“Live a life steeped in experiences.” That’s what my tea bag therapist said this morning. I’m not sure what to make of that advice, considering I have been passing each day as if waiting for something, but not exactly sure what.
I keep going back to the hospital for x-rays and answering mind-throttling questions like, “when did you break your back? How long have you been having extremity nerve pain?” Nearly passing out from lack of comprehension, I didn’t know what to say. I still don’t, but at that moment I sat there in silence with a stuck-in-dumb expression on my face. Yes, my back hurts from time to time, but broken? Yes, I have been complaining about my hands and feet falling asleep, but pain? I was there to get my protruding rib cage scrutinized. Now they tell me it’s a nodule on my lung and abnormally high white blood cell counts. “Probably a viral infection,” the nurse said of my white blood cell count. This was before the nodule on my left lung (25% malignant cancer) was a reality via CT scan. Are the two related? Am I falling to pieces? Sure feels that way. In the meantime, I have buried myself in books:
Fiction (Lots of books for kids and young adults):
- David and the Phoenix by Edward Ormondroyd (AB): a book for children, added in honor of Fantasy Month.
- The Pinballs By Betsy Byars: another kids book added in honor of Adoption month.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko.
- Martin Dressler: the Tale of an American Dreamer by Steven Millhauser.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman (EB).
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller.
- She’s Not There: a Life in Two Genders by Jennifer Finney Boylan.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah.
- Expecting Adam: the Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Magic by Martha Beck (AB)
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett.
Shah, Tahir. The Caliph’s House: a Year in Casablanca. New York: Bantam Dell Books, 2006.
Reason read: Morocco’s independence was obtained in November.
Everyone has a story of an event in their lives; how they met their sparkling spouse, how they came into their fascinating occupation, how they started an odd hobby for which they are extremely passionate. The most interesting stories are the ones that are life changing; an abrupt 180 degree turn from where they used to be. A hobby turning into a business so they can quit their dead end job, for example. Tahir Shah has such a story in The Caliph’s House. The London based travel writer was looking to move to Morocco. Tired of grey weather and bland food, he wanted to get back to the culture of his ancestry. After many false starts a classmate of his mother’s contacted him out of the blue in 2004 with an offer he couldn’t refuse: the sale of Dar Khalifa, the once home of a Caliph, a spiritual leader of Casablanca. Even though this is a story about living through a house renovation it goes beyond tiles and plumbing. Shah explores what it means to buy and restore a house in a post 911 society. Morocco struggles to be a paradise of tolerance. At the same time, Shah becomes intimately and intensely aware of “how things get done” when he hires a man of ill repute to be his right hand man. Encounters with thieves, possible murderers, even the mob are the norm. But, it is the exorcism that readers all wait for with breath held. Who in their right mind would slaughter a goat in every room of a mansion-sized abode?
Most startling takeaway – even Casablanca has a mafia.
Quote to quote, “There was a sadness in the still of the dusk” (p 1). Yes! I have always felt the melancholy amid the gloaming, especially on Monhegan. I can’t explain it.
Some funny quotes, “We were both blinkered by our upbringings” (p 105), “The nervous man pulled the lid off one of the toilets and fishes out half a dozen samples of cedar” (p 294), “But it was the first time I had hired a troupe of exorcists, and I didn’t know the protocol” (p 314), and “I like my meat to be anonymous, severed from its connection to life” (p 318). Don’t we all?
Author fact: Shah has a few videos on YouTube, including one of a tour of Dar Khalifa that is pretty cool. He talks about having to placate the Jinns and how he ended up having a grand exorcism with twenty-four exorcists.
Book trivia: the illustrations by Laura Hartman Maestro are wonderful, but what is most impressive is the assumed photograph of Dar Khalifa.
Nancy said: Pearl just describes a tiny bit of the plot.
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called “So We/I Bought or Built a House In…” (p 210).
What do you do when the most inappropriate sentiment unexpectedly comes out of someone’s mouth? A confession that should never have left the lips of the confessor? Instead of thinking of the actions I should take I chose to take none. I do nothing. Distance makes it easy to ignore and deny. When I can’t avoid I read. Here are the books started for November:
- Foolscap, or, the Stages of Love by Michael Malone – Malone was born in the month of November; reading in his honor.
- Ceremony by Leslie Marmon Silko – in honor of November being Native American Heritage month.
- The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman – November is National Writing month. Choosing fantasy for this round.
- Patience and Sarah by Isabel Miller – Routsong’s birth month was in November. Reading in her honor.
- Martin Dressler by Steven Millhauser – reading in honor of Millhauser’s birth place, New York City.
- Expecting Adam: a True Story of Birth, Rebirth, and Everyday Magic by Martha Beck – in honor of my mother’s birth month.
- The Caliph’s House by Tahir Shah – in honor of Morocco’s independence was gained in November.
- Scales of Gold by Dorothy Dunnett – to continue the series started in honor of Dunnett’s birth month in August.
Fun: nothing decided yet.
Early Review: I have been chosen to receive an early review but I will refrain from naming it in case it doesn’t arrive.
March was one of those weird months. A few Nor’Easters. A few miles run. A few books read. We had two school closings in back to back weeks so that helped with the reading, but not the run. I finished the St. Patrick’s Day Road Race just two minutes off my time last year. Considering I didn’t train (again) I’m alright with that. There’s always next year! Here are the books:
- The Good Son by Michael Gruber
- Roman Blood by Steven Saylor
- White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling
- Witch World by Andre Norton
- Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis
- All the Way Home by David Giffels
- Slide Rule by Nevil Shute
Series Continuations –
- Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to finished the series started in honor of her birth month in January.
- Entranced by Nora Roberts
Early Review for Librarything –
- Oneiron by Laura Lindstedt (started)
- Infinite Hope – Anthony Graves
- New and Collected Poetry by Czeslaw Milosz (not finished)
Fun – I’m not finished with either fun book so I won’t list them here.
Giffels, David. All the Way Home: Building a Family in a Falling-Down House. New York: William Morrow, 2008.
Reason read: All the Way Home takes place in Akron, Ohio. Ohio became a state in March.
Who buys a house they describe with adjectives and nouns such as these: rusty, dusty, decay, debris, ruin, smelly, stained, treacherous, flaking, rotted, grime, filthy, cluttered, damaged, wreckage, decomposed, dark, cracked, dingy, chilly, ugly, broken, dirty, scratched, soot, dangerous, rotten, warped, collapsed, cramped, broken, discolored, disintegrated, discolored, poisonous, fermenting, or crusted? You half expect to find, buried deep in the debris, a mummified body a la Bates Motel. In fact, when Giffels first tours the house there is a woman, perched amid the disaster. But, buy the house he does.
Giffels, a self described handyman, needs projects. When he buys the 1913 mansion on North Portage Path (Akron, Ohio) there is every indication he has bit off more than he can chew. That only becomes apparent to himself when he attempts to remove paint from every single door hinge in the house. The master bedroom alone has seventeen doors with at least two hinges…you do the math. And that’s just hinges. Never mind the structural damage like a leaking room that requires 55 roasting pans to catch the downpour whenever it rains, or the jungle of wisteria growing in through the cracks. Then there are the uninvited guests: mice, squirrels, raccoons, termites, carpenter ants, gawkers…it’s a wonder Gina didn’t divorce him.
One of a thousand quotes of humor, “more than anything else, I do not want to die a cartoon character’s death” (p 5).
Quote of foreshadowing, “And I honestly couldn’t decide which I wanted more; to get the house, or to get the house out of my system” (p 73). Indeed, there are numerous times he hoped to get out of buying the house. Starting with his sister-in-law’s neighbor, Earl. Hoping seventy-plus-year-old realtor Earl would advise him it’s a lost cause after seeing it; praying the inspector would say it’s his professional opinion the house is hopeless; and wishing the owners will refuse his insultingly low ball offer. Giffels is seeking any and all opportunities to wriggle out of the fantasy; to escape the choke hold of unreasonable and borderline fanatical desire. None of “outs” happen for Giffels and All the Way Home is born.
Author fact: Giffels used to write for MTV’s Beavis and Butt-Head so you know he has to be funny. And. And! And, I think it goes without saying he must like music since he worked for MTV. Indeed, he quotes Tom Waits right off the bat. Other musicians mentioned:
- Lou Reed
- Henry Rollins
- Paul Westerberg
- Rage Against the Machine
- Judas Priest
- Henry Mancini
- P.J. Harvey
- Dave Brubeck
- Guided By Voices
- Suzanne Vega
- Liz Phair
- Duane Allman
- Janis Joplin
- Sonic Youth
- No Doubt
- Gewn Stefani
- Henry Rollins
- Circle Jerks
- Rod Stewart
- Guns ‘n Roses
- Cyndi Lauper
- Joe Strummer
- The Clash
- Andy Summers
- Pete Townsend
- Jimi Hendrix
- Kurt Cobain
- Chrissy Hynde
- Yngwie Malmsteen
- Mark Sandman
- They Might Be Giants
The list was so eclectic I thought about making a mixed tape (because that’s how old I am coming from an era when mixed tapes were a thing). I would call it “All the Way Home.” Here is my (short) fantasy track listing:
- “You’re Innocent” (when You Dream)” – Tom Waits
- “Unsatisfied” – Paul Westerberg
- “So. Central Rain” – R.E.M.
- “Moon River” – Oranji Symphony
- “Girls Just Want to Have Fun” – Cyndi Lauper
- “Money (that’s What I Want) – Beatles
- “I’m Just a Girl” – No Doubt
- “Cats in the Cradle” – Cat Stevens
- “Swing it Low” – Morphine
Book trivia: Aside from a smattering of photographs in the beginning All the Way Home is mostly devoid of pictures. Bummer.
Nancy said: “This is more than a do-it-yourself memoir; rather it’s a paean to his hometown” (p 168).
BookLust Twist: from Book Lust To Go in the chapter called simply “Ohioana” (p 168).
The only run I have planned for March is St. Patrick’s Day. No surprise there. Here are the books planned for March:
- The Good Son by Michael Gruber (AB) – in honor of the start of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
- White Man’s Grave by Richard Dooling – In honor of Dooling’s birthplace (Nebraska) becoming a state in March.
- Roman Blood by Stephen Saylor – in honor of Saylor’s birth month in March.
- All the Way Home by David Giffels – in honor of Ohio becoming a state in March.
- Coast of Incense by Freya Stark – to continue the series started in January for Stark’s birth month. This will end the autobiography.
- Entranced by Nora Roberts (EB) – to continue the Donovan Legacy started in February in honor of Valentine’s Day.
- Infinite Hope by Anthony Graves
- New and Collected Poems by Czeslaw Milosz – in honor of National Poetry Month.
If there is time:
- Slide Rule: the Autobiography of an Engineer by Nevil Shute – in honor of the birth month of William Oughtred
- Which Witch? by Andre Norton – to remember Norton (who died in the month of March).
- Cards of Identity by Nigel Dennis in honor of Reading Month.
I should have said Yours for the Keeping because it’s not like we took anything out when we moved in. Things just stayed where they were, left by someone else. We didn’t need to bring our garbage can for the kitchen. There was already one there. We didn’t need to bring soap pumps. The kitchen and bathrooms still had their originals. Lightbulbs. Plant containers. TP holders. It’s like someone fled in the night and I’ve shown up bright and early the next morning. Settling in to the already settled.
I’m reading a new book out of season. It’s called Daniel Plainway or The Holiday Haunting of the Moosepath League by Van Reid. It’s not only out of season (the holiday is Christmas), but it’s also out of order. This is a book to be read later in the Moosepath series. But, all of that is neither here nor there. My point is, I’m reading this book and I came across this passage: “What I need to know,” Gerald was saying, “is there such a thing as a stipulation in a selling agreement that says if something valuable is found after the transfer of the building, it must be turned over to the previous owner?” (Viking, p 17). Do they really want their cheap sunglasses back? How about their Easter basket? And their chopped broccoli in the freezer? These are the things I wonder about. Are they yours for the taking or mine for keeping? Do I really want them?
We don’t know when we will close. How silly is that? The biggest purchase of my entire life and I don’t know when it will happen. I knew there was trouble last Thursday when kisa said there was a “miscommunication” with the seller’s lawyer. Whatever that means. Unprofessional moment #1. It was hard to go to bed not knowing the plan for the next day. No idea of the walk-through; no idea of the closing. But, I had a good idea it wouldn’t happen at all. A feeling of helplessness was mounting and all I wanted to do was vent – to cry on someone’s shoulder. I’m at the point where I just want to be done with this whole thing. Anticipation is giving way to frustration.
Friday comes and goes. Kisa and I are at the mall. Anxiety is creeping in and people are starting to look stranger and stranger. I couldn’t admit to being okay. We try to stay busy to stay focused. I’m buying candles to light the gloom: gardenia, tea & honey, cedar & pine, and HomeSweetHome (as if!). When we get home every time the phone rings I retell the story and it gets funnier and funnier. It all comes down to a bad boob job. Suddenly, I’m making breast jokes like a guy.
Finally, it’s Sunday and we are back where we started. It’s Thursday night in reverse. We don’t know when we are closing. We don’t know anything. It’s as if we are on a plane, sitting on the tarmac. We are about to embark on a fabulous, once-in-a-lifetime vacation. There’s nervous energy in the air. We are excited. We’ve planned for weeks. But, we’re not moving. Minutes turn into hours and there is no explanation for the delay. The idea of going anywhere seems slim, yet we do not understand why. The captain comes on and to say there has been a miscommunication with the tower. Whatever that means. All we know is that we aren’t embarking on that fabulous vacation. We’re stuck looking at the airport terminal. Our bags are packed – have been for days. Yet we cannot move.
It’s like a mantra. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. Things happen for a reason. I know this to be true. We didn’t succeed with the first few houses because they were not ours to have. Something bigger and better lay at the end of Ivy. The timing was all wrong in November. February couldn’t be more perfect. Things happen for a reason.
When my friend decided not to walk the twenty miles for Project Bread. I was not surprised, yet disappointed all the same. It took me a day to think things through. Would I walk without? Would I want to? It took me a week to bail myself out. Things happen for a reason. In reality, walking for hunger is a good cause for someone else. I am wedded to the crusade against cancer and domestic abuse. Been there, done that. Keep doing this. I decided to walk away from the Project Bread walk and find my Just Cause. 60 miles in three days. For breast cancer. This I can do. This I don’t mind doing on my own. I walk for Nor. I walk for me. This is the walk I am meant to walk.
When my friend of 35 years had a heart attack I had mixed emotions. A long history of ups and downs, goods and bads clouded my real emotion – fear. You don’t want people your own age to die. It’s not your time so it shouldn’t be theirs. Butbutbut, things happen for a reason. For the past three months I have wallowed in self indulgences. Since Thanksgiving I have been giving into temptations of every persuasion. Fat and lazy, I have become. When someone told me I looked beautiful I knew it was a lie. A sweet lie, but a lie none the less. I’m heavy. My heart failing friend woke selfish me, myself & moi up. Things happen for a reason. As soon as this house thing happens I am running back to healthy. I swear.
When a good, good friend brought up a painful memory it was hard to face it. Hard to take ownership of it and say yes, I really did do that. It’s unimaginable now, but yes, I really, really did that. Blame game. Pointing you out for no reason other than to strike out. Things happen for a reason. I’m glad you brought up the past and that awful time. I’m still struggling with what happened and more importantly, why butbutbut I’m done burying that past. I can dig it up and say I take responsibility for being so awful to you. I take all the blame for the blame game. It wasn’t you. Never was you. Sorry I said it was you. I’m seeing things better now that I’m so removed.
According to the time line we are almost at the end of the ride. This thing I’ve called roller coaster is finally coasting to a stop. We are nine days away from being home owners. Nine days and three steps closer to a new craziness. I’m okay with that because it’s different from the old craziness. Anything is better than the old craziness. All that is left is packing and signing. Packing and more signing. Three days and the ride comes to a halt.
According to the time line I can stop celebrating the craziness that was my landmark birthday. This thing I’ve called turning forty is finally finished. I’m now forty and a few days. Soon it will be forty and a few weeks; a few months. Old news. I celebrated with my husband hunting for house wares and making homemade brownies. I celebrated with the ladies and got to hear my favorite drum solo. I celebrated with my mom with steamed lobsters, chocolate whoopie pies and a big 4 candle. It was perfect – all of it – but now it’s time to move on.
There are other things coming to a halt in my life. Things that have run their course and run out of time. Promises made, promises broken. I should be bothered but I’m not. I’ve been here before. The path is not new. I don’t need a map. While it all makes me sad I am not surprised.
Back in April I thought we had a house. I started thinking of knocking down walls and walling up old plaster. I started thinking about corner lots and corner cabinets. Back in April I heard the family ghosts welcoming me home. A little red house called home. I had hellish hope for a house.
Back in August I obsessed about a house. I started talking to my AnyoneWho WillListen. I started dreaming of treeshouses and tree swings; big back yards and big family cookouts. Back in August I thought I heard neighbors welcoming me home. A little white house with green shutters I obsessively called home. I had hellish hope for a house.
Back in November I held out an offering for a house. I started dreaming about 2,000 square feet of house. Big house. Lots of room house. I started planning master bedrooms and multiple bathrooms. Back in November I made deals with lenders who wanted to welcome me home. A little(big) grey house with no neighbors. I held out for the hope of a house.
Back in December I dreamed about a oldnew house. A haunting of what I dared dream of before. I started having visions of well stocked stockings hung by the fireplace; a Christmas tree with festive twinkling lights in the window; the Merrymen singing O’ Come All Ye Faithful. I wished and prayed for a golden, sunlit kitchen complete with breakfast nook and built-in cabinets. Back in December I dreamed of having a second chance at getting a first house. A little beige house with cute cape windows. My hellish hope for a house heated up. Again.
Now I am here. I dream of a house with a dragon bowl in the bathroom. I dare to dream yet again. The dream is so close to reality I am this close to nausea. I told my dearest friend I am sure to puke any day now. I don’t think I am up to all this wait and see stuff.
But, here is the thing. This is the one. I am past the little red house with the family name; beyond the white house. I have forgotten the grey house and gotten over the beige house (honestly, I have). I have moved on to a little green house on a big hill. Hellish hope yet again.
25 days and counting.
…with flying colors, I might add.
27 days and counting. I now can say with absolute optimism, “On your mark, get set, pack!”
We spent forever initialing and signing until it was time to go home. All I kept thinking about were the trees. I mean, we are in the 21st century, are we not? Will we ever get to that paperless (or even less paper) society? Never mind.
When we got home it was nearly 9:30 at night and I was no mood to walk anywhere. Treadmill be damned. Training schedule be damned. I have been walking. Just not blogging about it. Nothing very exciting to say when it comes to walking, sad to say. Some days I care about mileage and I churn and burn. Other days I want to walk and read. Leisurely. Like this morning. This morning it was walk, read and drink coffee. My husband almost didn’t want to give me a cup until I reminded him, “honey. I’m walking.”
But, anyway. Back to last night. I got a phone call. And this is what I’m talking about when I say this is the way it should be. It should be this: a friend should be able to put it all into perspective without even trying. A friend knows what to say – exactly what to say – that makes it all make sense. Such is the conversation I had last night. I had residual drama on the brain. Things that were sort of bothering me in a lingering, lamentful sort of way. Not in an insomnial, oppressive, rant-on-the-way way, but still there nonetheless. Like I said, residual. Like smudges on a glass. I was eager to wipe the drama clean and when I was finished, without even trying, the conversation cleared the air. Everything took on a new perspective – the way it should be.
So I learned a lesson. Even when things seem petty and unparticular it is always best to talk them out. In the light of a brand new day and put before a brand new ear persepctives can change.
Eggs. The word I use to sum up “half of one kind, six of another.” Eggs. Means makes no difference to me. One way or another it doesn’t matter. It’s the answer to ‘where do you want to go for dinner’ when the craving for something obvious isn’t there. Eggs. It’s my verbal shrug.
This weekend we found two houses and in my mind they are all about the eggs. In answer to which one I like more – I would definitely say they are eggs. Penny has glitz and glamour; “pimped out” as my realtor would say. Instant hot water in the kitchen. Fireplace. Deck. Pool. Surround sound. Granite. Cathedral ceilings. His and hers in everywhere. Appletree has a clean slate and lots of potential; “vanilla” as my realtor would say. White walls. Not a drop of color anywhere. Naked rooms. Empty kitchen. But, side by side Penny and Appletree are eggs. Almost same size. Almost same style. Almost same type of neighborhood. Almost the same price. Almost the same stubborn sellers. Lots of almosts. So, one is scrambled with herb cheese and chives served with crispy bacon and the other is poached with salt and pepper served in a dainty white cup with a side of dry toast. One is bring nothing but your attitude, the other is if ya got it, flaunt it – bring it all.
We went back and forth, forth and back. Trying to decide which eggs to order. Where would our appetites take us? Have we exhausted the menu and this was all that’s left? Neither of us thought so. That wasn’t the right attitude to take. These were good eggs. Worth their weight. We want to order both. See what happens.
So we shall. Try one. Then the other. See who satisfies this house-hungry appetite.
We heard back. Did we ever. This whole process reminds me of war. Something akin to a clunky medieval war with ineffectual weapons and a horrible lack of communication. You lob something at me. I stare at it as it smolders harmlessly at my feet. In return I chuck something back at you; something as equally harmless and ineffective. The whole process is teeth-grittingly, frustratingly unproductive. It all feels ridiculous and stupid. You want way too much for your house. $21,000 over what every other professional thinks it’s worth. As much as I love what you have to offer I’m not about to offer you that much. Not nearly. When it came down to this war of numbers I wanted to hurl something more dangerous at you, something with the bite of “final offer” because really, it’s no big deal to me if we walk away. It aint no big thing. But, my knight in shining armor wants to storm the gates. Wants to see what you are made of, one tiny ineffective barb at a time.
So, we counter like kids – our offer coming through as a game of tin can telephone – hollow and sounding all wrong. And we wait for your tin can reply.