Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Progress report

We've been here three weeks today. I can hardly believe how much time has passed. We've been in constant motion - cleaning, repairing, preparing for guests. In the evening I fall into bed and sleep so deeply I am surprised by the morning. The kids have settled in, and despite a couple comments by Sam about how he wished we didn't work so much, they have for the most part figured out how to entertain themselves even without TV or computer time.
I've come to realize how little I helped on our last two visits (understandable, given the kid-situation) but we've accomplished so much more this time around that I'm hoping there will be even less work next visit. The house was in pretty good shape when we arrived -- no leaks, which meant we didn't have to clean up the aftermath (a constant for some twenty or more years before Will fixed the roof in 2007) and the critters hadn't gotten into anything we use regularly. After the initial basic cleaning we extended our reach all the way to the end of the assembly hall, making the loft at the end accessible and the kids have spent hours up there, staircase raised (via pulley and rope) playing pirates. We've also focused on making the guest quarters nicer - a task Will initially dismissed as less important, but he now seems to understand its importance. So, to give you an idea of why I've been absent, I have some before-and-after photos of projects completed in the past three weeks.
1. Nell's room.
This is our primary guest room. It has a low ceiling and only a double bed, but it's cozy.

2. The room above the shop
We have a lot of guests coming this year, in groups of four and five. Because of that we needed a second place to put a family. Many years ago, Will's grandmother's older brother Lou (it's complicated) built a sturdy two-story cinder-block building which he stayed in during the summer. Over time the downstairs, which may or may not have originally been a tool shop, filled with stuff - hardware and tools, life preservers, car parts, boat bits, lanterns, lots and lots of rope, bits of wood too small to use and too big to throw away. It was a mess until '07 when Will organized it and cleared out at least two trucks full of garbage we took to the dump. At the same time the upstairs also had filled with leftover stuff - falling apart dressers, unused mattresses and pillows, an old fold-out couch, sheets of plywood, and, of course, varmints. At one point the chimney fell off due to snow and rot and was eventually put back up, but not before snow and rain had blown in and covered everything and rotted out part of the floor. Needless to say, it was a mess. But it is a good solid room that can hold four beds and had the potential to be a guest room. Here's what we did:
I did the cleaning, Will did the wiring and heavy lifting and making new platforms for the beds. It actually turned out pretty nice, after we took all the mildew-and-mouse covered mattresses to the dump. I still want to get replacement twin beds for the 30" camp beds that are there, but I figure we'll save some money by gradually accumulating bed frames/box springs/mattresses from craig's list.
Will also fixed the foundation of Nell's porch, and we've done lots of landscaping (cutting hedges, trimming trees, mowing/dethatching lawns) replaced rotting ceiling panels in Nell's kitchen, replaced the hot water heater at Nell's, and we went bowling one night. See, it's not ALL work.
And now it's time to go get brekfast ready for 13 people. That part I love. More soon.

Friday, June 19, 2009

The Trip Out

I am pleased to say that the trip across country went well. Quite well, actually. I dreaded the idea of it -- four people plus dog in the cab of a pickup truck (pulling a trailer with another vehicle on in) for three days and nights, pushing through the night and resting only briefly one night with my step-grandma. Fortunately my fears were unfounded, for many reasons. Will is good at long-distance driving, and prefers being behind the wheel, so my anxiety about driving with the trailer was unnecessary. In fact I did little driving and the rig handled quite well, so even when I did drive it was without problems. The dog settled in happily, alternately sitting on the floor and on the seat, occasionally resting her head on a child's leg and in turn serving as a pillow for a tired kid. Will was pleased with my selection of audiobooks and we happily listened together while the kids, overjoyed at the very unusual prospect of unlimited movie watching, put their headsets on and fell mesmerized by the DVD player.
That's not to say we didn't have a few minor issues. Before we even got out of Colorado the door on the Land Rover we were hauling popped open and we had to pull over. Will fixed that and we all had potty breaks, the dog cheerfully obeying my request that she stay away from the highway, and I enjoyed a sense of familial purpose and unity that our daily lives rarely afford. I even took a picture of a cactus flower growing beside the highway.

Somewhere in Nebraska we ran out of gas -- the warning light didn't come on and we were about a mile short of an exit. Fortunately we had both a bicycle and a gas can readily available, so Will rode to the nearest gas station and returned not much later. We drove through the night to Chicago (a move I think we're both getting too old for) and were fortunate to have breakfast
with our friends Trish and Scott, then on toward Cleveland, only to run out of gas, again! This time it was too far to bike, so we called the auto club (Better World Club - even better than AAA) and they brought us five gallons of gas. Finally, to Granny Phyllis' house where we were met with hugs, birthday presents for the kids, hot stew, baths, and beds. We all collapsed, tired from two days of car-sleep. When we awoke, Phyllis had made us a breakfast feast, and both children were delighted to play with their gifts. Soon we were on our way to NY, where we were to drop off the Land Rover.
Thank goodness for my "smart" phone, because I was able to update Facebook and, more
importantly, get maps to the Land Rover destination. After unloading and seeing the delighted owner drive his new toy around, we stumbled back into the car, relieved to be almost done with the journey. We arrived at Dingley Dell in the dark, unloaded some bags by flashlight (we'd forgotten to get the electricity turned on), and headed off to a nearby motel to get some rest. Unfortunately, both places on the island have been shuttered, and at midnight I told Will to turn around; we slept in our sleeping bags on the beds we had cleared.
Monday morning we hung blankets to air out and once again hopped in the truck, this time to visit some long-lost Canadian cousins of the Bakers, who had invited us up for a mini-reunion three weeks after a grand affair which we missed. It was great fun to meet everyone and they were lovely hosts, even down to finding us dog-friendly lodging with a friend. After another wonderful shower and sleep in a real bed, we returned to the States to begin the task of opening up The Camp.

Slightly disoriented

I've attempted to start this post several times, but can't seem to find my voice. I think it comes from a low-grade sense of disorientation. We're all unpacked, but I haven't yet found places for everything, and we keep shifting piles of stuff from spot to spot, not quite sure where it should go. Part of that comes from how much stuff already is here - cabinets, drawers, boxes, trunks are all full of bits and pieces, most of which makes little sense to keep as far as I can tell, but this is not my family place and I don't have the same attachments. Will and I cleaned before we started in on projects, and in doing the assembly hall we even opened up the long bench seat and emptied it out. We found wooden shoes, ancient ice skates, a moldy backpack from brother Goff's college days, piles of dirt and mouse droppings, mildewed computer punch cards, cap guns from thirty five years ago, swim fins stiffened by time and weather, and any matter of other stuff. We removed two barrels full of trash, and still had plenty to put back. I also sorted through the four overflowing desk drawers, and after throwing away multitudinous tourist flyers dating back to 1975 (!) and other bits and ends, two drawers were empty. I asked Will about the family's penchant for keeping everything, and he said "it's history!" That's true, but I do wish this history included less vermin poop.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Hello out there!

We're here and mostly settled in, striving to get some basic maintenance chores done before guests being arriving. The big news -- we finally have a modem/internet connection! I'll do more of a post tonight (I hope) but wanted to let you know that we haven't completely fallen off the face of the planet.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

A snippet

Found this while going through papers today.  Dates back to my time in DC.

I am become
a creature of the city
savvy in sharp corners
and fearful smiles.
Late at night I huddle
from oasis
to oasis
of street light
lest I sink
into a puddle of statistics
of rape and battery.
I scurry to the sanctuary
of my locks
and bolts.
Home in the city.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

My new favorite thing

As I was cleaning out one the bathroom cabinets yesterday afternoon I discovered a collection of hotel freebies I had stuffed in the back and forgotten about. Most went directly into the garbage or recycling, along with an embarrassing amount of expired medicines, empty shampoo bottles (I consolidated all the too-much-to-throw-away-but-I'm-bored-and-ready-for-new-stuff bottles), used q-tips (ick!), and random torn washcloths. One thing, though, caught my attention. You see, we have a skylight in our bedroom. I love it. From my bed I can watch storms pass, admire the stars, glory in the full moon, and wake to the sun. It's the last part that's currently a problem. As summer approaches, even though I have turned off the alarm clock and learned to ignore the excited whimpering of the morning dog, I cannot ignore the sun. It beams down on me, more intense than any other time of day. It creeps into my consciousness, between my lids, and forces me up at 6, then 5:45, then 5:30 in the morning. All of which would be fine if I didn't stay up until 12:30, but I do, and it isn't. So when I found the unused cheapo hotel eyemask in my hands, I decided to try it. I've always scoffed, thinking it looked silly and would be uncomfortable. But if it blocks the morning sun and Will's late night bedside lamp, it may be worth looking silly and feeling a little odd. And when I woke at 7:30 this morning, I rose from my bed a convert. All praise my new favorite thing - the eye mask.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Motivate me?

Four days.  I have four days to clean the house and pack before leaving for 10 weeks.  At this point, I'm spending a lot of time sitting at my computer reading other people's blogs. I need motivation. Plus, now that I _have_ to clean, I am seeing SOOOO much more gradoo (that's a technical term) on everything than I saw before. It's hopeless. Will's at Home Depot; I need to call him and ask him to pick up some grease remover for the tops of the kitchen lights. The good news is, I'm three-and-a-half hours into a book on tape (am listening to Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman) and I don't want to stop. Perhaps that should be my motivation -- I can only listen when cleaning.  Aha! I'll tell you more after I tackle the shower. And the kitchen lights. And Violet's closet. And the laundry. And . . .