Friday, January 28, 2011

It's over

1/26/11 10:30pm

I wonder when it will end.
I wonder when I won't feel this way.

When everything I do and say and act out aren't with the underlying thought that Laura will somehow see what she's missing. That she'll always be in my life and that it is my goal to impress her, to amaze her, to make her laugh, or just softly smile. I wonder when I'll stop having those unspoken thoughts that all I do is for her, about her, because of her, and with her in mind.

I wonder how long it will be without seeing her face to forget how she smiles.
I wonder how long it will be without hearing her voice to forget what it sounds like.
I wonder how long it will be without living my life with her to remember I have my own.

Today Ell and I walked out of the courthouse with our marriage dissolved; the same courthouse we walked into almost a decade-and-a-half ago with our marriage certificate in hand. I drove her back to her Mom's house in a Volkswagen, the same kind of car we were in as we pulled away from the church where we were married. I dropped her off at her Mom's house where barely a hundred yards away I had picked her up for our first date. We hugged, we kissed our final kiss, and we exchanged our final, "I love you"'s. I cried the entire drive home. My life with my beautiful soul mate is now over.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

the cozy log home

The thermometer read zero as I stepped outside into the intense, cold winter sun this morning. While far from the coldest winter temperatures I've encountered living in this log house, zero still carries with it an intense sharpness that takes your breath away and causes all of your body to hug close to itself. The softness of the snowfall the other night has given way to a whiteness that is hard and loud under my boots. There's no joy in zero degree snow and is why I often refer to winter as painful.

But as it is, I can't hide from the cold that feels to actually freeze my skin to my bones. There will be no hiding beside the warmth of my fire or the purr of my cats; at least not until later in the evening when the moon replaces the sun as the sky's light source. For today brings the weekly chore of cutting enough firewood to last me through the week ahead. I've learned how to work through the frozen fingers and aching joints caused by cold winds and frozen clothes, and for almost a month now have been able to store up more than just the next week's requirement of wood. In fact, one or two more weekends and I'll have cut, split, and stacked enough wood to last me through the rest of the winter. Each weekend I get further ahead and by the time February causes a flip of the calendar page, my weekends will once again be my own.

Having just finished, The Long Winter, and marvelling at the trials and ingenuity of the Ingalls family to survive an October-April winter without normal food or heat, I thought I'd share some of the trying times our log house has caused Ell and I over the twelve winters we called it our home.

We moved into our log home in November of 1998. When we moved our meager belongings into the spacious house, only four of the gaping spaces between the logs held insulation and only three of those were filled with the barrier of chinking needed to block out the wind and weather. The downstairs holes where windows should be held only panes of glass without trim, and those only tacked into place with small finish nails. A decades-old furnace sat in the basement and barely pumped out heat through no more than five vents to heat the living room, kitchen, and bathroom; none of which able to force warm air toward the gravity vents that opened into the second floor. The door leading to the side yard was thin wood and held an even thinner pane of glass, that is until our Great Dane broke it out with one try. We wrapped the windows and door in plastic I stole from where I worked, and tried to make it through a cold, icy winter. We spent much of the winter sleeping on the pullout sofa bed in the living room as the upstairs never got above forty degrees, making a full night's sleep almost impossible. Even before the two most recent natural gas rate increases, we spent between $400 and $500 a month on our heating bill. Needless to say we needed a solution.

The next October found my Dad and I lining the 180 year old brick chimney with stainless steel chimney lining which opened into the living room where we had bought a brand new woodburning stove. Every Saturday that next winter I stuffed insulation into every gap between the logs and before the cold weather was over I had chinked the entire downstairs living area. That, combined with the wood fire, was keeping us warmer than any point of the previous winter, but even with the addition of new windows, doors, a porch, and newly built bedrooms upstairs, our future winter woes weren't over.

Normal wells are dug down deep into the ground with only a small pipe sticking up in the yard to notify the lawn mower where it was located. In this house, the well opened up into an actual cave off the small basement under the kitchen. Without a furnace to pump air into the cavernous space, and without the protection of the warm earth to warm the exposed piping, every year our well would freeze. Most people worry about their pipes freezing and bursting, our chore was thawing out the well itself. That meant weeks of showering at friend's and family member's houses, melting snow on the fire in large pans to have water to flush toilets and water the cats, and purchasing drinking water from the store so we could have our tea and wash our faces.

Another hassle of every winter was cleaning out the chimney. Several times a winter, heavy creosote would clog the bend of the chimney, only notifying us of its presence when the chimney would refuse to draft and smoke would pour into the house through every crack and crevice of the stove and exposed chimney pipe. And without fail, at least one of these occurrences every winter would happen right before or during an event where our house was filled with visitors.

Without a backup heat source, our house would grow deathly cold if we were away from home for more than a half day. Coming home to a cold house with room temperatures in the low forties sometimes made the still air inside the walls feel colder and more painful than the outside. If we were lucky, the immediate space around the stove and chimney upstairs would be warm within a few hours.

Providing your own fuel for warmth was often a challenge with my hours-long commutes to and from work. More often than I want to admit we were at the mercy of buying firewood if we had not been able to stock up enough throughout the summer. More often than I want to remember, the wood we would buy would be at dishonest volumes and prices, not cured so as to burn, and always too long and oversized to fit into our stove. And at the end of almost every winter we would spend cold, snowless weekends gathering scraps of split wood, broken branches, small pieces of random woodshop throwaways, and stolen newspapers, all to make pitiful fires than required constant attention to make small amounts of heat needed to fend off the last, desperate storms of winter as they tried to hold back the Spring.

We had purchased an old wooden travel trunk at a local auction shortly after buying the house. That soon became known to our friends as, the blanket chest, and was the first place they visited when they arrived at our house. It was a given that hanging out here required a blanket, and they needed to ensure they got a good, warm one before they were gone. But one of the joys that Ell brought into this house, was that there was always a blanket for each one of our guests; no one went without and somehow there was always one left even if it was the one she was making as it hung across her own lap.

Of course there are more stories --leaking roofs, burnt carpet, bloody hands, falling trees, cold floors-- but this was still a house filled with love and laughter. It could easily have been the kind of place that tried one's soul (and perhaps it finally broke one of them),but it was still a place people liked to come. The one thing that Ell and I held dear to our hearts, was that everyone who came here called it cozy. Our log house was one of those places where you just felt comfortable and happy. No cold air, lack of water, or smoky smells could take that away. And that's what I'll always remember about this house.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The Long Winter

That's the book I'm almost done with. It was written by Laura Ingalls Wilder, better known for Little House On The Prairie fame. I've read the series of books she wrote every decade I've been alive. (To be honest, my Mom read them to me when I was too young to read.) I thought this winter was a great time to read the series for my 30's decade.

As I've said before, I truly feel the timeframe between the Civil War and World War I was one of the most honest, real times in America's history. Surviving was the profession most people did for a living, and that's exactly what they did, just try to live. Everything was deliberate and real. People respected other people and manners and God with an honesty not since matched. It was dangerous and exciting all at the same time. Of course there were bad examples of men and respect, but for the most part, that time was filled with people pursuing a better life and a better nation; albiet with the harsh reality of suffering and hardship. I truly feel it was the golden age of America.

And so tonight --as one of those soft snows that make me appreciate this season I usually detest-- falls across Ohio, I plan on finishing The Long Winter as I sit beside my warm, glowing fire, smoking my pipe, and envisioning what it would be like to live in that simpler era. I'm off to read.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Life on hold

Everything in my life seems to be in a holding pattern. Next Friday morning at 10:45am is the court hearing to dissolve my marriage. While I'm still more sad than I can ever put into words, the overriding feelings I'm wrestling with now are waiting to move on with my future. I have a couple big announcements to make, stuff to get rid of, plans to make, and a bunch of emotions to sort through..... and all of those I feel like I can't do until the court date is over.

Why? Well part of it makes sense; my life alone won't really begin until then. But why I'm waiting for stuff that could easily be handled in-the-now is confusing. Well, in twelve days it won't matter so I guess I'll just stay on hold.

No real reason why I'm sharing this today, it's just been on my mind.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Next Blog

After doing some house cleaning, I got cozy under a blanket in my Lay-Z-Boy to do some blog surfing. For a half hour I dealt with the anger/annoyance/sadness that almost two thirds of my blogroll aren't active anymore, but then decided I didn't want tonight's evening in the blogosphere to end as a negative feeling. To turn things around I remembered something I used to do when I was new to blogging..... the simple act of, "Next Blog".

Unless you use Wordpress or your own custom template, everybody has a link at the top of their Blogger page called, Next Blog. Clicking on it takes you, completely random, to someone else's blog. It's never the same blog and there's no way to refine your search; you really are taking a chance at what you'll find. In the past I've found gaming sites, cooking blogs, family picture albums, prayer groups, book reviews, soft core porn, and on and on and on, and often not in English. It truly is an exciting way to surf the blogosphere but something I haven't done in years.

So tonight I clicked on, Next Blog, and for the first time I can remember I found five identical blogs, one after the other. Every one of them was written by a lady and every one of them fit into the following categories... 1) Mother, 2) two kids, 3) Christian, 4) American, 5) white. It was if I'd asked for a specific type of blog, which, like I said, isn't possible. Which raised the question, with the slow death of the blogosphere in mind, did I just get lucky finding the same kind of blog or is that specific demographic the only people still blogging? Makes one think.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

The second greatest day of the year

You didn't think I was going to let 1/11/11 go by without a post, did you?

So what could I possibly write about that would be deserving of such an awesome date? How about this.....

Thank you.

To all of you who have prayed for me.
To all of you who have prayed for my Dad.
To all of you who have prayed for my family.
To all of you I call friends.
To all of you that call me a friend.
To all of you that read Eleven.
To all of you who comment on Eleven.
To all of you that still write on your own blog.
To all of you that inspire me with what you write on your own blog.
To all of you that make me laugh with what you write on your own blog.
To all of you who smile more than you cry.
To all of you who cry more than you smile.
To all of you who are pretty.
To all of you who are ugly.
To all of you who are normal.
To all of you who are thankful we live in 2011 so we could have fun with the number, 11.
To all of you who could care less about this great day or the number, 11.
To all of you who appreciate the apple as a glorious food.
To all of you who appreciate chocolate as equally glorious.
To all of you who have gifted me one of those glorious foods.
To all of you who think cheese is a better food than either one of those.
To all of you who live close.
To all of you who live far away.
To all of you who live far enough away I don't have to make up excuses to not visit you.
To all of you that have read this entire list.
To all of you who would keep reading if I made it longer.
To all of you who are thankful this is the last comment.

Thank you.
And happy 1/11/11 day to all of you. YAY for ELEVEN!!!

Wednesday, January 05, 2011

Oatmeal Scotchies

I'm not sure how many of you know it, but I was married to a professional cook. An actual, professional baker. Now that Ell's gone, my house has been void of anything that resembles real cooking, baking, etc., for a long time. So when x-mas rolled around (yeah, I said x-mas, deal with it), I got a hankering for some of my favorite cookies and decided to try my hand at making them myself. Unfortunately, a horrible stomach virus rolled through my circle of friends leaving them unwanting of making, let alone eating, cookies. Skip ahead to this evening... and I decided to make those cookies.

So I pre-heated the oven, filled the counter with ingredients, found a couple mixing bowls and an old mixer, packed a pipe with appropriately named tobacco called, "Christmas Cookie", turned on a Manchester Orchestra CD, and brewed a pot of coffee in case the project went longer than expected.

Well, despite the absence of a professional baker (even though I'd rather have her here doing the baking), the cookies turned out awesome. Here's some pics of the process:

So, who want's to come over and share in the goodness of Sam's Oatmeal Scotchies?