Way back in Junior High or High School, our Mom was part of a puppet troupe called Kids on the Block.  The troupe’s speciality was puppets and shows focusing on kids with disabilities.  There was one in a wheelchair with cerebral palsy, another blind with a cane, and so forth.  It was meant to teach young kids about living with disabilities and removing some of the stigma surrounding people’s disabilities.

One of these puppets was named Mandy.  Mandy was deaf and required two operators – one to move her head and body and another to act as her hands.   Mom was the hands.  This meant she had to know American Sign Language (ASL) and in an effort to help her practice, my brothers and I learned ASL as well.  It was a lot of fun and I did have a few occasions over the years where I actually got to use it.  For the most part, though, my brother and I used it to plan things behind our teachers backs.

ASL is one of those skills that you have to use or lose and over the past 20+ years, my knowledge has faded to a few basics.  It’s one of those things that would come up in casual conversation and I’d always say, “I’d love to learn it again, just for fun.”

Fast forward to Spring 2012 and  Arthaus (Decorah’s home to performing and visual arts) offered a 12-week Introduction to ASL class.  The price was right and the schedule fit so I signed up.

Some of it’s coming back pretty quick – the alphabet, basic signs, etc.  We’re learning about 20 words per week, most of which are grouped together.  For instance, last week we learned ‘family’ such as mother, father, brother, sister, and so forth which helps.  Some words make a lot of sense or feed off one another (the sign for ‘girl’ is also used in the sign for ‘sister)’.  Our instructor, who teaches Deaf students in the local school district is also giving us insights into Deaf culture (hint – don’t wear stripped clothes when signing; it makes it really hard to see your hands).

Probably the toughest part is getting a grasp on the grammar.  Deaf people don’t use it the same way we do.  Words like Is or To are useless for the most part.  So instead of signing ‘What is your name?’, a deaf person might sign is ‘You Name?’ (or ‘Name You?’).  And while you might think you’ve got things down pat, actually trying to ‘read’ someone else signing takes some serious practice.

Practicing in public (as I do on my walks to work) does earn you a few odd looks.  People either think you’re on drugs or having a seizure.  I still say I look more sane than someone talking on a Bluetooth headset and I’m not nearly as annoying.

In any case, I’m enjoying it immensely and hope to keep it up.  Who knows where it’ll go? Maybe I can become an interpreter for those rich and famous sci-fi/fantasy authors I aspire to join.

Squirrel Ninja Identified

Follow-up to yesterday’s posting:

Last night before I went to bed, I noticed something out in the yard.  Upon further investigation, it turned out to be a deer.

With its tongue lapping out all the bird seed that was in the feeder.

Now that the threat of Squirrel Ninjas has been avoided, I do believe we’ll be bringing in the feeder at night.

The Deer Ninja waits, still as a rock, until the moment to strike.

Message Received

A little while back, we got a new bird feeder.   Here’s Tim Tam enjoying it from our new couch:

Tim Tam and the Bird Feeder

The feeder has greatly increased our popularity with the neighborhood birds.  At one time I think we counted fourteen birds that were on the feeder or the lamp post that it’s hanging off of, plus more waiting in the nearby tree for their turn. As an added bonus, it’s squirrel proof – if a squirrel tried to climb onto it, their weight would pull down the outer shell and cut off access to the seeds.

However, we’ve run into an odd problem.  We fill the feeder each day in the afternoon and when we go to bed, it’s still 2/3rds or more full.  Yet when we wake up in the morning, it’s completely empty.  Like, bone-dry empty.   This is odd as most birds don’t feed during the night.  So there’s only one obvious conclusion – Squirrel Ninjas.

The little cretins are obviously using some sort of Ninja-like skills – perhaps stacking on one another or dangling ropes from the overhanging post to lower themselves onto the feeder and suck out all the seeds (Steph suspects a straw, I’m thinking a mini-vacuum).

Earlier this morning as we were heading out for errands, Steph and I discussed bringing in the feeder at night. When we returned from our errands, there was a dead bird in the driveway with a little piece of seed next to its beak.

We both agree it would be best if the feeder stayed out at night.


Owning the House

The day we signed the papers and took possession of our house was also the first day Steph saw the house.

So much purple ...

True story.  Honest.

Back in 2003, Steph and I were forced to live apart due to jobs and selling our old house in Cedar Rapids and I had the fun task of doing most the house searching in Decorah.  When I was able to, I sent some pictures back but it wasn’t until the day we signed the papers that we drove by and she got her first In Person look at the house.  She approved.

As some say, “There’s trust and then there’s trust.”

This house suits us.  It’s cozy (i.e. realtor speak for small) but it’s just the two of us plus the dog and cat.  We don’t entertain often but we’ve had parties with upwards of 30 people and everyone fit just fine.  We also don’t have a lot of worldly possessions and the size keeps us in close proximity.  In short, we like it.

That’s not to say it couldn’t be improved.  In the almost nine years we’ve lived here, we’ve made steady improvements.  Most of those were done out of need – the previous owner was a bit eccentric, to put it kindly.  A partial list of what’s been done:

Framework of a Porch
  • Replaced every window in the house (previous owner had glued them shut)
  • Replaced the roof (one layer of shingles, 30+ years old)
  • Painted the house (the neighbors actually thanked us for that)
  • Removed large back window with sliding French doors
  • Added air conditioning (previously had window A/C)
  • Painted counter tops (mix of paint plus 5 layers polyurethane)
  • Replaced front door
  • Added a sun porch
  • Sided the entire house
  • Added gutters
  • Replaced garage roof
  • Laid down a new driveway

All of this has made the house nicer but as I mentioned, most were done out of necessity.  However, in a couple of months we get to start the Big project, aka the Kitchen Remodel.  This is the one that we think will make us feel like we really own the place.

The new sofa. This will fit nicely in the kitchen.

On Friday, we’ll receive the first piece of the remodel – the new sofa.

Yes, I can hear you now – “Wait, didn’t you say Kitchen Remodel?  How the heck does a sofa fit into the kitchen?”

Well, it’s simple really – we started out with a simple remodeling of the kitchen.  It was all the stuff that Steph’s been dreaming of.  Quartz counter tops, new cabinets, a new sink, garbage disposal, dishwasher (I’ve washed dishes by hand for 8+ years, this is a big deal), a better stove, and under counter lights.

Then we decided on new flooring (bamboo, for the green factor) but due to the way the house is laid out, we discovered that doing just the kitchen would make the rest of the place look odd.  So we expanded out into the hallway and living room.  With that comes floor boards and the realization that none of our existing doors matched so all the doors in the house are being replaced.  And of course, the old sofa just didn’t look right with bamboo floors.  So it had to go out the door.

So you can see how these things spiral out of control.  Ironically, we have yet to pick out the new stove for the kitchen which you’d think would be the first thing we would have picked out.  But hey, whatever works.  Short of carpet in the bedroom and office and the floor in the bathroom, nothing in the house will be original following this remodel. It might have taken a while, but it’ll be nice to make this house a home.

There's snow place like home.