Category: house


Yesterday afternoon, we headed over to Empire to witness the release of an adolescent eagle back in to the wild.  Despite not having the characteristic coloring of an adult eagle, she was still a beautiful, powerful presence.  A few hundred people were there and we all cheered as the magnificent bird soared skyward.  

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Following the eagle, Erick and I took the girls over to the big lake and collected stones and watched a lone freighter pass quietly in the distance.  The water was a vibrant hue – a turquoise blue.  

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The sun was setting as we left for Boones in Glen Arbor (yum).  And on the way back, I captured my farm at dusk.  The wind turbine moved slowly on a light breeze.  Love that place.  

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The girls were sleepy on the way home.  

And finally, a photo of Grandpa and me at Thanksgiving.

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Yesterday, the bat kept flying into my life.  When the bat flies into your life, it is a signal it is time to bury some old part of yourself that has long ago died, but you have continued to carry.  Last night I was thinking about a time in my life when I was homeless and sleeping on a stiff bench in the Art Department building on campus.  I remember waking up to a class beginning and concerned students leaning over curiously poking at my arm.  The not knowing what will happen day-to-day is exhausting.  

That moment reflects a period of my life when I was filled with a sort of listless wanderlust.  Wanderlust minus destination and purpose.  At the time, I couldn’t afford an apartment of my own and had seriously irked my parents over something.  

A week into my ordeal, my now-husband invited me to Nashville and I quit school and headed down south for a few months.  When I returned, I was offered a beautiful place to live rent-free, which I immediately and shamelessly accepted.   I felt enormous gratitude, but I was still without purpose and a constant thorn in everyone’s side.

In a very real way, I didn’t “grow up” until I got married and settled with my husband into a home of our own.  Our marriage, though rocky in the beginning, offered the kind of security I hadn’t felt before.  And as we began having children, I slowly began to explore my purpose on this planet.  Over the last ten years I have shed my old skin (or killed off cells with chemo), and now it is time to bury that part of me without direction, without hope.  

Partly, this moment is inspired by the election, but I also believe some internal cycle ended long ago was carried along unnecessarily in the form of guilt or shame or an unwillingness to connect with the people of my past.  At this point in my life, though much remains uncertain, I am filled with gratitude and a feeling of hope that accompanies each new, promising hint of change emerging daily.  I feel much like the butterfly bush whose old-growth skeleton as the new shoots come up through and flower.  I have weeded out those branches that no longer serve my purpose for growth.

A strange coincidence prompted me to think about whether or not we should attribute meaning to the experience.  When I shared the story of our strange coincidence with friends, I received numerous letters on either side of a fence dividing those who believe there are no coincidences and those who see coincidence as nothing more than just that: a coincidence.  

When I wrote about diffuse large b-cell lymphoma, published a paper on the topic and then fell ill with the very same form of cancer one year later; we saw the same debate.  In both strange set of circumstances, I’ve noticed a similar pattern in how I interpret these events personally.  

I don’t like to think of the world as so black and white that when two dissimilar events occur at random with some corresponding theme, I dismiss it totally as some random inevitability.  The word coincidence, after-all, is not defined as two events that happen simultaneously without any connection – it is merely defined as two events happening that appear unrelated.  So, I take a little from both camps.  

When yesterday, my youngest child said something out of the blue relating to a house we had put an offer on months earlier and at the exact same time a message appeared in my inbox from the owner of that house offering it to us at our price, some believed this was a sign that we should buy that house.  We certainly like the house.  However, when I look back at a week spent rental-shopping and had just found a place I liked, I wondered whether this was not so much a sign that we should buy a house, but rather another diversion.  Maybe a different kind of sign – one that reminds us we are far from the place where we belong.  Is it possible the universe really does speak to us?

This brings me to “the Secret” – that series claiming we control the universe with our thoughts; the Law of Attraction.  Take away the magic of that statement and what we have is a series of choices that invariably lead us to a presumed outcome.  That’s not so difficult to digest.  It doesn’t even require a quantum physicist explaining it to me with incomplete experimental data.  

So what of coincidence?  Are they really as random a set of acts as some believe or do we have something to do with their “inevitability”?

Today I drove out to Lake Norman to see a house for rent.  The house was beautiful, but moreover, seeing the lake got me thinking about something Erick said about Lake Norman being the largest fresh water lake other than the Great Lakes.  It’s an enormous sprawling lake with roads crossing at various points.  In fact, I believe it’s the only site in the US where a fatality occurred when a boat came out of the water and hit a moving car.  

Erick had to work late, so I drove to the house with the girls and brought Celli in place of him.  He asked me why I like taking the dog whenever he’s not in the car and I explained that while I’m driving, she leans back into the seat sideways and spends half her time concentrating on the road and the other half giving me kisses or puppy-dog eyes.  Who could ask for more?

On the way home, as I pulled onto Moorehead, I saw a man holding a cardboard sign on the side of the road.  In grim economic times, we see a lot of men asking for work, but this man’s sign read simply, “God bless you.”

I’m not religious, but it felt good to know someone believes in something enough to stand on the side of a dirty and dangerous road with such a simple message.  

I thought if I were to dedicate an afternoon to a message, my own sign would read, “You are loved.”

Click here for the last lecture.

The house currently under our consideration was built in 1950, though many of the fixtures are remanent of a 1940s style.  I love the door handles and the bathroom tile.  The hardwood floors are in great shape as is much of the original plaster.  There are two fireplaces original to the home and a beautiful, delicate banister descending into a foyer flanked on two sides with two small, inset closets.  

While Erick looks at this house and sees work (I believe he calls it the monstrosity), I (in all my sophistication and love of older homes) recognize the value inherent in preserving a piece of history for future generations to enjoy.  The other day, we were discussing the possibility of getting this home on the historic registry.  Erick scoffed.  After some research this morning into asbestos and lead-paint contamination (oh, the joys of home-ownership), I discovered by chance an article on George W. Bush.  At first I thought someone was trying to uncover the root of his ignorance – perchance caused by exposure to environmental hazards in his youth, but that would only explain Jrs. generation, so I read further.  

Okay that last part is harsh and I owe my discovery to President Bush, or at least his fame or infamy.  You see, Bush’s childhood home was built in 1950 and is now one of the first being considered for a federal history project.  While my own 1950s “monstrosity” may not carry with it the weight of a current president, this declaration of presumed historic relevance sets a precedent for future restoration projects and subsequent tax breaks for home-owners.

This afternoon we drove out to Grandfather Mountain and did some exploration in the rain.  It was a **beautiful** trip and I hope to return sometime soon.  At the peak, Grandfather is over one mile high and there’s a suspension bridge leading to the peak that spans a forty-foot gorge one mile deep!  The girls enjoyed the wildlife – cougars, an eagle, bear, an otter, some deer and a muskrat that crossed the road while we were leaving.  Celli accompanied us and seemed to enjoy the mountain as much, if not more than anyone. 

Driving to the peak was exciting.  Our back wheels slid against the sharp inclines, and our truck was far too big for some of the 180-degree turns, but we managed and made it to the top with time to spare before the storm.

The storm hit hard some time after Hickory and seemed to be firing water and lightning at anything that moved.  In the city, the thunder roared and ricocheted between buildings – like War of the Worlds, only really wet. The rivers were swollen to twice their size – I guess this happens quickly down here.  Everyone drove with their hazards because the water was so deep on the roads and you couldn’t make out the other cars very well.  One of the things I love about this region is the rains storms – they last for hours, unlike Michigan where it seemed we would get bursts of a storm, but they would quickly fizzle (except in the winter when the snow seemed never-ending).  

We’ve enjoyed some fireworks in the city – reminds me so much of Harbor Days back home.  What a wonderful end to such an adventurous trip.  Tomorrow we hope to see the ocean!

Happy holiday everyone!  Have a safe, adventurous weekend.

The girls take a break beneath split-rock – One serious bolder.

Okay, they weren’t really wild like I told my mom.  They were as tame as could be and waiting for hand-outs from visitors.  

Popo and I take a break in the rain for one quick photo 5000+feet in the air.  Photo by Wolfy.

The Mile-high “swinging bridge”

 

The storm was raging by the time we reached Charlotte.  Cars, trucks and motorcyclists especially crowded under overpasses to wait for a clearing.  Visibility was crap and here you can see the hazards on the car ahead of us.  

My favorite stop along 321.  The only truly affordable and fun, hand-made locally shop I’ve found.

I love the drive into the mountains for all of the old farmsteads and homesteads, fruit-stands and the views!

In the heat, Celli cools off by lying on any concrete surface she can find:

The word paranormal combines two words “para” or beyond and normal.  It’s the study of things that seem to defy scientific explanation.  Really, there are plenty of things in science this heading might encompass – For decades, the neutrino, a subatomic particle with little to no mass, defied our human understanding of how particles function, but you didn’t see scientists labeling the activity “beyond normal.”  Paranormal research began in at the turn of the last century as a way to study extra-sensory perception, or ESP.  Today paranormal research groups study everything from psychic phenomena like telepathy to channeling to ghosts to astrology.  In other words, literally anything beyond normal.  

I had always thought of the word differently: para as in parallel or a world or concept parallel to our laws of binding our physical universe.  I thought of paranormal as the research enveloping all things non-physical.  I’d still like to think of it as a science with the same approach to all things scientific – using hypothesis, conducting experiments, gathering evidence, conjecturing, debunking, etc.  

Poltergeist phenomena is my favorite.  Found in nearly all cultures and religious groups, the activity of the “noisy ghost” is widely reported and documented.  So are hallucinations.  And yet, a single poltergeist event can be witnessed/encountered by multiple people, so I put more validity into claims of this activity.  As a child, I experienced something that would be defined as poltergeist activity.  I don’t feel silly admitting this because I believe strongly there is a valid explanation for these experiences.  

In my opinion, we don’t have to believe in the supernatural, to better understand the paranormal.   In talking with people, I’ve found most have some story to share – even the skeptics – of something they just can’t explain.  And yet, they all share a desire to find some explanation.

Modern day ghost-hunters invest a good deal of time and money into capturing evidence of paranormal activity.  Whether actual ghosts or residual energy, these pseudo scientists employee EMF meters to measure electric-magnetic fields, recording devices to record “EVPs” or electronic-voice phenomena, infrared and thermal cameras to measure and capture movements or sudden changes in temperature in a room and other tools to assist the investigators with seeing in the dark.  

When I first met a “ghost-hunter,” I had a lot of questions and I wasn’t very polite about asking.  Questions like, “Isn’t hanging around grave-yards cliche?” or “Don’t you think walking around houses in the dark is a good way to scare up experiences that might not occur in broad daylight?”  

These questions were quickly answered.  Graveyards tend to make people uncomfortable at night so investigators take new people there to see how they handle fear.  Okay, makes sense, but why the dark?  I was told this was the quiet time and it was more likely you would capture genuine activity than during the day.  There are just too many noises during the day and investigators prefer to turn off any unnecessary electronics to avoid EMF interference. Hence, dark places at night.

I’m actually more impressed than anything getting to know people who study ghosts on the side.  They’re not crazy as I expected.  They’re not charging people money to do bogus investigations.  I was told if someone charges for their work, beware.  Most investigators will do anything to discredit their own findings because they know these findings will be equally scrutinized by any skeptic.  Still, the fact remains, if you haven’t experienced the paranormal, can you ever really believe it?

Then again, I’ve never seen a neutrino, but I am no less a believer.  

I’ve been doing some research of late into lead paint because we’re considering buying a home built in 1950.  We’ll be performing a test on Thursday to determine whether materials in the home are coated in paint containing lead.  Unfortunately, the odds are stacked against us.  Homes built prior to 1978 are likely to contain elevated levels of lead paint and those built prior to 1950 are all likely contain some lead-based products.  Even homes with copper plumbing might have been soldered together with solder containing lead.  

Lead is absorbed into the body in the same manner as other minerals and nutrients, so the body sends the toxin directly to our brains and other vital organs.  Consequently, children are far more likely to suffer elevated levels of lead since their growing bodies are taking in more nutrients than their adult counterparts.  One way to reduce exposure to lead is to ensure a healthy diet rich in calcium and iron.  

Lead has been blamed for the downfall of the Roman civilization.  Romans used the highly-pliable metal to mold pipes which carried water to the people.  In fact, the word “plumbing” comes from the Greek word, plumbum, for lead.  Lead has also been implicated in the loss a few IQ points for we Generation X folk due to exposure to lead used commonly throughout the first part of the last century on everything from toys to homes to public buildings to plumbing and gasoline.   

Lead paint cannot be painted over except with pain designed specifically to encapsulate the lead-paint layer(s).  High areas of friction generate lead dust which enters the air and may be absorbed by humans and other animals living inside the home.  Lead dust must be wiped away with a cleanser; vacuuming dust will only throw more particles into the air.  Lead does not break down, so it is as toxic today as the day it was mined.  Left undisturbed, lead-based paint should not pose a direct danger. Lead may be present in your soil – especially if your home (or a nearby residence) has recently been repainted or power-washed. If you live in a home built prior to 1978, have your blood checked to determine lead-levels in your body.  If you have children, it is recommended you have them tested also.  

From the CDC.gov (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

For children at risk for lead exposure, a simple blood test can prevent a lifetime spoiled by the irreversible damage caused by lead poisoning.
     
  One of the most important risk factors for lead exposure is the age of housing. Over 80 percent of all homes built before 1978 in the U.S. have lead-based paint in them. The older the house, the more likely it is to contain lead-based paint and a higher concentration of lead in the paint.
     
  According to recent CDC estimates, 890,000 U.S. children age 1-5 have elevated blood lead levels, and more than one-fifth of African-American children living in housing built before 1946 have elevated blood lead levels. These figures reflect the major sources of lead exposure: deteriorated paint in older housing, and dust and soil that are contaminated with lead from old paint and from past emissions of leaded gasoline.
     
  Lead poisoning can cause learning disabilities, behavioral problems, and at very high levels, seizures, coma and even death.
     
  Children between 12 and 36 months of age have a lot of hand to mouth activity, so if there is lead in their homes, they are more likely to take it in than are older children.
     
    For more information, talk to your pediatrician or call theNational Lead Information Clearinghouse toll-free at 1-800-424-LEAD (1-800-424-5323).
     

In addition to the Carolina house, we’re considering an old farmhouse a little closer to Charlotte (still a 40-min commute).  It’s a neat house with a slate roof and a fireplace in every room along with some of the worst wallpaper of the century (and cats- lots of cats).  The house comes with 2.76 acres and some old out-buildings, nut trees, peach and apple trees and road frontage named for the farmstead.  

Asking price is well below recent appraisal and the house seems very solid, but I didn’t get the same warm-fuzzies I get with the Carolina Ave. house.  I think mostly, it’s the presence of the people and the wallpaper detracting from the original structure. I’d show you additional photos, but the rooms were in a very messy state.  The house has been updated and is “move-in ready,” as they say.  Even our youngest has been spouting real estate lingo:  “Location, location, location,” she repeated over and over again last night. 

For photos, please visit our flickr site


 

Okay, I know it’s escapism, but Erick and I have been going back and forth with the notion of moving to New Zealand, known to the eloquent natives as “The Land of the Long White Cloud.”  It is a country thick with native culture, governed by a woman and governed symbolically by a queen.  NZ is home to several organic farms and was one of the first countries to initiate WWOOF (Willing Workers on Organic Farms) International programs, which began in New Zealand in 1974 and supplies volunteers with opportunities to live and work on the farm, while traveling to foreign states or countries. I worked on a WWOOF farm and it’s one of the best ways to get to know locals and folks from out of town who share a love of farming and a passion for learning about sustainability.  

Imagine living cradled by a mountain with a view of the sea – NZ seems like a perfect nest perched on the edge of the world with a spectacular view of the sea and heavens.  Yeah, we’d have to visit first and even a visit could be quite a production.  Imagine moving across the world!  How strange, how wonderful, adventurous.  Would it make travel to other countries easier?  Probably not, but it might encourage us, having taken the first step to relocate to a foreign land to investigate further this incredible world around us. 

According to Wiki, NZ is home to plenty of unique flora, birds and wildlife.  And they have sharks.  How can you go wrong with sharks outside of the water?  The climate on the North Island is mild, dry.  The government is extremely protective of its fragile ecosystem, which means it recognizes the value inherent in preserving an ecosystem in the first place.  Go Kiwis!

Anyway, just some thoughts about why I might consider traveling across the US and over an ocean to visit the Land of the Long White Cloud, even if for only a week.