Saturday, November 8, 2014

Rockets Redglare

    It was autumn in the year 1987.  I was attending classes at UNH in pursuit of a degree in Animal Science that would never come to be, but at the time I was faithfully jotting notes and trotting around the campus from class to class, like a dutiful student.  My horse had been newly moved to a large stable that was ten minutes from the main campus in Durham.  This place was full of fancy horses and riders decked out in breeches and boots, with a head trainer who bellowed like a bull at his students.  The trainer was so intimidating that I could hardly meet his gaze if I had to pass him in the barn aisles.  Flashing a dazzling piano key rivaling smile, he'd say, "Hello, Dear!" at the top of his lungs and strut past with the silver taps on the heels of his boots clacking like castanets on the concrete.  I would shrug out a soft, "Hi", and scuttle off to my horse's stall, visibly shaken by this larger than life man's brief acknowledgement.

  The days fell into an easy routine as I adjusted to the more flexible schedule of a college gal.  I found that I could ride in the mornings between classes on Tues. and Thurs., so at ten o'clock I'd dash off to my car and whiz to the barn.  Ten, my Quarter Horse, was stabled in the long, dark back aisle that was adjacent to the indoor arena.  The stalls were adequate, but this part of the barn was more or less akin to the land of misfit toys. The school horses lived in this aisle, along with various other odd and end horses that were made up of absentee boarders, or project types.  I didn't care where Ten lived as long as it was safe and he was happy, both of which were working out just fine.  One of these mornings I was grooming Ten in his stall when I heard footsteps coming down the aisle.  Through the bars of the stall I watched a thin, blonde woman clad in beige breeches and tall rubber boots glide by.  She looked really happy, almost radiant to be at the barn.  I was instantly curious about her.  That day while I rode I watched her from a distance as she took a lesson on a horse that I knew only as "Rockets".  Rockets, who's full name was Rockets Redglare, was not particularly pretty, nor was he graceful, but he was kind and willing. He had large platter sized feet that belied his draft horse infusion and he was about as flexible as a piece of rebar.  Granted my own horse was no picnic with a short, choppy step and flighty nature, but Rockets looked about as comfortable as riding a jackhammer.  The blonde woman put him through his paces, carefully executing the exercises set out by the instructor and at the end of the lesson she collapsed on Rockets neck, hugging him broadly with both arms.  "I love this horse!", she said with a grin.  It was obvious that she really did.

   Back at the barn we were both untacking and I decided to introduce myself.

"Hey," I said. "I'm Michele. I  just moved here with my horse, Ten."

"Oh, I'm Kathy! And this is my horse, Rockets," she said patting him vigorously. "Nice to meet you!"

  We engaged in some polite conversation, with the normal where are you from, etc. as we put away our horses and then it was time for her to go to work, she said. "Where's work?" I inquired.

"The hospital. I'm an anesthesiologist," she replied, waving goodbye.

  From then on I met many new friends at the barn, and I'd run into Kathy on some of my morning rides, or occasionally see her on the weekends when she'd bring her two tiny, blonde toddler clones of herself out to feed Rockets carrots.  I couldn't help but admire her sheer enthusiasm for coming to see her clunky, oafish horse.  Her love for him was so absolute and true that it felt intrusive to watch her greet him.

    One morning in late November, just before Thanksgiving, I was getting Ten tacked up for a ride. Kathy appeared in the barn, but instead of wearing her usual broad smile, her face was pale and drawn.  I watched her let herself in Rockets stall and clasp her arms around his neck. Ten minutes later she came out, wiping her eyes with her sleeve and I wasn't sure if I should say anything, or just let her be. She walked over to me and Ten, letting out a long exhale.

"Ahhh, I really needed that," she said giving Ten a pat on the neck.  "Today has been a super bad, horrible day."

"Trouble at work?" I ventured.

"No, it's not work.  Today is a sad anniversary for me."  She paused and her expression was pinched before she spoke again. "I lost the love of my life on this day, seventeen years ago.  We were just kids really, but he was so special. Fucking Vietnam. It was his last mission before he was sent home."

 I told her I was sorry for her loss, all the while feeling very uncomfortable with this sad version of my usually bubbly friend.

"Yeah, sometimes life just sucks, you know? John was a pilot.  You know how pilots give themselves call names?  His was Rockets Redglare. No one really knows about him, except for my family. I never even told my husband about him. I named Rockets in his memory."

    This reveal of information hit me deep in my gut.  It was raw and heartbreaking and profoundly sad. A painful piece of her past hiding under what I had perceived to be a happy woman leading a fantastic life, with a career, cute kids, the works. My young brain sought to process the complexity of such a tangle of emotions.

"That's cool that you named Rockets after him. I mean, it's obvious how much you love that horse and everything."  It was the best I could come up with at the time.  

  Kathy nodded, biting her lip and then apologized for bumming me out.

  She proceeded to tack up Rockets and the next time I saw her that day she was galloping full speed across the top field.  Bending low over his neck they sped along. I remember thinking I was watching an image of pleasure running away from long buried pain.

 All of these years later I can still see Kathy's face when she told me about John, her fallen pilot and lost love.  I doubt that she remembers telling me the story, but it's one that I know I'll never forget.





Sunday, October 5, 2014

Back to the Blue House

      These photos take us back to late January/early Feb. 2014.  One of our first projects was to clear out the kitchen.  I'd really like to know who painted the interior of this house, because they showed absolutely zero sign of imagination.  Once the color was chosen it went on the walls AND ceiling. No trim accents, no baseboard accents, just a monochromatic nightmare of blue/green, which was now incredibly grimy and peeling in many places.  All of the cupboards had to go since they were very shallow, and we needed to reconfigure the cabinets so the fridge would fit.  First, we decided to attack the floor. I'm sorry but 1970's faux brick linoleum just isn't our style so we began peeling it up.  The cheap fake brick came up like butter. Long, satisfying strips peeled up effortlessly, only to expose another layer of what we guessed to be early 1960's linoleum.  This stuff had a little more grit to it when it came to peeling it up off the floor. We used all kinds of chisel tools to coax and cajole it into loosening. Once we had a good section removed it came to light that their was a third layer of even older linoleum, maybe even the first kind ever manufactured, lurking at the bottom. The last layer was fixed into place by a thick layer of a tar like substance.  It didn't want to budge. I imagined the1940's linoleum salesman telling the housewife who picked out the pattern, "Ma'am, once you put this stuff down nothing is going to get it off that floor!"  Eventually, we got some of it up, with plenty of grunting and cursing and below all of that ugly fake flooring was a delightfully unscathed hardwood floor.

"Who would cover this up?" we both mused.  It was perfect, well except for the large chunks of tar that refused to be plied from it.  We sweated and chipped at small sections, slowly gaining ground, but then Jonathan had an idea.  He ran to Home Depot and returned with a hand planer, which ended up being the perfect foil for our tenacious tar issue.  It was not a pretty job and it was painstakingly slow, but Jonathan was determined to get the hardwood floor back to its original condition.

About the same time that we were fighting with the kitchen floor we took on the first of the green rooms.  Armed with a ten gallon bucket of primer we set out abolish the green.  It took two solid coats to get that green to say "uncle".  That evil, nuclear green that glowed thru the first coat of primer and still had a faint presence behind the second coat. "Don't worry," Jonathan assured me. "The color paint will cover it."  
After taping off all of the chair rails, baseboards, doors, vertical accents, windows, ceiling and the fireplace I could almost sympathize with the former painter and their choice to say the hell with it and paint the whole damn thing one color. However, once the first coat of Killim Beige was on the walls, the transformation was jaw dropping.  The house suddenly had a touch of class.  Almost a museum quality to it.  I'm not going to lie, this was basically the first time I felt any excitement over what we were doing at this place. All of the other jobs required a lot of lifting, moving, scraping, etc. and after they were done the place still looked like an unappealing interior nightmare.  But the paint? The change was incredible!  Wow, I was falling in love now.  This room is meant to be an office/guest room and it's so bright and sunny for most of the day.  The beige is a soothing, neutral shade that is so the polar opposite of the original color.  I think the house actually sighed when we finished painting this room.  I love hanging out on the love seat (which pulls out to a bed when needed) with a good book.  This room holds a special place for me because it showed me that we hadn't made a mistake, but instead we had bought a piece of American history that we were in charge of restoring. We did make a mistake on our first attempt to re-finish the floor. After sanding it down with a rented belt sander, we applied a coat of stain that we were sure was "the one".  After letting it dry overnight, it was a very disappointing unveiling as we both felt like it was too red, like a redwood deck kind of red.  We decided to move onto another project and just leave the floor for the time being. I know you're not supposed to do that, but we'll get to it at some point and now that it's dulled I don't hate it quite as much.  

The projects haven't slowed down, though we've gone through some lulls when we've just gotten too sick of painting to pick up a brush for a week, or two.  I'm going to make a concerted effort to continue blogging until I'm up to date with where we are now.  I never imagined that I'd enjoy doing this kind of work so much, but it's been a very fun process. One of the more fun parts is having people over who saw it when we first bought it.  Most of them can't believe the difference and frankly, it is kind of mind blowing what a little paint, elbow grease and tenacity can do.   On another note, I was thinking of a name for the blog, since I'm not really Musing in Millbrook these days. How about "The Blue House Blog", or "Blogging from the Blue House"?  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Mysterious Figure

      The old man walks with a ramrod straight back, arms at his sides, soft, sure steps with his moccasin covered feet, making him look like a soldier tip toeing up on his enemy. He has dark eyes and coffee colored skin that's etched with lines and crinkles. He doesn't say much and what he does say is spoken in rapid fire Spanish, his native language that he chooses not to abandon, despite the fact that he's lived in the U.S. for thirty some odd years.  Known as Lucho he cuts a solitary figure living out his days in the groom's apartment at the farm, isolated at the end of a long dirt road. He's like an hourglass that ticks each day off as a grain of sand, one day closer to the inevitable.  I wave to him and smile, sometimes I even say "Hola" when I see him slip in or out of his apartment, though his stealth often makes his comings and goings hard to catch. Moving like a ghost, he'll return my smile and give a weak wave. There are times when I think he comes out to be noticed on purpose and I'm there simply to reaffirm that he's still alive, human,  a heart beating on a revolving planet while it's a million miles away from homeland, Chile.

  There have been a few conversations with Lucho over the months I've been at this farm, all related to horses, and I utilize my meager vocabulary of high school Spanish to communicate with him. I'm sure I sound like a stunted four year old, often I'm apologizing for my poor grammar.  He doesn't seem to care.  I listen to him speaking with his 92 year old boss, the owner of the farm and a character who must've been larger than life as a young man.  The two of them together, argue and complain. It's a familiar dance between them.

 Lucho has two dogs, one he picked out many years ago and one that picked him 4 years ago. I learn this from Ed, the owner.

"He didn't want the younger one when she showed up here as a puppy, but I told him that was tough," Ed recalled with a wry smile. "She was here and he had to feed her. So he did."

 The younger one, a rust colored bitch, who looks like a small chow cross, has a deep loyalty to her chosen person.  She follows his truck when he goes to the local gas station to buy cigarettes, sitting outside on the curb, averting her gaze from all who pass her by.  She has only one person in her life. I've been allowed to pet her twice and sometimes she'll give me a half hearted wag of her coiled tail, but mostly it's a look of quiet disdain  through squinting, mistrustful eyes when I arrive at the farm. The old dog is an aging comic of Akita heritage, with a mottled, dull orange coat that is bare in places.  His mouth curls up in a macabre grin exposing yellowed fangs as he patrols the yard, pausing to make water on anything in his path.  Barking in a hoarse, repetitive fashion he can often be found upside down, itching his back to and fro with his legs spastically kicking and bicycling caught up in a moment of pure pleasure.  He likes to have his head petted, which I do very gingerly whenever he swings by for a check up.  The main concern for him is keeping my dogs from eating is Ol' Roy brand dog kibble.  It's a full time job that he takes very seriously when we arrive each day and he's not afraid to stand up to my young bucks, even if he is balding and wobbly.  The dogs never really get into it, though the bitch has grabbed both of mine and given them a good shake to prove her territory is strictly off limits.  Gutsy move for a fox sized dog to pull, but it worked.

    The other day Jonathan and I were teaching a young horse how to load in a two horse trailer.  The horse wasn't being terribly cooperative, instead he preferred to stand halfway in the trailer with his hind feet still on the ground.  Without a word, Lucho appeared with a large bucket of sweet feed and handed it to Jonathan.  The lure of the tempting grain was enough to convince the horse that whatever fear he had of walking into the trailer was trumped by his appetite and on he went. I thanked Lucho for his participation and he gave me a little smile before retreating back to his apartment. My suspicion is that he watches everything that goes on around the barn, which is both creepy and comforting. Before we came in the barn was empty. When we got there I was concerned that we were going to be an unwelcome presence with our boisterous group of show horses, but instead I get the feeling that Lucho enjoys the added activity and the chance to lend a hand at times.  By early fall we should have our own barn completed so our horses can move to our place. Once again the cavernous polo barn will be silent and still, except for Lucho's quiet footsteps.  

Friday, June 6, 2014

A Minor Glitch

      I'm going to veer off the timeline of the Blue House Project for a moment here. Today it dawned on me that I hadn't received a copy of my new home owner's insurance policy, which should've come last week.  When we bought the house in January I secured a renovation policy on the house and property. The insurance agent I was using at the time informed me that once we moved in, we should be able to upgrade it to a normal home owner's policy.  I had called her several times after we finally moved in, but she never called me back, so I decided to go with a different company.  Setting up the new policy involved answering about a half hour worth of questions from a humorless wench, but I gritted my teeth and got through the process thinking how clever I was and it was one more thing I could check off my list.  Ha!  Steeling myself for another annoying series of questions, I rang up the new policy's hotline, punched in all the ridiculous touch tone responses,  and an automated voice said to me, "Your policy will be cancelled on Sept. 7, 2014.  This must be a mistake, I thought. What on earth? So, I dutifully pressed 0 to talk to a human and get to the bottom of what that statement meant. A woman named Laura answered, and I explained to her that I hadn't received my policy, nor had I received any bills and what did that automated voice mean when it said my policy was to be cancelled?  She was quiet for a moment while she looked up the number and then she said, "Oh, it has to do with the inspection."  I replied that I knew someone was coming out to do an outside inspection during the time we were away a week long horse show, but I hadn't heard anything about the status.

"Hmmm, that's strange," she said. "But I can see why you aren't eligible for this policy. You'll have until Sept. 7th to either make improvements, or get a new policy.  Here, let me email you the report, complete with pictures."

I stalked into my office, and pulled up my email account.  Her email promptly popped up so I could open the pdf file.  I was pretty angry since I didn't have any idea what was going on and I felt they really had been remiss in not contacting me by mail, or phone. Pfft! How was I supposed to know what was going on??!!  Was I supposed to be clairvoyant?? I imparted these thoughts to her and, I admit my tone was less than friendly.  She apologized and proceeded to list off the reasons as to why our place wasn't considered acceptable to insure.  Dry rot on moldings, unpainted eaves, open crawl space, the red barn has no foundation, etc., etc., the list went ON AND ON.  By this point I had pulled up the report, complete with detailed photographs of our one hundred year old abode's insurance hazards.  The pictures clearly showed all of the problems she'd listed to me in painful detail.  I couldn't help it. I started to laugh.

"Wait," I said between giggles. "It's not that bad of a house! You should've seen it before we bought it! The pictures aren't showing all the work we've actually accomplished!  It's a virtual showplace now!"

  I think she was relieved to hear that I had changed my tune, so she chimed in, "It's actually really cute! I can see why you bought it, but it does need to have these improvements made before we can cover you past Sept. 7th."

"Are you kidding?" I guffawed. "These pictures make the house look like something out of Deliverance!!! What kind of an idiot would even buy this place??"  By now, I was almost losing control with maniacal laughter.  "The eaves aren't painted, because it's a NEW roof! Doesn't that count as a good thing??  And the red barn is charming, charming I tell you! It's a piece of southern history!"

  Poor Laura. She endured my hysteria with good humor.  I felt those pictures were incredibly unfair, but the fact of the matter is that there are some cosmetic issues that we have to take care of wether we like it, or not.  Buying an older home that has been neglected isn't for the faint of heart.  I wouldn't exactly call our house "ramshackle", but between its age and the southern heat it has suffered its share of exterior wear and tear.

"Okay, Laura. I understand. We'll start addressing the exterior problems," I said when I finally had my composure back.

I hung up and Jonathan called to me, "What the hell was that about?"

"Honey, brace yourself and come in here. I have some pictures to show you."

  Just another little hitch in the Blue House Project, but at least I'm laughing about it. I kind of feel like Tom Hanks from The Money Pit. Remember that movie?  He buys a gorgeous, falling down mansion and he fixes one thing and ten more things break.  Oh well,  off to see our friends at Lowes for the millionth time this year.  

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Heave Ho!!!

     Once I got over the initial buyer's remorse after we bought what we affectionately referred to as the "Blue House", it became clear that the first step was that we had to empty it out and clean it. I researched dumpsters in the area and finally found a company that would drop a 30 yard dumpster at our back porch for a week.  The day it showed up Jonathan and I arrived wearing durable clothes, gloves and face masks.  There wasn't a lot of mold, but we weren't taking any chances. For good measure I took off my eye glasses and put them on one of the mantles for safe keeping.  My theory behind this move was that if I couldn't actually see what I was touching then it wasn't really in my hands. I know, irrational, but desperate times called for any measure of any kind to get the job done.

  Anyone who knows Jonathan and I knows that as laid back as we can come across to folks, we can really work when we need to get a job finished. We were relentless with this project, though I got sidetracked now and then by old newspapers. It was fun to read what people were writing about in the 50's, until Jonathan would jolt me back to reality by barking at me to get back to work.  We made trip after trip walking up and down the concrete back steps, like drones on a mission.  Below is our lovely sun porch. It had a hole in the roof, and thanks to a few rain storms all of the stuff in the photo was soggy. It made the job just that much more fun.

This is our "Kitchen". I wasn't lying when I said that the house was painted in a spectacular shade of burn your eyeballs in their sockets green.  The rest of the rooms weren't quite as full as these two, but they still provided a lot of trekking to and from the dumpster.  The two car garage scared me to pieces, since I have a fear of creepy crawly things and it seemed to me like a brilliant first class hideout for all of the creepy crawlies in SC.  However, when we'd finally gotten the house as empty as we could it was time to tackle the garage.  Most of the time I was holding my breath while doing the garage portion of "evacuate the crap", so my memories of it are hazy due to oxygen deprivation.  It was definitely better that way.  One thing struck me while we were getting rid of all of this eccentric dead guy's garbage. I kept expecting to see a mouse, or a spider, cockroach, anything that would scuttle and cause me to leap to the ceiling. All I found for animal/insect evidence was a mummified bird, who had probably found it's way down the chimney by accident.  I began to wonder if the house had some sort of curse on it that kept living creatures from being able to survive under it's roof and partially collapsed roof. Maybe it emitted a odorless gas that told the wildlife to stay away, but us dumb humans would suck it into our lungs and only realize what was going on right before paralysis set in.  These aren't the sort of thoughts you should be having when you've just bought your first house, but this was the mood I was in on that first day of heaving out.  
Now don't be jelly of our delightful claw footed tub!  I guess the former owners couldn't bear to have any of that leftover green paint go to waste, so they gave the tubby a quick splash of it to ensure not one room would be spared the tasteful effect of this irresistible shade.  Later, I discovered it's actually quite common in the period to paint the lower half of a claw foot tub, but I prefer to imagine the former owners just being cruel.  My hatred for what they'd done to this house has spurned my work ethic immeasurably over the last few months.  

   Inside the tub you'll see the "linens".  Ancient terry cloth towels that were tissue paper thin, crusty facecloths and set of sheer curtains, gray with age. All truly disgusting.  It appeared that at one point the propane heater that was mounted at a jaunty angle behind the door had caught fire and done a fair amount of smoke damage in the tiny bathroom.  The walls were smeared with soot and filth. It took me days before I could force myself to set foot onto the actual bathroom floor.  There was a full set of gentleman's toiletries still intact on the shelves of the medicine cabinet. Aqua Velva, Pepto Bismol, Bryl-cream, even a toothbrush.  It was as if the man decided on a whim one day that he would move out and he left the place as intact as a crime scene. It was eerie to say the least. 

So there you have it. The first glimpses of our sweet little Shangri-la. I've provided photographic evidence to prove that I wasn't exaggerating about the extent of the mess inside this little gem of a home. It was a staggering job, but we eventually got it cleaned out to the last coat hanger.  The dumpster sides nearly groaned outward, because we'd stuffed it so full.  It felt really good to be able to navigate our way through the house without having to dodge boxes and bits of furniture.  The sun porch proved to be a much bigger room than we had anticipated (see below). Things were starting to look up. A little bit.  I still wasn't about to get carried away with glee, but I could see a pinprick of light at the end of what is proving to be an endless, yet entirely rewarding, tunnel. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

We bought a hovel, I mean house!

  Well, as it always does, the dust settled after I got down to SC with the animals. The blurry edges of my life started to come into focus again. Jonathan's dad was still in critical condition in the ICU, which was freaking all of us out.  He would make a small improvement and then lapse. The doctors had no answers, it wasn't really up to anyone what happened next. Time would tell if he'd improve, or continue to spiral downward.  All we could do was be there as support for Jonathan's mom and pray.

  The matter of buying our house was looming in the next week. We had stopped off at the property the day after I arrived down south.  It was a grey, gloomy day in late December, with a rawness that only the air in winter can provide.  The house had been unoccupied for nearly a decade and it's owner had passed away from a heart attack in late summer.  He used the house to store "things" for yard sales. And by "things" I mean anything you can think of, from tools, to curtains, to clothing, etc. The house was full of crap. Useless, dirty, cluttery...crap.  The flat roof on the back addition had long since rotted and was falling in, allowing rain to accumulate in puddles on the floors in the kitchen and sunroom.   As for the property itself, the acreage was mostly wooded.  A slanted red barn that was also full of crap listed on one side of the property. The two car garage was a white cinder block building that was filled with more crap.  For some reason someone had decided that painting the pump house yellow, with a red roof was a good idea. It sure was something to see.

"Isn't it awesome?" Jonathan kept saying.

  I would muster a feeble grin, raising my eyebrows to show my enthusiasm, but honestly the place was just gross.  I liked the house itself, but the amount of work ahead of us before we could actually live there was overwhelming.  It had no running water, no electricity, no plumbing, no heat, no a/c, no working anything.  And it was filthy dirty.  And most of the interior rooms were painted the most putrid shade of green you can imagine, floor and ceiling. And the back roof was caving in. I swear if a house could sigh this place would be sighing big time. I know I was doing plenty of sighing, though I kept it to myself.

 The big day of the closing finally arrived right before Christmas. We met our realtor, who had been amazing through this whole process, in the parking lot.

"Y'all ready to buy a house?" she said with a grin.

I let Jonathan answer that question, since at the time I was having trouble showing any positive reaction toward the idea.  The lawyer had the papers all ready so it was a matter of a few signatures and we were on our way.  It was official. We were now home owners, of a house that we couldn't actually live in. Leave it to us, I said to myself. Go buy a house you can't live in and that needs ten zillion hours of work.  Lord, it was going to be a very long, long winter.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014


      It's funny how when you have a date for something unsavory, like a root canal, or colonscopy, it seems like a dot in the distance.  Plenty of time until you have to face the music. Then before you know it, it's the day before the dreaded date. And then you wake up the morning OF the dreaded date and your first thought is, "F#%K, it's here!"  That's how I felt on Dec. 20, 2013 when I opened my eyes to laser bright sunshine streaming in my window.  I had until 4 p.m. to get the last details taken care of before the van was to arrive at my driveway. Quite honestly, I don't even remember what I did in the hours that preceded my departure from NY state, but I had everything ready to go when I heard the air brakes from the van blowing at precisely 4 p.m.  There was no turning back.

  Aside from the two drivers, one of my customers and her husband, plus an extra helper in the form of a strong young man all began to drag, carry, or wheel the paraphernalia that I'd gathered in the barn aisle to take to SC. The driveway had turned to dirty, mucky slush which made this process ten times harder, but soon the equipment was packed into the peak of the van and the three horses were loaded. We made a couple of changes for where the (OH MY GOD) cats and dogs were going to travel. I was under control up until this point, but I could feel utter panic pushing to be released from my chest with each thudding heartbeat.  It was time to take all of my poor, unsuspecting animals and stuff them in crates and force them to ride 14 hours in a cold, dark peak of a horse van. I really thought I might throw up.  When I got into the house, I  couldn't help but notice (read: torture myself) how cozy all the kitties looked as they were sleeping in various spots. Choking back tears, I gathered them and one by one put them in their traveling compartments. It was time to do the unthinkable, and I had to just man up and do it.

   The wide eyed animals were nestled in the van, crate by crate, like Noah's ark, as I forced myself to close the door.  I was running on hyper fast nervous energy as I thanked and said goodbye to my customer and her husband. I could feel more tears pressing to shoot out of my eyes when we hugged, tears that if allowed to flow would be difficult to stop.  I didn't want to freak out the van drivers since they were stuck with me in the cab, so I brusquely cut the hugs short and climbed up into the passenger seat.  It was sad to be leaving our life in NY, but after all of the hell I'd been through over the previous weeks I was relieved to finally be shambling down the road toward our new adventures in SC.

   As for the cats and dogs? They traveled like pro's. I doled out treats to them at each stop, poking my fingers in the cages to give each a quick scratch. They were actually in better shape than me. The van drivers were amused at my initial angst over the pets, but that worry soon gave way to full on exhaustion.  I even managed to sleep for a few hours in the bouncy, noisy sleeper cab by jamming a pillow over my ears. At 8 a.m. the following day we pulled into the driveway of the barn where I'd arranged to keep the horses until our own stable was built.  Jonathan was already there and boy, was he was a sight for my bloodshot eyes. The first official leg of getting down here was behind me. Welcome to South Carolina!

Saturday, April 19, 2014


     I feel like Rip Van Winkle of the blogging world. It's been a little over four months since I checked in at my blog.  Ordinarily, I'd be sorely ashamed for not writing for such a long stint. However, I have legitimate reasons this time. I've been busy with a capital B.

  Jonathan and I moved to SC in December in possibly the most chaotic, disorganized, maniacal fashion that two people can move their household, two dogs, four cats and three horses.  At least, that's how it seemed to me.  Three weeks before our moving date, Jonathan's Dad became seriously ill out of the blue. Totally unexpected, worrisome, scary time for all of us in the Edel family. Jonathan and his brother had to leave suddenly to go help their mother cope with what was looking to be a very grave moment (honestly, no pun intended).  Now I don't want to sound mercenary, because I was truly over the top worried about John Edel, but with no warning I was left to deal with "THE MOVE" all by myself.  While I should've been packing, like a mature adult, I spent a lot of time on FB, which is the equivalent to covering ones ears while yelling "la la la la la la". When you really need to get shit done, going on FB is the ultimate flip of the bird toward productivity. My other "avoid packing" activity was to call my friends. My poor, poor friends, who had to listen to me whining, sniffling, occasionally sobbing, hysterical ranting, you name it. I'm surprised they even answered my calls. I wouldn't have answered my calls, I'll tell you that.  I got out of hand on a daily basis.  Meanwhile, Jonathan's Dad was on a roller coaster of going uphill, going downhill, leading to a feeling of dread every time Jonathan called me to check in.  On top of my own psychosis (you can't make this shit up), the weather was just fucking ridiculous. It was freezing cold and it seemed to snow a significant amount at least every other day.  Each night during this time alone, I would curl up in the fetal position on the couch, surrounded by empty cardboard boxes that were mocking me with their lack of contents. The one night that I decided I really needed to pack at least a little bit I ended up breaking a bronze horse statue by trying to force it into a box. I loved this statue and as I held it in two pieces, while screaming at the top of my lungs, my remaining shards of sanity knifed through my chest to make their escape. I wasn't coping well and I knew it, but I felt powerless. It was me vs. THE MOVE.  And THE MOVE was totally winning.

   There were so many facets to THE MOVE that weren't coming together.  Logistically, nothing was actually planned except the date that the horses were being shipped. I had no idea how our car was going to make it. We hadn't actually picked a moving company, nor did we know if we were going to use a pod, or rent a truck. My anxiety level over shipping the cats in the horse van was escalating to mach one mode. It sounded so horrible to me that I couldn't think about it, yet I couldn't not think about it. Yeah, I know. That's a special kind of crazy cat lady.  Jonathan was patient for a very long time, but after a week of phone calls with me being a psycho he called me out on it. It was fair. He was coping with his freaking out Mom and very sick Dad. I didn't have a leg to stand on in the sympathy department.  Nor did I ask for it. I knew I was shrinking from being in charge of THE MOVE. It was time for the helpless jig to be over. So...I took deep breaths and made lists.  It was a step in the right direction. Not a leap, or a bound, but a teensy step.

   The day before the horses were leaving was spent flying around town trying to organize all of the things I needed for me, cats, dogs and horses to make the drive as comfortable as possible. I had lists of lists. I was wild eyed, disheveled, as fragile as fine china still, but I was getting shit done.  Out of nowhere, our neighbor called me. He was an old running friend of Jonathan's dad, who by sheer coincidence lived just down the road, and he'd heard that John was seriously ill.

"What can I do to help you, Michele?" he asked me in a gentle voice, after I explained what was going on with John's health.

"Nothing at all. Really, I just have to get down there with these animals. And then figure out how my car is going to make it."

"There. That's what I can do. I'll drive your car," he replied.

"No, you don't have to do that!" I said. "It's too much, it's so far!"

"I like driving. It's settled. I'm driving your car."

   And with those nine words, one of my worries evaporated with a virtual poof right before my eyes. Those nine words from John's friend gave me hope that maybe THE MOVE was possible. Maybe things would come together? It couldn't have come at a better time, because the most intense part of the move for me was coming on the very next day.

To be continued...