A Single Gal’s Guide to Condo Ownership:When it rains, it pours

Two months after I closed on the cutest condo ever in a 9-unit converted Manor House from the early 1900’s, it began raining inside.

Kitchen post-storm

Kitchen post-storm

First lesson learned: If a home inspector mentions in passing that a kitchen must have had water damage “at some time in the past,” do everything in your power to verify that it well and truly was IN THE PAST!

mixing bowls

Tip 1: Always have lots of big bowls  and pitchers on hand ready to be pressed into alternative service.

Loud crashes in the night never bode well.

 

Warranty

Tip 2: Prominently display home warranty company and insurance company phone numbers.

Somewhere water-damage-free is preferable.

 

 

 

Industrial strength fans are ever so effective – but noisy.

 

 Tip #3: Be patient with the repair crew – especially if wood floors are involved.

Two months can definitely feel LONG though.

 

 

 

 

 Tip #4: Remember, when it rains, it pours.

While beautiful outdoors - indoor waterfalls are terrifying.

While beautiful outdoors – indoor waterfalls are terrifying.

 

Office mates may be perplexed when bins are removed.

Office mates may be perplexed when bins are removed.

Tip #5: Have a nearby friend or neighbor on speed dial.

One with access to trash cans and recycling bins is a bonus!

 

 

 

 

Clear signage is imperative!

Clear signage is imperative!

  Tip #6a: When moving into a new place, discover where the Water Shut-off valves are ASAP.  Especially if you have neighbors on the same line.

#6b: Keep wine handy for overwrought resident experts 😉 A glass or two does wonders for stress levels!

 

 

The power of water in enclosed spaces

The power of water in enclosed spaces

Tip #7: Never ever delete or throw away disaster restoration and repair company numbers. Always be polite with the dispatcher, even when you’re running low on patience.

Tip #8: Be polite to the insurance company as well. If you find a good one – stick with it!

Tip #9:  Home Warranty companies may be useless in a true emergency – especially if the emergency company you use is the priciest in the phone book.

 

 

Tip #10: Laughter is ALWAYS the best medicine!  While a     momentary panic is perfectly understandable – shift into survival mode quickly.

After all, what good does screaming do when there’s a six-foot wall of water crashing down around you!

 

Sometimes all you can do is laugh and expect the unexpected.  It could almost always be worse!  Take a breath, control what you can, and enjoy the ride! 

bubbles laughter - child

Thanks to Blogging 101 – Day 19 post about “New to you post formats” and to classmates who encouraged me to try a different style with my “flash non-fiction” assignment.

 

Happy Dogs Don’t Bark at Clouds

Daily posts’ writing challenge this week was flash fiction. I thought this was interesting since my assignment for my Creative Non-Fiction class was to write a flash non-fiction piece.  Why not try both?  So here is my attempt!

Happy dogs - samoyed

The quiet weighed on her. The wind frightened her. She’d never minded either before Henry passed. Their country retreat had always been just that, a retreat. The wind sighing through the shelter belt had always soothed before. Now she found herself starting at the slightest breeze.

A flash of white arrested her lazy survey of the trees framing the garden. She picked up the trowel she’d just relinquished and searched the shadows more deeply. The white blob moved haltingly, unbalanced. Two black eyes and a nose became distinguishable from the mane of white being ruffled by the wind.

A few steps closer explained the curious movement. Cruel black talons disturbed the soft white fur of the animal’s left foreleg and streaked it with red. The dog dropped to its belly six feet away. She stretched out her hand, palm up. The dog lay there looking up at her with clouded eyes. Exchanging the trowel for clippers she moved closer.

As she approached his side, he turned his head and feebly licked her glove-covered hand. Resting one hand on his side, she used the other to find the loosest part of the barbed wire. Leaning against him slightly, she worked the clippers into his fur and snipped one cord, then another, and another. With each snap she felt the dog shudder but he remained still, trusting as only animals can do.

Samoyed smile

Samoyed Smile

Two weeks later the wind nearly bowled her over as she brought a bowl of food out to the porch. She couldn’t see dog and panicked for a moment, sure that something was wrong. Then she heard the barking. She scanned the horizon and saw him romping through the overgrown grasses behind the house jumping at the wind. She laughed as he turned and came racing toward her – Happy.

Mountain Biking – inspired by Great Expectations – Blogging U.

For my writing challenge post this week, I decided to follow a prompt from the WordPress Daily Post blog. This week’s topic was Great Expectations and the following was one of the options.

For those who prefer a bit of wit, give us your best expectation versus reality post for all those times you’ve tried your hardest and failed majestically.

Image

biking starts

 

My brother-in-law just bought the above bike for my precious niece who is completely in love with anything pink and princess-y right now. He’s hoping that she’ll actually want to learn to ride because of it. He is a big road and mountain biker who has been patient enough to do a couple of road rides with me. Every so often, he invites me to join him in mountain biking.  Each time he asks, I have to laugh.  Mountain biking and I do not have the most mutually beneficial relationship.

It’s not that I expected to be terrible at mountain biking.  Heck, I grew up in Colorado and first learned to ride in the shadows of the Boulder foothills. When I was younger and mad at my mother, I would pedal furiously up and down our long driveway pretending that I was riding all the way to my Grandmother’s house in Nebraska. I love the mountains too! I would often take off and hike 10 minutes from our house to where the trails up Mt. Sanitas or along the Mesa Trail began. One would think that putting the two together would be an easy combination for me.

The first time we truly went mountain biking as a family was at Vail during a summer weekend away. We rode the gondola up the mountain and rented bikes to ride down. My sister and I relished the excitement of flying down the first half of the mountain. Then my brakes failed.

Mountain Biking pic from Justin Garland’s Flickrstream

Fortunately, I hadn’t damaged too much of my body at that point and my sweet mother switched bikes with me so I could continue bombing down the mountain with my father and sister while she walked the broken bike down the hill. By the time she reached the bottom, she was fuming about the incompetence that had nearly cost her her daughter’s life, the danger to me had become far more serious than it originally was of course. My father intervened to spare the poor bike rental people her wrath.

I persisted in my desire to be a mountain biker.  While living in Japan during my 20s, my colleagues found a mountain biking trail in the Japanese foothills not too far from our base. Part of the trail involved racing down into a 15-foot dip and up the other side.  If you were really good, you’d fly off the lip at the other side.  I was just happy to make it up and down without a scratch which I did quite a few times. I took my sister once. She however, was not as intrigued by the thought of flying through the woods as I and was quite angry with me about the episode later.Kodomos enhanced

I returned to the States with renewed confidence and eagerly attempted trail biking again in North Carolina. Despite the fact that the hills were hardly the caliber of the Japanese foothills, much less the Colorado ones, I started cautiously. The trail was pretty easy and after the first hour I was feeling brave enough to attempt a jump…Big mistake.

An unknown someone had dragged reclaimed wood and tin out to the trail and created a few makeshift jumps, big and small. My friends of course chose the largest and steepest. The wood used for the jump had at one time been painted white. It couldn’t have been more than about 2 or 2.5 feet tall, but it was a relatively steep incline to the top.  I pedaled furiously along a 7-foot run-up to the jump certain I would be arcing gracefully into the air at the end.When my wheel hit the ramp though, I panicked!  Instead of claiming flight, I somehow managed to plant the front tire of my bike directly into the ground just beyond the jump. My body subsequently flipped over the right handlebar and I  missed slamming my head into a solidly established pine tree by about 3 inches. My bike landed on top of me, and by the time my friends had confirmed that I was laughing, not crying, wounds on my right elbow, face, and right leg had begun bleeding profusely.

My final (to date) mountain biking experience was less dramatic but nonetheless damaging. I moved from North Carolina to the opposite coast and went biking with a friend on the sandy bluffs north of Monterey, California. Again, since the hills were so much more gentle than those I came from, I was not worried at all. I was a competent biker and never one to back down from a challenge.  I don’t think I was prepared for sand

Sand biking

Sand biking

though. The hills were free of vegetation and densely packed clay with looser sand on top. The incline which would begin the loop back to the car was riddled with slender wash-outs. I gathered my courage and decided to try it anyway.

About a quarter of the way down, I could see disaster written in the sand. I got my front tire caught in one washout that abruptly ended about 6 feet in front of me. Descending at 20-30 mph left me powerless to rectify the situation. Sure enough, I was launched over the left handlebars and this time my left knee, leg, and elbow were all bleeding profusely.

I still hope to try mountain biking at some point in the future. Given my history with the sport however, protective equipment might be in order. I refuse to admit defeat though. Some day, I will triumph!

 

Kenyan New Year

This post will (hopefully) be an extra one this week. The prompt was for the Creative Non-Fiction class I’m taking currently. We were instructed to write a true scene. I’m adding it because I truly would like feedback on it.  Does it bring you in to the scene? What works for you? What doesn’t?  Is there anything unclear or that doesn’t ring true? This was how I welcomed the New Year 2014. Enjoy!

Hippo FamilyOn New Year’s Eve, the drums came calling. The rhythmic huffs of the hippos had replaced the tinny electronic sounds of the DJ some time earlier. I was sitting in a brown wooden chair on the veranda outside my tent at Fig Tree Resort in the Maasai M’mara. A few paces in front of me, the bluff dropped away to the river bend where the hippos spent most of the day. The tall panga-sporting Maasai patrolman had told me they would emerge shortly for their nightly foraging. He’d pointed out the path worn into the less-steep side of the bluff across from me; I could just make it out in the moonlight.

The camp was a mix of dark wood, greens, golds and reds nestled between two branches of the Mara River. The thatch-covered red wooden bridge that brought us to the resort’s entrance conveyed a sense of hidden treasures waiting to be found. The green canvas tents and wooden structures from which they hung seemed outgrowths of the natural lushness surrounding them. The stone paths leading to each individual tent platform invited serenity while the bougainvillea and palms lining the walk promised privacy.

We’d arrived a few hours earlier, shortly before dinner. After 3 ½ weeks without a shower, I’d been extremely excited about running water. Each of the three of us had our own tent facing the river. Inside were two beds, one double and one twin. Embroidered elephants danced across their red-gold coverlets. The bedside stand and posts were wooden and each bed had a canopy of mosquito netting as its curtain. At the back of the tent was a permanent bathing room all tiled in white.

Once gloriously clean, we met up again at the communal dining room for a holiday feast. Wooden giraffes and leopards lounged around the food service area and each had been suitably attired to welcome the New Year.

Christmas Kenya Style

Christmas Kenya Style

The giraffe’s two-pronged gold and silver party hat made us laugh and even the leopard had a few decorations between his paws. Christmas trees were made of gold tin and the ornaments were muted red pouches and shapes made of straw. Every lantern in the room was lit and the room glittered with good will.

As we were finishing the feast, our waiter and some of the other young Maasai men treated us to a performance of traditional songs, dance and the leaping for which they are famous. They were dressed as herders with red woven plaid blankets interspersed with navy blues and blacks. The dancers accompanied themselves with the gutturally rhythmic “auwoos” that you can’t help but bob your head to as you listen. We had to move outside for the jumping performance. Even leaping from a standstill many of their heads would have broken through the nine-foot ceilings if we had not!

After dinner, the DJ started up and a few of us M’zungus were brave enough, or happy enough, to attempt to dance. It wasn’t until after dark though, that the party really kicked off when all of the workers’ friends and families came to the resort. I watched for a little while since I wasn’t yet tired enough to sleep. My companions had already retired. Around 11, I had returned to my veranda to sit and write a bit. I was hoping to get some of my impressions down before we left Kenya the next day. My tent was situated far enough down the path that the electronic strains of the dance songs kept me just barely tethered to the celebration. After they ceased, the soothing sounds of the hippos were leading me toward sleep.

That’s when the drums called. Their sonorance blended seamlessly with the sound of men and women’s voices raised joyfully. The simplicity was haunting. And then I recognized the tune. I’d heard it sung often enough during the three weeks prior at one church activity or another. It instantly called me forth. The celebrants had moved farther off; they were outside now, on the patio near the bridge and bar, the welcome area of the resort. I wound through the bar tables and couches that were mostly empty to join the handful of other M’zungus that were watching delightedly. I perched on the edge of a couch half in and half out of the circle of dim lantern light.

As the song went on I sang along. The sounds I could mimic; one of the ladies I’d met in another part of Kenya had tried to teach me what the Swahili words meant, but I couldn’t remember. I sang though – achingly, heartbreakingly, joyously just as they did. The tears rolled unheeded down my face. This was Kenya. This was what I would miss: the purity, the intensity, the ever-present joy and pain that simultaneously under-girded every story, every family. This was Life in Kenya. Taking part in this music and dancing was Kenya’s remembrance gift to me. It sent me on my way and launched me into the New Year. The drums called, the dancers welcomed. We sang. We danced. I wept. I laughed. And then, the drums sent me home.

Fig Tree Resort tree house

Tree house

 

10 week challenge post 1 – 3 Disparate Objects

This week I chose to use a prompt from one of my class textbooks, Writing Creative Nonfiction, edited by Carolyn Forche and Philip Gerard.  The prompt reads: “Take 3 disparate objects, at random, from your purse, your backpack, your shelves. Set them in front of you and begin writing, allowing 15 minutes for each object. See if there is a common image or theme you can use to bind these together.”

I used these as inspiration points for fictional story starts. I’d love to know what interests you, or where you lose interest in each one. I’d also be curious to see what themes you notice or think could be pulled out. 3 Inspiration Objects

3 Inspiration Objects

 

I. Mintia

The party was loud. So many people, many of whom she knew and worked with. New Year’s Eve, top floor hotel, downtown Tokyo.  At times she had to step away from it all to recenter herself, to take a break from being who she was, to be who she is. Strange that – the changes.  A year ago everything had been so new so exciting. She’d been so fresh-faced and naive. Now she often came across as a pro at all of it. As if  champagne flutes and exotic cocktails were all old hat to her.  They weren’t of course.

She stepped to the wall of windows overlooking the glittering lights of the

Mintia - Japan

Mintia – Japan

city below, digging into her purse and pulling out the credit-card-sized box of pale blue mints as she moved.  She’d studied the Japanese characters before, but her mind was so fuddled by the alcohol and weariness that she couldn’t make any sense of them tonight.  Oh well.  She popped one in her mouth and directed her eyes up in favor of sky over city. As the cooling sensation of the mint began to penetrate the brain-fog, she realized that she was desperately searching for stars.  The electric shimmer from below drowned them out.  Just like the cool of the window pane was draining away the heat lingering from the overly-crowded room. 

She almost wished she could slip away. Take the elevator down to the cool marble lobby below and walk the deserted streets to the lower-scale hotel a few blocks away.  But she didn’t completely know the way and this time of night, wasn’t sure she’d find a taxi.  She also knew that the girls and her sister wouldn’t appreciate her taking the key.  Besides, her sister would  probably be worried if she left. She was, after all, just visiting for the holidays.  She sighed.  Time to go back in.   //

 

II. Bookmark

Achiele laughed and gracefully withdrew from the riotous circle of dancers. The heartbeat of the drums stayed with her and she found her steps swaying naturally to the beat.  How could she not? The rhythms of her land pulsed within her. The drums- they called, mourned, laughed, caressed or hypnotized. Her blood would always respond.

Dance

 She smiled to herself. As the distance deepened, her   steps quickened . She thought she had glimpsed a smaller shadow slipping away from teh opposite side of the gyrating throng.  She thought she knew where it was headed.

The path wound down to the bluff overlooking the river. It was that hour of night/morning when the hippos were returning from their forage. She figured she’d find him there – crouched upon a rock far enough away from the bank that hi presence wouldn’t alarm them. He loved the hippos, they both did. But they’d seen enough to always keep a healthy respect for them too. Too many others did not. 

Jumai?” she called softly when she knew she was close enough.

Here sister!” Came the little boy’s voice from an outcropping off to her left.  She parted the branches sheltering him and he scooted over dutifully to make room for her on the rock.

Have the fatted ones returned yet?” She whispered.

No, I’m a little early.” He shook his head. “I just didn’t want to wait anymore.”  //

 

III. Yellow Ribbon

Gracie escaped from the stifling family room. Most of the uncles had fallen asleep. Her aunties and grandmama had finished up in the kitchen and repaired to the sun-porch with their handicrafts and gossip.  The other cousins hadn’t noticed her. The older ones were in the basement playing cards and the younger ones upstairs with their toys – or taking naps.  She could have a few hours of solitude if she left now.

She grabbed her jacket from the freezer room and quietly eased shut the inside door.  Once it closed she knew no one would hear the squeaky hinges of the front one.  She didn’t like to be heard – hadn’t since the fever. Being quiet made it easier for her to be overlooked.  She darted down the walk, turned right and headed for the open field and the dirt road leading out of town.

Easter had come early this year and while most of the snow had melted, there were patches peeking out from under shelter-belts. She knew the road well. She’d walked it often enough since coming to live in town. Mama didn’t like her to go alone, but Mama was busy so this time she didn’t care.

Gracie cut left across the meadow-marsh and quickly left the edges of the Parsons’ land. Ten more minutes and she knew she would see the rusty gate and the stone walls.  The meadowlarks delighted her in the mid-afternoon calm. Their singing told her that Spring truly was just around the corner.

Yellow ribbon

Forget me not

She reached the cemetery and quickly found the site she’d been looking for. It was peaceful here and she knew she could talk without fear. There was no one Hearing to misunderstand her. She realized she’d forgotten to pick flowers. Her face fell until she fingered the yellow ribbon around her braid. The stone’s perma-vase would benefit from the cheery brightness. //

 

 

 

Write by step

Framing the view

Framing the view

If by chance you’ve stumbled on my blog at some point in the past, you might now notice a title change.  I debated creating a new blog, but feel like I need to have at least one blog that survives for longer than a period.  So, just as people change and grow, writing can too.

For the next ten weeks or so, I’m going to be intentional about writing in a forum that may be read.  I now have 4 graduate creative writing classes under my belt and am beginning to actually tentatively think of myself as a writer.  Although I’m not sure exactly what kind of writer that is yet.

The professor of the class I’m currently taking has begun a list of what writers “do”.   The top two were “Writers Write” and “Writers Read”.  Well, I have the reading down, but haven’t been especially good at the writing part. Sure, I’ve written journals off and on since I was a teen, and several random calendar -10 week challengestory starts, even a poem or two, but nothing regularly, nothing for “public” consumption, at least nothing so far.

A discussion with a dear, amazingly creative friend about our current turmoil with jobs led to a 10-week creating challenge.  For this week, my task was to set the parameters and kick-start the task.

Therefore, readers, here we go.

Frequency: One post per week (for starters)

Duration:  One hour of writing each week for 10 weeks.

Inspiration:  Daily prompts from WordPress site, or a news item of the day.

Genre: I think I’ll leave this open. Since it’s a practice challenge, I’ll try to vary the genre. Fiction, non-fiction, poetry, etc.

Ready? Enjoy the ride!