Janus-Faced Town

Generally, a town with a low-rate of owner-occupied houses is a sign of a transient population and people who are not vested in the community. Because of this, I hesitated to move to this town since more than half of the houses are rentals; I thought it boded ill. But my house was here, and so now I am too.

For the most part, I’ve had a great experience, almost idyllic, and this is the face of the town that I generally write about.

But there is another face that makes me leery, such as a drug dealer who rents a house on the corner, who allegedly steals tools, and who plays his music way too loud (that thumping can be heard a block or two away, which someone told me is code for his “store” being open). Making matters more tense, his girlfriend is a dispatcher at the sheriff’s department, so the complaints of those who call seldom get past her, and, even worse, she knows exactly who is calling.

In a house across the alley, a pair of drug dealers apparently had a falling out right before I moved here, and one shot and killed the other. I don’t know the truth of that. Another story has it that the killer was never charged and that the dead guy is alive and living in a nearby town. The story goes that the two purported drug dealers were actually DEA agents scoping out the local drug scene, which seems specious at best, since they lived within sight of a known dealer.

Four marijuana shops are in the process of opening, and one friend, who moved here to get away from the legal marijuana trade is worried. It’s not those who buy for themselves that concern him, but he says that too often people “trade up,” buying pot and trading to the dealers for the heavy stuff, which increases the overall drug traffic.

Adding to this whole situation, not far from here is a residential program for the homeless, which helps them recover from any substance problems and then transitions them back to self-sufficiency. Hundreds of people are brought in from Denver and other big cities in Colorado, as well as veterans from all over the country. This is a great program, but people who drop out are not sent back where they came from, so they hang around here.

Worst of all, mostly because they are so ubiquitous, are the dogs. There is a leash law, but it is not enforced, and too many dogs end up roaming the streets. This is the only place I’ve ever lived where I feel the need to carry pepper spray.

A few months ago, a woman who lives at the far end of my street was ravaged by dogs, and her husband had to shoot one to save her. Nothing happened to the dog owners, but the husband is in big trouble for shooting off a gun within the city limits. And the dog owners are tormenting them. What they once thought was a Mayberryish town turned into a nightmare for them, so they are leaving.

It sounds like a horrible place, doesn’t it? And yet the life I am building for myself in this community really is close to ideal. My nearest neighbors are great, as are the people I see most frequently. When I was forced inside because of a bad cough, I had more offers of help than I did in all months I was dealing with a shattered arm. People I’ve never met recognize me. Almost everything I need is within walking distance. My house is lovely, it and feels safe (will even feel safer when the fence is finished.)

Maybe all places are like this — half horror, half heaven — but this seems a particularly Janus-faced town.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Such a Great Adventure

Periodically, I write about the frustrations of being a homeowner, but those frustrations are minor, and generally have to do with workers not showing up when they say they are going to. But even that, now, isn’t much of an issue. I’ve simply adjusted my thinking to accepting the vagaries of the repair business. If they come, they come. Either way, being a houseowner is such a great adventure!

For the past few years, I’ve rented rooms in houses in various stages of cleanliness, though I should say in various stages of filth, since most of the places were not at all clean. (My room was always as clean as I could get it, but the ground-in dust made it difficult to get it truly clean.)

The owner of the last place I lived had a maid who came once a week to clean the common areas, such as the kitchen, but an hour after she left, the place reverted to a state of unpleasantness. I could never understand the stickiness of the kitchen floor, the mess in the microwave, the absolutely disgusting sponge scrubber. I couldn’t believe it was that difficult to keep things clean; I even wondered at times if the problem was me, since obviously, I was the common factor in all those places.

But no.

Now that I have a kitchen of my own, I realize the problem wasn’t me. I continue to clean up after myself as I’d done these past years living in other people’s houses, but now the kitchen stays clean. And oh! I find such joy in the spotless microwave, non-sticky floor, pristine scrubber.

I wasn’t always this way, of course. When I was younger, I could barely make it through a day of work, let alone take care of my apartment too, so dishes piled up, clutter seemed to rule the day, and the carpet didn’t get vacuumed nearly enough. (I’ve always disliked vacuuming. Don’t know why, but it just seems too much of an effort to get out the machine, unwind the cord, and push it around. Now, with wooden floors, I don’t have to vacuum. Yay!!)

Somehow, over the years, I’ve developed a sense of order. (Just don’t look at my desk! That is still one place that my natural disorderliness holds sway.) Which makes things so nice in this lovely little house of mine. And makes the adventure of owning a house such a joy.

There’s Always Something

I’ve been a house owner for only a little over seven months, and I’ve already learned an important lesson: there’s always something going wrong, and whatever that something is, it’s never simple to fix.

Actually, I already knew that about houses, which is why I never wanted one, but after a lifetime of dealing with landlords and ladies, I’ve discovered that it’s so much better dealing directly with repair people than through a middle party who doesn’t care about the comfort and convenience of renters.

Still, no matter what needs to done, it always entails so much more than originally expected. For example, when the enclosed porch foundation needed to be fixed, it turned out there was barely any foundation at all, so that an entirely new concrete footer had to be built. Then we discovered that the iron sewer line under the porch was rusting out.

And so it’s been going with all the repairs.

My latest “fix” is a pipe. A neighbor told me a few months ago that the kitchen pipes had a tendency to freeze, so the contractor said he’d insulate the pipes before winter. The previous owner said he’d fixed the problem with an insulated cover for the outside faucet, but I wanted to be doubly sure that the pipes wouldn’t freeze in this time of frigid temperatures. So yesterday, the contractor showed up with pipe “noodles” and discovered a leak in the pipe. Not having the time, tools, or parts to fix the pipe, he left with the pipes uninsulated and with instructions to leave the water dripping in the kitchen to ensure that the pipes don’t freeze.

Which I did, but oh, my, it sure was hard it was for my waste-less soul to leave water dripping!

Whether due to the drip, the insulation for the outside cover, or simple good luck, the pipes made it through the snowy night.

And so did I.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Field of Hopes, Field of Dreams

A friend asked how many holes I’d dug, and what I planted. It was easier to answer here than as a comment, and besides, it brings me one day closer to my goal of 100 continuous days of blogging.

I must have dug a hundred holes. I had more than three hundred bulbs, and approximately three went into each hole (all properly spaced properly). In retrospect, it was silly doing it all in one day because I worked too hard and ended up with a bad cough that is preventing me from doing anything, especially not planting the last ten bulbs (lilies) that I’d planned to put along the fence in the backyard.

I really don’t see how I could have done it differently, though. I wanted the bulbs intermixed so that the yard will look less like a formal garden and more like a splurge of flowers in a field, and so it pretty much all had to be done at the same time.

I planted lots of tulips and daffodils. Anemones. Snowdrops. Crocuses. Dwarf iris. Larkspur. Grape hyacinth. Aconite. Bluebells.

And I planted hopes and dreams. Dreams of a lovely yard come spring. Hope that spring will in fact come, that the bulbs will flower, that I will still be here, that I will continue to find joy in the little (the best!) things of life.

(The photo was taken this morning and shows the frost on my field of hopes and dreams.)

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Holes!

I dug holes yesterday. Lots and lots of holes!

I’ve been told (and I’ve read) that one needs a plan when gardening, and my plan was to plant as many bulbs as I could as quickly and as easily as possible. There’s no real design to my holes — I just dug where it was easy to dig; if my shovel hit a hard spot where I planned to plant, I moved to another spot where the soil was softer. I don’t really care if there is any discernable design. I just want some color mixed in with the mostly brown grass. Also, once the flowers die and the leaves turn brown, the whole thing can be mowed, which seems like an interesting idea.

I’d gotten a bit carried away when ordering bulbs, and as it turned out, for the holes I dug, I got the right amount since the holes were big enough to house more than one bulb.

Of course, now my muscles are stiff and my throat sore, but it’s good to have it all done.

Now it’s a matter of waiting for spring to see what I have wrought!

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Nest Building

I’d been counting the days until it got cool enough to start planting the three hundred spring bulbs I bought. The instructions said not to plant until the highs were consistently in the mid-60s or cooler, and today was supposed to be the day. A couple of times during the past weeks I’d almost given in to the urge to start plant, but considering what a non-green thumb I have, I figured I needed to give those poor plants the best start possible.

So I waited.

After a few unexpected (and lovely) eighty-degree days, the temperature did drop today as forecast, so I got all gussied down and went out to play farmer.

And then the winds came. Severe winds.

Being stubborn, I didn’t let a little — or a lot — of wind force me inside, but I postponed the precision work of planting the bulbs for another time. Just as well. The guys who’d put up the fence hadn’t yet finished burying the bottom of the chain link fabric, and they’d left the dirt they were going to use piled in the middle of front yard where I’d planned to plant. So I raked leaves away from the fence and moved the dirt — shovelful by shovelful — where it belonged. Then I gathered up the leaves, and smashed them to use for mulch.

Such excitement!

I’m laughing to myself. A friend made a remark the other day about certain blogs that said nothing important (she wasn’t referring to mine; she hadn’t known I had a blog), and well . . . I sure hope she doesn’t read this one. Talk about nothing important!

Not important in the grand scheme of things, that is. The job was very important to me — to be outside despite the wind, to work physically, to accomplish something. To continue building my nest. And that nest building, of course, is the most important of all.

It’s taken me my whole life to get to the point where not only could I own a house but that I wanted to. And anything I do for my home is a way of honoring the house, and me, and the painful journey it took to get here.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

And the Streak Continues!

It’s so nice of WordPress to let me know how many days in a row I’ve been blogging so I don’t have to keep looking it up. Though, to be honest, being able to post a tally of my blog streak only matters on a day like today when I have nothing new to say. (With today’s post, the streak will be 24 days. Yay! Well, yay for me. You might not think it’s something to “yay” about.)

As for the work on my house: the two thick layers of concrete that comprised my garage floor are gone, and the poor neighbors are no longer being subjected to the sound of a jackhammer. We found a few more bones scattered beneath the garage, but nothing earthshaking.

The workers are at another job today, and oddly, I feel a bit lost without them here — the day seems so uneventful without holes being dug, fences being erected, concrete being broken up. But that uneventfulness is an illusion, a matter of all that energy not being expended around here.

I went to the historical museum this morning for a last meeting about the murder mystery, and in a little while, I will meet people at the monthly community dinner. So see? I’m keeping busy.

I am enjoying this last especially warm day of the season. 87 degrees! Next week it will be mostly in the sixties, cool enough to start planting all the bulbs I’ve ordered — so it will be me digging holes — three hundred of them! — creating (or destroying) my own energy.

I’ll let you know how that goes.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

Bone Deep

As I’ve been updating my house, I’ve been updating this blog with all the weird (or potentially weird) things we’ve found, thinking these bits will eventually find themselves in a book.

First, there was The Dark Underbelly of Home Ownership, a post about my creepy basement, an all too trite scene for a murder mystery. Next, when the floor of the enclosed porch was taken up in preparation for putting in a new foundation, we found an old cistern that seemed to be perfect counterpart to the basement. Then, there was Something Nasty in the Wooden Shed, which turned out to be not that nasty, but it could have been.

About that same time, I found a bit of fabric in the dirt, but it wouldn’t give when I tried to pick it up. So I got out my shovel and dug. And dug. And dug. Finally, I got the thing out of the ground. It turned out to be a red-stained shirt. Although the stain wasn’t blood, and perhaps it wasn’t even a stain but part of the design of the shirt, it still seemed mysterious to me that someone would bury the shirt.

The oddities stopped for a while, though when the contractor was trying to figure out why the garage floor had a huge crack in it, he thumped on the floor and it sounded hollow. I had to laugh at myself and my reflexive “maybe someone is buried under there,” Because of course, it was just my brain delighting in the macabre.

Well today, finally, they came with a jackhammer to break up that old concrete floor.

Under the floor, they found another concrete floor.

And under that . . . bones. Just two of them, but still — bones!

This mystery seems to be writing itself, which is actually is a good thing since I am not writing anything at all.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.

A Dirty Little Tale

I used to love wall-to-wall carpets. I grew up with wooden floors in the bedroom, and even with bedside rugs, oh, were those floors cold in the Colorado winter! As an adult, I always had carpets. Carpeting not only made the floors warmer, but seemed to give rooms a warm, welcoming feeling.

The first time I wondered about carpets was after the carpets in my dad’s house were cleaned before putting house on the market. The dark areas in doorways and at the base of sofas came clean, but then, though the carpet cleaner bragged about his expensive, top-of-the-line, sucks-everything-up machinery, it took only a few days before the dirt started rising to the surface.

Then, after moving into the room where I lived for a couple of years before moving back to Colorado, I really wondered. That room had a truly filthy carpet. It had supposedly been cleaned before I moved in, but walking on it made the soles of my feet turn black. After a few months of my complaints, the landlord had the carpet cleaned. It looked great for a day or two, then the dirt again became apparent. Finally, he hired a professional. And the same thing happened. Looked good for a couple of days, then they went back to looking as dirty as they had before cleaning. And that triple-cleaned carpet still turned my feet black, so even in the heat of the desert summer, I had to wear something on my feet while in my room.

This house I bought seven months ago doesn’t have carpets. At first, I worried about freezing my feet, but so far there hasn’t been a problem.

What is surprising is how dirty the floors get.

It’s been just a few days since I last cleaned, but this morning, I dusted, swept and dry mopped (turning the dust mop black with dirt), then I damp mopped with Murphy’s Oil and a dash of Old English lemon oil. And the damp mop turned black, too.

The dirt isn’t a problem. Although I live alone without pets, change the furnace filter, don’t wear shoes in the house, and have a sort of mud area to put on and take off shoes, this is an old, house, it’s a windy area, and dirt happens. Luckily, the floors are easy to clean.

What shocks me every time I clean, though, is what a difference a carpet would make. All that dirt I can easily clean up would get ground into a carpet, and from my experience, vacuuming and even steam cleaning does not remove any but the surface dirt. In addition to that, carpets emit fabric dust and can emit toxic fumes.

Yikes.

So now, suddenly, I have an entirely different view of carpets.

And — not so suddenly — I have developed a fondness for my very warm-looking (and clean!) antique hardwood floor.

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Pat Bertram is the author of Grief: The Inside Story – A Guide to Surviving the Loss of a Loved One. “Grief: The Inside Story is perfect and that is not hyperbole! It is exactly what folk who are grieving need to read.” –Leesa Healy, RN, GDAS GDAT, Emotional/Mental Health Therapist & Educator.