Sunday, May 29, 2011

This one's for you, Toots

In honor of Memorial Day, I would like to introduce you to a very special lady.

This is my grandma Nancy, or Toots, as I affectionately called her. She was my real dad's mom. It's difficult to put into words how much my grandma meant to me. She passed away last November after a short battle with liver cancer. It happened so fast that I'm still grappling with the reality that she's gone. I like to pretend that she's still in Boise doing her thing. Taking care of everyone around her, reading books in rapid fire succession, serving on church committees, and watching her soaps.

I spent a lot of time with Toots as a child. We lived in Boise, and she watched me after school and all summer long while my mom was working. I have fond memories of playing beauty parlor with her while watching the Golden Girls. We'd bring her make-up tray into the den and take turns applying garish red lipstick on each other and teasing our hair like Blanche's.

When I visited her last fall, we played beauty parlor again. Except this time I was using dry-shampoo to wash her hair and helping her brush her teeth in bed because she couldn't get up anymore. She used to change my diapers and now I was returning the favor. Even in the midst of very awkward and unchartered territory for all of us, she was making jokes. You couldn't beat her sense of humor and outlook on life. She was once told me that "this too shall pass" after I shared a difficult time I was having. Those wise words still get me through the low points.

Right after high school my aunt Melinda, cousin Alison, grandma, and I went to New York for a week. My grandparents are originally from New York and raised their children there until Auntie M was a senior in high school before relocating the family to Boise, Idaho. We stayed on Staten Island and toured their old haunts. The photo above was taken in front of the home they owned there. We ventured into Manhattan and must have walked 60 blocks that day. Even in her 60s and with multiple knee surgeries, grandma was a trouper. It was a wonderful trip and I'm so grateful that we went.

Grandma was caring and thoughtful but sharp as a tack and didn't mince words. She once told my 20-year old mother that her ass was getting wide as they were making the bed. Another time she sneaked up behind my grandpa as he sat in his chair waiting for dinner to be ready and whacked him in the back of the head with a frying pan. Then she ran like hell and locked herself in their bedroom. Evidently, he wasn't saying very nice things and she got fed up. My family history is full of stories like this and much worse. Auntie M and I have long talked about writing a book and revealing all the craziness.

In the midst of that craziness, I convinced grandma to escape to Warm Lake with my family (step-dad, mom, siblings, and pets) for a week. From the outside it may seem weird that my mother's ex-mother-in-law came on vacation with her "new" husband and their kids, but it was perfectly normal to us. I loved that I was able to give grandma a week away from the stress and hardship of home. We had such a great time reading books in the cabin, reading books by the lake, taking walks, playing poker, and talking talking talking.

Toots taught me to take care of the ones you love, to not let anyone take advantage of you, and to love Frank Sinatra. I learned to Waltz while watching Toots and Pops dance to this song. I remember that even then I recognized how much these two individuals meant to me and how I would cherish the memory of watching them dance in the living room.

Please enjoy this song and then go call your loved ones. You never know which phone call will be the last.

Like Frank says, "Someday when I'm feeling low, when the world is cold, I will feel a glow just thinking of you." 

Nancy Granquist Scharf
March 30, 1930 - November 22, 2010

Sunday, May 15, 2011


We accomplished two big things today.

1. We finished our last Financial Peace University class and are official graduates. I can't believe it's been over three months since we began. Time flies when you're saving money and slaying debt!
I wish I could report that we've paid off thousands but truth be told, we haven't. We've paid off the low hanging fruit debt and are charging ahead (sans plastic, that is). According to the debt snowball calculator, at our current pace we will be debt free (except for the house) in 2013! Credit cards, student loans, car loans, everything!

2. The coop is done and in place! It was a long and arduous process made easier by a new friend, Van. He was one of the unlucky lumber guys I requested a coop package price from. He gave me a number but then also offered to help me build it. The best part? He's building a house not far from us and had enough leftover material to build the coop for free! I just had to purchase windows ($2 ea. at the recycling center), tar paper ($5 from Habitat for Humanity), shingles ($22 from HD), and hardware including hinges, latches, hook and eyes (approx $40).

Van even took me under his wing and taught me how to frame, insulate, frame, etc. I see these things laid out in plans at work and watch other people turn them into reality, but I'd never done this stuff myself. We spent about 20 hours over a couple of weeks putting it together. The last step was transporting it and turned out to be the most complicated part of the whole deal. You see, the coop probably weighs close to 500 pounds. No joke. It's made of 2x6 redwood, insulated, finished inside with tongue and groove paneling, has an A-frame roof, shingles, Certainteed shingles, and trim. (The only things it's missing are A/C and indoor plumbing!)

There was no way we could just lift it onto a trailer and bring it home. In fact, it's too big to fit through the opening of our gate so we had to take apart the fence. I'm getting ahead of myself...

Transporting the Coop: A step-by-step breakdown

Problem: Find someone who owns a vehicle with a hitch. Solution: Scotty, our painter friend.

Problem: Find a trailer. Solution 1: Borrow a trailer from a friend-of-a-friend down the street. Arrive to find the trailer has a flat tire and is blocked by a Jeep. Solution 2: Scotty has a friend with a trailer, but it's full of aspen logs. We have to unload the trailer before it can be used. And it was raining.

Problem: Find a Bobcat/skid steer/forklift to hoist the coop off the trailer and into place. Solution: Diamond Rental had a forklift but it was no ordinary forklift. This baby was street legal and could lift 5,000 pounds 16 feet into the air. Lucky for us, Scotty was also a qualified forklift operator.

Problem: Getting the coop into the backyard with such a gargantuan machine. Solution: Very kind (and very strong) neighbors saw our plight and came to our rescue. It took 7 people to carry it 25 feet. With 2 breaks.

Tonight is their first night in the new digs. I'm hoping we built it well and that they'll survive.

In the end, these $3 chicks turned into a bigger fiasco than we could have imagined. I can't tell you whether or not it has been worth it. I'll let you know how I feel when the first egg is laid.

I promise to post photos later. It's been an exhausting weekend and I'm ready to crash!