Thursday, December 25, 2008

‘Twas the morning of Christmas

And the day had started as many others; the dogs and I headed our for morning chores, leaving K sweetly slumbering with visions of sugarplums dancing in her head.

Four out of five of the dogs returned to the house with me and settled in for their Christmas Day naps.

Then K with her coffee and I with my beer were waiting for one last bad dog to come here. . .

When what to our wondering eyes should appear, but Emmett
And what’s that in his mouth?
Could it be a deer? Well that explains his absence: he was doing some last minute shopping. Awwww, look honey, Emmett brought us a gift.

We certainly don’t have any others like it. Now to figure out just what to do with it. . . Happy Holidays to all who follow the antics here at MisFit Farm. May your new year be full of unexpected gifts and unadulterated joy!

Sunday, December 21, 2008


Saturday morning phone conversation with my mother (WFKN):

WFKN: So, how are things at the house?

A: Well, to add a new wrinkle to things, we had a bat in the house last night.

WFKN: No way! A bat in the house? It’s YOU!!! IT’S YOU!!! You are the only
person I know who has had a bat in the house, and you have had them in
two different houses!!!! IT’S YOU!!!!

When I recounted the conversation to my sister, her observation was, “Oh, that’s where we get our healthy sense of self-loathing.”

Both are true statements, or at least both statements contain elements of truth.

It is true that I have shared living space with bats in two different homes. My sister says she knows of other people who have had bats in their home, so while it is uncanny to have had it happen in two different domiciles, she encouraged me not to take the situation personally.

As my sister reminded me, bats are naturally occurring creatures, after all. As I have been admonished in the past, they are actually quite useful, eating something like a kerjillion times their weight in mosquitoes and other insects. SOME PEOPLE even erect bathouses to attract the creatures to their premises. Just think of all the money I have saved in bathouses across my lifetime, since there is something, unfathomable to all except bats and my mother, attracting bats into my home.

Having had bats in my house on more than one occasion, I feel competent to observe the following: no matter how many times one has had a bat in one’s home, one is always a bit surprised when they come fluttering through. O.k., let me personalize it. No matter how many times I have had a bat come into my home, my initial reaction is always surprise. Even now, seasoned bat-herder that I am, it takes a moment to bring the aperture of reality into focus before I spring into action.

As for the other inhabitants of this home, who have the luxury of not taking the incursion or its resolution personally, the dogs were completely nonplussed. I imagine if the dogs could talk and I were to squander the opportunity to ask them, “Did you see that bat?!” The answer would be a resounding, “What bat?” K, who was neither nonplussed nor personally affronted, named it Bernie.

Here’s another thing: I have lots of stories about bats in the house. More than one. Maybe WFKN is right, maybe it is me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Documents and Drenchings

While it cannot be said that our homebuilding drama has come to an end, we did take another significant step last Friday when we finalized the paperwork to close on the mortgage for the house. Now, instead of just owning debt with a theoretical house, we own debt with an actual house.

In my personal and professional life, I have had several opportunities to close real estate transactions and real estate mortgage transactions. I have a pretty good idea of the mechanics, including how long it should take one to complete such a transaction. So when the notary responsible for coordinating the closing called and said to anticipate an hour and a half I was, in a word, skeptical. I hold monthly all-staff meetings where we discuss everything from agency toilet paper usage to federal legislative initiatives in less time. An hour and a half, indeed!

As K later observed, had this woman told us to expect the process would take an hour and 42 minutes, you could take it to the bank that a closing initiated at 4:00 p.m. would be done at 5:42 p.m. K surmises you could ask this woman where she would be at 1:27 p.m. on Thursday, and she would be able to give you GPS coordinates.

When the notary arrived, she pulled sheath of papers, littered with “sign here” and “sign and date here” reusable post-it flags, out of her attaché case. Having clearly organized and adorned the “documents” with said flags prior to her arrival here, she proceeded to re-assess their organization and re-acquaint herself with their orientation as a prefatory matter. She moved items adjudged to impinge upon her social space and removed the ink pens from my desk, placing a pen in each of our hands, explaining that only blue ink would be accepted. She advised that we were to sign all documents as our names appeared on the particular document. If a middle initial was included, we were to sign with the middle initial, no more and certainly no less. We were chastised to write our dates in a standard format, using “2008” or “08” as the year indicator, but under no circumstances were we to use shorthand “8.” Our handwriting was to be clear; mistakes would be punishable under penalty of death, or at least through correction by one line through the mis-marking, each of which would need to be initialed by both of us.

There were to be no markings within ½ of the edge of any page. In an amazing display of rough estimation, she used her finger tip to indicate the inadmissible margin on the page. I offered her the use of a ruler to ensure complete and total accuracy, which met with only a single wide-eyed blink.

She always referred to the paperwork as “documents.” As she was “closing” the top of the “8” on one of my dates, I asked if it was permissible for her to alter my signature in such a way, again eliciting a single wide-eyed blink. By the time we escorted the woman from the building, K had developed a nervous tick and kept muttering, “penmanship class” under her breath.

The exacting and concise world of this woman was sharply juxtaposed against the chaos of the world we inhabit when we arrived home to discover a freshly installed fountain in our basement. Apparently, while we were busy running the gauntlet of closed “8’s” and accurate signatures, a water pipe one of the contractors for the home delivery company had capped came uncorked and was issuing rivers of water into the dog’s room of the basement.

So the project I had intended to start at exactly 7:03 p.m. Friday evening was rescheduled at a time TBD as I swept and sucked the 2.34 inches of standing water from the basement floor instead.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Santa Comes Early

From the warm, safe, spacious distance of the nearly completed house, I think it is safe to say we have wrung every last ounce of life and structural integrity from the trailer that first provided our family with shelter here at MisFit Farm. Maybe all things are relative, and from the luxurious accommodations we now inhabit, the conditions at the trailer seem a little more bleak. On the other hand, it is entirely possible that the conditions at the trailer were really THAT BAD, but I refused to acknowledge it at the time out of a sense of self-preservation, or at least the preservation of my self-dignity.

True, three of the five windows in the trailer were crammed with rolled insulation and permanently sealed with the weather-proofing shrink wrap.

True, the central air conditioning abandoned us last summer and was replaced by a window unit held in place mostly by boards propping it up from the outside, since the window frame didn’t seem up to the task.

True, water from an unknown source collected in the ductwork for the trailer’s ailing HVAC system.

True, the bottom of any cabinet under the two sinks in the house had been pulled out following leakage incidents from different occasions.

True, the aforementioned water leakage on one occasion (we were on vacation at the time) was extensive enough to completely buckle the kitchen floor thereby popping up the lovely parquet tiles.

True, the hot water heater would mysteriously trip the breaker on the unit, requiring me to dig into the back of the closet to re-set it, hopefully a few hours before actual hot water was needed.

True, I had to crawl under the trailer to augment its structure in a way that made leveling the washing machine possible.

True, the floor at the front door was growing a little spongy.

And we won’t even go into the aesthetics of the place.

So, one of the nagging concerns at the back of my mind has been, once the house is built, what to do with the trailer? I am prohibited from permanently keeping it by the zoning variance I received to build the home and by edict of any other person with any sense of taste. Its continued presence has created a nightmare for our loan officer as the underwriters wanted it gone BEFORE we closed on our note. I fault my loan officer for marking “Asian/Pacific Islander” as my ethnic background on our application. The novelty of marking the box overwhelmed his good sense, I guess. So when he was struggling with the underwriters about removal of the trailer, I pointed out that because of his “novel” response on my application they probably thought I was going to move my home village from the island into the trailer.

Truth be told, the underwriters had a good point. I really haven’t had any good ideas about how to dispose of the trailer. Given the lovely recitation from above, we had considered calling the Lecompton volunteer fire department and offering to let them use it for firefighting exercises, on the condition that they first let it burn to the ground.

In the meantime, every person who asked, “so, whatcha’ gonna’ do with that trailer?” received the same glib response, “Free to a good home. Whoever drags it off first, has to keep it.”

We arrived home yesterday to discover that someone had taken us up on the offer, or at least made a good start on it.
I seriously have no idea who is responsible for this. I have searched deep within myself for something – a sense of loss, of outrage, or of deep questioning. I am surprised, as a major control freak, however, all I find is a sense of wonder and relief.

Yes Virginia, MisFit Farm believes in Santa Clause.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A Glorious Thanksgiving

So, with the erection of a house nearing completion just in time for our family Thanksgiving gathering, what could possibly add more excitement into life at MisFit Farm? How about the addition of a new foster baby to the mix?

Enter the sweet Princess MiMi/NeNe/Leia.

Although we can count among our blessings that the house did not catch fire from cooking with the stove-incorrectly-plumbed-for-natural-not-propane-gas, that my mother baked the pumpkin pies long enough to prevent mass food-poisoning, that the leaky septic pipe was spliced back together before the convergence of a dozen festive family members, or that no one was harmed by the tipping dishwasher, the blessing of the love of these creatures eclipses all others.