Thursday, October 11, 2007


I heard the crack while I was at my mother's house. Sounded like the transformer blew. Nothing happened at her house, but when I got home, there was no electricity. I sat in my chair by the window and critiqued some work. Before I was finished, the lights came back on. A good thing since it was approaching dusk and my window light was diminishing.

I kept working, paying attention my watch, since I was to meet Cliff at 7:30 for dinner. I thought I was paying attention. It was close to dark outside when I finished, but my watch still said 6:30. Dead as a door nail. (Wonder where that expression comes from.) Oh dear. Went to the computer only to discover that it was actually 7:36. Late again.

The next morning Cliff went to work at the house next door for a while before leaving for work. He kept working and working and finally realized that his watch had stopped, too. He came home and showered in a rush and got to the office.

When I finally got around to changing all the clocks in the house, I realized that the clock on the stove had stopped working altogether. Electricity is running, but not my kitchen clock.

I've resorted to my phone to tell me the time. Maybe that will help me remember to carry the phone with me more often, at least until I can buy a clock for the stove.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Trip to England

There is so much history. Thousands of years of history. Gee whillakers! Do you have any idea how many millions, billions, of tons of stone the Brits crated up and carted home from all over the empire? It's mind boggling.

The Egyptian wing of the British Museum in London.

We started in Bath, toured through the countryside of the Cotswolds, visited Blenheim Palace where Churchill was born, went to Stratford-upon-Avon where Shapespeare was born, wandered through Oxford, and spent two jam-packed days in London.

Arlyngton Row. I haven't figured out how they're related to Arlington Cemetery yet, but apparently this row of houses, or the owner, are another connection to our history books.

St. Paul's Cathedral is absolutely stunning. It was one of my favorite memories. I nearly missed Holman Hunt's painting "The Light of the World." The painting has been a key image in my own journey into knowing God I would have been devastated to have discovered later that I missed it. Standing in front of it was incredible. No reproduction even comes close to the original.

I nearly missed it because my husband called me across the room to see a memorial to some ship captain who fought bravely in some battle until he was "shot through the heart." End of memorial.

My other most amazing moment was in the Bodelian Library in Oxford. It's a bit like the Library of Congress here, has copies of all the books printed in the UK. Tunnels full of books underneath the streets. There was an exhibit of Italian writers. First edition, hand lettered and illustrated, copies of Dantes’ Divine Comedy, Plutarch’s Lives, and Boccaccio’s Decameron. It's odd the things that move the emotions sometimes. I was standing in front of a 1400s copy of the Decameron and tears came to my eyes. I've never even read the Decameron and I'm standing in front of it crying. I knew what it was and that he was Dante's teacher. Such emotion rose up in me. It was something to see for sure.

There was flooding in the countryside for weeks before we arrived. One little village we stayed in had many businesses closed because of so much damage. A school at the end of the street also had lots of damage. The dumpster on the curb was full of waterlogged debris. On top of the pile were a bunch of books. It was near dusk, so Cliff and I lifted the lid and plundered through the school books. I came home with an 1896 copy of Twelfth Night that I pulled out of the rubbish bin. In good shape.

My American friend who lives in London laughed and said, "You know they say 100 miles is a long way in England and 100 years is a long time in the States." I guess she's right, but it's still pretty amazing to me.

I've wanted to go to England since I missed out on the college choir tour back in the 70s. It was worth the wait.

Monday, August 27, 2007

Leaving town

We're off to England. Back in two weeks.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The Way Children Think

I've been meeting magazine deadlines. Went with Jeanetta to Mobile to get settled in her new dorm. She volunteered to babysit for friends on the day she was moving in. We managed without too much trouble. So we packed up stuff from about three locations, crammed both cars full, unloaded, unpacked, and shopped for needed supplies with a seven-year old and ten-year old in tow. It felt a bit like deja vu. I haven't forgotten dragging my own four around while I ran errands. And oh boy, did they have the sibling thing going on full blast!

I had Catherine, the 10-year old, in my car. She's very outgoing and chatty. So she was telling me all the things she liked. High School Musical was at the top of the list. She also likes washing dishes, cooking, and swiffering. Too funny. So I asked what she didn't like. Dusting, but she couldn't think of much else. The conversation went on to other things. About ten minutes later she suddenly pipes up with, "Hospitals. I don't like hospitals." The smart brains in these short people ruminate beautifully.

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

The Essence of Chautauqua

This is a link posted by Betty Haas, one of my fellow Chautauqua attendees. We rode home together on the plane from Buffalo to Atlanta. If you want to know what it was like, this pretty well captures it.


Chautauqua is a beautiful place. This is the Hotel Athenaeum where I stayed. I was in the annex, out of the picture on the left.

One of the lovely private homes at Chautauqua.

Me with Kathi Appelt, children's writer and my faculty mentor for the week. Kathi has written picture books, poetry, and middle grades fiction and memoir. She's also on the faculty of the MFA program in children's literature at Vermont College.

I came home feeling like one of these carvings.

Status on the house

The house now has shutter, doors and a front porch complete with columns. Managed to get the front yard cleared out so that the geothermal people can figure out where they are putting the pipes for the heating and air.

This picture is foggy because the humidity is so high, I couldn't keep the lens clear!

The electrician has been around, too. As you can see, he's still got some connections to make.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Bricks and siding

It's starting to look like a real house. At least on the outside.

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Slowly, slowly

We now have soffets and facia (not sure how you spell that) all the way around.

Some of the windows are in. The rest are still stacked around on the main floor.

Plumbers have been working. They've dug up the basement floor to put in drains for bathroom and mini-kitchen. Tubs and showers are in upstairs.

So, it seems we're finally making progress.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Second Story

Did you ever wonder why the second floor of a building is called the second story? It comes from the same latin word, historia, as the word "history", but it means "the stages of a building." I suppose somebody way back when they were inventing words knew that the plot and characters on the first story were different from the ones on the second. So far we have Pancake and Blanchard; a big black carpenter with muscles of steel who likes to take naps in the rafters at lunchtime; and Micky, a single father with a 13-year-old diabetic son who likes to put things together. And there are more.

So far the house has only frames and angles. This one from our side yard.

Monday, April 30, 2007


There is now a floor for the second story. Cliff couldn't convince me to climb the ladder and look out over the back yard. It's a very long way down.

It's not dried in yet, but it's starting to looked closed in.

Friday, April 27, 2007

It's Raining!

Not pouring, thank goodness. Just a soft drizzle that left about an inch of water in the basement.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007


It's definitely more serious than a dental procedure. It looks like the house has been completely decapitated.

Monday, April 23, 2007

Roof Canal

The house next door is having its roof removed. Sounds like a dental procedure, huh? Looks a bit like one too. The big gaping cavity opening up as one board at a time is pounded out of its place.

The bugman came today. He said, "I don't think I've ever seen it take so long to build a house. Everytime I come over here, it looks like they've taken something else off." I didn't enlighten him on the project as my husband probably would have done.

Bare Roof

The roofing is gone. I watched them scrape it off with shovels. It took two days. I would hate to think I had to shovel anything for that long. The dumpster is empty now and the yard is cleaned up. Ready for the next step.

Once the roofing came off, we discovered the roof itself is tongue and groove number one pine. Amazing. Put down with 16 penny nails. If you don't know what that is, it's about the biggest nail you can get. It's going to be hard to get off.


As you can see, Blanchard and Pancake have been working hard. New studs mark where the new walls will be placed. Some of the old walls are still standing, so it can be a bit confusing when you're trying to sort out where one room ends and the other begins.

Mom and Dad came by to look at it on Saturday. We agreed to delete the half bathroom that sits just off the great room area. When we stood in the pantry area (the smallish square at the window in the above picture), we realized there was no way a freezer was going in this room and still allow space for anything else. So now there will be a larger pantry. If you're visiting and need to use the facilities, you'll just have to walk through the guest bedroom.


Last week, two carpenters, Blanchard and Pancake, began bringing some structure back to the house next door. It now has outside walls again.

Cliff makes sure it stays clean inside and out. It's an emotional boost to the workers, he says. They see you keep it neat and they take more pride in what they're doing also.

Saturday, April 7, 2007


Tomorrow is Easter. April is also National Poetry month. In celebration of both, I thought I would share one of my favorite poems by Amy Carmichael, a missionary to India at the turn of the twentieth century. Her love for India and her devotion to the homeless children there changed lives forever.

Thy John

As John upon his dear Lord's breast,
So would I lean, so would I rest;
As empty shell in depths of sea,
So would I sink, be filled with Thee.

As water-lily in her pool
Through long, hot hours is still and cool,
A thought of peace, so I would be
Thy water-flower, Lord, close by Thee.

As singing bird in high, blue air,
So would I soar, and sing Thee there;
Nor rain, nor stormy wind can be
When all the air is full of Thee.

And so though daily duties crowd,
And dust of earth, be like a cloud,
Through noise of words, O Lord, my Rest,
Thy John would lean upon Thy breast.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

Playing hooky

Cliff played hooky from church today. He didn't go last week either. He said this is the first time in over twenty years that he hasn't had responsibility for something on Sunday. He needed some time to chill. So what did he do? Pulled nails out of boards, stacked wood, blew the floors clean with the leaf blower. What else?

Saturday, March 31, 2007

They say it gets worse before it gets better

No windows. No doors.
The next thing to go is the roof.

Beneath the vinyl siding we discovered tongue and groove number one pine boards. The ceiling of the carport was built from the same stuff. Number one pine is not even manufactured any more. The best you can buy is number two pine. What makes it number one? No knots. Apparently it's too expensive to go through all the pine trees and pine boards cut from them to find pieces that are not knotted and put them in a separate pile marked number one. The boards will be salvaged, somebody has to pull all the nails out, then put them through a planer, then stack them somewhere safe until the house is ready to be finished inside. They'll go on an accent wall somewhere.

You have to admit, even without the windows, the view is outstanding.

Thursday, March 29, 2007

A few signs of spring

Mr. Darcy and Elizabeth, our resident Mallards.

It might be hot, but it still looks like spring.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Hardwood floors

The heat index says summer already. At 5:30, it's still 83 degrees and hot if you're pulling weeds. Every flat surface in sight is covered with a yellow layer of dust. If the wind blows, yellow smoke gets in your eyes and nose and makes you sneeze. My deck is ankle deep in pine pollen sacks and their little wings. Trying to sweep it off only adds more yellow dust to the air. Pray for rain!

Today my dad ripped the rest of the hardwood floors out of the house next door. Give him a mallet and a crowbar, and the man is happy.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007


I'm still trying to figure out all these new commands. Besides trying to figure out the new system on my computer at the same time. And apparently the new keyboard is just different enough fro the old one that I keep mispelling words. Bear with me. Apparently to get a smaller image on the profile, you have to have one published somewhere one line. So now I'm published. Self-published, I suppose.

Sunday, March 25, 2007

The House Next Door

Last year, we bought the house next door. After sitting empty for over a year, it was in sad shape. The basement was flooded, due to poor lot grading and lack of drainage, and reeked of mildew. The foundation was questionable in spots. The lovely vinyl siding on the eves offered cosmetics for the damaged wood underneath. The kitchen floor was rotted. A limb came through the roof several decades ago, and it was roofed over it and left it in the attic.

After months of piddling with small demolition projects:

Major work has finally begun.

Our Mexican brick mason took one look at the outside walls and said, "No good. No ties. Wall fall down." In other words, the bricks weren't tied to the construction. If we take the roof off to add a second story, which is in the plan, the existing walls will tumble without the benefit of silent marches or blowing trumpets. So, now the house next door looks like this:

Isn't this going to be fun?!