do my chores, I teach, I spend an inordinate amount of time birdwatching (a lot of birds here---they always brighten my day...) I dream of how I want to decorate once all of the rooms have walls---LOL. The majority of the downstairs is drywalled now---at least most of the walls---the ceilings are another story, but all in good time... We hope in the Spring to build some stairs, so Pie and I can actually get to the upstairs for the first time :) Hopefully by next fall, she'll have a room of sorts...patience, patience. I listen to a lot of pop music, take walks to the lake or to my parent's... It's nice to be within walking distance of my family for the first time in 22 years:)

We still have both the cats. Itchy escaped and was gone for 6 weeks. I was resigned to never seeing him again, when one morning in September I heard a familar meow in the basement. He was so skinny I almost didn't recognize him, but he's bounced back and is as fat and evil (if not fatter and more evil) than ever. Darth was devastated when he returned---he so liked the life of the only boy... No dog yet...I don't think I'm ready for the rigors of a puppy with everything else I've got on my plate.

Well, believe it or not, that's the Cliff's Notes version of the last almost year of my life---LOL. I'll try to squeak out some more time for this soon:)