Sunday, January 30, 2011

Sometimes One Isn't Enough

Most everyone would probably agree that one of me is enough. Lately I'm wishing there was more than one. My father died almost ten years ago and I'm an only child so it's just me and my mother.

When I picked Mom up to take her to lunch today she was really dragging her butt. Unsteady on her feet, she was just about shuffling along. Her voice was weak and she seemed fuzzy headed, all classic signs, for her anyway, of depression. On the way into the restaurant she came close to taking a spill. If I hadn't been right there, she would have gone down.

We had lunch, walked around HomeGoods for a while where she pushed the shopping cart to keep her steady and then stopped at the supermarket where she waited in the car. She was mostly along for the ride and as the afternoon went on she seemed to become more like herself.

I made another quick stop and when I got back into the car she said, "I've enjoyed today as much as if we'd spent a week together." I thought she had brightened up a little while we were out and here was the proof.

All she needed was a little of my company. Days like today make me wish there was more of me.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Outside My Window

I can dream, can't I?

Friday, January 28, 2011

Y'all Have a Nice Night

The telephone rang last night just before 11:00 p.m. At that time of night it's never good news. We were already in bed and the phone is on Paul's side so he answered it.

After listening for a few seconds, he asked who was calling. The caller didn't answer, just said he was the man Paul told to call a couple weeks ago. After another few seconds, with some very carefully chosen words, Paul gave him some ideas for what he could with the rest of his evening and hung up.

It rang again. Being the curious one that I am, I reached over Paul and grabbed the phone. As politely as I'm sure he could, the man asked to speak to my husband. After hello, I never said another word. I just listened carefully because I was sure the information was important.

He went on for a minute or two offering to come by and do some renovations to the house in what sounded like a rather messy and violent way. For whatever reason, he sounded upset. Poor guy, he seemed to have a rather limited vocabulary. He used several of the same words repeatedly. I listened for a few more seconds, and hung up.

We don't have caller ID so we didn't know what the number was. After the second call, I used the *69 feature on the phone and got the number. It was from the area code 876.

This morning I Googled area code 876 and found lots of information about the scams that come from that area code which originates in Jamaica.

If you get a call from that area code asking for a return call, don't do it even if you are as curious as I am. Apparently, depending on what long distance carrier you have, the charge for the call can be anywhere from $2 to $25. I don't know if that part is true but it seems like no legitimate calls come from area code 876.

There can't be any charge for an incoming call but unless you have a few minutes and would like some entertainment, if you see one of these numbers come up on your Caller ID, you might want to let it go to the answering machine.

Y'all have a nice night now, too.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

You've Got a Friend

Today is my birthday. I got an email from an old, an older friend, although not much older, that said, "Welcome to the "Double Nickel Tour." So that tells you the number.

Trust me, I am not complaining. Recently there have been several people I know who will be celebrating no more birthdays. So for now, I'll take as many as I can get.

On my Facebook page it says today is my birthday. Very early this morning I started getting emails from Facebook telling me friends and family from near and far were wishing me a Happy Birthday. There were quite a few. As the day goes on, there are more and more.

Facebook makes sending birthday wishes very simple, even reminds you whose birthday it is if they have it in their profile. I am in no way minimizing these birthday wishes. It's really nice that so many people took a couple minutes out their days to say Happy Birthday. As each one arrives I take a minute and think about who sent it.

The message that really got to me, choked me up a little, was this from Janice, "Happy Birthday Sandy! Beautiful person and great friend! Have a wonderful day!" In those few words, she just made my day in a way she probably didn't expect.

Thanks, Janice. Thank you everyone else who thought of me today.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Get Out of My Chair

I have a chair. My very own chair. I've never had a chair before. I like it.

I mentioned the new/old black leather chair in my living room post. I bought it from a couple who were selling their condo including much of their furniture (the cars in the garage, too) because they were moving to San Miguel Allende, Mexico. Forever. How cool is that? They began vacationing there a few years ago, fell in love with the people and city and decided it was where they wanted to retire. I have no desire to live anywhere as an expat but this sounds very romantic.

They had very interesting pieces so when I heard they were selling and had made a list of things they wanted to get rid of, I grabbed a copy and put my initials on several. I thought my favorite was going to be a print of two leopards which is hanging in the living room but I believe it's going to be my chair.

A black leather recliner that swivels. It's very soft and comfy, and they only wanted $75. A real bargain. I said I'd buy it before I knew where we would put it. It fits fine in the living room.

Paul has always had a chair. I have always had to sit on a couch which meant I usually laid down and fell asleep watching television or reading. He has a recliner in the den and had another chair and ottoman in the living room. The chair and ottoman were unceremoniously thrown out on the lawn a few months ago because they belonged in the trash. While looking for new furniture we found a beautiful brown leather recliner which he has claimed.

MY chair fits right by the fireplace and an electrical outlet for my laptop. A side table with a lamp and place for my wine glass or tea mug sits close by.

So now I have my very own chair. And nobody better sit in it.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Living Room is Done!

I wrote about the snail's pace we work at when getting home renovation projects done and the difficulty I've had finding furniture I can live with for the next 15 years. Finally, finally the living room is done!

Most of our projects begin with demolition which I love to do. Give me a hammer, a screwdriver and a pry bar and I'm having fun.

Here I am taking the shelves on the side of the fireplace out. They were made out of the cheapest pine and plywood money could by. I think they may have actually been scraps. I've hated them since the day we moved in 25 years ago. I don't know how I lived with them. Finally the project begins.

In August we had the windows in the house replaced which meant the woodwork had to be painted. One thing led to another. The woodwork was done, then the walls, crown molding was installed. I also decided to have some cabinets installed where the old shelves had been. See how dark the trim is stained? Lots of work to paint that white.

But I did it! And it came out beautifully. Now the wall paint, easy compared to the trim.

See the maple cabinets by the side of the fireplace? Much better and more useful than those old, nasty shelves.
Here's the finished product. I am thrilled with how it came out. It's not a big room anyway, and now it's very cozy and comfortable.

The table in the back left came from a friend's grandparents' house. It was heading to the trash, and I took it intending to paint it. The top was in bad shape but when I took a good look, I realized it was curly maple and the veneer appeared to have come from one board and was pieced together beautifully. The top couldn't be saved but the drawer fronts were in nice condition and both brass escutcheons and pulls were intact. So I painted all but the drawers.

I found the black leather chair in the lower left corner in a client's house. They were moving to Mexico and selling most of their things. I bought some artwork and the black chair. The chair is all leather in perfect condition, and I got it for $75. Don't you just love a bargain?

With the exception of a new cocktail table yet to be located, it's done. It only took five months, a snail's pace.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Just When You Think You've Seen It All

Ask any realtor, and they'll tell you how difficult our business is right now. Lately the time it takes to get a transaction to the closing table probably pays me less than I could have earned bagging groceries.

But it's what I do. I enjoy it, and it's never boring. I meet new people all the time and some are more interesting than others. We all talk about our "war stories." You'll hear a Realtor say, "That's another chapter for the book."

Last year I worked as a buyer's agent for Dave and Lisa, both in their 30's. Dave was sort of a rough-and-tumble kind of guy and Lisa, well, Lisa was interesting. Very pretty, usually blond, I'd guess she was a size 0 or maybe a size 2.

Despite being so tiny it was obvious she'd had some "enhancements." You just don't naturally get those things with such a tiny body. And because it was during the hottest part of the summer, she didn't always have many clothes on. She wasn't working at the time and over the course of time mentioned several places she had lived.

We looked at many, many houses over a couple months. At the end of our appointments we usually stood outside somewhere sweating in the heat talking about everything. They thought I was cool and we got along well. Dave and Lisa are big animal lovers, especially dogs. In addition to raising dogs, Lisa loves snakes. (I saw that shudder)

When she first mentioned her snake, I know she was watching for my reaction. She didn't get what she was expecting because I'm not afraid of snakes. Of all the reptiles people tend to keep as 'pets' I prefer snakes to iguanas, lizards, etc. So after that I heard lots of stories and saw pictures of Bee, their 3' ball python.

One day when they came to look at some houses with me, Lisa was an absolute wreck. Bee had gotten out of her cage and was lost. She eventually showed up a few days later when she crawled into Lisa's lap as she sat on the floor.

Another day Lisa came to look at a house carrying a little leather clutch. She also arrived that day with pink hair. Inside the purse was, you guessed it, Bee. It was surprising how small she was all curled up in there. While we were in the house, Lisa started to take Bee out to show me. I suggested she leave her there until we got outside. I could just envision the snake getting lost in that house.

Once in the yard she brought Bee out. I thought the other agent was going to have a heart attack. He raised his hands like he was being held up at gunpoint and stumbled backwards to the fence on the other side of the yard shouting "I don't like snakes!" It was funny at the time. The next day I got a text from the agent asking "is your client interested in the house or did she slither off to another one?"

Finally we found THE house for them, a very nice little cape in a real "Leave It To Beaver" neighborhood. I wonder if anyone had a pet snake in Mayfield. Wasn't that the name of Beaver's hometown?

Lisa brought Bee to my office to sign the sales agreements. Fortunately it was after business hours. The three of us sat there at the conference table with this snake slithering all over it. There was a pen holder in the center of the table that she kept going into. It was pretty interesting to watch her. It was only the second time I'd had a chance to handle a snake. I drew the line when she tried to go up my sleeve.

When I called to tell them when and where the closing was going to be, I told Lisa, "Don't bring Bee." She did bring a photo of Baby B, the newest member of the family, a Ball Python Morph. You can't make this stuff up.

The day that Lisa brought Bee to our appointment to see that house, as usual we stood on the sidewalk outside chatting while Lisa brought Bee out of her purse and wrapped her around her neck. So there I am, standing on a city sidewalk talking to a woman with pink hair and a snake wrapped around her.

Did I mention that Lisa told me she 'danced' for 15 years in LA and Vegas? Surprise, surprise. I had her pegged for a stripper the first time I met her. I guess snakes and dancing often go together. That's what Paul told me anyway. I'm not sure how he knows.

I haven't talked to Dave and Lisa since they closed on their house last fall. I need to give them a call and find how everyone is adjusting to the new place. Told you we have great stories. And, no, you can't make this stuff up.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Feeling Useless

My first thoughts this morning were of my friend and colleague, Katie. I have known Katie for several years and just over two years ago I joined the real estate office she was already with.

Everyone likes Katie. You never know what she's going to say, often a little off-color but always funny. Her humor is at no one's expense except maybe her own.

Those of us who work with Katie know that her family has been going through some rough times. Her husband lost a big job a few years ago after 30+ years with the same company. Despite efforts to find another job, in this economy it's been a struggle. He's gotten close a few times but each time the opportunity vanished.

In the meantime, Katie's real estate business saw a big dip like the rest of us. She's a great realtor and plugs along regardless. I'm happy to say that 2010 was probably her best year in a few and Gary has been doing some consulting work so it seemed things were looking up for them.

Two nights ago Katie got a call from California telling her that Gary collapsed and died. He was there on business, couldn't get a flight home due to weather and had been on the golf course when it happened.

I got a call early yesterday morning from another friend on vacation in Florida. The minute I heard Janice's voice I knew something was seriously wrong. When she told me that Katie's husband had died suddenly, I was stunned. We talked a few more minutes but soon had nothing more to say. What could I do? How could I help? I felt totally useless.

All through the day Katie and her two sons were on my mind. I went to her Facebook page and saw that she had posted a message saying she had lost her best friend in the whole world. Friends and family all over posted condolences and offers of support and help, and I added my message. Useless as it seemed.

Although I wasn't surprised to see all the postings, it still amazes me that we are all using Facebook to reach out to each other in good times and bad. I'm not one who believes this means we have lost personal touch, at least not within my generation. In the coming days and weeks I'm sure many of those people will be reaching out to her physically and personally. But I still felt powerless and useless.

This morning as soon as I woke I thought of Katie. As I lay there listening to my own husband still breathing the soft sound of sleep, my eyes filled with tears. I slid my foot back to touch him. I thought about what it would be like if he wasn't there for that touch.

Then I got up, came downstairs, started the coffee and began pulling things out of my kitchen cabinets. Before Paul got up I had a batch of brownies and a cake in the oven. After an appointment this morning I'm going to stop by the supermarket and get the makings for a big pan of chili and bring it all to Katie's family.

Suddenly I don't feel quite so useless.

Postscript: Katie was really pleased when I showed up with my care package. And it made me feel good, too. Such a simple thing to do, to feed someone. My mother called and asked what I was doing. I told her and she said “That’s what we used to do before we got so uppity.” I thought that was very poignant somehow.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Hellooooo, Is Anybody Out There?

Where to begin? The last time I was here was Thanksgiving. The first couple weeks after that I kept thinking I'll get back to my blog soon.

Then my work with a Adopt-a-Family got really busy, then my own family's Christmas happened. Before I knew it, New Year's was here. The longer it was since my Thanksgiving post the less I thought I had to say. Imagine that? Me! Nothing to say.

I always knew I would get back here but I couldn't seem to find the time or the motivation or more importantly, an idea. I had nothing to write about and nothing I thought worth saying.

Then a few days ago I started rereading some of my posts from last year, and realized how much I had put into them and how much I enjoyed writing them. Not one to make New Year's resolutions, I decided to start the year off by getting back here. Well, it's January 11 so that didn't go very well, did it?

But better late than never, I'm baaaack! The silence is deafening.

I'm going slowly here.

Adopt-a-Family had a stellar year in 2010. For the 8th year in a row we were able to help every family who applied and met the criteria. We found donors to give Christmas to 2,111 children in 1,105 needy families. We are a volunteer group of 18 people who make up the Board of Directors of our charity. That's a huge accomplishment for a small number of just regular folks. From September through December AAF takes up a lot of my time.

We were also able to raise a significant amount of money this year for our operating expenses. While our mission is to find people to provide gifts for these kids, we do have some expenses, like postage, printing, office supplies, rent and food for our volunteers during Distribution Week. We are a privately-funded charitable organization, and we rely on our donors to keep us going. So we look forward to another year of planning for Christmas of 2011. Yikes, did I say that? Christmas? Really? Now I've really scared everybody away.

Stick around and I'll do my best to give you some other stories about what's been happening in The Jungle.

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