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Saturday, February 28, 2015

Hanging with My Cousins

I was honored to officiate at my uncle's burial yesterday. It was held at Riverside National Cemetery, the busiest cemetery in the United States. It's a lovely spot and the outdoor pavilion where we gathered with just family was perfect. My brother's ashes are also interred here. He was in the army for a few years in the 1980's.

My uncle served in Navy during WWII on a destroyer in the South Pacific so he was entitled to military honors. The ceremony was very moving with the playing of taps and guns firing and the folding of the flag for my cousins. I appreciated the dignity with which the young service men performed their tasks. It was pretty special to see them salute the casket as it came out of the hearse draped with the US flag.

Having lived in Europe for so many years, I've missed out on certain family events that I would've liked to have been present for. So being home when Mel passed and being able to officiate the burial was very, very special for me.

After the service, we gathered at the historic Mission Inn in downtown Riverside. This charming and beautiful place has a great history to it, hosting several US Presidents for various occasions throughout the year. We sat outside on a lovely patio surrounded by these wonderful old buildings. It almost felt like we were in Europe.

My family left their families in Illinois in 1965 to move west and pursue life in California.
My mom's family. She was the youngest daughter and endured life with 3 older brothers!
While I loved growing up in California, I did miss out on being part of the big family gatherings that were going on in the mid-west. My immediate family is small but my extended family is big and because my mom was close to her siblings they created an environment for the cousins to thrive and be good friends too. When we'd spend summers in Illinois I just loved being with my cousins. But because there are 11 of us, with me being the second to youngest, I didn't spend that much time with my older cousins. But then two of my mom's nephews moved out to CA and we were with them a bit more. Then my aunt Dorothy and Uncle Mel followed suit and that's why we started having more time with this branch of the family. The fact that my mom's oldest brother, Mel ended up living across the street from them in the mobile home park and the fact that my oldest cousin Mike (Mel's oldest son) ended up living down the street from us now is pretty cool. I'm very grateful that Mike and Susan live nearby. It really does give me a sense of being surrounded by family.

So yesterday when we were gathered with Mel's sons Mike and Steve and their wives, Mike's son Josh, and another cousin, Tony, my mom's brother Dale's oldest, it was pretty neat.
Steve and Vicky, Mel's middle son
Mike and Susan, Mel's oldest, who now live down the street from us
Mike and his son Josh, who is a wonderful young man
My cousin Tony and I. We missed his sisters, the two cousins who I am most close to
on the Nelson side of the family.
We told stories of our parents which are filled with crazy antics that can only be wrought through growing up in a tiny little place like Galesburg, Illinois. We shared memories and laughed a lot. It was a wonderful way to honor the memory of all of our parents, really, for now, the cousins are the oldest surviving generation. I'm grateful for these relationships even though we don't get to see one another very much. Our parents all loved each of us so much. I guess we're just trying to do the same with one another.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

We Have A Floor!

Today was SO MUCH BETTER! Thanks to all of you who encouraged me. I slept great, always helpful, and the rest of the floor went in today and it looks fabulous even in its uncleaned state! All of the spaces that previously had tile are now covered in the wood laminate. A major dust game-changer! I don't feel like I'm living in a cloud of smoke anymore! This photograph shows a major shift in the room. The new hallway is the entrance to the master and the previous entrance is the large rectangle on the wall to the right. I'm excited because that corner will eventually become my writing nook. Book cases, a new window and a desk will grace the space and I'm very excited about sitting in front of that window putting my thoughts down on paper!
We decided to pull the tiles that surrounded the fireplace. They were starting to fall off and overall not really in keeping with a final look that we wanted. The tiles above will also come down but the mantle has to come off in order for those to come down. We realized that the unused backsplash tiles from the master shower would actually finish off the space in a beautiful way and tie into the adjacent kitchen really well. The floor looks great snuggled up against the fireplace! I know you must all be laughing thinking about our fireplace in the desert but winter nights can get into the 50's F and there's nothing like a warm fire to provide a cozy space. And it's cheaper than heating the house!
The bathroom tiling is now finished. We love the contrast of the light shower with the dark floor. The double vanity is dark wood on the bottom with a white-gray speckled countertop. I cannot wait to see how great this is all going to look!
In other news, the golf cart is fine. The batteries need to regenerate after not being used for such a long period. We went to pick it up and I got to drive it home with Tanner as my rider. He absolutely loves the golf cart! He could not wait to get in!
We're home now, relaxing in the master bedroom. The concrete floor is not great, but carpet goes in a week from Friday. Our contractor bought paint today! A very exciting step.
Appliances are delayed until Monday. Furniture will likely come in towards the end of next week. It's in...we just have to wait until our contractor is done with all the sanding and painting. We have window installations that need to get done first because we have to cut new openings. We decided it was more desirable (and affordable!) to buy standard size windows and re-fit them rather than having to order custom windows to fit the existing spaces.
I really cannot believe what a difference a day makes! I'm back on track with excitement and anticipation! And I haven't even had to dust today!

A Not So Good Day

Yesterday I wondered if this house renovation was really a good idea! The cabinets are delayed, again. When I called to schedule the dishwasher install, the lovely man on the other end of the phone said that the dishwasher cannot be hooked up until the cabinets, countertops and sink are fully installed. Grrrr. I told him that I while I wasn't happy about not having a dishwasher for another 3 weeks, I won't take out my anger on him! He was grateful. Some of you have asked where we are living. There is one bedroom and one bathroom that are in tact. We will do some work on those rooms but not until everything else is done. It's my little sanity space.

I then proceeded to wash the dishes in the bathroom sink where I cut my finger on a steak knife and broke a bowl. I could see that the day was shaping up to be a winner.

The dust on our stuff was so thick I could see it from a distance so I proceeded to wipe down every surface and object I could I could get my hands on. Ok, it's not that bad (stock photo) but sometimes it's what it feels like!

The crew arrived to continue putting in the floor and what they discovered is that the concrete is uneven in parts so they needed to do more shaving of the concrete which creates a scene similar to the Dust Bowl. 
But at least they are making progress and it does look wonderful. 
Doug decided that we needed to move our fantastically stylish living room into the master bedroom since the guys needed to keep working on the floor. So we swept, vacuumed, and mopped the master in an attempt to get the dust residual under control. Then we moved everything over to the new room. I was not a happy camper at this point. 
I did manage to hook up the TV, cable box, modem and phone all from the same cable line and was feeling very accomplished. I dusted again. We realized that there was no light in the master bedroom at this point so fortunately our contractor had left his lights. Doug hooked them up. Attractive, aren't they? At least they work really well.

Doug needed to take the golf cart in for a tune-up. He called a bit later to ask me to come pick him up since he needed to leave it. After searching desperately for the car keys for about 15 minutes, Doug called back to ask where I was. I simply said, "The car keys are in your pocket, aren't they?" Oops. He got a ride home from the golf cart guy.

To top things off, the weather has turned chilly. I know this is a joke to those living out east but it rained pretty hard yesterday and the temperatures dropped into the 50's. The house was chilly but when Doug turned on the heat, all it did was blow dust around. I told him to turn off the heat and put on a sweatshirt. Did I mention how unhappy I was at this point?!

I took a hot shower while Doug grilled burgers. The food tasted great even though the subtle layer of grit remains.

Yes, I'm complaining about stupid things. The fact that we have the resources and ability to renovate our house is a lovely gift. I have a roof over my head, a bed to sleep in, a bathroom with running water, money to buy food, and good companions with whom I share this journey. Tanner remains a faithful companion. Life is not bad, it's just a little uncomfortable for the moment. I try to keep it all in perspective. Yesterday it just got to me a little.

Perhaps on top of everything else, it is starting to sink in that we are living here. Not going back to our other life that has meant so much to us. I had lost track of time and when I realized that it was nearing the end of February, a strangeness came over me. This is my life now. We are settling in here. It's not a game or a hobby, but our life. It will be good to actually settle. This in-between stage is surreal...like what is real and what isn't? It takes time to renovate a house. It takes time to re-invent one's life. It takes time to move from side of the pond to the other. In the meantime, all I really want is for the dust to settle, literally and figuratively!

At the beginning of this new day, nothing has changed including our view.  It's chilly 50°F outside but the sun is shining and we should hit 70° by midday. My eyes are itchy and I can still taste a little dust, but I slept well and I'm ready to face this new day with a better attitude! Let's see how long that lasts!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Oscar 2015

I have long enjoyed the Oscar broadcast. We have, on occasion, hosted Oscar parties and encouraged people to dress for the red carpet! I always fill out a ballot and enjoy watching the drama unfold. It was very nice this year being in the west coast time zone. 
I am usually on top of things when it comes to viewing the movies, but up until last Friday, I barely knew what was nominated let alone the content of the films. I thought I could handle going into an Academy Awards show blind, that is, not having seen one movie, but alas, I realized that I could not. So on Friday, I put out a plea on Facebook...if we could only see 2 films before Sunday, what should they be? The answers were as diverse as the films but it got me interested! So Friday afternoon we dashed to The Imitation Game and downloaded from iTunes Birdman, Boyhood and A Theory of Everything. We loved the Imitation Game. It was a good start to the movie binge we would embark upon.
Watching Boyhood and Birdman back to back was intense! While I can't say that I loved Birdman, I did see the value in the film and knew that it had the goods to be highly rewarded. But the story of Boyhood, being filmed over 12 years was truly remarkable and the film was beautifully done, if a little long. A Theory of Everything was well-acted and also profoundly meaningful even if I don't agree with Stephen Hawking on everything!
So, there it was. 4 films. Lots of reading on the internet regarding Oscar buzz and predictions and I felt more equipped to get my ballot filled out.
But there was an early showing of Selma on Sunday that we could make in time to be home for the awards ceremony so we decided to go for it. I am not sorry that we made the effort to see this film. It is remarkable and made me more fully understand why people were upset that this film was blanked in all acting, directing and editing categories. The song, Glory, was truly stirring and I could not be happier that it was rewarded. And the live performance of the song at the Oscars...wow, what a moment!
Grand Budapest did great and I look forward to seeing it, however wacky it will be!
So in the end, I picked 17 winners out of the 24 categories. I was truly torn for Best Picture and really thought they'd split the director and picture awards. So I went with Boyhood for picture and Birdman for director. Birdman swept. Whiplash came through in a few categories and I'm looking forward to seeing that film even though it looks very intense and difficult at points. A real surprise was Whiplash winning the editing category. Again, I thought Boyhood would be a shoe-in for this.
I did love J.K. Simmons' speech: "If you are lucky enough to still have a parent with you, call them!" Was particularly poignant for me as this is the first Oscars without my father in this world. He was also a lover of films and of the Oscars so I missed sharing this moment with him. 
The last observation has to do with the reality that were no black nominees this year. It's hard to overlook this reality. It was a little weird for me that there were so many black presenters. It is almost like the Academy tried to make up for their mistakes by putting forth black actors to present. Also, when Glory was performed, it brought the house down and moved many to tears. I mention this because sometimes in an effort to placate our conscious, we try to make up for our real mistakes by doing things that are cosmetically good but lack commitment. Presenting an Oscar is very, very different from being nominated for one or winning one. The director for Selma, a black woman, should have, in no uncertain terms been nominated. Not because she's a black woman, but because this film was amazing! Sure, the directors nominated were deserving but even so...the lack of women in this category, let alone black women, does give one pause. And cheering wildly for a song about justice is very different than actually sinking your teeth into a fight for justice that might be costly.
People complain that the Oscars are sometimes too political, that it's an awards show and people should not use the platform for their own agenda. I disagree. I think it's fine to give a shout out to a cause, especially when your role has pointed to it. The show itself is very political by its very nature and plenty entertaining as well. 
Overall, I liked the show. I thought the bit from Birdman where Michael Keaton locks himself out of the theater and has to run through the streets in his underwear, recreated by Neil Patrick Harris coming out on the stage in tighty whities, black socks and black shoes was very funny and really well-done. I didn't love Lady Gaga singing Sound of Music stuff but loved the tribute to the great film and loved seeing Julia Andrews. And did I mention, I loved the performance of Glory...a truly great moment.
Finally, there were no major clothing blunders. Everyone looked pretty great. Matthew Mcconaughey needs to shave. But that said, my love for the movies is in tact! Thanks Oscar for another great night! In the words of the Lego Movie: Everything was Awesome! Well, almost everything anyway!
(all photos are taken from the internet and are not mine)

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tile and Wood

After a couple more days of scraping the old tile residual off the floor, the kitchen area was ready for the wood laminate floor to start going in! Mr. curiosity lurks just outside the door!This was a very exciting step! I know it will take a few days, maybe even a week, for the entire floor to get finished, but with the kitchen part almost done, the appliances and cabinets can go in! Appliances are scheduled for delivery on Wednesday and we just learned that the cabinets will arrive Tuesday or Wednesday as well! Hurray!
One big mistake was for the sliding glass doors. Somewhere along the lines, the measurements got off and we ordered the wrong size. Big Bummer. But Doug is working with Home Depot and we'll get it sorted, but obviously have to send them back, order the right ones, and wait, again, for their arrival. It's a drag but at least it's not an irrevocable mistake. With everything we've been ordering, it seemed almost inevitable that something like this would eventually happen.
Meanwhile, off the master bedroom the bathroom is looking like a bathroom! We love the tile we picked out and it looks so nice. The grout color is pewter! It really sets off the white with gray marble in the tile nicely. We also love the dark floor and think it will add a nice elegant touch to the whole room. Of course, it will better when it's clean! The toilet will be nicely hidden behind the shower and the double vanity will be spectacular. We planned to put some color tiles in the shower but we all forgot and now, I'm kind of glad we didn't. It looks sleek and nice with just the tiles. It's going to be so exciting when it's all done!
If the cabinets go in Tuesday, then we can have the countertop guy out Wednesday and with luck have the countertops and sink installed by March 11th! If we have a fully functioning kitchen by Mid-March, I'd be thrilled. But even without the countertops and sink, by Wednesday of this week we might have kitchen storage, a big refrigerator, a freezer, a range, an oven and a dishwasher! Wow, luxury awaits us!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Shower Spaces and Outdoor Places

Doug spent the morning moving rocks around the yard and created some lovely rock borders and gardens around the rose bushes. It really looks nice and finishes off the landscaping nicely. Both the front and back yard look great with the trees groomed, the rocks rearranged and the sand smoothed out. Tanner likes having more things to pee on. He likes his yard quite a bit. He might enjoy basking in the sunshine even more than I do! We took him for a ride in the golf cart yesterday. He LOVED that! Wind blowing in face, ears flopping in the breeze...happy boy.
Meanwhile, back at the dust bin, our crew started doing the tiling on the shower! It is fun to see a final surface going up somewhere! We are very pleased with our choice and think it will look quite fantastic when finished. 
Am looking forward to the day when the master bedroom doesn't look like this!
We are managing pretty well. Doug creatively moved one of the boxed toilets so that it now functions as our living room table. It does help.
The side burner on our grill works great for skillet food. I cooked up some nice egg burritos on Doug's birthday and we enjoyed a good meal last night, grilled chicken, baked potatoes and green beans. I can't make the normal marinade I use so bought some yummy ginger, sesame, soy salad dressing from Trader Joe's. I went to give it one last shake before pouring it over the chicken and the lid was partially off. I didn't really care that salad dressing went all over the concrete floor!
One drawback is that when we use the microwave, we keep overloading the circuit so we have to turn all the other lights off in the house! Pretty funny. And I'm sick of washing dishes in the bathroom but at least I have running water. And, when I clean the bathroom, at least I'm also cleaning the kitchen! A bonus remains, the great weather we are having. We enjoyed our meal on the patio last night and were treated to this spectacular sunset. 
Life still feels like vacation...granted an HGTV vacation but it's still quite fun. I did take time to go to three favorite stores yesterday: TJ Maxx, Trader Joe's, and Bath and Body Works. I still like that part of being back in America. And I have managed to stay away from Home Depot for a couple of days! I am anxious for the floors to be installed because then the dust settles, we can get our appliances delivered and begin to see how things are shaping up more and more. But we're not quite there yet. And we've learned that the kitchen cabinets are delayed so instead of the 2 weeks as promised, it will be more like 4 weeks. UGH. That means no kitchen sink for at least 4 more weeks as the countertops take awhile to order to and install as well. But by then the master bath might be ready for use. One step at at time. And I can always go soak in the pool and jacuzzi when I've had enough. 

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Celebrating Births, Encountering Death

The circle of life continues to reveal itself to us. While celebrating Doug's birthday yesterday, and Doug's father's 87th birthday today, we received news yesterday morning that my uncle Mel had died some time during the night. He was 93. We are so thankful that we are nearby now and over the past two weeks we were able to share in some special time with him, including his 93rd birthday at the end of January. All three of his sons, only one who lives nearby, were able to be in town for this day and it is truly a day to remember. Mel loved it and commented that it was one of the best days of his life. I think he felt that all was complete now and he was ready to join his wife Dorothy of 67 years, my mom, who was his younger sister, and my dad, his two other brothers and their wives and of course, his parents, my dear Grandma and Grandpa Nelson. Mel and Dorothy were married for 67 years! They were a great couple who enjoyed life with gusto and laughter. Here's a photo of our celebration of that special moment.

Mel was the last surviving sibling of my mom's family and the oldest too. Over the past two years he has suffered the loss of my mom, his wife, and my dad. He lived across the street from my folks and after their wives died, my dad and he got into the habit of sharing an afternoon beverage together. Mel often commented how he missed these daily visits.
Two years ago, just after his 91st birthday, we took him out golfing! He was still amazing in the way he could swing the club. Unfortunately just after that an infection attacked his system and he began to weaken in a significant way. Even so, his positive outlook, easy going manner, and joyful spirit did not diminish. He was grateful for every small thing in life and remained a positive, delightful person to be around.
Even in the two weeks since we arrived we had seen him decline. His sons were struggling with how to best care for him, wondering if he needed to be moved into a care facility. I think when Uncle Mel heard this his only thought was that the only move he wanted to make was to heaven. And so he found peace in his sleep and is now released from the pain of aging and reunited in the heavenly realm with his loved ones.
As mentioned, Doug and I remain grateful that we are nearby. It's a bit strange to think that the cousins are now the oldest generation on the Nelson side of my family and yet, my parents, their parents, and my mom's siblings have all meant so much to our entire family and the warm and joy-filled memories we have of shared times together are deep and abiding.
Peace to the memory of my Uncle Melvin Richard Nelson. He lived well and long and we thank God for that.