Alaska Daylight 24/7

Since summer in Alaska means daylight 23 ½ hours a day… the use of ‘black out’ shades or curtains are mandatory. So far on this trip I have not had to use them… until tonight. The room in the last house I rented was painted in dark colors, only had one window which was blocked by trees… so it felt like you were walking into a cave. Even though it was bright as day at 11:30pm I was eager to go to sleep and had no problem.

Today however I am in a different rental… a beautiful rustic home on the ridge of a mountain in Fairbanks. The bedroom here is painted creamy white… with antique quilts hanging on the wall (I’ll get to them in a minute). Trying to fall asleep at 11:30pm in bright daylight reminds me of being a little kid and having to go to bed in the summer time. It’s still bright out, but just falling into dusk. The only problem now is that in Alaska dusk never comes. Which is helpful when you are driving curvy, dirt roads up an unfamiliar mountain… but not such a pleasure when trying to get some shut-eye.

Fairbanks rental

Tomorrow is another busy day of sightseeing… so tonight I have drawn the heavy black curtains across the window… and it’s beginning to feel like bed time. I wonder what it will feel like in the morning.

This house by the way is AWESOME!! Decorated with eclectic furniture… mixing IKEA with solid antiques, having an old retro oven be the kitchen centerpiece with a collection of antique toasters above it, and old antique quilts hanging on the walls in each of the 4 bedrooms. You would think the owner designed this house just for me!!

The quilts are stunning… and yet I cringe when looking at them. The owner has hung them with nails and push pins. YIKES!!! People in the ‘quilt world’ know NEVER to do that!! For one, you are putting holes in the fabric, but also gravity pulls them down and creates a scallop along the top edge… and enlarges the hole. The proper way is to sew a ‘sleeve’ on the back and suspend the quilt on brackets using a dowel or curtain rod. This way the weight is distributed evenly… which preserves the quilt for future generations to enjoy.

antique quilt

It’s all I can do to NOT make a trip to the local quilt shop to purchase some fabric, needle and thread to make a sleeve. But then I remember it’s not my house… and certainly not my problem. So instead I sit and cringe at the sagging quilts.

sagging quilt

The other bizarre thing in this house is the bathroom. The toilet is in the shower!!! I kid you not!!! The bathroom is completely tiled in really nice, thick, good quality tile. It looks like it is new construction. A drain is installed in the middle of the floor. The floor is graded so all water flows to it. A shower curtain is suspended from a rod installed a few inches down from the ceiling that spans the width of the room. If that were all that was in the space it would be fine… however… at one end of this room… sits a commode. The Throne, the porcelain pot, the toilet… whatever you call it… it’s sitting right there… in the shower.

When you take your morning shower you have to take care not to get the toilet paper wet. And when you go to use the facilities after breakfast… you have to watch out for the water on the floor that hasn’t dried yet. It’s bad enough the person sleeping in that bedroom has to deal with it… but it is the only restroom down on the main level and therefore is considered the quest bathroom.

Very quirky!

I love it!

Living the Dream in Alaska

There is just so much to see and do here in Alaska… that by the time we roll into the driveway at the end of the day it takes all of our fortitude to throw ourselves into bed.

It’s an Alaskan ‘thing’ to take your shoes off when entering a house. I’m guessing it started when women got tired of cleaning up all the dirt and mud that gets tracked in from the slushy outside. However, we weren’t told of this and so didn’t pack any slippers. Believe me when I tell you the floors are so chilly in the morning you really have to think twice about getting out of bed to use the bathroom… even in the summer. Brrrrrr….

Visiting family is always fun… but when they live in the back woods of Alaska ‘off the grid’ while building the house (not a cabin… but a 3 bedroom house) of their dreams… it makes the visit an amazing adventure!! When I say ‘building their own house’ I mean… chopping down the tree, hauling it to the site, milling it into lumber, drying it, and THEN using it for building. There’s no delivery from the local lumber yard… no siree… not for this family. They have been working on this masterpiece for 7 years… and hope to complete it by year’s end… or early Spring… or…

House

The joy this family gets out of all this work radiates out of them and surrounds you with excitement. Their smiles say it all. After spending a day blazing trails with them while riding in a tractor-type-tank-thing… you clearly understand this is way much more than just building a house. It’s ‘living the dream’. The open skies, the wildflowers, amazing vistas, swamps and rivers… and on a clear day you can see Mt. McKinley… OH! It’s a whole different way of life. A life where shotguns are ‘at the ready’ to protect yourself from bears, cans of OFF spray are tucked in easy to reach nooks and crannies for a quick spritz, and construction permits and inspections are non-existent. It’s not a life for me… I enjoyed the visit immensely… but I like the comforts of my ‘all ready built’ home more.

Here’s a picture of the tractor/tank wheel after sunning through a swamp:

Tractor Wheel

 

Oh… and let me tell you about the ‘toys’! If you have ever watched a little boy play in the dirt with his plastic toy tractors, back hoe, front loader, and dump trucks… imagine that in real life. This family has all that and more!! Ski mobiles fill the multi-compartment garages, as do nail guns, reciprocating saws with diamond blades, dog sleds, and so much more!!

Their stories kept us raptured for hours. Moose hunting, salmon fishing, getting lost in a blizzard while snowmobiling and having to stay warm and dry… and more importantly… alive… in the open drifts until the storm lifted and they could find their way home… falling from a second story loft and hitting the wood burning stove on the way down… OY! This is all in a day of choosing this life style.

photo 3

 

Uncle Earl was a wealth of information… and made certain we ‘saw it all’!!!

There are LOTS of bugs here… but they don’t seem to bite. Standing outside in the middle of a swampy forest, my face was the only thing uncovered… and although the bugs were annoying, only one bit me on the forehead. It itched for a few seconds… then vanished. You use the spray more to keep them flying around you… not to keep them from biting you.

OH… I can’t leave without telling you all I spotted a MOOSE!!! I was in an adorable town named Talakeetna… when I saw him standing in front of a store. He was painted!!! I am familiar with the painted cows that swept the nation a generation ago… but here it’s Moose. They are so cute!!

Moose

ALASKA!!! The Final Frontier!

FINALLY!!! I’m here! Anchorage, Alaska! I thought this day would never come. So many delays had me wondering if this trip was ever really going to happen.

Traffic jam on the highway getting to the airport… A delay in closing the cabin door due to a seat assignment snafu in the aisle across from us… VP Biden landing in Philly, putting all airline traffic at a stand still… then FINALLY we are on our way!!!

The little girl sitting in the seat in front of me was so darn cute… and well-behaved. I couldn’t resist snapping a peek-a-boo picture of her.

Baby on airplane

The landing in Seattle at sunset was absolutely stunning!!! I couldn’t get a good picture of it… so it will have to remain in my head. Hopefully some day I will be able to paint it. Leg 1 of my journey was finally complete. Just another 3 ½ hour jaunt and I would be in ALASKA! It couldn’t come fast enough as fas as I was concerned. Leg 2 was a bit tight. I was wedged in the middle seat between a big guy reading his bible the entire way… and the Michelin Man on the other side of me. He took up his seat… and a quarter of mine! He couldn’t help it, he just spilled out. When he fell asleep he relaxed and spread out even more. I couldn’t WAIT for the plane to land!

What a day. I was up at 6:00AM EST and didn’t land in Alaska until 12:00AM ATZ (that’s 4:00AM for my east coast friends)!!!

After a solid night’s sleep… I was up and ready to roll!! First on our itinerary was an 11 mile coastal bike ride… but it was raining and although we didn’t mind getting wet… we wouldn’t get to see any of the beautiful scenery due to the heavy cloud cover. Our spirits weren’t dampened… as we continued on with the rest of our scheduled events, and added a trip to the most phenomenal library you would ever want to see!!! Quite impressive.

Walking around the town of Anchorage, checking out the old damns at Ship Creek where you can observe the salmon swimming up-stream during the height of the season, learning about ULU Knives, visiting the Anchorage Museum to become more acquainted with the many tribes indigenous to the area, and food shopping… filled our day.

Anchorage Museum

The museum’s newest installment was all about GYRE… large rotating currents in the ocean… and all the plastic trash they stir up and spit out along the world’s beaches. Artists have been creating the most amazing pieces with this trash. Here’s a crew of dogs pulling a sled… all made from plastic recovered from various shores.

Plastic dogs

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When originally planning our trip… it was decided the most economical choice was to stay in a rented house. OMG!!! You should see this beauty!!! Located on the outskirts of Anchorage… on a lake… with a view of the mountains. Fully equipped modern kitchen, amazing stained glass art work all around the place, wrap around decks, 4 great bedrooms, and a jacuzzi… very upscale! I can’t say enough wonderful things about this place. Since this entire trip was ‘my deal’… it was assumed I would take the master bedroom. Nope… I instead chose the cozy room on the main floor off to the side. The one with the lake level view :-)

My most favorite thing in the whole house… other than my bed… is the life-size carved wooden bear who holds the TV in the living room. He’s adorable!!!

TV Bear

Speaking of bears… this place comes equipped with 2 grills on the deck… one gas and one charcoal. The owners have asked us to forego using them… because 2 bears have been caught traipsing on the property and they don’t want to encourage them.

Such is life in Alaska.

Tomorrow we have another full day of fun. Sightseeing in the morning with a trip south… finishing with a dinner cruise. There is reportedly 18 hours of daylight. I only wish my body could keep up with the time.

I leave you with a view of the lake outside the breakfast nook. If you look closely you will see a mountain peeking out from the clouds.

Alaska lake view

A Few Extra Inches DO Make a Difference!

Four years ago I sold almost everything I owned… including my bed. My oversized four bedroom, 3 bathroom, center hall colonial was in foreclosure. Defeated, I was moving back into my old childhood bedroom in my mom’s house. Speak about downsizing!!! There was no possible way a king sized bed was ever going to fit in a 10′ by 12′ room and be able to close the door. I couldn’t even THINK about the rest of my stuff accumulated over the years.

As things worked out, with the nudging of a friend, and an agreeable home seller willing to work an unconventional deal, I scraped together every nickel, dime, and penny I could find and put a down-payment on a small house instead. But now I didn’t have a bed… or any money to buy a new one. Sooooo… in order to NOT sleep on a hardwood floor, I did the next best thing and purchased an air mattress.

Overall it was a good decision. Not knowing when I would ever have enough spare cash to afford a REAL bed… I splurged and got a fancy air mattress with a cushion top and built-in pump. Go wild!!!

Have you ever slept in one of those things for a few nights in a row? Let me tell you, the novelty wears off real fast. The sleeping was OK, a little bouncy, but for the most part I slept well. It was the getting out of it in the morning that seemed to be the problem. There’s no such thing as swinging your legs over the side and standing up. Nope. More like rolling onto the floor, pushing yourself up on all fours, then kneeling, then standing up one leg at a time… while wiping sleep out of your eyes… and hoping you don’t fall over.

Don’t even get me started about how often you have to pump it back up. I didn’t complain about the situation… even when it sprung a leak and I’d wake up each morning a little closer to the hardwood floor than I started the night before. I patched it… but it still sank. Also… the vinyl had a unique way of holding the cold. Every time I rolled over my body hit a cold spot! Brrrrr! Still I didn’t complain. It was what it was, besides I was getting used to it.

Eventually I hit a windfall and unexpected money was headed my way. The same friend who nudged me to buy the house dropped by, ushered me into the car, and headed off to the store to buy a much-needed mattress and box spring during the President’s Weekend Sale. Within an hour I had chosen a pillow topped King sized set to be delivered the next day. Why King, I hear you ask? Well… I could tell it was going to be a tight fit in my little room, but I already had sheets and blankets for a King Size… so I was being frugal.

Notice I said I purchased the mattress and box spring… right? No headboard. No footboard. Not even a metal frame. I spent every dime on the set, there was nothing left for ‘extras’. The delivery guys forced it up the narrow stairs… and plopped it flat on the floor, in the exact spot previously filled by the air mattress.

Ahhhhhh…. such comfort!! It had been so long I had forgotten how nice it felt to sleep on a REAL mattress. Such support! I was at least another 6 inches higher up and had a whole new view of my room. I could see out the bedroom window. Oh… and getting up in the morning was a joy. No aching back!!! No rolling onto the floor! Wow! Life was good!!!

A year later… the mattress became infested with BED BUGS!! Ugh!! Arming myself with rubbing alcohol and hydrogen peroxide, and freaking out waiting 2 days for the exterminator… I fought a good fight and not only won the battle, but won the war! There hasn’t been a bug spotted in over a year.

My daughter and son-in-law are moving across country. They have always wanted a King Size bed… I decided a Queen Size would fit better in my ‘space’… so today we swapped! They woke up this morning and tossed their mattress and box spring into a van and drove 3 hours to my house. I woke up this morning and stripped the bed, tossed the sheets into the washer… and waited.

Last year when my daughter moved out to marry her sweetheart, she never took the queen size metal frame with her. So I pulled it out of storage and plopped their mattress on top. YIPPIE!!! I just gained another 4 inches and feel like such a BIG GIRL in my BIG GIRL bed!!! It took almost 4 years, but I FINALLY have a bed up off the floor.

I am seeing the world from yet a different vantage point again. My bed sits up high enough for me to catch the breeze from the window. I’m closer to the ceiling than ever before. I can swing my legs over the side and stand up! I can even use under the bed for much-needed storage!!! Whoa!!

I was so excited I ran right out and bought new sheets and a bed skirt… with a 15” drop! All the years of changing a bed while my sick husband lay in it came flooding back as I put the bed skirt on without help. First push the mattress to one side, lay out the skirt and straighten it on that side, tuck the rest firmly under the mattress. Walk around to the other side and push the mattress back and reach under it to pull the tucked piece out and straighten. Ta-Dah!

Next on the bed… new sheets! Fresh, crisp, snow-white sheets… with a Polka Dot design woven in. Oh how they make me giggle!!!

Polka Dot bedding

I guess now I will have to sew a quilt for myself. I have sewn so many and given them away… now it’s time to design one for me!

Four years ago I started on the floor. I have come so very far!!! This is truly a fine example of the old addage, ‘All good things come to those who wait’.

Hmmmm…. What should I wait for next???

A Great Lady

Another great lady was laid to rest this week.

For those of you who aren’t sure what I ‘do’ each day… suffice it to say I visit elderly women at the bequest of their family members. Consider me an adopted daughter.

There comes a time in all of our lives where we need just a little help on a daily basis in order to stay in our homes where we feel the most comfortable. Not yet ready for 100% assisted living, but not able to function safely on our own.

Gone are the multi-generational families of yesteryear where you would easily count three generations living under the same roof. Now-a-days it’s more likely all family members have scattered across the United States… some even to other countries. So when Mom begins to show signs of forgetfulness and you wonder if she will burn down the house forgetting something on the stove… and you live too far away, or your job is too demanding… then that’s when I come in.

I get so much more from these visits than I give. While sitting in doctor’s offices… or the hair dresser, we talk. Everyone has a unique and interesting story. We talk about the olden days, their jobs, their kids and grandkids, their husbands and married life, their first boyfriends, vacations, life in general, and death. Yes… we talk about death. They WANT to talk about it. Maybe not to their kids or loved ones… but to a non-relative like me. They need to get it off their chest. Afterall… it IS their next journey.

One woman kept asking me about the cremation process. She desperately wants to be cremated… but when she brings the subject up to her son he admonishes her and states HE doesn’t believe in cremation. Thank heavens I’m a pushy Jersey Girl and asked him to come talk to her while I was there. Mostly to give her the strength she needed to talk to him about death, but also to make him see how important this decision was to her. Phew… that conversation ended on a happy note. She will get her wish… even if it is still YEARS away.

The elderly are stronger than we give them credit for. They have gone through every phase of life… from birth, through adolescence and those horrible teenage years, to young love and marriage, a family of their own and all that it brings, to empty nesting, widowhood and now knocking on death’s door. They are not ignoring that fact… they are educating themselves… getting ready for it.

Today I attended a memorial service for the woman I visited the longest. The room was located in the senior facility where she had lived and was filled with loving friends. I’m guessing the average age was about 85 years old. Imagine my surprise when her son stepped up to the podium and began by blurting out, “I guess you all want to know how she died”.

The air pressure turned into a vacuum as everyone simultaneously gasped… then immediatley inched closer to the edge of their seats so as not to miss a single word. There was no mistaking he had the full attention of the room… and they really wanted to know. If you knew this son at all… you should have expected it. He’s the kind of guy that tells it like it is. He ended his talk by saying… at age 92, her body just wore out.

Shouldn’t we all be so lucky? To live a life so full and long, that you just plumb wear out??

I don’t know where my next journey will lead me, but I hope I meet up with her again. If I do… I’ll ask her the same thing she has asked me every day I visited for the past few years… “What’s doin’?”

R.I.P. Rhoda Kern.

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo!

All Aboard!!!

The constant clickety clack of steel wheels along the railroad track and rhythmic swaying of the cars provides a perfect setting to get some quality writing time under your belt. With that in mind… Amtrak announced a few months ago they were providing a Writer in Residence program. The idea was to receive applications and choose 115 writers and offer them an all expenses paid trip lasting 3 to 7 days on one of their many exciting excursions throughout the USA. A sleeper car including a desk (for writing) and food would be provided.

I applied for the program. Hey… I’m an empty nester and figured it would be a FABULOUS experience. I wouldn’t get to choose where the train went, but I didn’t care. Basically I’m an adventurous kind of soul.

Amtrak received 16,100 applications!!!!

Although I didn’t win one of the elite 115 placements… the application process was certainly an experience unto itself. It made me sit for a moment and really THINK about my writing and what I hoped to accomplish… THEN put it in to words so someone else would feel what I was trying to say. Another lesson from the School of Hard Knocks.

A few weeks ago my blog was viewed 781 times in one day. When looking through the meager stats, I could tell that one unique viewer either read or printed out each and every one of my posts. I have to wonder now if the judges at Amtrak had anything to do with that?? Is it only a coincidence that this high hit day was only two weeks before I received the email from Amtrak that I wasn’t choosen? Hmmmm? I’d like to believe my application made them take a closer look at my writing. If that’s really the case… then I’m thrilled.

I’ve said this many times before… we writers are an insecure bunch. We sit in an empty room by ourselves all day typing the words that flow through our head. Sometimes they make sense, sometimes they don’t. We HOPE they make sense to other people… and move them in some way. So… If my application made only one person take a look because they wanted to read more… then I’m a winner afterall!!!

Thank you Amtrak for providing such a GREAT program. Be on the lookout for my application again next year!

A Tribute To My Dad…

Family photo

I never really knew my Dad… he died the month before my 8th birthday.

My mom told me the story many times… of how they had an argument before he left the house that morning, although she can’t remember why; how she didn’t kiss him goodbye. From the stories I have heard, my dad had a quick temper, and I assume that particular morning was no exception.

It was a typical summer Sunday. My dad and oldest brother were racing in the Summer Series at Monmouth Boat Club on the Navesink River in Red Bank, NJ, I ‘helped’ keep score, and my mom stayed home to get things done around the house in peace and quiet. I don’t know where my other brother was that particular day… I’m guessing he was playing tennis on the clay courts next door.

Back in those days, the signs of an approaching heart attack were not known. The pain in my dad’s arm that morning was not the muscle strain he thought it was, but rather an obvious sign he was about to have a massive heart attack. As a 3 pack a day chain smoker (unfiltered Camels), and a very social drinker with a short fuse… upon reflection it is no surprise this would be his demise.

Dad was skipper, and my brother the crew… they sailed for the finish line, in first place… when the attack reared its ugly head and squeezed the last breath out of my dad. My brother, at the tender age of 13 took control of the tiller, brought the boat over the line, and signaled the rescue boat for help. The hospital is located right there on the river, but by the time anyone got to the boat to help, it was too late. My dad was gone… and the truth of his life would soon unravel.

At the time of his death my parents had been married for 13 years. Mom was now a single parent with 3 mouths to feed, clothe, and shelter with not a dime to her name. As in most families of that generation, my dad was the bread-winner while mom stayed home and raised the kids. She helped to make ends meet with occasional catering jobs and working the counter of a much-loved local delicatessen… she was no stranger to hard work and long hours. Once the shock of losing her husband so instantly wore off, she gathered her wits and began thinking about her next move.

My dad didn’t have any life insurance, but he DID have plenty of savings bonds. He worked as an engineer, designing tools for the government, so certainly there would be some sort of compensation and perhaps some Social Security. Mom was secure that she would be able to pull enough money together to help stay afloat long enough to tide us over until she found a full-time job. Imagine her surprise when applying for benefits she was informed she was not legally married and therefore did not qualify for any benefits. To add insult to injury… the Savings Bonds listed his parents as beneficiaries, and they were not the sort to share.

When Mom and Dad met on the Belmar beach, they had both been married and divorced. Mom didn’t believe the Good Lord intended her to be beaten within an inch of her life every Friday night, so she drove to Florida where divorces were legal and filed the papers. Raised as a devoted Catholic, she did this knowing full well she would be excommunicated from the church.

Dad told her he had married, but still needed to get to Florida and do the paperwork for a divorce. A few weeks later he was hired to sail a yacht down the coast… to Florida, and he would do it then. Mom followed him down south where they dated and fell deeply in love. When summer was over, they moved back north and settled in to their regular routines… and saw each other every chance they could. By June she found herself ‘in the family way’ and my dad immediately married her. He grabbed a friend who just happened to be a minister, and on my mom’s 21st birthday they said their vows on the Belmar beach in front of a handful of friends. There was no reason anyone would have thought this was not a legally binding marriage… especially my mom.

It’s not clear if the friend of my dad’s was a real minister, or not; however, the paperwork was never filed and a marriage certificate was never issued. Thirteen years later, what IS clear is that for some unknown reason my dad’s divorce NEVER took place… and upon his death he was legally married to someone else.

Growing up I only got to know my dad through stories. I have few memories of my own. I knew he loved me, of that I am sure. I also saw glimpses of his temper, and had been on the receiving end only once that I recall. THAT story involves a racoon, coal bin, and apples… which I will tell you all some other time.

His friends paint a picture of a handsome, outgoing, party guy with a clear analytical and intelligent mind, mixed with a broad smile and quick temper. They all revered him and looked to him for guidance. My mom of course paints a different picture. Once she stumbled on the truth, her view of him did a 180. She hardly spoke of him at all. Although she told me a few stories, which is how I know the little I do, she preferred to not speak of him at all. He died in flesh and in spirit that summer.

I have a friend whose father also passed away earlier than expected. Thanks to their mother they have a totally different feeling about their father. Their mother kept their father ‘alive’ by commenting how proud he would be if he were alive to see them get good grades, excel in sports, do well in life and more. My friend strived to make their father proud, and continues to do so on a daily basis even now that we are grown adults.

I wish I had that growing up. My dad simply did not exist in my life. He was hardly ever a thought. My mom did her best to cut him out of my life. I understand she was stunned, hurt, humiliated and mad as hell… but he was my dad after all. He treated us well, and never once gave us a moment of hesitation that we weren’t his only family.

My brothers stepped in as able substitutes. One attending school meetings and functions when a parent was expected, turning his gold signet ring around to suggest it was a wedding ring; and the other who gingerly held my hand as he led me to the front steps to empty the snow out of my boots. Teaching me to ride a two-wheel bike, and then to drive a car… both watching nervously as I began dating. On my wedding day when a girl usually is walked down the aisle by her dad… I was thrilled to have both brothers do the honors… one on either side.

So here is my first ever tribute to my Dad… where ever his spirit may be. I know he loved me… and through stories I know I was the light of his life. For that, I am grateful. I also know that had he lived, my life would have been an entirely different story.

My Dad was my first ‘crush’ and my first heart-break.

Happy Father’s Day Dad!!!

And more importantly… Happy Father’s Day to my two brothers!!!

** The above photo is the ONLY picture taken of our entire family TOGETHER. It is a digital reproduction of a very crumpled and ruined picture taken on the steps of Monmouth Boat Club the year before my dad passed away.

The Mad Adventures of Caulking

I caulked the tub tonight. Me! All by myself! Can you see me doing a happy dance?

So “Big deal”, I can hear you all say. “Caulking a tub is no reason to get so excited.” Well… maybe not for you… but it is MONUMENTAL for me!

I was married to a guy who wouldn’t let me do this kind of stuff. Not that HE was going to do it either… but in his mind it was a ‘man’s job’ and I was told to hire someone to do it. Grrrr. (I used to wait until he was away on a business trip to wallpaper or paint the house… hee, hee.)

Now I’m a homeowner all by myself… and on a tight budget. I could have asked either of my son-in-laws to caulk it for me, or hired a handyman, or asked any one of the nice neighbors around here… but NO, I was going to do it myself! How hard could it be after all?

Thank heavens for the ingenious duo of Pinterest and DIY Big Box stores. I did a little research first… and decided to use the painter’s tape method. With a new-found sense of power… I headed to my local DIY Home Fix-it store where a delightful older gentleman guided me in my purchases. HOWEVER… he mistook my bravado as experience and sold me SILICONE instead of ACRYLIC… AND sold me a caulk gun without any direction or instruction on how to use the blasted thing. I understood the basic workings of it… but the tiny nuances were a mystery to me.

My tub was all clean and dry… with the gap between the tiles and tub taunting me. “What are you thinking? You can’t do this. This is a ‘pants’ job… you’re a ‘skirt’ person.” Funny… the tub sounds very much like my late husband.

After a day or two of reflection and soul-searching, I told that tub to shut its trap and listen up… I was the new handyman around here and I was going to caulk this thing no matter how ugly it got!!

Fully clothed and sitting in a tub is a very funny feeling. Using the blue painter’s tape originally designed to make straight lines on walls when painting… I tape off the upper and lower edges of where my caulking should be… all around the tub.

Next I grabbed my scissors and snipped the very tip off the caulk tube… at an angle just as I was instructed. Taking the caulking gun in my other hand I realized too late I should have twirled the end around, and around, and around, and around until the round plunger disk thing was pulled back far enough for the tube to slip into the gun. Oops. OK… I rectified that little issue.

The tube is in the gun… now the next question is… Which way does the angle on the tip point? Hmmm… not sure. I guess I will have to squirt some out on a plastic bag and see which way works best.

Gently squeezing the trigger, I patiently wait for the silicone to squirt out. Squeeze, squeeze, squeeze. Huh… nothing is coming out. I squeeze a little harder. SQUEEZE… SQUEEZE… still nothing. I unscrew the ‘thingy’ and take the tube out of the gun. Hmmm.. I see the bottom has a little caulk oozing out of it… so SOMETHING is moving. I plop the tube back in and try again. Nothing.

At this point I’m thinking the tube must have had a hole in it some where and the silicone is all dried up. Nah… that can’t be. WAIT!! What’s this wire on the gun for?? A prong? To puncture the inside of the tube? Well I’ll be darned. THAT’s information I would have like to have known earlier. Besides… that’s so stupid. First… there’s a cap on the tube that was so tight I needed a pair of pliers to get it off. Next I had to snip off the hermetically sealed tip… and NOW I have to puncture the inside? What’s in this tube? Krazy glue???

Once again I take the tube out of the gun, pull the wire out from the gun, pierce the tube, and put everything back together… one more time.

I slowly squeeze the trigger, nothing. I squeeze a little harder, still nothing. UGH! Now, so totally frustrated and ready to call a handyman… I make one last effort. I RIP the tube out of the gun, jam it as hard as I can on the wire, slam it back in to place and SQUEEZE. A thin ribbon of caulk begins to flow… Woo! Hoo! Practicing on a plastic bag to ‘get the hang of it’ didn’t really help much.

Pretending I was piping icing on a cake… I slowly guide the gun around the perimeter of the tub, while gently, yet firmly, squeezing the trigger… and concentrating staying within the taped lines. A wobbly line of silicone is the result.

As instructed, I dipped my finger in a cup of water, and lightly smoothed the line. And that’s where my trouble began.

Having used SILICONE instead of ACRYLIC was probably not the smartest choice for a first caulking project. It’s smelly and messy… and difficult to clean up! My finger now had this rubbery, sticky stuff on it… so I wiped it on a wet sponge. The sponge stuck to my finger. I ripped it off.

Fearful of the label AND verbal instructions… I had to work quickly. So I wet another finger and continued the smoothing process… changing fingers as I went. By the time I was finished I had this gooey stuff all over my hands.

Wiping my hands on a rag didn’t work. So I tried washing them with soap… nope. The more I rubbed and wiped, the worse it got. I was beginning to feel like The Cat in the Hat wiping up the pink stuff! The silicone was getting every where and my hands were all sticky. Plus I was wearing a good pair of pants and I couldn’t even try wiping my hands on my clothes. *Note to self… change clothes before beginning a ‘pants’ project in the future.

Reading the tube I realize I was supposed to have some mineral spirits on hand. I didn’t. As a matter of fact I not only didn’t have it on hand… I didn’t have any in the house! So, what’s a girl to do??? Reach for the nail polish remover… AKA, Acetone (AKA Girl’s mineral spirits). It worked like a charm! No more sticky hands.

Removing the tape… I stepped back and admired the job. Very neat and professional if I do say so my self.

caulk

See? That wasn’t so hard. After listening to my husband for over 25 years telling me I couldn’t… I found out that I could. ‘Pants job’, ‘Skirt job’… makes no difference to me.

I’m ready to tackle standing on a ladder with a garden house and house cleaner to scrub the mildew off the roof of the house this weekend. Wish me luck! If you don’t hear from me in a few days, send flowers.

Thwap, Thwap, Clunk…

It was just one of THOSE kind of days. You know what I mean? Where nothing horrible happens… but things don’t go as smoothly as they could have? Right?

The brisk breeze was a welcome relief from the heat of the blaring sun. If I owned a convertible it would have been the PERFECT day to drop the top and go about my day. Ahhhh…. maybe next year. Since I couldn’t have my dream car, I thought I’d treat myself to a consolation prize of a cup of my favorite coffee… and drive to the cutest little coffee shop known to man… Rook Roasters. Tooling down the road, half way there… BAM… Police barricade indicating road work up ahead. Ugh! The detour signs point me in the opposite direction, but I refuse to let this dampen my spirits… and put my blinker on.

The detour signs gave up giving directions half way through a housing development and left everyone on their own to figure out how to get where they were going. Great! It kind of reminded me of a line of ants. They are all going in the same direction when all of a sudden you place something in their path. They all start to head in different directions, confused. Yeah… that’s exactly what this was like. The conga line of cars broke into total confusion as each car thought they knew a better way and veered off in a different direction.

I finally figured out where I was and which way to turn when… ding, ding, ding, ding, ding… the crossing gates came down and I had to sit and wait for a very long train to pass. Once over the tracks… I got the red light. A l-o-n-g red light. Geesh… I can’t seem to catch a break today.

Finally, what seemed like a year later (in reality it was only 20 minutes) I arrived at the coffee shop. Ah…. coffee… my favorite Honduras blend. Yum. Oh… AND I filled up my reward card today so the next one is FREE! Things are looking up… or so I thought.

I needed to make an appointment with a new doctor I have never seen before. Since the office was on the way to my next meeting, I made the executive decision to stop by the office to make my appointment in person. I figured there would be paperwork to fill out and I could do it right then and get it over with… so efficient! Uh… no. The office was so crowded I felt it would take an hour before I was able to talk to the receptionist. I went back to the car and called.

New patient, new rules, new forms… oh… and did I “call the New Jersey VA and register?”, the receptionist wanted to know. What??? I qualified for coverage, I got my card, I jumped through all the appropriate hoops and was deemed eligible 2 years ago… and NOW you tell me I have to register my qualification??? No where in any of the pages and pages and pages of documents was there any mention what so ever of registering with the New Jersey VA before you could see a doctor. I am so glad this was NOT an emergency.

The nice, sweet, unruffled, calm voiced receptionist recited the phone number for ‘Mary Jo’ who apparently can expedite my registration and get me in the system… so I can make an appointment. I dutifully dial the number… I get the “Welcome to… If this is an emergency please hang up and dial 911… If you know your party’s extension please dial it now.” I punch in the extension number. In the same voice as the previous message I hear, “Welcome to… If this is an emergency please hang up and dial 911… If you know your party’s extension please dial it now.” Huh… I guess it didn’t register. I press the extension numbers again… I wait. The phone connects. The same deep male voice says, “Welcome to… If this is” AAACCCKKK!!! I’m caught in a loop!! I hang up and decide to deal with this later.

Attending my next meeting, I feel like an alien dropped smack in the middle of some chaotic game where I don’t know the rules. Everyone else in this group works together on a daily basis… I just help out when needed. I have no idea what all the acronyms mean, or what they expect of me. I decide not to waste everyone’s time by asking for clarification… I’ll pull someone aside at the end of the meeting and ask to be filled in. I smile, nod my head, take some notes and remind myself I’m an intelligent human being and am a fast learner. I’ll figure it out.

Next stop… a daily visit to one of the sweet elderly ladies I visit. The parking lot is small… and I spy ONE spot left. I swing around the corner, put my blinker on, and as I begin to steer my car into the space… some jerk in a blue Maserati (to add insult to injury… it was a CONVERTIBLE) zips in and takes it. AAARRRGGGHHHH! Taking a deep breath I remind myself that there are jerks in the world and nothing comes from arguing with them. I give him my ‘disappointed mother’ look… and thankfully another spot ( a BETTER spot) becomes available. If Karma really exists, someone will ‘key’ his car in the near future.

Knocking on the door to announce my arrival, I reach for the door knob. The door has always been unlocked and I just let myself in, but today… for the first time EVER… it’s locked. Hmmmm… now what? This woman is hard of hearing… so I knock even louder. Eventually she answers the door… and looks at me in shock. “I didn’t know you come in the evenings too”, she said. After looking around and assessing the situation, I realize she has eaten ‘dinner’ and is ready for bed. It’s 12:30… in the AFTERNOON! She is getting her days and nights mixed up.

Leaving there a few hours later, my stomach tells me I haven’t eaten since early this morning and it’s time to get something to eat. I usually pack a healthy snack and a bottle of water… but not this morning. I pull into KFC and order some lunch.

My car air-conditioner is malfunctioning, but every time I bring it into the shop for repair, they can’t find anything wrong with it (naturally). So I order my lunch at the drive thru and decide to eat in the parking lot… keeping the car running to time when the air-conditioner conks out. Of course today it runs like a dream and continuously blows refreshing cool air at my body.

Lunch finished, I put the car in drive and pull out of the lot.

Thwap, thwap, clunk. Thwap, thwap, CLUNK. THWAP! THWAP! CLUNK! Uh-oh!

Immediately I swing BACK into the KFC parking lot… and get out of the car. Thinking I have I flat, I walk around and inspect my tires. Visions of my AAA card float in my head. Nope… no flat. The air-conditioner is still poofing fresh cool air. I’m stumped. I take another walk around the car.

Ah-HA!! You know the black icky stuff road crews use to fill the surface cracks? Well… apparently my hot tires lifted some up from the pavement and a huge chunk of it was stuck in my tire treads AND excess was flapping around. Here’s a photo…

tire gunk

I yanked off as much as I could… but the tenacious tar stuck in the treads and wouldn’t budge. Oh FUDGE!

I continued on my way… with only a thwap, clunk, thwap, clunk until 2 miles down the road I heard a loud CLUNK… and then silence.

It’s only 3:00pm and I feel like I’ve had a full day! Jumping into bed is looking better and better. Maybe I should take a lesson from that elderly lady… and not care what the clock reads. When you’ve had enough… give in and… Go to bed!

Raw Clams at the Shore

I woke up one morning with an image of a quilt in my head. I was so excited I couldn’t wait to start sewing. Although it seems I thought of it one day, and made it the next… in reality it was years in the making.

Two years ago quilt artist extraordinaire, Frances Alford had shown me a piece she was working on… making her own fabric by sewing odd shapes and pieces of fabric to a base. The best thing about this concept is that if you don’t like what you’ve done… simply sew another piece over it. Ta-dah… instant ugliness eraser! This technique rumbled around in the back of my head for too long… it was time to bring it to the fore front and try it out!

I purchased fabric last year for the Quilt Alliance contest/fundraiser. The theme was TWENTY… whatever that meant to you. I had decided to use 20 fabrics (all beach colors) and do something that represented 20 years at the Jersey Shore… but never got around to doing the project. The fabric sat around on a shelf for an entire year… untouched. Each time I unearthed it in a frantic search for something else, I would move it to the side with the intention of SOME DAY doing something with it.

This year’s Quilt Alliance theme was “INSPIRED BY”. By searching the Quilt Index and checking out all the quilt eye candy, you were to design an art quilt of your own that was inspired by something you saw. Well… for me… it was CLAM SHELLS. There is an old pattern making the rounds again named Clam Shells. To be honest… I had no desire to sew anything with this design. Personally I don’t like it… it doesn’t appeal to me at all. However the idea of this challenge was simply to be inspired by a quilt… so… Clam Shells it is. I couldn’t get Clams Incognito by Beth Donaldson out of my mind. Her quilt is colorful and modern… clearly ‘outside of the box’ type of thinking went in to her design.

All the planets aligned, a new contest/fundraiser was announced, I had all this fabric just itching to be used in some amazing project, Frances’ idea was niggling in my brain… and I dreamt of a specific quilt. Kismet I tell ya… Kismet.

This quilt represents so many ‘firsts’ for me. Raw edge quilting, beading embellishment, free motion quilting, making a hanging sleeve, submitting to Quilt Alliance, and yes… even making a quilt label! I have made many quilts over the past 2 years… but they were given anonymously, so I never put a label in them… SHAME on me :-)

Without further preamble… I unabashedly unveil the final art quilt… ‘Raw Clams on the Shore’:

Raw Clams... final

Of all the quilts I have made… this one saddens me to give it away. I dreamt about it… it’s a part of ‘me’. It came out EXACTLY the way I envisioned. On the plus side however… it will be judged and hopefully might be recognized is some small way. Then it will travel to some quilt shows and eventually be put up for auction on Ebay via the Quilt Alliance as their annual fundraiser. I’m sure it will go to some one who will appreciate it as much as I do.

Hey… I can always make myself another, but then I’d have to go fabric shopping… Darn!

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