Wednesday, April 29, 2009

My Son , the Stone Man

I am proud to announce that John's work as a stone mason has been recognized by two separate preservation organizations in Ohio for his restoration work  on an old cobblestone residence in Aurora, Ohio. The old house, the C.R. Howard House which I have always admired, is one of the few such houses in this part of the country. 

The Cleveland Preservation Society and AIA Cleveland is presenting a 2009 Preservation Award for Best Residential and Renovation Project to John for his work. It was a labor of love for  him and the award is icing on the cake. Added to that  honor is an award from Heritage Ohio for Best Small Residential Project for the same work. He also wrote an article on the house which was published in a national stone masonry journal.

This was painstaking work which involved mixing and matching lime  mortar to retain the appearance of he original 150 year old surface. He was able to find the small stones used in the  repair right on the property, so that the connection with the early masonry workers gave even more meaning to the job. John has been a history buff since childhood and that is part of why he so loves this work. 

A number of years ago on a trip to Wales,  he found out that his Burnell ancestors had been stonemasons. The present-day Burnells showed him some structures built by Burnells of the past and that's when he decided to reclaim his heritage. It's been a rewarding profession and I am happy that he is getting this recognition. He can also see the results of his good work in many areas of Northeastern Ohio, some of which you can see here

Makes a mother right proud, too.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bella Italia

It's been a couple of weeks since the devastating earthquake in L 'Aquila, Italy. Emily said I should write about the wonderful times we have had in Italy and the beauty of the place and the people. It is so sad to think of the loss of lives and the homes that families have lived in for generations tumbled into dust. Italy is like a living museum.

The first time I was there, it was in Florence, the home of the Renaissance where you can walk around where Dante, the Medici's, Michelangelo, Giotto, Botticelli and all the artists, poets and philosophers walked centuries ago. It's mind boggling. Every building in the old part of the city is an architectural jewel. Words can't do it justice.

The next time I was there it was in one of those hill towns in Tuscany, Monte San Savino, a sort of mini-Florence. Chris had rented an old stone villa in an olive grove just outside the town. The view from my bedroom window looked like a painting from the 15th century. We would go into town in the morning for cappuccino and gelato and just watch people. Italian women walk as if they are the most spectacular females on earth..."Look how I do this! Feast your eyes on me!" Of course, when they get old and fat, they are leaning out of second story windows gossiping with neighbors. The old men sit on the steps of the church, smoking cigars and ignoring the women. The buildings are ancient and in use, not torn down and replaced with spit and cardboard boxes. The picture above is a group of residences in Monte San Savino, old and lived in, probably a lot like the houses in L'Aquila that are gone.

We had a wonderful time in this place. The owner of the villa gave us fresh vegetables from the garden. None of us spoke Italian, but Chris somehow understood everything our landlord said to him. We had terrific wine every night and made some excursions to other hill towns like Montelcino, home of Brunelli wine, which we bought because it sounded like Burnell, Castello di Gargonza, where Dante spent some time in exile, and the Chianti area where the wine comes from. We saw a road sign for a town called Trequanda, which made us laugh. We took a quick trip to Florence so I could show them where "Room With a View" was filmed and have some great gelato.

When I read about the earthquake, I thought of this beautiful place and how terrible to lose lives and the beauty of an old town where their connection to their past was with them all the time and now is gone. I remember that there was a terrible, much worse earthquake a number of years ago in Assisi, and how the survivors were living in trailers and wonder how things are there now. I did read about the restoration of mosaics in the church of St. Francis, but I have read nothing about the restoration of homes there. I wonder if the same thing will happen to the residents of L'Aquila. How do you recover from the destruction of your living place? Is is better or worse if it comes from the hand of man or the force of nature?

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Lost in Inner Space

I have now had a week of radiation and do not glow in the dark yet. I also found out from a test that (get this name) Dr. Mumbishir, the oncologist, had run that I am at very low risk for a recurrence of the cancer, so there will be no chemo which I had no intention of doing anyway. I mean how much overkill does one need for a teeny tumor?

I shall have in all 5 or 6 weeks of this radiation. Here's how is goes. You go to Suite 10 in the basement of the hospital annex. Does that not sound a bit ominous, even if it does sound like "sweeten"? "When last seen, she was sent to Suite 10." So you go there and you don't even have to stop at the desk. You go back through a hallway to a little section where there are lockers and a dressing (actually undressing) room. You put on one of those impossible to close gowns that are supposed to tie in the back, but which I cannot manage to do. Then you put your clothes in a locker, lock it and slip the key onto your wrist, just like at the swimming pool back in the day. Then you go into this tiny waiting room with a TV where you can watch Alan Ludden emceeing "Password" and admire his 70s leisure suits. You don't have time to watch anything with a plot, so you just sit there and shout out the answers to the contestants until you are called into the ROOM.

There you state your name and birth date lest they zap you with someone else's radiation recipe. In the picture above is the machine that zaps you. You lie supine on the "bed" which has a nice sheet on it and you fit your head into a mold they made the first time you went to be set up for this. Your arms go back behind your head into stirrups, like the ones that you would put your feet into if you were at the gynecologist. There's an echo of a torture scene about it. Oh, before that they have removed your arms from the gown, thus exposing your upper body to anyone who happens to wander thought the room. Well, no one has done that, but each time I go there seems to be a different guy assisting the technician.

When you are all settled and half nekkid, the big round thing at the top (see arrow) swings around over you (see arrow on the left). The techs get the hell out of the room, lest they be accidentally zapped. There are a few beeping noises and it's over in about three minutes. While you are lying there you are also trapped into listening to their choice of music. One day it was "This Diamond Ring" which I had a helluva time getting out of my head for hours afterwards.

Everyone there is very nice and they always have a big bowl of candy in the waiting room, even though so far it has been Lent. Fortunately it's only abut a 15 minute drive from home, so it doesn't take up too much of my time. It's almost like having a short, part time job that you have to be at every day at the same time, except on week-ends. I can do this.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Herman, the Uninvited Pest -er-Guest

We have been invaded by the cat of a neighbor across the street. This cat discovered the cat door in the basement last year, This cat door was installed by John for his and his own cat's (Dupree) benefit. Dupree had developed the habit, indulged by John, of wanting to go out around 3 a.m. every day. That there was a convenient litter box in the basement, accessible to Dupree, made no difference. All of our cats have enjoyed adventures in Dix's woods catercorner from our house. Other cats could wait until later in the morning, but Dupree likes 3 a.m.

The cat door worked quite well for a number of years, but in the recent past, a number of neighbor's cats have wandered in and been chased out by both me and Dupree. However, Herman, a quite lovely brown tabby, does not shoo easily. It has gotten worse since his owners have acquired a third dog. Herman apparently could tolerate two, but the third has created in him a need for respite - in our house. For a long time, there would be confrontations by the cat who lives here, growling and spitting which sounded vaguely like "Get the hell outta my house!" from Dupree. That has now settled down to a few mild mutterings.

One thing about Herman intrusions, is if I happen to walk into a room where is has sneaked earlier, he announces himself with the eeriest meow I have ever heard from any cat. The closest I can get to describing it is that strange instrument designed back in the 40s by some European genius, which is called a Theremin, which you can hear here. It was popular in horror movies. When that sound comes from a cat, especially one which is hiding behind a couch, it can make you jump plumb of your shoes.

On his his way into the house which takes him through the basement garage, he does a little dance on my car, leaving his paw prints from one end of it to the other. He makes sure all the humans in the house are in bed, eases through the ajar door from the basement, snacks for a bit on Dupree's left over food and then settles into his favorite chair, which also happens to be mine. Of I get up during the night he shoots back through the basement and goes home.

Lately, how eve, as if this isn't enough, he has GONE TOO FAR. I came home from my early morning water aerobics class to see him sitting in the front window! This is Dupree's front window. Dupree had been featured on several of my Christmas cards in HIS front window. And not only was Herman sitting in the window, but Dupree was sound asleep behind him on the back of the couch.
As soon as Herman spotted me walking toward the front door, he shot off the couch and down the basement stairs, leaving the cat door flapping.

We have tried keeping all the doors closed, but that meant that John was getting up at 3 a.m. again. It seems to be okay with Dupree that this cat comes in, eats his food and sits in his window, so I guess we'll just have to put up with it until his owner gets down to 2 dogs again.