April 2008

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With Siding

Siding on the side, waiting to be recycled.

A fresh coat of paint in my favorite colors: green and red.

Welcome to our newly painted home…

The front porch, so sweet!

Me, taking a picture of Milo looking out at the new colors.

The back yard from the upstairs – the lawn furniture resides where the dead BMW once did.

When Gregory and I came to Portland for our house hunting trip ten years ago, we looked at twenty five houses in four days.  Ooh la la! What an overwhelming and wholly taxing experience.  At the end, when we were seated in the office of our realtor, Carol Zamba (I wonder if she’s still selling houses?), and I chose this house, Gregory and Carol gave a slightly horrified stereo response.  “That one?”

While I extolled the house’s virtues – it faces west (for shady summer afternoons in the back yard), it has a large lot with a detatched garage, the right amount of bedrooms (four – ours, guest, tv, and office), and a full basement – they thought about the alligator living in a giant aquarium in the dining room, the peeling paint, the piles of garbage on the back porch and basement, the siding on one half of the house, and oh, yeah, the dead BMW nestled in the tall weeds in the back.  Yes, that one.

The key, for me, was a long term vision.  I could see us turning that house into our home, and we have, slowly but surely, bit by bit.

So, this is our humble abode’s tranformation to half-sided and okay to painted and lovely.  We dreaded this awful project for ten long years – take off the siding?  finish the job?  paint it?  We finally decided to take it off, and then paint the whole house in a new Colleen and Gregory color scheme.  I am so happy we did, for I never really liked that blue color, not being my choice and all.  This green however, I am in love with it.  It looks so lovely with the red roof and the matching windows.  I am happy, happy, happy.  I finally have the exterior of my dreams.  Now for the bathroom and basement.  All in good time…

p.s. This project is what kept me from posting sooner.  It is hard to focus with five loud men painting up a storm!

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Meet Milo, the kitty of many aliases:  The Little Man, Doody, Heavy Doody, Boo, Boo Boo, and my personal favorite, Chunk-o-Punk.

The top picture really says it best.  Milo is a kitty on the go, well, except when he’s sleeping.  This little guy’s got so much energy and curiousity that it has, on occasion, driven me to drink.  He’s not like Paris.  He’s more of a bull in a china shop kind of kitty.  He’s clumsy and often down right awkward.  We prefer to think of him as a giant dog trapped in the body of a cat.  What else can explain the broken knick-nacks and knocked over lamps?  I mean jeez, aren’t cats supposed to have grace?  Bless his heart if he ever falls from a great height, for I fear that he would not land on his feet, but his head.  Hmmm, now that I think about it, that might be just what he needs!

Oh goodness, I’m terrible.  After all that, you’d think that I don’t like him, but I really really do.  He is such a lover, my sweet boy, so cuddly, too – whether I’m writing, reading, or watching television, Milo likes to sit on my lap, purring all the while.   He’s also a great watch kitty.  We can always tell when there’s a stranger about because Milo growls before high tailing it to the basement and hiding.  Also, quite unlike Paris, he does not have a delicate constitution.  Milo can eat practically anything and rapido!  The boy doesn’t mess around.

His favorite activities:

Defending the territories.  If Milo sees a cat entering the yard, he turns into THE LTTLE MAN, furiously running from window to window, growling.  If we decide to let him out at these times, he gives the wayward cat the business: growling, hissing, or otherwise informing the offender that he or she is most certainly not welcome.  He will not abide a strange kitty in our yard, no siree.

Playing with string.  He loves to pull string around the house.  Even better, he likes for you to pull it around, so he can chase it.  It’s alive!

Caressing the catnip.  We grow catnip in our yard.  Milo likes to walk in circles around the plant, giving it gentle nudges before, of course, taking a bite or two.

Pretending he’s an alarm clock.  This can be a joy or a curse, depending on the morning.  Sometimes, he will bat at the blinds, or try to knock the lamp over.  Other times, he jumps on my belly and purrs loudly while giving me a little massage with his paws.   

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I love this beautiful planet of ours, and I do my very best to be a good steward of the land I occupy, always striving to make one more change for that seventh generation.  I’m hoping you are too.

But, as I am never satisfied, I’m wanting us all to do more.  Would you look at the list below and find one item that you aren’t already doing and give it a try for Mother Earth?  I’d appreciate it, and so would she. 

  • Rethink your purchases – Do you really need it? How far did it travel to get to you?  Is it made from sustainable materials?
  • Buy a clothes line or drying rack.  Dry one load a week this way (or more if you can).
  • Use cloth napkins at home.
  • Skip the paper towels and use cloth.
  • Eat at least one vegetarian meal a week.
  • Compost your fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, and tea bags. 
  • Turn your thermostat to 58 degrees when you sleep.  Throw on an extra blanket.
  • Buy locally and organic.
  • Replace one incandescent light bulb (that’s not on a dimmer) with a flourescent bulb.
  • When you leave a room, turn off the light.
  • Unplug appliances when not in use.
  • Check your home’s insulation levels, add more if possible/necessary.
  • Done it all?  Yeah!  Or just want more ideas?  Click here.

Here’s what our household pledges to do:

  • Rethink our purchases.
  • Insulate our home (we’ve got pretty much zero!).
  • Buy organic cotton t-shirts.  Research other affordable organic clothing.  I’m not keen on paying $200 for a pair of jeans or a blouse.

 

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I love to find treasure.  Sometimes it is a perfectly formed pine cone.  Other times is is a leaf, a bird chirping, or the sight of the biggest, shiniest motorcycle kick stand.  Then there are the pennies.  I am thirty-six years old and still get jazzed when I find a penny.  If my husband happens to be around, I squeal with delight.  “Ooh looky Buddy (one of his pet names), a penny!”

He’s never nearly as enthusiastic about the penny, but does enjoy my reaction.  He loves seeing me happy and excited.  You see,  wonder and beauty and gifts are all around us.  We just have to keep our eyes open, pay attention, and feel the joy rise.

So, when I found this wonderful quotation, I thought, why I could have written this myself, so true is it to my view of the world.

“There are many things to see, unwrapped gifts and free surprises.  The world is fairly studded and strewn with pennies cast broadside by a generous hand.  But – and this is the point – who gets excited by a mere penny?  If you follow one arrow, if you crouch motionless on a bank to watch a tremulous ripple thrill on the water and are rewarded by the sight of a muskrat paddling from its den, will you count that sight a chip of copper only, and go on your rueful way?  It is dire poverty indeed when a man is so malnourished and fatigued that he won’t stoop to pick up a penny.  But if you cultivate a healthy poverty and simplicity, so that finding a penny will literally make your day, then, since the world is in fact planted in pennies, you have with your poverty bought a lifetime of days.  It is that simple.  What you see is what you get.” 

Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

May you find your own treasure on this beautiful day…
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The first time I remember making a conscious decision not to have children was in second grade.  I was playing at school with Kelli Edwards and Jill Habegger, and they were talking excitedly about the day they would become mommies.  I don’t quite know how I knew at such a young age that I didn’t want to become a parent, but I did, and said as much.  

Thankfully, my husband didn’t high tail it in the other direction when I told him after we first met.  With the exception of about one hour sprinkled in increments over the past seventeen years, I haven’t wavered. 

So, I guess it’s not unusual (It happens every day!) that we have cats.  Just so you know, we’re not the kind to play favorites, either.  Paris is our number one only because we got her first.  She’s our Fluff-n-Stuff, Sweet Girl, Birdie, and Princess Buttercup.  She is thirteen years old and will probably live to be one hundred.   The girl’s one tough cookie!

Paris is mostly sweet and, unlike our other cat Milo, well behaved.  She does, on occasion have her fits of kookiness and attacks Gregory.  Though, in her defense, he usually eggs her on in some way.  You can count on her for lots of tender head nudges, to slink stealthily around the house, be quiet at bed time, and not knock things over.  She likes to be near us, but doesn’t usually want us to touch her.  When she does want some physical affection, she usually flops on her side and makes cute, short meows until someone, mostly me, rubs her belly.  She is the only cat I know that likes this. 

Her favorite activities:

Eating.  Definitely eating.  If you want to bust a gut with laughter, come to our house around meal time and watch her trot around!  We put her food in the same spot every time, but she runs around in desperation and worry, like it is a crap shoot.  This is what I imagine occurs in her little head:  “Here, by the front door?  Oh, no, maybe over by the dining room table today, but wait, the kitchen, that’s where it usually goes.  I better hurry back.  I’m so hungry!”

Growling at Milo.  Even though Milo has been a member of our household for nearly ten years, Paris has yet to fully acclimate. 

Playing with her toys.  Paris makes this kind of high pitched and slightly distressed sounding meow while running around with a toy in her mouth.  She will bring it to you and drop it at your feet if you ask and, of course, she’s in the right mood.

Sleeping in boxes.  Paris loves boxes of all shapes and sizes.  It doesn’t matter if she barely fits and the sides bulge – it’s all good!

 

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