Monthly Archives: January, 2011

And the Remodel Continues

This is the view from my bedroom door.  Most of the
house is pretty well gutted!
This is my kitchen, most of which is on wheels
so it can move around as construction demands.

Well, some days it doesn’t seem as if much progress is actually taking place, but in fact, I know it is.  Since the last post when the disheartening news of the bad roof was revealed, I’ve managed to look at roofing options, decide on a lovely blue metal roof (for both the house and the garage, complete with matching gutters with leaf guards and trim), and that install will actually begin within the next day or two, so that is excellent progress.  

This is the laundry/utility area with the new gas furnace
installed.  The gas water heater is to be installed in the next
day or so and eventually the closet will be finished off as
the orange portion of my rainbow home.

I don’t want anything done on the interior until that nasty plywood is gone, so I’m very glad the roofing can start immediately or I’d be living in my new “studio” apartment for forever!  And I really, really want the demolishing/destruction phase over so that new wonderful construction can happen.  The roof is now the end of that phase, and that can’t happen soon enough!  And I’m thrilled with every aspect of the metal roof from its environmental/ecological soundness, its fireproof nature, the energy conservation pluses, etc.  It matches all my values on every level, including color.  The only downside is that it is pricey, but it will also definitely outlast me, so this has the decided advantage of being my last roof!

This is the view back toward my bedroom.  Chauncey is
eating and Poosa is exploring.  After I took this photo I
moved the two tall pieces of cat furniture into my shower
(for new readers, I shower outside), so that the cats
would have more of their space in our tiny studio.

I am cooking my first dinner on my new gas cooktop.
I also have seven jars of sprouts in various stages
of growth which I am rinsing.
They were very yummy crimini mushrooms!

So we are all cozy in our little studio apartment, and thankfully still have access to the kitchen and laundry out in the main part of the house (except during certain construction phases when my bedroom door gets covered with plastic and we are “locked up”).  My gas cooktop was put in this week and hooked up on Friday evening, so last night I sauteed mushrooms for my first adventure on it and that went really well.  I think everyone who has told me how much I will enjoy the cooktop are right and once things settle down (that will happen, won’t it?!), I look forward to being able to learn to cook properly.  

Anyway, the roof disaster means that the six of us have moved earlier (and faster) into my bedroom which has now become a mini-studio apartment.  We are now living in about 331 sq ft.  The room is long and narrow which makes the sorting of it a challenge (30′ x 11′), but we are managing fairly comfortably, and since this is also the only place in the house with any insulation, we are appreciating its warmth!  

The view from my desk which (the view that is)
now magnificent!  Thanks, Kathy!
This shows the length of our studio.  Sasha loves to
sleep and relax on my piano keyboard.
Poosa likes the fact that she can now get up on my bed!
This is the new look to the south side of my home!

 The rest of the house will, of course, get insulation, but not until after the roof and the rewiring of the house (which also should happen this week).  My electrician is thrilled to have such open access as he normally doesn’t see that except in new construction, but face it, this poor house is being pretty well newly constructed.  Except in my bedroom all I have are studs, beams, trusses, and exterior siding.  The wiring which is currently in place is, of course, badly done and potentially hazardous, so it is nice that it will actually be cheaper and faster (both wonderful words as far as I’m concerned) to remove all the existing wire and re-run it properly (instead of trying to figure out what previous folks thought they were doing!).

Another big event this week was the final filling of the utility trench and the re-landscaping of the south side of my yard from front to back.  The area which had been grass (and not very good grass at that) has now become a giant bed since the grass was really toasted after all the digging not only for the utility trench but also for the downspout drainage.  My best friend, Kathy, owns a nursery and she found plants to put in it (she doesn’t have huge stock at this time of year, but I got what she did have) and she also ordered some winter color for me in terms of pansies and primroses, so I now have lovely views where just a short while ago there were hazardous ugly trenches and dirt mounds.  The change is really heartening and helps me to realize that sometime my interior will be similarly transformed.

This is the view of the south side from my backyard.
My wonderful outside shower is shown as well.  This bed
will be getting lots more plants as winter ends, but it is
already a vast improvement!

I think that is about it for the remodel update for this Sunday.  I’ve picked a bunch of photos to put into this post but there are even more at the remodel link at the top of this page if you are interested.

The utilities are nearly done.  The electric meter should be
moved in the next day or two and soon also the phone.  Then
all my utilities will be underground.

Opening a Can of Worms!

Daphne pulling down living room ceiling!  I had fun!!
Look what I did (and then left before the disaster was revealed.

Again, remodel follows life.  I learned yesterday that my roof is unsound and filled with dry rot and black mold.  I would never have learned this (until, that is, the roof actually gave way) if I hadn’t decided to do the remodel and to do it properly with the removal of the old cheap ceiling tiles (which I got to do a major portion of and that was fun!), and then take the further step of removing the old insulation so that everything could be properly cleaned and checked out.  Of course, things don’t go as planned and the removal of the insulation disclosed dry rot and black mold.  The six of us (my three cats, two dogs, and me) have been sent off to my bedroom and actually it is very cosy in my new “home” of 331 sq. ft. (a 30 x 11 room), and the roof gets looked at tomorrow and then I’ll see where I’m at.  And the mold is being dealt with now, so that hopefully by the day’s end I won’t have to wear a mask to go into the main part of the house and the pets will be allowed to accompany me, so that I can do things like laundry and cooking.  Last night I brought my toaster oven into my bedroom to make my Sunshine Burger for dinner and I rinsed my sprouts in my bathroom sink, and I’d just as soon that adventure didn’t continue.  But otherwise, I’m fine with my desk and computer and a small tv/dvd combo unit and my iPod and my recliner moved into my bedroom.  I also have my piano keyboard as well as, of course, pet feeding dishes, water bowls, and a litter box.  Needless to say it is very cosy and I’m learning to walk slowly and carefully, but it works.  I even found a place to roll out my yoga mat this morning (well most of it anyway) and I could do yoga as long as I didn’t try anything that went off the mat as I was sandwiched between my recliner and my bed and a piece of cat furniture.

Mold and dry rot abound on the underside of my roof.

More dry rot and mold.  It is being treated so we can walk
into the main part of the house without masks, but it will go!
Look at my new “studio” apartment
Things will settle down but we got through the first night,
all six of us, without major incident!
I cooked my dinner in a toaster oven on top of my dresser.
Some kitchen, eh Rose and Laloofah!

Anyway, my point about the remodel today is that all too often I have just “not looked” at my interior any more than I’d looked at my ceiling.  I’ve kept busy, kept the demons shut away much like the mold and dry rot, just gone on day to day staying distracted one way or another.  But I learned a few years back when I started therapy that the deep issues in the mind and soul don’t go away and just like the dry rot and black mold, they will surface and they will cause damage if they aren’t dealt with.  Ignoring problems of any kind does not make them go away.  They don’t just disappear.  Problems need to be faced and dealt with, as my cat, Thackeray, is now reminding me since I have not yet scooped his litter box this morning and that, for him, is a problem that needs correcting, and as anyone with cats knows, keeping cats happy (and dogs too) is vital.  Anyway, the metaphor continues as I excavate both me and my home, and I’m sure things will be better on the remodel front soon.  Today the furnace is being changed from an electric furnace with heat pump to a gas furnace with heat pump (the heat pump part stays the same), and maybe the electric water heater gets changed out for a gas one also, if not today then tomorrow (it is sitting in my garage).  So lots going on here, but that is life after all, and I’m safely out of the construction zone which is probably a very good thing for everyone!

Construction and Mindfulness

Construction and mindfulness–not necessarily a pairing I would have thought of before my current state of living in a construction zone, but I’m realizing that being present and mindful is another very valuable lesson I am learning from this remodel.  The game plan is always changing and frequently I’m the last to know of the changes.  What I thought was on the docket turns out not to be, always for good reason, but it can be unnerving.  So construction is teaching me to go with the flow and to be prepared for change and after all, that is what life is all about, isn’t it.  The one certainty about life is that it is never the same, it is always changing, and we never know what will happen next.  The future is not ours, no matter how much we might think we can plan it, order it, make it ours.  Life doesn’t work that way any more than my construction.  And of course, the past is not ours either.  It is gone and can’t be changed.  The fact that my poor home was sadly neglected and that it was built and changed by do-it-yourselfers with no permits, no knowledge, and no money, that fact can’t be changed.  But the home can be rescued (as can I and my pets) with loving care.  I get so excited when someone tells me that something was actually done correctly!  So far, the only time that has happened has been with the trusses in my attic, but it was a glorious moment to find out something had been done properly for this poor home.  Anyway, the past can’t be changed, and the future is not ours, but this moment, this present moment is, and in this present moment I can rescue my home, and I can insure that things are done properly for it, for me, and for my four-footed companions, no matter what the past and no matter what the future.  Therefore, I will go with the flow, and know that all is being done in the way that the universe sees fit, and that looking beyond this moment is simply an exercise in futility.  Meanwhile, I shall work at crafting the haiku I thought of while I was in the shower this morning (talk about a way to stay present–writing haiku is fantastic for that!), and just wait to see how this day evolves and what moves forward from here.  Namaste!

Is Clutter Like Busyness?

I have been sorting things as a result of my remodel chaos and it has dawned on me that I think for me, at least, cluttering things up and having lots of stuff and collecting things is rather like staying incredibly busy or always having the stereo or tv on.  These are ways I have used to escape from myself, to keep from thinking, to avoid unpleasantness, to deny pain and loneliness.  And of course, these ways never work.  They only prevent the healing.

I’ve written before about how the remodel of my home is such an excellent metaphor for the healing work I am doing on my body and soul, but it never ceases to amaze me how much I am learning as a result of the remodeling process.  And the current state where I had to send much of my living room off to storage is a perfect example.  I’m realizing that the openness of the space is extremely important to me and I’m not sure I even want most of that stuff back again (of course I’ll have to deal with it somehow eventually!).  The same is true with the noise level in my home.  I used to feel that I could only sleep if I had music playing or that a quiet house was somehow a horrible mistake.  But now, I find many days I don’t even turn on my iPod or ballets or whatever until afternoon or even early evening and that it is ok to be by myself with nothing going on. 

This concept is extremely new to me and so I am just starting to explore what it means, but part of this is realizing that no matter how wounded I may have been from a very early age, that I am healing and I am finding myself.  I’m discovering the truth of the fact that each of us needs to be our own best friend, comfortable with our own company.  We came into this world alone and will go out of it alone.  Relationships come and go, but the only one you always have is yourself.

The process of discovering who I am and being content with that and knowing at a gut level and not just a head level that I am enough, as one author said recently in a talk I heard, is an exciting and terrifying process.  I don’t need a lot of things around me to stave off loneliness.  First off, that doesn’t work, and secondly it doesn’t get to the root of the problem.  Now that I’ve healed a lot anyway (more to go but that is always true I think), I am content and indeed many days prefer, my own company.  So I find the clutter distracting and it gathers tons of dust which I am allergic to, etc.  I think I shall take this golden opportunity of the remodel to rethink each of my possessions and evaluate anew which ones are really serving me and which ones I’ve moved on from.  I am most grateful to the remodel for all but forcing me to face myself and in the process learn more about who I truly am.  The excavation of Daphne continues!

And So It Goes–More on the Remodel

Poosa and Chauncey enjoying the new floor.

Ok, I believe I left you, faithful readers, after the steel beam install and the utility trench digging!  Well, needless to say, lots has happened since then.  My flooring in the center portion of my home is now finished and so the floor lets us know that this is a two room home now with all the floor being scarlet Marmoleum except for my bedroom which is blue. 

Poosa checking out the new floor

And major electrical work has also been done getting ready for the moving of my electric meter and the installation of the generator circuit box.  One window over the washer/dryer was removed and the window from the old laundry room was put in instead since it is smaller and there needs to be another electric box for the generator installed so I needed more wall.  The gas line is in and gets inspected on Wednesday at which point the meter gets unlocked and then my furnace and hot water heater get swapped out for gas appliances (sounds so easy, but I know both are big jobs).  And hopefully before too long my gas cook top and my convection oven will be installed as well.

This is where all my utilities and the generator will be
located and I think that eventually I will fence it all.
The trench is gone, thankfully and the plants replanted!

Yesterday I worked very hard (and I’m very sore today from it, but still vertical!) to pack up most of my living room so it could head off to storage.  We now have two storage units for this project and I think most of my stuff is off in storage, including but not limited to the cat walks, cat furniture (not all, obviously, or my cats would be seriously upset), my new stuff such as the aforementioned gas cook top and convection oven, door trims, most of my fabric, one sewing machine and table, my loom, boxes of books and dvd’s, etc. etc.  While I was doing that, there were guys putting down bark over the backfilled trench and today all the plants which had to be uprooted for the trench got replanted, so the outside is looking much better overall.

All the stuff heading to storage (and there was even more!)
Swapping of windows.  The plastic one will become a
picture window.

And now I’m discovering the joy of less!  It has been interesting packing stuff up as I’m realizing that things which were really important to me are not necessarily still important.   This remodel gives me a chance to rethink things and as I think I have mentioned previously, it is a wonderful metaphor for the excavation of me and discovering who I really am.  I suppose this healing work could have been done without 2 years of major remodeling, but I really think I have learned a lot on many different levels thanks to the remodel.  And the current knowledge about myself helps me to know that this emptier look (for me anyway) is definitely nice!  So when the stuff comes back, I shall be determined to maintain the same uncluttered look, even if some of the stuff has to go!  I think the spaciousness is fantastic!  And of course, that is the entire point to removing walls and opening up the room so that I can spread out and have an openness even with two sewing tables and a loom and lots of cat furniture, etc.

Finally got to move back into my kitchen!

Anyway, all this stuff had to go into storage for the next phase which is the demolition of the living room, removing the last of the cheap pink paneling and the cheap pink tiled ceiling (the only virtue in either of these is the color) so that the walls and ceiling may be properly done with sheet rock.  I will be “allowed” to stay in the living room during the demolition phase and have stuff just pulled away from walls for access, but in a couple weeks when the entire house except my bedroom get sheet rocked, the pets and I will be confined to my bedroom, so I’m prepping for that as well.

New living room look, which for me is really spacious!

There really is a lot less clutter–believe me!
Other side of the living room much cleared out.

This week will hopefully see a new furnace and hot water heater, more electrical work, and the framing out of my new living room picture window (which will be just like the one I already have but on the other side of the door).  The actual windows have been on order for forever, but got backordered so they won’t be in until Feb. 15th.  Nevertheless, we are moving forward in a determined and logical fashion.  That’s the update for now!

My Haiku Efforts

I have just started exploring Haiku, and I am enjoying it a lot!  I decided to try to write some of my own, and so these are my first efforts.

Haiku 1
left ear ache
breathing into pain
winter day born

Haiku 2

fir branches limp
hanging in white spaces
snowflakes falling

Haiku 3
bending firs
in my shower standing

Haiku 4
cat sleeping

Haiku 5
fir trees drooping

Haiku 6
white crunchy
standing in the shower
hot steam

Buddha Graphic Novel by Osamu Tezuka

I am reading the graphic novel series Buddha by Osamu Tezuka and in the fourth volume Buddha says, “Like trees, grass, hills, and streams, humans exist, as part of nature, so there is some purpose for which we live…tied to all that is. You, too, play a crucial part in that web.” He goes on to say “If you did not exist, something in the world would go awry” (359). This realization by Buddha is so important that he repeats it again (362), and then he reaches enlightenment.

I have often asked myself what the purpose to life is, and I think this is probably one of the better answers. I have no idea what crucial part I play in the web of life or what would go awry if I weren’t here, but I think it is good to trust that each of us does have a purpose in life, that if we did not exist the world would go awry. Buddha goes on to accept a deer as his first disciple, and this I think is important as well. All of life is sacred and humans are no better nor any worse than any other species or life form. As humans we have no more right to the bounty of Mother Earth than any other creatures and it is long past the time when we need to realize this and work at living in harmony with all of life. We do have the capacity to cause greater harm than probably any other species, so with that capacity comes the responsibility to act with greater love. Such are my thoughts anyway.

Remodel Update Continued

Steel Beam Installation

It has been awhile since I’ve done a remodel update and certainly the last week was very busy and a bit over the top so I just worked at trying to stay focused and keeping me and my pets safe.  Monday I got ready for the steel beam installation by moving everything from the center of my living room back into the area by the washer-dryer.  Then on Tuesday the pets and I were banished to my bedroom so I took my recliner and a lamp back there, along with dog and cat food bowls, dog water bowl (the cats prefer the dripping bathroom faucet), and a litter box and we hunkered down to a day of reading and petting.  It did get a bit confining, but I read lots of books which was great.

Finished Beam!

This is the beam and post which were original.

Steel Beam Installation(the original beam and post are still
in place.  The beam always will be but the post goes!

End of Tuesday!  Nearly done!

By the end of Tuesday the steel beams were welded and in place, and then on Wednesday they were secured with enormous bolts and then the final post came out.  The beam was then encased in wood so it can be sheetrocked down the road.  The whole space is open and airy as I hoped it would be.  The beam installation wasn’t completed until Thursday morning, but I did manage to get my refrigerator moved into the living room on Wednesday night and also do several loads of laundry (in case my washer/dryer were disconnected during the flooring phase) so I had less to move back on Thursday when I have a busy day tutoring first at Student Link (Vashon’s alternative high school)  in the morning and then at the library at Study Zone in the afternoon.  But I was successful, if exhausted, so that by Thursday evening the living room was back, and then some, because the center of the house, including the kitchen area, had to be emptied out for the flooring project which started on Friday morning! 

And now for flooring!  Poosa is napping on the boards
which are not fastened and rattle nicely but are smoother
than what’s underneath.

Turns out on Friday, for whatever reason the flooring gods decided, all that happened was the removal of the old flooring and a bit of patching where walls had been.  It was just a 1/2 day’s work, but that suited me fine.  The flooring guys put down some of the boards which are going to be used for underlayment, to give me and the pets something safer to walk on, but the boards aren’t fastened so they make a lovely noise when we walk on them and Poosa can really get them bouncing when she runs across them!  I was able to roll my kitchen island back in for the weekend, and then tomorrow they will be back to lay the underlayment, including some kind of leveling concrete which dries “really fast” (I hope as it will have pet paw prints otherwise!), and maybe start putting down the scarlet marmoleum, but the flooring won’t actually be finished until Tuesday.

Chauncey (left) and Poosa (right) are checking out the
utility trench which will bring gas and electric to the house.
Lots of fun to dig!
Chauncey and Poosa exploring during the guys lunch.

And if that wasn’t enough for one week, outside I had lots of digging.  There are two projects going on there–first the drainage off my roof and into my downspouts was going nowhere, so that all had to be dug up and new drain lines put in.  Then we received word that the gas and electric companies are finally ready to bring my utility lines in.  I don’t currently have gas and my electric is above ground.  As long as we had to dig a trench for the gas, I decided to bury the electric as well.  So starting on Thursday I’ve had 5-7 guys in my front yard digging frantically.  They have overall done a very nice job, if ripping through my gorgeous yard can be considered nice, and they have kept the trenches covered so that I don’t have dogs falling in, but it has been a lot, especially since they are in full view of my bedroom/bathroom area.  I’ve had to be up, showered, and dressed much earlier than I like, and the last straw was the fact that the digging crew wanted to work on Saturday!  But blessedly, no one is coming today for anything and I slept in until 10:30AM which was definitely needed!  I did have to get up briefly at 7 to let Poosa out, and then again at 8 for Chauncey (of course they couldn’t go together!), but went back to sleep both times.  And now I get to have a day of peace and quiet at my own pace where I don’t have to talk to or deal with anyone!  That’s the update and there are lots more photos on my remodel page (use the link at the top of this page in the header region).  Enjoy!

Four Rules for Life

Angeles Arrien says that there are “Four Rules for Life:  Show up.  Pay attention. Tell the Truth.  Don’t be attached to results.”  I think these are excellent rules indeed, and I do strive to follow them.  The showing up part has always been very hard for me as I tend to get fearful, bolt and run, abandoning myself in the process, which of course doesn’t help me or anyone else.  My therapist says that showing up means being fully present and speaking one’s own truth from the heart without judgement or blame, which captures the concept of showing up nicely, I think.

Paying attention can also be tricky if I have already had my fears triggered, but barring that, I think I am usually fairly attentive, but of course fully paying attention would mean being very mindful and totally present in the moment, and that is a rarity for most of us, I suspect.  And telling the truth seems simple on the surface as I feel, as probably most do, that lying is wrong.  But I don’t always tell the truth when I say what I think others want to hear or when I abandon my own needs by not speaking up for them or letting others know what my needs are.  There are many other ways not to tell the truth which are more subtle, such as keeping quiet because one doesn’t want to hurt someone else’s feelings.  I know a number of folks who have done this with me, not telling me their truth for fear of hurting me, and I guess that is meant kindly, at least I mean it so when I do it, but the truth will out and usually then is much more painful.

Finally, for me the fourth rule–don’t be attached to the results–is the hardest to keep.  I figure that if I do this, then that will happen, in a cause and effect sort of way, and so my actions are frequently done with a result in mind.  But in fact, most of the time there isn’t such a thing as cause and effect because other people are involved.  I need to remember that I am the only one I am in control of (and I am not always in control of me!), and so hopefully I can control what I do, but I have absolutely no control over how others will perceive what I do or react to what I do, so it is really important just to speak my own truth, walk my own path, from my heart without judgment or blame, and then not be attached to the idea that such actions will “do” anything outside of me.  Working on me is all I can do, all I need to do, and more than enough for anyone!

Random Thoughts on the Nature of Life

As I was reading through the blogs I follow on Google Reader, I was struck by many random thoughts.  First, there was a blog post from a Zen practitioner who really found fault with books which are meant to be beginner’s guides to Zen.  I am really unfamiliar with the depths of Zen, and I certainly wouldn’t begin to fault his arguments, but one thing he said did strike a chord and I’m not going to quote it because I’m not sure I really comprehended the depths of his argument, but it got me thinking along certain lines, and I think that is good in its own right.  So I’m just taking something out of context which jumpstarted my brain in a different direction.

Apparently one of these beginner guides talked about dogs and how they are content without worrying as long as they get their basic needs met and find love and affection.  As a real animal lover, not to mention a person who worries a lot, I have realized more and more (thanks to the help of my wonderful therapist), that in fact animals have a great deal to teach us if only we will listen!  I’m not sure if it is Zen that they are teaching, as I have no knowledge on that topic, but from what I’ve been able to glimpse of the concept of Mindfulness, I think our animal companions have a great deal to teach us about staying fully present in the moment.

I was lying in bed this morning, debating the wisdom of getting up, with both Thackeray and Laoise on top of me for their morning scratching and loving ritual, when Thackeray started chattering in the way only cats can (or at least I’ve only heard cats making this sound) as he watched a flock of birds darting from tree to tree in the front yard.  And thanks to his alert attention, I also got glimpses of these lovely birds.  Thackeray was perfectly present and enjoying the moment.  Poosa, one of my Cocker Spaniels, does the same, charting her course around the yard, not even thinking about the cold, but going from one wonderful scent to another, or chasing after a squirrel or bird (which she could thankfully never catch).  Chauncey, my other Cocker Spaniel, spends much of his time now at the advanced age of 12+ sleeping in the most comfortable spot he can find, which now seems to be on top of my sewing table on a purple yoga cushion I’ve given over to the dogs, so he can also watch out the front window, ever ready to challenge anyone who arrives, especially if they are UPS or FedEx.  Sasha, bless her heart, is still exploring all the new areas uncovered by my remodel, and every time I walk within say 15 feet of her, she feels very comfortable making her needs known, getting some loving, having me dish a bit more of her special wet cat food, just soaking up the love.  And Laoise is ever vigilant for that wet cat food, if Sasha deigns to leave any behind, although Laoise is learning the drill that Sasha gets first dibs.

None of these fine friends stays awake at night wondering how to live, or how to justify their existence, or what the meaning of life is.  They are simply too busy living life to the fullest to worry about what the meaning is.  They are ever present in each and every moment of the day and they live life absolutely and completely right up to their last breath.  I could hardly wish for finer examples of what it means to live than that provided by my wonderful animal companions.  While I do not make New Year’s Resolutions as such, at the start of this year, I think I can commit to trying to follow their example in each and every moment of my life, to treasure each moment and to stay fully present.