Sunday, August 31, 2008

Too Tired To Tap Dance

I've waited for this day for weeks ... and now that it's here, I'm too tired to tap dance.

In short -- or in long, as happens to be the case with the walkway project -- the damn thing is DONE!!! I didn't get to do my long awaited tap dance ... yet. I didn't get the last bricks in place until after 5 (and a frantic trip uptown to Ace for more mortar). By the time I got the joints filled and the bricks watered down, it was nearly 7.

And of course during those two hours there were visits from ALL the neighbors. Both on each side, and even the two across the street. Oh, and I neglect to mention that the mother started cleaning out the shed this afternoon. That occasionally slowed me since I went and helped heft the heavy stuff. And it also uncovered more of a project than I expected as if the shed is going to survive another season or two, it needs some serious love. I guess that's on tomorrow's roster.

So, it was long after dark before I got back in the house.

And I'm sorry to report -- and equally sorry to disappoint -- but no pictures. By the time I'd have had a chance to even get the camera, the sun was already down and the last of the light was fading fast. With the walkway still drying, I also have my sawhorses at the already dry part and at the still-drying end to keep any wandering feet away.

But you know, in the morning, the walkway should be dry. And assuming that I can get out of bed, I owe myself a tapdance.

The Home Stretch

There's nothing to go out on the walkway and uncover this morning. I threw the plastic away yesterday! While I didn't get finished, I'm in the home stretch.

I didn't get as many bricks down as I would have liked but even as slow as I was moving (the week at work caught up with me and I was seriously short on steam), I forged ahead. This is all that's left! And ALL of the digging that I loathe so much is done. I have a single landscape form to cut and put in place and I've already started to put down rock.

I actually ran out of rock -- again. I swear to God there's a quarry out there! So after mowing the front yard, unloading 10 bags at the dump and grabbing a much-needed shower, I went to The Home Depot. Can you believe these people?! They had the 50-pound bags of gravel on an OVERHEAD shelf! Not sure how I managed it, but I got down what I needed and got it home. It's still in the car trunk waiting to be unloaded.

The mother stewed all day yesterday, but seemed a bit calmer last night. She was even picking on me as I relayed my plans to: 1) mow and visit the dump, 2)finish digging out the last third, 3)cut and get the landscape forms in place, 4) lay down rock and finally, 5) get down as many bricks as I could. (I had finally admitted to myself around 4 yesterday that I wouldn't get finished.)

After I relayed my list of planned activity, she says: "So when's the funeral?" When I was still toiling away at 7:30 last night, she was running around putting things away and cleaning stuff up. I had hoped to have the landscape form cut last night, but didn't make it so I literally was outside until dark. "It's time to quit," she bellowed from the front door.

Yes. It. Is. Today is it, I tell you. Today. This project ends today. I've had it and it needs to be over. So, look out walkway. There will be tap dancin' yet ...

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Just Disgusted

It’s a bright, sunshiny day and my bricks await me. I welcome their comfort.
The mother has become a militant in light of yesterday’s events. God help anyone who gets into This D*mn House uninvited.

Last night, she was pacing, chain-smoking, and on some kind of guard duty. (She was out “patrolling” shortly before I turned in at midnight.) Every window is open, the shades rolled to the top. Last night, the lights were so bright I almost feel like I need shades. The car is parked out front, in full view of two windows. I have to move it so I can work on my walkway.

It’s highly irregular. It’s never this way – except for the chain-smoking. It’s been very frustrating because the police don’t care. Even the neighbors don’t seem to care. They will though, if it happens to them.

Unfortunately, that’s not even the worst of it. I feel lucky and grateful. No one was hurt. Nothing was taken, nor was anything really damaged. (One cassette and some paperwork were thrown in the yard as the thugs departed.)

Meanwhile, not 15 miles away, and roughly 8 or so hours before this was going on at my house, my MEF MonkeyGirl was dealing with the aftermath of her stepson having been robbed at gunpoint. He was walking home from a local park at dusk. Luckily, he was OK. (A young girl was shot in a similar incident about a month ago in this general area.)

I know some of you housebloggers know exactly what I'm experiencing as your homes were robbed. (That happened at our old house in 1985. The house went on the market the next day.) This time, nothing was really done at my house except having our security and well-being shaken. But that’s enough to p*ss me off.

Yesterday, I was unnerved. Today, I’m mad.

It makes me madder that in both cases, these are kids. Kids. Like MonkeyGirl, I’m wondering where in the hell are the parents and what kind of values are they instilling – or not – in them? I know kids do all kinds of things they aren’t supposed to and it’s a contest sometimes to see just how much you can get away with. I was one once and I did my share of things I shouldn’t have. But nothing like this.

I’m hoping that this was just an isolated incident, and whomever it was saw there was nothing here to their liking and have moved on.

I’m sincerely hoping that, as the Bible says, “ This too, shall pass.”

Friday, August 29, 2008

It’s All About the Bricks

I couldn’t stand it. The image of sitting and then walking among all those piles and stacks of bricks – from my dream last night – stayed with me all morning. At lunch, I did a few searches on the interpretation of dreams involving bricks. This is what I found:

  • A brick, wall of brick or stack of bricks symbolize that your soul is restless with unfinished work in your everyday life. That seems logical enough. My house and yard have been a shambles for months and work has been incessantly crazy the past few weeks.

  • To see a brick in your dream, represents your individual ideas and thoughts. Experience and/or heartbreak may have hardened you. Well, um, yeah. But I’m not so sure that’s a bad thing. Let’s just say I put up with a lot less sh*t than I used to.

  • To dream about brick; good health. Now that sounds promising!

  • Brick in a dream, indicates unsettled business and disagreements in love affairs. Really? Well, there is at least one that was never concluded to my satisfaction. And I did have occasion to discuss He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named recently, though I derived a great sense of vindication from this talk …

But the more I thought about it, the most reasonable explanation of all came out of my mouth earlier today. This has been an exceptionally crazy week. Multiple projects and dealing with multiple colleagues and clients.

While I welcome all the new opportunities and love the prospect of being busy, I’ve gone from almost virtual isolation in my work to being thrown into dealing with hordes of people -- constantly. It’s been a little bit of culture shock for me.

My comment: “After this week, I just want to go back to my bricks.”

And I will. Very soon.

Freaky Friday

There were bricks everywhere. I wasn't sure why or what I was supposed to be doing with them or even if anyone else was present.

Then I woke up. That's how I started my day.

We close early at work today and since I'm taking an extra long weekend (tacking on a vacation day on Tuesday), I've got a lot to get done. That shot to hell my early morning wake-up routine which is usually rather leisurely. I don't generally spring out of bed with the alarm -- without doing a complete about face right back into the sheets once I've silenced it. But today, I took those few steps east and flipped on the light. To put it mildly, Ozzie was not amused.

Once outside, I had to do a double-take in the dark stillness. There was a light on inside the car. And the door wasn't quite latched. WTF? As I approached it, I saw everything from the driver's door pocket lying on the seat. Uh-oh. This doesn't look good.

I threw open the door and held my breath. The console section door stood open -- that was the light source. All of the mother's jazz tapes were still there. Everything from the driver's pocket appeared to be there. Even my iPod adapter cassette was still in the player and the change (60 cents or so) that I'd thrown next to the gear shift was still there. I don't think anything was taken. It looked like they were looking for wallets and CDs. Otherwise, why would they have bypassed the change?

I guess when I ran to get some cigs for the mother last night, I neglected to lock up. I'm usually very good about it. In fact, the night before I had locked the car, but inadvertently left my phone inside. If I'd done that last night, but locked it, would they have broken a window to get to it? I don't know. I'm just glad I didn't have to find out.

I'm feeling grateful, but very unnerved. Ours is usually a pretty quiet neighborhood, though I know that nowhere is immune. It's an odd feeling to know that strangers have been pawing through your crap -- even if is just that, crap. It's your crap, ya know? Grimy little bastards. I'd really like to kick their asses.

Now I'm wondering if anything is gone from outside. I hesitate to upset the mother since nothing in the car is missing, but what if my lawnmower is gone? (That might actually be a blessing. I really do need a new one ...) I can't think of anything else outside that might be of any real value to anyone. Especially what appears to be kids scrounging for cash and CDs to trade in or pawn.

What a weird day. And the scary part? It's still very early ...

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Downtown Architecture, Part 1

One of the most incredible things about downtown St. Louis is its architecture. A whole lot of things got destroyed in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Beautiful historic structures fell regularly to the wrecking ball, brought down with almost no debate or any resistance.

But about 20 years ago, a remarkable thing happened: People started to care. They decided that these grand old buildings did matter, and they started preserving and repurposing them. During the next few months, as long as the weather holds, I’m going to start going around regularly (OK, I already do this) – but armed with a camera to snap a few shots of these incredible beauties and whatever I can find out about them. I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Today, I captured the old Mississippi Valley Trust Company. On the National Register of Historic Places since 2001, the building was erected in 1896.

The Mississippi Valley Trust Company financed many early transportation and communication projects in and around St. Louis and was a major contributor to financing of the St. Louis World's Fair in 1904. (Not that surprising considering that Fair President David R. Francis was also a director of the Trust.)

It later merged with Mercantile Bank and Trust.

The building was empty for several years until around the 1930s. Now an office building, it has previously housed an aircraft company, a restaurant and bar, and later, a medical clinic.

I just love the detail and craftsmanship that went into these old buildings. You just don't see too much of that today.

Mother Hubbard's Cupboard

Remember the old nursery rhyme about that old woman and her bare cupboard? Well, that’s the story at This D*mn House. (Except we do have the bones for the dog. The animals never go without.)

With all the work that’s been going on, we’ve been take-out junkies again so the grocery situation is dire. Luckily, it’s $10 off day at the store so there’s an automatic savings tied in to the trip. You know how I love that in spite of the fact that I HATE the grocery store.

Take-out gets old. Fast food is OK but it’s just the same old same old, ya know? Recently, three new Mexican restaurants have opened up in town. On a whim last night, I tried the middle (in distance from home) of the three. BIG mistake.

We’ve always classified fried flour tortillas as tacos. No corn meal or wimpy soft tacos in this house. The mother can even make them from scratch, though it’s been a very long while. There was a restaurant in town that made a pretty good version of these, but after decades in business they went under a year or so ago.

Let’s just say the new restaurant can’t quite replicate it. In fact, due to the fact that their English isn’t so good, I don’t think they even understood what I was asking for. And while they don’t really have a take-out menu, they were happy to make a to-go order for me.

I’m a good sport though, so I gave them the chance. Unfortunately, the chicken quesadilla I ordered for me wasn’t much better than their sad attempt at tacos. Suffice it to say I won’t be back. They seemed to be doing a brisk business though so it must suit someone’s tastes. I wish them well.

I guess I’ll put taco ingredients on my store list.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

A Whirlwind

I know I can’t be the only person ready for a loooooong weekend. Even if mine will be filled with gravel, mortar and bricks, I say, “Bring it on.”

Right now, I’m ready to scream. But you know, it’s really not that bad. I have been crazy busy today – which is fantastic. Seriously. I find that I am a much happier person when I’m busy and productive. Today was a lot like being tossed around in a whirlwind.

I’m just not that good at pretending to be busy or at finding “busy” tasks. So, all in all, a very busy and very productive day. I’ll just have to see if everything ends up well. If it does, I’ll be an extremely happy camper! (Crossing fingers now that all today's work pays off in spades tomorrow.)

Getting stuck at work late though threw a wrench in my evening plans. I’d hoped to mow the front yard and make a run to the dump to drop off both the clippings and some dirt. That won’t be happening tonight now. Can you tell I'm broken-hearted over it?

The forecast is still lookin’ good for the weekend so maybe I can get to it then …

The Super Trooper

I was going through some stuff the other night that I’d jammed into a drawer. Photos, invitations, little notes, ticket stubs … each one associated with a different one of my friends. Each one evoking a memory. I found myself pitying the rest of the world, the ones who don’t have friends like mine.

I felt that same twinge last night as I surveyed CD’s vehicle under the contractor's canopy at Lowe's. Her SUV was loaded. Gravel, mortar, sand and a 4x8 sheet of vinyl lattice. The latter was folded in half (fortunately, it’s very pliable) with the last foot barely clearing the head of her 5-year-old who was strapped into his booster seat.

In all, there were 14 bags of gravel, eight bags of sand, and four bags of mortar with a combined weight of nearly 1,400 pounds. (About 400 of that was in the trunk of the ‘Bird.) So here’s my friend, dragging her 5-year-old to a hardware store to help me haul stuff home. She was totally unfazed by it and little man was a trip. Cute as hell that one is.

I had a lot of obstacles in getting to meet up with her. First, I was slowed by traffic from nighttime construction. Then, just as I was getting near the store, I realized that not only did I not have much money on me, but that I had no driver’s license, check card, check book, credit card – nothing! (This occurred as I returned my phone to my purse, after calling CD to tell her that I was nearly there.) I had to turn right around and go all the way back home.

That produced more obstacles. The night construction caused me to detour and a road I took to get around it was blocked by an accident. So, to make matters worse, not only was CD doing me a favor -- on a school night and with a 5-year-old in tow -- she was standing around waiting on me to do it! Some friend I am.

Cruelty doesn't begin to describe what was inflicted on the kid at Lowe's. At first I think he thought I was joking as I rattled off my list. I couldn't help thinking though: Kid, all you have to do is load it. Save the pity for those of us who have to deal with it.

Pity for those like CD who had to entertain her boy while the stuff got loaded and then endure check-out from hell because I decided to try and be nice and let someone go ahead of me. And then she took yet another out-of-the-way route to my house to avoid the night construction, carting nearly a half-ton of materials and with a piece of lattice practically sitting on top of her 5-year-old's head. What an incredible super trooper. Yeah, everyone needs friends like this!

It was a joy to me when once everything was unloaded she got to see the walkway in person. (And she insisted on helping to unload everything, including my car.) It was fun to show her where that same pit we dug together in last week is now covered in bricks. And while she'd seen pictures on the blog, she couldn't very well walk barefoot on those -- but she could in person. And did.

Yeah, everyone needs friends like this. If you have some, be grateful. Very grateful. I know I am.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Ring My Bell

The mother is fascinated with all things old. Queen Anne and Victorian rule the roost. I've never been a big fan of ultra-modern, so it works out. It’s only fitting then that we’ve always had an old-time twist doorbell, right?

The problem is that some years back while doing an extensive clean on this doorbell, the mother inadvertently tossed a vital component: a small piece of metal that links the turn portion on the outer door to the ring portion on the other side.

I was able to modify it by chopping up and filing down an old hex key but it never really worked very well. And after so many years of baking in the daily sun on the front door, the surface for the turn doesn’t want to clean right.

So it was time for a new one.

There were several to choose from as it turned out, but we settled on the one pictured here. I bought it from House of Antique Hardware. (It was a first-time purchase from these guys, so I’ll let you know how it goes. So far, it looks like my order is set to ship on Thursday.)

This one is a little more ornate than its predecessor, which means it’s also a little bigger. Even so, I think the center hole will still work as is. The plate on the front and the decorative edges to the bell itself on the back should be big enough to cover the existing holes if it turns out that they can’t be reused. So that should all be good.

And maybe putting a very shiny new thing on it will make me warm even in the slightest to the still all-white door …

Tuesday Tool Talk: RotoZip Accessories

A very special package arrived on my birthday last month. I’m slowly starting to use pieces of it. When Bosch saw how much I loved my RotoZip, they sent me some accessories to try. (Full disclosure: I received these products unsolicited and free of charge.)

Around Thanksgiving last year, I bought the RotoZip with its ZipMate wheel specifically to do the porch and walkway project. For the porch cuts, I used the mortar wheels that come in a two-pack for $5-$6. They work, and work well. But once you try the Dry Diamond Wheel blade (roughly $20 retail) there’s no going back. One of those was among the booty inside this special package from Bosch.

The diamond blade is specifically designed to cut floor tile, concrete, stone, and ceramics. And this accessory alone has proven to be an incredible addition to my arsenal on the porch/walkway construction front. They make pretty quick work of those bricks. This blade also makes it much easier to navigate a cut with a curved end. (If you've been following the walkway progress, you know I'm making a BUNCH of those kinds of cuts.)

They also sent along a tile-cutting wheel and an X-wheel, both of which offer up a bunch of new possibilities to me. (I actually looked at clearance tile – and even some not clearance tile – for our bathroom. Having something to cut it with was always the chief drawback since it is such a tiny room and would be a pretty limited expense otherwise.)

The X-shield makes it possible to do a flush cut at a 90-degree angle. It came with a wood-cutting wheel. (I haven’t tried that yet. I’m wondering where that baby was when I put my floor in last year! It’s the ideal thing for cutting baseboard when you’re installing laminate, wood or tile flooring.)

And until this pack arrived, I hadn’t used any X-bits. That changed last week. When Lawrence roughed out the location for the new outlet in the hallway, I ran out and grabbed my RotoZip, pulled off the ZipMate (which enables the cutting wheels) and jammed in a multi-purpose bit. Snap! The hole was cut for the outlet.

I knew this tool came with a soft-sider bag with good reason. There are all kind of accessories you can get for it! I’ve already invested in a spare diamond wheel (just in case) as the ZipMate attachment has been the thing I’ve used most thus far. And I’ve still got a third of the walkway to finish.

There are all kinds of variations of the RotoZip to be had. I’ve even seen one just like mine (only a refurbished one) online for about $60. If you do a lot of cutting or are planning to, this is an affordable, versatile, and lightweight tool you can’t do without.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Personal Hell

If Hell is personalized for each one of us, my neighbor across the street owns the soundtrack to mine.

Otherwise rarely seen, and almost never heard (except for the tiny black dog they let out every few hours), the neighbors who bought my great aunt and uncle’s house made themselves known the past few weeks.

From their garage, which was wide open, country music came blasting through and across all four lanes of the roadway. (Sorry to offend any country fans. It’s just not my thing.) I don’t even listen to music I like when I’m working. Except for the din of occasional traffic, I’m used to quiet when I’m outside working. It gives me a good chance to think, too. But I can’t do that when country music is assaulting my nervous system.

And not the country of today, some of which is moderate to mainstream. I’m talking 40, 50, nearly 60 years ago stuff. Lots of people I couldn’t name, each song getting increasingly more twangy and yodelly (think Slim Whitman), it appeared to be a collection of some kind. (I suspect it may be an album or CD out of this set, though I heard no Patsy Cline, whom I happen to like.)

The final straw was the Wal-Mart song: “Please help me I’m faaaaaallllin’ in love with yewwwwwww …”

To which the mother and I looked at one another and just started laughing. Carole doesn’t like country either. Perhaps it’s genetic.

“This must be what Hell is like,” quipped the mother.

Yeah, only hotter. And with no icecream.

The Second Third - Part 2

I nearly did it: The second third is all but complete!

I had to stop to dig out much of the last third as if you don't, and work right to the edge of the current work zone, things get even messier and more complicated. I hate the digging. It's my least favorite part of the whole procedure.

I did get to go back and tack on three or four more rows to what I'd already done yesterday once I got to a good stopping point with the digging. I really did get a lot done.

It wasn't as humid as Saturday, but the sun was still hot so that slowed me a bit. As the sun began to drop and the walkway fell to shade, a nice breeze even kicked in, so that made the work go even better.

If Mother Nature will cooperate over the holiday weekend, this project will be done. I'm going to clean up my dancin' shoes as I fully intend to tapdance down the damn thing once it's finished.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

The Second Third -- Part 1

The rain never came.

The sky got very black and the clouds greyed and multiplied. The wind picked up. We ran around and put everything away. I even covered my gravel pit at the last, because I thought any minute it would pour. But it didn't. (I saw footage from the Cards game though and it POURED downtown, so I lucked out!)

I'm grateful. Just p*ssed because I could have worked for another 90 minutes or so! But, by 4-something (having started at this time yesterday, 7:30-ish, I was exhausted anyway.) The humidity was relentless and it just sucked the life right out of me. I'd gotten so spoiled by the pleasant weather of late!

Today promises to be not as hot or humid, so I'm looking forward to that.

You can see in the photos how far I got -- and how far I've still got to go. It's exhilirating and daunting at the same time. People were coming out of the woodwork yesterday while I was working! Lots of compliments (including one from a retired bricklayer who said I was doing a nice job!) Even Mean Old Man said "Good morning." He didn't offer any commentary though.

The start of the plastic represents the LAST third. (Note to CD: There are now bricks and gravel where you and I were digging. That's the part I hope to complete today. You helped make that possible.)

We went to get more supplies last night, so I've got a trunk of gravel to unload. I've already been out to assess yesterday's work and uncover the pit, so it awaits me. Here's hoping that the chance of an afternoon thunderstorm remains that, a chance, and it doesn't come.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Racing the Rain

The rain shouldn't arrive 'til later this afternoon (around 3 p.m.) but the humidity is already unbearable out there (currently 89 percent). I've already been out spreading gravel, letting it bake in the morning sun and I have my first two rows of bricks chosen and laid out. Now I have to go set up my sawhorses and grab my RotoZip. I've got bricks to cut!

I'm grabbing a quick bite -- and some Tylenol -- before heading out to the trenches. I need to see just how much I can get done before the rain rolls in.

The good news: The widest part of the path is done. From here, less bricks to a row, so ideally at least, it will go a little faster than it's been going. The bad news: The straightest part of the path is all done. It's strictly Angle City from here and I'm not looking forward to it, but hey, I'll adjust, right?

Well, here I go. Here's hoping I've got lots of progress to report later!

Friday, August 22, 2008

Ode to a Front Door Lost

Front door, front door
You don’t look like this anymore.

All of your wonderful woodness is gone.
Your lovely stain now painted upon.

Perhaps you saw it on HGTV
And thought to yourself, “Oh, how would that be?”

Perhaps it did look quite nice there.
It’s not my house. So I don’t care.

But here, it doesn’t look so good.
On this door of mine, this door of wood.

No matter what she thinks
Or what she might say,
I’m taking Carole’s paint brush away …

When I went to bed Wednesday night, the front door was being sanded. When I got up yesterday morning, the door was WHITE. Yes, white.

I hate it. It will not grow on me. The only thing that could potentially make it grow on me is if she would paint the two panels below the glass panels either house gray or accent gray (a darker gray than house color). Or maybe gray around the raised edges of all four panels, including the two glass ones.

Otherwise, it just seems wrong. It looks wrong. Hell, it is wrong. Especially when you consider all the white of the storm door, gingerbread, and newel posts around it. (And this unbearable whiteness of being from the woman who always says “There’s too much white” when she enters a room without color.) What in God’s name was she thinking? The mother is usually spot-on with this kind of thing, but on this one, I'm seriously disagreeing.

I’m hoping that by the time I get home (hopefully, home with a car with two functioning headlights and no mobile fishtank) that she’s had some kind of change of heart and done something else to it.

Two Mondays, One Week

What Day is it? I’m so damn confused today.

Three times now I’ve had to remind myself to take the trash out – and then remind myself to NOT take the trash out because it isn’t Monday, though it feels like it is to me. No, thankfully it’s Friday but I’m woefully behind on a number of fronts so it may as well be Monday.

And it’s back to the grind this morning, too. I have to drop the car off on my way in and hopefully, I can pick it back up on my way home tonight. Luckily, it doesn’t sound too serious. Jim seemed to be nodding knowingly as I described the situation to him over the phone yesterday.

Here’s hoping …

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Brick-Free Work Zone

For a second consecutive day, no bricks went down. In fact, nothing was done on the walkway at all today. Part of this was due to rain that started late yesterday. Lawrence was here this morning though and a lot of other things did get done.

First, he checked out the motor on the outdoor ceiling fan and declared it alive. He then replaced the blade arms with the ones I was finally able to get. (One of the arms was destroyed back in the spring during a monstrous storm which also seemed to temporarily jam the fan.)

With all the blades in place, the mother slapped some gold paint around the light fixture casing and then it whirred into life. Just in time, too, because if yesterday’s humidity was bad, it was small-time compared to today’s. Then, we moved indoors to the family room where the closet that he and I built back in January still needed to have the doors fine-tuned. It started to sprinkle almost the second we reemerged with the first set of doors.

Lawrence trimmed them a bit and then it was on to the second set of doors. This time, the minute we set the doors down it really started to rain. Lawrence was undeterred. “Just givin’ the doors a little bath,” he says and proceeds with his cutting. With that, we were able to put the doors back on their track and this time they successfully cleared the floor! (After I dried the second set off, of course.)

Then, it was time for another adventure with electricity. The very first project that I worked on with Lawrence was on the coldest day of the spring in 2007 to install the outdoor ceiling fan and an outside outlet. (It was like 35 outside that day and I was about to die.) So, we’re old friends when it comes to electricity. But what workday would be complete without a trip to The Home Depot? We had to go there to stock up on supplies for the latest adventure in power.

This time, the plan was to install outlets in the hallway between the bedrooms and in the dining room. Lawrence began whipping out drillbits that were taller than me. I was awestruck. Then, the very same nail and string we used to line up the fence, helped to save the day and FINALLY pull the wire through. (The hallway proved more of a challenge than we planned, so we didn’t get to the dining room outlet.) Then, it was on to trimming out the family room closet.

I had tried to do this myself earlier this year. I screwed up. I cut the miter the wrong way, meaning the molding board was now too short. I’d gotten rid of the scraps which killed Lawrence’s idea to make it work. Then I had an epiphany. Why couldn’t I get a piece of corner molding that would 1) make up the difference for the too-short board and 2) eliminate the need to miter all together? Lawrence shook his head. “That’s a great idea.” We added that piece to our HD shopping list.

The corner idea worked well and we got all the trim pieces cut in about 30 minutes. I couldn’t install them because we both had believe the crown molding would cover the gap between the uppermost edge of the closet and the closet track. It didn’t. Believing that it would, I hadn’t taped and mudded it when we finished the drywall. Now, I get to do that.

Shouldn’t take long though. So, we changed out the fan blades, trimmed and rehung closet doors, installed a brand new outlet and cut multiple pieces of trim to finish up the closet.

More work with Lawrence will have to wait. I’m on my own for a while. He returns to 10-hour workdays and six-day weeks tomorrow. I’m bummed.

The good news: Nothing undone will hold up other ongoing projects, except for maybe the downstairs ceiling. But that’s for another post.

The Yard Ornament

Looking for something to add a little color and shape to your yard? How about one of these? The Yard Ornament is still in its spot. I'm beginning to think it's never going to leave.

I think that mini-Angus must have brought the car trouble disease to the property. When I went to get the light changed yesterday, got the oil changed and did some shopping at the same time. As I pulled away, it started to rain lightly so I turned on my lights. I caught the reflection in the back of the car in front of me just as I was getting home. NO LIGHT! They didn't change the damn light!

In a snit, I turned ole Bessie around and gunned her back to Wal-Mart. The problem wasn't the bulb. They had changed it. The cover on the light currently has about an inch of water inside it. The minute that light hit that water ... it exploded, just like the first one had. (I think that first light going out was what caused all my dash lights to light up the other night.) Looks like it has a break in its seal somewhere. I guess age does that.

"You could put a goldfish in there and illuminate with that," one guy joked. I wasn't in the mood for it though. In short, they couldn't get the light casing out to drain it. Another bulb would just explode, too. And if they just popped the cover off, they couldn't guarantee they could get it back on. So, I will have to call my mechanic soon.

Here's hoping for a relatively easy fix.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My Friends Dig Me

Or, more accurately, my friends dig for me. CD met me at Lowe's as planned early this morning and we proceeded to load up her SUV with gravel and some boards for a future project.

The day got off to an awesome start. We were just talking about Home Depot vs. Lowe's and I was telling CD about how much more generous Lowe's is. Almost as if they heard me, I was handed a $10 off coupon as soon as we walked through the door! Then getting to chat over a brief breakfast with one of my nearest and dearest was a treat.

Unloading was fun. (A half-ton of gravel in total.) CD got to see the infamous cart and appreciate its infinite value. She came to love it even more when, after we unloaded, she was determined to pitch in on the mudpit. "I'm ready to work," she said. And work she did. We toted some of the dirt out back to fill in where the newly departed tree once stood. The rest was dump-bound. CD's plans before picking up her young'ns had included a trip to the Y. After hanging out with me, she didn't need it.

Following her efforts at helping me clear the second third of the mudpit, the ever adventurous CD asked: "So where's the dump?" We loaded up her SUV and headed across town. (That gave us another chance to visit, too. How is it that when friends come to my house, we inevitably end up at the dump?!)

If anyone had ever told me I'd live long enough to see CD dig dirt, much less head to a dump, I'd have said they were nuts. But hey, she's a DIYer in her own right. She's been busy at home with her own projects. I've even witnessed her using a drill -- but on a pumpkin. I've got the picture to prove it, too.

By the time Chris left, a massive debris pile was gone and the second third of the mudpit was nearly cleared! I shaved the edges to finish them out, added my landscape forms and began filling with gravel. I was nearly done filling it with gravel when the sky got really cloudy. So, we started putting things away, cleaning up, and covered the gravel pit. Done by 3:30, so it wasn't nearly as long of a day. But it was a very productive one. And one I can't thank CD enough for all the help with. You really did help move things along.

Surveying today's progress left me feeling pretty good.

I then got cleaned up and attempted to get the car headlight fixed. But that's for another post.

Right now, I'm a little sore. Yesterday and today's hefting are catching up with me. So, I'm going to do what any self-respecting DIYer would do: take a nap.

Walking Along

My horoscope has had a grain of truth to it for the past few days. From today’s email: The opportunity to travel, perhaps with friends or with a group you belong to, could come your way today NV. Discussions with others could lead to the confirming of plans and practical arrangements.
Last month, Mr. and Mrs. MonkeyGirl came to my aid, removing the shrubs from hell. This month, my highlighted helper friend is CD. An avid supporter, regular reader, and occasional commenter, CD is another of my group of eight from high school.
CD called me Tuesday morning and asked if I needed any help. With both boys in school now, she’s able and willing to contribute to a This D*mn House cause. Since it’s not too far out of her way, she living relatively close to Hardware Heaven, I’m going to meet her there very soon. She’s going to help me haul gravel in her SUV! And it’s just in time, too. I used everything I bought already since I got this far on the walkway yesterday.
I almost got the first third finished! (Where you see the plastic in the front of the photo is the start of the second third.) I’m afraid to get too excited but it’s very cool. Even if I’d had more gravel though, I don’t think I could have gotten much farther yesterday because as it was, I was watering it all down at dusk. (That’s the chief reason why there was no photo last night. I also was outside ‘til there was no light left as I got the front yard mowed and all of the filthiest of the bricks washed off.)
You’re reading the ramblings of a very grateful person. First, I can’t believe that we’ve had this amazing weather for so many days now. It’s just been perfect. The sunsets have been nothing short of incredible. In my ideal existence, it would be this way year-round. I’m afraid it’s coming to end though as rain is in the forecast for tonight and tomorrow.
Second, I’m grateful that my employer let me juggle a few things to get this time off, even if I did work a good chunk of yesterday. I had to jump while the weather was on my side.
And finally, I’m humbled to have such incredible friends who continually offer – and provide – assistance, love, humor, and support. To my high school circle, you guys are nothing short of awesome. To those of you in cyberworld who have regularly voiced concern and encouragement, it has helped more than I can express.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Redneck Convention

Sometimes my mother exaggerates. But when it comes to the goofy little man who came to cut down the tree, I think she may have understated the facts.

She said he looked scary, old, and smelled bad. Or, as she had put it, "like he hadn't had a bath in five or six years."

Luckily, I was spared the ulfactory portion of his presence this morning. But I couldn't help but notice how this man of 57 looked at least 80. And he had a horrifying resemblance to the Tall Man in the movie Phantasm. (Except this guy was really short. So picture Angus Scrimm smashed down to about 5'3 and you've got it.) But I digress.

Toby screamed most of the night and the few times he shut up and I slept, the mother was padding around the kitchen (just opposite my wall). I finally gave up and got up at 6 a.m. and started working on things for work. This went on until almost 9:30. Then I went outside.

The tree crew was supposed to be here at 10. Uh-huh. Around 10:30-ish, I see a red truck hauling a trailer on the next street over. It turned the other way and then disappeared. I went back to my gravel. Suddenly, the red truck came tearing through the alley in a cloud of dust. Two guys emerged. I have no idea what their names were but I was calling them Bubba and Roy. Bubba was about 6'5 at least. He was very young and awkward and looked something like a cartoon character. Roy was older, short, and very dark. He had this look about him that just put me off, like that of a used car salesman. (Maybe it was the comb-back do, with every hair in place ala Wayne Newton.)

They were pleasant enough to be sure but seemed a few sandwiches shy of a picnic. They began picking up the mess from yesterday as a bigger, industrial truck appeared in the alley. The driver reminded me of the lead singer of an Australian '80s band called Midnight Oil. His passenger: the mini-Angus.

I greeted them all and we exchanged morning niceties. Then I stood back and surveyed the collective crew. Oh. My. God. There's a Redneck Convention. And it's happening in my backyard.

They even left me a souvenir: mini-Angus's camper top. Mr. Midnight Oil told me that mini-Angus's transmission had gone out. They'd be back later to pick up the camper shell. In the meantime, it's been moved to the rocks where the old sidewalk had hung out.

It's still there now. So the Redneck Convention is alive and well and still in my backyard.

One of Those Nights

The sun’s up and I’m up with it. Trying to finish all the things I agreed to in order to score my vacation days. It was a restless night after a screwy evening, so here’s hoping for success.

I got to Auto Zone and changed the flasher bulb in the rear light. One thing accomplished. I came home to find this mess, a spectacularly disgruntled mother over it (and the fact that my neighbor cut the grass along the driveway when I’d asked him not to, throwing grass into the driveway where she’s trying to paint).

Apparently, they sent a goofy little man in a goofy little truck to do the job. Said goofy little truck broke down at some point so that’s as far as he got. They’re supposedly coming back today to finish. And, thanks to the camper shell blocking the back half of my driveway, I couldn’t get in and out of there if I’d planned on it. Good thing I already moved my entire operation (including all of my remaining bricks) to the front of the house!

Suffice it to say I was glad to leave to go get my gravel.

What’s normally a quiet and somewhat relaxing drive was a nightmare. Night construction starts tonight along my path to Hardware Heaven and last night the workers were out putting up cones and signs and delivering the big equipment. I narrowly missed getting stuck in the logjam.
I discovered that the flasherbulb did NOT stay in place when I went to change lanes. (I’d had trouble with it on Auto Zone’s lot, not an hour before.) Right after that, the CHECK ENGINE light came on on the car, followed by the battery light, the seatbelt light and just about every other dash light. Before I could leave Hardware Heaven I checked everything imaginable on the car. Oil. Check. Transmission fluid. Check. Belts. Check. Radiator fluid. Check. Looked underneath. Nothing. Meanwhile, the car was running fine and after having pulled over to do all these checks AND to fix the flasher bulb yet again, everything went back to normal.

Got down the road and the flasher was obviously screwed up again. (Doing that fast, clicking flash when you use the signal.) When I went to fix it this time, the bulb fell down into the taillight housing. No quick, easy way to remove that so I went for the spare light. THAT one promptly fell into the casing, too. With just a tiny hole to try to grab the bulbs through – and no tools in the car, I pulled into Walmart for more bulbs. OK. Back on the road again. But not for long.

Before I could leave with my gravel – thanks I’m sure to the young kids who were kind enough to load it treating each 50-pound bag like a basketball – the bulb got knocked out of its housing yet again. So I now have THREE bulbs in the casing. Oddly that created enough of a pile that I could reach one of the bulbs to fish it out! Back on the road again.

About halfway home, I catch the car’s reflection in the back of a truck. The passenger headlight is out. Not only can I not win, clearly I don’t stand a chance. Mother Nature has backed off my case, only to be replaced by the Electrical Gods. I’m obviously in some sort of disfavor there.

That’s a new problem for a new day.
A long-term goal may finally be reached, justifying a celebration. That’s part of today’s email horoscope. Here’s hoping that applies to my walkway… But first, I have to finish working so I can be on vacation to work on the walkway. Hmmm ... something not right in that logic, but oh well.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Vacation Daze

Before Lawrence left on Saturday, we tentatively made plans for him to return on Friday. Then Mother Nature forced my hand. (She’s still in a really good mood. I guess to make up for all that horrible spring and early summer weather. If I could bottle the weather of the past week – instant billionaire!)

The weathercasters are still saying dry Tuesday and Wednesday with increasing chances for rain later in the week. So, I decided to see just how many days off I could wangle this week. I knew I needed one at week’s end for Lawrence. Could I score a few others? I asked.

Bingo! While I had to make a few side deals, such as staffing a call tomorrow morning and completing a few other assorted tidbits, I got Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday off. So, I’m back in the pit ‘til Friday. Here’s hoping I can build on yesterday’s progress!

That means that my evening is shaping up like this. First, I have to stop and get a new blinker bulb at Auto Zone. Ole Ladybird blew another one last night. And unless by some divine providence I put the spare from a few months ago in the glovebox, I need to buy more. Then, I’m off to buy more gravel. If I can find someone to do it, I’ll even have them load it.

And while I’m at it, I may visit my friends at 54th Street Grill. Hey, if I’m gonna be working like a Herculean athlete, why shouldn’t I eat like one? Ann actually said it much more eloquently in a recent comment: I'm thinking of all those Olympians right now and their physical activity, eating 10,000 calories a day. I swear to god, this house stuff should be a competitive event - you moved a 1/2 ton of crap today! If that isn't gold-medal worthy, what is? The frickin' javelin?

I’ve gotten no further updates on the tree beyond a call around noon from a disgruntled mother. The guy was there, but it didn’t sound like it was going too well. So, there may well be a tree in my yard still when I get home. I guess I’ll find out ….

It Must Come Down

I have to think it was the mother’s painting of outdoor furniture yesterday that finally did it. It was the last straw.

The pine tree that she grew from a toothpick is coming down today. Yesterday’s breeze probably blew some of its debris onto her paint, or at least that’s my theory. All I know is that in between painting the outdoor furniture and caulking and touching up the porch rail, the mother made this decision. She came up to me while I was in the mudpit and said, “The tree is coming down tomorrow.”

My neighbor had come over a little while earlier and apparently there was conversation after I departed the scene that involved the neighbor’s friends, who have a tree-trimming business, coming to take it down.

You might recall we were close to this point once before. The mother has been very resistant to it. “I just hate to kill a living thing,” she says, and in this case, I have to agree. I hate the idea of killing this poor tree that has fought so valiantly to survive and has been shelter to so many creatures both winged and not over the past two decades. But …

The reality is that for more than two years, this tree has been little more than a hazard. During the storm of 2006, it took quite a beating and it never really recovered. Much of the middle was destroyed in that storm and in the subsequent ice storm months later. Between its sparse mid-section and tottering top, it’s taken on a Dr. Seussish look.

Sadly, it became even more entwined with both the power and phone lines, making me cringe with each sway during a thunderstorm. And, even sending me out with pruners and a ladder in that ice storm in a desperate attempt to spare the phone line. (It worked and miraculously, I wasn’t killed.)

So, you see, the tree must go. I still don’t feel good about it. It’s just a case of you gotta do what you gotta do … while the mother is determined to do it.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

And So It Begins

What a difference between yesterday and today. The chief difference being that today I made progress. Real progress.

It took a meltdown to get me there. Sometimes that's just the way it is. Genetic I guess. The mother is the same way. (She just gets obsessed by more things than I do.) When she can't figure out how to make it work, she can be a real pill. She is like the calm before the storm and then she flies through like a tornado until she gets whatever it is done. And I'll be damned if that wasn't what happened to me. I'm sure I was a whole lot of fun last night and early this morning.

Clearly, last night I was frustrated beyond imagination. My plan was not working yesterday, and I didn't know how to fix it. I'm still not entirely sure I know how, but at least today I ran at it from another angle and it seemed to work. (The bricks look a little weird in the photo because they're still wet. In the top photo, that's what the porch looked like on July 8. You'll see there's still sidewalk in front of it.)

Of course nine hours of sleep and some pain meds didn't hurt. Then I drove to get more supplies before I got under way today and it was like the iPod knew just what I needed giving me everything from The Ramones' "Sheena" to The Cure's "Hot, Hot, Hot!" to Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy" and K.T. Tunstall's "Black Horse and Cherry Tree.'

When I got home, a few things had happened. I was calmer and I had a plan. I also had the bullseye, which did in fact happen to be the perfect solution for the porch posts, and I decided some door plinths (Gene's gonna love this) would would work for the mother's plan for the old salvaged post (that's for a different blog item)and all felt right with the world.

I got my shovel and I took out most of the sand and put down more gravel and more gravel and more gravel and then sand and mortar. And from there, I got to here. There's a lot more to do, but I finally got it started.

I'm tired. I'm sore. I'm happy.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Keepin' the Faith?

I'm discouraged. I spent nearly 12 hours outside today, busting my hump, and I'm not feeling very good about what I have to show for it.

To be sure, Lawrence showed up on time and the porch railing is up. I now have a new project in finding something to put on the posts before attaching the finials. (I think I solved that: bullseye. Perfection. Square to cover the post. Round to accent the finial! I think they come in a 4x4 size.)

After all the digging, I finally got to gravel and sand in the mudpit today. My hope was that I would be finished, if not well on my way to completing, the first third of the walkway. I don't even have a row done.

First, I grossly miscalculated how much materials I would need other than brick. Second, my running bond pattern going vertically just would not work out no matter how I tried. I'm going back to the drawing board on that one.

If I owned a white flag, I might wave it. I'm tired and sore and I'm just so fed up I want to quit. Unfortunately for me, quit is a four-letter word and not part of my vocabulary. Assuming that I can get out of bed tomorrow (by my estimation, I've moved over a half-ton of materials today, nearly double that if you count some of the multiple times moving it.)

I really want to go all Rhett Butler and just say: "Frankly my dear, I don't give a damn." What I'll actually do instead is steal one of Scarlett's lines and just say: "Tomorrow is another day ..."

Friday, August 15, 2008

Painting With Popcorn

The mother is wrapping up this round of painting as Lawrence returns tomorrow to put up the posts and rail on the porch. I’m hoping that by the time he arrives, I will already have some brick down on the walkway! (Emphasis on hoping.) If the weatherfolks are right – and I won’t hold my breath on that one – we may get a shower or two tomorrow, maybe, and that should be it.

I truly hope they’re right. I have got to get crackin’ on this walkway. It is taking entirely too long, not to mention entirely too much energy. And August is half over already. How’d that happen?!

The pictures are just some of the things that the mother has painted this week. She has moved on to painting the bazillion pieces of gingerbread she got to put I don’t know where. (And don’t really want to know, either.) I only know that I get to install it. Fun.

She’s not tired or anything.

Last night, she hands me a package of microwave popcorn and says “Open this for me.” I did and dutifully took it in the kitchen and set it inside the microwave. “You want this now or when you come in?,” I ask as she was still working on scraping some spots to paint on the porch overhang.

She looked at me like I’d suddenly turned purple. “What?” she asked. “I don’t want any popcorn.”

To which I reminded her that she had just asked me to open it. “Oh,” says the mother. “I thought it was my tack cloth.”

Apparently she had set the tack cloths I just bought inside the kitchen cabinet so she could grab one out when she was ready. She'd grabbed popcorn instead!

Isn't That Grate?

When we bought This D*mn House in 1986 there was danger overhead. Really – we just didn’t know it.

That danger was in the form of a ceiling grate covering the attic access and where the attic fan vents in the hallway that leads to both bedrooms and the bath. (We never used the attic fan until one summer a few years in.)

Almost immediately, we started having incidents which we dubbed “The Amityville Horror.” Moisture would form at ceiling level and drip down the walls. It was almost as if the walls were bleeding, and it screwed up the paint more than once, though most of it could just be wiped away. Then we found the source: the attic vent. Hot air just poured from there. I soon found out why.

But not before a near tragedy. The mother was poking around up there when the grate just came loose at one end. Not a big deal, except for the thing weighed between 20 and 30 pounds. A VERY heavy piece of metal held in place by the equivalent of two deck screws. It’s a wonder it hadn’t just fallen down on its own – and possibly on our heads! Try explaining that at the emergency room. If you even lived.

So, first, here’s this heavy grate not anchored worth a damn. Second, the material on the hatch to the attic fan and the surrounding opening: cardboard. I kid you not. Cardboard! I seriously wanted to throttle the POs at that point.

Instead, I reinforced the aging wood door, we filled in all the gaps with wood, the mother caulked and painted and I put the grate back (after she painted it gold, of course) with four molly screws. Molly and I go way back because the house doesn’t have more than one or two truly solid walls.
Eventually, she devised a really pretty grate that a family friend made. You can see the frame of it in this picture.

As of a few years ago, it became an accent for the dining room light. That necessitated the rebuilding of the vent cover. While I recycled the original wire mesh, we couldn’t get gingerbread to match the original(which matches everything else in the dining room) so we modified the plan. Nothing plain or ordinary for the mother, though it turned out to be relatively easy for once. I got a few pieces of door casing, four bullseye, mimicked the measurements of the original, and viola! Not quite as fancy as its predecessor, but it does the trick.

I hadn’t even thought about that project for a while until I was reading about Tysmommy’s adventures with her attic fan cover, one of her many projects of last weekend.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

A Really Bad Decision

I’ve got to start carrying a camera again. That’s just all there is to it.

There are times that images are best – and I say this, as a writer! Last night was one of those times. So, indulge me, and you’ll see why my moment of digital lacking pains me so greatly.

While waiting for the bus home, I couldn’t help but notice the car directly across the street. The car, with the bright orange boot lock on its rear passenger tire, was kind of hard to ignore. I felt a twinge of sympathy, knowing first-hand the evil ways of the Nazi parking police.

The windows on the car were tinted, so I didn’t realize there was someone inside until a guy of 20-25 emerged. The orange stripe that parted his dark hair was not that dissimilar from the neon orange of the boot. Though it wasn’t quite a Mohawk, the stripe stood at least an inch above the rest of his hair.

Yes, dude. You’re clearly a paying member of the antiestablishment movement. (The punk revolution of the ‘80s returns. Rock on.)

But here’s a bit of advice: The next time you visit downtown St. Louis – especially if you still have outstanding parking violations DON’T, as in DO NOT, park directly in front of the City of St. Louis’ PARKING VIOLATION ENFORCEMENT OFFICE.

How’s that for visual irony? The car – in front of a glass storefront identifying itself as the Nazi parking police, the boot firmly in place. And the orange of the boot complementing the orange stripe.

D*mn! I still can’t believe I missed this.

The Resident Guest

All summer there's been a guest at our house. For a while, his parents were here, too. Now they've gone and only Baby Bunny remains.

That's what we call him, the sweet little thing. He sits in our yard or, more often, under the neighbors' pine tree. On warm days, he stretches out flat and you wouldn't know he was there except for when a breeze or a bug causes his ears to twitch.

He is growing so fast. He must be getting some of the same fertilizer as the sunflowers. He likes it when we talk to him. I worry though because some folks around here let cats roam (bad owners, BAD!). That might be OK if you live on a farm. Not in the city. And not within a few hundred yards of a four-lane thoroughfare.

Wednesday morning, I caught one of the neighborhood cats under the neighbors' truck. I jumped from the car, and chased him down the alley flinging rocks. Little sucker was laying in wait for my bunny. (I'd never hurt him. But these guys are brazen. If you aren't crazy aggressive, they just sit and look at you like: "Who, me? Do you really think I'm going anywhere?")

Sorry, pal. Not on my watch. And not on ground he considers one of his homes. (He can usually be found in one of four neighboring properties.)

Go murder something else, somewhere else.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Jack and the Beanstalk

You won't see many flowers on this blog as the only thing that seems to grow at This D*mn House with any kind of vitality are weeds and vicious shrubbery. And, because I've inherited my mother's "black" thumb. (Even cactus don't survive it.)

It's a different story at my neighbors' house. (The wife could probably make a stone bloom if she wanted. She has all kind of vegetation sprouting around their house.) That's where you'll find these fine specimens.

This year, I've watched these sunflowers grow from seeds. It's quite odd to have something like this just towering over you. These babies are at least 8 or 9 feet tall. And the tallest flower itself is bigger than my head! The leaves are wider than dinner plates.

It's funny, but I don't actually remember them getting that tall. It was kind of like one day they just sprung up out of the ground, ala Jack and the Beanstalk.

The neighbors say that they heard there used to be an outhouse where the flowers are planted and wonder if that might not explain the ginormous flowers. ( I don't know if that's true or not. If it is true, it would have been at least 65 years ago because their house, which was built with indoor plumbing, is just a few years newer than ours.) I'm not sure that that kind of fertilizer would continue to have any effect this many years down the line.


The mother is a painting fool! Since yesterday, she has painted:

  • Four 4x4 posts
  • Finials for each of the 4x4 posts
  • Roughly 34 linear feet of handrailing
  • 24 spindles
This was all virgin wood, so she’s done each piece twice. She even painted into the night after we carried all of this in to the family room. (Just in case it rained.) Now the family room, in addition to already looking like a warehouse, now smells like a paint factory. All this stuff needs to be ready to go for Saturday when Lawrence will come to assemble and install it.

This tally doesn’t include the old posts (that she made me salvage from the old rail) a bunch of decorative pieces , and a 24-inch round wood piece that sits atop the air conditioner each winter.

I’m afraid to stand still in front of her – she might slap a coat on me!

Luckily, Mother Nature held out for a fifth consecutive day – FIVE WHOLE DAYS – with no rain except for a spritz on Sunday. (It wasn’t even enough to consider it a shower.) They’re saying there’s only a slight chance for rain today which would make it SIX days.

Soon, the mother will be ready to start painting around the foundation of the house. That means I have bricks to move. UGH. I had planned to have them out of the way and actually in the walkway by now, but as you know, that just hasn't happened --yet.

I guess we’ll just have to see how far I get this weekend, when they are predicting rain again.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Frailty, Thy Name Is Wrist

The human body is an interesting, well-designed machine overall. But for me, its Achilles heel isn’t a heel at all: It’s a wrist.

During the past several weeks as I’ve schlepped bricks all over the place, hefted 50-pound bags of gravel and 60- and sometimes 80-pound bags of cement, and shuttled hundreds of gallons of dirt around, this design flaw has become painfully clear. I’m afraid that if it’s possible for a woman to be a “limp-wristed wimp” I am one.

My wrists are small. They weren’t cut out for this kind of thing. I was hoping that such regular activity might strengthen them up a bit. (Maybe it has or it might hurt even worse! There’s a pleasant thought.) And I try to be judicious about how I use them since quitting isn’t an option at this point.

One life-saver has been my little cart. I shudder to think how much agony it has spared me. The fact that I’ve already broken both wrists in my lifetime (one of them, the left, has been broken twice, once in two places) can’t be helping my case any either. Maybe this is arthritis?

What’s funny is that people keep asking about my back. My back, for the most part, is fine. My knees are really taking a beating which tells me that I am, perhaps, following the old “Lift with your legs, not with your back” line to a T. My hands and fingers are often sore, but hey, that happens. My wrists? Sometimes there aren’t adjectives adequate to describe how they hurt.

About three times in the past week, I’ve reached for something, picked something up, or else put my hand down for balance and it has been BLAM! Like seeing stars kind of pain. It only lasts for a short time, lessens, but continues to ache. I’ve tried several OTC remedies including Activ-On, Flexall 454, and Ben-Gay. They all work to some degree, but never for very long.

OK, athletes and athletic DIYers – tell me YOUR best remedy. I’m all ears.

My New Helper

Good help can be hard to find. Especially ones that bring along their own tools! It would appear that I have a new little helper.

Sorry. Couldn't help sharing this as this is how I was greeted at home last night. (It was in his mouth at the time, but Ozzie wouldn't keep it there for a photo, the little twerp!)

Of course this sent both the mother and I into fits of '80s memories and we started singing "Hammer time." C'mon you know you know it. That Rick James Superfreak synthesizer riff stolen, er borrowed, by M.C. Hammer, followed by: "Can't touch this." It was one of those all too rare light-hearted moments involving almost the entire family. (No Tigger due to his anti-social disorder).

During which Ozzie would alternately look at the mother and then me as if to say, "WHAT?!" Then, of course, there was the total look of disdain from Toby the Cat as if to say: "Humans."

I think what is missing here is the "Will Work for Bonies" sign. (Bonies being the word used for his treats from Three Dog Bakery.)

Monday, August 11, 2008

Random Observations

Mother Nature continues to smile. I continue to shake my head in utter disbelief. Somebody MUST have slipped this girl a few Prozacs! Talk about a change in the weather … this is DAY FOUR of glorious, sunny, warm (but not roast-you-alive hot) weather. Four. In a row.

She’s either stoned or in love. Crazy. But whatever the reason, I just hope it holds out.

Sadly, I spent the day in an office so I was unable to enjoy the weather (except from my window) or to make any progress on the walkway. I have stops to make on the way home tonight so I’m not sure if I’ll be going out to try and do anything or not. Especially considering that it may rain tomorrow which would mean I’d have to cover it all back up again. Blehh!


The Dremel tool I bought for Ozzie’s nails is officially a keeper. Not only is he getting better about it, which means that his nails are starting to become more of what they should be, I’ve already found alternate uses for it! And you know how I love multi-functional … I bought this sanding accessory kit at The Home Depot the other night, only to find it at Wal-Mart an hour later for a dollar less.

The mother is now able to use it for light sanding of some of the many pieces of wood she’s painting. It’s small, lightweight, cordless and only has three settings. It’s perfect for her. I invested in two new sets of rechargeable batteries to keep it humming.

We’ll have to see, but this little gadget may also debut at Pumpkins and Powertools this year, an astute observation shared by Mr. MonkeyGirl.


Mean Old Man walked by last night. He’s getting braver as he is walking on my side of the street again. I caught him surveying the progress as he turned the corner. We’ll just see what he has to say once those bricks start appearing again …

Unearthing History?

I'm always in awe of the housebloggers who find things left by the previous owners in and around their homes as they renovate. So, it was not without some level of disgust, that I have been digging and digging -- both for the fence and the walkway projects -- and come up with nil.

I was hoping to have found a stray coin that fell from a workman's pocket or maybe a long-forgotten child's toy. Nothing. After weeks of digging new post holes and of excavating below what used to be the concrete walkway at the front entrance only disappointment.

But then Saturday, as I was filling in and clearing away the extra dirt from completing the fence, the sun glinted on something shiny just as I was about to strike with the spade. I bent over and reached down to find this marble.
Who knows how long it's been there. While it may look large in the photo, this is a close-up. It's not a shooter. Just a regular ole marble.

It may only be from the '70s, though I'd think it would be older as the dirt in back hasn't been excavated in at least that long and it was a full two feet down!

So, I washed it off and brought it in and now have it to add to the house trinkets collection. It made me smile. (I told you I was easily amused.)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Me Vs. Dirt

I did finally get myself moving and returned home with 300 pounds of gravel and 100 pounds of sand. Unfortunately, none of it got down today.

But, I did take advantage of this glorious third day of lovely weather by continuing to dig out the mudpit. The first one-third has been excavated! I mowed the front yard and delivered its clippings along with about 100 gallons or so of dirt to the yard waste dump. Not the most fun thing I've ever done. Taxing on my already throbbing wrists and generally, just a pain in the a** to do.

Some of the gravel is down in it already due to my stubborness last night. The next step: tamp the remaining uncovered dirt, add more gravel and TAMP, TAMP, TAMP! Then sand, mortar, and finally ... BRICKS!

Maybe someday there will be a walkway here ...

Must. Get. Going.

Mother Nature is keeping her part of the bargain. It’s yet another bright, sunshiny day. (That’s three, count ‘em three) CONSECUTIVE days like this. And I’m grateful. But I’m having a hard time holding up my end of the deal – literally. My butt feels like it’s draggin’ the ground.

I worked until dark last night and was finally able to put gravel down! It was an exciting accomplishment after days and days of nothing but dirt. Of course, this is only the first third of the walkway. I'm tackling it a third at a time. I figure it will be easier this way to handle both supplies and access if the walkway appears a little at a time rather than keep it all torn up and completely covered until I can start bricking the whole thing.

I had a rare night of having the house all to myself last night. The mother went to a reunion. I guess as you approach 70, you can’t wait 10 or even five years to get together, so they do this every year.

It was a nice change of pace. I pay for ultra cable each month but rarely watch much of it so I tried to get some of my money’s worth last night. I started out watching Gone Baby Gone, directed by Ben Affleck. It’s based on the book by Dennis Lehane (whom I adore) and features Patrick and Angela, his two detectives who recur in a number of his books. I’ve always had a picture in my mind’s eye of Patrick (and had a crush on him.) But Ben’s casting of baby brother Casey – who looks 12 –to play this role ruined it for me. I didn’t make it past the first 15 minutes. So the night quickly descended into a “chick flick” night with me opting for “The Jane Austen Book Club.” Predictable, but enjoyable romantic comedy with lots and lots of references to an author whom I adore.

After that, I happened upon Evening. This was a movie I had wanted to see, then forgot about. I liked it, though I missed the first 10 minutes.

I need to eat something, take some Tylenol and get on the road to the hardware store for supplies. By the time I do that and get back and unload, the dump will be open and I can transport some of this dirt and the rest of the weeds. (And, it’s time to mow again. Already. God, I hate yard work!)

Now all I need to do is convince my body that it’s time to go.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Ta - DONE!

Done. It's a four-letter word. Those generally aren't good things. D-O-N-E, however, is an exception. To celebrate yesterday's fence completion (I know. can you even believe something else is DONE around here?!) I thought I'd take you through the changes in the past month ...
First, here's the old fence. Bad. U-G-L-Y! Thanks to my cousin, gone. Now R.I.P! Also gone, part of the Hell's Shrubbery collection. Notice that big root. That's what was left after Mr. and Mrs. MonkeyGirl got this shrubbery hellion and others to go away.

Then, after the fence was leveled, this spot served as the temporary dumping ground for the old walkway I tore out.

Lawrence and I could only get so far with the fence on our first try last month. This is what Lawrence and I put up yesterday. It went much easier this time for a lot of reasons. First, we only had three posts and two panels -- a third of our previous adventure. Second, it was much cooler. Third, we knew to dig the hell out of those holes since the post-hole digger size is too small.

And finally, the WHOLE fence. YAYYYYYYYYY!!!!!! (The backyard is SO long ... I had to shoot this from my neighbor's yard. That's their bench and flowering bush!)

Note to MonkeyGirl: Posting these photos worked exactly like we discussed!

The Zen of Lawrence

If Thursday sucked (and it did) yesterday was its polar opposite. I got off to a slow start but awoke to a bright, sunny 70-degree day. PERFECT for fence installation!

My motivation level was a bit low and I took my time getting charged to work. I got up as I planned starting caring for critters and ran and got breakfast. When I got back, I started setting up for a workin' day. I wanted to mow the patch of grass where the new fence was going up before we got going. I wanted to have the sawhorses set up and the guide post and next post waiting.

I didn't get that far. I'd pushed the lawnmower to the edge of the alley and was preparing to start it when Lawrence pulled up, promptly at 9. You can always depend on Lawrence to arrive, but usually when he says between 9 and 9:30, he means BETWEEN the two, so he caught me off guard. He unloaded his truck and patiently waited for me to get my act together by starting to mark off the fence line after saying, "Good morning. Welcome to this beautiful day!"

Because it was a truly beautiful day (a few degrees over 80 ultimately, SUNNY, warm for a while in the sun but not roast-you-alive hot, blue skies, HUGE clouds) we seemed to make progress at an alarming rate. By 1, the fence was up. This included stopping to dig out all the materials for the porch rail from the shed, a trip to Ace for more screws, and a short lunch break.

While I ran to get more screws and lunch (apparently I was shorted a bag in the fence hardware), Lawrence sketched out the dimensions for the porch. When I pulled back into the driveway, he was sitting on the porch with spindles, handrails, and posts laid out around it. I was looking at his 3-D sketch.

As Lawrence was packing up, Lawnmower Man (not to be confused with Stan, Stan the Lawnmower man who fixes lawnmowers including mine)zipped across the half-lot on his rider and stopped to talk to my neighbor. I prayed he didn't have the blade down. Lawnmower Man cuts grass CONSTANTLY. His own. My neighbor's. My other neighbor, who, like me, finally made him stop. He makes HUGE messes. And sometimes, he does this job drunk, and it reflects in the finished product: Grass of varying heights. Twice this week already he has littered our sidewalk with grass and twice it's been cleaned up.

I quickly explained the situation to Lawrence. "That's the kind of guy that needs something to do ACROSS TOWN," was his response. It made me laugh. No malice in that. You have to love Lawrence's outlook.

God, why can't you have made more Lawrences than a**holes for this diligent DIY set? I thank you for him. Perhaps you could send his separated-at-birth brothers to help out Liz whose drywaller is a creep. Or to help Jen in her never-ending battle with Cabinet Guy. Or to help out any of the DIY brethren and siztheren who so desperately need an honest, reliable, and kind handyperson.

When I spoke to Lawrence last weekend to schedule yesterday, I was worried by the forecast then. Thursday and maybe Friday called for rain. "It won't rain," Lawrence said nonchalantly. "It rained today already (refering to last Sunday's soaker)so it won't rain Friday."

So I said to him yesterday that the day was like he had special-ordered it. "I did," Lawrence said. Yes, I believe you did, Lawrence. I believe you did.

Friday, August 8, 2008

As If I Could

I get a daily horoscope via email just for fun. Today's edition made me laugh:
This would be a good day to stay home and spend much of the day in bed, NV! You have been working especially hard lately, juggling both home and work with your usual aplomb. But today you may be feeling a bit worn out and overwhelmed by all that remains to be done. Give yourself a day of rest. Spend the day with a good book or some romantic videos. You will find this solitary time refreshing.

Startlingly accurate, though completely impossible to heed even though technically this is a vacation day. I did get almost seven hours of sleep (about 30 percent more than normal) but Lawrence will be here soon. Today's plan: finish the fence and cut the boards for the porch rail. I'm hoping that we might also put the posts in for it today, but we'll see.

I've got my drill charged and plenty of water in the fridge, plus a few damp rags in the freezer. It's supposed to be a super nice day weatherwise. I'm thrilled. Besides, I think I'm owed a few of those. In fact, it's forecast currently to be nice ALL WEEKEND. This I gotta see to believe. But I can hope, right?

I'm going to try again to post yesterday's doomed "pretty picture." While only a few of them are still alive, my assistant surprised me with these last week as we didn't have an office birthday gathering 'til the other day.

So ... here I go. Off to feed pets and then grab breakfast to feed people. And to caffeinate. Must supercharge to get things done today! Wish me luck.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

Off To a Bad Start

Apologies first to those who check in early each morning expecting to find a post. Or, those who check in mid-day expecting an update since last night. Sadly, you did not find one. To steal a line from Dangerous Liaisons: “It’s beyond my control.” (Not sure why that bit of imagery popped into my head as I thought about "circumstances beyond my control," but it did. LOVE that movie and its companion piece, Valmont.)

You know those days where it just doesn’t pay to get out of bed? This is turning out to be one of them. So, to pay homage to another flick, if my life ever ends up as Groundhog Day, PLEASE don’t let this be the day.

I had a nice little photo to share this morning, but the home computer decided it just wasn’t happening. And then Blogger wouldn’t save, so the accompanying text went to an early cybergrave. That’s how my day started.

It didn’t get any better from there. In the course of about 10 minutes, I managed to:

  • Spill catfood gravy all over my pajama top
  • Dump half the contents of a brand new shampoo bottle into the tub while showering
  • Explode a travel-sized toothpaste tube over the shirt I had planned to wear to work

On the way to work, a file I’d been working on since yesterday inexplicably crashed. Gone. Go back to square one. Like I was saying, great day!

However, I was VERY thrilled to find that some of you seem to have enjoyed Wordle as much as I did. Thanks for leaving me comments and links to your creations. I had fun viewing them. And since fate decided to kill my intended entry, I’ll use this as an opportunity to try and help those of you who want to keep your Wordle images digitally.

Luckily, I recently had an incident at work where I needed to save a screenshot so I could explain the error message I was getting to someone in IT. These instructions are very helpful.

What I did next: I saved the screenshot as a jpeg file and then edited it like I would any other photo, cropping out the rest of the computer page you get in the screenshot. Then, if you want, you can even use it in your blog – as long as you credit

Hope this works for you! Or, if someone knows an easier way, I am a perpetual student. Good luck!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

A Thousand Words Is Worth a Picture

If you know anything about me, you know that I love words. So when I saw Vicki’s latest entry at Not So SAHM, I had to try it for myself. (Thanks, V!) It, being Wordle.

This site represents the perfect convergence of words and imagery. (Which, if you know anything more about me, you know I like to take pictures and scrapbook, too, so it’s right up my alley.) Here’s the gist: Either enter a bunch of words or have it scan a Web site for you. Then, it will spit out word imagery like you see here based on the content you fed it or from the site.

You can change its color scheme, orientation, shape, font, lots of cool things. The Wordle creation pictured here, courtesy of, is actually my second try at having it scan This D*mn House. I’m not sure how many entries it read to make this creation. Clearly, the first time around, the feed had not yet picked up this morning’s entry about last night’s bat encounter. As you can see here, lightning, which didn’t appear in my first attempt at all, is featured prominently.

My second attempt also added a few more words I thought would be shoe-ins: rain, mother, and camera.

Some words missing that I thought would have to be there: bricks, porch, and hot. (Walkway was includeded though.) Also, no mention of Ozzie, Toby, dog, or cat. Odd.

And just is the biggest word of all. And it makes a smaller, second appearance. I guess I must say it a lot!

Friends snuck in, smaller than in my first try, but still kept MonkeyGirl and Jayne.

I would seem to be preoccupied with time. It’s there as well as now, today, always, forever, yesterday, past, yet, and Friday. Quantity is another obsession: every, thousands, one, two, single, everything, several, entire, much, and lots.

House got two placements of varying sizes. And I’m pleased that get, can, see, and think got fairly good billing. I’m laughing, too, at how prominently, now, ago, and almost figure in. I think I’ll have to check the blog again at a later date to see what it comes up with then. Could be interesting to compare and contrast. At any rate, I know I’ll be using it again for scrapbook journaling.

It’s a really fun site. Give it a try. If you save it to the gallery, leave me a comment with the URL. I’d love to check it out.

Going Batty

I made it home last night just ahead of the rain. The wind whipped and the sky grew darker as I made a few stops en route. As I sat in a drive-thru, a wind gust rocked the car, nearly ripping a few dollar bills from my hand. Just give me a five-minute headstart, I thought as I waited.

Fortunately, I got everything inside and had just changed clothes when the rain started. I’d only beaten it by a few minutes. Then the rain just stopped. For the remainder of the evening, the sky shook and lit up, going a wild color at sunset. Because the lightning was so close, I didn’t attempt to go out and capture it with the camera. (I did get these shots last year, but I’m hoping to get a really good one, especially now that I have a tripod.) I held my breath, awaiting a power outage, but it didn't come. (At least for us. I heard this morning thousands of others weren't as lucky this time.)

So when the storm moved east and I didn’t feel endangered by the lightning anymore, I trudged outside, camera in hand. The lightning became more infrequent and my chances limited. I was just about to go inside when swoosh! Something had just flown by me at a good clip, nearly grazing me. Swoosh! There it was again! About that time, a huge bolt of lightning lit up the entire sky, making it possible to see that there was A BAT flying right at me. And not one out of Louisville, either!

I sidestepped it and it landed briefly on the shed before taking off again at top speed. Wish I’d gotten a picture of THAT!

It flew past me a few more times, but then it started to spit rain so I went in. From the backdoor, through the glare of the streetlight, I watched that creature fly erratically through the yard, looking something like a sparrow on crack. When the lightning made things a little brighter, I could actually see its gray/brown body. I watched for a little while and then didn’t see it anymore.

The mother had been napping on the sofa or I’d have gone to get her to see it. When I did get to tell her about it, she said that she used to see them all the time years ago at our old house (the grandparent’s). Said she hadn’t seen one for years, and definitely not since we moved. I know bats can be found pretty much anywhere. I just hope they’re not setting up camp at This D*mn House.

Or maybe it was just Bela Lugosi or Christopher Lee trying to get in out of the rain …