Monthly Archives: March, 2011

Sunday March 26, 2011

Great Room–finally got some of my paintings hung!

I seem to be getting into a pattern of doing weekly updates on the remodel progress in my home and my life in general, and doing the updates on Sunday.  I guess that makes sense as it takes me awhile to unwind from the activities of the previous week.  And again, the update is mostly photos.

Great Room

Anyway, the most important thing in my mind is the update on Sasha.  She didn’t eat much at all for the week after her chemo and as a result she lost 1/2 lb.  Fortunately she had some wiggle room on her weight, but it is a concern nonetheless and I have to say that my mood today, Sunday, was greatly improved when I saw her eat this morning and even better, not lose what she ate shortly thereafter.  So I’m hoping we are on the mend after her first chemo treatment, and the oncologist has already said that the next dose will be smaller so that hopefully she won’t have another crummy week.

Great Room with my quilting machines and loom
back from storage as well as some fabric.

Meanwhile, I did discover that my wonderful vet, Dr. Nell Coffman at Fair Isle Animal Clinic, is actually happy to make house calls, and so that is what we are definitely doing in the future for all the pets.  She and Dana came out on Friday to check Sasha and they ended up also treating Thackeray who developed horrible conjunctivitis in his right eye just hours before their arrival.  Thackeray gets major points for timing.  Sasha’s blood work is apparently very good after her first chemo and that is a hopeful sign.  And I’m now giving medications to three pets, Chauncey, Thackeray, and of course Sasha.  I suspect that Laoise is eating most of the cat stuff mixed into the food which is really intended for Sasha and Thackeray, but there it is.

Great Room

As far as the rest on the construction front, it has been more of the same–more painting, more sheetrock patching (fortunately that is now done and primed!), more electrical, more plumbing, more carpentry, and so it goes.  My life in storage is now returning.  I had hopes of doing some quilting this weekend, but then realized my iron and ironing board are still in storage.  But it will happen soon.  I’m really hoping that my life returns out of storage this week before Leigh, my fabulous contractor, takes a 2 week break to visit her mother in Florida.  That way I’d have two weeks to sort things and figure where things will all go, and if things don’t fit, decide how much I want them and send them on their way.

Closet and 1/2 bath end of Great Room–I’m really glad
I decided on the doors matching the closet interior colors.
Great Room from closet end of it

Great Room with the electrical being enclosed more

I love my windows!

Whether I’m quilting, weaving, or working at my desk,
I’ll have wonderful views of my yard!

And so that has been our week here on Vashon.  The upcoming week appears to be more of the same, and I’m very happy with the way things are all coming together.  Stay tuned for more updates as we progress through the rebuilding of our home.

Looking back toward the kitchen area where one day
I will have cupboards, a pantry and a convection oven!

Belonging or Why Do I Write

The need to belong is part of the human genome.  We all have a need to feel that we belong.  I’ve been trying to understand this lately as the issue of belonging has been a major part of my life, or should I say not belonging.  First of all, I am the odd duck, the one who never will fit into anyone’s bell curve on any issue.  I know that and I’m understanding it more and more, and I know also that that is ok.  It is who I am and that’s just fine, or so I’m told.  

If I haven’t shared it before, I lost my mother in a fire when I was not quite 5 years old.  I actually watched the house burn and saw my father trying to get inside to rescue her.  It was, of course, absolutely horrific.  It was made more horrible by the fact that it happened nearly 60 years ago when only crazy people went to therapists.  My father never recovered from the accident, but he also never acknowledged, I suspect even to himself, that he hadn’t recovered.  And absolutely nothing was done for either me or my younger sister.  We were just told not to discuss it.  It was only years later that I realized I felt I was responsible for the accident because I hadn’t been able to keep my younger sister quiet enough when my mother was ill so my father had taken us to the beach and we came home to the fire.  

That start to my life obviously changed our family forever.  Add to that, that I am the ugly duckling, a late bloomer, and someone who has always seen the world through different lenses and it is easy to see (well now with 20-20 hindsight) how I’ve gotten where I now am.  I tried to fix things for my father, who was a deeply wounded perfectionist.  I was the good little girl who always tried to do what I was supposed to and tried to make his life easier.  He did the best he could, but he left some major scarring, as I suppose all parents do one way or another.  But since I was so different, I never fit his idea of what a daughter should be.  I was always told I was the stupid one, the clumsy one, the ugly one, the one with not a single artistic bone in her body, etc.  And the constant criticism left me seeking my merit in others, seeking approval, wanting desperately to belong.

So most of my life was spent attempting to conform in some way to my family and then society’s expectations and standards.  I did my level best to try to be what everyone else wanted.  Thankfully, I was dismally unsuccessful at it all the way around.  I was married, to the wrong guy, had two beautiful children, joined the PTA, etc., etc.  In fact, it was all, except for the two beautiful children who are thankfully a major except, a lie.  I didn’t even figure out that I’m gay until I was 52!  And again, now, I realize that I’m actually lucky that it was such a dismal failure or else I might never have started on the path I now am traveling, searching, excavating, trying to find the real me.

I had to hit rock bottom, losing everything that mattered to me, before I saw that my father was wrong.  Pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps, acting tough, pushing through, dealing with life at outrageous speeds and keeping frantically busy, all that simply doesn’t work.  And so now, alone except for my wonderful four footed companions, I am trying to find the real me and trying to learn that my way of looking at the world is different, yes, but wonderful, nonetheless.  I have a fantastic therapist who is helping me a lot, but the work is still very difficult and at times overwhelming, no matter how necessary.

As I do this healing work internally, I am also completely rebuilding my home.  As I discover who I am and what I want to do, I am changing my home to reflect that.  My home is now a two room home with only one door (on the 1/2 bath) with wide open spaces and bright colors.  I have yet to have someone walk into my yard and home who doesn’t smile, and smile in a good way.  They might say they would never want their home purple with brightly painted rooms, and maybe they wouldn’t, but that doesn’t mean that my way is wrong or defective or whatever.  It is after all, my home, and I’m the only one who lives here, so I can now do it my way and that way is fine. 

Still, the issue of belonging (remember that is supposed to be the topic here!) arises.  I am alone.  I don’t fit anyone’s bell curve.  Many people find me an embarrassment, including my family who pretty much ignore or outright refuse contact.  On my good days (and yes, I am by nature a melancholic person who battles to keep from sliding into depression–part of the artistic temperament I’m told) I realize that doesn’t matter.  I am who I am and people can either like it or not, that is their choice.  However, it can also be incredibly lonely.

I’m working at finding kindred spirits and the closest I’m coming is in the artistic world, specifically that of poets, and haiku poets at that.  I notice as I write my daily haiku following the prompt put out by NaHaiWriMo that my spin on the prompt is frequently completely different from the traditional or even other not so traditional responses.  And truly, I do love my haiku and I’m learning more and more about the art.  But at times, I wonder if my haiku would be more accepted if I were different.  Then I realize I’m falling back into the same old trap–trying to please others so that I might feel as if I belong.

Even with my blog, I’m trying to write what I want, but also I have to admit, I write posts based on which of my previous posts garnered comments.  That is again, falling into the trap of wanting to belong so desperately that I would do anything to get an outside “hug” so to speak, when it is my interior hugs I need to have.  Developing compassion for myself, nurturing that small little girl inside me who never had a childhood (I wrote a haiku about that and in fact am planning a haiku memoir novella), helping her to feel safe, these are my tasks on my path now.  And I’m hoping that if I can heal and develop my inner self and my inner strength, that true belonging will eventually happen.  It isn’t wrong to want to belong as that is part of the make-up of the human species, but I cannot abandon myself simply for a false sense of belonging.  Been there, done that, for over 60 years.  Now, at 65, I have to hope that I can still manage to sort this out.

Such are my thoughts on belonging, and I shall continue on this blog to post both personal and philosophical musings like this as well as remodel updates, which I’ll also be doing today.  Thanks for reading and I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments.

Sunday March 20, 2011 Update

Chauncey and Sasha
Ok, this entry is going to be photo heavy as I already wrote another blog entry today, but I did want to get the week’s summary up for those following my remodel as well as Sasha’s health.

Sasha thinks that my new file drawer, which Leigh made awhile ago before the major remodeling but which we just got to see for the first time on Saturday, is a wonderful spot!  I’m just thrilled that she feels well enough after her first chemo to be exploring.

Sasha snagged the best spot in the house!

Sasha had her first chemo treatment on Friday and while it was exhausting for us both (we were at the vet’s for over 6 hours and I was with her except during the two treatments, one of about 20 minutes and one of about 15 minutes), she seems to be doing very well indeed.  She explored the new Great Room and then managed to snag the dog bed on Poosa’s couch for a well deserved nap in the sun!

New Great Room!

We got to move back into the Great Room on Wednesday and we are now fully functional, even if there are a few extension cords running around.  Lots more trim, electrical, some plumbing, and cabinet, range hood, convection oven, refrigerator and freezer installation still to happen, but we are very happy to be up and running. 

Lights are hung and we’ve moved in!

 Got these ceiling lights online, and I can’t believe how perfect they are–the color of the floor tying everything together beautifully, or so we think.

Most of my stuff and much of the cat furniture is still in storage.

New freezer and fridge which hopefully will be operational
soon.  The doors are off at the painter’s.  All three skylights
(2 new and one replaced) are visible here and add a ton of light.


Much of our lives are still in storage, so the empty spaces won’t last, but we don’t need any of it right now, although I’m sure the cats will be thrilled when some of their favorite furniture returns, and I am behind on my quilting, but we are content now with functional dsl, lovely blu ray TV, and minimal kitchen capabilities.

The new freezer (shorter of the two) and refrigerator are wonderful and I think they will be made functional in the next few days even if their final installation has to wait until the doors and sides come from the painter.  I can’t wait!

Closet, cat feeding/litter box station, 1/2 bath, and laundry

Still need closet and bathroom doors, but we have functionality!  I am glad to have my 1/2 bath back again (it was the first thing to go last November!), and I’m also glad that I don’t have to have litter boxes in my bedroom anymore!

I just love all my windows!

This room just seems so incredible to me!  I knew I wanted walls gone, but I honestly had no idea what the finished product would be like.  And I’m still not sure just how we will arrange the space when our lives come back from storage, but it will be wonderful, of that I am convinced!


I have been thinking a lot about fear lately as it is something which really governs my life and always has.  I am told by my therapist among others that our culture is dominated by both fear and perfectionism which of course does set us all up for failure.  She went on to say that for many fear drives them to anger and defensiveness, and certainly I have been guilty of that.  But the reality is that when someone lashes out in anger the reaction is all about them, not about the person they are lashing out at.  That person may inadvertently been either a trigger or a hard mirror for the fearful angry person.  Nevertheless, it is about the angry person.  

This, of course, does not make it any easier to be on the receiving end of someone’s defensiveness or anger.  And knowing how much it hurts means that when I do lash out I then feel even worse, realizing I’ve caused that kind of pain for someone else.  And that is one reason why especially in the last 10 years or so, I’ve worked really hard at not snapping out sarcastic or cutting remarks, etc. just because I am in pain.

Of course, not everyone reacts to fear with anger.  My primary way to handle fear is to retreat and try to become invisible.  This was a survival mechanism I learned as a very young child and it has stayed with me as my first and foremost line of defense.  It is one major reason why I don’t leave my island and in fact don’t really like leaving my home.

Recently I read a great book, The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elizabeth Tova Bailey, and I learned a ton of wonderful things about the snail which I never even imagined even though it is one of my favorite creatures and I’m thrilled to have so many of them living happily in my ponds.  I had no idea for instance, that one of their favorite foods is the mushroom, and the author fed hers portobello mushrooms which are my favorite!  One reason snails have been around longer than humans or indeed many other species is that they have such powerful survival skills, and retreating into their shells, feigning invisibility, is one of those mechanisms.

While this technique works well for the snail, it has not in the end served me well.  It is why the wounded little girl part of me, the little five year old girl who watched her mother burn to death, who felt responsible because she hadn’t been able to keep her younger sister quiet so we weren’t at home when it happened so my father couldn’t save her, and who therefore tried to comfort or heal her father, that little girl is still living in fear.  Every time I retreat, I abandon her and then her fear becomes even stronger.

I have had problems with relationships with others for most of my life because of my fears.  I’m afraid I will do or say the wrong thing and then someone will lash out at me.  Of course, that happened a lot when I was a child, so the fears were real.  And even in my adult life I have been the victim a number of times because I’m different, way outside the bell curve on all levels.  I was run off the road in Arizona because I’m gay, for instance.  I was forced out of several neighborhoods because I’m gay and/or because I painted my home purple.  I have had neighbors blaming me for stuff which in my head I know wasn’t my doing, but again, my fears cause me to react so that I don’t even want to go out my door for fear I will come across them or someone else who will be upset with me.  I’m careful about asking questions, lest someone think I’m finding fault when in fact I am only looking for information or trying to understand.  I encourage my students to ask questions, but I understand why they don’t since they have frequently been ridiculed, bullied or made fun of for not understanding.  Again, these reactions are fear responses on the part of the persons doing the ridiculing, etc., but that doesn’t make it any easier to ask the question.  I’m able to help my students with this, but frequently I fail myself in similar situations.

However, gradually I am learning that there are safe places and overall, most people, at least here on my special island, actually value differences and diversity, so that I can go to my favorite stores, etc. and not run into unpleasantness, and that is helping.  I’m finding a lot of support for what I’m doing in the haiku community as well, and I really appreciate that.  I now have friends all around the world, kindred spirits, which feels wonderful.  And recently I’ve even started replying to my son’s tweets.  I’m not sure if that is something he wants or likes, but I realize I don’t have a lot to lose, and speaking my truth from my heart is a way to stay visible, stay true to that wounded little girl inside me.  I would do the same with my daughter if I had a way to.  

Life is really too short for all our petty differences and disagreements.  Life is too short for all my fears.  I don’t really care to be around as long as the snail has been, but I do have to be here for my wonderful four-footed companions, and so while I have that incentive I am going to try to help the wounded little girl in me feel a bit less fearful and a bit more confident about showing up, sticking my head out of my shell.  Maybe one day I’ll be brave enough to take a walk outside my home!  After all, there could be a portobello mushroom waiting for me!

The Sheetrock is Done!

Laoise looking out from her treehouse at her second exit

The main sheetrock installation was finished yesterday evening, and thank goodness for that!  It was a rough couple weeks, but it is definitely worth it!  It is a gorgeous pink (much like the color of this text) and just brightens everything up a lot.  I am definitely a “color” person and I need lots of bright colors which once again, I have.  The main room is pink, my bedroom is blue, the 1/2 bath is green, and then there are three closets soon to be purple, yellow, and orange, so I will have my rainbow once again!

Poosa is so happy to have her couch back where it belongs

I can’t actually move out into the main room until after the electrical gets hooked up, and my electrician can’t come until Wednesday.  I’m not sure how long it will take, but I know that both Gary, my electrician, and Daryl, my plumber, are working about 20 jobs at a time and they are doing their very best for both Leigh (my contractor) and me, so I’m working on patience.

Looking from the 1/2 bath toward the kitchen area

Today I mopped my floors.  It is the first time I’ve seen them or my kitchen counters in weeks, so it is as if they are brand new again!  I have actually had a quite glorious day all to myself and the solitude is magnificent!  I’ve been cleaning, writing, keeping up with new friends in Japan and sending my best thoughts their way, and just moving at my own pace.  I bathed Chauncey in the rain this morning.  He wasn’t at all convinced, but by the time I got to my own shower along about 2PM the rain had stopped.

Looking from the purple closet area out into the main room

My main room with the two new skylights (I now have 3)

I did move one piece of cat furniture into the main room so that Laoise would have another exit from her treehouse.  I also set the kitchen feeding station up again, but that shouldn’t be in anyone’s way.  My floors get finished and buffed up on Monday, so I can’t put anything significant in there, but the one piece of cat furniture will move easily back into my bedroom/studio while the floor is being done and the cat feeding station is on the kitchen counter.

Looking from Poosa’s couch toward the kitchen area

Anyway, it has been a long week, but we survived and I no longer have to dread the sheetrock!  There are still a number of patches to be done in my bedroom, but that will wait until after I am able to move back into the main room.  It will be more dust, but nothing like what we’ve been through the last two weeks so I’m not worrying about it.

Looking from the music area toward the front door

I’m not sure what will happen this week.  I think the 1/2 bath may be installed which would certainly be lovely.  The only door in the house (other than closets, that is) is that 1/2 bath and that will make things easier when there are so many people here.  Barb painted the room last Thursday and Leigh got most of the baseboards in, so we should be about ready for Daryl to set the toilet and sink.  And at least some electrical will happen this week also.  I believe Leigh has asked for the entertainment center and the phone lines to be first on the priorities so that I could at least spend my evenings in there.

Looking from my sink toward the 1/2 bath

And lots of fun stuff is in the future, whether this week or later on.  I will be getting my convection oven, my range hood, my new fridge and my small freezer, and kitchen cabinets including a pantry so once again I will have places to put things!  My new front door is at the painters as well.

My new lovely main room in my 2 room home

Laundry area and utility closet–still work to be done

Eventually my furniture which is in storage will be returning and I’ll be able to resume quilting.  I am currently “overdo” on 5 newborn/sibling quilts and there are 3 more due in late April, I believe, so I need to get on with those.  I also still have a long list of requests from Vashon Youth and Family Services and it will feel good to get back working on those.

1/2 bath and laundry area

So that is the update for this Saturday.  I hope all is going well for you.

Saturday Update–3/5/11

Sheet rock after the first day of mud

Another week with its ups and downs and here is an accounting with photos.  Sasha and Chauncey had a vet visit which had a major impact on us all, and probably was the single biggest contributor to my Thursday meltdown.  Just to update everyone who is following the ongoing saga, after Sasha was diagnosed with aggressive oral cancer on November 4, 2010, the decision was made just to do palliative care as she wasn’t expected to live more than a couple months.  But when she looked good three months later and when she was also reacting negatively to the steroid treatment, the decision about surgery was re-thought and a veterinarian oncologist surgeon came to the island and removed the large mass (pretty well intact he said) along with two lymph nodes which seemed OK, but were enlarged.  That was all done on February 16th and based on my talk with both the surgeon and Sasha’s regular vet, I held out great hopes for the biopsy results (as, it turns out did her vet).

Sheet rock with one coat of mud

Well, this past Wednesday I took Sasha (along with Chauncey) to see Dr. Nell and the biopsy results were not what either of us had hoped.  Both lymph nodes were cancerous and the large mass did not have completely clean edges.  So now the discussion is going on between Dr. Nell, the surgeon, and Colorado State about what if anything happens next.  The proposal on the table, as recommended by an oncologist at Colorado State who says this is what she would do if it were her cat, is to give Sasha a type of chemotherapy that would consist of 4 shots, spread out at 3 week intervals.  Dr. Nell is now doing more research on that to see what it would entail, if there would be a local oncologist willing to instruct Dr. Nell so she could do the treatment, how this would affect Sasha in her day to day health, and what the odds are for Sasha long term with and without the treatment.  Sasha needs to be fully recovered from the surgery before this could even be attempted, so we are now on hold in a data gathering mode.

Sasha’s incision is nearly invisible just 2 weeks!

Meanwhile, Chauncey’s allergies have flared up horribly so we are back on antibiotics, anti-itch meds, ear meds, and the weekly bathing, which we resumed today.  I am so glad that I don’t have anyone coming to do construction on Saturdays anymore (the first time that has been true in a long time), so that adding Chauncey’s bath into the Saturday morning routine does not necessitate my getting up earlier.  We have had a lovely day so far, getting up around 8, puttering around the house, writing and reading haiku, bathing Chauncey, doing my meditation and yoga, taking my own shower (along about noon!), getting laundry going, etc.  

Thackeray and Laoise pretending they aren’t ready to
pounce as soon as Sasha moves from the food bowl.

Anyway, back to the past week.  The sheet rock got mudded on Tuesday and Wednesday and that was fine for me, although the pets really don’t take well to confinement and Chauncey is especially needy at the moment, finding it necessary to be within inches of me at all times, and so when I go out to the kitchen to get something and he can’t come (because I will avoid stepping in mud splatters, but the pets won’t), he cries on the other side of the door which is heart-rendering.  Poosa fares better since she just jumps up on cat furniture so she can see  out of the lovely window Leigh cut in my door, but Chauncey hasn’t managed that so he can’t even see me.

Blue roofing is nearly done.

In any case, the mudding went fine.  Then on Wednesday afternoon, after I got home from the vet with the discouraging reports, I found a message from Leigh about how to count the sheet rock days and from the message it sounded as if the 10 days was 10 actual sheet rock working days, which meant at 2-3/week this would go on for nearly 5 weeks!  I freaked at that since I have already been living in this little 331 sq. ft. bedroom/studio for 5 weeks.  The sheet rockers also said that there would be two sandings, not one, as originally promised, and as all who have been through this know, it is the sanding which is the worst!  And on top of that I had to move a 5 gallon bucket of mudding water out to the garage since the mud guys obviously didn’t realize you can’t leave bodies of water around pets.  By Thursday I was in meltdown on every level and when Gary, my electrician, showed up to check on things, I fell apart.  He was nothing but kind and helped me to sort things out.  My stove top had had its knobs removed and it was covered with a piece of plywood.  Gary helped me find the knobs and then got them re-installed so I can use my stove top over the weekend.  Then Leigh called and promised she would nail down a firm schedule with the sheet rocking guys.  And Gary had a lighting catalog with pictures of cool red wire mounted lights for my track lighting that I just love and which solved that worry.

Daughter dragon weather vane

dsl in very short order.  Leigh called and the schedule for this coming week is to have a “light” sanding on Monday followed by the second coat of mud.  Then Wednesday will be the “real” sanding and priming of the sheet rock and Thursday or Friday will be the painting of the sheet rock!!  Well, that made me feel much better.  I only have to survive one more week of sheet rock stuff!  Everything else I can take in stride.  The floor, which was redone before all this but which has some goofs to be fixed and polishing to be done, will be taken care of a week from Monday and then I can move back into the rest of my home and get my stuff back out of storage and maybe, wonder of wonders, start quilting again!!

Mother dragon weather vane protecting us all!

So things are looking much, much better and many thanks to Leigh for getting a schedule we could all live with!  Gary also got my generator hooked up with the current circuits (most of my circuits have been run, but not connected because of the sheet rocking) set up for automatic switching if my power goes out.  Last Wednesday we had a fierce wind storm where I had branches flying horizontally past my windows–both scary and exciting–and part of the island did lose power, so I am glad that I am now fully automated.  And yesterday my roofers (remember that project?  It is nearly but not quite done) very kindly put my dragon weather vanes back up on my garage and home, so I feel well protected by them, as well as by all the folks who are truly doing a wonderful job of looking after this old lady, this frazzled homeowner, this worried mother.  I appreciate it all more than I can say.  So that has been the week on this wonderful island.  I hope your week has been calmer and that all of us will have a great week ahead.