Friday, January 28, 2011

you can't always get what you want --- but sometimes, you can

I was clicking around last week when I found an old black and white movie on TCM. Nothing unusual about that, right? But I lingered on this one for a few minutes, sucked in more by the atmosphere than by the dialogue. A young woman was having tea with a much older woman in a large, old Victorian room. The older woman was chastising the younger one about, it seemed, transgressions in the past towards the young woman's sister, complete with flashbacks to a happier time. The tone was moody and nostalgic and somewhat foreboding. You know, I thought to myself, I am in the mood to read a book that strikes just that tone.

I went to the library and, almost unbelievably, found the perfect book. It is The Distant Hours by Kate Morton. I will tell you straight away this is not great literature. But it is a good, solid, entertaining read that kept me interested throughout its 600 pages. The book has the requisite pair of elderly twin sisters, but (amazingly) they got along, had always gotten along, and had never changed places with each other. There is a big, old moldering house in the British countryside, there is a fey, heartbroken sister, and there is a decades-old mystery to be solved. Our fresh-faced young narrator solves the mystery (of course) and in the process, learns a great deal about her own past - which, surprise! turns out to be entwined with the sad history of the great house.

I know. I know. It sounds like you've read it before. So have I. But the author took some interesting new turns in this familiar tale, and her writing, while a bit florid in places, is deeply satisfying in others. For me, it was the right book at the right time, and the value of that cannot be under-estimated.

Monday, January 24, 2011

the waiting game

One thing you have to do a lot of when you are working with contractors and workmen is waiting. One thing I am really bad at is waiting. This morning, for example, I am supposed to receive a call between 7:00 a.m. and 9:00 a.m. that will inform me what two-hour time slot later today a workman will arrive to measure our foyer for the ceramic tiles we purchased over the weekend. Got that? I am waiting right now for a call that will tell me when I have to wait some more later. I hate this!

I desperately want to take a shower. I want to sort the laundry and throw the first load in the washer - something I can only do after I shower. I want to return my books to the library. I want to go to Target to look for a clock for my bedroom. I want to do all manner of things that I can't do while I am chained to the house, waiting for a phone call.

It seems to me that ever since we moved here I have been waiting for someone. The electrician, the plumber, the guys who delivered the new tv, the guy who came to fix our cable reception, the carpet installers, the guy who came to measure for the carpet installers (!), the guys who came to give me estimates for a new fence - each of them due to arrive at a not clearly defined time that I must, that's right, wait for.

My phone rings - hurray! Is it the measuring guy? No. It is Ben, telling me that for some inexplicable reason, the measuring guy has called him at work to tell him when he will arrive at our house. No matter, now I know that my next period of waiting will begin at 1:00 p.m. It's off to the shower for me!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

musings on a winter morning

I'm finding out that in many ways, winter in Maryland is a lot like winter in Ohio. It is cold and gray outside and I am disinclined to leave the warm, bright comfort of my home. The sun is slow to come up, and it gets dark early - earlier here, actually, as we are now on the eastern edge of the time zone.

When I went out to retrieve my Baltimore Sun this morning, everything - and I mean everything - was coated in a not-so-thin layer of ice. I am very glad to be able to stay inside today. It will give me a chance to do some further work on my resume, which I pulled out yesterday and began updating. I didn't actually need a resume for my last two jobs at yarn shops, but it doesn't look like my next job - whatever it may be - will be quite as easy to find.

When Ben got home from work last night, I asked him to take a look at my updated resume. Since he is at the other end of the spectrum (that is to say, he hires people) I find his input very valuable. One interesting thing, I find, is that while I try to be what I think of as scrupulously honest on my resume, Ben says that is not necessarily how it is done anymore. Well, he tells me, you could say this instead of that. But that is not actually, technically what I did, I tell him. Close enough, he assures me, it's all in how you phrase it. I begin to realize that perhaps a resume is not the place for narrow definitions or excessive modesty.

In reading over this last paragraph, I am concerned lest you think that Ben is not totally honest, because he is. To a fault, really. And he is quite good at getting jobs, as well. When I asked him last May how soon we could move to Maryland, it took him less than six months to find a job here. So when he gives me job-hunting advice, I listen. Mostly. When I think he is right.

It puts me in mind of the vows Julie wrote for her wedding, actually. I will obey you, she told Andrew - to everyone's surprise - but then adding, when I think you are right. Some traits Julie gets from me, but it is not a one-way street, and some things I get from her. I like it that way.

And now, after a quick peek out the window ~shudder~ it's back to the resume.

Monday, January 10, 2011

but is it communication?

I try to write a letter to my dad every ten days or so. In fact, checking my folder of letters, I see that I wrote every eleven days in December, actually, so it's time for another update. I have been holding off, waiting for the photos that Ben was going to send to Walgreen's, but they are ready to pick up now.

I sit down at my computer, adjust my font size to 14, and try to write a cheery, informative letter. I try to make it sound like I am sitting in Dad's room at Wesleyan Village, chatting with him. Frankly, when I am there I frequently wonder if I am boring him or if he is thinking what an idiot I am, so basically I wonder the same thing as I type these letters. But I persevere. I usually end up with about a page and a half of news about what Ben and I are doing, changes we are making to the house, how the kids are, and what the dogs are up to. Then I hand sign the letter and send it off.

I don't ever expect a reply, you understand. My dad used to be quite the letter writer, firing off hand-printed, single-spaced, many-paged missives to anyone who rubbed him the wrong way - and that was a lot of people. I found copies of many of these letters when I was cleaning out Dad's file cabinet before the house sold. They made me sad, though, and I threw them all away. He has been so angry for such a long time.

Dad sent me a couple of "letters" last year when I was working on getting him situated at Wesleyan Village. They were printed in pencil on torn sheets of paper, and generally were one-sentence requests or questions. He has never liked to use the telephone, you see, and only calls me under situations of duress. He hasn't called me since we moved to Maryland, and I don't believe he will. I think he thinks the phone call will be too expensive, although I tried to explain he would be calling my cell phone with the Ohio area code.

In spite of all this, I will sit here later today and write another letter. I will try to make it light-hearted and informative. I will try once again to connect with my dad. I don't know if I'm doing it for him or doing it for myself. I only know I need to do it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

project #17 in a continuing series...

Rufus and Lucie and I spent most of yesterday in the basement "rec room". We were waiting down there while two workmen installed carpeting in the hall and bedrooms. I was okay watching TCM until a Red Skelton movie came on. Who ever thought that man was talented or funny? But I digress.

The carpet looks fantastic. I am very pleased with it. Ben and I picked out a berber with as little pattern cut into it as we could find. The color is called "ecru" and I know that doesn't tell you much. It is a darker color than I wanted, but lighter than Ben was hoping for. Since yesterday was cloudy, we haven't really seen the carpet in sunlight yet, so that is something to look forward to.

We did cover up finished hardwood floors with the carpeting, and, like all loyal HGTV viewers, I know that is a no-no. But, hey, that hardwood is still down there, waiting to be uncovered and ooh-ed and ah-ed over by someone else. The fact is, Ben and I did not like the bedrooms with bare wood floors. The rooms felt cold and empty even with all our furniture in them. They did not feel "homey". They also strongly reminded me of the second floor of the big, old, drafty house where I grew up, and that is never a good thing.

Needless to say, the dogs love the carpeting. Rufus immediately began racing up and down the hall and into the bedrooms. He can turn on a dime and speed away again. When he tired himself out, he lay down in the middle of the newly-carpeted hallway. We are happy because both of the dogs can jump on and off the beds now without slipping and falling.

Perhaps early January is not the optimum time to have carpet installed as we really can't open the windows and air the rooms out. If you like that new carpet smell, we've got it. If you don't, we've still got it. On the other hand, right after the holidays is a slow time for most businesses like that, and I believe we got a better price than we would have at other times of the year. I'm really hoping that savings will carry over into our next project: a new fence for the backyard. Now that's a biggie.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

how I spent my birthday

Yesterday Ben and I bought seven new light fixtures. How many light fixtures do we have in this house? Well, about seven. They are all hideous. We bought a fixture for the foyer, the hall, the little dining room that we are using as a library, two for the kitchen and two to go outside the front and side doors. The fixture for the "library" will also have a ceiling fan - the only one in the house. We got quite used to having ceiling fans in our last house, and it didn't seem right not to have any.

When are we going to install all these fixtures? Well, we're not. We are hiring someone to do it. We need some electrical work done anyway, and when the electrician was here a couple of weeks ago, he said it would be any easy thing for him to do. Imagine that. Someone who thinks killing the power and switching the fixtures is easy. I can't begin to tell you what a hassle it is for the two of us to do something like that. If you have ever done it yourself, perhaps you know.

In addition to the light fixtures we bought new house numbers, window well covers, and a large recycle bin. We also took a little print - perhaps it is a lithograph - to the local framing shop to have it framed. So I spent my birthday shopping and buying things - a great many things - and that made it a great day. I just really don't want to know how much we spent. I mean it.