Fleeting Visit

August 26, 2017

This is the first of what I hope will be many years of photos with my kids on the front steps of our farm house. Jon and his wife Amanda came up for a quick double overnight. Aeons ago, I had invited them up to celebrate their 30th birthdays in June. With building delays, the celebration was then pushed to the 4th of July. However after the disaster of our move into a construction zone and the ensuing flood, all plans were put on hold. Last week I suddenly woke up to realize time was running out (Lucy returns to college on Monday), so Jon and Amanda dashed up for brief stay.

It was lovely to have them here, even for this short visit when DH had to work fourteen-hour days, the house is unfinished, and boxes are everywhere. I loved seeing them curled up in the living room chairs and hearing them laughing with Lucy in the basement. They tried out their Lake Placid bedroom. Jon unpacked books onto basement shelves.

In the evening, the four of us watched Star Wars: The Force Awakens on television. Despite the rather battered appearance of Harrison Ford and the late Carrie Fisher (the latter my own age at the time of filming), our family has watched the Star Wars saga so many times — with two children a decade apart — I had the odd sensation that time had rolled back and all my chicks, now including Amanda, were back in the nest and it was years ago.

It is so exciting to know we will have a new little one at Christmas!



Pressing On

June 28, 2017

Yesterday young Nick and I cut and hung sheetrock in the corner of the basement. I have never worked with sheetrock before and made sure to read about it online before starting work in front of the smiling pros.

The job was difficult primarily because the space is so packed with boxes and furniture that it was hard to find room to tilt each piece to stand it upright. Then we had to shuffle with each piece (just short of 8 feet high) through the narrow aisle without catching it against the 8-foot ceiling or the floor.

Moreover, after we had our first three sheets up, contractor Nick (working nearby on plumbing) glanced over and realized he should not have told me to place the top furring strip so far down the wall, because it was too low to be a brace for a future dropped ceiling. He jumped in to help us fix this problem with more furring strips. We had only proceeded by another sheet when he similarly realized we needed some bracing behind the long vertical seams, to help keep the drywall from bowing. Again young Nick and I unscrewed, removed, braced, and rehung the sheetrock.

Two more sheets to cut and hang today to finish the corner. I’m not sure young Nick will be with me. It will be a challenge to stand up and carry the sheets on my own, but I imagine I will figure it out.

Then it is on to moving all the boxes out of the way, moving all the bookcases into place, and unloading books onto the shelves. It actually would be a fun assignment if the time pressure didn’t feel so crushing.

And if I didn’t have the potential disaster of Moxie’s impending calving in the back of my mind.

Fetching Furniture

June 22, 2017

Here is Moxie’s expression yesterday morning at 6:30 AM. “Who, me? Calve?”

Here is her udder, swollen and hanging below her hocks, when she limped into the barn for the day. Surely it can’t get much bigger?

But since there was no immediate milk fever crisis at hand I decided to jump in the truck and head to Connecticut.

Early this spring Jon and Amanda began driving all over Connecticut, picking up furniture bargains I found on Craigslist. After thirty years in faculty housing DH and I owned no furniture apart from a couple of beds and two dozen bookcases, so we needed a lot. Connecticut options seemed to be nicer, more available, and less expensive than those I saw in the Adirondacks. Amanda and Jon were kindly willing to lend a hand.

First up, appropriately, was a dresser and mirror for their room. This is a solid piece, extremely cheap due to a couple of chipped and scratched drawers. I think I will be able to repair the two chips and hide the scratches.

Jon and Amanda were able to get both the dresser and the mirror into their Explorer and safely home to their garage.

(I asked them to document their trips so I could enjoy them vicariously.)

Next up was a dresser for DH and me. This one came with not only a mirror but a matching nightstand.

I like this dresser. It reminds me of the furniture I grew up with. It is a knock-off of an expensive piece, but still heavy, decently made, and, second-hand — cheap. Jon was dubious that they could fit both the dresser and nightstand in the car.

But with squishing and Amanda’s finely-tuned packing ability, they succeeded!

On another trip they picked up a dresser I found for Lucy. It was the heaviest yet, in white cottage beadboard style, exactly what Lucy wanted. (Sadly, no photo — we’ll have to wait to see it in the room.) In an amazing stroke of luck, a few days later I found the matching nightstand up here in the Adirondacks.

Finally, they picked up a set of six ladderback chairs to go with the dining room table I had previously bought in Vermont.

Yesterday I drove to Connecticut to fetch it all (except Lucy’s dresser and a couple of the chairs, which Amanda had brought up on her recent solo visit). When I saw their packed garage I worried that we couldn’t fit everything in the truck, but with some climbing around, adjustments, and clever repositioning, we succeeded. Jon and I were damp with sweat by the time we had the tailgate safely latched.

It was wonderful to spend a quick hour with the kids over lunch. I am so grateful for their hard work traipsing around Connecticut to get all these things for our home. I dream of lots of happy family times in this house.

Thank you, Amanda and Jon!

It was a whirlwind 12-hour trip. DH had baked a frozen pizza and was just pulling it out of the oven when I got home in time for a late supper at 8:30 PM.

And… still no calf!

Driving at Last

June 14, 2017

On Monday afternoon I drove Lucy an hour down to Tupper Lake to take her driver’s test.

Lucy is 19 and has not been able to drive. From the age of 15 she was away at school, and during her summers home she has had a demanding schedule of work six days a week plus two ski-training practices a day. This meant my own life has been measured out with coffee spoons as I drove her from place to place four to six times a day.

Last year I put my foot down. I would teach her to drive and we would practice before or after her long days, at either 6:30 AM or 8 PM. We worked at this dutifully all summer — an exercise in patience on both our parts (I gripped the door handle and tried not to scream; Lucy tried not to become infuriated by my gasps). Slowly and surely she improved. Unfortunately we were not aware that road tests had to be scheduled months in advance. Lucy left for college still without her license.

This summer we planned ahead. Lucy made the appointment for her road test in April. June 12th in Tupper Lake was the first available date. However, once she came home we had the problem that I was submerged in the hectic last month of my teaching year and had no time to practice with her. That’s when I had a brainwave: our friend Mike!  He is retired and has plenty of time. He is a basketball coach and has lots of patience. He also has nerves of steel.

They drove for hours.

On Monday Lucy and I went to Tupper Lake for the moment of truth. Naturally I was searching for a DMV. Instead, with additional directions from a helpful policeman, we found a small dirt pull-off at the side of the road near a baseball field.

The tester was clearly not hired for his social skills. When we opened our car doors, he did not greet us or introduce himself, merely barking at Lucy, “Get in the driver’s seat!” They drove off without a further word, leaving me standing at the side of the road.

Fifteen minutes later they were back. Lucy was ashen. Apparently the man had barked at her non-stop for the entire drive. She was certain she was failing. She was further unnerved by being repeatedly called “ma’am.” When at last they parked, the man wrote up a slip on his clipboard and Lucy inquired timidly if she had passed. “Yes, yes,” he said brusquely. In fact she had no points off at all.

On our way home we stopped to give Mike the great news. It was a long time coming, but Lucy’s a driver!

Such Exciting News!

June 13, 2017

Not long ago we received a parcel in the mail addressed to Lucy, DH, and me. There were instructions to wait to open it until we were all together. In the box were these tiny onesies. My son Jon and his wife Amanda are expecting a baby at Christmas! Wheee!

I am very excited. I think I have been preparing to be a grandmother for half my life.

My mind fastens on inessentials. I am ready with the Duplos and the children’s books! And: I’ll have to find out what name Judy (Amanda’s mother) wants to be called. I love “Grandma” but if she wants that one, I’ve known grandmothers called Mama, Gram, Nana, Nanny, Mimi, Yaya, and Tita. Allen teasingly called me Granny, as in Granny Clampett. The name isn’t important to me. What’s important is a healthy baby with that sweet baby smell and toothless smile.

Bring on December! I certainly agree with Melanie in Gone With the Wind: “The happiest days are when babies come!”

Painting Team

May 31, 2017

A few weeks ago I had the idea that I would paint the ugly OSB in the attic. Because Luke and I put it up with Dean, who was rarely around, it’s not perfectly aligned; edges are rough and the trim slightly cupped. I figured painting it white might make it disappear, so as not to reproach me forever. The attic would be bright and clean and fresh.

I loathe painting. I’m not good at it and I’m generally hot and sticky with paint long before I’m done. However I got the OSB painted with half a can of dual purpose primer and ceiling paint.

Then it occurred to me that maybe Lucy, home on vacation before her job starts, could paint the rest of the room. She was happy to oblige. In two long stints, she got 3/4 of the attic painted before she was claimed by other commitments.

Meanwhile, in the garage apartment I had painted shellac over knots that had bled through the trim in the stairwell. My plan was to repaint it white after the shellac dried. However as I tussled with the site Rocket Lawyer to produce a lease for the new tenant, taught my classes, talked to banks about a mortgage, and rushed from chore to chore, somehow I could not force myself to finish this painting. The renter was going to arrive and the shellac stood out in dozens of ugly orange blotches.

My friend Alison came to my rescue. Alison is a fabulous painter. She has painted the interior of her entire house. She has nice brushes (I buy throw-away brushes); she has a painting outfit; she has patience and skill. Listening to an audio book on her Kindle, Alison repainted all the trim in the stairwell without spilling a single drop on the stairs. It was lovely. It was done!

I knew a godsend when I saw one. So many of the current chores in my life are multi-step. This cannot be done until that is accomplished. The appliances I ordered from Sears on Memorial Day sale are due to be delivered on Friday. They must be stored until the floors of the house are laid. The ideal place would be the garage, but the garage is chockablock with all our furniture. I figured Lucy and I would carry Jon and Amanda’s king mattress and box spring and various other items destined for the second floor upstairs before the interior painting, banister, and stairs were completed — thereby making room for the appliances in the garage. However, before we filled the attic with furniture, it would make sense to finish the attic painting. As the time pressure increased I regretted I had ever had the brilliant attic-painting idea. But then Alison’s fabulous painting skills appeared on my radar.

Last night she stopped by the farm and finished it all.

This is a portrait of a wonderful friend. I am so lucky.

Lucy and I will need to move furniture this morning before work, as the flooring men arrive this afternoon, I work until 7:30 PM, and Lucy leaves for the weekend tomorrow morning. Whew!  

As with so much these days, it will be finished just under the wire. But it will be done!  Yay! Thank you, team!

Author, Author!

April 14, 2017

My son Jon had his first book published yesterday. It is a biography of Ronnie Lee, the founder of the Animal Liberation Front, a direct-action group that works for animal rights.

Jon and I have some different ideas about politics and animals, but I am very, very proud of his persistence and discipline as a writer — and equally proud of his kind heart.

Congratulations to Grandma’s little “Yam-Head”!