Worthy Stove

TomsWe have been living in the house now for four months and there are still many things undone. It reminds me of when we were having one of the several disagreements with our next door neighbor about where exactly was the property line and we had to have the surveyor back to resurvey after the City had resurfaced the street thereby covering over the rather low-tech survey markers, otherwise known as nails. He is a tall, well-built, handsome older man who had to come several times to get the job done and shared with me once as we were walking down the street talking, “You know it will never be done?” “Really?” I asked, “Why’s that?” “They just never are.” I figured he knew whereof he spoke.

We are making progress, however. Like when they came and took away the bright yellow Tom’s porta potty out of the driveway right before Thanksgiving.

rain barrelThe thing that held us up the longest was the final inspection because on their first walk through they ruled that our rain barrel was a structure and, therefore, required a five-foot setback from the fence. That meant it had to be moved to the patio, which is where it sits still. After testifying before the Planning Commission and contemplating the weekly newspaper coming out to do an article on us, I was beginning to despair. I could imagine the article, “the poor homeowners, trying to do the right thing by conserving rainwater have ended up with their rain barrel smack dab in the middle of the backyard!” I worried that this was like waving a red flag at the City and its building codes. I finally called a halt after talking with our architect, Terry Latasa, who is also the Chair of the Architectural Review Committee. I asked him if they could make an exception in our case. “No,” he said, “local code will prevail.” He told me that when he had seen the Hoover Dam of rain barrels in our backyard he immediately thought it was too big. “You’ve done your part for water conservation with the grey water. Just get rid of it!” “But,” I whined “we have all the gutters slanted so they all drain into the rain barrel. I will ask for a smaller rain barrel.” So that’s where we stand now, waiting for the switch.

On the brighter side, we have had lots of rain so far this winter and the succulents are starting to bloom and show their beautiful colors. At my window after the rain when there are pools of water, the goldfinch flocks fall out of the sky, and the hummingbirds come to drink nectar from our striking fan aloe plants now in bloom.

front doorThings have been completed one by one. We now have a door bell! And you can download different door chimes like the Darth Vader theme song for everyday greetings, or Jingle Bells at Christmas. The door is brightly painted in International Orange, the iconic color of the Golden Gate Bridge. Also, at our front door was an item saved from my mother’s house right before the demolition. I really had not wanted to go in the house beforehand. Somehow it was too sad, or weird, or spooky. But Allan Aasen, our builder, prevailed that I should take a look and make sure there wasn’t anything and, sure enough, I did find a little monarch butterfly light that my mother had in the garden, and a block of polished stones that my father had made and my brother and sister and I had signed the back of, which now is embedded in our front porch.

DiningRoomOf course, a big addition has been the furniture. For example, the dining room table, plans for which were drawn by Laura Michaelides, our interior designer, and which was built by our cabinet maker Carlos Paniagua.

loftThe cushions for the banquettes arrived, and the loft ladder. And the first two children we had to visit, ages four and seven, scampered right up and they slept handily in sleeping bags on the banquette and the carpeted floor with camp air mattresses to provide a bit of cushion. She, the most charming, of guests, opined that she would love to come again because the house was an “absolutely lovely place to visit.”

kitchenThe ultimate test for our happy home was the holidays. Our college friends from Germany asked if we were “buying that big stove just for Thanksgiving?” Obviously, she thought it would be a little crazy to have a whole stove purchased with just one meal in mind. “But of course,” I replied, “because that’s the one time when everyone in the family is sure to come home!” The stove proved worthy of the test. Not only that but unlike our home in Houston, here there is plenty of room for a crew of helpers.

We had some love issues over the holidays. Harry and I had had our share of disagreements just getting settled in the new house, but, since the girls now bring their loved ones too, the air is fraught with potential for the long term relationship. So, we try to be on our best behavior—no criticism allowed. At Thanksgiving, we always do the bit where you clasp hands before the meal even though your plates are laden with food that your mouth is watering to taste and instead you must go round and say why you are thankful. Harry looked so proud when I credited him with the vision to build the house. I said I would never have even thought about doing it on my own, but that we had done it together every step of the way. Even though now, with the decline in the stock market, we wonder if we should have spent quite so much money, we do love it.

recliner and sofaLove prevails! The other day I was sitting in the signature recliner looking out at the ocean and who should walk by, but this tall handsome man, with a dog I know very well. The handsome man, walking and talking with a woman was Harry. The women peeled off to go home and he and Charlie trailed down to the beach and I watched them walk so far I could barely see them until they walked out of sight over the dunes, down to the beach. It caught my heart by surprise how much I love him and how destroyed I would be if he never came back? But he did return and I told him my epiphany and he beamed to hear I still think he’s handsome and how much I love him.

So, dear reader, I believe we have come to the end of this tale. Thank you for sticking with me these past 18 months. I cannot say I’m retired yet as the Third International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women is scheduled for February 16-19 at the Asilomar Conference Center here on the Monterey Peninsula. Until then I need to focus all of my attention on making that happen. But, I’m in the place succulentwhere ultimately we will both be retired. We have already made a good start settling here and finding a new church home at the Unitarian Universalist Church of the Monterey Peninsula where I started on the church board earlier this month. Thank you all for reading and commenting on this
blog and being such wonderful friends!


About Laura Nagel

I am on the verge of retirement. For the past nine years I have worked for the International Women's Convocation an organization of liberal religious women dedicated to building international partnerships to improve women's lives. I am a wife, and the mother of two grown daughters. My husband Harry and I are in the process of building a house in Monterey, CA, where I grew up, and where we are planning to retire on the beach. In July of this year, I moved with our dog Charlie to nearby Pacific Grove. For the next nine months I will be overseeing construction of the house. My plan is to blog through the changes in an effort to make sense of it all and keep my bearings while all about me is changing.
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3 Responses to Worthy Stove

  1. Evan Michaelides says:

    Hurray! Congratulations! Looking forward to seeing it all soon.


  2. Mary Kirwin says:

    It’s a very nice wrap up to your blog and building the new fabulous house. Thanks for sharing your journey into retirement. Love you and Harry.


    • Merith Batzel says:

      Your new home turned out great!! Congratulations it looks wonderful and your huge big stove may fry many,many big turkeys, feeding a large group of family and friends. We are very happy for you and keep on loving this big guy.


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