Thursday, June 24, 2010

The Mayflies have come and gone.

The week following our buying "The Lakehouse", my two sistahs, Mere and Joanne, flew to South Carolina with me to clean and stock the house. Our new lake home had not been occupied in five years, so there were lots of critters to contend with: mostly mice and spiders along with their poop and webs. I didn't know at the time that Joanne was deathly afraid of spiders. I thought Mere would have been the one afraid of bugs because she is such a "lady". Not much surprises me these days, but finding out this fact did.

The prior week Larry and I bought basic, low-maintenance furniture: beds for every room, a sturdy kitchen table and chairs to accommodate the weight of big family members, wrought iron outdoor furniture for the living room with cushions that didn't mind wet bathing suits, and a lovely, stained-glass floor lamp with a Dragonfly motif. This motif then became the logo of "The Lakehouse". We wanted relatively maintenance free furniture because we only planned to use the house up to four times per year, and gave his family keys and free use of the property any time they wanted. We also bought a vacuum cleaner.

My sistahs and I got busy cleaning every room, wall, closet and cabinet. I encouraged them to choose a bedroom to sleep in and clean that. Poor Joanne chose the largest room in back and unfortunately for her, it also housed the largest and greatest number of spiders. Lots of screams emanated from there during the cleaning process, but she survived. She hasn't come back in eight years, but we try not to take it personally. Then again, Mere hasn't come back either, but maybe that's just a coincidence or an indication of how busy life is. I hope.

Once the house was reasonably critter free and clean, we took off in our rented car to the nearest WalMart. I won't go into the politics of this company, but it and Kmart and the most popular department stores down here. Target did not exist here eight years ago. That's all I'm going to say about that.

There's nothing greater for a woman than being able to "shop 'til you drop" on someone else's dime. So my sistahs and I had a ball cleaning out the store. I have never had to completely outfit a house before, and neither had they, so we had to think of everything that might be needed. We bought all the basic appliances: toaster, blender, and coffee pot. They helped me choose dishes, glasses, flatware, pots and pans, bedding, towels, etc. You get the idea. Mere likes to smoke when she drinks, so she bought wrought iron mini-frying-pan ashtrays. They were very cute. Joanne smoked also, so she was grateful.

When we thought we had everything, the three of us managed to push four over-flowing carriages to the cash register. Mouths dropped open when we arrived, and one man and woman stuck around, "Because we have to know how much". The tally came to over one thousand dollars, and then my greatest fear happened. My Visa card rejected the purchase. I was astonished because I knew there was plenty of money on the card, and immediately flashed back to days of old when credit card rejections were the norm in my life. I hated it then, and I hated it now. I was shocked and mortified, but luckily I had plenty of funds in my Reserve Credit Checking account to cover it. Once at the house, I called the bank and learned that when one makes a purchase deemed to be out of the spending pattern, the purchase is flagged and rejected for security reasons. I also learned to call ahead in the future if I had planned to do any more of this form of purchasing. Big lesson learned.

I bet you're wondering what all this has to do with Mayflies. Well, the night after shopping out WalMart and putting things away, the cocktails came out. I led the way down to the dock and noticed all these Dragonfly-looking bugs on the trees surrounding the path. I waved my arms and got swarmed with Mayflies. I just kept waving and shouting, "Y'all go on! This is mah hawse. Y'all get out!" in my best southern accent; all the way to the dock. When I turned around to encourage Mere and Joanne to do the same, they just stood there, mouths agape with hands over their drinks, just about peeing their pants. I yelled, "Close your mouth and run!" They ran to me after much cajoling, and we laughed all night.

I bet they don't want to come back because of bug trauma. What'd you think?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Happy Anniversary!

June 14th was the eighth anniversary of our closing on "The Lakehouse". It was also the eighty-fourth birthday of Fred, the seller. So Larry and I showed up at the lawyer's office with a Sesame Street birthday cake we bought at Bi-Lo, kiddy paper products, and a gallon of sweet tea to celebrate. We sang "Happy Birthday" to Fred after we all signed the papers, and Fred cried with happiness. He and Marilyn have both "passed" now, but their spirit continues to live on here. They were special people and we made them very happy when we bought this property: a place they put fifty years of love into creating, and raised their daughters on in summer.

Did I tell y'all the story of buyin' this place? Well, the January after Larry and I got married, during what is now our annual Christmas holiday trip down here, Larry's brother and wife challenged us. They said, "We'll get the pontoon boat if y'all get the house on Lake Murray to keep it at. Billy, Larry and Libby grew up with many fond memories of fishing with their father on the lake." We said, "Fine", and then a month later, they bought a boat. So, the search for land was on.

We christened the new boat with a ride around the lake looking for "For Sale" signs and realtors. We found Wilder Realty, contacted the Chapin, SC office, and connected with an agent to work with. I can't remember his name now, so let me just call him Bubba for simplicity sake. We met with Bubba one morning, told him what we were looking for and he presented a number of options for us to consider. One of those options was "The Lakehouse".

He described this property to us as fenced-in and owned by an ornery old coot, who kept the gate locked and was very particular who he let in. Bubba tried several times to get the key to show us the place, but could never hook up with Fred. We did not have a very good impression of this property, so we just asked Bubba to give us a list of properties from lowest to highest price to let us explore on our own. We would get back to him if we found something. We wanted to see for ourselves what we would get for our money and how it differed from land values up north.

We rode all around the lake with our map marked for the properties we had a stack of listings for. Once we had seen everything on the list, I said, "Why don't we just take a ride over to that place Bubba keeps pushing on us and just take a look for ourselves." When we got there, it was a very long dark, dirt road with woods on both sides. Half the property was fenced in with what Larry called "hog fencing": like "chicken wire", but the squares are about four inches, instead of one inch, supported by rotting wood posts (more like cut tree trunks). Then there was a utility road (just a cleared path wide enough to fit a truck for pole repair work) across the width and the rest of the property was fenced in with chain-link. The road dead-ended at the lake, and the gate was about a hundred yards from the end on the left. The fence had barbed wire along the top and all I could think of was "Stalag 13" from Hogan's Heroes on TV. No way were we going to live on "Stalag 13". So, we let go of the property and moved on.

We went home to Massachusetts after having no success in our search, and in April, Libby called to say she found an old farm house we should look at. So we flew down and saw this lovely old house on a pristine piece of property. But we also realized that it was at the beginning of a cul-de-sac that had yet to be developed. It was going to become a "gated community" with lots of rules, and we would be looking at all these huge houses' front doors and have very little lake view or access. Plus, the price was over our budget.

Billy said Bubba had contacted him and when he heard we were in town, he said he had to meet with us. He had the keys to "The Lakehouse" in his truck and we just had to see the inside of the property before we turned it down. I was just getting annoyed with him. So, when we met at his office, we again requested the latest "list" and agreed to let him show us the offending property. I said, "We have lots to look at, so we'll just do a quick look and move on." I said this very curtly, and he understood.

We followed him on this long drive around the lake to that dark, dirt road. I was getting impatient because everyplace here is far away. We hadn't gotten a hundred feet down the road when we had to stop because a tree had fallen across it. He and Larry had to move the tree out of the way, and I just saw this as a bad omen that we were right to assume this was not the property for us. My annoyance at this huge waste of time was growing now.

Once we got to the offensive-looking gate, we waited impatiently for Bubba to open it. Let's just get this over with! As we drove across the threshhold of the gate, I was flooded with a feeling; a premonition: "Oh my God, this is it!"

"No," I argued with myself." "This can't be it. We haven't even seen it yet."

"This is it, I'm telling you, just wait. This is it. Oh my God!"

I continued this argument silently in my head until we parked at the garage: a large metal building we also call "the shed". Larry and I got out of the car, walked to the point and I turned to him and said, "Are you thinking what I'm thinking?" He said he was, so we said to Bubba, "We'll take it and we'll pay the asking price." Bubba was so dumbfounded, he said, "Wow. I didn't expect to hear that. I don't even know what to do next!" We all laughed because we hadn't even seen the inside of the house yet. But we both knew in our hearts that this was our property. It didn't matter what the house looked like.

Once we looked all around, our tour only confirmed our gut feelings that we had to have this property. It had everything we needed: a garage, a pump-house, a dock, a boat ramp and a three-bedroom; two full bathroom (one with a jacuzzi tub) house with open floor plan and plenty of room for our families. It had a fireplace and was low maintenance. It just needed to be cleaned, but we could move right in. Fred and Marilyn were old now and had not used the place for five years. Their daughters were grown and none of their families used it anymore either, so lots of tender loving care was needed, but that's all. We were so excited that we were not going to have to figure out how to build a house long-distance.

Bubba called us a few days later, and said that Fred would not agree to sell us the property until he met us. They had had a doctor who wanted to build a mansion on the property, but it wasn't wide enough. The land is one-half of a long-narrow peninsula. He had a buyer who renigged on the deal and he lost money. And he had developers come in who had marked trees they would cut down. Fred and Marilyn spent their entire married life building this land and everything on it from scratch, so there was no way he was going to let a developer ruin it's country charm and homey feel. Fred and his boss bought the peninsula together. They put a four-foot anchor fence down the middle, drew up a deed agreeing this was the property line, then flipped a coin to see who got what half. Then they burned down the entire place and planted and built from the beginning; hauling soil and sand in one wheelbarrow at a time. Fred built the hundred-foot boat ramp ten bags of concrete at a time over many weekends. This was a summer place for he and Marilyn. They owned a house in Columbia.

So we agreed on a morning to meet, and we all piled into the boat, including Larry's mother, brother and his entire family; me and Larry. It was a very windy day and there were two to three foot waves all the way across. We got soaked, and I commented, that my mother would never have gone on this ride when I looked back at the scared look on Larry's mother's face. Poor thing. What a trouper. Larry's sister and her whole family drove there to meet us. We arrived at the dock, got Larry's mother on it, and Fred came walking down to meet us, saying we couldn't stay here. He thought we were interlopers. He was very nice, but stern and clear. He said he was meeting people any minute, and we assured him we were the ones he was meeting.

We all shook hands and proceeded to get our separate tours. Fred took Bubba and the men on the "utility" tour, while Marilyn took me and Larry's mother, plus the other women on the "garden" tour and a tour of the house. They both told us stories from their own perspectives about buying the property, building it up, and raising their children on it every summer. They showed us their dog, Droopy's, grave, that still exists, and told us about life on the lake: pro and con. Marilyn talked about fishing by herself in a little boat she puttered around the cove, and Fred warned us about keeping the pump turned off because boaters would invade, leave the water running to drain the well and break in. Marilyn lost a fish mounted on the wall that meant a great deal to her, and Henry next door (now also passed from a crack overdose [that's another story]) also lost diving equipment.

By the end of the day, Fred and Marilyn told us we passed our interview and agreed to sell us the place. We assured them we planned to retire and live on it, and keep it mostly the same. This plan made them both very happy. So, at the closing tears of joy were shed, and we felt a warm feeling in our hearts at making this couple bound for assisted living very happy. The birthday party was also a nice touch and was much appreciated.

We visited Fred and Marilyn at the "Home" for as long as they both lived as if they were relatives of ours. I always brought Marilyn a bouquet of "her Camilias", because they bloom all year long. When each one passed, their daughters called us first to let us know as if we were related to them. We have not been able to connect with their daughter who lives in the mansion across the lake from us (we used that house as a landmark to know we were in the right place before we knew it belonged to Fred and Marilyn's daughter). Marilyn tried to convince her daughter not to buy that huge house, and just shook her head whenever she talked about it. We chuckled at the family dynamic. Life is just too busy now. But, we remain hopeful that we will hook up with them someday. She and her husband are very nice and have a boat. She helps her daughter run their flower shop on the other side of town, and we check in by cell phone periodically.

We are so happy we bought this haven of peace, and feel very blessed to share it with family and friends. I bought a blank book in that first year and started a "Lakehouse Journal". I encourage everyone who stays here to write in it, and enjoy reading about their experiences and feelings for the place when we can't be here. It truly is a sanctuary for all who visit.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Heart's Desire

Grandest Desire: to own property where I could walk around naked outside without fear. My dream was realized when we bought "The Lakehouse": 5-1/4 acres of country privacy. We live on half of a long, stringbean-shaped peninsula. The property right next door has been abandoned for several years now. We tried to buy it, but the owner wants way too much money. I'm sure there's a buyer out there, and we'll have a neighbor someday. But, until then, we enjoy the ultimate in privacy. Both neighbors on either side of the coves are owners who don't use their properties much, so the only intruders to watch for are the fisherpeople, boaters and jetskiers.

I have always liked being naked outside. I think I first realized this in my early twenties after wrestling with low self-esteem and body image issues. I think I have always felt and looked fat to myself. As a small child, I was skinny with stick legs. As a teenager, I developed a pot belly. At twenty, I tried working beyond it by wearing more revealing clothes. It was the 70's, and less was more. "Hair" was hot, and naked was "in". "Free Love" was in the air and on the mind of every hippy or hippy-wannabe. I fell into the latter catagory.

I moved to Albuquerque, NM when I was twenty-seven, and my son, Chris, was six. I felt the strongest urge to get away from my home and everyone I knew because I felt lost in trying to be what everyone else wanted me to be. I didn't know who I was anymore.

I grew up acting like the "good girl": always doing what I was told; never speaking my mind, but obeying without question. As the oldest of twelve children, I became the father substitute because my father worked more than one job and I had his temper. My mother also worked, so I babysat a lot. Again, I did what was expected of me, but I hated it. I just wanted to be a kid and a teenager. I didn't want to be a parent.

At seventeen, I sat in the Burger King in Waltham, MA with my friends, Pat and Kathy, and remember telling them I wanted to try everything in life at least once. That's when I started questioning everything and testing the waters of rebellion.

After high-school graduation, I went to New York City for a week with my friends, Shirley and Dana. We had fake I.D.'s and spent most every night at a club in Greenwich Village. We liked it so much, that we made friends and started going around there during the day. We went to the apartment of a few of those new friends, and when we told them that we were still virgins at eighteen, they treated us like we had leprosy. I knew I had to remedy that situation. Shortly after getting home, a bunch of us rented a room at the Suisse Chalet on Route 2 in Cambridge and that's where I cheered when I saw the blood-stained sheets of my newly declared womanhood.

Long story short: sex, drugs; rock 'n roll ensued, and I became an unwed mother at twenty. It was not socially acceptable to breastfeed in public, so whenever my baby got hungry, I was banished to our bedroom. It always felt like a punishment to not just continue to visit while I fed my baby. I knew somehow that this would probably be the only baby I bore, so I wanted to experience as much as I could. Breastfeeding was "a must". I could be discreet, and hated society's hangups over bare breasts. Needless to say, this experience became much too stressful and restrictive, so I started pumping and feeding him from a bottle. After I was sure he got the nourishment he needed from my breast milk, I started feeding him formula, and found some freedom.

It wasn't until we moved to New Mexico, and I met Kate, that I was encouraged to explore outdoor nudity. It was 1976 and I met Kate at the University of New Mexico in my Freshman year. I discovered a freedom there I had never known. It was a freedom that shot me to my core, and I knew I had to incorporate this into my lifestyle somehow.

My cousin reminded me today about our family reunion in Newton, Massachusetts in 1976 where as night fell, I wanted to go "skinny dipping" in our swimming pool. I'm confused now about the timing of my nudity exploits because I know the paragraph above throws this dateline off. Be that as it may, I was the first to strip down and convinced my friends to do likewise. A little cousin saw us and "snitched" to my parents. My father came bounding out after turning off the pool lights, and I found myself standing naked in front of him at twenty-seven; head hung feeling like I was five-years-old, while he yelled at me in front of everyone. The party ended after that. But not my desire to be naked outside. I just had to learn a comfort level with it.

Much later, after moving back to Massachusetts, I enjoyed vacationing on Martha's Vineyard where my mother had purchased a number of timeshare units. I used one of those weeks by myself, just to see if I could vacation alone. I went to what was then, Gay Head, and saw a shopkeeper who looked like a hippy. I heard there was a nude beach there and asked her if she could tell me where to find it. She sternly questioned my motivation because voyeurs were rampant. Assured I was not one of those, she explained how to get there. I can no longer visit the Vineyard without at least one trip to that beach.

In those days, families romped naked together out in the open: grandmothers with sagging breasts and bellies; mothers, fathers and little children all playing together. It was so European. I loved it. I remember, when it was allowed, playing in a clay pool at the base of the famous cliffs with little kids: smearing my body with orange and yellow clay to then lay on the sand, baking it dry, then diving in the ocean to wash it off. It was the most exhilarating experience of my life. I knew this was how life should be, and I was sad for people who could not feel this childlike, innocent freedom.

Over the years, as I got older and fatter, I went there just to feel normal. Nobody cared what your body looked like. Everyone was accepted. It was so harmonious. I had the highest self esteem at that time. As my own breasts and belly sagged with age, I decided I would be a role model for others with low self-esteem and body image like those grandmothers were for me. I would demonstrate that we are all beautiful, no matter what our bodies look like. I would feel that childlike acceptance and let it shine through me for anyone with eyes to see.

I continue to feel that way, but must admit it is more difficult to do. As a society, we are so hung up over nudity. It is a sad state of affairs, that we do not grow beyond the negativity associated with nakedness. I believe it is one of the main contributing factors to sexually unacceptable and inappropriate behaviors and attitudes.

Yesterday, I went skinny dipping in the lake. I woke up feeling a strong need to do it. It had been a long time. I lay there in bed wrestling with myself over whether or not I should do it. I got angry and just did it anyway. That's how I deal with fear: I force myself to do it anyway. Whatever IT is. In that way, fear has no control over me. I can still be the "free spirit" for ME, no matter how old I get. It is most important to me now to keep doing this as I approach the age of sixty-one.

So, this beautiful lakehouse is one of my greatest "Heart's Desires". It is my dream home where nudity reigns and personal freedom still lives. Yes, I watch out for men on the lake and don't flaunt in front of people. But there are plenty of opportunities to do what I want, so I thank God every day for this blessing. What is your dream; your "Heart's Desire"? Do you have it yet? If not, why not? Life is short. Live it fully. What else is there that matters anyway?

Friday, June 4, 2010


"The Lakehouse" sits quietly in the sauna of South Carolina waiting patiently for her facelift. She is not worried. She waits calmly, knowing it will come in its own time. Things happen more slowly down here. The heat of the sun and thickness of the air make it so. Nobody hurries. She knows this, and is content.

We secured an equity line of credit on the house as insurance for the future. Once we sell our Lexington, Massachusetts house, we'll know how much money will be available to begin her facelift. Right now, everything is on hold while we help Larry's sister endure her hospital stay on the oncology floor of Lexington Medical Center, and her family remain hopeful while the doctor's do everything they can to help her go home again. Her cat, Elvis, has been calling to her. They miss each other. They need each other.

Yesterday, she received a stomach peg attached to a drainage bag. This peg will allow her to drain fluids from her stomach, and was her only hope of going home again. So far, it is working well. In a couple of days, she will receive forty-six hours of intense chemotherapy. This is a "bombs instead of bullets" approach. If her body can handle it, she will receive another dose in fourteen days. In the meantime, she may be able to go home to her family, her cat, her dawg, and the dirt she loves so much. If the chemo works to shrink her mucinous tumors, maybe she can eat again and "pass" what she eats. Then, she will have a much higher quality of life, and can stay on earth with us a little longer.

Meanwhile, "The Lakehouse" will remain vigilent, and gratefully receive her makeover whenever it happens. No worries for her. She has the birds, the "Cooters" (turtles), the toads, the spiders and the mice to keep her company when we're not with her. She is never alone. She stands as a symbol and an example for us all: None of us are truly alone. And if we just wait patiently, every good thing will come to us in it's own time. Never fear. Remain ever hopeful. Life really is good and beautiful.