Monday, January 30, 2006

A Scene From the 'Hood

MrsSimmsOnLadderToday has been unusually mild for this time of year. And I have been unusually uninspired on the blogging front; that is until a few minutes ago when I saw my neighbor, who will be 93 this summer, on a ladder washing her kitchen windows. I just had to take a picture. But before I could get my camera she had vanished inside to clean the other side of the glass. So I waited.

I know what you are thinking. I should have rushed over to help. But I already know what she would say. I have been through this before. She will not let someone do anything for her unless she absolutely cannot do it for herself, and she seems to get mildly annoyed if you suggest she should not be doing something, like standing on a ladder. Last time she spent hours trying to change a ceiling light bulb before she called me. A couple of years ago she locked herself out of the house; so she used her ladder to crawl through an open window. I am not making this up.

Soon she was back on the ladder, however the photo from inside the house did not turn out. But by the time I snuck around the corner, she was gone again. She was moving faster than I was.

I don't know what - if anything -I'll be doing when I am 92 and a half. Windows will do.

Finally, always the perfectionist, she was back for a third time. I got her!

I'm glad she does not have a computer. I know she would be annoyed with me showing a picture of her in her housework clothes. I don't like having one of my heroes annoyed with me.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Waste Not

KeyboardTrayI have a "new" desk keyboard tray. It tells a story.

My father was born and raised on a farm. Like most farms in those days, cash money was scarce. Folks made do. If something broke, they fixed it. If it could not be fixed it was set aside to become part of something else. Dad worked his way through engineering school during the Depression. While his career took him away from the farm, the farm never left him.

On our 2 acre farmette I grew up watching my father recreate features of the life he knew so well. We had a large garden and a small orchard. We raised chickens and, for a time, hogs. We had two garages, a workshop and tool sheds. If something broke, he fixed it. If it could not be fixed dad set it aside to wait for a new purpose to present itself. I watched as dad built - among many other things - a 19-foot boat, single channel TV antennas, solid walnut furniture, and a large addition to our house. A trifling child, usually I best helped by staying out of his way. When it was my time to leave for college I am sure both of us had no idea how much I had been absorbing.

After my father died my mother married another electrical engineer with some youthful farm years of his own. He figured out dad's one-of-a-kind projects around the house in short order and kept them going for over twenty years. His attitude towards things broken was about the same as my father's. When my step-father passed away last year I decided it was time to clean over fifty years of accumulated bit and pieces - what most people would call junk - out one of the tool sheds. It was there I saw a wood veneer top from a long discarded dishwasher. One or the other of them had decided to keep it for some future use. It was then I remembered my father's office desk.

My father helped start a small rural telephone cooperative in the 1950's. He served as manager for over two decades. It was a shoestring operation in those days. Dad, determined to make ends meet, bought a black US Government surplus desk and refinished it. It served two decades as his desk and two decades more after he died. Destined for the landfill several years ago it was rescued by the man who replaced dad as manager. He was kind enough to give it to me.

Dad's old desk is still solid. Made from oak and put together to last several lifetimes, it is heavy, very heavy. It was several years before I even tried to move it into my house. But move it finally I did. However, as useful an office desk it is, it was not designed for computers. With the keyboard placed on the desktop, it is an ergonomic mess. At least it was until I saw that dishwasher top. It was just the right size to replace the center drawer.

I refinished the top, bought some rollers at Lowe's that - after a bit of custom work with a hacksaw and drill - provided support, and slid in my new keyboard tray. It works great, is just the right height, and almost looks like it has been there all along.

I would like to think somewhere two old engineers are smiling. One would be amazed.

See dad, I really was paying attention.

Monday, January 09, 2006


LeavesAfter returning Saturday from yet another trip to Virginia - mother is back in the hospital - I pulled into the driveway and was immediately taken aback by the amount of leaf matter coving my lawn. After much raking, and using the bagger feature of my new lawn mower, it had been leaf-free when I left. Well, almost.

The upside is that the pin oaks are now almost bare; there is little left to fall. BareTreeMaybe next time will be the last major clean-up for the season.

I am headed back tomorrow to Virginia to assist as mother returns home from her second week-long stay on the second floor of Halifax Regional Hospital. As before she will return home more healthy. But although her treatments have been effective and the doctors and staff kind, there is no place like home.

P.S. Among the things I have learned from her hospitalization is that keeping your blood pressure under control is very, very important. Years of even moderately high BP will catch up with you.

Tuesday, January 03, 2006