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img_0904_1I had been puzzling for months about the bathroom floor.  Why would anyone put a green and gold floor in a bathroom otherwise completely covered (walls, ceiling, cabinet doors, insides of the two room doors) in milk glass tiles with a faint blue-gray cast, and peachy-beige fixtures?  I’m a great believer in colors matching – it makes up for a host of evils, and every time I was in the bathroom, I contemplated this anomaly.

It finally became unbearable to be in the room, which was difficult, because it was essential.  I noticed a small whitish patch near the door, and concluded the color was years of built-up wax (on a no-wax floor – what were people thinking?)

I proceeded to attack the floor with 1) Spic ‘N Span and ammonia, 2) vinegar, 3) denatured alcohol, which dissolves a lot of finishes, 4) mineral spirits, 5) nail polish remover (if it had worked, I would have gotten a can of acetone).  Not to mention the Bon Ami and Barkeeper’s Friend.  Amazing stuff, acrylic floor wax, I said – nothing touches it – and went to purchase commercial wax stripper.  Which didn’t budge it, either.

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At the end of the day, in despair, I took a putty knife to a bit of tile where it looked like the coat of wax was peeling a bit.  And a huge sheet peeled right up, leaving a pale blue, white, and gray tile with touches of gold.  Enthusiastically, I began peeling off the layers of wax.  Several tiles in, I realized that what I was removing was not old wax, but the pebbled plastic  no-wax layer.  But the surface underneath was smooth and a much better color, so I went on.

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Finally, having removed the no-wax layer, I waxed it.  After adding a new shower curtain, the whole room blends together, and I’ll be able to shower until we can redo the whole thing (not high on the lists of projects so far.)

The chimney sweep came Wednesday, with her daughter-in-training, maybe twelve, who did the initial inspection and a lot of explaining and demonstrating (this is our first fireplace, although we are old hands at campfires).  The chimney was pronounced clean and safe, and we got some good advice about the very best campsite at Audra State Park.  (No, I’m not going to share.)

We pulled up the last of the carpet today (and all the staples and tackboard, which requires a lot of work on hands and knees (I now have professional knee pads from our great local hardware store, Marsh’s Lumber).  There were no more surprises with odd patches, but the black bits in the foam padding has turned to tar just as in the other rooms.  And it looks very like a couple of cinder blocks sat for a long time near the door – perhaps a shelf with plants? – and created a great dampish dirty spot, which I think may clean up all right.

The bamboo blinds for the den were cheerfully delivered by UPS, just three days after they were ordered – from K-Mart – our local store didn’t have the size we needed.  I put off opening them until this morning, because we had gotten others when we couldn’t get the ones we wanted, which turned out to be narrower than they set,and just not right.  So I was afraid these would be not right and have to be returned, etc.  But they were just what I expected, and Robert put them up.  I found a pair of lamps for the mantel.  The flowers are from Hilde for my birthday last week.

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Here is a panorama of the view from the front of our Home Depot.  What you can’t see is that those hills are much higher – the valley isn’t visible.  I got a gift certificate for Home Depot as a retirement gift.  We bought caulk, backer rod, outlet sealers, weatherstripping, a programmable thermostat – so the office didn’t just make me happy, they contributed to saving us all from global warming.

We have stripped three more rooms of carpet, sealed most of the air leaks, had the electricians in for some basic updates (like grounding the service entrance!)  The cats have settled in, we know where to get the best pepperoni rolls and Oliverio’s peppers in tomato sauce, which make the best pizza sauce ever.  Today is warm (mid-sixties) so we are raking leaves ahead of the snow flurries predicted next week.

TileOriginal 1939 black and white linoleum tile floor in the den.  Learn to Lindy and come dance.  The floor is in amazingly good condition – but needed a lot of scrubbing to get wax residue and dirt from probably 50 years of having two different carpets and at least one loose rug laid over it.  Robert scrubbed away years of wax from the edges – that had been under carpet forever.  The drapes will go as soon as I can find the replacements I want – or fabric to sew them…

Well, not exactly.  The fall before Robert and I were married, we drove from Chicago to Minneapolis for an American Society for Information Science conference.  Starving graduate students, we were staying with a friend, who was also a starving graduate student, living at his parents’ while finishing his dissertation in philosophy.  He invited us to come up the weekend before and stay at his family cabin on the Lake Pepin in Wisconsin (actually a very wide spot in the Mississippi, and famous for being where Laura Ingall’s Wilder’s Little House in the Big Woods was.)  We arrived past midnight and collapsed.  We awoke to discover the living room of the “cabin” was easily twice the size of our whole apartment, with one wall of glass looking out on the lake.  The kitchen was huge, new, and tiled.  The basement was a dormitory with room for probably dozens of grandchildren.  Paul said “Well, it was a cabin when my parents bought it.”

Saturday was a gorgeous fall day.  We messed about in a boat, visited the VFW on the other side, climbed a bluff, visited an auction, and ended up in a beer joint on the river with a free juke box.  And Robert, who has a good voice but can rarely be persuaded to sing, sang along with the Oak Ridge Boys’ “Sail Away”:

And we will sail away on the wings of love into the night,
Cast out our fortunes on the sea.
Then we will go to sleep together with the rocking of the water,
And dream of how our life will someday be,
When she sails away with me.

So now, 28 years later, we have retired from the State of Texas and are sailing off to our new old house in West Virginia, where I grew up.

We put the old house on the market today.  Here’s what I wrote for potential buyers:

We moved here when our children were 5 and 8, Robert was a graduate student, and we were both working in the Capitol complex. Now our children have grown and left, and we are retiring and moving on, too.

We loved the house: the minute I saw the kitchen, I knew this was our house; my desk would go in the end, where I could see out the sunroom windows and be central to everything. We wanted hardwood floors and good light, and loved the charm of the light cove around the living room ceiling and the step up from the living room. The kids immediately saw that the step from the sunroom to the kitchen made a natural stage, and we hung a curtain for their performances. The two-level deck makes a great stage, too; a friend’s bluegrass band played there for our housewarming. (We invited the neighbors, and quieted down not long after dark.)

We loved the neighborhood: an old-fashioned neighborhood, where you know the neighbors, and we look out for each other. If we are in town, we never miss the home-made 4th of July parade – the neighborhood gathers and parades around Ramsey Park, led by a little red wagon carrying a boom box playing Sousa marches and kids on decorated bikes. This is followed by watermelon and an egg-toss. Our kids walked to school at Bryker Woods with a group of neighborhood kids, and could go to Ramsey Park and the pool without crossing a major street. Seton and the surrounding doctors’ offices meant our family doctor was just minutes away. We commuted to the Capitol complex, a nice drive most mornings, down Lamar along the Shoal Creek greenbelt. Later, we rode our bicycles to work.

We were busy working and raising the kids, and cared more about how the house lived than how it looked. We spent our money on books and travel instead of redoing the kitchen. But we did redo the plumbing, the roof, the heating and cooling, and put in ethernet. Owners before us had weatherized. We lost the big sycamore in the front when we replaced the main sewer line, and still mourn it. We don’t like to use chemicals or water for landscaping, and we haven’t used pesticides, herbicides, or chemical fertilizers, so the lawn looks bare in a drought, but the St. Augustine always comes back with the rains. We put in the pond, and then wanted a place to admire it from, and built the screen porch. We redid the deck, and added the arbor outside the sunroom (the Lady Banks roses covered the windows on trellises when we first moved in, but that was bad for the siding – the arbor gives it more air.)

We will miss morning coffee and relaxing in the evening on the back porch, listening to the fountain, and watching the birds. Once, I stepped out to see an astonishing flock of cedar waxwings turning the whole pond gold, taking turns dipping into the water. We will miss waking up to the view of trees outside the bedroom windows. We will miss the sunroom in the winter, and watching the moon from the hot tub. But we are moving to a place with other pleasures, and hope that this house will have new owners who will find it as comfortable and happy as we did.

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive. - Howard Thurman.

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