I’ve been having a lot of work done at the house because I suddenly have the money to fix things.
I received another grant of benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs. When I made my original disability claim back in 2008, I asked for assistance for multiple disabilities that began during service. Most of all I wanted help with my PTSD, and about two years ago, the VA agreed and I received benefits. To be honest, I sort of forgot about the rest of the claim.
The end of February, I received an unexpected new decision from VA to grant benefits for plantar fasciitis. No one ever told me about foot care in brand new combat boots with no arch supports. So, as one does when they are 18 years old and getting yelled at in Basic Training every day, one keeps her mouth shut. Unfortunately, my feet were injured.
The monetary portion of this award was backdated 13 years. My therapist called the length of VA appeals decisions an “involuntary savings plan,” because no one actually wants to wait 13 years to get assistance, but also I would not have had the discipline to save this much money during those years. I spent my own money in the intervening years to get orthotics and see foot specialists, so now I can just use this money on whatever.
So my feet are as fixed as I can get them. My very old claim is fixed.
The fix that has been waiting the longest after my 13-year-old VA appeal is an awning over my back door. Remember the awning repair? I found a local guy, Brian, on cragislist.com and hired him to build me a new awning. He pointed out that the steps were made of plywood and up against the wood of the house and everything was warping from rain. I hired him to build new steps. While he was at it, he installed motion-sensing outdoor lights and a light in the awning. He pointed out that the electric wiring in the well house adjacent to the back door was done wrong, and I hired him to fix the wiring. He discovered this problem because he plugged in his battery charger and it blew up. Because some bonehead (my former roommate) had wired the 240V right to the outlet. Jeez louise. So I bought the guy a new charger.
It’s how home improvement always, always goes. You plan to spend X amount on X thing, and in the end Y, and Z must be added.
While they were there, they built a new ramp for the Lil’ Hussies because their old one was ruined by age and weather.
Speaking of girls, they also got some home improvement! I’ve been spending every other weekend at Pedro’s house and leaving my poor girls exposed to raccoons on those nights, because I’m not here to close the door to the chicken house at night. Pedro found an automatic door online from chickendoors.com. These doors are super high quality, simple construction, and include optional photosensor and solar panel. I need all of the above, and I just happen to be able to afford these fabulous accessories.
There was one other thing I wanted Brian to do. Last fall I put a rock through my kitchen window with the riding lawnmower. The glass was double-paned, so my kitchen wasn’t cold all winter, but it did need to be fixed.
With my new involuntary savings money, I decided to splurge and replace the broken window with a garden window. If any of you have been doing any kind of work around the house, buying appliances, or furniture this past year, you know prices are up and wait times are humongous because the pandemic not only caused increased demand for stuff in our homes, but also disrupted the supply chain by sending commerce in all these new directions. Then there was that massive tanker stuck in the Suez Canal, etc etc. So anyway, I was paying double for wood and though the garden window wasn’t too much more expensive…it was hard to get. The local Lowe’s and Home Depot were completely out, I tried a couple other places, and finally found a place with garden windows in stock. Ish. They had to be ordered from a faraway factory and shipped. It took some time. No worries, since 2020, everything takes time. I am patient.
In the meantime, I tried to get a few cabinet companies to finish some wood for me, to be used as trim. No takers. So I had to do it myself. First I went to multiple stores in Longview just to FIND the right kind of wood in the right size (e.g. supply chain disruption+demand). Then I had some awesome folks at a paint store help me figure out the best stain and varnish. Then I found Mom’s old wood sander out in the shop. I tried my best to finish the wood myself.
When the window arrived I had to drive an hour and a half to get to the warehouse to pick it up. It was a huge, noisy, daunting place and I showed up with a vehicle way, way too small, it turns out.
The garden window was safely ensconced in multiple layers of foam, plastic, and cardboard. A few employees were wonderful and decided to help me. They brainstormed. I frowned in consternation. They removed a layer and considered, and had me back the Jeep up to the loading dock. They removed another layer. Finally, they removed everything. They loaded it up for me and it fit. We all said goodbye and crossed our fingers. And yes, I got the thing home in one piece and did not dare put the brakes on hard the entire trip.
Brian and Tracy came back and they put it all together, only needing me once, to help Tracy hold the new window up to the wall while Brian placed the initial screws to hold it in place.
A few days before I had begun mowing the lawn, then misjudged the location of a stump (since it was my first time mowing for the year), and got the blades hung up on the stump. Or something. I didn’t have the upper body strength to dislodge it. I tried releasing the deck from the tractor, and I could easily lift the tractor. But not that blade deck. Omigosh, it’s freakishly heavy to begin with, but was clearly embedded into the stump below it. Thank goodness for Tracy and Brian, who – upon noticing the mower abandoned in the yard – instantly recognized a damsel-in-distress situation and trotted down the hill to assess the damage. I was a little validated to see that it took two men a full fifteen minutes to get the thing disconnected from the stump. That made me feel less like a weakling.
They lifted the tractor off the deck and turned the deck upside down. The blade on one side was hitting the frame every rotation, so something was off. While they worked on the garden window, I drove to the parts store and bought new blades. They attached the blades during another window break and it was not that. Then we discovered a new problem.
I called the guy at the tractor store to see if the lawnmower housing was in stock.
“I’ve never heard of a housing getting cracked,” he said. “Are you sure? You would have had to hit something pretty hard. Is it the star attachment on top? Usually the star is damaged.”
“Yup. I cracked the housing,” I replied. “Do I get a gold star?” He laughed. He had the new spindle/housing, with four new bolts sitting on the counter when I showed up.
A few days later, with rain in the forecast, I found some motivation and called my neighbor, Dick, to ask if he had an impact wrench. He put it outside for me and I swung by his place and picked it up. Once I started working on the mower, I discovered I needed additional tools to remove some other things before I got to the broken housing. I was still digging around for drill bits when Dick showed up, wondering what I was up to. I was so grateful because the best way to do all this stuff was for one person to hold the deck in the air while the other reached underneath, or one person to hold the steel cover out of the way while the other used the wrench or my power drill. Dick relied on my knowledge of the deck to reassemble his side of it beneath the mower. I re-wound the belt by memory (I’ve done that too many times…).
I was scared to turn on the blades. Dick said, “Well, you won’t know till you try it.” His matter-of-factness gave me courage and I cranked it up. Vroom! All was well. I gave a victory cheer. Dick laughed at me and trudged back up the hill to his truck and I drove the tractor up. I put some gas in it. And I went back to work.
I got the whole dang property done before the rains came! That’s a relief. It’s simply too much trouble to mow wet grass. I have to stop every twenty minutes and clean the green sludge out from under the deck. It makes me squeamish to put my hands up in there and clean the area around the blades. Yikes.
All this time I’ve been doing other work as well. Retirement is exhausting, I swear. So today is the the last day of Week 6 in Oregon’s quarter term system. I’m up to my eyeballs in mapping and, while it’s fun, it’s challenging. I’ve been doing more math than I’ve done in a decade, and all the stuff is here: geometry, calculus, trigonometry, but at least it’s just the basics so it’s easy enough. Quizzes and labs every week. I know way more about maps than anyone would care to know. Ok, the professor clearly cares…
At the same time it’s been time to do my job as a training consultant with Veterans of Foreign Wars. VFW is wonderful to work with and they honor be by calling me back year after year and asking if I want to teach. The answer is always yes. This is my third time teaching via Zoom, and with the reliable support I get from the administrators, it is a breeze. I received my topic last month, did my research, created my presentation, test questions, exercises, and slideshow and turned it all in. Then Tuesday I taught 155 students in a single class. You can do that with Zoom. It went fairly well, even though I crammed tons of information into a somewhat boring topic and I hope I kept people awake. Or, most of them, at least.
Things are only ramping up, and I have lots more ahead. Like continued work with a personal trainer at an actual GYM, in person. It has been so great to be in a gym again now that I’m fully vaccinated. I go at 6am and often I’m the only human using the equipment. Tomorrow I’m going to join the Belle Brigade in a real, in-person RACE. Can you even believe it? It must be one of the first in the country to start up again. So I’ll be walking with my ladies, a 1/4 marathon power-walk. Wish me well. Love you all.