(Un)Lucky 13?


I was waiting for the plumber yesterday morning, trying to figure out when we last replaced our toilet, and I realized, we took possession of our house 13 years ago today. We had planned to stay until Big Guy graduated from high school, but he graduated (and moved out) a few years ago. Great! 13 years and 3 toilets later, and we still have an irritable system!

It’s been almost a year since we went house hunting, and it certainly was not from any lack of desire to trade my hovel “castle” for a nicer hovel “castle”. It’s because I had my heart broken by what promised to be my perfect century home.

From the front, it looked like an English cottage. It boasted 4 bedrooms, a dining room, an eat-in kitchen, a family room and a large bonus room. It had a fenced side and back yard with a large garden shed. Best of all, the front of the house faced our friends’ yard, not that I want to live like Lucy & Ethel, but maybe we could help each other out with kids in an emergency or borrow a cup of sugar.

The smell of roses was in the air as I stepped up to the front door. It had a large dining room to the left with high ceilings. I could put my harvest table and my antique bookshelves in there with room to spare. To the right, a large bedroom with a small closet (this could be my new room). So far, so good…but what is that smell?

We headed down the hall to a dimly lit kitchen. It was dimly lit because it hadn’t been renovated since the early ‘80s (which meant it was still an upgrade for me)! I walked around the island and nudged the open cupboard door with my toe. The door fell off. I was admiring the mud room and the spacious side yard with a broken, upside-down hot tub, when Hubby noticed something strange. Ok, the makeshift laundry and pantry rooms were strange, but it was the floor that caught his attention. Yup! Slants downhill. He lost his quarter. On the plus side, though, this washer didn’t require quarters like the last house. Seriously, what is that smell?

The large family room, to be polite, had “rustic charm”, a fireplace and lots of blackened brick. And the bonus room had glass walls and green felt carpet. Hubby noticed there was no heat source. Bonus: you can only use this room 3 seasons of the year. It would appear that the fireplace was the only source of heat for the entire first floor. Hubby’s heart was growing cold.

The bedrooms were tiny with slanted ceilings and no closets. Well… we did say we need to simplify. I don’t remember if there was a bathroom…I was still distracted by that smell…

Hubby investigated the crawlspace next; I declined to descend the steep steps into the “pit”. Apparently the smell originated there in the form of a wet sludgy puddle at the bottom…and up until then, it had been a dry season.

It was a quiet drive home. I watched the sun setting over the corn fields and farmhouses, choking back tears. For a time, all efforts to de-clutter stalled. The weeds ran wild, along with the dust bunnies…

I am still adjusting to the fact that I will probably die in this house. After 13 years in this house, the plumbing still doesn’t work properly. But…I finally got the new blinds I have coveted all this time…so if I’m going to die in this house, at least I can do it privately.

Urban Spiders


Black squirrel with green apple  It’s that time of year again, when the critters are making their presence felt. I don’t mind the cheeky squirrels leaving half-eaten apples on my porch railing and I tolerate the blue jays berating the neighbour’s cat…but I hate the spiders leaving copious strings of web between the wall of the carport and my car…right at eye level…every morning.

  Hubby warned me that there’s a “big one” in the carport (his words) over by the compost bin, so I have studiously avoided that entire side of the building. As far as I’m concerned, any arachnid larger than the head of a pin is a “big one”.

A couple of years ago I kept spraying a monstrous one with the “can of death”, but the spider only fell down and curled up for a good laugh. He was back at it the very next day! In my defence, it kept spreading silvery strings across the back door. It even laid in wait once so that when I opened the back door, it swung in too and bounced off my face. I instinctively screamed like a banshee. Thankfully, it was swinging out again so it didn’t end up in my mouth. If it had, I’d still be in a home for the bewildered knitting tea cozies!

I have a greater reason to worry this Fall, as the creepy things and furry critters seek out a warm abode for the winter. According to Australian researchers, cities are apparently heavenly for spiders. In a nutshell, cities have less wildlife (thank the danger, noise, pollution, and limited habitat) so with fewer enemies, lots of nooks and crannies, and lots of snacks (flies do love extra garbage), city dwellers are sharing space with more eight-legged guests than our country cousins! And those warm, hard surfaces, help provide cozy nurseries for their offspring. So now I can scratch “fewer spiders” off my pro list for city living…

This creepy guy lives in my Mom's garden!

This little guy lives in my Mom’s garden!

This morning my clothesline shimmered with silver threads…so did the giant circular web decorating my back porch (the kind copied and fabricated in glow-in-the-dark rubber as Halloween decorations). Maybe my former enemy had kids and now they are “sharing the love”…

…and what the heck is living here??

spider web hole

References:

http://www.theweathernetwork.com/news/articles/urban-life-is-making-spiders-bigger-more-numerous/34743/

http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0105480

Capture Your 365 (September 9-15)


Some clichés beg to be played out. Last night after worship team practice, Corey Hart’s “I Wear My Sunglasses at Night” came on the radio, and since I was still keyed up, I cranked it and slapped on my own sunglasses! Guess how Hubby & I chose “our song”, Lady in Red?

Here’s the next installment for the Capture Your 365 project. It’s not that I’m a fantastic photographer, but rather that I am a stubborn person and I want to see this through to the end. Click on the photos to see the quotes. Happy Wednesday!

A Grain of Rice


Our church building hosts two church congregations – an English congregation and a Chinese congregation. While we are interconnected, I have little contact with our Chinese congregation. It’s a small congregation, but the impact they’ve had on me since I started working in the church office, has been BIG!

I have seen this little congregation repeatedly giving generously, cheerfully, and abundantly, with whatever they have, as an offering to others and as an offering to God.

Every Sunday morning, a small group of elderly Chinese congregants sit patiently by the back doors, quietly chatted and cheerfully greeting the English congregants as we head home from our service. They are waiting for a few volunteers to drive them home; the drivers have to make more than one trip.

Every week, a small handful of Chinese members meet on Thursday mornings for devotions and a potluck. Every week, someone brings me a small plate of food from their meagre offerings, for my lunch. Usually there is a hardboiled egg, some chicken, some steamed rice, and a slice of the softest pound cake with walnuts. Occasionally there are items that I can’t identify…but I eat every bite with thanksgiving. If they aren’t having their usual meeting, they remember to call the day before so I am prepared and I won’t go hungry.

The English congregation has hosted a few mid-week potlucks too. Usually these gatherings are well-attended and the food is plentiful…but I’ve never been offered a bite. I don’t share that as a criticism but to make a point. This little congregation has reminded me of three important things:

  • Be aware of those serving around you, especially those who are work quietly in the background. It could be the lady behind the counter at the coffee shop, a cab driver, or a crossing guard.
  • Even the smallest gestures can make a lasting impression. Smiles are always free.
  • No matter how much or how little you have, there is more than enough to share. Don’t be afraid to make an offering, even one as small as… a grain of rice.

***

Two years ago, I had a similar reminder from a homeless person I never met. You can read about it in Pocket Change.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Endurance


Endurance, tolerance, forbearance, stoicism, steadfastness. We weather the elements, tolerate discomfort, and persevere through hardship.  We face situations and challenges that require us to dig deeply for the stamina and the grace to continue, often beyond what we believe we can bear. We keep growing, and in growing, develop character.

“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.” - Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree

“To dwellers in a wood, almost every species of tree has its voice as well as its feature.” – Thomas Hardy, Under the Greenwood Tree

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” - William Barclay

“Endurance is not just the ability to bear a hard thing, but to turn it into glory.” – William Barclay

For more interpretations on Endurance, please click here.

The Return


Let’s call her Bambi because she had large brown eyes and the vacant look of a newborn innocent. She was standing behind the counter with a big dopey grin on her face when I walked in with my blue plastic bag. I had purchased three pairs of pants for Little Guy on Monday, since he needed pants for gym (no jeans allowed) and had spent time that morning trying to add elastic to the only pair of pants Little Guy owned, that weren’t 2” too short. One pair didn’t fit so I was returning them to the children’s clothing store.

Bambi greeted me with a friendly, high-pitched “hello”. I told her I wanted to return some pants and I handed her the receipt. She pulled the pants out of the bag, and then her smile turned chilly. “Oh” she said, “I can’t give you a refund. There’s no tag on these pants.” I calmly explained that when I purchased the pants, it didn’t have a tag so the salesgirl scanned another pair of pants.

She looked at the pants, and looked at me with a blank look. “Oh” she said, “I can’t give you a refund…but I can exchange these for another size”. So I calmly explained again that it didn’t have a tag when I bought it…” I paused. She tilted her head to the side, then looked at the receipt again. “But the receipt has a number on it so the pants had a tag…and I can’t give you a refund without a tag”. “Yes,” I explained, taking a deep breath, “it has a number because the salesgirl scanned a different pair of pants because this pair (pointing to the pair on the counter) didn’t have a tag”. There was a long pause and I was certain I could smell smoke…“Oh! Well, I can’t give you a refund because there’s no tag”.

Sensing that this conversation could (and would likely) go around forever, and feeling the gray hair starting to sprout around my temples, I asked if I could get store credit instead. Our conversation cycled around the missing tag once more, before I noticed the yellow sign attached to her cash register. The sign said “As of August 1, all refunds require the original receipt”. There was no mention of a tag. I pointed it out to her, slowly and carefully annunciating my words…

Apparently I stuttered…because Bambi felt the need to point out that I was still missing the tag…By now, her voice and her face were dripping disdain. Meanwhile, I had spent the day preparing myself for a meeting with the vice-principal at the school, and while the meeting went surprisingly well, my nerves must still have been a little raw. I was (finally?) losing patience.

As my right eyelid started to twitch, and feeling the need to clarify, I asked, “So what you’re saying is, I am stuck with a pair of pants that don’t fit, even though it’s been 3 days, they’ve never been worn, and I have the original receipt… because someone in your store forgot to tag them”? I must have spooked Bambi because she shyly answered “yes” like she was guessing the answer to the question. Then she flashed me a nervous grin.

I was about to ask if there was someone else I could talk to when she decided maybe she should ask someone else…Another sales associate looked at the receipt as I explained about the missing tag and the other sales associate scanning another tag… “Oh,” she said, “I remember you! Give her the refund.”

Bambie reluctantly gave me the refund, and with a sour face, wished me a great day! She was almost as irritating as the guy at the passport office who told me he couldn’t process my application because my government-issued birth certificate, was the wrong “version”…

“That’s no reason to cry. One cries because one is sad. For example, I cry because others are stupid, and that makes me sad.” Sheldon Cooper, The Big Bang Theory (2013/14)

**

This week’s writing challenge, That’s Absurd, hardly seemed like a challenge: “write a fictional piece that incorporates the everyday life we’re familiar with — work, family, errands — and add a surprise twist..or We all know that sometimes life itself is a bit nonsensical. Tell us a story when you were going about your own business and something completely ridiculous or inexplicable happened.” That’s pretty much every day. I have quested for snacks, fought with diabolical screws, danced to clean up the patio, turned food into crime scene photos, and survived assassination attempts. I enjoy writing about the Opera of the Everyday!

Capture Your 365 (September 1-8)


We’re halfway through September and I’m running behind on my photo challenge – 3.5 months to go until the end! I’m still trying to get organized. The Ladies program I help run started yesterday. And today, I’m getting ready to do battle at the school. I’ve said it once and I’m saying it again…Wake me up when September ends! Click on the photos to see the challenge prompt and the quotes.

It’s almost Friday!!