The saga of the wallpaper begins with a house painter, Joe, who was not well. He was planning for a job at my house, so I asked him how I could help. He said, “You could remove the wallpaper.” Clearly, wallpaper was not his favorite thing. Something I had never done before and had put into the “too hard basket” in the past now lurched into my future.

Procrastination can be your friend. I got a lot of housework and odds and ends done before I settled into tackling a project that was entirely foreign to me.

I need to organize a project mentally before I am able to tackle it. I was always the kid who asked “why?” and I do need to have my why’s answered before I can feel confident about proceeding.

At the paint store, the clerk knew about DIF which Joe had advised getting. Joe also stipulated that I would need two buckets of water, for a sponge and for Scotch-brite. He said it was important not to leave any paste on the walls. Consultation with an accomplished house-fixing friend added a wallpaper scoring tool, a plastic (not metal) putty knife, a spray bottle and drop cloths to the list.

The first wall was trial and a little error (not enough DIF). The peeling was tentative and patchy but the scrub down after removal, with Scotch-brite to remove any leftover paper and paste, and the wet sponging left a surprisingly shiny clean wall.

After the first wall, I had it down to a routine of scoring the paper, soaking every inch with DIF solution via spray bottle, allowing 15-20 minutes for the DIF to work, and then peeling off the paper. Joe had suggested doing one patch about 3 feet square, and letting it sit while I prepared another patch, and to start at the top. By the end of the project I went whole hog and scored, soaked and stripped an entire panel at one time.

There was one moment of pure joy, as I went through the scoring and soaking, and on a whim, gently pulled from the bottom of the paper and was able to get the entire single panel off, all the way up and across the top at the ceiling, in one piece. I felt like I should frame it.

It took days to do this, a few hours at a time. 12-24 hours after each stripping, I went back to check for residual paper or paste. I found it, and removed it with more DIF solution. The lighting in the room changed during the day, and had to be just so in order to see the bits and pieces that had been left.

It feels good (to me) to take on a job I have never done before, to understand it, work with it, and be successful. By the time I had finished the three formerly wallpapered walls, I was ready to take on more. I’ll have to save that impulse for another time, maybe another place.

Photos: procrastination time –> first wall progress –> last wall, done!


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Communication is the key to any relationship, casual or otherwise.

Listening is an important factor; hearing is another.

Never assume you understand what you are hearing: if there is any question in your mind, ask if what you think you heard is correct (or not), and/or ask for clarification.

If what you think you heard feels like criticism or anger, take a breath and look at the information, the facts. Is it valid? Is it a topic for further discussion? Is it best left in the agree-to-disagree department?

Always listen to your partner: (s)he may know more than you might realize, regardless of the topic.

Say what you mean. You may need to say it a different way, to be heard.

Sometimes it takes a lot of courage for someone to express an opinion or to ask for something, or to set a boundary. Honor that. Listen. Clarify if necessary.

Know that true love is based on respect, consideration, and support…

Your partner’s opinion matters.

The two most common precipitators for divorce are finances, and how to raise the children. Both never stop; they are lifelong processes.

At the top of the list of major stressors are: moving house, changing jobs, a health crisis, having a child, losing a job, losing a family member especially a spouse or a child… not necessarily in that order.

When in doubt, breathe. Step back; look at the situation from a different perspective; try to see a bigger picture.

Most of life’s crises can be managed. You may need help: ask.


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Incident # 21-14-001893 Nicki in the Night

The dog woke me. 12:30 a.m. It was her “there’s something outside” bark. When she didn’t stop barking, I, two hours into a good sleep, staggered out of bed. Groggy, I failed to pick up my eyeglasses, but went to the window anyway (implants are wonderful things).

There was a cow in my driveway.

“911 – what is the location of your emergency?”
Me: Township, road and number given…
There’s a cow in my driveway.
Pause at the 911 end.
Me: Cow, as in Bovine…
“Sending an officer now…”

The cow was next to my car, snuffling in the recycle bin, moving things around.

A few minutes later, I in bathrobe, slippers, no eyeglasses and having forgotten the “golden” rule – always have your cell ‘phone with you – greeted the officer who arrived.

By then, the cow had moved on, but where? We speculated, perhaps on up the road. The officer went a short distance in pursuit while I wandered around the shed, noted the clothesline poles knocked to the ground, the security light triggered by the back woodpile, and the back terrace. Two of the outside cats came towards the terrace at full gallop, proof that the cow was in that area.

The officer pulled into the neighbor’s driveway. Only when he got out of the car did I realize he was a young man I’d known since he was about ten years old. I found that comforting. I said I hoped this was the most exciting thing for him on this Saturday night.

The cow was nearby and did I have the neighbor’s phone number? Old brain couldn’t sift through the immensity of information available. Went inside to get the Rolodex card with the name and phone numbers; handed it to the officer, “I don’t have my glasses – you read it”. He called, the neighbor came, and collected the cow.

The next morning, the evidence was there: hoof prints in the gravel, collapsed cardboard carton pulled out of the recycle bin, and contributions for the compost pile (Yay!).

Turns out the cow, Nicki, who is 16, likes cardboard.

9-7-14 Nicki




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What Kind of Person Washes Trash Cans?

The kind whose Grandmother suggested that soap dishes needed to be cleaned. After some explanation to a questioning child, the soap dishes were relieved of their excess soap residue, with the satisfaction of pleasing Grandma.

For a short person, washing a trash bin can be a challenge. A thirty-two gallon bin requires holding one end while scrubbing down both outside and inside. Inside means leaning the full length of the body inside the bin in order to reach the bottom. Larger than thirty-two gallon, we have to literally climb inside. That’s a little intimidating. We could hide inside a large trash bin. Our bodies could be stuffed inside one, for the trash man to collect, none the wiser unless there had been a few days of body percolation. Visions of “Law and Order”.

The same kind of person who likes to rise early with a sense of purpose, feeds the bodies currently needing sustenance, cleans up after them, does two loads of laundry, hangs the linens on the clothesline outside, re-pots a couple of plants (do you know how difficult it can be to assemble a hanging pot?), and attends to email. Before 9 a.m. and with no regrets about any of it.

And then there are the “other” days, when getting out of bed is an effort, time seems to vanish, and only a fraction of the possibilities are addressed. Oh, well. Life goes on. Cleaned trash bins, or not.


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A Piece of Heaven

That’s how my small house and property have been described by visitors. It is helpful to me to hear such evaluation. I tend to become so accustomed to my surroundings, to my home, that I forget how special it appears to others, and how special it is, in fact, to me.

An artist, who came to stay for several months, painted the scene at the back terrace, including the animals, and titled it “Peaceable Kingdom”. Not that it is always peaceable. We have our moments.

Sometimes, when I am not engrossed in the everyday details of living and keeping some alleged control over the “kingdom”, I take a breath and see at least some of what is here.

A creek is nearby, with all it has to offer: soothing sounds, fish, crayfish, birds, bugs, and a multitude of fishermen when fishing season opens. It is a salve to the chaos of living, usually gurgling, and roaring after a good rain.

A satellite photo shows trees, and more trees. If you look carefully, you can see the roads. The “gardens” are plush at this time of year, when there has been adequate rain. My compost pile is my vegetable garden and summer respite, after wintering inside, for the avocado trees that have volunteered there. Former owners established a nice arboreal framework. Other plantings are simply what has appealed to me, and it’s an okay-you’re-on-your-own-now situation. Either they make it, or they don’t. Every year there are new Maple trees, “scrub” trees, and wildflowers. If I didn’t prune things back, the house might be swallowed. Fortunately, for me, there is only a small “lawn” to be maintained. Lawn is a euphemism; it’s some grass and lots of “ground cover” which could be anything – violets, ajuga, dandelions, plantain, bird seed sproutings, etc. It’s only a weed if you don’t want it.

People say there is a beacon on my house, so many stray animals show up. Some find their own homes, thanks to the local police, animal control, and those who offer to house them. Some stay.

When one such visitor, a young Tabby cat, cried outside my bedroom windows for three nights in a row, he was lured into “captivity” with food. He was skin and bones, and had a broken leg. That was Smokey Joe. After a vet visit, neutering, the mandatory rabies vaccine, and an assessment that the leg was healing well on its own, he came “home” with the proviso that he could seek a new home anytime. He’s still here.

It is such a similar story to finding another Tabby that I wonder if it is coincidence. Probably not. Many years ago, I found an adult Tabby cat in my compost pile, holding down a corn cob with one paw and trying to chew on it. He was not scrawny but he was clearly hungry, and he had a broken jaw.

My partner said, “You’re not going to keep this one, are you.” It was not a question. I looked at the cat and mentally asked its name: Stirps. I thought it was a mis-spelling in my mind because the cat had stripes. But when I looked up stirps in the dictionary, it said “of the family”, a legal term commonly used as per stirpes. I told my partner that Stirps was of the family: he was staying. And he did so for about ten years before he died of old age.

The animals come, eventually they die, and they are appreciated for who they are while they are here. Who could ask for more?

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It’s a Matter of Priorities

A new wireless printer sits in its box. Only the top of the box has been opened.

And then there is the cuckoo clock.

The old cuckoo clock belonged to my mother, which makes the clock at least thirty years old. I’ve had it repaired once, requiring new hand-made parts. It was expensive but there was the tradition to be respected.

Finally, a decision had to be made. The cuckoo clock had stopped again, for good this time. It was less expensive simply to replace it, although that was impossible as the model is no longer made.

A web search revealed availability of cuckoo clocks with some character, not the off the shelf at Wal-Mart variety. A replacement cuckoo clock would need to have some redeeming features and require daily winding. I found one, and it arrived within two days of the order being placed. Talk about good service!

There it was: another box to be unpacked. The printer has been here for two weeks. What do I do? Do I unpack the printer because it was here first? Or do I open the cuckoo clock box containing a pure luxury item, not something electronically useful. Clock or printer?

Frankly, there was no question in my mind. The printer could wait.

The new clock was unpacked, the old clock was packed up (just “in case” it might be fixed at some future date), and the new clock went onto the wall. The dancers move, the birds dip to feed the chicks, and two different music box melodies play and the cuckoo darts out, every half hour.

And I am smiling. Technology can wait.


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What Does It Take For You To Feel Rich ?

The answer changes over a lifetime:

For a child – love, reward(s)

A teenager – a goal set/attained, a girl/boyfriend, money

20’s – a job, relationship, buying power, money

30’s – accomplishments, goods accumulating, money

40’s – all that has gone before, plus any improvements along the way, abilities, money

50’s – existential “why am I here” answers, acknowledging past actions/activities, money

60’s – seeing an end coming, revised goals, money

70’s – reflections, appreciation, money

Clearly, a common factor is money. Other common factors might be love, recognition, security/safety, appreciation from others, comfort, food, clothing, shelter etc. Despite a common definition, “rich” is not monetary. It’s a feeling. Rich is determined by what you value. Rich is enhanced by not taking things for granted, and gratitude.

Many factors can contribute to feeling rich. Most recently for me, it was lunch with friends at a nearby restaurant, a sumptuous meal, well served, and the company of friends. It felt like a birthday party.

Human nature is geared to dissatisfaction. It’s what drives us to new goals, new acquisitions, new partners. Without dissatisfaction, or at the least, change, we stagnate; we wallow in the status quo. Inject fear and we enter a “don’t make waves” society. For some, this may be acceptable, but many have a need to “move on”. The need can strike at any time, perhaps as a restlessness, perhaps as rebellion. It demands action. It is a striving for betterment, and what we consider being rich.

Someone who hauls water so they can have it at their abode, can feel rich in the presence of easily accessible water – what most of us take for granted in our homes. In western societies, rich is equated with accumulation of money or things, and/or perhaps financial, social or political power.

I consider myself rich: I have family, friends, clothing, food, a roof over my head, furnishings, water, electricity that is usually working, appliances, enough money to live on, opportunities, goals, a blog, apples on my trees, and a lot more.

I confess: I’ve been through the striving and accumulation phases. I think a lot less about what I don’t have, and more about what I do have. And, I feel rich.


A very young apple


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