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Archive for January, 2014

Houseplants

Poinsettias stay long past Christmas at our house!

It’s -5° this morning, and I’m feeling warmer than one might imagine because I know what it’s like to live without central heating. The furnace quit working last Saturday, and repair parts weren’t available until Monday. As the temperatures plunged, Adventure Barbie was called up for active duty once again.

The task wasn’t merely to keep ourselves warm but to protect my husband’s extensive collection of tropical plants, or as I like to call them, “The Window Hogs.” We don’t need curtains; we have plants! We can’t even use one of the sliding glass doors, so surrounded is it with greenery.

The plants are varied, huge, and longstanding residents of our home; many have been with us for more than 30 years; some came from Nebraska. In freezing February 1978, we made the 1,000 mile move, navigating a 24′ U-Haul with all our worldly belongings except the plants. For the seasonally sensitive flora we found temporary homes and then drove all the way back in the spring, rented a trailer just for the plants, and brought them to West Virginia. Are you getting an idea of the status “houseplants” hold in our family?

Keeping the home fires burning

Keeping the home fires burning

So there we were, in plant preservation mode, setting up heaters and building a fire in the fireplace. We closed off three rooms, cleverly constructing a double-decker curtain reaching to the cathedral ceiling, and we used a fan to circulate warm air from the fireplace. Dannie chopped, split, and carried wood. He also regularly scooped ashes from the fireplace. I slept on the couch with the kitchen timer chirping every 90 minutes so I could add more wood to the fire. Laboring together, we kept the home fires burning and achieved a balmy 60° in our three-room botanical garden, while the rest of the house dipped below 40°.

Double-decker curtains

Double-decker curtains

As happened during the “water crisis,” I found myself appreciatively connected to those of another time and place. My mother never had central heat nor running water in the Indiana farmhouse where she grew up. Every morning, year round, the first order of business was to get the fire going–for heat, for cooking, for washing. Even in the summer when the heat was a problem, the fire was essential.

In those days every member of the family was engaged in the chores of keeping a home operating: pumping water, chopping wood, collecting eggs, feeding livestock, cooking, cleaning, farming. So much work! So much hard work! Yet through it all, each person had an opportunity to feel a deep sense of contribution and usefulness. I got a small taste of that as I lovingly stoked the fire throughout the long night.

And more plants

Now, with our furnace restored, I settle back into my routine, employing my mind far more than my physical stamina and feeling just a little less essential to the operation of the household. Certainly each age has its challenges, not the least of which has always been to accept gratefully the challenges of life and to engage wholeheartedly in the Experience of Being Human.

Adventure Barbie Rides Again!

And More Plants!

More plants

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Water in tub

This is what 16 gallons of rain water looks like in the bathtub. See my Facebook page if you’d like to see a video of the trip from the house to the rain barrel.

Five days ago a chemical spill contaminated drinking water in a nine-county area of West Virginia. We were the number two story on national news, right behind the Target credit card debacle.

Warned to neither drink nor touch the water, I had no problem keeping my distance as just the fumes were enough to give me a headache. While many shifted into panic mode, fighting over the limited supplies of bottled water on grocery store shelves, I donned a familiar persona: Adventure Barbie. I instantly shifted into problem solving mode, dipping rainwater from bird baths to heat on the stove for a Friday morning sponge bath. I inventoried the containers of water we had on hand and was thrilled to discover five gallons in the storage room, left over from the Y2K scare. My friend Elizabeth Heiser called it “Vintage,” which made the 14-year-old water seem even more precious.

With warming temperatures and rain in the forecast, we awakened the rain barrels from winter hibernation. We enacted home-wide water conservation procedures, and Dannie, as well as all affected employees, received a case of drinking water from The Home Depot before they sold the rest to the public.

Sunday found me foregoing my usual treadmill workout in favor of toting rainwater from the cottage to the house. I made eight trips, carrying two gallons (16 pounds) each time. I covered 1.7 miles in just under an hour. It was quite a workout, including two flights of steps each trip to get to the third floor bathtub. I’ll never look at a full bathtub the same, that’s for sure.

Sunday night we traveled 15 miles to St. Albans, where our friends Linda and Matt Higgs allowed us to use their shower. They also generously offered glasses of wine, some wonderful conversation, and fresh water for our empty containers.

Yesterday I contemplated how two-thirds of the people in the world do not have running water. Many spend hours every single day locating and carrying water for their families. Each time I walked the cottage path to the rain barrel, I sent love and compassion around the world, feeling connected in a way I never had before. I also lifted up enormous amounts of gratitude for my many blessings.

A couple of hours ago I received a call from the water company notifying me that our zone had been cleared. It took about 30 minutes to perform the pipe flushing procedures, and now life can return to normal.

Even as I acknowledge the many who suffered tremendous financial loss as a result of this water crisis, I send appreciation to my Adventurous Problem Solving Self for eschewing victim mode, adopting a good attitude, and keeping myself and our dishes clean.

Long Live Adventure Barbie!!! I think I need a red cape … but first, a hot shower!

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