Barn cat with a broken leg

Our girl, Ralph, has a broken leg.

Ralph is, like most cats I’ve met, assertive. She likes attention, likes to be involved, likes to know what’s going on. As a result, when anyone comes to visit us, Ralphie is right there. As in right there under the car before you park.

So yes, I ran over Ralph. We’ve done dance hundreds of times. I drive in very, very slowly. She gets too close. I go slower. She gets out of the way. I park and we discuss traffic safety and proper greeting procedures.

Two weeks ago, our usual routine went awry.

A trip to the vet revealed her leg was broken (though thankfully no other injuries). She was sent home with a splint, pain medications and instructions to take it easy and keep the bandage dry.

We turned the mudroom into Ralph’s room with food, water, an old dog bed of Baxter’s, a litter pan and lots of treats. While she hated being in the house at first, proximity to Ellie (aka Giver Of Treats) has changed her perspective.

Also, she’s realized that being out of the wind, rain and, yesterday, snow, is not a bad deal. In fact, every time I tried to put her outside yesterday, she scooted around me to get back in the house.

She’s figured out how to walk on three legs and has made it back to the barn several times. She’s also made a few escape attempts the other way–through the mudroom and into the rest of the house (not happening, girl). She yowls when she needs to go outside (the litter pan is also not happening–she’s always been part dog).

A check-up last week revealed that the bones are still aligned, though they’ve not started to mend yet. With our at least 8-years-old cat, it may take awhile. For now, we’re doing our best to take care of each other and be comfortable in our new routine.

Have any of your pets ever had a broken leg? Has anyone else ever accidentally injured a pet?

History

Thank you very much for your kindness after my last post. I appreciate all of the thoughts, prayers and support that have been sent our way over the last several years. They mean a lot.

Last weekend, on the anniversary of the day Matt came home, I felt like he sent a special gift for us.

A woman came to the farm who had been born here in 1936.

I have always wondered about the history of this property. Who lived here? What were their names? What happened to them? Where was the original house?

Well, now I know… at least a little bit.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse surrounded by open fields

The woman’s name is Lorraine. Her grandparents were the original owners of the property.

Black and white photo of a man and woman on their wedding day in 1897

Eventually her father and mother took over the farm, and this is where she spent the first six years of her life.

Lorraine

She talked about riding her tricycle down the barn ramp (just like Ellie likes to do in her little car), climbing trees and trying to keep up with her older brother.

Black and white photo of two children sitting on top of a wood gate

Her father worked the farm for awhile before he took a job in the city.

Black and white photo of a man and a horse working in a field

The driving shed (I always call it the drive shed, but she says “driving”) and the barn are the same as she recalls. She said that the original barn burned down when her father was young and was rebuilt.

Black and white photo of a child riding a tricycle in front of a small barn

The pond was not here when she was a child. It was just a stream that they crossed every day on their walk to and from school.

She says that the house burned down sometime in the 1950s. The property was always 129 acres.

Black and white picture of a two story farmhouse

Lorraine left the farm in 1942. She has returned few times since then, though the last time was about 20 years ago. Last weekend (with, I feel, a nudge from Matt), she got up her courage to come again and see who was living there now. I am so glad that she did. I feel like we connected right away.

Lorraine and I have talked on the phone several times and met twice more already. She came out to the farm again on Saturday and walked around a bit and shared more memories. She has given me so many stories and obviously some very special photos. I have so many more questions, but what I’ve learned already has meant so much.

The experience of connecting with the people and history of this special place is very precious.

One year

It’s been a year.

For awhile, that was all I was going to write here. I didn’t know what to say. I’m still not sure what to say. I have many stories. Many thoughts. All of them feel small. Inadequate. How do you write about a person? All of them. How they feel, how they sound, what they do, how they act.

I struggle that what I share of Matt with Ellie will be small. She will not know him for who he is–for all he is. But I need her to know him, even if it’s just a small part. So I keep telling stories.

When we moved to the farm, herons became my talisman. It was always special when I spotted one at the pond or flying overhead. That’s one of the reasons I chose a picture of a heron to hang over my nightstand in our bedroom.

Audubon print of a heron in my bedroom

Herons took on even greater significance during Matt’s illness.

I saw herons more than ever.

Heron wading in the pond

Wading at the pond, flying over the fields, in the east field (where I had never seen one before), out hiking with my friends. Twice, we even saw a heron flying over the highway as we were traveling to the hospital. Surrounded by concrete, asphalt and traffic, no water in sight, we saw herons.

These sightings gave me a lot of comfort.

Heron wading in the pond

On Saturday afternoon, as Ellie played joyously in the leaves outside, I saw a heron flying overhead. It glided down and landed in the pond. And I knew Matt was with us.

It has been a year. But I have never felt alone. It has been a year, but we fill each day with love and joy.

Odds & sods

I have decided to become a hugger. After we’re through this pandemic, of course.

A friend and I were talking the other night about how much we’re missing hugs. We’ve never been huggy friends, but we’re going to change that.

Being in a situation where it’s not safe to hug. Being in a situation where you don’t have a partner whom you can hug and who will hug you back. I’ve come to realize how important physical connections are.

I am making renewed efforts to connect with friends and family. As the year and the pandemic progresses, these connections are helping me cope. Even if I can’t hug people yet.

What we need on any given day changes. I hope that you are finding what you need and finding your own ways to cope.

(I’ve also decided Ellie is going to be required to hold my hand forever.)

Here are some other things helping me cope this month.

“Our culture is very solution-oriented, which is a good way of thinking for many things… But it’s a very destructive way of thinking when you’re faced with a problem that has no solution.” Coping strategies for difficult times.

Practical, real-life examples of how to talk to your kids

I don’t love making pastry. I find it fussy and worrisome. But I made Joanna’s quiche, and it wasn’t as much work as I feared. Also, it was good.

Even monsters need haircuts

Demo tools and tips (it’s not about smashing everything)

A guy who grew up down the road from Matt also died of melanoma (a different form) very young. His Mom recently reached out to me and shared this beautiful memorial. I hate that memorials like this exist. But I am grateful for all of the care and the love that leads to these tributes.

My writing elsewhere:

What are some of your coping strategies? Are you a hugger? Or planning to become one? Anyone else have feelings about quiche?

Basement games area details

I am back today with another look at the basement games area. Today I’m diving into some of the details of this space, because as I said in the before and after post everything has a story with me.

The dining set is obviously the centrepiece of this spot. This set is something I treasure, but it came our way somewhat accidentally.

I first fell in love with the chairs. You may recall that I have a thing for chairs. These chairs were scattered around Matt’s grandpa’s house, and I would see them in the bedrooms or tucked in corners when we went to visit him (this was way back when we were still in school and dating).

Vintage dining set

When Matt’s grandpa died and we were cleaning out the house, I learned they were part of a set. The set was one of the items that ended up in a family lottery, as multiple people wanted it. Matt’s Dad was not in contention, but then Matt said, “Oh Julia likes those chairs.” Matt’s Dad put his name in the hat, and his name was pulled.

As we were loading the table and chairs to bring them home, I learned there was also a hutch. Okay. We got a whole dining set. (Also, we were still dating and each still living at home with our parents. The set stayed in Matt’s Dad’s shed for awhile.)

When we bought our first house, the table, chairs and hutch came with us. The joints were loose on the chairs, the seat covers were torn, the finish on the table wasn’t great, and it was on the small side for entertaining. But I still loved those circle motifs.

When we moved to the farm, we had the table and chairs refinished (the hutch was fortunately in good shape), and I recovered all of the seats. Eventually, as I found other furniture for the dining room, the set made its way down the stairs. It’s the perfect size for this space, and the warm wood tones are a nice natural touch in the basement.

Games area in the basement

Plus, having a table for games, work, crafts, puzzles, food adds a lot of function to our basement.

The china cabinet houses board games, puzzles, decks of cards and other fun stuff. The drawers give me a spot to tuck away papers or work materials.

China cabinet for boardgame storage
Boardgame storage in a vintage china cabinet

Matt always maintained that the basement was his space, so it was always my intention to style the top of the cabinet for him. I chose a lava lamp that I bought him when we were dating, a few toy cars that he treasured, and his prized trophy from the 1989 bicycle safety rodeo. A fake plant (I can’t keep real ones alive) gives a bit of greenery.

Games area

The tic-tac-toe game is an example of how I like to think outside of paintings and pictures for art. I bought the game at an antique fair ages ago, and always planned to use it here. It fits in with my fun and games theme in the basement.

Also fun and games are the playing card posters. This is another thing that I had always envisioned for the basement, but I couldn’t find exactly what I was looking for. Finally, I decided that it was okay to invest in what I wanted, and I had a local graphic designer make the posters for me.

I kept asking Matt what his favourite card was, and he never answered me, so I picked my favourite: the queen of clubs.

Games area in the basement

The chandelier also used to be in the dining room. I did not like it at all there. But down here I think it’s okay.

I zoomed out for a few photos to show you how the games area fits in with the rest of the main room in the basement. I love how we’ve been able to make different zones, all within this one room.

Games area from the reading nook
Games area from the couch

If you want a recap of the rest of the basement, here are the other spaces:

With the art on the walls, the cabinet styled and the furniture all in place, this games area is done. And even better, it’s used and enjoyed all the time.

Are you a board game and puzzle family? How do you store games and puzzles at your house? What’s your favourite card in the deck? Do you use dining furniture for things other than dining?

Thankful

It is Thanksgiving weekend in Canada. Thanksgiving is Matt’s favourite holiday. He loved the food and being together with family–and had very definite opinions on the importance of both.

It’s hard to mark Thanksgiving without him.

Yet, I am thankful.

I am thankful for our life. The choices we made, the things we have done, the opportunities we created.

I won’t say tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. I honestly can’t yet. It hurts a lot to lose this love.

There is this one terrible hole in my life. And yes, it’s a huge and terrible hole.

But there’s one. Only one.

In so many other ways, I am incredibly fortunate. I know that. I never take it for granted. I appreciate it so very much.

The kindness of the people around us, the peace of this farm, the joy of our girl, good food, a safe home, financial stability, the option to continue to make choices, the chance to feel like myself and do things that matter to me. I am thankful for this and so much more.

We have a good life.

I am thankful for everything that Matt did–and does–to make that possible.

Basement games area before & after

I went waaaay back in the archives to start writing this post, and wow, that all feels like a lifetime ago. In some ways, I guess it is.

There is one space left in the basement that I still have not shared in its final finished version. Mostly because it was not finally finished. Oh those last little details can drag on.

In the 14th post that I published on this blog (#14! Just a month after we moved in! This post is #1,043!), I shared my plans for the basement renovation. I included this picture and wrote: “Sarah Richardson is known for putting a full size table in her family rooms as a spot for games, work, crafts or dining. I think that’s a great idea and we’ve got the space for one, so that’s on the list too.”

And here’s how our version turned out.

Games area in the basement

But before we jump into the details of the finished space, here’s how this spot looked when we first bought the house (after we’d cleared out a lot of the previous owners’ stuff).

The basement before

We knew we didn’t want the cabinets and work stations (I have no idea what they were used for). And with them gone, this became a big open area, right at the base of the stairs.

If you’ve been around here for awhile, you may recall that we not only removed the cabinets. We also removed the carpet and all of the drywall.

The exterior drywall came down so that we could reframe, rewire and reinsulate.

Spray foam insulation

The ceiling drywall came down so that we could find all of the hidden junction boxes and fix the electrical.

Burnt junction box

Sorry for the bad early days photo. This junction box was actually burned inside, hence the black.

Then we drywalled, painted, trimmed and carpeted. We eventually moved in some furniture and added a light fixture. Then, over the last year, I finally tackled the bare walls.

Hanging the playing card posters was Matt’s last DIY in this house. We did it almost exactly a year ago. And a couple of weeks ago, I hung the tic-tac-toe game and styled the top of the cabinet.

Games area in the basement

With that the games (crafting, work, etc.) area is officially done.

I’ll be sharing more details on this space next week. You know everything has a story with me.

Do you have an extra table space somewhere in your house? What’s your longest running DIY? Where do you usually stall in room makeovers? If you don’t stall, what’s your secret, please?

Odds & sods

I feel like this month was a time of ups and downs. Our first cold days and nights–so cold that I turned on the heat and plugged in the electric blanket. Then we spent the past week in shorts and sandals outside all day. Grief and joy. Fatigue and energy. Celebrations and disappointments.

Fall is here, with all its contradictions and challenges and beauty.

Ellie and I have been soaking in all the outside time we can, doing some pre-winter projects, working in the garden, eating our meals on the patio and visiting the farm across the road to watch the combine harvest the beans. We had our own little harvest when we picked some apples from the big tree in the meadow this weekend.

Toddler putting apples in a toy wheelbarrow

I feel like this month’s round-up is a mix of ups and downs as well. Perhaps it reflects my state of mind right now. I hope that you are well.

“… if the person I love has to endure this, then the least I can do is stand there, the least I can do is witness, the least I can do is tell them over and over again, aloud, I love you. We love you. We ain’t going nowhere.”

Lots of thoughts in this amazing and powerful article. But of course the quote above stood out for me the most.

I’m not the kind of Mom that plans activities for my toddler… yet. But @busytoddler may inspire me.

I spent 10 days in the amazing, wonderous place that is Mauritius 20 years ago. To have an oil spill on this island is devastating.

A really cool community project and what we’re going to do with our apples

I can’t stop talking about–or cooking from–this cookbook

Some more beautiful, hopeful quotes, both heard in The Anthropocene Reviewed:

“You were a presence full of light upon this Earth / And I am a witness to your life and to its worth.”

“And there was the world, lit by something that cannot shine light but still finds a way to share light.”

Yes, there is grief. Always grief. But I hope that you see there is love and joy and hope and peace too. That is my true state of mind. I wish the same for you.

My writing elsewhere:

A new door for an old barn

The driveshed (aka our small barn) got a spruce up last week. A new garage door.

The existing garage door had always been a bit of a beast. Heavy. Didn’t slide very well. It pretty much always took my full body weight to close it, and even then I couldn’t always get it latched. (I feel like the driveshed looks particularly sad in this picture.)

Broken garage door on the small barn

Perhaps because I used so much force as I pulled it down, the bottom of the door started to fall apart this year. As in the whole lower panel started to come off. Then the roller went crooked and I could barely move the door.

Being me, I thought, “I can fix this.”

I bashed at the roller until I finally broke it off the door.

Garage door with a broken roller

As I looked at the splitting, rotted, old wood, I said, “I’m going to spend days Mickey Mousing around with this and still have an old door.”

Ellie said, “Mickey Mouse? Where mouse?”

It took me a couple of weeks more to accept that I needed to order a new door, but I got there eventually.

Pushing the lawn mower and wheelbarrow around all of the detritus in the driveshed, through all of Ellie’s toys, past the garbage and recycling bins and bumping out the person-size door was not fun.

But no more. The new door was installed last week.

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

Installing a new garage door on the small barn

It slides up and down and latches, exactly as a garage door is supposed to. Even on an old barn that’s saggy and terribly out of square. (But a bit less sad looking now, I think.)

New garage door on the small barn

Glam bench makeover from a 70s TV stand

I have a core group of 5 really, really close friends. Many of us met in grade 1 or 2. The history and the shared experiences are immense.

As the years have progressed, we have each taken different paths in life. Sometimes we don’t see each other very often or keep in touch the way that we feel we should.

When Matt died, all of my friends rallied around us, exactly the way that I knew that they would. They have been there for us in so many ways.

One friend started coming every Thursday night for dinner. The commute from her work was usually more than an hour, and she would often roll up the driveway just as I was putting dinner on the table (hungry toddlers are not to be messed with).

After a couple of weeks, she said to me, “You can stop inviting me. I’ll be here.” We would eat, and I would put Ellie to bed, and then we’d sit and talk. Sometimes another friend would join us.

When quarantine began, our Thursday dinners stopped. And oh I miss them. It felt like a huge hole in my week. Daily texts were not enough.

Desperate to connect, we came up with the idea to watch Celebrity IOU on HGTV together. Or as much as you can be together when you fear for your life during a global pandemic.

I would sit alone in the basement, the baby monitor by my side. My friend would sit in her condo with her cats. And we’d text commentary back and forth. It was fun. A connection. Casual. Someone who shared my delight in home stuff. Someone who shared my opinions and sense of humour… most of the time.

One episode was a more glam makeover. My friend texted, “Oh, I want that” at the same time as I wrote, “That would be perfect for you.”

So when I came up with the idea to redo this old TV stand, she was the first person I thought of. Something glam. Special. Fun. Feminine.

Vintage 70s TV stand

She–like me, like the rest of this special group of friends–is turning 40 this year. So the day before her birthday, I gifted her with this bench. She was really happy. It felt like her. It fit in with what she’s doing at her home–and has inspired her to do a few more updates to her bedroom.

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Brass and white bench

Our furniture and our homes are so, so much more than just things and spaces. They represent the people who live in them and use them. For me, this bench represents 40 years of my friends and I figuring out who we are and how to embrace it. Nearly 35 years of caring for each other and helping each other.

It represents how we all–all six of us–work to give each other the love, peace and joy that we wish for each other.