Friday, March 5, 2010

Snippets from my Journal...

As I stated before, there have been plenty of ups and downs since our move to the mountains. I've been keeping a notebook where I've been jotting down some bits each day, as I knew the memories would slip away if I didn't (but, honestly, there are a few memories I'd be more than happy to forget anyway). Here are a few excerpts (be forewarned: this is a looong post. Get comfy and pour yourself something yummy to sip. This is, essentially, 6 weeks worth of posting squashed into one single post. Sorry about that. I didn't think until afterward to break it up into segments.):

Overall, the high points thus far: the amazing views from pretty much any window in the house; wildlife; absolute peace and quiet; seclusion; the stars in the night sky; the moon; our toasty wood stove; clean, crisp, fresh air.

The low points thus far: wildlife; seclusion; remodeling; pack rats (literally. this is not a euphemism for the mountains of "stuff" we have yet to unpack, although the sheer volume of belongings currently sitting in the garage is definitely a source of frustration and stress); my husband's commute; gas prices; pink eye; fevers; below zero temperatures, plumbing issues, electrical issues, burst water pipes.

You may have noticed that wildlife and seclusion made both lists. This is because some of the wildlife is beautiful and a welcome sight: deer, bunnies, fox, a wide variety of birds. And then there are other aspects of living in the forest that are not so appealing: mountain lions, bears, bobcat. I love seeing the dozens of tracks littering our property in the morning when I can identify them as belonging to a family of deer, a cute fox, or a rabbit. I find it unsettling to discover mountain lion tracks pacing up and down our driveway and garage, however. And the locals tell us we will have quite a show on our hands come spring and summer when it comes to spotting bears. I'm trying to embrace it all as not good or bad, just a different way of life up here. Which is what we wanted (a different way of life, I mean) when we chose to move to the mountains.

As for the seclusion, 90% of the time it's a huge bonus. I love feeling like we're out in the middle of nowhere. Kind of like camping. All the time. Pretty cool, I'd say. Except when both of your children come down with 105 degree fevers in the middle of the night. That's when you want to be within minutes of a hospital or clinic. That's when seclusion is not so glorious and city life is looking pretty good.

Jan. 10, 2010: Moving Day! All went smoothly unless you count the moving van plowing into the car of my husband's best friend. That's a big chunk of change we didn't plan on shelling out. Don't they always say to throw a bag of sand or kitty litter in the back of your car in winter, to give your car some extra weight on icy roads?? Who would have thought the weight of an entire house worth of stuff wouldn't be enough to keep a 30-foot van from slipping down a slope of ice?

Tonight, after the kids were in bed, Mark was standing in the front door looking outside. "Come here, hurry!" he whispered to me. Confused, I scrambled over boxes to the doorway. My eyes followed Mark's finger pointing upward. I had to do a double-take, as I was certain my eyes were playing tricks on me. The sky was filled with countless stars. Every constellation I had ever read about or learned about in school was right above our heads. It was as if I had stepped out of my house and into the dome of a planetarium. There was no possible way that this sight before me was real! I can't remember the last time I was filled with such awe and wonder. Speechless, we both stood there shivering in the cold, black night, gazing up at God's handiwork. Truly amazing.

Jan. 11, 2010: Yay for Mark taking a day off work to help us settle in today. We went for a neighborhood walk as a family. Loving this sunny weather and fresh mountain air!

Not all is rosy, however. We had no heat last night. NONE. We don't yet have firewood for the wood stove and, for some reason, the baseboard heaters never kicked on. Even after we turned the thermostat up to 80 degrees. I spent the entire night shivering and throwing extra layers on blankets on the children. Mark told me he spent all of last night thinking how we could pack enough of our belongings in the car and move into a hotel for the time being.

We had to drive down to the city today and take our car to the mechanic. Due to some electrical snafu, the left headlight doesn't stay lit. In the city, this may not have been such a problem, but since 90% of my husband's commute is on dark, steep, winding mountain roads (and the left headlight is the one that illuminates the only line separating my husband from oncoming's a pretty big deal having only one working headlight). MUST get it fixed today.

We stopped at my parents' house while we were in town. It was so wonderful there that I didn't want to leave. We took hot showers there. My Mom fed us a delicious dinner. They had hot air blasting through the heat vents. It was...a utopia. I actually felt pangs of homesickness. I just wanted to go upstairs to my bedroom and curl up under my childhood quilt. Everything in their house spoke of cozy familiarity. It's not that I don't like our new house. It's just that our new house is new and unfamiliar and not "us" yet.

As we pulled away from their driveway (and as they stood waving goodbye to us), I felt like a little girl going off to sleep-away camp: nervous, a little sick to my stomach, on the verge of tears. But I'm a grown-up, I reminded myself. My children need me to suck it up and set about in earnest to make our new house a comforting refuge. Just like the one I had the pleasure of growing up in--just like the one we just left a few minutes ago. I'm the Mom. It's my job.

Jan. 12, 2010: Still no heat for the second night in a row. The plumber is coming out to check the water pipes feeding the baseboard heaters. This house was winterized and de-winterized several times over the last year, and perhaps it wasn't done thoroughly. Praying for a warm night tonight. At least Mother Nature has been holding off on the snow. For that we are immensely grateful.

Jan. 13, 2010: Took the kids for a walk by myself for the first time. Constantly checking over my shoulder for mountain lions (gosh, I hope that paranoia won't last forever! Obviously, I want to stay alert, but I don't want to obsess about it). On the way back home we came upon six deer in the road. They wouldn't move out of our way. And I definitely think they were staring me down! I couldn't remember if you were supposed to look deer in the eye, not look them in the eye, or look briefly in their eyes and then shift your gaze away. Or maybe there aren't any rules for crossing the path of deer?? I didn't know. So, I just casually crossed to the opposite side of the street from where the deer were, pushing Rascal's stroller and minding my own business. Just to be safe, I held Roo's hand and made sure that the stroller was always between her and those brazen deer. My heart was pounding in my chest the entire time. I was actually scared of Bambi (well, 6 Bambis, to be exact). Go figure. I guess I'm more of a city girl than I thought.

Jan. 14, 2010: Went for another walk with the children today. We took a different route and it's one we won't be taking again. We wandered into an area that was overrun by large, mangy, wolf-hybrid dogs. All barking. All without collars. All ready to pounce on us. One of them started charging toward us and fortunately, at that moment, Rascal dropped his cup of milk. When it landed on the road, the lid popped off and the milk spilled out. A huge puddle of goat's milk on a dirt road. The dog obviously never happened upon such a delicacy before, and he stopped to lap it up. That was our cue to turn around and high-tail it out of there.

Jan. 16, 2010: Small-town living, you just gotta love it! Mark went to get us pizza for dinner from the Mom & Pop place down the road from us (we moved into this house knowing we would not have a kitchen for at least the first month of living here. It's tough and expensive, but at least it's only temporary. I'm kind of enjoying the break from cooking). It was only the second time he's been there to pick us up something for dinner. He walked in the door of the restaurant and the owner called out, "Hi, Mark." (!) His second time in there and the owner knows him by name! Do you think that in the 10 years we visited the same restaurant in the city, that anyone ever called us by name when we walked in the door? No! Of course not.

Another sign that we have shifted into small town living: our chimney guy knows our plumber, who knows our roofer, who knows our electrician. Everyone seems to know (or at least, know of) everyone else. I love that.

Oh, and can you believe that I ran into the county sheriff at the end of our driveway? I didn't literally run into him with my car or anything like that. But I was out walking and he was parked at the end of our driveway, doing his rounds. He introduced himself by telling me his nickname! Not, Hello, I'm Sheriff Jones or Smith or what-have-you. But his nickname!! Maybe we've stumbled upon the Mountain Mayberry. Friendly, down-to-earth folks just about everywhere you look.

Jan. 18, 2010: One sight I don't think I'll ever tire of around here is the deer. Some days it's just two or three. Other times, we may see 10 or 15. And while I used to think I had to sneak up to the window or out onto the deck to snap some photos, I realize now that these deer could care less. The young ones are more skittish and wary of our presence, but even they don't really run away.

This morning, a little deer family was passing by our bedroom window. I saw some movement out of the corner of my eye, and it startled me. But once I saw that it was merely a mama and baby deer meandering along, the children and I just sat and watched the show. If our windows had been open and didn't have screens on them, we could have reached out and stroked their fur as they tip-toed past us! That's how close they were! Unbelievable.

Oh, those shiny black noses and big gentle eyes! And the ears! I love those ears.

Such a sleek and majestic sight!

Jan. 19, 2010: The weather changes on "our mountain" (as we affectionately call it) constantly amaze and entertain me. I have snapped more photos looking westward out our window than anything else thus far. To watch the weather roll in over the mountain and down into the valley is fascinating! For example, the next three shots show how quickly the weather changes around here. These were taken over a 9 minute span of time. 9 minutes!

We are looking at a sunny, blue-sky kind of day.

Within minutes, the gray clouds roll in. With them comes rain, sleet, and snow flurries.

Less than 10 minutes later, the sky is blue again and all that remains is some residual mist and fog hanging over the valley.

Feb. 1, 2010: Early this morning I walked outside to check some tracks in the snow that were running right along the side of our house and under the porch. While out in the fresh morning air, I could hear a myriad of bird calls, woodpeckers drumming, squirrels chattering, and wind blowing through the pines. To my amusement, it reminded me of the sounds emanating from an orchestra pit as the musicians warm up before the start of a show. So many different sounds: starting and stopping abruptly, changing tune and tempo. It was as if the forest critters were gearing up for the day ahead, all fine tuning their "instruments" before this morning's debut.

Feb. 5, 2010: Did I mention that this house sat empty for almost a year? It seems that some little furry creatures decided to make this their home during that time. The "rodent guy" tells me that our attic is infested with rats. Rats! When I think rats, I think New York City sewers, not little cabins in the mountains. Needless to say, many tears were shed on my part. Quite hysterical, I called Mark at work and said, "Pack your bags. We're so outta here!" There was no way I was staying even one more night in this house. The "rodent guy" told me that it would cost close to $5,000 to get rid of the rats and replace all of the insulation in the attic. More tears were shed.

Crying, I called my parents. As all good parents do, they scrambled to help in any way they could. My Dad made half a dozen phone calls and tracked down another specialist to check our situation out. The owner and employee of this one-man, small-town business came out and immediately put my mind at ease. He said we most certainly were not "infested" as the man from the big-time rodent company told me. He said we have (or had, as they might be gone by now with all the remodeling noise going on here) one, maybe two, pack rats living in the attic. This guy loves his rodents. He told me that pack rats are very tame (for being wild animals) and quite cute. Not at all resembling the image that most people associate with the word "rat." Regardless, I told him, I don't want even the cutest rats living in my attic.

So he set some traps (the humane kind, so he can capture them and relocate them 100 miles from here). And we waited. Nothing happened. Not a sign of rats or mice or anything in the rodent family. Relieved, does not even begin to describe how I felt when he carried away the empty traps a week later. He sealed up any possible entry points for future critter visitors, and that was that. $85 was the final bill. Hmmm....we just saved ourselves $4,915 this week. Feeling pretty good. I love this house again. So the unpacking continues after all.

Feb. 8, 2010: Tally for last week: a leaking pipe and an inch of water on the laundry room floor; insufficient electrical wiring for installing new kitchen lighting and appliances; the contractor had to move the existing plumbing in order to remodel the guest bath and the kitchen. The original section of this house is 50 years old, and it's beginning to become very apparent that the original section of this house is 50 years old. *Sigh*

Feb. 9, 2010: After a fresh snowfall last night, we started our day with a nature walk. Truly magical! The beauty was awe-inspiring. We enjoyed ourselves so much that I called Mark at work when we got home and I thanked him for making this move to our new home possible. So, so happy here.

And so we continue to get settled and make this house home. Some days are filled with drama and headache. But, most days are filled with beauty and peace of mind. As Roo said, while sitting in front of the fire on a snowy night several weeks ago, "God put us in the right place." Amen to that.

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