Long time coming

MY house!

It’s been a while since the last post, but for an extremely good reason. I bought a house this summer (imagine someone mentally jumping up and down for joy and grinning like a fool). At 64 years old, it’s the first home I’ve owned. And I love it. It’s got an upstairs, and a basement, and a whole floor in between, with two bathrooms. The downstairs bathroom is right outside my bedroom door, which is absolutely wonderful. The porch goes from one side to the other, and there’s a small back porch as well. The yard is 1 1/2 lots. It’s 99 years old and has aged gracefully. It gets a birthday party next year. Anything that has been prayed for, wished for, dreamed of for as long as this house has been deserves a party for turning 100.

We celebrated our first Christmas in our own home quite simply. A thrift store tree that came with three sets of lights (with the middle ones being out), crocheted ornaments and a dodecahedron near the top. It’s a little sparse, but it’s our first Christmas in our own home and I love it. It’s a very special feeling to wake up Christmas morning and actually live in your Christmas present.

Fig and Pan died this summer, both from old age. They did get to spend some time in the house, however. Remy, Daisy and Riley are all doing great, and love having windows they can sit in when it’s warm. They’ll get a catio when it warms back up.

Wild pear tree

All the plants in the previous post are dormant and look quite deceased in their pots covered with snow, but I wanted to wait until next spring to decide where to plant them. I need to know what’s currently underground before I dig up something nice. I know there’s tulips here and there, but anything else will be a happy surprise. This will be the first time I can plant things and not have to worry about getting permission or leaving them behind when I move. There’s a lovely wild pear tree in the back yard. It doesn’t have edible fruit, but it looks SO good when it blooms.

Buying a house with a VA loan seems at first like a great thing, which it is, but until you actually do it you have no idea what all it involves. It requires a home appraisal by a VA-approved appraiser. It has to pass specific requirements: it has to be worth what you’re going to pay for it, and it has to be safe, structurally sound and free of any health hazards. Even though I was more than willing to buy a fixer-upper, it was a no-go with the VA.

This meant putting all the houses we’d looked at previously to the side, and finding another one. Almost all of the houses in our budget range wouldn’t have met VA approval, and the ones that did were priced too high. As first-time buyers with no one to help, I was getting to think it would never happen. But, when we were looking at one house (just from the outside – this was my first time looking at houses, and I had no idea about using a realtor or even what to do to buy a house) we happened to meet the best realtor in Michigan. He asked if we were interested, and if we had an agent. Yes, and no. So, he started helping us find houses we liked, the VA would approve, and we could afford. Not an easy task with the VA reqs. It seems houses that don’t need to have repairs don’t go cheap, and houses that go cheap need repairs. But after looking at almost 100 houses, we finally found one that I fell in love with before even walking in the door. Mike talked and worked with the sellers a lot, until they, the loan company, the VA and I were all satisfied.

4th of July
Happy short people christening the front porch with frosty drips.

The house has lots of toasty insulation. I was worried about how good it was going to be in the winter, but it’s keeping us nice and warm without having to turn the furnace up high. The neighborhood is quiet, even on July 4 and New Year’s eve. In six months, I don’t think the number of times I’ve heard a siren would take five fingers. When it’s warm, there’s lots of fireflies and very few mosquitoes. The roof doesn’t leak, the windows all work, and I no longer have to walk two blocks in the snow to check the mail. Life is good.

Trash… not

The few irises that weren't destroyed.
Lovely irises, courtesy of the local cemetery rules against planting plants. These were the only salvegeable ones left. They bloomed overnight. The other plants traveled with me from Los Angeles.
The rest of the irises, crammed into two pots.

My son rescued the irises from the local cemetery after the maintenance crew dug them up and dumped them yesterday.

Ferns and whatever-they-ares saved from sure death.
Ferns and whatever-they-ares.

I rescued these ferns and the skinny whatever-they-ares sharing the pot. There’s some tulip bulbs in there as well. They were removed in order to clean up the yard in prep for selling.

Ferns, lily of the valley and more whatever-they-ares.
Ferns and lily of the valley (hiding in the back left corner). I have no idea what’s in the pot in front, but I saved those too.

I’ve had these since shortly after we emigrated from California, saved from a French drain installation.

I have absolutely no idea what the little purple flowers are, but they were cute enough to rescue.

And, somewhere in with the ferns, are some grape hyacinth and paper white bulbs.

These are all going to make me so happy growing in the front and sides of the house. Like me, though, they have to wait for closing. Sigh.

If you’d like to lend a hand to help closing get a little closer, you can help at
https://www.gofundme.com/manage/eb3fh-closing-costs . Any and every donation is hugely appreciated. Thank you from the bottom of my little plant-rescuing heart.

Welcome Back

Welcome back to you, and to me. It’s been way too long since I posted anything here. No excuse except a hosed brain from many, many things over many, many years.

I haven’t really been up to much. Trying to keep my head on straight, focus on good things, buying a house…

Yep, I’m buying a house. It’s been an actual dream of mine since I was a kid – to live in a place I could fix up any way I wanted, could ban anything resembling white/ecru/eggshell/beige from all walls, plant anything I want and never wonder if the next renter would tear it up, and no one except myself would be responsible for having to move. Again. No one selling a house out from under me. No one raising the rent to an impossible level. No landlords moving into dementia and demanding rent payments several times a month when you show them the canceled check and receipt. No one upstairs making noise that you can’t tell to sit still.

There’s been a few surprises along the way. First, that I was pre-approved for a loan. I thought my credit was too low. But, one evening, I decided to give it a whack & see what happened. After all, the only thing they could do is say no, right? But lo and behold, I got pre-approved. In about 20 minutes. Who’da thunk it?

So, I went back through all the houses I’ve bookmarked over the last five years, deleting the solds, sorting the decents, drooling over the wonderfuls, and figuring I’d end up in one of the fixers.

The first bit of reality was a foreclosed house with a bank that didn’t like VA loans. Good neighborhood, not too much that needed repair, nice size. Ah, well, eh?

What followed was more searching and driving to check out one house after another until one afternoon, we stopped at a house to have a walk-around, and happened to meet a realtor just finishing up a viewing. We chatted a minute, then followed him in to actually see the house. We ended by exchanging a card for an email address and shaking hands. Before anyone jumps up and says, “You didn’t have a realtor yet?” No, we didn’t. Having never been witness to an actual house-buying, I didn’t have much idea about the order all this was supposed to work in. But we got one that day. We started looking at houses from the inside, not just through windows and online photos.

So, along the way, offers were made, turned down, VA appraisal reqs were discovered, houses that wouldn’t meet those reqs said goodbye to, as were houses that didn’t meet my own requirements. It was sad. Until the price of one of the first houses we looked at dropped $2k. The realtor said he thought the owner would come down further, since the house had been listed for almost a year. Nothing wrong with it, lot & a half; it just hadn’t had any takers.

So, after the realtor talked several times with the owner and got them to drop another $11k and pay partial closing costs, we passed documents back and forth over the interwebs, got an actual loan approval, passed the VA appraisal & pest inspection with flying colors, we got a closing date. Less than two weeks from now. Yeesh!

So that’s what I’ve been up to. Hope y’all’re doing good too.

To all high school and college students:

To all those going into high school or college this summer or in the fall, this is what I learned there:
1. Someone will tell you to follow and learn from the 4.0 kids. Screw them. Later on, they’ll work in a department store while you get to work at something you actually like and get paid much, much more for.
2. You really will use algebra, just not for a long time.
3. Take electives you feel like taking. The ones you should take won’t be anything you’ll want to remember in 10 years.
4. Learn to spell and to copy-edit. No one will hire you if you don’t spell the job you want right, and no one will listen to you if they can’t read your directions even if you’re the boss.
5. Suffer in silence through the P.E. classes you think are stupid. They actually are stupid and unless you have plans to be a dancer, you will never use modern dance. Ever. Concentrate in archery, though. You’re going to need that to fight the zombies decently.
6. Pay attention to the kids who help you and who you help. They’re the ones who’ll share their class notes when you miss a class without making you pay or feel like crap for asking.
7. Ask the teachers and instructors questions. Stick your hand up to give an answer even if you’re not sure. A lot of teachers give bonus points for trying. And for crying out loud, don’t sit in the back of the class so you can screw around. You have an entire life of lunch breaks to do that later on. Learn something.
8. If your counselor doesn’t ask you how you’re going to college or what you’ll do after that, sit there until they do. Too many don’t give a rat’s ass about you, so you have to do the caring about your future yourself.
9. Don’t write in your books. You’ll either have to pay for it at the end of the semester, or won’t be able to sell it back. Don’t get stuck with a book you only looked at once for a test but wrote/drew in 5,000 times.
10. If high school or college is totally boring & you have something else you want to do and can make money at it and it’s legal, go do it. The world does not depend on a nifty piece of paper on the wall. It does depend on people like you who can make things, create things, help others, and keep things working.
Now shoo.

Happy Mother’s Day

To every mom reading this, be you friend, family, acquaintance, stranger, female or male:

May you have a day of sunlight, be it in the sky or in your heart.
May the clouds be light above you and your child, wherever they may be.
May the day hold love for you, from your child, from your parent, or from a friend.
May you find the strength and endurance to make it through any hardship that finds you or your child,
And may you always see the beauty and joy in the tiny things of life so often overlooked.

Happy Mother’s Day all.



Presidential sedition and federal insurrection

[si-dish-uh n]
1. incitement of discontent or rebellion against a government.
2. any action, especially in speech or writing, promoting such discontent or rebellion.

[in-suh-rek-shuh n]
1. an act or instance of rising in revolt, rebellion, or resistance against civil authority or an established government.

People who know me know I don’t have a lot of patience with intolerance or injustice. Thankfully, it’s turning out that a number of government employees don’t either.

NASA, the National Park Service, the Environmental Protection Agency and the US Forest Service are just some of the government agencies that recently came under fire in President Donald Trump’s effort to time travel back to 1984. They didn’t take overly well to his fondness for George Orwell’s detailed how-to-screw-your-country description.

Free research and the behind-the-scenes spreading of information by these agencies and citizens acting on their behalf are competing with Trump’s presidential orders and tweets. This is a country based on freedom of speech, and they aim to keep that going even if it means their jobs.

There’s a lot of things Trump said he wanted during his presidential campaign, but I don’t think he was counting on the sedition he churned up in his first weeks of being in office to create insurrection among not only federal workers, but a good portion of U.S. citizens as well. There’s a lot we’ll put up with, but being told to shut up, keep secrets from each other or stop trying to figure things out aren’t anywhere close to what Americans do well.

I don’t like politics. I don’t like people who pride themselves on being bullies. But I proudly like knowing there are people in this country’s government and citizenry who take freedom of speech and doing their job seriously enough to protect the rest of us from those bullies.

Peace in the New Year

Happy New Year all! Here’s hoping 2017 brings everyone some peace, some rest and some laughs.

This is the first New Year in several decades I haven’t worried about the gunfire, sirens, fireworks or had to listen to the music next door get louder and louder as midnight got closer. For the first time in 30 years, the evening was quiet. We watched Doctor Who and Star Trek online, stoked the wood stove and relaxed, pretty much forgetting it was New Year’s Eve altogether. It’s never been big on my holiday list anyway, but one of the hardest to ignore in Los Angeles. When midnight passes, and you don’t notice it until you’re checking Facebook and realize it’s two hours into 2017, it becomes one more reason to be thankful we moved out of the land of the loonies.

May the coming year bring us all peace, safety, fast bandwidth and dry wood. Lots of dry wood.


usoThe USO rocks. When the Army transferred me from Arizona to Alaska in February, 1976, I had an overnight layover in the Seattle airport. All my baggage was somewhere in the airport for changing planes, so I was stuck in my dress uniform. I had a little pocket money with me, but not enough for an airport meal. I hadn’t been issued any winter clothing yet, so my uniform jacket was all there was between me and the air conditioning in the airport. I was tired from 12 hours of hitting every airport from LA to Seattle, literally spending more time on take offs and landings than in the air. The last meal I’d had was breakfast – the flights were all too short for snacks, so the kitchens hadn’t been stocked.

Cold, hungry, with no place to go and nothing to do, I wandered the airport wishing there was something more than hard plastic chairs to spend the night on.

After a couple of hours, I found an out-of-the-way office with a USO sign on the door. I’d never been to one, but went in and was greeted by a woman old enough to be my grandma and the sight of a box of doughnuts on a counter. She set up a cot in a quiet corner, and after a sweet dinner I finally got to relax and get some sleep before flying up to Fairbanks.

The USO has done this and much, much more, for countless members of the military, traveling where they go, setting up where they’ll be. We all know about the entertainment they arrange, but they do a lot more that seldom gets any publicity.

In 2017, as you think about possible charities to give to, please consider the USO. If you can help, please do. If you can’t, send a prayer for them and everyone they help. Those three letters are home when home is a long way away.


David’s world debut

This is David’s world premiere performance on the ukulele, which, in case you miss it, plays a huge part in his lyric choice. At only eight years old, David is a self-taught musician, lyricist and choreographer. Please note the floor moves he has created, especially the spins. All aspiring musicians, please make note that socks, not shoes, are the required footwear for advanced moves like these.

All press release seriousness aside, he’s a cool kid with a big talent for music. Enjoy.

Here yesterday, gone today

Until last night, this was the view of the east side of the house I’m staying at.

hanging gutter

As you can see, the ice has done a job on the gutters. Luckily, this is the only one with serious problems so far; some others have been bending, but still hanging in there (pun intended).

Last night, though, things changed a bit. The temps are a tad warmer and the snow & ice on the roof is a tad slidier. Around 10 p.m., there was a very loud whump that shook the house. This is what caused the commotion – the ice and snow finally let loose, finally knocking the gutter to the ground. It’s crumpled in the corner by the house.

downed gutter

At least the snow on the top floor should drop easier now.

So far, we’ve had about 15 inches of snow. With Monday being forecast at 50F with showers during the week, who knows how much will last and how much will end up as ice covering the ground. This is on the deck.

snow depth 12-19-16

A Michigan magic bbq mushroom. It grew a little more before it died a quick death by snow shovel yesterday.

bbq mushroom

Even with the gutter falling, there’s still a lot of snow & ice up there. Even though I lived in Michigan until I was 10, I never knew snow could deform like this. It almost makes being cold worth it.

needs to fall snow bump

BUT, not everything is snowy here. Cold, yes. Here’s a shot of five of the feral cats who share our home, staying warm together under a lamp. This is a major step for the top left girl; she’s usually camped outside somewhere on her own.

cuddling cats

Before I leave you to go get some more wood for the fires, here’s a view of melting icycles. Merry almost Christmas!