Tuesday, September 16, 2014

View From a Shop

In the Range basement a shop has taken hold; bit by bit, adding an assortment of old tools. antiques, artifacts, and things that make us smile. This is by the door to the outside, for it's a walk out basement, with just 3 steps up to the driveway.
That made it easier to set up certain heavier pieces.

You'll have to click on the picture to read the signs.
Each day, unofficially punching in, is a new adventure.  But, due to the flooding, before any other projects are started, there will be cement work, a sump pump to put in, as with 8 inches of water over just one night in a village with  ancient shared sewers after some previous hard rains, we had flooding even with the floor drain.  While we were both out of town.  Anything in working condition was well off the floor, but we still had a big  mess to clean up.
But, it's getting there, a work in process, like the rest of a 100+ year old home. All the Shopsmith stuff is still in the garage with Miss Madeline, the current TR6 restoration, to be moved in here when the floor is done and sump pump installed. I'm not sure WHERE "The Mangler" is going to go, even if it's just a working "Free on Craigslist Conversation Piece".
Til then Barney keeps his eye on things . . .including a beloved single stage press that can craft him his single bullet.  I have a love/hate relationship with many tools as evidenced by my 2012 Tool Advice but I still love to putter, as my Dad would say.
There's lots to be done, but still, it's just a fun place to hang out even with our goofy signs. For as Red Green said - "If you can't stay young, you can at least stay immature."

Monday, September 15, 2014

Elevator Music - On Planes and Pianos

In the last 8 years, the size of my home, was divided by half, then half again, not due to finances, but simply by choice.  I now have a 1200 square foot home, with a shop area almost as big.  It's not fancy, and I've smiled more here than in any giant McMansion I've owned.

For what is contained in that house, is only what is essential or  holds the most special of memories in it.  Some of such things are two violins, one very old, one fairly new.

Music is something I grew up with, playing piano and clarinet in both band and orchestra. As an adult there was a keyboard in the crash pad living room, a guitar often nearby, even if I didn't play often. But late in life, I decided I wanted to learn to play something new, what I wished I'd have learned instead of the clarinet.

I remember the trip to the music store 8 years ago, to look at violins, so many instruments of beauty, of power, love, lust, longing, faith, joy. So many ways to paint a picture on the silence of your life.  I didn't let the"oh, is this for your child?" deter me and I came home with my first violin in my 40's, the music from the store trailing like a contrail in the twilight.
It was harder than I expected, and I'd like to say I'm really good, but as a violinist, I'm a really good piano player.  Still, I have no regrets about giving it a try.

The first step is always the hardest. Trying something new. Embracing something long forgotten that at one time you loved. Embracing something you've never done but wanted to. I see it in people who take up a new hobby, a new career, late in life. I see it in friends who after years, or even decades of marriage, find themselves alone, as they fling themselves out into the dating pool again (which for most feels less like the pool at Holiday Inn and more like a scene from Jaws)
But we do it, in tiny leaps upward propelled by longing and only held back by the gravity of timidity.  It's not much different than learning to fly; the trepidation of the first solo. It's the fear of the what we don't know that holds us back, as a huge unknown beckons. The sky is almost human in its passions, almost spiritual in its quiet, and as likely to forgive as a scorned lover. But to certain people, it is the mystery that calls, until one morning, waking slowly upon this sleep-fast earth, they finally hear.

If I could have put some of my aerial adventures to music, what a song it would have been. Flying can be as mathematical precise as Bach, as fluid as Chopin and as restful as Brahms. I've had landings that were as lyrical as Vivaldi and I've had some that should have been set to the theme from Loony Tunes. There are flights that play in my head like a well worn record; there were flights that were less about moving towards a destination of physical place but more about moving toward a moment in time, a place in which fate and need became one. Had I listened to those that said "you can't do that" because of my age or gender or both, I'd have missed out on that grand adventure.
The only time you are too old to learn is when you cease to breathe. One is never too ingrained in their habits to take up the instrument that for them, will be the perfect blend of the joyous with the sublime, hands stroking a thing of beauty as it resonates with the sound of their dreams, the lingering notes of their need. So, be it an instrument, or putting hand to paper and crafting that book you always wanted to write, or crafting something else of your hands and brain, try it.  You have no guarantee of success but at least the music of your longings, that chorus that fills up those quiet spaces, will be heard, if only by you.

We'll never be 20 again. You can't make the years rewind like a tape. The Roman Poet Ovid said "All things change, nothing is extinguished, everything flows onward". Yet my music will pull me onward, pull me forward, calming me, soothing my mind, giving it peace, becoming the soundtrack of my life even as it propels me to explore my world.
What I listen to is diverse, at best, but good music for me may not be what's popular. Good music is a place where genres fuse; where concertos become operatic and arias symphonic; where glee and grief, the downtrodden and the sanctified, become one. A place where time is much too short, as with each note we are aware of our allotted span dwindling, time in which we not only have to find our true path, but derive some joy from the journey.

Though I enjoy many styles of music, I'm drawn the deepest into the classics. Many great composers have expressed the extremes of life: affirmation, despair, the sanctity of grace, the rush of sensual pleasure, fertile touch and barren void. But there are certain pieces of work in which all these emotions co-exist in the infinity of a short song, making it fuller, richer, touching a chord deep within. We play or listen to our music as we love, for different reasons, to redeem ourselves through the expression of it, to find forgiveness as well as reconciliation with what lives deep within.

Certain songs, certain sounds touch us like memory.  They can calm or uplift, they can bring us to cry, the quick, clear tears of a child for a lost toy or the long drawn out keen of  a love forever lost, salt on our face, salt in our wounds. When the tears stop, they can provide that beat in which we can place one painful footstep forward , muscle memory functioning in the desolation of grief.
Music is the landscape of the absolute, not as defined by black and white, but in those gray shores where beauty ebbs in and away, like the tide, where everything is contingent and nothing simple, and time is so very brief. A place where, as Henry James’s Madame Merle says, "an envelope of circumstances encloses every human life".

Music is as life is, it flows like wine and spills like wine, a communion with something as profound and rapturous as heaven. It is caressing whisper, it is epithet. It can touch you as if it were light, not decanted from heaven but as if  it was suspired from the heart itself.  It fills the room as scent does, leaving upon the senses the aftermath of invitation and  temporal promise, that secret affidavit, like scent itself.
Perhaps that is why I associate flying and music.  The two experiences are intertwined in my mind even if the only song playing in the cockpit was the hip hop beep of an aural warning system, the constant murmuring sound of the engines in still, serene air.

There were days when there was no sense of motion, my craft seeming to hang upon the high, clear sky in a tranquil paradox of time and motion, held on the air like a sustained note. There were days in which storms crashed around me, a kettle drum rumble of thunder warning me away, ice pellets striking the windshield with the ringing truth of a bell.  It would have been my loss had I not experienced both, but would have, had I listened to those that said "you shouldn't do that".
For both brought things to me that were worth every risk. Both induced in me a sense of the infinite and the contemplation of that which is unseen. Music and flying are both wonder, or can be. What is wonder to me may not be wonder to you, but you may understand it, the passion, the yearning for something that's only yet a taste, the visceral connection between the soul and what elevates it to the heavens. It is what strikes in you, that same chord, the same spark that is embedded in some hearts. Something that, in certain individuals, is simply part of our most basic and natural inability to live with the lonesome gravity of silence.

So when you wake up at dawn, listen carefully.  For there, within air that is loud with birds, you may hear it, that choral strophe that is your mystery and your wonder, laid out upon an altar of blue, waiting for you to answer.
- Brigid

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Canon Fodder - Pistols, Pork, and the Semi Auto Fly Swatter

It felt good to wake up at home, away almost a month with the work and travel schedule for us both.  Partner had business not only a few hours from where I worked so we got a couple weekends together, but it had been too long since I'd been home. I was still tired, putting in a very long work day followed by the four hour drive home Friday night in heavy traffic.
I'll be less grumpy after coffee and pancakes.
Time for pancakes.  Replacing the buttermilk with maple flavored drinkable yogurt in the world's fluffiest pancakes recipe and adding and about 6 strips of bacon chopped into the batter, with 1/2 teaspoon of vanilla and a teaspoon of milk, these turned out mighty tasty. Especially with more bacon on the side (hey someone ate the other  two pieces while the pancake stylist's back was turned!).
After that, it time to make the bread for Partners morning toast and lunches this week as he is not traveling. This  bread recipe, mixed up in the food processor  (one bowl, NO kneading) was in the pan in 10 minutes and after rising,  makes a loaf for about 70 cents. With some smoked turkey, this will make some dandy lunches for him with fruit and a homemade cookie.
We had a lot of catching up to do in two days. Partner had been out to Gunbloggers Rendezvous, traveling with a couple of raffle items.  Yes, it was a beautiful Ruger donated by the Ruger Company that had been in the range safe for a couple of months, and a handcrafted holster that Partner made to go with it.
As he always does when he's been on the road a long time, he brings me a little gift, as I do for him.  Our goal, funny, often useless, and occasionally tacky  items (think dried scorpion in a lollipop from some place in the Far East once).

Even better, the TSA didn't take it.  The Fly Shooter

This will be great back up for the Fly Taser!
Then it was time to do chores.  Partner had been home long enough to mow the yard during the last month, but it needed it again, as well as some limb and flower bed clean up. I do my part in keeping the place up, sharing in equally in the fun around here means we share equally in the work.
Partner works on a Mission Style Broyhill sofa sleeper we got for free on Craigslist. The wood has all been refinished and needs to be attached.  All new cushions were crafted with some black suede-like fabric and new foam.  But the last bits of the tacky  80's disco fabric has to come off before it can be finished up.  While he does that, I'll tend to the flowerbeds.
I had a feeling somethings was watching me.  I turned around and there he was, scoping out the birds and squirrels.

This is a safe neighborhood, but it is good to be aware.

It felt good to get the chores done.

But we can't forget about lunch.
 Beef chow mein on crispy noodles. (a great way to use up a little piece of inexpensive steak)
Now I need to attend to some other things.
Did I mention fun? 
Insert classified flying squirrel gun range photo here.
Before I knew it, it was time to make Sunday supper. This weekend was going by way too fast. Secret Ingredient of the day--handcrafted Fig Molasses, a brilliant recipe from a friend of mine, one not suited for the impatient or the poor with temperature control but making your own molasses, while tricky, is so worth the effort.

If it's something tasty, it's a good day in the kitchen.

Braised thick cut pork chops glazed with fig molasses and  served with corn bread and veggies.
click on photos to enlarge, carnivores, prepare to drool
Somebody sulked while the food was prepared.
Everyone is ignoring me while Mom is in the kitchen
 Nom Nom.  I smell something tasty.
I do!  It's something's coming off of the stove.

Sorry Abby - we've been down that road with you and pilfered pork.  You get kibble.

After the supper dishes were done, it was time for tea and a good book.
While Abby takes a nap with her little friend and I curl up in the rocker.
It will soon be time for sleep.  I hope you all had a safe, productive. and fun weekend, wherever it took you.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Hair Apparent - We All Have Those Kind of Days

I head (no pun intended) to the hair stylist about every four-five weeks as my hair grows beyond fast.   Usually, though, the visit is after a 10 hour work day, the salon being open until 9 PM. I give my regular stylist a lot of credit.  My hair is baby fine, curly (I refer to it as "free range") and well, red. I won't mention the few strands of grey and trying to match that, or I'd have to kill you.  It's the hair stylist equivalent of  juggling knives.

I went in this week for a hair cut and some "natural highlights" which involve a  transfer of cash similar to ransom, and an hour and a half with enough foil on my head to attract a number of  conspiracy theory admirers.

I also went in without lunch or dinner due to the day I had at work.

I had a ladies magazine on my lap, while, with glasses off,  as the beautiful genius that does my hair, Danielle, finished up.

Did I mention that when I hit 50 not too long ago I had to get "reading glasses"and anything a foot a way is a bit blurry?

There was a picture of soup in the magazine.  I started to get really hungry  It looked SO good and that bagel and apple and coffee at 6 a.m.were distant history. I think I drooled on the page. Someone mentioned that, looking perplexed when I said "I SO want a bowl of that."   I couldn't wait  until I was free of sculpting gel and a dryer to get home and make me some of that, the broth the succulent chicken,  some shrimp,while I curled up with a glass of expensive white wine and Bach.

Then I put my glasses on.
I'd been drooling over cat food. Friskies Fancy Feast no less.

After that,  I stopped  McDonald's for a Filet O Fish and the liquor store for bottle of white wine, just grabbing one from their "pick of the week" display as I was tired.   When I got home and tried to open it with the wine opener and I couldn't puncture the top I realized it was a twist off cap.

Filet O'Fish and McWine.

Maybe I should have just gone for the cat food.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Why Black Labs Aren't Good Poker Players

Abby the Rescue Lab is doing real well in her new home, with us a little over four months now, and will be heading home to the Range with me tonight after work.

We tend to be "house potatoes" on days off, and she's with us in everything we do, even if it's just curled up on a comfy dog bed while she listens to us putter around in the shop. We'll get to the shooting range  again soon, but for those first few months, we wanted to establish a pattern where she has a schedule and other than during morning and afternoons on work days, she is not left alone.  On work days, she has a professional dog walker taking her out each day for playtime and even a sleepover at her house (with big fenced yard and another rescue lab) on the few nights we were both gone.
 Our new friends have treats for Abby and Andy!

We made sure she had play dates there, first with S's rescue Lab Andy so she would see it as fun as opposed to being left behind again. From the photos S. sent by phone each day, it was obvious she was very happy and had a great time with Andy and his loving people she considers part of her "pack", sleeping on her bed in front of their fireplace.

I did the same with Barkley, for Tam stayed over at the Range with him when I traveled with Mr. B. and Midwest Chick always ready as backup as needed. He loved them all as his own and treated them accordingly.  Abby is going to have the same, as with our work, there are times, where we both have to be gone overnight and often on short notice. S. lives just a few blocks from us but if need be, I always have my best friends as back up.
Comfort - it tastes like chicken!

Abby's very much different in personality than Barkley, shyer at first, quieter, and she would rather nap than get into mischief. She is becoming more outgoing as she realizes she is in her forever home but her laid back personality is a good fit to a household that runs on caffeine and Type-A energy a lot of the time. 

She's an older dog, chosen with purpose, as it's easier for the younger and purebred dogs to get a home.  Abby is almost six and a mix (we're thinking lab and flat coated retriever by her looks and fur). She'd been left at a shelter, heartworm positive some months before we got her. It wasn't the best shelter, and like they often do, the Love of Labs Indianapolis people drove hours and hours to get her before she was put down. After a week in a loving foster home while she was assessed, her Foster Mom brought her over and I adopted her on the spot, having already been through a thorough assessment of home and family to make sure we were offering a safe and stable home. She was ready for some love.
Abby Normal Johnson.

Unlike Barkley, she loves stuffed animals as opposed to chew toys. Her favorites are the plush Angry Bird toys  that makes the Angry bird sound when she bites them or her Winnie the Pooh Beanie Ballz that always lands on his feet (playtime meets uneven center of mass!)

I did come home the other night to find one of her Angry Bird toys (the green pig) floating in her water dish (If I can't bite it, I'll drown it!)

She is also very affectionate and has the most expressive face, moving her mouth very subtly and softly when she looks at you as if she is talking, it's too cute. Plus when she gets excited, she almost looks cross eyed.  Of course,  all of her looks can inspire her imagined words.
Mom's home with the groceries!  I hope you don't mind, I drank all the leftover espresso. Bacon bacon bacon bacon bacon. 

You forgot the bacon!!!?
Oh Yes! There it is underneath the dog treats . treats treats treats treats treat.

Thank you everyone for the support after the loss of Barkley and Big Brother, there within weeks of one another.  That helped more than I can possibly say.  I also want to thank everyone here for the encouragement as I wrote our story (see my upper right sidebar to order the book) to find the love and trust it took to open my heart to loving another four legged soul again.

The second printing of The Book of Barkley is out!  I set aside 20 autographed copies of the first run (plus one for Naturegirl when she gets settled), a gift for the first 20  folks that donate $50 or more to Kilted to Kick Cancer Team Borepatch as he recently lost his Dad to this disease.  If you would like one of those, hit Kilted for Cancer's donation page (and select Team Borepatch from the drop down menu). There are instructions on the Borepatch blog as to getting him your donation and shipping address information.  I have just a handful of first run books left!   It's a great cause and it's tax deductible as a 501(c)3 charity.  Shipping costs are on me.

Thanks to all of you guys who are doing this--Evyl Robot, Old NFO, Ambulance Driver, Jay G and others.  It's the cause that's important and you all realize that, even with the lively spirit of competition.