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Day 86: Unwelcome guests

June 22, 2013

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Homeownership is no walk in the park. Fortunately, I’m surrounded by several people who are willing to lend a hand. The inability to fix problems on my own, however, has left me with a pretty lackluster attitude toward this homeowner experience. But I found just the think to check that attitude: my new patio set. A table and chairs are all I need to make up for the leaky roof, the burst pipe, the broken underground sprinkler box — every last bit! From this point on, I can finally spend every minute possible outside, amidst the fresh air, sunshine and lightning bugs. Breakfast, lunch, dinner, reading, writing, working, thinking, you name it. If I’m sitting, I’ll be here!

At least that’s what I thought until I caught site of a skunk waddling out from behind the shed. And from that point on, every little rustle had me bracing myself for the spray. Luckily, I had Sara to help take my mind off it. But an hour later, there he was, an innocent little explorer, uncomfortably close to my deck.

Great. The neighborhood skunk family is back. The woman next door had mentioned them last fall. Apparently they’d made my shed their living quarters, but, she told me, they had successfully been taken care of. Guess not. Murphy’s Law strikes again. So much for my peaceful evening oasis.

Anyone know how to keep these pesky creatures away?

Day 85: I wish I was a renter.

February 10, 2013
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I should be dancing with Cinderella and taking photos with Mickey Mouse in the warm Florida sun. Instead, the Northeast blizzard wreaked havoc on flight travel. While I waited at the Disney World resort, my mom, brother and son waited in Atlanta, hoping for a flight that wasn’t crammed with people chasing their destination via an alternative route. Bad weather and standby plane tickets are a terrible combination. After the fourth flight to Orlando left without them, they boarded a plane back to Michigan.

Prior to coming down to Florida for the conference, I wasn’t particularly looking forward to the cost of this trip. After a few hours wandering the Disney boardwalk, however, the ‘magic’ got the best of me; I couldn’t wait to shell out nearly $400 for the theme parks (no sarcasm, really). I couldn’t wait for Calin to be down there, too. He was going to love the funny magicians and tricksters and musicians.

The cancelled trip left me crushed, to say the least.

After sharing the story with a woman I’d met at the confrence, I joked that I hoped the money saved wasn’t an omen for a house-related financial matter.

I should have knocked on wood.

Back home, I twisted the living room lamp switch and noticed a drip down my wall. I’m surprised I haven’t noticed this before, I thought. I ran my fingers across the wall, expecting to feel the hardened lump of dried paint drips.

But my fingers were wet. Slow streams of water were leaking from the ceiling. Paint bulged, hiding a pool of melted snow.

My son Calin sat on the couch. “Hey! I just got rained on!” Three feet away, a little droplet clung to the ceiling beam. Another foot away, water glistened between the cracks of the pine ceiling planks.

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“This is not good. This is not good.” I repeated.

“Oh, shit, shit, shit,” said my five-year old. With big, blue eyes full of concern, he said, “that’s what you say when things are very bad.”

Oops. He learned that one from me.

Fortunately, the previous owner kept diligent records, and I found the paperwork for the five-year old roof. It has a 25-year warranty on it.

Cross your fingers there aren’t any other surprises. I’d like to see Cinderella yet this year.

Day 84: The celebrity you’ve never heard of

January 22, 2013

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Two words describe Calin: dramatic and surprise. Since his surprising debut in 2007, his existence has been nothing short of dramatic. And his fifth birthday is no different. Upon revealing a February trip to Disney World’s Animal Kingdom, it was silly to expect jumping and shouting and hugs and kisses. You know, typical kid expressions. Instead, he pretended to faint. Overcome with gratitude, I presume.

At his Electric Cheetah birthday dinner he asked me to try a pickle. I’ve tried pickles twice in my life; both times they wind up in my napkin. They disgust me. But I took a tiny bite to appease him. This time, to my surprise, it wasn’t so bad. “See, Mom. It’s like I always say. You never know if your taste buds changed unless you just give it a try.”

 
Like you always say, huh? Sounds like you’re good at memorizing other people’s lines, buddy. “Think about that next time, okay?” he suggested. Stifling my laughter at his sugary-sweet I-care-about-your-wellbeing mom tone, I thanked him for opening my taste buds to the world of pickles.
 
His birthday celebration wouldn’t be complete without dessert. So we headed to Joel and Molly’s for chocolate chip cookies. If you spend much time with Calin, you know he sings Hey Soul Sister daily, often with accompanying dance moves and goofy voices. Since I don’t own a copy of the song, it’s rare that it becomes a sing-along.
 
Tonight it did. When the Pandora station filled the living room with Train, my little boy, who can rarely keep still, transformed into what appeared to be a choir singer. Hands straight at his side, not a wiggle moved through his fingers or toes, while his lips formed exaggerated shapes to enunciate the words. The subdued act was a surprise coming from my boisterous kid. He humbly accepted the clapping with a smile, but I could tell he was beaming with pride on the inside. He told Molly a minute later that he’s a pretty good singer. But that profession will come third to being a football player or traveling animal doctor, per the evening’s dinner conversation. He’s just barely five, but I don’t think on-stage performance is too far-fetched. 
 
That’s my five-year old: a daily dose of dramatics and sweet surprises. If only there was a word to describe this type of parental emotion; love just seems too simple. Happy fifth birthday to my charismatic little man.
 
(In the spirit of by blog’s theme, home is where the heart is, right?)

Day 83: Melted snow is my favorite snow

December 26, 2012

Powdery white snow billowed across the pavement. A slick sheet of ice fought the tires of my rental car. Mine won, but those of many nearby did not. Cars slid into one another left and right. Tension knotted my back after the nearly two hour drive from Ada to Rockford to Southeast Grand Rapids tonight. It’s days like these I wish I could close my eyes and dream the winter away. Bears and caterpillars have it good.

I force myself to think about the positives. Cross-country skiing is good exercise. Snow-covered trees are a beautiful sight to see. Snug in my home, the window overlooking a deck trimmed in white is rather cozy.

It only works for a moment — the thought of shoveling the driveway brings me back to reality. Is it too late to hire a plow service?

Some people like this stuff. I'm not one of them.

Time to find time to shovel!

December 25, 2012

Make Wealth History

In the past, most things that you owned were built to last. Household goods were expensive, and you looked after what you had, repairing things and maintaining them. In the early 20th century, new industrial processes and new materials – plastic especially – began to change that. One of the first and best known examples is the Dixie cup, invented in 1907 in response to a health scare about shared tin cups used at public water fountains. Vending machines with paper cups were a much more hygienic solution. Today, we get through billions of paper and plastic cups every year, 146 billion in the US alone.

It’s a funny thing, disposability. One-use items are often more convenient. You don’t need to wash them and put them away, or worry about breaking them, and they’re more hygienic, especially for medical equipment. On the other hand, it’s far cheaper to own…

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Day 82: Crashing into Christmas Eve

December 25, 2012

I’ve decided to get back to my blog’s roots and ditch the house talk for today. Those roots started with The Grand Rapids Press MyGR6 contest last year. Describe Grand Rapids in six words was the goal. Mine were unfolding the story of my life, which spurred the title of this blog. The subheading says chronicles of my love affair with Grand Rapids. Those chronicles quickly fell by the wayside as I became wrapped up in my house hunt.

All my stories, however, seem to come back to home, and that’s where the story of Grand Rapids’ public transportation begins.

Calin buckled himself into his booster seat while I  set my beautiful bowl of fruit in the passenger seat. I didn’t bother to secure it; the bowl must weigh at least five pounds. This baby wasn’t going anywhere.

As we pulled out of the driveway, Calin was singing his excitement about going to see our Eastown neighbors. Our sleepy litle street spits out onto Eastern, a block from a (relatively) busy intersection. Tonight, like many other nights, traffic was backed up well beyond our road. I clicked my blinker to turn left. A woman in a silver SUV motioned for me to go ahead. So I pulled out, looked to the right to make sure the northbound lane was clear and that’s when I heard a horn.

The next few seconds proceeded in slow motion as I realized the woman hadn’t checked the turn lane before waving to me. My jaw dropped in disbelief. There was nothing I could do but stare at the headlights disappearing into my car. I don’t remember attempting to brake or turn the wheel, screaming or even feeling panicked. I’m sure the colliding metal roared, but I didn’t hear it. Calin had whipped forward, hitting his chin on the passenger seat. But I don’t remember feeling the impact (though my neck and back tell me otherwise today). All I remember is watching helplessly, thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me (I’d have expected the F bomb or other profanities to fly out).

Once everything was still, the sweet scent of strawberry wafted through my car. For a moment, I was perplexed, wondering what sort of fluid was leaking in my engine. And then I noticed the mosaic of berries, bananas and watermelon strewn across the floor. Should have secured that bowl.

I looked to the backseat. Calin was wide-eyed, straining to see what had happened, but he seemed ok. He said he was ok. I stared across the library parking lot stunned, until I saw the other driver hurrying to my door. That’s when I realized I should do something other than sit. I hopped out not having any idea what to say to him (“Are you ok?” would have been a start). He was kind and apologetic, concerned that we were ok. And that’s when Calin started sobbing, a result of both fright and pain (it’s a harsh crimson scrape today).

My headlight hung by a wire. The pavement glittered with shards of my car. Chunks of my bumper were strewn across the road. The police arrived; I got the ticket. Ninety minutes later, they were surprised my car started. I put it into drive, but instead of rolling forward, the front end of my car lifted up.

Teary eyed, I asked the police to call a tow truck. I called my Eastown neighbor. A still-hysterical Calin (turned angry, turned hurt, turned grateful, turned sad) and I needed company. She was on her way. A loaner car was mentioned when we arrived and my spirits were suddenly lifted. I had forgotten about rental coverage with my new insurance policy!

Unfortunately, the rental places aren’t open Sunday. But we still needed to get to Meijer to prepare for our Christmas Eve feast. No time like the present to finally take a ride on The Rapid! There’s a bus stop just a block away. The trip would take about 45 minutes, according to the website. I’m not sure why that number didn’t trigger logic in that moment. We live less than two miles from our destination. My brain must have been rattled in that crash. We got off the first bus, walked a few yards to the transfer and realized the next bus wasn’t coming for 42 minutes. Thank god we’d bundled up. Instead of waiting, we trekked down 28th Street and made our way to Meijer.

Trekking down 28th Street on a blistery, cold day

Trekking down 28th Street on a blistery, cold day

Once we got close to completing our shopping list, I checked the bus schedule. Damn. We’ll have to wait 25 minutes after the exchange to grab the number four. We could have walked, but with three heavy bags of groceries, an increasingly pained neck and a tired four-year old, I caved and called my mom. My dad swooped in to the rescue and scooped us up at the bus stop.

I guess I slightly glamorized our little city transit system, as if these buses were the subways of New York or Barcelona. Not quite. It takes a little planning – but they are much cleaner. Now that I’ve got the first step out of the way and a paper map to study, I’ll definitely feel much more comfortable riding The Rapid again (they drivers were so helpful!). Experience, once again, is the best teacher. I’m grateful to live in a city that has public transportation, especially in times like these!

Day 81: Homemade nutrition

December 16, 2012

 

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The longer you put something off, the harder it is to start. I constantly remind myself of this lately.

And this blog is no different. It’s been a few months since I’ve posted anything. I’ve written a few posts, but they never make it live, thanks to perfectionism rearing its ugly head. So, instead of writing an update of the past few months as a homeowner, I decided to dive in and just do it.

Today, before I get to cleaning, laundry or Christmas shopping, I’m making my own butter oil supplements. Last weekend, an email from The Healthy Home Economist was delivered to my inbox about naturally curing cavities. This was on the heels of really bad news from my dentist. I need a $3000 procedure that my insurance won’t cover (unless I choose the other option which would require the same procedure every 10 years and has a higher risk of affecting other teeth; completely illogical cost-wise). After reading the blog post, I spent a few days researching and realized it’s just a step deeper into my health philosophies. Why not? I decided. It’s worth a shot and maybe I’ll save $2944.

  • I cut sugar out of my diet (my tooth is no longer throbbing).
  • My fermented cod liver oil supplements arrived in the mail.
  • I picked up organic pasture butter from Harvest Health.

The last step is to make the butter oil, otherwise known as ghee. I had closely followed this YouTube video, until pop! My bowl full of expensive butter burst; glass was all over the stove top and the floor glittered with shards. Apparently the Sarah’s glass bowl in the video was much more flame resistant than my Pyrex bowl. Luckily, the butter block hadn’t fully melted so I transferred it to a Calphalon pan and finished melting it.

With the butter oil now encapsulated, today marks the first day of the self-healing experiment. Wish me luck!

And after a three-month hiatus of blog posting, hopefully this was just the kick start I needed to quit putting it off.

 

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