Just Life

The Great Unveiling

Something to celebrate!

A project three years in the making . . . 
And three weeks in the doing . . . 

Is finally complete!




Why did it take so long? Well, I've already explained that the project met up with the pandemic in not-so-great ways -- staffing and scheduling delays, hard-to-get materials, and the doors being lost at sea on various container ships.

Then, once all the pieces were in place and the project started, well . . . our house is tricky. First, we needed to have a lot of the cedar siding replaced or repaired. Once the painters could actually get to work, they had to contend with fussy house details . . . 


Like dentil molding all along the front of the house.

And generally tricky decorative details.


And then . . . there's the "north face" of the house. A daunting space that the painters saved for last.

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It's hard to get a photo of this part of the house that can adequately show the perspective. But this side of the house has a walkout basement, and the peak rises about 45 feet up from the ground. And . . . it's situated on a significant slope. I really couldn't watch when they were going up and down those ladders, but Tom assures me it was impressive.

My favorite things?

The new front door . . . 


The new light fixtures . . . 


And having my patio back!


It feels good to have this project completed!
(Next up? Apparently we need a new roof . . . )

Just a Slight Inconvenience . . . or Two

There are certain things you just . . . take for granted in life. One of these things is enjoying privacy in your own home. And the other is WiFi. And right now? I've got neither of these things! 

Oh, one of them -- the privacy thing -- is completely my own doing. And kinda funny, besides. Because my house painters? They're busy-busy-busy and swarming the house all day long. It is strange to walk into a 2nd floor room, though, and find . . . someone right there! Hard at work on the other side of the window.

It's not like we walk around naked all the time or anything, but we really do need to be on guard when it comes to painters popping up in our windows. This morning, for example, I decided to forego my usual meditation and yoga routine when I walked into the room and found this . . . 


(That shadow there in the window? That's a painter.)

So having painters around every day kinda . . . cramps my style a bit. Especially in my bedroom -- and in the garden beds near the house. And although they are a very accomodating crew - and would get out of my way if I asked them to - I really don't want to impede their progress to, oh . . . say, lay out my afghan squares on the patio (in the good light) so I can take a photo for my blog, y'know?

So you get this instead. . . 


(JoJo insisted on being part of things.) (And the 10 squares are finished, by the way. I'm currently contemplating adding 3 more to the original design.)

The other thing, though? The WiFi? Now THAT's a problem. 

There is some sort of utility work happening on a nearby street, and on Monday mid-day our WiFi went out. From what I could tell, the outage (which is very localized and doesn't impact many people, although it does impact us) was supposed to last "up to 24 hours." Yesterday, after 27 hours without WiFi, I contacted AT&T and found out that it's some major issue . . . and may take up to 72 hours to fix.

I've figured out how to use my phone as a hotspot, but it's very slow.

And it's all made me realize how very dependent we are on having WiFi!

Want to watch something on TV? You need WiFi.
Compose a document or write a blog post? WiFi.
Watch your latest art tutorial? WiFi.
Work out on the Peloton? WiFi.
Print something? WiFi.
Airdrop a photo? WiFi.
FaceTime? WiFi.

Holy cow. So much of my day-to-day life depends on WiFi! 

It's a good thing I have plenty of books and plenty of offline activities to keep me occupied. In the meantime, color me inconvenienced!

(And I certainly realize very how minor and insignificant these inconveniences are in the overall scheme of the world.) (I'm just whining.) (But most all of us are surprisingly dependent on WiFi in our daily lives these days -- and we really notice that when it's gone. It really is hard to be without it.)


PS. Our Wifi is back up this morning!



Getting Up To Speed . . . With a Bonus Reminder

Early last week, I mentioned that I was at the gateway to a Really Big Week. I told you that I would "share more as the days unfolded." But then I didn't. Partly because of those very days unfolding, and partly because I took that little blog break last week while I tried to clear my head and settle my soul.


I thought I'd just bring you up to speed now, after the fact.

First, as you saw in my post yesterday, my daughter Erin has popped in for a visit.


And this isn't just a vacation-y kind of visit. She's actually here for nearly a month! She arrived last week, relaxed through the Memorial Day weekend, and now she's settling into working remotely from our house for a couple of weeks. Keith will join her for a true vaction later in June, and they'll fly back home together.

Erin works in the Bay Area for a large tech company that you've likely heard of, and probably use every day (that would be Google). She does internal software engineering documentation, which she loves, but it does keep her far from her family.  Luckily, she has a very flexible workplace, and they've allowed her to try a short-term, temporary remote work situation . . . from my "art room" (which used to be Brian's bedroom back in the day).


It's great for Tom and I to have her around every day for awhile. A real treat! (And she even likes to weed in my garden with me during her work breaks!)


And . . . as if that wasn't enough excitment, on the same day that Erin arrived, JoJo had some pretty scary surgery. She had 2 smallish mast cell tumors (nasty; malignant) and 3 lipomas (fatty tumors; benign) removed. She had a previous surgery for another mast cell tumor a few years ago, so she is definitely at risk -- but we caught these early and the vet has given JoJo a good prognosis.

All the tumors were located on her chest and upper belly, so she's got a lot of big incisions and stitches. She looks a little like "FrankenDog" actually, or a patchwork dog . . . but she's doing really well and healing quickly.


She doesn't have to wear a cone because she can't really reach or "get at" any of her incisions. She does, however, need to wear t-shirts to protect her incisions when she's laying on the floor around the house or on the ground out in the yard.


Erin and I discovered that tank tops work best for her, so we stocked up on a stack of them at Target -- the "boxy crop" tank tops in women's size medium fit JoJo like a charm! She doesn't mind wearing them at all, which is a good thing because she needs to keep wearing them while she heals until getting the stitches out . . . in 2 more weeks. (The hardest thing? She can't go to the lake until the stitches come out. . . )

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So. That's the big excitement here!
And JoJo.
It's a great way to start the summer.


Now for the Bonus Reminder!


Next Tuesday - June 7 - is the Read With Us discussion day for Young Mungo. Our Zoom discussion will begin at 7:00 pm (Eastern Time). Please let me know if you're planning to join us for the Zoom -- either in the comments or by sending me an email (my email link is at the very top of the sidebar).

I hope you'll join us!

(As always, we'll also include discussion questions on our blogs that day, in case you can't make it for the Zoom.)


Have a great weekend, and I'll see you again on Monday!


A Little Rant to Start The Week

One of the “hallmarks” of my personality is that . . . I really don’t like to be misunderstood. This is different from not wanting to be wrong (although I don’t like that either). But mostly, I just really want to be understood.

Something happened last week that is really triggering that “misunderstood” thing in me, so I thought that maybe it would help if I ranted about it a little bit here, in an attempt to just get it out of my system, y’know? (Because, really, there’s only so much “airtime” Tom is willing to give this particular topic at this point.)


(Just a little view from my dog walk on Saturday. I love that haze of green from the willow trees in the background.) (And don't expect much from the other photos in this post. They are purely functional.)

So here’s the situation:

I live in a very dog-friendly neighborhood. There are lots of dogs, and they’re generally quite well-behaved – as are their owners. Pretty much every day - in all types of weather - you’ll see dog owners out there on the streets of my neighborhood, walking their dogs. On leashes. With poop-bags in hand. (We even have a neighborhood Great Dane. His owner walks him every day, carrying a small “shovel” and what appears to be a small garbage bag. Lucky him.) 

We neighborhood dog-walkers are a jovial bunch. We know each other, at least by sight, and if we have time (and the inclination), we occasionally allow our dogs a little “together time” out on the street. (To sniff and “play bow” a little, y’know?) We keep an eye on each other. Several of my fellow neighborhood dog-walkers have stopped me to inquire about - and offer their condolences for - Jenny, for example. 

Almost without exception, the dog-walkers in my neighborhood are caring and responsible. Some people actually leave out bowls of water near their sidewalks in the summer, for example, so dogs on walks can get a drink in the heat. And only on rare occasions do I find a “wayward poop” from another dog in my yard. My neighbors carry poop bags – and know how to use them.

JoJo and I join the dog-walking parade every day. We are very responsible. JoJo has been through obedience training, and “heels” well on leash. We stay on the street or sidewalk, unless JoJo needs to do her business (she prefers the grass for this), but I keep her just on the edge of a lawn - and I always pick up her “leavings.” I don’t let her walk through garden beds near the road. I don’t let her go more than a foot or two into someone’s lawn. I keep her out of any areas of active grass-seeding. She is always on her leash in our neighborhood.



Last Wednesday, we were out for our walk when JoJo stopped to poop on the very edge of a lawn. While she was in the process, as I was getting my bag out of my pocket - ready to pick up her mess, the front door of the house swung open, and the woman at the door started yelling at me. 

Really yelling.
I couldn’t quite get my head wrapped around the words she was yelling, but she was certainly incensed. I figured she was concerned about the poop in her yard. I waved my little poop bag and assured her I was going to pick it up.

NO! She hollered at me.


She was really, really upset.
Like, spitting-while-she-yelled upset.

I tried to be nice. I explained that I couldn’t really do anything about that right now (with my dog mid-poop), but I’d see to it that my dog didn’t get on her lawn in the future. Which apparently wasn’t good enough, because she continued to yell. I picked up JoJo’s poop, and quickly moved on.

I did scan the lawn, though, to see if there were maybe “keep off the grass” signs posted that I had missed. There weren’t.


(This is NOT a picture of the lawn in question, but it could be. The street/curb situation at that house is exactly like the one in this photo. JoJo was this far from the curb when she did her thing. I never leave the street.)

The whole thing was very upsetting.
And I've done a lot of "stewing" over this situation.

There are MANY dogs and their owners walking past this woman’s house every day.  I wonder . . . does she just watch out her window and yell at people whenever a dog walks on her lawn? Have I been doing this dog-walking thing wrong (for the past 30 years) in allowing my dogs to step onto people’s lawns? Have I been missing a law or something? What made this woman so incensed about my dog being on her lawn . . . at the very edge of the street?

The next day I contacted my city’s municipal office to find out . . . what ARE the rules/laws of dog-walking in my community? I discovered that the rules are actually quite simple (and enforced) in my community: Dogs must be leashed. Dogs must be licensed. And that’s it. 

It is this particular woman’s preference that dogs not be on her property. She has no legal footing – unless the dog is unleashed or unlicensed. Now that I know about her preference, I will honor it. But I wasn’t doing anything “wrong” or irresponsible. I didn't deserve to be hollered at. And, really, she should make her preference known in ways other than yelling at people out her door. Like with signs. (Signs that people have no legal obligation to heed, mind you.) Giving some notice would be helpful for people trying to be good neighbors; trying to do the neighborly thing.

I’d love to go back to that house and explain to the angry woman that I’m a responsible dog-owner, and that I wasn’t actually doing anything wrong. (I don’t like to be misunderstood, y’know?) I’d also suggest that, perhaps, if she really doesn’t want dogs on her lawn, she should at least put up a few signs indicating her preference, and see if that helps. Because just hollering at people? Not nice. Although effective. (I certainly won’t allow JoJo anywhere near her lawn when we’re out walking in the future!)

But I won't.


That’s it! 

I feel better now that I’ve had a chance to rant a little bit.

(I’d love to hear your thoughts, by the way. Especially if you aren’t a dog-person and have to deal with dog-walkers in your neighborhood. I am responsible with my dog-walking, but I’m always willing to be a better dog-neighbor.)

Friday Follow Up

Here we are . . . Friday already! I feel like my week is, well . . . very messed up. It feels like maybe Wednesday to me? It's because I spent all day Tuesday working an election, and 15-hour work days (even when slow) (especially when slow?) wreak havoc with my schedule, my energy levels, and my sense of time. 

But there is this . . . 


Grape hyacinths are my very favorite spring bulb . . . and I have them springing up all over my gardens right now. It delights me to see them. Flower are always magical . . . but these little guys are especially magical to me!

And . . . speaking of the election. In my post on Tuesday, I provided some basic facts about my community, and asked you to take a guess at how many people would vote in my precinct on Tuesday. One thing I forgot to mention in my post is that we have "on demand absentee voting" now in Michigan, giving every voter the option to vote by mail. And . . . a LOT of people really like that option! So in my assigned polling place (which also happens to include the precinct I live and vote in), we had the following results:

  • There are 2,364 registered voters in the two precincts voting in my polling place. (Often they will combine precincts for elections where low turnout is expected).
  • 567 total votes were cast in those two precincts -- representing almost 24% turnout. (I'm sure that sounds low, but it's actually a little higher than average for a special election.) (Consider that the national average for a presidential general election is only 60%, and only 40% for primaries. Local elections usually experience minimal turnout.)
  • BUT . . . only 59 votes were cast at my polling place on Tuesday! (Which means 508 voters opted to mail in absentee votes instead of visiting the polls.) (You can imagine how slow a day that was for us election officers! The polls are open from 7am until 8pm - 13 hours. So that translates to . . . about 4 or 5 voters per hour.)

So. I am happy to announce TWO winners for my little guessing game! (I'm choosing two winners because I forgot to mention the ability for voters in Michigan to vote by mail. I was specifically looking for a guess at how many voters would come to the polls, but your guesses may have been lower had you known there was another option for voting. My bad.) Anyway. The winners!!!

  • Dee guessed 60 voters at the polling place, and she is only 1 voter off! Congratulations, Dee!
  • Jane guessed 525 voters, which is the closest guess to the total number of voters from my assigned precincts. Congratulations, Jane!

(I'll be contacting you both to make arrangements for getting your exciting prizes out in the mail.)

Thanks so much for playing along with me on Tuesday! It was fun distraction for me all day to watch your guesses come in . . . as I read and knit dish cloths. (More on that another day, but I'll tell you that gave me time to finish one book and knit two ball band dishcloths.)


I hope you all have a lovely weekend, full of what you like best.


A Little Guessing Game

Look! It's my larch tree . . . coming back to life!

(This amazes me every year.)
(I don't know why I should be so amazed. It's a native tree, and this is what they do. But still.)



By the time you read this post, I will be hard at work at today's special election.

There is only ONE issue on the ballot: a millage renewal request.
And that translates into . . .  a very long - and likely very slow - day at the polls.

I'll have my knitting. And a book. And the NYTimes crossword puzzle (from Sunday).
But it's gonna be a long, long day.

Here's the guessing game: How many total voters will vote where I'm working today?

(Hints: I'll be working in a location that is combining TWO precincts for this election. It's in a fairly "polictically active" area of the city, and turnout is generally high, although it is not expected to be high for this election. The issue being voted on is not controversial, and has not garnered media attention. The population of Portage is 49,000, and there are 20 voting precincts in the city.) (Oh. And the weather forecast is for rain. All day. . . )

Leave your guess in the comments. There will be a prize!

Always Wish for More Birthdays!

"My life is better with every year of living it."
               --- Rachel Maddow

Today is my birthday.

And this is what 63 looks like for me. . . 




Once upon a time, back when I had my hair colored every 4 weeks and I never left the house without makeup, I was . . . well, let's just say . . . Not Looking Forward to my 50th birthday. And then I was diagnosed with cancer. And I realized . . . how very much I wanted to turn 50 . . . how lucky I would be to turn 60. And 70. And, hopefully, even 80.  (Perspective is an amazing thing.)

So now?
I get really excited about my birthday every year! Bring 'em on, I say. Pile them up and stack 'em as high as possible, please! The more the merrier, in fact!

I agree with Rachel Maddow . . . my life is better with every.single.year of living it!

Best of February . . .

Lately, on the last Monday of the month, I've been sharing a few of the "best" things that happened for me over the month wrapping up. But . . . I've been struggling with the topic all weekend. What to say? How to write? Not because I don't have good things to share (I do), but because . . . well. It doesn't feel quite right when a power-hungry bully is killing innocent civilians in an unprovoked war, y'know?

I mean, it feels very . . . surreal to me. To be running around the house, doing my weekend chores, taking care of the laundry, and planning for the week ahead . . . while Ukrainian citizens are making molotov cocktails and taking cover in the subways while bombs drop on them. And I can watch immediate updates of this in real time, thanks to the internet. I'm trying to learn as much as I can, without getting too bogged down in hysteria and spending all my time doom-scrolling; wanting to stay informed, but also wanting to sleep at night. It's one of those living-in-the-"&-space" moments. My life is moving forward in its usual way . . . AND . . .  there are horrible things happening in the world.

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In the end, I've decided that I need to take some time off from blogging. I'll be back . . . because I enjoy connecting with all of you. But for today, telling you about my new rug or how nice it was to be able to celebrate Brian's 30th birthday with him just . . . feels wrong for me. It feels . . . trivial. A little break is my way of processing, a way to regain some perspective about what to say and how to say it.

Take care of yourselves. And I'll be back . . . sometime later this week.