Friday, November 26, 2021

The Universe - or is it Fate - is fickle.

If someone had told me yesterday that an asteroid would collide with Earth, that we'd have a flood of Biblical proportions, or that a solar storm would wipe out all our electronics, I would probably have said "I guess that could happen." 

If someone had told me my dog Ellie would fall dead down, I would have said, "Ellie? That doesn't seem likely." And it's exactly what happened.

She seemed her normal self yesterday. We were out in the woods walking and she was just like normal. She bounced by the door for evening walkies, just like normal. Had dinner and asked for treats, just like normal. And fell asleep in the sofa, sleep barking a little, just like normal.

This morning, I heard her come up the stairs, it sounded like she was walking in a circle to lie down, like dogs do, and then there was a thump and a whimper. I hurried out of bed and out into the hall and I was there in seconds, but she was already dead. 

I've been worried about losing my other dog, Topper, because he's starting to look old. His eyes look old and his fur is sprinkled with white where it didn't use to be. I've looked at Ellie and thought, "Soon it will just be you and me. That will be weird, I wonder how we will cope." And now she's gone. 

Yesterday, I told her, "We'll do that tomorrow" and had no idea there wouldn't be a tomorrow. 

There's a hole in my heart and the house is empty. 

We biological creatures age and die. It's a fact of life, I know that, but every New Year I wish this will be the year when no one I love dies. I think the Universe looks at me and mumbles, "Oh, that's just adorable. You still have a lot to learn about this. Let me see what I can cook up."

The current streak started in 2016. That year, my husband, my dog Bonnie, and two good friends died. After that it just kept going. My cat Samson and my dog Boo, within months of each other. Since April last year my mom, three good friends, Mike's dad, Mike's granny, my cat Adam, my neighbor, and now Ellie. Another good friend got early Alzheimer's. She's still alive, but it's moot. She has no idea who I am. 

The list is too long for such a short period of time. I wish I had something profound to say about it, but I don't. 

Thursday, November 18, 2021

Exactly what I would have done too.

The dogs and I went on a stroll through the woods today and stumbled over a large red building. The freshly painted door made me smile - it's exactly what I would have done.

In my case, the line of reasoning would have been, "This project is much too big for me, I don't even know where to begin. I'm going to paint this door. It's something I can manage and it makes a statement. Shows that someone's working on it."

I hope whomever started with the door keeps going. :-) 

Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Whose car is that?

I consider myself at least normally intelligent; I even like to believe I'm smart. However, some instincts run so deep they're near impossible to get rid of. 

For instance, I have a black SUV. The car before this one was also a black SUV. Thus my brain accepts that there is and should be a black SUV in my yard. The current one is a Chevy and the old was a Peugeot, but they look the same.

About a week and a half ago, said black SUV had a flat tire. On a Sunday, so everything was closed. I don't have a spare and even if I did, it wouldn't do me any good - I have a bum hand and I can't fix things like this.

This was just one in a long row of automotive mishaps, and where I live, there aren't many options besides "use the car." I can walk, but everything's too far away - it would take me at least eight hours to walk to the city. I don't have the stamina, will power, or time to attempt a thing like that. There are buses, but not in abundance - maybe four a day. We don't have a taxi service and there is no Uber. And, asking neighbors for help gets old quickly. 

To make matters worse, I had an important appointment that I needed to keep Monday morning: a land survey at my cottage. 60 kilometers (37 miles) away - definitely not walking distance. 

I was looking online to see if I could rent a vehicle - I knew there's no one close by, but thought maybe someone would deliver a rental, but this too was a bust. 

I've had a lot of car problems lately and I've thought of getting a back-up vehicle. I went to "Blocket" - it's kind of like Craigslist - and the first thing that came up was a pretty, blue, tiny Kia. At a dealership and in my price range - and the ad said "may show on Sundays with appointment." 

Though, it was 30 kilometers (19 miles) away. The bus schedule rolled on the floor laughing when I looked for public transportation, and the neighboring houses were dark. No rides. The Kia could just as well have been on the moon.

And just like that, everything worked out. 

The very nice owner brought the car to me, even though it was Sunday. I got to my appointment on Monday morning. Almost didn't make it back - the wheels got stuck in the mud - but the tiny but mighty South Korean vehicle was able to free itself.

Tuesday morning, the Chevy had to go to the tire shop - on a wrecker! It was kind of cool to ride in the gigantic vehicle, but don't tell my car. This will not become a habit.

With the regular car back in business, I looked at the Kia and thought, "This car is so small, it will fit in the garage if I clean it out. Until next time I need it."

It didn't get that far. It only took a couple of days until a brake was stuck on the Chevy and I was back in the Kia. 

And now gas prices have risen to a ridiculous level. 18.44 Kr/liter - that's very close to $8 per gallon. The Kia only needs like half a liter per ten kilometers (approximately 47 miles per gallon) so I won't have to drive it for long to make up for the purchase price.

The funny thing is, every time I come home now and see a tiny blue car in the yard, I think, "Who's here? Why is there a car in my yard? I don't even know anyone with a car looking like that." And then I remember, "It's my car. DUH!"

I wonder how long it will take for me to learn. Haha!

Monday, August 16, 2021

A new look for the 250th anniversary

I don't know exactly how old my 18th century cottage is - the local history association says we know it was there in 1772, so it was probably built earlier. But 1772 is as good a year to celebrate as any - because next year will be 250!

I've made some progress, and one room is getting good enough to brag about. (lol!)

Before, there were holes in the floor - I made some more through stepping through it - water damage on a wall, and some really stinky old insulation.

I have fixed with the walls and windows, put in a new wooden floor (that was difficult - if I ever do this again I'll buy an actual floor and not try to build one), and started work on the fireplace.

Someone with more skills than I would probably have put on new plaster and done a more proper job - and not painted flowers on it because it was fun - but it looks a lot better. And, this can be redone later. At some point in time I may bring someone in to look over all the fireplaces and see if we can get them going.

There's still work to be done in here - for instance the ceiling, doors, and all moldings need to be painted - but it's getting there. 

I had to put in some furniture and test-hang curtains to pat myself on the back. I'll have to move it again to finish the last details, but I need to see progress. Progress keeps me inspired.

And now, I just have to do the rest of it, haha!

Thursday, July 22, 2021

Waking up in a parallel universe

Do you ever have the feeling you went to bed in the normal world and woke in a strange parallel universe? The world is almost the same as the one you left, almost what you expect it to be, but not quite right? 

That's me this morning. I got a hint yesterday of something being wrong, but didn't get it. I was putting my tools in the car to go to "Project Cottage" and saw the police in the neighbor's yard. They all looked very serious, and I assumed there had been a burglary or something. The officers left before I was done, so I moseyed over to ask if everything was alright, and offer my help in case it wasn't. My neighbor said "I don't think I'm supposed to talk about it, but I am fine" - and I should have listened to the emphasis on I.

I woke up to the news that the neighbor in the next house is dead. He was a great guy, one of the first to welcome me to the village and always kind and helpful. He would get my mail delivered to him by accident and come over with it - he sometimes even got text messages from UPS that were for me - he always had a kind word, a smile, and a wave as he drove by the house. Sometimes in winter, I'd come home and he had shoveled my driveway!

My brain keeps presenting useless objections like, "But he was so young," "I just saw him," and "But he has a family, small children" and "But his van is there."

Of course, these objections - while true - have no impact on today's reality. He is gone, and the world is a darker place without him. 

Sunday, July 11, 2021

2021 is a strange year

I promised everyone I wouldn't disappear again and that I would at least keep blogging, and then life happened. And being 2021, it has posed challenges.

One of my cats, dear sweet Adam, got a problem with an eye. I took him to the vet, thinking he would need some eye drops or something, and they said they had to take the eye out. I wasn't too worried about it - he was blind anyway and wouldn't miss it - but one thing lead to another and a week later he was gone.

That was rough, and sad, and still makes me cry. 

To make a difficult time even more challenging, the insurance company refused to pay, because he was blind. I argued it had no impact on getting an eye infection and all the other things that happened, but they didn't believe me, and I borrowed thousands of dollars to pay for all this. A friend in the USA ended up paying for his surgeries. I can't put words to how much it means to have such good people in my life!

Just as I was recovering from this - emotionally and financially - there was an extra $180 charge on my Wells Fargo debit card. They canceled the card, which was the right thing to do, but that also started a whole chain of fiscally difficult events. Because now I didn't have a card and checks aren't a valid form of payment in Sweden. Everything that was automatically charged to the card got a hickup - and I didn't have another way to pay bills in the USA. I for instance still have my car in storage in Bradenton.

Ever since Covid started, the mail service between us and the USA has been iffy, and it took over a month for the new card to get to me. While waiting for it, I made a tactical error. I decided to use PayPal to swiftly transfer funds to my Swedish bank account, so I could pay everyone. 

Guess what happened?

The money disappeared. 

I'm guessing something went wrong with the account number and someone else got my $1,700. PayPal refuses to tell me the entire account number to which the funds were transferred - it has been two months of excuses to why they can't/won't do that - and they love referring me to the bank's customer service. The bank's customer service say they can't do anything to investigate and that I have to talk to PayPal.

I reported PayPal to the Swedish Finance Inspection and they forwarded me to an inspection in Luxembourg where PayPal Sweden's head office is. From there I got a complaint address to PayPal in Luxembourg and they have until July 31st to respond. I doubt they'll get back to me and I will have to move forward with the complaint. Ugh!

Of course, losing all that money made me fall behind on my bills, and saying "I can't pay you right now because PayPal lost my paycheck" sounds like a really lame excuse. 

All these financial problems obviously didn't fill the void from losing Adam. I adopted another cat. His name is Love - it's an actual name in Swedish, pronounced like Louvah - and he is the cutest. Though, my brain had a glitch. I read on his sign that he was only eight months old and since I work with animals I should know an eight-month-old cat is still a kitten. Nope, didn't think of that.

I have brought an eight-month-old terrorist with teeth and claws into the house. He has the face of an angel and thinks biting the dogs is the most fun thing ever. He is also deaf, which complicates explaining what isn't acceptable.

He kind of gets along with the dogs anyway, just because they are so patient. I've tried to do a slow introduction between him and Koda, and while they weren't immediately loving each other, I thought it would work. 

And then, he put his teeth into Koda's tail. 

At first I didn't think it was all that bad, but once we got to the vet and Koda had his behind shaved and was all stitched up, it looked like Love almost bit his tail off. It was really bad.

So now Koda is in his room with a cone on his head, eating antibiotics and painkillers, and I have no idea how these two are ever to be friends. And there are few more hundred dollars in vet bills, while the PayPal funds are still missing...

And these are just the big obstacles. It has been a challenging spring and summer. Hopefully, things will be easier from here...

Friday, April 23, 2021

Signed the contract!

This week has been a rollercoaster. In the "good" column we have things like the excavator coming to help at "Project Cottage" and in the "less good" column, things like me falling through the floor in the same cottage. Haha!

On Friday last week, I discovered my cat Adam had a problem with an eye. It was too late in the evening to call the vet - all the clinics in my area had already closed - so I tried calling on Saturday morning. Got an answering machine that wanted to forward me to another number where the call would cost $20. That didn't actually matter, because I didn't manage to find a person to speak with there either. All weekend.

When I finally got through early this week, I got the first available appointment - on Wednesday. When we came in on Wednesday everyone predictably asked why I waited so long. Ugh!

The veterinarian wanted to take Adam's eye out. The surgeon wanted to euthanize him, because "he is so old and underweight." No. I realize there will be a day in the future when it's time to say goodbye, but that time isn't right now. And now my trust in this surgeon is dented; he's great at his job, but... No.

They did the surgery and I had an excruciating wait until the next day to hear how it went. Luckily, Adam pulled through like a champ. On my way down to the vet to pick him up, I found out that the insurance company refuse to pay. Apparently, they don't pay for eye infections on blind cats. Hmm. That sent me into a bout of panic, because the bill was for over $2,500, and I don't have that just sitting around. Do normal people have that much money in their checking accounts? I ended up having to apply for a credit with a third party company to be able to bust him out of there.

Poor little dude. He has issues with the cone since he's blind, and everyday tasks like eating and using the litter box are near impossible if I'm not there to help him. It will be a long two weeks until they can take the stitches out and the cone off. But, he's home and alive.

Swinging back to the "good" column, I signed the contract for Project Cottage II! I'm super excited.

Overall, this week has been exhausting. So, TGIF! Hope you have a great weekend!

Thursday, April 22, 2021

A big machine, just for me

Today was the day: a gigantic machine in the yard of Project Cottage. I intended to be there to take some photos, but I had to take my kitty to the vet, so the guys driving snapped some shots for me instead. Gräv och Allservice i Virserum did a fabulous job, and I'm certain that if I kept going by myself it would have taken until 2023. 

Not long ago, the place looked like this. 

I took down shrubs and started digging. After lots of hard work - and realizing what poor shape I'm in haha - there were stairs!

It was at this point I started to realize just how long it would take me to go all the way around the house. Each of these piles of soil contains a lot more than at least I could guess.

Enter the big machine!

Now the area is flat and even, and I can start repairing/replacing the siding. The only thing that didn't work out according to plan is the plant that was on the side of the house; emotionally I would have liked to keep it, but intellectually the guy with the machine did the right thing. 

This took the project a gigantic leap forward. And the interesting thing is, I thought I had dug out the staircase, but he found one more step, and two stepping stones. So with all that work I still hadn't reached the old ground level. I wonder so much what the place looked like back in the day.

To be continued!

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The value of good shoes

A couple of years ago I fell and broke my hand, and that taught me to invest in good shoes. Purchasing Dr Marten's work boots still seemed an extravagant luxury, because really, who pays hundreds of dollars for a pair of boots? I got them anyway.

Today when I headed over to my renovation project, I thought, "It's getting too warm to wear all this. I guess thick jeans are okay, but should I take sneakers instead of the Doc's? Nah, if I don't wear them I'll step on a nail or something." 

I've been working on the living room floor. It's completely rotten and must be replaced, but it's difficult, because it isn't good enough to stand on. So today I wanted to make myself a "bridge" to help distribute my weight.  

I was going to call it a day, but wanted to get over to the side to see how bad it really is. I treaded carefully while mumbling, "It's a shame this floor isn't in better shape, it must have been really pretty at one point in time. I hope nothing lives under here. The boards are like paper now, just a matter of time before someone falls through... GAAAH!"

Aaaand, suddenly the rest of the floor was at knee height. Trying to climb up only resulted in stepping through it again. And again. (All this was accompanied by extensive cursing.)

Only when I was back in the relative safety of the hall did I realize how lucky I am. If I hadn't worn the thick jeans, my legs would have been torn up and bleeding. If I hadn't worn the Doc's, I might not be able to walk right now. As it is, the only owie from the ordeal is a swollen finger that I bumped when I fell. 

At least this proves that my line of thinking is correct - the house needs a new floor, lol!

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

A day filled with fun coincidences

This is so cool. I was over at "Project Cottage" and a car stopped. Out came a man who said, "It's so nice to see who's here now. My dad bought this in 1908." I think he said it was used to be called John's cottage, but I'm not great with names, so I might remember that wrong.

And to make it even cooler, he used to have school lunches in my house as a child in the 1940s! 

I've guessed that my small upstairs room (I think of it as Adam's room) has been a kitchen, and that's correct. The kids ate in both the other rooms up there, so my bedroom and Koda's room were both used for school lunches for the children.

We walked around the cottage and chatted, and he said, "You need help by an excavator." It was so great to be able to say, "It will be here on Wednesday" - and he looked super surprised and happy. He asked several times, "You're really getting an excavator over here? On Wednesday?"

Of course, it's due to the help of kind people in the village, but he still seemed to think it's just as awesome as I do. Loved this guy!

Apparently, he drives past there about once a week, so that's an extra incentive for me to accomplish things. I want to show the place as beautiful as it looks in my mind. :-) 

The whole area is so beautiful. Just look at this tree and the spring flowers!

With a little help from my friends...

I can be a bit of a recluse - extroverted when I'm among people, but also really good at staying at home and not talking to anyone. So it has surprised me this past week how many people care about me and are there to help me when I need them. 

Like magic, my "handyman" - whom I usually call in a panic when something has broken and my house is flooding lol - was at the cottage, measuring the broken windows. I pretend to know how to do things, but he actually knows, and it's infinitely reassuring to hear a person like that say "We'll fix this." 

And last night, a local company asked if I needed help. So next week an excavator will be at the cottage, at a very reasonable price. Honestly, I didn't think I'd be able to afford transporting one over there, but they want to help and encourage the project, so I think they made sure to price it within my reach. 

I am so very grateful. I've been digging and digging, and doing this by hand would take months. And, just like they said, the mere presence of large machines may discourage more mischief. It will be obvious that someone's there and cares about the place.

Complete strangers have contacted me and offered to drive and walk by and help keep an eye on it. One guy said, "I'm something of a night owl, so I thought I can just as well go by there when I'm out and about at night." How awesome is that!

I am humbled and deeply grateful to everyone.

The Universe - or is it Fate - is fickle.

If someone had told me yesterday that an asteroid would collide with Earth, that we'd have a flood of Biblical proportions, or that a so...