Monday, April 23, 2018

"I've fallen and I can't get up"

If I'd have known that the morning was going to start off with a face plant in my front yard I wouldn't have gotten out of bed. But, I could hear the garbage trucks raising a ruckus and wanted my Maryland crab shells to be part of their load. We have two monster garbage bins, one for refuse and one for recycling. I was only concerned about the one with the smelly contents, the one the raccoons crave. While at the curb my peripheral vision caught some debris that would bother my conscience to leave. It is all stuff I would not purchase; a Virginia Slim cigarette box, Rally wrappers, and the contents of someone's ashtray. As I reached to grab the last of the detritus my cane went sideways, my knee buckled and body-weight shifted. I was going DOWN. I saw it coming and my only thought was, DON'T LAND ON YOUR KNEES.

Where are all the people with the video phones? I would have loved to see a replay. My ankles were muddy and scraped. My shoes were off and I'm sure I mooned someone. I felt certain that during our next snowfall my green sweater would stick out enough that someone would check it out. But help arrived sooner than that. A lady was driving by going to work and saw me pitch forward/sideways, put on her blinkers and came to my rescue. She had to be a caregiver somewhere. You could tell by the way she announced herself. "I saw you fall. How can I help you get up?" She was willing to pull, push, get behind, sidearm, whatever I was comfortable with. I considered rolling over to a tree and using it to right myself, but that would be the time a school bus or Royalton cop would cruise by and this late in the game I do not want to be registering for anything the rest of my life.

The general public takes walking for granted, takes kneeling for granted. I, on the other hand, thank my God whenever I can even bend an appendage. I'm sure a tutorial on standing from a prostrate position is get on your knees and rise up. No CAN Do.

My personal job list just got a whole lot shorter. NO taking trash to the curb. NO picking up garbage in the yard.

After several tries my angel rescuer got me on my feet. She even walked me to my door and finished picking up the trash in the yard. Thank you Diane wherever you are!

I'm still standing...
La Verne

Monday, April 2, 2018

Getting back on the SAW horse

A short note to explain why my posts have been absent. It's not like I've been held captive or had a real job. Time fills human spaces whether accounted for or not.

This past year, in preparing for my 50th high school reunion, I got involved as though the event was a runaway train that only I could stop. I started by being part of a committee to find people. Women are harder to trace as we have this habit of changing our names. Out of a class of 215 at an all girls academy (now defunct) I could not find 3, and one was a foreign exchange student that only lived among us her senior year. The building is now home to a co-ed Catholic high school that my two oldest children attended.

In finding the lost I found that the lost (deceased) were causing an uneasy stir in me. It was one thing to rekindle set aside friendships, even fledgling ones, knowing that there was still time to further develop, but I was drawn to remembering the girls who were prematurely plucked from our roster. Hold that thought...

Big parties have swags; the Oscars this year gave away trips to Greece and Hawaii, diamond necklaces, DNA testing kits, gum rejuvenation appointments and more. My brother-in-law's Jack's (he's the "J") of JSB BASEBALL (the "Best Senior Baseball Tournament in the Country") which is held every October in Pirate City, Florida. Their swags include bats, ball bags, coolers, robes and more; plus they are guided by former MLB greats.

Our Nazareth Academy swags were minor in comparison. Our little group handcrafted small drawstring bags out of used tee shirts with our names sewed on from mixed t-shirt lettering.

Inside, were small folk art house Christmas Tree ornaments that we handmade out of scrap wood. Some had foliage made from glue, paint and sawdust. Others had silver coated cardboard painted to resemble corrugated metal. When we wanted a rusty roof, cinnamon and salt provided that. Not shown are the small eyes and hemp hangers.

Also included were bars of handmade basil and lavender soaps. These were the actual hard cut and cured made by a classmate and her daughter, not the pour and melts. Another classmate made and donated handcrafted gift cards.

During the little house making project it evolved that we would make larger Memorial Houses that would represent each of our classmates who had died (25 at the time, and one was a last minute). Each would show their interests, education and careers.

The Standard Oil railroad car (house) was made in memory of one of our ladies who as a young girl came over from Ireland, married, became a social worker and accidental social activist while stopping an oil company's rail car leaking benzene through neighborhoods.

One of our classmates formerly worked for the CIA. This "house" is representative of the stadium at Progressive Field where the Cleveland Indians games are played. Her jobs were used as advertising on the field. This view is of the dugout. She watched the games on TV. We Mod Podged this TV to a block of wood, attached rabbit ears and had an unplugged cord attached as she is no longer watching from the "cheap" seats. 

One of our most memorable characters owned a pizza place and styled hair since high school. She was forever in trouble with the nuns for her rolled skirt and teased hair. When a pencil was put to her scalp and could not be lifted without tangling she was led by Sr. Baptista to the lavatory by her tresses and hairdo rinsed out in the sink. We all laughed to her re-telling of the story at our 25th. The hairdo remained the same until we graduated, but the punishment was not repeated. Culprit on left below.

During the planning of the Memorial Houses it was also decided that we would affix a card to each with a graduation photo and also the most recent photo we could acquire along with a short bio. Still feeling incomplete, we further developed a video dedication slideshow that we set to music and used during our memorial service at our former school the morning of the reunion. As each skill was needed someone rose from the ranks with technical ability and willingness. The event was a JOY.


This is only a portion of my missing life. I have continued to paint, get kids off of school buses, make daily meals as though my scores of children were still under roof, contributed to school projects, attended my Girl Scout meetings, prayer groups and waged a non-stop campaign against capetbagging wildlife that has plagued my residence since the developer (10 or so houses down) has de-nuded their homes in anticipation of building 37 new, unnecessary McMansions on what is clearly a flood plain. It is time to be BAAACK. 

Stephen King said in Shawshank, "Get busy living, or get busy dying." I'm doing a little of both. I read probably 2 books a day. Always, an audio tape is playing, plus whatever intrigues me, mostly mysteries,  are scattered throughout the house. Right now, I have borrowed 28 books from the library and 32 are on hold. I just finished The Girl in Cabin 10, and am currently in the middle of The Girl in the Ice, and The Gentle Art of Swedish Death Cleaning. The first two are set in Norway and the 3rd writer is an 81 year old author from Sweden who has written a book on saying goodbye to unnecessary things and down sizing your life. Not long ago I read a difficult-to-follow book called Charming Billy written by one of my favorite Irish American authors, Alice McDermott.  She writes lyrically and my favorite quote in her description on finding that living with less can be joyful is; "He had always had a tremendous capacity for accommodation and contentment, whether alone with a newspaper, or at a dinner table filled with friends and family. I supposed his mother had taught him not to expect much from life and so it was easy enough for him to see each day as an endless parade of unexpected pleasures. She said it as a caution against excess, but my father said it with a kind of amazed gratitude; enough was as good as a feast."


So, on with the feast. Back to painting and posting.  Back to family story telling and animal battles. I'm  learning from my Irish, Swedish and Norwegian ancestors on streamlining my life, but right now I'm going to climb onto my sawhorse and get my power tools down. Lots to get busy living about until it's time for my Memorial House.

As ever,
La Verne

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Has it really been 5 decades?

This September our graduating Class of 1967, Nazareth Academy, Parma Heights, Ohio will hold our 50th High School Reunion. Not all of us will be there. Out of a class of 215 students, 24 are silent. How is it that we are here and they are not? One of the focuses of the gathering is a memorial service for our deceased classmates the morning of the reunion. Paralleling that, our school more. What was built as a girls only academy in the fifties, was bought out by an inner city co-ed high school looking to move to the suburbs with its healthy alumnae base. No question, Holy Name is a good school. My two oldest children went there, but circumstances change and the youngest five learned to thrive in the local pond.

For those of you expecting a furniture refinishing bonanza after my 9 month hiatus, this is not that post. Not that my hands have been idle; just my camera and my blog. Soon.

This post is a base for our memorial event. We are forming an Ad Hoc Choir to sing one song in remembrance of them during a slideshow of graduation pictures, and later photos. Because of distance we will not be able to hold regular rehearsals like a normal choir. I compare this to a Handel's Messiah Sing. Everyone will learn their own parts and come together for the song. Attached is a version of Dvorak's Largo from his New World Symphony. The lyrics and melody of Lori True's adaptation and arrangement is entitled, Quietly, Peacefully.  This rendition is sung by the St. Ambrose Choir with Judy East on vocals and Tom Bonnezzi accompanying. Our interpretation will be more uptempo. There is no room in our budget for Kleenex. The sheet music is on order and will be distributed as requested. Others, who learn best by repetition, keep this recording near-by the shower.



Here is my high school graduation picture. Aside from the overuse of Clairol now, 
I haven't changed a bit!

(off the video of our 25th reunion)

As ever,
La Verne

PS Thanks to classmate Diane Dydo Gingell, and my son Peter for their technical help help in this post.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Like chocolate and peanut butter

Anyone that has seen my dining room can attest to the fact that it not typical. It is filled with functioning sanders, drills, rolling carts, cans of paint and a compound mitre saw. A few weeks ago, under the guise of "cleaning", an old wood, wood box got stacked next to a slender window I was turning into a chalkboard. Screeeeeeech! A chocolate and peanut butter moment!

In my mind, by building up the base, framing the box, adding a crown and attaching some hinges I believe I am staring at the makings of a mini British phone booth. I never really built a cabinet before. I can embellish a ready-built, but to create something from scratch that has style and substance? This was not going to be your father's "Oldsmobuick."

If you've ever followed Catherine at Freddie and Petunia, now SHE CAN BUILD A CABINET.

After building a 2x4 base and attaching the old wood box (once used for firewood), I started cladding it with trim wood and lattice to make it look more substantial and give it surface when it was time to mount the door. My only expenses were 2 hinges and a magnet closure. About $6.00.

The only real challenge was how to build a believable arch that gave the illusion of a British phone box. I considered papier-mache` or chicken wiring a frame and applying fiberglass. That was a for sure "no", as "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' fiberglass." I ended up making a half circle with my potato salad bowl (I knew in high school a compass was never going to be useful in my life) and dug around in my "pail o' metal parts" for some semi matching "L" brackets.

After dampening some scrap Habitat wood that I bent, I brad nailed it with my Ryobi Air Strike. After using my "go-to" hole filler, Bondo, it was ready for sanding and an undercoat of my favorite brown paint....a quart of $2.00 HD OOOPS paint (already on hand). An elf must keep filling that can up because it never empties.

After scraping the black chalk board paint off the window, I measured strips of door screen trim and cut to act as muntins. My only goal was to have two of the horizontal muntins cover the shelves I would add to make it a book case.

I am not a Cricut or Silhouette owner so, my TELEPHONE letters are free handed. As my computer does not read my printer I had to take a picture of a Google image of the crown logo and then draw it on the wood. To give it texture I dropped pellets of Elmer's Glue on top of the design and when it dried painted and gilded it. (Yes, those are my little piggies. No polish-this is not the beach.)

Unfortunately, the first time I tried it, it was off center so I stripped and scraped and sanded and drew and painted again. This time I used a puff paint instead of the glue. Much better result and it dried faster and stiffer. I should have reversed the photos, but I am yawning and tonight is not my night. [Story involves a "VMW"* that had been running for less than 24 hours (now expired again), a dead raccoon, and 2 police cars]

I wish I had a really good photo of the finished book case filled with Harry Potter books, and a Quiddich broom leaning beside it, but it is what it is....a little idea that evolved when 2 foreign objects happened to touch.

Working on my staging room right now. Next posting will have a cleaner background.

People keep asking if this will become a Tardis? I say, "Them's that owns it, gets to name it." The new owner is keeping it "RED". WHO is the new owner? Not a doctor, that's who.

As ever,
La Verne

*A VMW is a VW with a BMW emblem.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Nationality Box

This discarded, old oak box with neither top nor bottom was given to me by my friend, Ken. [You are always in my prayers] He rescued it from the Mall of Potential Dreams, aka, the curb. 

Well, Grandson Liam just graduated from high school and is already playing college soccer. I had no bucks for a gift so this became "it". I call it The Nationality Box. A wooden flag representing his heritage would be created, nailed and painted to each side, and an old bi-fold door aging in the yard would become the flooring. Casters are attached on the bottom.

[These next photos are taken in his dorm room and filled with supplies that his mother gave him, not me.] 

We are a melting pot of nationalities in our family, so I started off with the most of what he is. British. He made a visit to his Nana and Grandad in Liverpool this June. As you can see it is not to scale and slivers of wood cut on angles are a cautionary tale while using a compound mitre saw. I can see how a thinking person would consider safety glasses and clamps to be a wise option. #*@^&+#

Ireland came next as an easy choice and our family's most celebrated country. For decades we've attended the parade together, and even named one of our characters after its patron saint. I made about a hundred flag pins for all to wear any time of year. If people stop and ask about them I dig through my purse or give them the one off of my green sweater.

The next choice was obvious, the German flag, BUT.... I was listening to a book on tape called The Lilac Girls as I worked on it. It is a fictionalized story of true events about the young Polish girls that were held captive at Ravensbruck during the Holocaust. The Reich would surgically implant all manner of rusty, disease ridden objects into these girls legs without antibiotics, and let them fester until their "project" was completed. These "rabbits" as they were referred to, ended up crippled, and/or killed at the shooting wall. I had already painted the yellow, red and black on the lath-boards and attached them to the box's opposite end.

I was conflicted. While modern day Germany does not resemble Germany during WWII, I could not say the book did not have an impact on me. The German flag had to go.

 The day the order was issued to eradicate the surviving "rabbits", The Swedish Red Cross, notified through secret letters written in urine, descended on the camp and loaded the girls into their truck and to safety. The girls later made their way to the United States for corrective surgery and counseling.

Happily, we are also Swedish! [Symbolically, I cut through the horizontal line of the German flag and added the vertical board to create the Swedish flag in blue and yellow.]

Which brings us to the GREATEST COUNTRY, the United States of America, that our ancestors, at tremendous sacrifices, chose to raise families and make this land our home. Our greatness is in our legacy, our children, who learn from their histories and make us proud.

As ever,
La Verne

PS [Disclaimer: No endorsement has been made in regards to the nation's highest office. Because of the un-relatability to any of the candidates' mettle, I may have to, on the day of election, resort to a stiff drink, and Eeny Meeny, Miney, Mo].

Sunday, June 5, 2016

For the love of lath

A few years ago when I was making the six week, daily trip to the hospital for radiation, I found out about a house in Cleveland Heights that was scheduled for the wrecker's ball in few days. The builder, needed to gut the mansion in a short time and build a much larger house on that and the neighboring lot.

People don't have large families any-more (except us), so why they would need a house larger than 7 bedrooms, 5 bathrooms, with marble sinks and claw-foot tubs, a dumb-waiter, several formal rooms and a library, an oak paneled office, crystal chandeliers, a sweeping 3 story staircase and balcony, a mammoth kitchen with a butler's pantry, and wrap around sitting porches, was foreign to me. [In defense of the builder; he contacted several architectural salvage places who wanted him to pay for the removal of items that they in turn would sell for profit (?)]

I had only an afternoon in 87 degree temperature to salvage as much as I could, get it down 3 flights of stairs and into my van. While limping. From a meniscus tear. If I had a good video camera the scene could have made a great Survivor audition tape.

[Cleaned wood lath photo-borrowed from the internet. For my purposes, I clean as I go]

Among the items I salvaged were about a hundred board feet of wide, yellow pine baseboard and door trim, oak paneling, leaded windows, old brass hardware, hand built cabinets, curving handrails, and a mother-lode of plaster lath boards. People that are on game shows like Supermarket Grab would certainly question my strategy in choosing the items I did. I could almost hear ghost voices screaming, "head for the meat aisle". But I was only one, tired, charred, overheated woman, sans the proper tools that would make this adventure profitable.

In the end, I used a razor-blade to cut a continuous bias roping out of an old t-shirt, and tied all the lath into a bundle and lowered it down the center opening of the staircase. Even though the stairs would be in splinters in two days, I would not be the one to mar them by rolling it down. I collapsed in my van seat and poured sun heated water over my head and shirt and turned on my air-conditioning praying for an hour's worth of freon.

My body was too wounded to return for a final run the next day. I had to savor
my one-day winnings, knowing that my booty would be used sparingly. That old discarded wood meant more to me than a drawer full of sparkly things or shiny new wheels. I was in Wood Heaven.


Some of my recent projects: A gift, on a rainy day, from a sister of a friend of a friend. 

A little paint, some sanding, foam padding and some herringbone tweed fabric...

(awful lighting)

Now, two of the most comfortable seats in the house.


This almost Jacobean table was part of the rainy day plunder. I came home with beds and tables and chairs and so much more. It felt as though I were swimming in chocolate and my mouth was already full. But, when there's chocolate.... take it and eat; and like a squirrel, store the rest for later. This table has since taken up residence at niece Meredith's house. 


This is about the 6th table I've redone with this symmetry. I hesitated to buy it although it is specifically what I went to the Craigslist ad house for. There were toddlers in saggy diapers and I hoped that the funds would go for some replacements.

[Let me just say right here that the spell check program I am using contradicts my every other word choice. It wants me to spell neighbor as neighbour, savor as savour, color as colour. I fully expected it to encourage the use of nappies instead of diapers which it did not recognize at all. Perhaps it is the Canadian version.]

What a difference, the top photo was taken with a camera.  [note that is not just regular dust on the floor, but sawdust!] In the crummy cell phone photo, the dust barely shows but focus, tone and resolution are non-existent.

I love the blending of colors to get the right ageing effect. 



This wishing well is in process. I don't know what to do with it. It would be useful for a wedding or event, but seems over-large as to occupy a spot on a gift table. Even with the added wood lath, it is not improved.


No before photo. Just know it was peeling dark wood and missing wood trim. It is gussied up and awaiting a kids bedroom.


This tiny table has no before shot either. It just begged to come home with me, was light enough to carry, and forgiving of every color I added.


Which brings me to more lath. This piece was missing the glass top, so I cut some Habitat wood and bolstered the bottom, then sanded, painted and poly'd painted lath boards to make it the perfect accoutrement to a beach themed room.

I know. Too much. But you have to go where your heart is.


Update on our tiny niece Josie, who was born 3 years ago this August weighing 1# 9oz., and 8.5" long. Holding her here is brother, Luke.

And, NOW, Miss Josie is the rugged, poster girl for a healthy child. We are shouting out and celebrating all of our answered prayers! Josie is Meredith's niece.


I've loaded up on books on tape from the library. My saws are sharpened and batteries plugged in. Tomorrow starts my marathon "get back on the horse" mode. See you next week.

As ever,
La Verne