Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Leaving for Home

I guess we officially have two homes now.  

Our rental was feeling familiar and comfortable by the time we left though we're still struggling to remember what light switch works what light!!  And of course it will be wonderful to be back home in LA where Paige says the azaleas are blooming and we've got a gray tabby cat who misses us!

We're leaving this AM for the Louisiana home but here's the progress out on the hill..... we've got some stakes!  

Temporary and approximate, but hey we'll take anything at this point!! 


Monday, March 21, 2011

A Brief Interruption

Time to interrupt with a brief and somewhat cheesy 

Public Service Announcement re the State of Virginia.....

Getting a little culture in our old age!

Until last week, the last time that I attended a musical performance of young people where I wasn’t constantly watching one particular face was…. Well it was a long time ago!

Concerts have been events that I would go in order to hear and support various sons (mainly Clark in recent history) and not necessarily just for the joy of hearing the music.

So it was a departure from the norm when we went to the R.E. Lee Church and heard the Chamber Choir from Marshall University (W. VA) last week. The group of about 35 students is traveling around Virginia on their spring concert tour and Lexington was Stop # 2.  They performed eight selections ranging from a 16th century piece to more modern ones.  

Such talent!  Judging from their smiles and body language, they all seemed to love singing snf most were either music performance or music education majors.  With my lack of musical ability and knowledge, my praise won’t mean much to anyone, but I thought they were wonderful.

It’s so easy to take part in the activities around town and there have been many more opportunities to attend events than we've had the energy or free time to attend.  We won't be bored here.

Much better than watching TV.  

OK, so what if we don’t have a TV here yet? 

It was still better.  …. But I do plan on watching Modern Family on Hulu when we get home. 

Aren’t we a cultured pair??  

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Everyday An Adventure

Everyday brings a new adventure when settling into the rental house.

Some more welcome than others.

Today... The laundromat.

I felt like a college student again!.... All Biggs needed was a bandana!

Friday, March 18, 2011

At church on Sunday, the following Hymn written by Shirley Erena Murray was sung as the offertory anthem.  It touched me to the point where I felt tears beginning to well up in my eyes.  I guess I was more tired than I realized and the internalized stress from making such a big changes in my life sort of burst out from where I had it pent up when I heard the opening words.  

It might seem strange to the under 30 crowd reading this, but even us old people worry about making friends in a new place and have fears about our decisions being "right"....... at least I do.  There's an insecure middle-schooler hiding inside of each of us. 

There's a lot to think about with this move and I still vacillate between being delighted and scared to death.  I try not to view Lexington as the "perfect" place since I know it has warts and problems.  I'm not implying that I want to be a hermit after we move..... on the contrary, I'm expecting to be uber involved in community activities and affairs, but still I'm hoping that moving here helps me find my own "quiet center."

Come and find the quiet center in the crowded life we lead,
find the room for hope to enter,
find the frame where we are freed: 
Clear the chaos and the clutter,
clear our eyes that we can see all the things that really matter,
be at peace, and simply be.

Silence is a friend, who claims us, 
cools the heat and slows the pace,
God it is who speaks and names us, 
knows our Being, touches base,
making space within our thinking, lifting shades to show the sun, raising courage when we’re shrinking, 
finding scope for faith begun.

In the spirit let us travel, open to each other’s pain. 
Let our loves and fears unravel, celebrate the space we gain:
 There’s a place for deepest dreaming,
there’s a time for heart to care,
in the spirit’s lively scheming there is always room to spare.

Buffalo Creek in Rockbridge County, Lexington VA

Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Guest Blogger!!

Oh I'm so excited.... all of the big bloggers have Guest Bloggers who take over when they're unable or too busy to post!  

Here's some news from Asher....

.......Over MLK weekend, a friend of mine invited me and some friends down to
her "family place" in Montego Bay, Jamaica.

I say that it's her

"family place" because her family was one of the original ten
shareholders in what is now Half Moon Bay Resort. The resort began as ten beach-front cottages (one for each family) on a half moon shaped stretch of beach on the north shore of Jamaica. Over time, the
families acquired more land and did a wonderful job at developing the area. There is no large hotel-like structure on the property. 

All of the guest rooms are divided into small clusters in cottages, houses, or larger villas on the property, so everything really does feel like home. The ten original cottages remain, so I was staying in Mary's
family's cottage, right on the beach with our own pool.

Since I had a rushed trip from New York (others in the group were staying in Jamaica all week), I had somewhat of an usually flying schedule. I was also attempting to save money where I could, so instead of flying from NYC directly to Montego Bay, I flew to

My flight left New York around 3am on Friday night / Saturday morning.
I landed in Kingston and took a cab over to the smaller regional airport, which turned out to be nothing more than a small landing
strip in an overgrown field, next to a very small "terminal" which was really just a hut. 

No air conditioning or anything, but beautiful mountain views all around. I got there a little early for my flight, and it was still early in the morning (around 7:45). I was the only person there, so I walked into this empty, unlocked building with a
few broken windows just assuming that someone would show up. 

Finally, the few staff members started trickling in, turning on the lights, and
setting up the small podium and baggage scale that served as the check in desk. By the time of the flight, about 4 other passengers had shown up so it started to feel more normal.

They gave us the seatbelt lecture right there in the building, then we went through security. 

This involved going out the back door of the
hut and onto the back porch, where there were a few seats and a metal detector under the canopy. As you went through, you handed your bin of items to the security guard on one side of the metal detector, and then she just handed them right back once you went through. 

The plane was small - 8 seats total. I was sitting right behind the co-pilot (no door or divider, of course).

I'm actually glad that I ended up flying into Kingston and then connecting to Montego Bay, because this little flight was a great way
to see the country. We essentially flew all the way across Jamaica, which is pretty mountainous and very green. The cruising altitude was all of 6,000 feet, so I had great views the entire way.

The big thing we did was to go swimming with dolphins. 

Half Moon has their own dolphin lagoon, and it's a natural lagoon on the beach, not
some awful dolphin tank where the poor dolphins are forced to live. I felt confident that the dolphins were fairly happy living there. And we really did swim with them. We were out in the deep lagoon with them, and the trainers were on a small floating platform. The dolphins would take commands from the trainers and then come around and do
things with us or go off and do tricks farther out in the lagoon. 

We also learned a bit about dolphins - for instance, I didn't know that dolphins "sleep" by shutting down half of their brain and using the other half to continue to function.

Overall I was pretty impressed with Jamaica. It is definitely a poor country, but the people are extremely nice and have an overwhelming amount of national pride. Everyone speaks to you and wants to know where you're from. Everyone, from the woman at immigration to the dolphin trainer, made a point of saying "Welcome to my country." 

They are proud to be Jamaican and love visitors. It's beautiful as well. The mountains come right down to the beaches with crystal clear blue water - very Caribbean. 

The pace of life in any beach town (or any town, really) is slower than life in New York, but the entire country of Jamaica operates that way. It really is something that you can
feel. I was only there for three full days, but I would go back anytime. And having a free place to stay always helps...

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

We're Here.... catch up post

We're sitting in Lexington Coffee catching up with our email and I'm finally getting the chance to write the news of the last five days.  I've enjoyed not having the distraction of a TV at the rental, but internet would be nice.  Maybe we'll (ie Joe) will have that figured out for our next trip up.

For the second day of the trip, we continued to cruise along at a whopping top speed of 70 mph.

So thanks speed governor on the Penske and frequent fuel fill-ups and bathroom breaks, the normally 15.5 hour trip took 19!

Here's the truck mingling with the big boys.....

We arrived in Lexington in the early evening on Friday PM and met Clark and Raeanna at the rental house.  Raeanna was in town visiting on her Mardi Gras break so it was a treat to see both of them.  I'm not sure what they're going to do about graduate and med schools but I hope they know that I love them and know that they can't make a "wrong" decision.

We hadn't seen the house in person yet, and so were relieved that our Craigslist find was perfect!  It's bright and cheerful and will be a nice place to roost for a while.  It's pretty new and is clean both inside and out,  the neighborhood seems great and there is plenty of space thanks to the cavernous basement and the big garage.   

We had packed a mattress and a few garbage bags with sheets, pillows etc at the back of the truck so with a minimum of fuss, Joe and Clark put a mattress on the floor of one of the bedrooms and we were set for the night.  

Dinner at the Palms with Clark and Raeanna and then we went back to the house and unpacked a few boxes before calling it a night.

The next morning, our reinforcements arrived!!!  

Eight pledges from Lambda Chi came out and within a quick two hours we had not only the truck unloaded but also one trip from the storage pod. 

We'd probably still be unloading if it hadn't been for their help!

Hopefully they liked this pledge requirement better than some of the drudge work that the older brothers find for them to do.  

We truly appreciated their good-natured cheerful help.  

The remainder of the day was spent unpacking and arranging furniture, but we called it quits that night with a nice dinner at the Bistro with Raeanna and Clark.... Raeanna was headed back to NO on an early flight from Charlottesville so we bid her goodbye at the restaurant.

We attended church on Sunday and met a few people whose names I hope I can remember next week!

On Monday, it was time to get some food in the house and since the Farmer's Market hasn't started up yet, we went by Donald's Meats where we were able to buy local beef, chicken, eggs, honey, milk and rolls.  Later in the day we drove out to the property and yes, I still love our piece of land.... it just "feels right" out there and already seems a bit like "home" in an odd sort of way.

Tuesday we went back to the land and met Tom (our builder), Danny Mc and a guy from VDOT re the driveway and excavation work.  Then it was off to Southern Inn for lunch with Tom where we got our preliminary bid on building the house.  Ouch!  We expected high, but not quite that high.  Not building it isn't really an option, but there will be some major cuts.  Major.  We're not talking amputation, but some serious cuts are in order.

Tuesday night we made the 10 minute jaunt in to W&L for an evening lecture presented through the Environmental Studies Department where we heard Ned Tillman speak about the Chesapeake Bay Watershed and bought a copy of his book The Chesapeake Watershed:  A Sense of Place and a Call to Action.  We've said that we intend to stay busy, learn and be vital parts of the community so this was a good first step.

The bulk of our work is done.  The boxes are unpacked although we still need to organize the ones that will stay packed in basement and the garage a little better.  Biggs and Atta are getting plenty of walks so we're also getting a little more exercise than usual!

Still hopeful we can get the price of the house down to a doable number and we're forging ahead.  There was another showing on the Louisiana house yesterday, but no word from our realtor about what occurred.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

1/2 Way There

It was a clue when the arrows on the exit ramp pointed to the left for four hotels (none of which took dogs) and to the right for only one hotel (ours) on the dark half of the interstate exchange.

If we didn't have Atta with us, I'd be hesitant about being here from a safety standpoint.  But since she's the reason that we're here in the first place..... there is a certain circular logic about that but since I'm still decompressing from 9 hours of driving, I'm really not sure what I'm typing. 
The room has seen better days;  that is a colossal understatement but I'm not in the mood to dwell on what I can't change.  We knew that this was as far as we could drive today and there wasn't anything any better within 125 miles.... so here we are. 

Mr. Biggs thinks the room with it's myriad of smells is fascinating.  He's currently sound asleep and is more than satisfied with his portion of the king sized bed.  No results on his lab work yet, but no more seizures.  

If anyone is curious about why I've refused to stay in a hotel with outside doors to the parking lot for the past 10 years, ask Clark about the night in Rhode Island when he and I were afraid for our lives (and I'm not joking!)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Loaded and almost ready

Loading the giant (and I do mean Giant) Penske truck seemed to happen like magic......at least for me.

I managed to get Biggs to the vet and Joe to the Penske rental before a migraine totally overwhelmed me with nausea and I collapsed in the bed for 15 hours.  So when I finally was back to my normal bossy self, the truck was all loaded!!  Magic!

Joe and the two college students that he had hired worked through torrential rain (and the power being off for 5 hours) to get most of the job done.  I think he was really relieved not to have me second guessing the loading the whole time anyway!  :)

We were pretty professional with the packing strategy so we'll see how it all shakes out (literally) after being bounced around for 1,000 miles.  We used movers stretch wrap and pads on all of the furniture.... I did help with that over the weekend) and every box is labeled and numbered.

Mr. Biggs seems to be back to normal at this point, but obviously there is some reason why he had the canine version of a grand mal seizure.  I'm waiting on his lab results still and expecting a call this morning.

We've got three (!!!) people currently interested in the house.  Two couples are out of town for the rest of the week since it's Mardi Gras break here.  One couple is coming back this AM for their second look and according to the realtor have been talking to the bank about money.  So keep your fingers crossed that we get a good offer.

We're staying home until lunchtime in order to answer any questions from the potential buyers and so will need a place to sleep for the night in Northern Alabama or South TN.  Checking the internet last night, I couldn't find a thing that allowed more than one dog over 20 lbs.  With the advent of cameras and interior halls, it's pretty hard to sneak a 95 lb German Shepherd in a hotel!

We're bringing the Xterra and the Penske, so no way that we can do the trip straight leaving at noon since we can't spell each other for rest breaks.

We're dreading the night tonight.....  we're staying at an ancient Days Inn that has about an even mix of internet reviews that say "Filthy", "Awful" and "Keep Driving" as "Okay" and "Will Do in a Pinch"  ..... pray for us!

And you'd better believe I'll be checking for bedbugs!

Monday, March 7, 2011

Still in the Dinghy

A while ago I posted that selling the house before we had a new one under construction felt as though I had climbed out of the big steady ship and boarded the dinghy when land wasn't yet in sight.

My little dinghy has gotten comfortable and has been gently drifting toward shore.  I've seen a mirage or two but land is still out of sight;  I haven't even seen an errant bird out here yet.  But today I got caught in a storm and buffeted around leaving me a bit blue around the gills.

I did fine toiling away all weekend, but somehow today was stressful.  Maybe it's because the kitchen is the heart of the home, but picking through the kitchen was difficult.  I've got kitchen stuff in the storage pod and now I'm moving another part of my kitchen to the rental house.

Boxes are everywhere and the house looks like..... well it looks like about 75 boxes are scattered in the den, kitchen and dining room!

An email from our realtors assistant got me off on the wrong foot this AM since they still haven't bothered to do a followup with the showing from last Tuesday.   After about 6 hours of packing, I was crabby (sorry Joe) and pissy (is that a word?) and by 5pm (when I was once again still in my pjs) I was having a difficult time making decisions. Where for instance did I want the cheese grater, the bread pans, the microplane, or the biscuit cutters?  As I'm typing this, I've realized that I don't have a cutting board packed.  How could I overlook something so basic?

So I'm seasick and queasy and wanting nothing more than to climb back into my safe ship, close the curtains on the portholes and lay in my bunk.  If there were even a shovelful of dirt moved out on the land I wouldn't be feeling so untethered.   Being up for a couple of hours in the night with a disoriented Mr. Biggs didn't help my state of mind.

We haven't been to Virginia and breathed the fresh air, seen our land and strolled around town since early November.  I need this upcoming trip to help me remember why I'm dismantling my life.  After a day back in Lexington,  I'll be back in the prow of my dinghy straining my eyes for the shadow of trees on the horizon.

Tomorrow is another day..... bringing Biggs to the vet, picking up the Penske, loading the truck, cleaning the house.... good thing I'm not old.  Do I hear laughter?

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Redbuds and Packing

Since the rest of this post is unphotogenic, I wanted to show off a little of our outdoor beauty first....  

The redbud at the corner of the parking bay is having it's showiest year ever.  We had heavy rains yesterday and this morning the ground underneath the tree looked like a purple carpet while the branches are still laden with blossoms.

We didn't see much of the redbuds (or the mayhaws which are also blooming) since we spent the weekend indoors packing.  The Penske truck is reserved for this week and we're moving a load to the rental house!

 Everything in all three attics, Owen's room, the study (aka "duck" room), guest room and loft room is ready to go downstairs.  Everything is either boxed and labeled or padded and covered with stretch wrap..... and all is entered in the Evernote database.  Upstairs will be empty except for the roll-top desk and the artwork on the walls!

Since most of the upstairs furniture nowadays is a mishmash of orphan pieces, we won't be winning any interior decorating awards when we get unloaded at the rental!

Two days of  packing had us moving slowly by the end of the weeknd!  At 6 pm Sunday night we called it quits, took showers, got dressed (yep we were still in our morning pjs and unshowered at 6pm) and went into Zachary to the Mexican place for dinner.

We'll be back to the grind again tomorrow when I'll be focusing mainly on the kitchen and such dilemmas as "Do I want the bread machine in VA or LA?"  The idea of doing without a coffee pot in VA has us both a little concerned!

On a sad note,  Mr. Biggs had a seizure on Friday night.  VERY scary.... he slid out of the bed at around 2AM (was standing up and just tipped over sideways.)  Then lay completely rigid (and I do mean rigid) and frozen for about 30 seconds on the floor while we were both almost paralyzed with fear ourselves.  I thought he had broken his neck.  Next he went totally limp....  and then I was certain that he had died.  But like the Energizer bunny he gradually came round even though he was disoriented and lilting to one side when he was finally able to walk.  He went back to sleep for 8 more hours and is now almost back to his normal self.

According to the internet it was a "classic" canine seizure and dogs can usually recover well from any side effects of the actual seizure itself.  But as far as an underlying cause, the internet says that at his age, it's usually because of the onset of something such as a brain tumor or organ failure.... not epilepsy, diabetes etc (which could be more easily treated).

I'll be bringing him into the vet tomorrow,  so will keep everyone posted on the old fellow's prognosis.  We're planning on bringing both dogs to Virginia with us this week so hopefully he'll be able to travel but a 16th birthday is looking a little doubtful.    :(

I'm typing in bed and Biggs is sleeping soundly and quietly in between us..... unlike someone else here who is snoring so loudly that it sounds as though he might be having a seizure himself!!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

More House Showings

Three house showings in the past week!   It's amazing what dropping below the 500K mark will do.  Total of 9 showings now not counting the repeat.

One showing last week that according to the realtor went well.  Guess what?   "They loved it".....of course.... we've yet to have anyone NOT love it.   The only negative was that they questioned the drive in to the high school for their daughter.   10 minutes??  What?

Today we had a showing in the AM and another in the afternoon.  I was still home when the couple arrived this AM since the scheduling service gave me the wrong time.  AARGH.  Anyway, I answered a few questions before vamoosing to Paige's for a visit.

Guess what?

They loved it.  sigh.....  No negatives or suggestions for change again.

This afternoon I was the one playing realtor and got to do the showing.  Our realtor and her assistant both had conflicts so they asked if I would mind being "around" to answer any questions since the buyers realtor would be present.  Be around?  You've got to be kidding!   Rather than let the other realtor who didn't know a thing about the house, barn, property lines etc bumble around like a pinball in a machine,  you know that I just took matters in hand and did the whole tour.

And if I do say so myself, I did a pretty smashing job.  The guy (he came alone) was appreciative.  Probably the first time he actually had someone "show" him things and discuss a house instead of just being left to wander around.

And guess what?  He loved it!  His realtor loved it!   Sigh.  Again.  But he really did love it.  Said that there wasn't a thing he'd change, perfect for them etc..... so we'll see what happens when his wife is in town next week.

We got an insane lowball verbal offer from the "old couple" (80 years old) and so we can pretty much officially write them off.  I swear the guy must be living in 1950 or something.  

But.....  spring is here, the place looks awesome, people are looking, we've got house plans, Tom is working on bids to see if we can afford the new place, we've got a rental that we'll be seeing soon, Mr. Biggs is still alive, the mosquitos haven't hatched out yet, Noel is pawing on my arm as I'm typing, a roast chicken is cooking in the oven,  I'm having lunch with Randy tomorrow, the laundry is all done, I'm reading another great Wallace Stegner book, the yard guy (our splurge) started back last week..... how can I complain?


Tuesday, March 1, 2011

It Wasn't Happening....

Joe came home from the Nissan place last week with Clark's new license plate and was excited about the new design/logo for the state.   He couldn't wait to show it to me and thought it looked "really neat" in his words.

We aren't the "Bayou State" or "Sportman's Paradise" anymore, but are instead celebrating the 200th anniversary of the Louisiana Purchase.

I didn't care one way or another about the new colors and design, but I took one quick glance at the plate and said "No way!"

I decided that it had to go back to the DMV..... which it did the next day.

Joe had seen nothing wrong with the assigned plate.  The woman at the DMV in St. Francisville who swapped it out agreed with me.

Maybe it's a man vs woman thing.

Did I read too much into this or would you want your son driving around with this plate on his red Xterra?