Life is DIY

Mr J grave and home 09Ap19

Wild violets atop the grave of our rescue cat -Mr. J. [ Mr. J. L.B. Manekoni ] – outside our second floor bedroom windows.

The number of our Do It Yourself (DIY) projects marches on endlessly.   Before one is completed, we’ve created at least two more.  Always in process; always stretching toward the end, the product.

Life is also a process.  It is much like our RiverRoom projects, without professional  layouts or blueprints.  Our sketches and plans altered, with additions and deletions, as we work the process to the end.

The visible end product of life is death.

Daily I am confronted with the garb of death and its hand-me-downs.  With my older sister death in December, I am now working on two estates – hers and her husband – processing the tatters of both their lives.  Their lives ended but the conversations go on…  through their mail which brings unwanted magazines, pleas from various fear-mongers for their continuing contributions, or urgent notification to purchase life insurance before it is too late. Phone conversations vary between legal consultations with a trusted, patient lawyer to vexing reiterations of details with an only-on-out-put realtor.

Other hangers in this wardrobe of death:

A dear sister-friend with husband and mother both in Hospice care.

The shrinkage of the number of remaining high school classmates.

My birthday last month, with the grinding down of energy and agility.

Finalizing grave markers for my parents whose deaths were years ago.

And, then our best cat dies.

All of us are processing our way to the end.  Bucket Lists have become a way of pushing us to give attention to our goals, to leaving a legacy,  and to end earthly life well.  But, to me, a Bucket List feels like a glass-half-empty focus on the imminent doom of death.  Delightedly, I found a kindred spirit in Leana Delle.  Her TEDx talk, “Don’t Live Each Day As If It Were Your Last,” has reminded me of the “gift of future days.”  Her advice is to “live each day as if it is your first – full of wonder and appreciation while discovering a genuine sense of joy.”

Life is DIY.
Accept the past, live in the present, and design for the future.

Ponderables:  “For life and death are one, even as the river and the sea are one.”                                                                                                              – Kahlil Gibran


Final Thoughts for the Close of This Year: 1 of a few…

Bathroom wall partly mudded

The wall around the sink in the downstairs bathroom.

We have a routine for papering.  We decide where to start laying the strips, measure the length, snap a chalk line and papering begins.  While Mike is expertly smoothing on the wet paper, after I check for the pattern repeat, I measure and cut the next strip before dousing it in the water trough.  By this time, he is back at the top of the ladder and ready to accept the booked paper.  We repeat the process until the walls are covered.

I thought removing the black and white striped wallpaper in the downstairs bath would be quick and easy.  This was not the first wallpaper in that bathroom.  The first was an all over design of half-inch red bicycles on a white background.  When I tired of it, we put up the stripes.  Both papers were the pre-pasted variety.  Unfortunately, I didn’t prime the drywall after I scraped/pulled the little bicycles off the wall.  The black and white stripes have a firm attraction with the grey drywall paper covering.  The attraction between the two was fatal to the smoothness of the remaining drywall.  I have been looking at the tattered grey wall for a month or while we have been working on the RR projects and sneaking in some research on wall prep before wallpapering.  I finally attempted skim-coating a small area with drywall mud. It wasn’t too tedious.  I think I have found a workable solution for the tattered surface.

The replacement paper I bought about 3 years ago has a different application method than I have ever used.  It is “Paste the Wall.”  The wallpaper does not have a water bath to activate the paste.  I am curious about this simpler process.  Another issue is the cleanability of the new paper.  I still like this wallpaper but wondering if I should select a more scrubbable one.

Just as I am getting serious about hanging this paper, I read in the AARP magazine about self-adhesive, repositionable, removable wallpaper that the customer can custom design.  That sounds very tempting.  But I already has this wallpaper…

The bigger issue is the reverse Domino Chain Reaction.  The basic physics of this chain reaction is straightforward. “Standing a domino on its end stores a certain amount of potential energy which is released by pushing it over. However, the force required to topple the domino is smaller than the force it generates when it falls. It is this ‘force amplification’ that can be used to topple bigger dominoes.”  []

Similar to putting up dominoes to make them cascade, before I can finish papering the walls, we need to put in the new tub and surround.  And before we put in the new tub, we need to sand and refinish the floors.  Before we refinish the floors, we need to take up the commode.

I think I need some “force amplification.”

Ponderables:  “Hope can be imagined as a domino effect, a chain reaction, each increment making the next increase more feasible… There are moments of fear and doubt that can deflate it.” ~ Jerome Groopman

Thanksgiving Leftovers: 2 of 2

iris alseep Thanksgiving 2018

Best use of a window seat ever:  Sweetly Sleeping 2 month old Great Niece Iris!

Thanksgiving 2018 whole family

We did tame the chaos in the RiverRoom enough to have 14 feet of tables to comfortably seat all of us.  My younger sister, her only daughter (the mother of Little Iris), our three youngest grandchildren, Mike, yours truly, and our older son pause before dessert for my Daugher-in-Heart to document our 2018 Family Gathering.

The leftover spaghetti sauce is in the freezer, the “fancy” plates and glasses are put away, the cloths are washed and folded, but I have leftover Ponderables that speak my heart:

“Forever on Thanksgiving Day The heart will find the pathway home.” -Wilbur D. Nesbit

“We never live so intensely as when we love strongly. We never realize ourselves so vividly as when we are in full glow of love for others.” — Walter Rauschenbusch

“Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.” – W.T. Purkiser

“Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action.” -W.J. Cameron

“Gratitude is the inward feeling of kindness received. Thankfulness is the natural impulse to express that feeling. Thanksgiving is the following of that impulse.” -Henry Van Dyke

“The miracle of your existence calls for celebration every day.” – Oprah Winfrey

“We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.” – Thornton Wilder, The Woman of Andros

“Thanksgiving reminds us that no matter what befalls us in life, we can take the charred remnants and we can reconstruct a life unimaginably richer than that from which the shards and pieces fell.” – Craig D. Lounsbrough

“It’s like being at the kids’ table at Thanksgiving – you can put your elbows on it, you don’t have to talk politics… no matter how old I get, there’s always a part of me that’s sitting there.” – John Hughes

“Stand up, on this Thanksgiving Day, stand upon your feet. Believe in man. Soberly and with clear eyes, believe in your own time and place. There is not, and there never has been a better time, or a better place to live in.” – Phillips Brooks

“If you are really thankful, what do you do? You share.” – W. Clement Stone

“When asked if my cup is half-full or half-empty my only response is that I am thankful I have a cup.” – Sam Lefkowitz

“The more we express thanks, the more gratitude we feel. The more gratitude we feel, the more we express thanks. It’s circular, and it leads to a happier life.” – Steve Goodier

“Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow.” – Melody Beattie

My vision for Thanksgiving 2019 is a completed RiverRoad overflowing with the precious blessings of kindred spirits.

Ponderables: “We were together.  I forget the rest.” –  Walt Whitman


Leftover Thanksgiving: 1 of 2

pecan pie

It has been years since I made Mike a pecan pie.  I don’t have it on my list of traditional holiday desserts.  When we were first married, I made it occasionally.  All the ingredients were staples I regularly would buy at the Naval base commissary:  eggs, brown sugar, margarine, flour, shortening.  Except for the pecans.  I used the recipe on the back of the Domino brand brown sugar.  Most other recipes required dark Karo syrup which I couldn’t justify purchasing.  When we came home our first Christmas, I wanted to make a pecan pie for the family.  I expected that I would have the recipe on the back of the back of the brown sugar box, just as it was in Key West.  At that time, the grocery where my mom shopped did not carry that brand.  My Aunt Mary Ann had a good library of cookbooks but none of them had the brown sugar only recipe.  I had to make the pie with the traditional recipe.

This year, I think it was the church ladies’ fundraiser sale of lovely, fresh pecans that prompted Mike to ask for a pecan pie.  Through an internet search, I found that Domino Sugar recipe.  I like to serve pies fresh.  That homemade crust is especially worth the work on the day it is baked.  It begins to lose its crumbly crispness as the humidity in the air or fridge invades it.  So, I baked the pie the day before Thanksgiving.  I asked Mike if he thought we should sample it to make sure that the filling was set, and that it was worth serving the next day.  He didn’t want to mess up the design I had made with the pecans.  I had simply made rings of the pecans, placing them end to end.  The first row, in the 10 inch red ceramic pie pan I use, took 21 pecans.  The recipe called for dumping the pecans into the warm sugar and egg mixture, then pouring into the pan.  The pecans would float to the top in a random fashion.  I wanted the pie to have a design of pecans and also to have as many as the surface would allow.  I laid them on top, one by one.

Mike changed his mind before lunch, though.  He said we might just taste a small sample.  But as I was putting a small sliver onto a plate, he thought each of us ought to  try a slice.  Okay.  Twist my arm.  I am not the one with the sweet tooth but he is the one that I had made the pie for.  Well, that little slice of pie was so absolutely heavenly.  When we finished our slices, I said that is was so good that I wanted another slice.  Oh, how his eyes lit up!  But I said that if we were really hungry, we could have more of the main dish instead.

As we continued to prepare for Thanksgiving – one of us in the kitchen and one of us with the vacuum – it became time for the evening meal.  When we finished eating, Mike asked if we might sample that pie again.  I said it was up to him.  He said that he’d bring it to the table.  Mike has a more expansive view of “sample” than I have.  When he brought in the dessert plates, I was instantly reminded of a quotation from the legendary baseball catcher/manager Yogi Berra:  “Cut my pie into  4 pieces, I don’t think I could eat eight.” I didn’t finish my slice so I wrapped it for eating on Thanksgiving Day and took it into the kitchen.  I glanced at the pie.  We now had only half a pie to share with the seven family members.  If someone other than Mike cut the slices, everyone could have a sample to go along with the choices of 2 pumpkin rolls (one with pecans, one without), chocolate chocolate chip cookies (with three kinds and sizes of chips), and my grandmother Sabina’s banana bread recipe (with nuts).

Thanksgiving is a time of indulgence.  I choose to use our china and glass goblets, cloth tablecloth and napkins, nice silverware, and real flowers on the table.  Clean-up is extra work but I want family to feel special and pampered and welcomed and loved.  And as precious as the memories they are making in my heart.

Ponderables:  “It’s a fine thing to build a pie, a bulwark against autumnal entropy.” – Jane Kenyon

Posters:  Pie it Forward

You’re the Apple to my pie

Make pies not war





Countdown to Thanksgiving: < 1!!!

Andrea with Iris hospital

Sweetum’s Sweetie Pie and Me                                                                                                              “Soul smiles through the lips of a happy face” ― Munia Khan

Little 2 month old Iris will be the youngest person at our Family Thanksgiving Gathering tomorrow. We will only have 9 of us at our Spaghetti Dinner at noon. . Our older son and our Daughter-in-Heart along with their three youngsters who are still at home will comprise the largest family group and the greatest devourers of garlic bread. I used 8 sticks of butter to make the fresh garlic spread. Mike sliced the 4 loaves of French bread and slathered them. Those Grandsons love how their Grandpa makes garlic bread.

Since our next to oldest grandson is off on a mission with the Marines, I didn’t make an apple pie which is his favorite. Doesn’t matter what kind of apples or crust or spices, that Marine loves apple pie.

My younger sister and her daughter and her daughter’s daughter (Sweet Iris) will complete our lively group. Iris’s daddy had to work. So did our oldest grandson which meant that his wife and their 3 children will be at her family’s gathering. This Thursday, we will miss all 6 of them. As soon as we can match schedules the great grands and their parents will come over for a special meal at Enrique’s Mexican Restaurant.

We have had as many as 22 at the table. This is the first year without Mom Mavis. The last two years, we’ve had to celebrate a week early with her at the Nursing Home family dinner, but we 3 were thankful to sharing that time.  My mom Marcine has been absent from the table for 4 years.  And, of course, our younger son Toby, who always made it home for Thanksgiving, has occupied the empty seat at our table since 2010.  We continue to celebrate. And to be thankful for making memories and for sharing reminiscences.

Mike and I are so blessed and thankful to host the Family for Thanksgiving each year. We created the RiverRoom addition so that we would have room to seat all the family in one room. Previously, some were in the dining room, and some were at a long table in the living room. We were too separated to share stories and laughter.  Despite the construction, we usually have managed to host everyone at one long table in the RiverRoom.  I will be truly thankful when the stacks of wood, tools, supplies, and sawdust can only be seen in photographs.  2019?

Ponderables:  “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
― Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt


Countdown to Thanksgiving: <2!

Mike bought this wooden porch swing for me soon after we finished building the log house.  I think he found a local artisan to build it.  I left the wood natural and finished it with an outdoor poly after I had put a little red flourish around the heart cut-out on the back of the seat.  After more than 30 years, the swing looked pretty grey and tired…like the swing’s owner.  Thinking I’d have time to stain it well before Thanksgiving, I bought a quart of black gel-stain.  I sampled it on a piece of wood and loved how the grain showed through.  So, I began the staining process.  Of course, it is a different wood, quite weathered, and took to the stain like the cartoon Pepe Le Pew finding a unwitting black and white cat.

This is a hanging swing. Earlier this year, Mike and the log staining crew unhooked the ceiling-attached chain to get the swing removed from their work on the front of the house.  It was little tedious job and took three men and a ladder.  Therefore, I didn’t want to ask Mike to remove it again just to make it easier for me.  I had a bit of a cat-fight during my first application of staining.  Tippy, our neighbor’s cat who enjoys being feed at two homes, wanted up-close and personal attention.  He continued to jump up on the swing seat and attempted to rub against my stain-brush hand. Then I outsmarted Tip, I asked Mike to help me put two sawhorses under the swing.  That both stabilized it and raised it to a height that was too much effort for Tip to jump.

Seems like every time I came past that swing I could see just another bit of weathered wood staring back at me.  Today was my last chance to do those little touch-ups before I get really serious about company coming.  After spending 7 hours on a round trip to a cousin’s funeral, day light was swiftly leaving me in the dark.  The Cold and Dark.  As we drove the 5 miles from our town to our home, the temperature dropped dramatically along with the sun.  From 54 degrees to 43 degrees.  Thankfully, the gel stain did not have a temperature minimum limit, although Mike thought I might since I was wearing a short sleeved work shirt.  I got the job finished.  Tomorrow we can remove the saw horses.   The swing and Tip will be ready for company.

Ponderables: “I wanted a summer filled with porch swings, lemonade and fireflies.”Tiffany King, Miss Me Not

“I want a life filled with porch swings, lemonade, fireflies, and Mike.” – Andrea Morriss

Countdown to Thanksgiving: >4

RR desk corner ceiling trim

This is the grey south wall of the RiverRoom.  Grey.  Gray.  Not blue.  Although it looks blue in this photo, and sometimes in reality, depending on the light sources in the room.  The paint chip card that it matches is grey.  Sometimes I feel like repainting the wall a different shade of grey (Lowe’s paint dept. says there is no blue pigment added) but repainting would mean moving fragile and heavy stacks of granite destined, eventually, for the built-ins on the west wall.

As the Thanksgiving countdown comes chokingly closer, I am grateful that we have the trim boards attached on the top edge of the walls.  We recently drove Old Blue (and Rust) to Lowe’s for 5 select pine 1x4s.  I sanded, stained with Watco Golden Oak, and. after waiting 4 days for that stain to cure, finished with 3 coats of oil-modified, water-based poly.
This trim is evidence we have made some progress since last Thanksgiving.  The above photo shows the south wall just before Mike nailed on the final board. The circuit around the RR is now complete, as long as you look up. Looking down 18 inches…uh-uh.  The stained beadboard, on the far right-hand side of the photo, has replaced the heavy brown paper hiding the previously exterior log wall.  That’s another bit of progress.  Construction is Looking Up.
Perhaps, next year our Thanksgiving dinning atmosphere will not included two table saws, 8 4×8 sheets of plywood on edge, a shop vac with a 10-foot hose, and 2 carts of tools, finishes, and supplies.
But I thought that last year, too.

Ponderables:  “There must be a positive and negative in everything in the universe in order to complete a circuit or circle, without which there would be no activity, no motion.” – John McDonald

Countdown to Thanksgiving: >7!

zinnia spider

I love zinnias.  They remind me of my maternal grandparents.  They regularly grew them in their large garden plot in the lot adjacent to their home.  To me, Zinnias = Happiness.  This was my first year to grow them from seed.  Mike picked me the last of them in the afternoon before the first really cold night.  They were a little ragged but I still loved them.  I didn’t make time to photograph them before they were too sad, so I am sharing this spider riding a zinnia in September.

E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, wrote, “Once you begin watching spiders you don’t have time for anything else.”  I must have been watching lots of spiders to be this far behind in my Thanksgiving preparations.  It is really less than a week until the family arrives at noon for our own kind of traditional Thanksgiving Gathering.  We have meat sauce spaghetti, a vegetarian sauce or lasagna, salad, and garlic bread for our noon meal.  The evening meal is sandwiches, chips & dip, and a variety of pickles, plus lunch leftovers.  Our traditional dessert is pumpkin roll.  I make at least 2 but no more than 4, and fill in with cookies, cookie bars, and fruit breads.  This year, Mike thinks I need to make a pecan pie since I have not done so in years.  I am not worried about the food, though.  It’s the RiverRoom and the accumulation of building debris and dust everywhere that will keep me occupied.  Consumed might be a better word choice, and that word reminds me of that little spider waiting on the zinnia.  Wonder what her traditional Thanksgiving meal is?

Ponderable:  “You get to decide where your time goes.  You can either spend it going forward, or you can spend it putting out fires. You decide. And if you don’t decide, others will decide for you.” – Tony Morgan

50/50 of the 50th: This Takes the Cake!

Andrea feeding me cakeHe unquestionably trusted me to gently feed him cake.  That he has his arms down to his side demonstrates his expectation.  Even before the wedding day, we began feeding and fueling each other’s hearts, spirits, and minds.  Living with hearts and minds engaged, two can live and bloom as one with peace, purpose, and prosperity.  With an unshakable trust, we can live with abundance even during the hardships of adversity and sorrow.

Because of the core of trust and respect between us, we have the courage and encouragement to embrace the world with open minds and open hearts.

Ponderables: “We are made for goodness. We are made for love. We are made for friendliness. We are made for togetherness. We are made for all of the beautiful things that you and I know. We are made to tell the world that there are no outsiders. All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.” – Desmond Tutu


49/50 for the 50th: Sipping from the “Saucer”

Us drinking punch

We are obviously sipping punch.  As required.  It is a wonder that I don’t choke like I did on that first sip of Dr. Pepper on our first date.  Both times, trying not to reveal the butterflies taking flight in my tummy.

An old poem leaped into my head when I chose to share this photo:

Drinking From The Saucer

by John Paul Moore

I’ve never made a fortune,
And I’ll never make one now
But it really doesn’t matter
‘Cause I’m happy anyhow

As I go along my journey
I’m reaping better than I’ve sowed
I’m drinking from the saucer
‘Cause my cup has overflowed

I don’t have a lot of riches,
And sometimes the going’s tough
But with kin and friends to love me
I think I’m rich enough

I thank God for the blessings
That His mercy has bestowed
I’m drinking from the saucer
‘Cause my cup has overflowed

He gives me strength and courage
When the way grows steep and rough
I’ll not ask for other blessings for
I’m already blessed enough

May we never be too busy
To help bear another’s load
Then we’ll all be drinking from the saucer
When our cups have overflowed

Ponderables:  “But let there be spaces in your togetherness and let the winds of the heavens dance between you. Love one another but make not a bond of love: let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls.” – Khalil Gibran