Sunday, May 31, 2009

My Grandma's Animal Families

I've struggled a bit with the Unravelling- Favourites photo assignment and I'm not sure why. But as I thought about more of my favourite things I remembered my Grandmother's collection of Animal Families. As long as I can recall she collected these little figurines. She displayed them on one of her window sills. As a little girl I remember her showing me her latest addition. I also remember her sharing about different types of families; some had lots of children, some no children, some with only a mom or dad. Some were blended families and some had adopted children. (In fact the sheep family is just that. Two of the little lambs have different faces than the other little lamb.) I think she even had several single member families.

I think she had upwards of 50+ families - farm animals, sea creatures, even some insects. When she died my dad and his siblings split up the collection and my father graciously gave me and my sisters each three families.

I had forgotten how special these little things are to me. They were on a kitchen shelf just catching dust. I washed each one individually and found myself talking to the little things. I wondered if my grandmother did the same thing when she dusted them.

As I write these words I realize how much I miss her. She died in 1995 which was before I knew for sure that I couldn't have kids. I suspected as much, but hadn't reconciled to it emotionally. As my husband and I worked through the grief we came to the place of seeing ourselves as a family even though we didn't have kids. I imagine that my grandmother planted this truth deep in my heart before I knew this would my path.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Home Improvements - No Turning Back

The moment I realized there was no turning back was not when they poured the concrete cap and bolted down the 1 ton tornado shelter.  The moment was when I took this photo. I am standing inside the garage noticing that we can no longer drive anything into this space because of the new stem wall.  

The photo below is the stem wall from the outside.  Our ingenious contractor rigged the garage door so it's still usable making it easy for them to bring in equipment and supplies.   

We plan to install a 4'x6' window that matches the one on the other end the house and landscape in front of this area.

P.S.  This week our contractor installed our new side door.  It is WAY cool, though we discovered we'll need to adjust the height of the original steps.  The rise from top step into the house is 6" higher than standard.  A bit of a hazard.   

My Travel Companions

I took this picture the other day while reflecting on the importance of journaling to me and also working on "My Favorite Things" Week 3 Unravelling photo assignment. The journal on the left is the #1 journal my husband bought me 12 years ago.

The first entry is March 31st, 1997 and the last entry is January 15th of the next year. This time period bookends a huge turning point in my life. My paid work consumed me and had for several years. During this time I began realizing I desperately wanted balance back in my life (or maybe balance for this first time in my life. Not sure which is more accurate). Around Christmastime of that year, I heard a sermon about "balance" communicated through a very helpful acronym. As I drove home (a 55 minute drive), I remember seeing my life next to the life depicted in the acronym. In that moment it was crystal clear how completely out of balance my life had become.

Several weeks later, actually the first work day of the new year, I was laid off. It was a shock to be sure, but it began an important leg of my life's journey. This event was definitely a "tear out" event and included lots of rebuilding and restoring.  The fingerprints of God were definitely evident to me.  I can honestly say that being laid off was one of the most important events in my life and has resulted in huge blessings to me, my husband, and our families.

P.S. The peacock journal is my travel companion for my "Unravelling" journey. I bought this journal sometime last year and for some reason it seemed right for this time.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Home Improvement Unravelling

It dawned on me the other day while working on my Unravelling photo assignment for Week 2 that the unravelling process looks a lot like the home improvement process. I realized that sometimes we need to tear out something (i.e. let go of an unhealthy attachment) before we can see and experience our desired change. Often it doesn't look too pretty, but in time there will be a blessing.

I took this photo a few days before receiving the photo assignment from Susannah. Our task was to shoot photos of our reflections in literally whatever or wherever we could see them. I love this photo because it inspires me to continue the process of "unravelling" along with rebuilding, restoring, and renewing.

Explanation Notes: This is the new stem wall where the garage door entrance used to be. (I had no idea what this was until we started this process).

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Home Improvements – Decision Triggers

We've pondered remodeling on and off for several years. Most of the time it was daydreaming and free thinking about possibilities. Oddly, however, the thing that propelled us into actually putting the plan into action was a possible move out of the state.

At this time last year we considered a 1-year move with the possibility for a longer term position (though not guaranteed). The location was about 90 minutes from my mom and dad and within 6-7 hours of my husband’s parents. On one hand it seemed the perfect move for us, but after considering several factors we decided it was too risky.

For starters, we weren’t entirely sure I could find a job in my field in the community and that meant looking 60 to 90 miles away with scary winter travel. Another option was for me to stay here and commute back and forth. But the question of the animals was not easy. Would B take all the animals or would he take two and leave two with me? Those goodbyes would be horrible. When we shared about the potential move with one of our nieces her comment was, “When I think of my aunt and uncle, I just see you two together and not apart.” We decided we agree. (We are discovering she’s pretty wise and she’s only 17!!) All things considered we decided this was not a good fit for either B or me, so B pulled himself out of the job search.

Once we made this decision to stay we got more serious about the remodel. Oddly, the more we talked the more it seemed to make sense despite of the economic conditions. Having a second bathroom is good for resell as is an in-house tornado shelter especially in OK. Finally, we decided that investing in the local economy was something we wanted to do and something we could do.  So far no regrets.  Some fears, but no regrets.

P.S.  Ironically, we used the storm shelter the other night!!!  Bad storms rolled into our county about 10:00pm and the tornado warning sirens blared as we went under a Tornado Warning.  When the local weather showed the storm tracker heading our way I freaked.  I wanted to get the cats in their carriers while we were "relatively" calm.  It didn't work too well evidenced by my cat-scratched arms.  Turns out no tornado dipped down out of the angry storm clouds, but it was kinda scary at least for me.  SO VERY NICE to have our own shelter to calm our fears.  Absolutely no regrets!

NOTE: Photo courtesy Dave Mardis.  Taken about 5 miles east of us.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Sweet Comfort

Molly is sitting beside my computer.   She is very sweet and she's doing that semi-nap thing, e.g. eyes half closed, head dropped, just quiet.  Today she provides me comfort and reminds me that I am loved.  I am grateful for our animals' intuition.  (This is an old picture, but one of my favorite.)

Today I remember my childhood dog, Candy.  She was a collie and our beloved dog.  My memory was of a time when I was really sad.  I sat on the back porch and Candy came over.  She sidled up under my arm.  I cried and she licked my tears.  It's a precious memory for me.  

Friday, May 08, 2009


I love experiencing ink flowing out of my pen onto paper through the movement of my hand. I marvel that words actually convey meaning to others. I've always loved writing, but didn't start journaling until college, spurred on by an assignment in my freshman psychology class.

After this I wrote regularly for about 6 years, but what started out nakedly honest became a checklist: adorations, confessions, thanksgivings, supplications. It actually wasn't completely this structured, but I lost touch with the joy of writing. Since then I've given up checklist living. I just can't measure up. More than this, though, I now know that I don't want to measure up because this measure is crooked.

When I returned to journaling in 1997 it was truly a godsend. My husband gave me my first journal. It was beautiful and had a # 1 written on it. So perfect for me. It represented a beginning and it truly was. Journaling is my safe place. When I returned to the practice I promised myself I would not censor and if possible no hiding. For the most part I've kept that promise.

~*~ *~ *~

My blog writing serves another purpose. With much encouragement from my husband and others it's been an anonymous space for me to find another voice. It's a shared space, more public, but still a relatively safe place for me. It's been a very good way for me to exercise this other voice, take courage, and give it a platform so to speak.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Flickr Meltdown

I almost had an "identity meltdown" when I setup a Flickr account for class.   I wasn't sure what name to use.   Should I use my real name, my blog name, a combination of both, or a totally new name? Some names I wanted were already picked.  In the end I chose a combination of both.

In teasing apart my Flickr induced "crisis" I realized that one thing I hope to work through in the unravelling class is integrating my "various selves".  My life is not nearly as siloed as it used to be, but at times I am very aware of the various presentations of myself, i.e. my public face(s) to others.  Some of this is very natural and perhaps necessary to survive and function successfully in life, but this "divided life" really bothers me.  I think combining photography, observation and guided writing will be a good tool for me.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Tomorrow I begin an e-course called "Unravelling:  Ways of Seeing Myself" that was recommended to me by my friend.  She took the course this spring and loved it.  I know it will be both exciting and revealing.  A running theme in my life this last year and half has been untangling some important facets of my life and my family history.  It's been good, but not always easy.  I'm looking forward, in the words of Susannah, "to LOOK. To observe. To investigate. And to find a new way to see ourselves and our own personal world."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Home Improvements - The Safe Room Part 2

After doing lots of research and thinking through options my husband proposed installing one as part of our garage remodel. He first heard about the product from the retired fire chief of our city. (He's the husband of the lady who cuts our hair. She held an open house at her new shop and B struck up a conversation with him. You just never know where you'll learn information.)

The FamilySAFE product is multi-functional. It’s essentially a steel encased closet with a inward swing door so you don't get trapped inside. We’ll be able to store things in it especially during non-tornado season. Good for storing cat carriers, golf clubs, etc. Of course during tornado season it can't have TOO much stuff in it. :)

I'm excited to say they installed the safe room shelter on Wednesday. It is way cool! Looks a little weird right now since it's the only thing in the garage space. And another cool part. They took $400 off the price as a "Show Discount". Back in January we went up to the Home and Garden show so we could see one ourselves. They offered the discount to people who bought that day, but we weren't ready to commit. I'm impressed that they gave it to us anyway.

Our house is a pier and beam construction, so everything is about 25" off the ground. The cement cap in the photo will be under the floor, so this will essentially be a walk-in closet from the new bedroom. To the right will be the new 3/4 bathroom. Also, the safe room is constructed so you can hang drywall on the inside. I doubt we'll do that but will probably put in a nice floor, some shelves and a hanging rod.

Home Improvements - The Safe Room Part 1

So what's a safe room?? Sounds kinda weird. I know. When B first mentioned the idea, I wasn't sure what to make of it. I'd never heard of such a thing. He'd been thinking about our difficulty finding a safe place during inclement weather (read tornadoes!!) with our beloved dogs and cats. Although our neighborhood has been spared from tornadoes, communities further north have not.

The May 1999 were frighteningly scary and too close for comfort (about 8 miles north as the crow flies). I remember the exact moment we realized we needed to make a decision about what to do. Should we stay? Should we go, but where? Who would accept 2 dogs and 2 cats? I completely froze in my decision making. (I now know you should already have a plan in place so you don't have to make these decisions when you are so stressed.) How grateful we were for our wonderful neighbors' invitation, the same ones who shared coffee with us during the 2007 ice storm. They invited us over; both cats and both dogs. Their house has a below ground shelter in the center of their house that normally functions as their laundry room.

Since then there have been a few times when we’ve huddled in the only place in our house with no windows. The problem. It has a large attic fan directly above. Not a good thing to be sitting below this.

(to be continued...)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Home Improvement – Risky Decisions

We tossed around the idea of remodeling the garage for several years. I can take no credit, none whatsoever, for conceiving the idea or walking forward past the idea stage. I often tell B if it were up to me we wouldn’t have done any of the home improvements we’ve completed over the years. We would still have the cruddy old carpet, old windows, and probably still have old renters white paint throughout the house. And most certainly we would not have our awesome dishwasher (I love that thing).

Although I am relatively tight with money, the bigger reason for my hesitancy is risk. To accept risk is to risk failure. Fear of failure sometimes hamstrings me from even taking prudent risk. I realized that in some types of decisions I seek a 100% confidence in my decision, which means it takes an inordinate amount of time to make a decision and after making a decision I rethink it, which causes confusion for the people involved. This tendency happened again this weekend while we were discussing our improvement design. We worked through the conflict to a fruitful end, but it was a painful discussion.

This is a common theme in my life at the moment especially at work. I’m learning that taking risk sometimes means making decisions with only partial information. If I (or others) make a reasonable decision based on the information available at the time, then when new information or hindsight comes along I cannot judge that decision. I can learn from the process, but concluding that I or others are bad or imprudent is harsh. I think the lesson I’m learning is that evaluating myself or others using a moving target is not at all fair or just.


I wonder what other lessons are in-store for me. Hopefully, the next few posts will be a little bit more light hearted. :)

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Home Improvement - 3D Design

Here is a 3D view of our remodeled space based on a 2nd mockup our contractor put together. One of our friends created it using Google SketchUp. (Thanks Greg!) I'm very impressed he figured out how to use the software. I tried my hand at the tool one afternoon, but to no avail. I know a little bit about AutoCAD, but this software was beyond me. :)

It was cool to see a 3D version as it gave us a feel for room flow etc. Since then we've made a few more changes especially with some windows, doors and the bathroom.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Home improvement - Designing the Space

The space we are remodeling is about 240 sq ft. Here is a pic of our favorite design. A neighbor friend up the street does lots of remodeling of his rental homes. He and his partner own a number of rental properties around town. They are known for their small, cute properties with really unique design upgrades. He offered to mock up some designs for us and since we've never done this before we were very happy to pay for his services.

We thought it was wonderfully creative, but due to some practical complications we won't be able to go with it. Turns out according to city code the electrical panel cannot be in a bathroom or laundry room. Makes sense. Although we could move the panel we decided it wasn't worth the money.

This design gave us some great ideas and the one we are going with is very similar. This upfront process was a wonderful way to think through alternatives and assess (re-assess) our priorities.

NOTE: The space at the bottom on the drawing is the kitchen and the top of the drawing is the new guest room.

Home Improvements - Yippee! (at least so far)

B and I are embarking on a home improvement project. We decided to convert our one-car garage into livable space with an expanded laundry room, guest room, 2nd bathroom, and last but not least a SAFE room (more on that in a later post). Oh and one more thing...a last minute add...a utility sink. We wrestled quite a bit with whether we should take the risk during the economic crisis, but decided given our situation now is a good time. More about that decision in a later post.

Recently a friend suggested I blog about this experience and I thought it might be kinda fun and a good way to document our experience. We are well through the planning and the physical work begins Monday.

I thought I would start at the beginning since a lot of work has happened up to this point in the planning, design, and preparation. Stay tuned...

Friday, March 27, 2009

Watering Troughs

We are expecting some bad spring weather this evening and some snow fall through the night. It's raining now with a bit of thunder and Streak just jumped in my lap for a "it'll be okay, buddy" confirmation.

I took the dogs out of a walk and got back a few minutes ago. While walking I noticed a pretty little sight. The spring rains are pooling up on the broad leaves of these tiny little plants. I just thought it was so beautiful.

For some reason this sight speaks a message of hope into some of my dark places. Some of these places need some "It'll be okay, sweet one" and a drink from the watering troughs.