Wednesday, June 29, 2011

What? No Plumbing?

On St. Patrick's Day 1983 the Man and I bought an investment property -- he would have been 42 at the time. It is an old building, circa 1868, and had been converted into several bedsits. At that time it was not uncommon in England to find building of bedsits and flatlets with shared bathrooms and sometimes kitchens. The owner, a rather unscrupulous rogue, had made 7 residences, including the cellar and was charging the optimum rent he could. For the time it seemed a reasonable investment and the Man was able to convince the bank manager to grant us a 10-year mortgage. What is it they say about 'going where angels fear to tread'?

Part of our reasoning in buying the place was that we would renovate the cellar flat and live there ourselves -- it was a long saga, but an invaluable experience which has meant that both of us appreciate many things about modern living and modern conveniences that we never would have otherwise. My youngest sister couldn't get over that I was living without a dishwasher!! When I explained that for a while we didn't even have drains she was totally speechless. At the time we moved in we had a baby barely a month old and a two-year-old, as well as a 12-year-old -- all boys. The room we had designated for a bathroom  would flood when it rained and so for a time we had a portable toilet and around the contraption were strategically placed bricks we stepped on to keep our feet from getting wet! The Man's favourite job was not emptying it, which required lifting the sewage drain outside ...

For a few weeks the kitchen sink had an interesting set-up. We invested  in a large washing-up bowl which we placed under the kitchen sink in such a way that when we washed whatever in the sink we could pull the plug and it would empty into the waiting container to be disposed of in the outside drain. I swear to  you that no one in the civilized world appreciates drains more than I do!

Just about the first thing we had to do was put in a damp course. We were fortunate to have a wonderful builder who was also a teacher in the local technical college and was willing to instruct the Man time and again on how to do various projects himself. The Man and the older son dug out all the land around the cellar and built a patio, put in French doors to the outside and a stone lintel into where the fireplace would be. All the work had to be done on weekends and after work and instead of holidays. It was a long slog. The flat wasn't really completed until 1986 -- just before we moved into the house where we still live! And another renovation -- but this house had drains and all the other plumbing in place! The difference between 'restoration' and 'renovation' is massive.

The investment property now has four self-contained flats. Our old flat is the largest and has three bedrooms on two levels. At the present time a Polish family lives there and they have 3 daughters aged 5, 7, and 11. Both the Man and I have become very fond of these girls and have been 'adopted' and made honourary grandparents and it is because I was going to write about them that I ended up writing about our earlier renovation project. The 7-year-old had her First Communion on Sunday and our attendance was required ...

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Belle, Book and Kindle

Each month I promise myself I will blog every day or every other day. So far so failure! My birthday was last week and that was the last time I posted. Not a good start to my 67th year! But I did get my present request and so far I love it: a Kindle. It does take a bit of getting used to and I will not dump real books in favor of it -- but is definitely a good thing.

One of the drawbacks is that you can very easily order a book when you didn't mean to --  I expect that if I take the time and trouble I will be able to change a setting on my Amazon account and disable the 'one click' feature. A couple of days ago I was browsing from my Kindle on Amazon and wanted to check out information about The Tiger's Wife. I inadvertently hit the 'buy' button and seconds later the book was on the device -- not much time for cancellation! Fortunately, it was a good choice for a mistaken purchase. It has had good reviews so I decided to read it and am absorbed. So far so lovely ... I've already have many books for my summertime reading in France, including one over one thousand pages -- a novel that would be a lot easier to read on the Kindle, but another called The Pursuit of Italy which I would suggest is much better to have as a book as there are pictures and I like to go back and forth between pages with my history books! Same with my French grammars -- they need to be literally 'handy' not 'push buttony'.

I've mentioned La Belle France ... Monday I will have just under two weeks to organize my share of the packing. Big chore. Our dream is to be able to fly off to our little getaway -- fat chance that will ever happen. This year there is  more than usual as the Man has decided to trudge down there with a dining room suite he has got his hands on -- which means taking the trailer -- not a big one, mind you -- but nevertheless just as expensive on the ferry as if it were another car! There are clothes -- if we stay longer than September we must include warmer clothing -- always a pain to decide what to take. I won't admit to it, but there are also certain foodstuffs that the Man especially can't do without -- Heinz baked beans, for instance!

When we get there we will find the usual garden nightmare:

Our trailer -- the one that costs the same as the car on ferry! Quel  drag!

At least the sun shines! Although this year it does seem that whenever I arrive at a destination the sun subsides and dark clouds and rain abide ... In that case, I shall just have to make do with the food and the wine!!

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Flight of the Mystic

I always try to have a good book lined up for when I fly to the U.S. This past trip I was really looking forward to  a book I had been saving. In This House of Brede. (Many thanks Perpetua) I began reading while the plane was on the tarmac in Manchester waiting to take-off. So engrossed was I with what I was reading that when I looked up and discovered I was not riding through the fen-like marshland of southeast England I was quite startled. "Indeed", I thought, "this is going to be a good read"!

I managed to eke out the reading of the book throughout my three-week visit, finishing it on the return flight from Philadelphia. This is not a story of cutting edge drama, though it is dramatic. In a way it is a story about ordinary people. Ordinary people who do the extraordinary thing of committing their lives to prayer and the spiritual life in seclusion. It is a story about the choices we make that we don't make so it is a paradox. These sisters live in a community cut off from the world and yet tied to the world. From Matins through Compline Monasteries throughout the world offer a daily clock of ritual and prayer for our sustenance and the glory of God.

In This House of Brede  is like a prayer or meditation. There is so much to mull over and consider. As I turned over the last page and closed the book, I turned to look out the window and oh what a glorious and mystical sight. It was the early hours of a morning in June and as we were flying east in the distance the line of the horizon was red -- the beginning of a new day. There was a great deal of cloud cover beneath the  flight path and far away it showed shades of pink light. For several hours I watched as the colors deepened and spread within the cloud and as the horizon grew lighter and the darkness above retreated to the west. My camera was only an arms length away, but it felt wrong to in anyway try to capture the magic moments -- not because it was for me alone but because it was mine to witness not try to keep. Like the Breathe of God ... And then came the moments when I realized that we were flying through the dawn and that morning had broken. Fantastic!

Friday, June 10, 2011

META Stuff

This may be of interest to those of you who may have trouble posting comments. A little while ago I spent several fruitless minutes  trying to comment -- I went around in circles having to sign in over and over again to my Google account and then instead of coming up as from The Broad it came up Anonymous. This has happened a few times. Anyway, I decided to try again using Google Chrome instead of the new Internet Explorer 9 and had no problems. In fact I've had a lot of trouble with IE9 and so have changed my default browser to Chrome.

Saturday, June 04, 2011

Mom Power

It really does pay off to take pause and review  not only a situation but your own role in it. Enlightenment is definitely not  something you -- and especially 'I' -- attain by throwing some kind of switch! A few days taken stepping back has helped enormously -- not only me, but also my mother.

A few days ago I made a decision not to prod any more -- the tricky part is not to 'dis' courage, but not to actively 'en' courage. To allow her a choice and to follow that choice.

In the morning, I said "Are you going to walk to the pub (for coffee!) or do you want to go in the 'chair'?"

"Oh, I need the chair", she replied weakly ... (My mother went to drama school in New York City -- she is very good ;-) )

"OK", I said, trying to sound even-handed. And into the wheelchair she got.

"Oh, thank you, dear", she said relieved and pleased.

When lunchtime came I asked the same question and received the same reply. Not once did she choose to use her walker. At the end of the day she was asked how the walking was going by my brother and by her reply it seemed as though she did not remember that she had in fact done no walking that day. Dutifully, I let her know -- in a nice way :-)

At the end of the day, I felt a little down in the dumps. But I thought about it a lot and came to several conclusions.
  1.  'Will Power' is a 'self' motivation. She may or may not have enough and that if she does not that is not the end of the world for her. I have helped her to see that it is possible for her to do the things she did before her accident. But my real role here is to be a daughter and not a physical therapist or any other kind of professional.
  2.  She will not have to leave this place and everything that is necessary for her to stay her and live  successfully are in place. If she needs more assistance she is in a position to afford it. I have spoken to all the staff and they are completely on board with her needs and the possibilities and limitations. Most importantly they want what is best for her and they are giving her plenty of time to recover and to make the best possible situation for herself.
  3. My mother has every opportunity, but there are no expectations. I have discovered it is important to let go of expectations! For cryin' out loud she's 92 -- that's almost grown up!!!
  4. I have been with her for just about the right amount of time! We both need to let go. I have my life and Mom most definitely has hers!
Today started off just like my visits before her accident. Her bedroom door opened early in the morning. "I'm going downstairs for some coffee. Do you want me to bring  you back a mocha?" And off she toddled, happy as a Mom! She brought me back a cheese Danish...

Thursday, June 02, 2011

Walking the Walk and Pushing the Chair

In just under a week I return to the UK. My mother is doing very well and should continue to improve. But I  am worried that she does not have enough self-motivation and confidence to make herself  to continue in the direction she is at the moment so successfully going.

Self-motivation at the age of 92 is not so easy. The balancing act of 'insistent' encouragement when soulful eyes beg you to give in and use the wheel chair and you know that what is needed is to make the effort with a walker can be tricky. This sweet and angelic little old lady searches for any sign of weakness in my resolve to move her forward. "Please, I'm so tired", she says.

The majority of the time my resolve does not waver. "You can get to the elevator, if you walk your leg will limber up -- you know you can do this."

She agrees albeit reluctantly and successfully. We arrive downstairs and make it to the 'pub' for coffee and pastry, sit a while and chat to others and then make our way back. Lor 'unchtime comes and she walks all the way to the dining room. I have the wheelchair with me -- I realize it's too much for her to make her wend her way through the corriders to pick up her mail and then manage two long corridors to her apartment.

What worries me is what will happen when I return to the UK. I think I should have committed myself to an additional 3 weeks. So since this is not the case, I'm trying to figure out how to keep her going forward. The staff here is wonderful as is the visiting nursing staff and I have tried as much as possible to keep them aware of my concerns -- but will they be immune to those woeful looks? Healing is about so much more than th physical.  I am so surprised to discover how impatient my mother is -- she who would always wait patiently for my always late father to pick her up -- sometimes in sub-zero weather now expects her broken leg bone to be painless two months after it happened! I can't wonder, though, how would I be now if I had the same injury? Would I be any more patient than she? Would I be so kind and sweet to my nurses and aides and so apologetic for 'bothering' them? How would I like to have some smart-ass child pushing me when I'd rather just do things the easier way?