Monday, December 14, 2015

Winter Arrives

We get snow storms here in Utah.  We like them: it means water for our yards in the summer.  But every once in awhile, the storm is ill-timed and particularly hard.  That was the case today.  After some unseasonably warm temperatures for a week, a low pressure system moved through bringing cold air and lots of precipitation.

I awoke at 2:30 a.m. hearing a snow plow going up our steep hill.  I looked out and felt a little sick at how much snow had fallen.  I have to leave the house by 6 to go look after the grandkids and get them off to school.  There was no going back to sleep.  At 3:15, I got up and brewed the coffee and played a little Scrabble and Sudoku and watched the weather.  It was snowing hard and not letting up.  My hopes of just driving over and inch or two in the driveway were lost.  At least six inches by that time.  I would have to shovel.

It took 40 minutes to clear the driveway; and there was already an inch or so accumulated again by the time I finished.  Frankie and I headed down the hill at a bare 2 MPH pace until we reached flat ground and then picked up to 20.  Getting home later would be more of an adventure than I wanted.

To get up my hill, you need to get a bit of a run on it and then don't stop.  No brakes, steady gas at just the right pace and steering to cancel out any sliding.  You've got a steep straight stretch followed by two curves and a short straight stretch, all steep, to get to my house.  If I hit the garage opener just after the second curve, the door will be up; and with momentum, I'll glide right into my garage.  You can do it if you have good snow tires, which I do, and if no-one in front of you spins out and forces you to stop or lose your momentum.

Today, as I first approached the hill, I saw a school bus coming down sliding and a little sideways.  Too risky for me, so I turned off and went around the block to start up again.  This time I was behind a guy who was spinning his tires before we ever got to the steep part. I don't want to be behind him, so I turn off and I go around again.  The third time the hill is clear ahead.  I go for it and do fine until the second curve where a truck with a landscaping trailer coming downhill is stopped right on the curve in the middle of the road and clearing snow off his windows.  I'm just three houses away from home.  I get around him okay but damned if the spinning tire guy isn't now right there in front of me barely moving.  I attempt to pass him on the left him since I still have momentum and don't want to stop.  But that means pulling into deep snow on the left where I promptly get stuck.  I pull over as far to the left as I can and wait for spinning tire guy to pass my house.  Then I back carefully downhill into the plowed area in the middle of the street.  Thankfully, I am able to get enough traction to get going again despite the icy road, and make it two more houses and slip and slide up the driveway through four or so inches of new snow, and into my garage.  Feeling pretty teed off right now at the truck that chose to stop right on that curve instead of pulling forward a little and out of traffic.  Also teed off at spinning tire guy for living on this steep hill and not having decent tires on his car.

But I made it.  And I'll stay in now for a few hours before I go out and shovel some more.  I put bird seed in some feeders under the covered patio; and all the little birds are already telling their friends.  The snow is supposed to continue all day today, tonight and tomorrow.  At this rate, we'll end up with two feet.  We need it.  We love it.  But oh what it does to the driving conditions!

Here's the backyard after I got home.

This last one was at 5 a.m. before shoveling

Sunday, November 1, 2015


Six years ago today was day one of my kitchen remodel project -- the second of four major remodel projects in my house:  1)  Exterior siding, roof, patio, and deck (also new furnace and A/C ended up being in that project.  2) Kitchen remodel.  3) Basement and garage.  4) Upstairs doors and floors along with some miscellaneous remaining odds and ends.  All completed by spring 2014.  Along the way, I also discovered my landscaper, Alberto, and little by little, "remodeled" my yard as well, adding a completely new sprinkling system, and finally reaching the point where every corner of the yard was finished and as beautiful as I had visualized it.

I loved doing those projects.  It was hard, of course.  Self-inflicted pain and disruption.  And I did it alone, lacking a husband by then.  But I had a good, dependable contractor who did wonderful work for reasonable prices.  And I was so determined.  In my mind, things needed to take place in a certain sequence, and I followed that pretty much straight through.  I have no regrets.  I love all the changes.  Now I have this beautiful house to live in until I decide to downsize.

In March 2014, just before the fourth and last remodel was finished, my father was hospitalized and it would be a little over a year of illness and decline until he died.  It was the beginning of a depressing and challenging time in my life.  So many friends, husbands of friends, and close relatives have died since then.  Enough said of that time.  I've posted about it before, and I weighs me down to even write the words.

The thing is, I love and enjoy my updated and lovely home. But I never really celebrated completing all my projects--all my home-related goals.  Never congratulated myself for getting there and crossing absolutely everything off those to-do lists.  And I have tried to make lists of new, smaller projects.  My one-day projects, for example.  I wanted to continue being productive and making things better.  It was a good idea, but I just couldn't remain motivated to follow through.  I allowed myself to sink into a depression of sorts.  Sadness and a feeling of loss. 

Grief is the right word.  I generally view myself as a strong person who can handle everything life sends my way without falling apart.  And up until recently, I have.  But maybe it's just been too much at once and I have needed to set other things aside and allow myself time to simply grieve.  Without wallowing and self-pity.  But just time to acknowledge and accept all that has passed, and come to terms with it all.  Has it been enough time now?  I don't know. But I want it to be.  I want to move on.

I love projects and I love being productive and helpful.  My mind and heart are wanting to get back to work on things--to get back to those lists.  Not so much because they are things that urgently need to be done, but because I thrive when I am involved in a project.  I feel happier.  I sleep better.  I even eat and exercise better. 

Today is the first day of November, and the month is a clean slate.  My closest friend is spending the month near her children in California and I've decided to take a break from the social scene altogether until Thanksgiving.  Family matters have settled down a bit, too; although I know how quickly things can change.  But for this clean slate start of the month, I want to see if I can push myself and get back into the things that make me feel good.  Thanksgiving is nearly four weeks away and I'll probably put on another big family dinner.  But until that week, I have some valuable time and I want to use it.

It's one thing to  have resolve.  It's another to follow through.  But I remember how hard it was as I started each new project.  How scared I was to have my kitchen gutted and completely rebuilt.  But I pushed myself beyond my comfort zone to get it done.  To get all the projects done.  It is valuable to remember struggle and difficulty and managing despite it all.  It makes me remember that I am a person who is up to it.  I am up to it. 

So here I go jumping into November with a more positive attitude and a to-do list.  Wish me luck!

Wednesday, October 21, 2015


I have again failed to secure my own oxygen mask before assisting others.

A couple months ago after my father died, I wrote about being tapped out.  Well, things did not get easier with so many family members since then needing my help, time, and support.  And recently things got quite a bit harder.  I've had to step up and help even more with grandkids and other help as my daughter-in-law underwent major surgery and later complications.  She has finally returned to work, but is still quite frail which is worrisome.

Harder still, six weeks ago a very good old friend died suddenly in a motorcycle accident.  He was a close friend of my late-ex husband's and as married couples, we all spent a lot of time together.  Even after marriages broke up, he remained a good friend to me--checking on me now and then, inviting me to dinner.  Not a romantic friend, a true kind and thoughtful friend who was always there for me.  We got to where we mostly saw each other in chance meetings at the grocery store, promising to get together soon.  When I saw him in July, I promised him dinner at my house after the grandkids went home.  We had that dinner and a wonderful long and happy visit with plans for the "next time", and hugs and sweet parting words.  What a terrible shock exactly a week later to read online the news of his accident.  That memory remains traumatic to me.  I still feel disbelief.  But I also feel grateful I had a chance to say goodbye in a way.

The result of so much sorrow, fear, worry, stress and genuine physical exhaustion has been that my life feels unrecognizable.  So many dependable, solid things that tied me to the earth are gone and it feels as though I'm drifting up and away.  Indeed, I feel keenly aware of my own mortality.  And I'm aware that at my age, loss will become a more regular occurrence than when we were younger.  A group of old high school classmates have begun organizing our 50th reunion for next year, posting information, photos, reminiscences, etc., on Facebook.  I read through the obituaries for the classmates already gone, and ended up feeling overwhelmingly sad.  I don't know if I'll participate in the reunion.  I don't know if I want to renew old friendships.

The past six weeks, I have not functioned well outside of my caretaking duties.  And have failed to tend to my own physical and emotional needs.  All the to-do lists are forgotten.  I've had too many days sitting watching Netflix in my spare time just to escape from the reality of life.  This week I have finally managed to get back outside and do some fall cleanup.  I've tried to accomplish even just one thing every day.  Some days are better than others.  But as the title above suggests, I'm trying to find the "reset" button that will get me back on track to not only being productive, but also feeling happy again. 

I cannot reach that Nirvana I desire, where no-one gets sick, no-one dies.  I need to do better at coping and functioning in times of difficulty.  I know there are many more such days ahead.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Fall Planting

Now is the time for putting perennials in the ground.  I'm pacing myself a little this year and only buying as many plants as I can plant in a day.  That would be 10 or 12.  Although, I came home with 14 on this first trip.  But I did actually plant 12 of them so far.  I'm posting pictures as I go so I will remember in the spring what I planted where and check on how they fared for the winter.  Planting in September gives the plants time to get rooted and start growing before the first freeze.

I'm working on my yard a section at a time.  This week's plantings were backyard and upper corner.  Next I will add to the east side.  And last, I will add to the front beds.  If I don't get the front planted until spring, that will be all right.

Here's what I have planted so far (I'll probably update this post as I add more plants).

Coreopsis Main Street.  This is a new one for me.  I've only seen yellow varieties of coreopsis before.  So it's an experiment.  Hope it lives.
Sunny south-facing garden at the back of the house.  Here I've added volunteer plants from around the yard as well as nursery plants:  Coreopsis, blanket flower, cone flowers, guara, dianthas.  This bed already had a wonderful large stonecrop that is seen blooming at the left here.  Also, columbine, poppies, and iris.  It has normally been a place for planting annuals, but this summer, I put arranged some of my patio pots here instead of putting annuals in the ground.  I'll be glad to have all the new perennial color here next year if everything lives.
The same sunny garden from the left side: Cone flowers, blanket, flower, coreopsis, lavender, columbine, dianthas, and an unknown straggly plant that I think is a yellow blanket flower that deserved a chance to live in a new spot.
Shade garden, a new plant whose name I've forgotten.  Early spring bloomer with lots of pink flowers. 
Shade garden, common name is Sneeze Weed.  Very pretty and a color I need in this spot.
The hottest spot in the yard, the upper southeast corner garden right next to the road.  Here I already had thriving day lilies, iris, bee balm, lavender, blanket flower, and a lovely pink hyssop specimen seen to the left here.   added three new cone flowers of the multi-color variety, one white salvia, and a pretty little low-growing succulent covered with pink flowers.  If this last does will, I will line the front of the bed with them.  I am succeeding to have season-long color in this bed that is a focal point of my yard for people driving down the hill.  I get many compliments on it.

The same hot garden from the right side.  You can see I did add some zinnias for color this year.  I am working toward not needing to add annuals at all.

Today I also purchased a cordless electric hedge trimmer.  I plan to do some of the cutting down of the perennials starting this week.  With this lightweight tool, I can do some of the work I normally hire Alberto's crew to do.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Late Summer Yard

While the kids were visiting in July, I had Alberto's crew come do some general yard cleanup. The yard has remained so beautiful since then.  Some of the perennials have bloomed earlier and some later this year. The Jupiter's Beard didn't put on its usual spring show, but it looking lovely for late summer.  The hummingbird trumpet is not as covered with orange blooms this year, but looks well enough.  The many perennials I planted last year have lived--some have thrived and some have struggled.  I will be planting even more this fall.  I want to add more variety of cone flowers, more lavender, more blanket flowers, more pink yarrow, etc.  I also plan to move some ajuga, more of the iris, and various volunteers throughout the yard.  It's an ambitious plan.

The arch I added for the wisteria in the front has proven to be just what I wanted. It appears in some of the last pictures here.  So without further explanation, here's the mid-August yard.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Grandkids come to visit

It has been years (literally) since I saw the grandkids that live in Virginia.  Since my son's divorce, actually.  For various reasons, it has been impossible. But this year, my son, arranged to drive out with the kids and spend three weeks.  To swing this, he had to work from home while here. But that was not a problem. I would take all four grandkids on outings and plan fun things every day.

When you're looking ahead to three weeks of guests, you wonder if you're up to it, and it can seem like a very long time ahead.  But, the kids and Eric left for home early yesterday morning, and I have to say, it went by all too fast.  It was such a pleasure having them here.  We did so many things while Eric was working. During the evenings (and a few days) we got the adults together, too.  We had breakfasts, lunches, dinners and parties.  I'm so out of practice cooking, I wasn't sure I was up to the task.  But I planned menus for just a few days at a time, and it really worked out just fine.  How glad I am that I had remodeled the house and added the basement bathroom.  It made for such comfort for my family.

Some of the things I did with the kids: bowling, planetarium (twice), tour downtown SLC, train to Ogden with museum and lunch, Snowbird tram ride, July 24th festival, library, park (I know there was more that I can't think of right now).  We also did movies and lots of video games and playing with the cousins.  Parents joined us at the planetarium, Eric went to Snowbird with us, and we had a barbecue with the entire family.  Eric and the kids also spent several days with his dad. So, needless to say, their days were full and fun.

Of course, I looked after all four grandkids every day.  But honestly, it's easier to look after four than two. 

It was sad to say goodbye yesterday.  We still miss them so much.  How did the time go by so fast?   Carrying on with the fun, I'll have Kevin and Brandon spend the night tomorrow.  Then two more weeks until school.

And I'm ready for that transition and back to my own projects. I don't regret a single day of time with my grandkids, but I'll admit I'll enjoy some peace and quiet when it arrives.

Here are some pics of the family barbecue. The AC broke down that day, so we ate outside with temps at around 95. But it worked out just fine.

 Some special cupcakes by daughter-in-law Amanda.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Nearly Tapped Out

The tides of life ebb and flow and we roll with it.  As long as things maintain a near normal state, or return to a near normal state regularly, it's not so bad. We deal with difficulties and enjoy the high points.  But this past year has felt like an approaching tsunami for me, reaching some really challenging times of late.  The losses both in my family and those near to me continue.  It's hard to function on any sort of a normal level.  So I reduce things to the most basic level.  I wake up in the morning; think about what I absolutely must do on that day; and then do my best to at least get the most important stuff done.

Normally I would place a high priority on keeping my house in order and my yard tidy.  But with the grandkids here all day every day, the house sometimes isn't all cleaned up until the weekend.  The weeds in the yard get a little attention and the patio pots get watered.  I'm sometimes slow in getting bird feeders and hummingbird feeders refilled.  Thanks to Alberto, the yard got off to such a good start, it has stayed pretty nice despite my neglect.

The only planning I do is lunches and shopping for the week for the grandkids.  I actually write a menu and shop on Sunday.  That removes the pressure of trying to think of something every day.

Most of my energy goes into having a great day with the kids.  We have a lot of structure in the day with some summer classes in science and art, reading after lunch and then a little worksheet of math and other school topics before their parents get home. We have some hours of free play time, too, but not so much that they get bored or start getting into conflicts.  Once a week we do a field trip and often have fast food on that day.  My days with the kids require so much energy that I'm left with little remaining for anything else.  But this is my choice.  Sometime I'll catch up on other things and maybe take some time to breath and get my bearings again.

When we are younger, we think life will get slower and simpler when we are older.  But the truth is, it still comes in waves of challenges, and we are still called on to do what we don't necessarily feel up to.  Right now I'm feeling tired and tapped out.  I do just one day at a time and don't look at the long term at all.  But I'm convinced the time I'm spending with the grandkids this year is really important.  They both need to strengthen school habits and skills.  Plus, we are making some great memories at the same time.

At the end of the day, I regroup, drink a little wine on the patio in the company of my sweet pup.  The birds come in for one last feeding, and the sun provides a work of art as it sets.  And I think things are not so bad and I'm pretty sure I can do it all again tomorrow.

 Something new in the yard: an arbor to support the wisteria.  Thanks, again to Alberto.