Monday, May 5, 2014

Love in the rear view mirror...

An old friend from high school is getting married this year on New Year's Eve. She's marrying a guy we knew in high school. They didn't date back then but she was friends with just about everyone! They didn't see each other for 20+ years. But when they got together (through Facebook I believe) it was as if it was always meant to be. 

She's led a chaotic life. She will be the first to admit it. Addiction, co-dependent relationships, crazy living situations, strays of all manner tucked under her wing, geographic cures. But in her late thirties, she set about putting things in order for herself. Within a year of doing so they crossed paths. Around the same time, she started a job that led her to start a business of her own. Now she's in graduate school getting a degree in psychology. Life is 1000% better for her than just 6 or 7 years ago!

We've been invited to join them for the Jack & Jill shower this summer and for the wedding this holiday season. We aren't super close these days though Facebook keeps us in touch but we always have a great time when we see each other and I'm honored that she's invited us. Seeing her so happy is wonderful because even at her most chaotic points in life, she always meant well and had a HUGE heart!

Thinking about their high school friendship-turned-romance makes me think about love in the rear view mirror. Call it hindsight perhaps but sometimes returning to your roots is exactly where you'll find what grounds you. 

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rebuilding the "Outdoor Rinsing Station" aka the outdoor shower

Over the winter, the outdoor shower, which was poorly built to begin with, took quite a beating from the wind. One night I could hear banging with every big gust. I thought the door had come unlatched again but when I looked out, I realized that pieces of the siding had come loose and were swinging in the wind. The support pieces had rotted and the screws were no longer holding the siding to it. Eventually one fell off and more came loose. With every gust of wind, it sounded like someone was falling down the stairs. It was clearly time to do something about it. 

We have been talking about fixing or replacing it since we bought the house seven years ago. It was another half-assed attempt gone wrong courtesy of the previous owner. The plumbing is backwards - hot is cold and cold is hot, the narrow wooden temporary flooring sits directly on top of the brick patio which allows the slugs to hang out underneath and crawl up while you are showering (EWWWW!!!!) making it impossible to relax and enjoy the shower, and the door is attached to a post that sits on the patio with no support so it leans in when the door isn't closed, out when the wind blows and nearly knocks you over if you don't pay attention to the swing. It's also far too small, has no proper place to sit and shave your legs or dry off, and the only place to hang a towel that feels semi-clean is over the door. 

So... A few weeks ago I sat down with a ruler and a pencil and drafted a larger, more useful, more lovely space for what visitors often consider to be the best room in our house. A was on board and drew up the technical specs (I love having a handy husband!).

So in preparation for two whole days off together over the weekend, off we went to our spring home-away-from-home, Home Depot, and stocked up on all the goods. Then A had homework due so while he studied I went out and took down the old enclosure - tearing it all down took me less than ten minutes! I removed everything except the plumbing. I don't do plumbing... That's A's job!

Here are a couple of "before" pictures:

And here are a couple of "during" photos:

The construction would have gone more smoothly had A gotten some sleep before we went to purchase the materials but he'd worked an overnight double and might not have been thinking entirely clearly. After hauling all of the lumber around from the driveway to the construction area, A realized that he had made some minor miscalculations and we were short three 4"x4"x8' posts, one 2"x6"x8' boards and four joist hangers. Having made design changes on the fly didn't help in calculating either. Not a big deal since we are lucky enough to have a lumber yard 10 minutes from the house. 

Once we had completed the shopping, we were on a roll! On day one we got the posts and frame set, the deck built, and all of the decking cut and installed. Day two will include cross-bracing the frame and updating the plumbing. We've had some very cool ideas for how to plumb this thing - rustic but eclectic!

Day three will involve a trip to the saw mill over the bridge at some point this week as we priced out rough cut pine and found it to be less than half the price directly from the mill. Yahoo! The other half of day three will include staining the boards and installing them. 

Days 5 & 6 will be working on the art pieces that will make this shower incredibly unique! I can't wait to see how my vision comes to life!

This is an old window that will be part of the privacy screen. I'm happy with how they are coming out!

Okay... The reality of life prevented us from finishing the outdoor shower before early July but aside from the hunt for a couple more themed towel hooks, it's done! We absolutely LOVE it! 

Here are the "after" pictures. 

The "riptide door" from the outside. We realized it was a tad short and you could see in from the living room so we added another row of waves going the opposite way... Hence the riptide. 

Finished privacy window. They are designed so that when we move, we will take these with us and replace them with boards or less personalized windows. 

The rustic plumbing. Notice the rain shower head above and the shiny thing at the bottom right is the top of the handheld wand - perfect height for dog washing. 

Opposite the door, the "privacy waves" which may some day be replaced with more privacy windows. 

On the right is the shower curtain that gets pulled across to keep the hanging towels etc dry. On the left is a shelf where I like to put my bluetooth speaker and phone for some shower tunes. 

Very important feature is the broom... Spiders like taking up residence and I don't share well with spiders. They ARE better than the slugs that used to crawl on my feet in the old shower though! Oh... And on the right is another privacy window. 

One of the cool things is that the two smaller windows are from A's family's cottage in Eastham and as I was varnishing them, I saw A's grandfather's name written in pencil on the side. I like to imagine that he wrote it there 50+ years ago. 

And... Looking up. Wisteria and "old" fishing buoys. Trees and blue sky. So lovely!

Overall it was a relatively easy project with me as the designer and A as the engineer, architect, plumber, and carpenter. We make a great team! And yes... We are for hire! :-)

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Leaving it on the field...

For 24 years I've belonged to a sorority. It's hard to believe, if you know me, that I ever even pledged a sorority but... In classic group think mentality "my friends were doing it". At the time it was a pain in the ass. It distracted me from school and work and everything else (sometimes in a good way, sometimes not so much). But as time went by and the friendships that I made as a result of being in the sorority solidified in deep meaningful lifelong relationships, the positive side is pretty much all I see when I look back. 

Each year the tiny campus that I went to school at hosts "Greek Games". The sororities and fraternities spend the week competing in everything from darts to pool to a canoe joust to dodgeball during the week in preparation for the "real competition" on the last Saturday in April. This is when alums travel from all over to come take part in the festivities. 

I've gone back for Greek Weekend a handful of times over the years but haven't competed in much due to back and hip issues and... Let's face it... At my peak weight, I couldn't keep up with the 20 year olds!

I wasn't planning to go this year but heard that we had a very slim showing of alumnae so I rallied some troops and headed north. Way north! Machias, Maine is just east of the North Pole - or so it seems when you are driving driving driving driving to get there! Thankfully I picked up a good friend halfway there and we chattered away the last four hours or so. 

I had realized before I got there that I was probably going to have to participate in the games... But I didn't anticipate playing in ALL of the games! 

I'm pretty terrible at basketball. About the only basketball asset that I've got is plenty of height but I am not a shooter and I don't really get all of the rules. So when one of our three 3-on-3 players fell and banged up her knee, all eyes were on my height and soon I found myself in the game. I figured that if I could keep them from scoring and rebound the ball and get it to one of the other girls to shoot it, I just might be helpful. Much to my surprise, I was! I even scored two baskets! Had they not changed the rules halfway through the tournament, we would have won but... We came in second. 

The it was off to the volleyball court where I am much more confident in my skills. Again my height is an advantage but so were all those years serving in a tiny gym in grade school as I learned to control my serve. I managed to have some pretty good scoring runs on my serves and we won half of our games. To be fair, the half we lost were to the girls that are or were on the university volleyball team so I think we held our own pretty nicely!

Then it was off to lunch. We had an hour and had just sat down at a local pizza place when I got word that things had been changed and instead of starting at 2pm, we were starting at 1:15pm. It was 1:08pm so... No lunch! Thankfully I had brought apples and trail mix and someone else had crackers and water so that's what we survived on until dinner at 6pm. 

Then it was off to the street hockey competition. THIS is OUR domain. I don't really know why because we only had one former field hockey player on our team but we dominated those games. It was pretty funny to look up and realize that of the six of us on the "rink", four of us were 43 and 44 years old! We played every minute of the games and did a damned fine job of running circles around those girls! 

The last competition for me was the tug of war. If I can help it, I'll never do another tug of war... Seven hours of playing all of the previous games was easier than bending down to get my shoes on after the tug of war. I felt like my spine had separated at each vertebrae and it took a while for them to find each other again. 

As the day wore on, we also realized that our team of 40+ year olds was unusual. There were other people there representing other organizations that were in our age range but very very few of them did much more than sit in chairs on the sideline and cheer. 

It probably sounds braggy but I'm actually just really proud of my 40+ dream team! We have all been dedicated to getting in shape and you could REALLY tell that it was working from our endurance and stamina throughout the day. And we had a TON of fun!

At the end of the day Saturday I was completely exhausted and, very unlike me, fell sound asleep in the middle of a room of chattering women. When they teased me about being in my pjs at 11pm during Greek Weekend, I joked that a finely tuned athletic specimen such as myself must tend to her instruments' needs... So I ate, drank a ton of water... And passed out. Another first for me at Greek Weekend is that I had ONE alcoholic beverage the entire weekend. 

In the end, we came in second and that's NOT a comfortable place for us! When I was active in school, we hadn't lost in 10+ years and that streak continued until we had passed 25+ years. Now we haven't won in the last three years and that's not okay! Especially when the fraternity that has won have taken poor sportsmanship to a new level. They need to be put in their place!

So I've sounded the rally cry and am urging our era to spend the next twelve months getting fit so we can go back and claim the win once again! We can do it!