Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Outhouses and Summer Plans

An uncle on top of the outhouse said “Hand me that board and don’t break it.” It was an old rotten board that was being used to measure new boards to repair the building. I hadn’t started school so I was probably about five years old. As I picked up the board I jokingly said “I’m going to break it.” In my memory the board is twenty feet long but in truth it was probably only eight feet and much heavier that I expected. Unintentionally, due to its weight and my lack of enough strength, I dropped one end to the ground and it broke into two pieces. The joke was on me.

I hadn’t thought of this memory in years but it came back this week as I researched composting toilets and humanure. I’m planning my summer’s work and an outhouse is on the list. Perhaps no one will use the composting toilet except me but that’s not important. I’m going to build it. Also, I’m going to replace the toilet in the house with a dual-flush model that will use less than half the water of the current toilet.

Every summer I tell myself that “this summer is going to be the best summer of my life”. Thus far, this spring has promised that perfect summer. A rock squirrel came to our watering tub last week. Three mornings in a row a raven brought breakfast – a rabbit’s leg one morning and some unidentifiable meat another morning. He would alternate between eating and drinking. Last Sunday morning we had breakfast on the new deck and antelope passed within two hundred yards of the house. Doves have returned and hummingbirds are on their way. Tonight, coyotes began singing only a hundred yards from the house. Yes, it promises to be a wonderful summer.

I’ve almost finished the deck. Only the railing remains to be constructed. I plan on letting the lumber weather a little longer before sanding and applying a finish. Other items on the list are a back porch, awnings for some windows, stone walkways, a greywater system, a batch solar hot water heater, a solar oven and guttering on two out buildings for harvesting the eight inches of rain that we may get this year. This Saturday I’m taking a beekeeping class at the local community college while Julie joins a group that picks up the litter on a four mile section of our road.

It has been two weeks since my last post or commenting on friends’ blogs. There just isn’t enough time in a day. I suggested to Julie that I retire and she support me but she reminded me that she works one more month and is off for the summer.

This summer is going to be the best ever. Next summer will be even better because I plan on taking off with her!

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Not Helpless

Cutting a joist

“It’s dangerous” I said but, she persisted so I agreed. “Put on the goggles, don’t let the blade touch the lumber before you pull the trigger and . . . “. Julie wanted to operate the saw. After she made several cuts I jokingly told her that after I’m dead and gone she and her sister can build a house. I said it jokingly but it’s a serious matter.

I was raised to open the door for women, carry the heavy loads and make sure they were kept safe and helpless. I’ve rebelled against what I was taught.

I let Julie do some of the heavy work. When we’re hiking I don’t offer a hand over rough terrain unless she asks. I expect her to do fifty percent of the driving. I try to treat her in such a way that she won’t become helpless when I’m gone.

Julie isn’t helpless. This morning she asked “Do you think a person of my size and strength can get a hand truck and move a filing cabinet?” I said I thought that was reasonable so today she’s doing the job herself rather than depending on some male employee.

In my opinion, that’s the way life should be. We – male or female – shouldn’t be intimidated by any task.

Friday, April 07, 2006

B-Brain in a C-Body

My latest self-evaluation report card:
  • Emotional A
  • Mental B
  • Spiritual A
  • Physical C
Mentally I’m slowing down, especially in the um … . uh, the verbal area. I have a little trouble recalling the names of things or the right word. Mathematically, I’m good. I can still add two and two and know the government news releases add up to a pile of . . . uh, something unpleasant..

Emotionally and spiritually I feel the best that I ever have.

It’s the physical that is a little troublesome. I got a cough a few weeks ago which led to a pain in my backside because it was dragging behind me. Fortunately, the cough and sluggishness ended just before our desert vacation.

On Monday of last week, we went to the weight room for the first time in a month. Not being a masochist, I found the pain of that first workout to be painful. On the first leg machine I backed off the weight by sixty pounds. On the fourth repetition I raised my hips -- for some reason still unknown -- and felt a twinge in my lower back. Since I still have a B brain, I knew to stop. I lay there for a few minutes before finishing my workout on machines that wouldn’t put pressure on my back. On Thursday I returned to a normal workout but with less weight than usual and my back was fine. This week I began increasing the weights back to my normal workout but I’m not there yet.

I find I can do anything I could ever do. I just can’t do it as long and tend to want to take a break afterwards.

Now, here’s the scary part. Do I dare let it enter my B-brain that because I’m older I can’t do the things that I used to do and I can’t handle the weight that I used to lift? Nope, I don’t want to go there. But – there’s always a but – an A-brain person knows that we lose some ability as we age and we need to accept it and adapt to our new reality to avoid injury. Do you see the quandary I’m in? Give up and create a self-fulfilling prophecy about old age or keep going and try to do something just plain dumb that only a young person should try.

Maybe that’s the blessing in life. I don’t have an A-brain any longer so I don’t know that I shouldn’t try something.

So, this weekend I think my B-brain will take my C-body and try some type-A behavior. I’m going to dig the footers/piers for a new deck, pour the concrete, begin framing a support beam, move a clothes line, fill the cistern, hike a few miles and sit up until after midnight watching PBS comedies. Hopefully, I'll be awake.

Next week, please don’t ask what I watched.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Understandable Anger

This morning his anger began to grow. Computers can be frustrating and require patience and determination. I ignored his verbal outbursts for a few moments. Normally, in a similar situation, I’ll take a break or put on headsets and turn up the music because I find this irritating. But not today. We worked together and solved the computer problem.

This morning I put myself in his place. If I were him, I would be feeling angry also. He’s not angry with the computer. He’s fifty-three and was just diagnosed with lung cancer. He doesn’t feel well and is confronting months of chemo, radiation, surgery and uncertainty. I think that’s cause to be impatient, irritable and angry.

After my father had a lung removed due to cancer he went through a period of impatience. It was as if he knew his time was limited and he didn’t want to waste one minute. I was patient with him. Surely, I can be patient with my co-worker and friend.

I wonder -- how may strangers do I meet who are understandably angry or impatient but I’m ignorant of the reasons. I wonder if I add to their troubles by my reactions.

I think action is better than reaction. When confronting anger I can react with anger or I can choose to act with questions, empathy and compassion. I wish I were a better actor than reactor.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Really Living

A co-worker at a previous university was a pilot. Two weeks ago he bought a new plane and crashed a few minutes after take off. He was sixty-one. Another co-worker, commenting on his age, said “He was just getting ready to really live.”

The phrase “really live” caught my attention.

Last Friday, after work, Julie and I went to a home show, browsed the exhibits and picked up an excellent booklet on rainwater harvesting. Later in the evening we went to an upscale restaurant for a romantic meal. It was a good day. I was really living.

On Saturday, I took a class at the community college entitled “Solar Applications”. This class gave me better vision for my version of sustainable living. Saturday evening we had coffee and watched some comedies. It was a good day. I was really living.

Yesterday, after a leisurely breakfast, I finished installing some conduit and a weather head on my utility building. After supper we took a walk, installed new reading lamps and baked cookies. It was a good day. I was really living.

I don’t want to wait until retirement to “really live”. I want it now! The wonderful thing about life is I can have it now. It’s all depends on my attitude and my daily choices.

Isn’t life wonderful!