Sunday, November 30, 2008

Soggy Sunday

It's been raining off and on since last night and the threat of snow is in the forecast. Not much snow, mind you, but any snow is too much snow in my books.

It's chilly and damp and I'm still worn out from yesterday. I know I've got a mess awaiting me down there. I really need to clean it up and put things back. Mudding and taping can wait.

But you know what? I've decided that ALL of it can wait. The thing that was the final push in that decision: my Twitter message from the Daily Act of Kindness Challenge. I've not made all of them since it started a few weeks ago, but I've made most of 'em. Today's though is one I'll have no problem fulfilling:

Be kind to yourself today and get some extra sleep. Take a nap or go to bed a bit earlier than you usually do.

I think that it might have been written for me.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Cubist Swiss Cheese

I should know by now that the dominant rule at This D*mn House is that nothing is ever easy. I now think that even the Lawrence believes this. But you have to love his ever undaunted nature.

It started out early this morning with Lawrence and the return of his ginormous drills bits. He started drilling from the dining room into the basement family room to run wire through for a new outlet. (This was the one he didn't have time to do back in August.)

It was my intention to do a step by step with Lawrence on how to do this job. We would hit so many snags though that I can't do that. It was too overwhelming and too, too much. So, my apologies to those looking for advice on adding an outlet. You won't find it here.

I knew we were going to have to cut out a section of ceiling in the family room so I wasn't at all disturbed when a rectangle the size of a Marathon bar (remember those from the '70s?) came out of the ceiling next to the window downstairs. After a while though, it became clear that that wasn't going to be enough space to work in. So out came a bigger hunk. The space now looked like this.

I still wasn't that upset, because I spotted a hole in the space that I could now see into. Not the one Lawrence had been drilling though. I pointed this out to him. We began rooting around in the hole with a hanger, with me upstairs seeing if it poked through. It didn't, but it was trying to so we were able to stop drilling upstairs. (You can see the hook of the hanger on the blue window trim.)

That's where the problems started. And why there were a series of holes from a previous attempt to do exactly what we were doing. There were 3 other holes. And we soon saw why whomever had drilled the original holes had stopped: Joists. Joists. And more joists. We cut through one and there was another. This was supposed to be a single hole. So then we graduated to a second and even bigger hole in the ceiling.

OK. This was good. It would be fine. We would drill through here and then just push the wiring over into the unfinished part of the basement behind the fireplace. Except that didn't work.

And that led to a third hole. The third hole led to a DOUBLE JOIST that I didn't think Lawrence would ever be able to drill through but he did. "OK, now we should be able to drop it over there," says Lawrence. Except when I looked behind the fireplace from the tiny closet beneath the stairs that's not what I saw. "Are you sure?" I asked.

"Well, no," says Lawrence as he stepped onto the ladder, flashlight in hand. "Hmmm," I hear him say next. "Looks like you were right to wonder."

I'm not always the brightest bulb in the pack but instead of trying to drill through and run wire back into the laundry room, I had to ask if we couldn't just run it to the closet. There's an outlet and a box there. Would that work?

I had Lawrence's attention now. He was getting incredibly tired of drilling holes in the ceiling. I was getting incredibly tired thinking about the holes I would ultimately have to patch in my ceiling that was starting to look like cubist Swiss cheese. If we weren't planning to do redo the ceiling next year anyway, there's no way I'd ever let it get this far. But since we were ...

He looked at the setup and deemed it acceptable. While he drilled through one more joist, I had two shelves of glassware and knicknacks to move. Fun times.

We fed the wire into the last of the holes. Then Lawrence went upstairs to make the upper connection while I went outside to find some scrap wood to use to put the drywall back into the ceiling. He was downstairs working on the boxes in the closet by the time I finished.

A little while later, we put the drywall pieces back into place. The rest of the remaining Lawrence projects would have to wait for another day. We were both pretty worn out from the wiring adventures. I started picking things up downstairs and making sure Lawrence had all his gear.

He had gone upstairs where he had two battery chargers in place. When he came back downstairs he said: "I plugged my charger into that new outlet and the darndest thing happened. It worked."

Up and At 'Em!

After a day of cooking followed by a day of shopping, today is a day to get active with something more directly impacting This D*mn House. Having said that, Lawrence will be here in the next hour or two.

He's got a short list today though one of the two projects, installing another outlet, could take a while. I'm going to try and talk it through with him since my last post on his installation of an outlet is always such a popular one. It's not a particularly helpful one, just very popular due to its topic.

Let's see if I can fix that.

On an unrelated note, while I slept, the mother unboxed one of yesterday's purchases. I can't tell you what it is yet, but I will tell you that I'm very pleased. Not sure if she is or not, so that will have a big bearing on where it ends up. Stay tuned ...

Friday, November 28, 2008

Round Two: DING!!!

The mother and I just completed a second and final round of Black Friday shopping. Just stayed local for this round and managed to hit four places in about 90 minutes.

There just aren't a lot of deals to be had. Understandable. A lot of places either didn't have as much merchandise or what they did have went out with their first few dozen customers.

And it was certainly nothing like the madness in other parts of the country. Even this morning, at the height of our madness, I'd say there were barely a handful of the rude and overzealous with an occasional whiner thrown in. (Whiners shouldn't even come out on Black Friday. They should stay home.)

No, most people were very polite and relatively patient. We laughed and joked in line and sometimes people would "cart-sit" if someone got a call that would require them to go scrambling back through the store. Even the mother managed to meet up with some nice ladies to chat with, one of whom loaned her a phone.

All in all it was a pretty good bunch.

Adventures in Shopping

You can check out any time you like
But you can never leave. -- "Hotel California," The Eagles

In bed: midnight. Out of bed: 3 a.m. Less than 30 minutes later, on the road.

We got to Kohl's and ended up in line about 50 feet from where we started last year. We spent less time waiting for the store to open than we did in line to check out. Enter store: 4:03 a.m. Exit store: 4:58 a.m. (About 35 minutes in line)

Down the road to Wal-Mart. Enter store: 5:08 a.m. A few minutes before that, I let the mother off at the door. I told her to go to the toy section as the bulk of our list was for the cousins' kids and my charity program. Don't leave the toy section until I get there. It was evident from the number of cars on the parking lot that it would be hard to get through it, much less find each other.

Do you think she listened to me?

It took me at least five minutes to get through the crowds to the toy section. No mother. I had even stopped in electronics on the way (trying to get a 4G memory card for $10) but those were long gone. I quickly scanned the toy aisles for the dolls and Hot Wheels we were after. Empty shelves.

"Can I help you find something?" a voice behind me asked. It was a sales associate. Say what? She directed me to the toy dept manager just a few feet away. Boo-yah! He couldn't help me -- but a shopper standing next to me, who would later end up in line directly behind me, did. Not only did he send me right to the Hot Wheels (well outside the toy section) when I got there to grab some, there just 10 feet away was the mother!

She had the dolls, the Hot Wheels, and a shop vac, all of which were on the list. I was floored. The moral of this story: Never underestimate the mother. Unless she's asking about checking out. People were lined up in jewelry as we passed through so she (supposedly) asked if we could check out there. Why yes. So we stood in line.

Twenty minutes later, a checker asked if we were waiting for a Wii. "This is a Wii line. You can't check out here." Ten minutes later, we finally made our way into a checkout line. It was unreal. In all the years we've done this, I've never seen anything like it.

Unbeknownst to us, Wal-Mart opened at midnight -- without announcing it. So, all these people were there. They had sucked up most if not all of the sales merchandise, and they were already lined up to check out by 5 a.m. WHAT flippin' genius thought THIS sh*T up?!

Not only could you barely get through the store, finding a line, much less getting in one, was ridiculous. Then, of course, there was the wait. Exit store: 7:10 a.m. (About 90 minutes in line, including the Wii line.)

But I left the store -- without the mother. About 30 minutes into the line from hell, I told her to go sit on a bench toward the lawn center. I thought she'd try to find me before I had to go look for her. Guess again.

As I finally neared a checkout, still no mother. Once I checked out, I thought: Load the car. Then, find the mother. Before I could reach the car, my cell rang. It was the mother. A lady she was sitting with loaned her the phone. She told me where she was. I told her where I was: Go out to the front of the store. I'll come and pick you up.

I loaded the car and pulled out front. And waited. And waited. And waited. Then a cop showed up so I had to move. Now where the hell is she?

As it turned out, all she heard was "I'll come and pick you up." Not sure why that meant going back inside the store, but it did.

So, home at last, packages unloaded, mostly put away and with breakfast downed, it's off to nap. And later, maybe more shopping.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

The Only One Awake

Or I was, until about five minutes ago. When Toby, who had been curled comfortably along the back of the sofa, just above the mother's head, sprang back into action.

The mother is asleep on the sofa. Ozzie is at the other end of the loveseat, snoozing big time. Now, Toby has returned to the livingroom and appears on his way to unconsciousness. I'm fighting the urge to join them.

I got all the food put away -- including carving up the turkey-- and made it through the first round of dishes. There's still a bit of clean-up to be done and I want to get that over with.

The mother has had coverage of Mumbai on all day which has made me crazy. They aren't saying anything new and they just keep saying the same thing over and over and over. I was able to convince her to switch it to the local news and now the nightly news is on. Believe it or not, it has given me reason to smile.

  • In L. A., A man who was homeless 10 years ago, got friends to help him feed about 900 homeless.
  • Soldiers from all over the country were reunited with their families. Those scenes are real tear-jerkers.
  • Babies born today right in the metro St. Louis area got dressed in little turkey outfits. TOO cute!

I tried to spread the holiday cheer. I loaded a plate and took it over to S's apartment, only to find that she wasn't at home. That made me smile, too, because it meant maybe she wasn't alone after all.


This D*mn House. Yes, I swear at it. I complain about it. Sometimes, I even dread dealing with it. But it's ours. Be it ever so humble, it's paid for -- at a time when so many people have lost or about to lose their homes. And many others never had one in the first place.

And I am grateful.

I am blessed to have people (including a few with fur) who love me. I have more than enough food to eat, plenty of clothes to wear and a good job that makes it all possible.

And I am grateful.

I whine and bitch and swear so much sometimes that you'd never think this was the case at all. Then something happens that jolts me into reality. It makes my complaints so petty.

Last week, I received an email from a social worker. One line burned itself into my psyche: Basics – a warm sweater, a new pillow, a warm blanket, are luxuries for so many. Some of the things that most of us take for granted, denied. For a handful of individuals, I have the opportunity to help remedy this, at least for a time.

And I am grateful.

On this, a day when we give thanks for having so many blessings in our own lives, I humbly ask you to not only remember those less fortunate, but to do something on their behalf. I know times are tough and it's hard to make the stretch.

I also know that so many of you have hearts more than large enough to accommodate such a gesture so you'll honor my request.

And I am grateful.

Have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend,

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Grandma's Pie Plates

My grandmother … Seems she has been on my mind almost ceaselessly. I always think of her this time of year. How could I not? This was her time. The cooking. The decorating. The music. The presents. She loved it all. And made me love it, too. (The mother likes it, too. Just not the music.) I think these were all things instilled in her by her mother and grandmother.

And Thanksgiving dinner? It was her favorite meal.

So it only seems natural that she be top of mind as the mother and I prepare to bake some pumpkin pies. I got out her plates – like I do every year – and started setting out the ingredients earlier while the mother was on the phone with a friend. At least one of these plates has been in use for at least my entire life and maybe as much as a decade or two longer. The other was a replacement for one broken a few years before her death. (Which, as time passes, makes me a little paranoid as I use them each year. Even if they are just plain ole Pyrex, they're priceless to me.)

These days, the plates only get used at the holidays and only for pumpkin pies. During Gram’s time though, there was an occasional apple, but the cherry pie reigned supreme. She made them for me all the time. When we weren’t living with my grandparents and I would come to stay for the occasional weekend, she would call me up to tell me when she put the pie in the oven. One time, she did this on a Thursday night, the night before I would get there.

I spent that whole day at school thinking about that pie. When I got there that night, I was met by a very solemn grandmother and Young Tom, grinning like the proverbial Cheshire cat. Why? HE ATE THE WHOLE PIE. The WHOLE pie. Not even a crumb left. (I told you that old man was mean. And that was him on a good day.)

So here they are again. The pie plates – just as empty as they were that Friday night so very long ago. I guess I’m going to have to go do something about that.

Here’s lookin’ at you, Gram.

Flippin’ the Bird

No, no, not that bird, silly! The 20+-pound Tom Turkey in my refrigerator.

He’s not quite thawed yet, damn him anyhow. So, I’m guessing he’ll need to spend an hour or two in cold water tomorrow morning to finish the job.

Mind you, I’m not a cook by any stretch of the imagination. (The mother kept threatening some years back to buy me a trivet that said: Martha doesn’t live here.) My only domestic quality: I live indoors. But somehow, the task of preparing Thanksgiving dinner has fallen to me during the past several years. I’m not sure how that happened exactly, but, except for wrestling with that stupid bird, I really don’t mind.

I’ve noticed on a lot of blogs that some of you are not only doing this for the first time this year, you’re also having guests. No pressure, right? My sympathies.

Luckily, it’ll just be the mother and I and I’ll have two adorable “helpers” underfoot (more widely known as Ozzie and Toby) at some point, especially as things begin cooking and the house begins to smell awesome. And all three furfiends will get a bit o’holiday fare once the meal is done. Just a little bit.

I’m trying to decide about whether to take a plate over to S tomorrow. My grocery companion and fellow commuter said last night that she was going to be home alone tomorrow. I invited her to join us since God knows we have way more than enough, but she politely declined. Not that I blame her. It isn’t like we’re great friends or even known each other very long even though we've ridden the bus together for years. It was probably awkward to her. It just seemed like the right thing to do though.

I don’t want to be insulting, or seem to suggest that maybe she’d be without food. I don’t think that’s the case at all. The idea of missing out on the annual traditional meal seems cruel though. But maybe she doesn’t even like it – I know many people don’t. So I’m conflicted about whether to try and take her something or not.

Be my barometer. Would that be friendly – or stepping out of bounds?

Yes, Virginia ...

My reward for coming in even earlier than early today is a beautiful sunrise. It's shaping up nicely with a multitude of shades of red, pink and purple. Alas, no camera.

It was a comforting sight after being a little freaked out driving across my beloved bridge this morning. Three people died there last night in a head-on collision. Makes me shiver to think of it.
On to happier thoughts .... I did, however, have a camera handy to capture the windows at Famous, er Macy's. (Old habits die hard.) The historic tradition that Famous-Barr had carried on for so many years before dying out sometime in the 1980s has been revived by Macy's. Animated windows tell the story of little Virginia O'Hanlon and her infamous letter questioning the existence of Santa Claus.

I can remember being very small and coming down here to see Santa Claus. Going around and looking at the first floor windows was just part of the adventure. Kudos to Macy's for bringing back this piece of nostalgia.

Here's some shots from the first window. I'm blown away by all the details.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

A Different Surprise

The trees weren’t in place when I got home last night. So much for my surprise.

But wait -- the mother still had one in store, just not the one I thought. (I think I've just defined surprise, without really trying to.) Without thinking last Friday, she had initially told Lawrence to come back this Friday, which is, of course, Black Friday, the Superbowl of Shopping. (Which is what I immediately told her when she said this to me.)

All weekend she would offhandedly ask, “Well, what do we really need?” If I would say stuff, she’d inevitably ask, “Like what?”

The correct answer here is nothing. Not one single solitary thing do we need to go out after. But, ever since I’ve been able to do it, I have. (At the paper, we were never allowed to take off at the holidays due to shortened deadlines. At my current job, the day after Thanksgiving is a holiday.) I always thought people who went out in the early morning hours of the day after Thanksgiving were stark-raving loonies. After my first time or two out, and adding up how much additional money I saved, I stopped thinking that way.

There always seems to be something that we want to check out or buy. We always end up finding things we weren’t really looking for but at an incredible price. Or, an already purchased Christmas gift becomes a birthday present if we find something seasonal. Stuff like that mostly.

And for me, clothes. I can never find clothes. So, when I do find them, I buy them. It’s kind of like buying our own Christmas presents. That is always fun.

So all weekend the mother danced around the idea, backed away from it, and at one point, flat out said she wasn’t going. Bummer. What she didn’t know: I’m still going!

Then, last night, she casually says: “Lawrence is coming Saturday. I called him and told him that we were going shopping Friday because you want to shop on Black Friday.” (Yeah. Just me. I’m the only one interested in it. Uh-huh.)

I’ve been checking out Black Friday ads. There’s an awesome site, appropriately named that has a whole bunch of the sale ads for various stores on Friday.

This year, the sales start early. As in way earlier than I like. 5 a.m. is bad enough, and that’s standard for most years. This year? Kohl’s is opening at 4 a.m.! Unbelievable. Will we be there at 4? I don’t know. I guess we’ll find out.

But you know I'll end up at The Home Depot and/or Lowe's at some point, don't you? Game on.

Ghost of Thanksgivings Past

I was trying to remember my earliest memory of Thanksgiving growing up. Instead, all I could seem to come up with was a hodgepodge of celebrations all kind of slung together with no real ability to distinguish one from the other.

One thing I did realize, sadly, is that I can no longer hear my grandmother’s voice. I can still hear Young Tom to be sure, (if you ever knew Young Tom, you’d know why) but after 30 years, the sound of her voice has left me. Fortunately, my visions of her are as vivid as ever and the smells? Oh good Lord! I can smell homemade stuffing in the oven and sweet potatoes, too, as I type this. I can see the condensation that would build up on the double set of windows along the back of the kitchen when it was alive with all the activity.

And I remember a warmth to the room and that house that I’ve never really felt anywhere else. It wasn’t a feeling felt there often; Young Tom was too difficult a creature to allow that. And I remember absolutely no celebrations at all where I sat down to a Thanksgiving meal with just my parents . Strange, isn’t it?

I laughed last night when the weather report on the news triggered another Thanksgiving memory. Even when my parents weren’t together, and for years after their divorce, the mother retained some loose ties to his family and we would occasionally go there for the holiday. Thanksgiving 1980 was one such time. (And according to our local weathercaster, we saw a record high of 76 degrees on T’giving that year.) We were going to my aunt's. She was never much of a cook, so I was curious as to how this would play out. As one my cousins so eloquently put it, she knew two temperatures in cooking: High and Off.

We weren’t supposed to go there until late in the afternoon. But about mid morning, the phone rang. I heard the mother launch into a conversation about food preparation that finally ended with her asking: “Well, honey, why do you need to know all this? Where’s Aunt B?”

This caught my attention. “The hospital? What’s wrong?” This kept my attention and frightened me. “A snake? What do you mean? A snake?”

A what? While they lived in a semi-rural area, you don't expect snakes, especially not in late November! My aunt had apparently gone out on her back porch where the unseasonably warm temps had encouraged a snake to sun itself. Not expecting to find a snake there, and obviously not seeing it, my aunt stepped on the snake – who promptly bit her on the ankle

It was a non-poisonous snake as it turned out and my aunt was O.K. While she was at the hospital, my mom commandeered the kitchen, taking responsibility for dinner for God knows how many guests off the shoulders of my hapless cousins.

My uncle, long known for his dry sense of humor, had the line of the day which would become legendary amongst the family. Some hours after dinner and with everyone in something of a turkified coma state, he told my recuperating aunt:

“Damn, B. You’ll do anything to get out of cooking a meal.”

Monday, November 24, 2008


With all the discussion about holiday decorations, the mother and I purchased two trees the other night.

They’re kind of sad little numbers. Martha Stewart 2-footers, sans lights. I think this picture pretty much says it all.

They were cheap. It was the fourth place we’d looked. And what would later blossom into the ear infection that kept me in bed most of the weekend, was rolling around in my gut. I just wanted to go home.

“Yeah, fine, whatever,” says I and nonchalantly tossed two of them into the cart.

I’m not entirely sure what the mother has cooked up for them. And I’m not sure if she was going to try to do anything with them today or not. While it was supposed to hit 50 again today, the wind was supposed to have been a little rowdy, gusting to around 30 mph.

So, I guess I’ll find out when I get home whether they have been placed or not. I’m going to get spoiled with these “surprise me” tactics of late!

Hooked on Books

Jayne over at Dainty Digs had this book meme last week that I thought sounded fun. So, while I was resting over the weekend – and as a reward for doing some of things I had to do online – I thought I’d play along.

Share seven random or weird book facts about yourself. Then tag seven other people. Notify the seven others that they have been tagged. Like Jayne, I’m not tagging anyone. If you’d like to play though, I’d love to hear your responses. Either comment here or link to your own blog entry.

My seven random or weird book facts:

1. I’ve always wanted to own a book store. Not of the Border’s or Barnes & Noble variety, though those are definitely welcome additions to culture. No. It would have to be part of an eclectic if not somewhat gritty neighborhood and be housed in a turn-of-the-century (or even older) building with original hardwood floors, gorgeous woodwork and molding throughout, that maybe needed a little extra attention. Just a little. No desire for it to be This D*mn Bookstore.
2. I often press flowers inside of my books, usually in between pages that have a passage or passages that I particularly like.
3. My grandmother used to read to me all the time. This is how I learned to read somewhere between ages 3 and 4.
4. One of my dearest friends (don’t worry, not naming you) clipped a copy of The Thornbirds from our high school library. It was eventually given to me for “safe-keeping.” I still have it.
5. I read Gone With the Wind when I was 9. That same year, I got to see the movie for the first time – in a theater. (It was the 35th anniversary of the movie.) I was floored that Scarlett’s son did not appear in the movie. (Melanie’s brother Charles left his war bride pregnant, at least in the book.) The mother argued with me on this point – only to have to take it all back.
6. The town librarian was like the Gestapo, regularly relegating me to the children’s library. (Most of which I’d read by age 7.) In fourth grade, they let me take a note from my mom to the librarian, giving me permission to read “grown-up” books. (That’s how I got my hands on Gone With the Wind.)
7. I’ve always loved classic literature and grew up adoring the likes of Shakespeare, Dickens, and Twain. The first “modern” author I fell for was Stephen King. I was barely 13 and pilfered ‘Salems’s Lot from my mother. We were preparing to move the week I started reading. As things started getting interesting, I was sleeping in a room with just a mattress and nothing on the elongated window in the corner. (It was an old house.) I stayed up all night on one of the last nights in the house because I swore I saw Danny Glick hovering outside my window.

All these years later, I still read King. I also love Dennis Lehane, Harlan Coben, Anne Rice, and Jonathan Kellerman. Out of the horror/mystery genre, I like Tom Robbins, John Irving, and Anne Tyler. Authors I read in college that stuck with me include Saul Bellow, Philip Roth, and Dorothy Parker.

Somehow, I made it to my 30s without being properly introduced to Jane Austen. A friend rectified that with the audio version of Sense and Sensibility. A few years later, my she-ro Emma Thompson got an Oscar for her screenplay adaptation of the book.

A few years after that, one of my young colleagues loaned me the A&E DVD of Pride and Prejudice, another book I enjoyed, which I've now seen about 20 times. Still need to finish reading the rest of Jane's collection.

Someday, when I have time to read books again ...

Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Other Door

As I said yesterday, both doors got hardware makeovers. I didn't capture before shots of the back door. It probably has the most change. The back door is actually the house's original front door. I'm guessing the hardware is original, too. I'm not sure.

We've kept it. But the new stuff looks pretty good. See for yourself.

There's a little touch-up to be done as you might expect. But once that's done, it should look very nice indeed. The back door got a bell, too! And you know what, I haven't even rung it yet. I need to do that today!
The most important thing to be done: Switching out keys! And making spares. It would be really bad to leave the house, only to return home to try to get in using the old keys. Better do that now while I'm thinking about it!

Stayin' Up Late

Oh yeah. It was a historic day, wasn't it? (Nov. 22, 1963) Well, yesterday was. Today is a new day. It only just flashed back in my mind because I'm flipping channels and JFK is on.

They barely mentioned it on the news earlier. Of course, I only woke up in just enough time to catch the news. I took a nap that lasted less than 90 minutes initially. Luckily, there was a part two that tacked on another two hours.

So I got some rest. I wish I could say I felt a whole lot better. The nap, combined with feeling lousy, probably account for why I'm even still awake. (Could also be all the hot tea I've been swilling, because it seems to be the one thing that, albeit temporarily, makes me feel any better.)

I should be doing something constructive as long as I'm awake, but I just can't muster the strength. Even my genetically stubborn constitution fails me on this one. I suck at being sick.

So I guess I'll just give in. (Write this down, folks. I rarely give in to anything.) Just plain ole throw my arms up in the air, wave a white flag, and go to bed. Again.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Soupy Saturday

I'm not a soup person. The one exception is homemade vegetable. I'm a sucker for that. If I ever get the joy of being reunited with my late, sainted grandmother, I hope she has a pot of it -- and a cherry pie -- waiting.

But otherwise, the only time I eat soup is when I'm sick. And the only thing I've had to eat for the past 24 hours: soup. Apparently, I'm brain-sharing with my MEF the MonkeyGirl and am in total empathy with the illness she brought home from her business trip. I think it's an ear infection. (I get at least two good ones a year and I'm behind schedule for '08.)

So, I'm still in my pajamas, watching silly Christmas movies on TV, and trying to coax myself into heating up some more soup so I can take more Tylenol. It will be the first thing I've eaten today and I wish I could say it even sounded appetizing.

Chalk it up to another lazy, cold, gray Saturday, though tomorrow is to be much nicer indeed and I can ideally resume and complete my outdoor stuff. It's supposed to be in the upper 50s! Yippee!

No Lawrence today and I'm not sure when. Mom said next Friday but hey, that's Black Friday. She's slippin'! I got shopping to do. Yesterday, he got the door hardware done and fixed the scallops. That was it. That means there's still plenty left to do.

But right now, the only thing I have to fix is some soup.

Dressin' Up the Doors

This is what the front door hardware looked like when I left for work yesterday morning. (I'm pretty impressed with myself for even thinking to take before photos. I didn't do this, however. for the back door because time was getting kind of tight.) That's the outside of the door on top.

When I got home last night. Lawrence had indeed been on the scene. Here's the door that greeted me. Pretty fancy schmansy, eh? He even put on the new bell, which I love. It has a very rich, deep ring unlike the tinny sound its predecessor made.

The mother is a detailer so these changes are a lot more about her than about me. But, I have to admit, I really like the look. I'm more likely to err on the side of practical, so as long as the old door handle and its accompanying lock worked, the less likely I'd be to ever change it. (And the old one worked fine.)

But, the detailer gets her way. These changes mean that every interior door in the house -- except the bath and laundry rooms -- have French door handles.


This post is getting pretty cumbersome with visuals already so I'll save the back door (of which I only have after pics) for another post.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Surprise Me

Lawrence is in the house! Or at least that was the plan. I didn’t receive a phone call from the mother telling me otherwise, so I have to figure he’s been there, toiling away.

It should be fun to go home tonight, assuming that he hasn’t uncovered some horrible disaster where the outside faucet is concerned. (It’s been leaking. I think a faulty shut-off valve may be the culprit.) I can’t wait to see what the new door hardware looks like, and I’m not sure if the mother was going to have him put the bells on both doors or not. So, it’s going to be something of a surprise indeed.

I can tell you that I will have before and after hardware shots as I managed to grab a few of the front door (both inside and out) before I left this morning! I know you’re just giddy with excitement.

He was also going to put in a new bathroom fan and fix the scallops over the porch. I’m also not sure as to whether he intended to tackle the outlet installation on his own or if that’s something I get to work on with him tomorrow.

I guess I’ll find out.

Lose My Number, PLEASE!

The phone has been ringing a lot lately at This D*mn House. It’s a combination of telemarketers and wrong numbers.

The same lady who thought the mother was her sister called again. Poor thing. It seems she’s transposing the first three digits of the number so she keeps getting us instead. That’s mildly amusing. The telemarketers on the other hand … not so much.

It started out a month or so ago where someone claimed to be a “customer service” representative from some unnamed company and asked for me by name. Unfortunately, I was never home when these calls came. And they wouldn’t leave a number for me to call them back so I couldn’t call them and say, “STOP CALLING ME!” That went on for about a week.

After a day or so’s respite, you’d pick up the phone and here something like: “This is an important call. Hi! You, too, can make thousands of dollars at home every month. Just call xxx …” I hate those things. If the call is so damn important, why is it a taped message and not a live person?

Simple enough. You just hang up, right? Well, then they call multiple times a day. And then, the message starts getting left on the answering machine. Apparently, Hell hath no fury like a telemarketer scorned.

I let all that go. That was a mistake. I should’ve written the number down. Now that I want their number, they’ve shifted tactics yet again. There’s no longer any message.

The phone rings. You answer it. And nothing. Silence. We’re now part of someone’s daily/weekly call quota. And it’s annoying as hell. The mother says they start between 8:30 and 9 every morning. There’s usually another round between 4 and 7 p.m. A week or so ago, we even got one at 10:55 p.m.! That’s not only ridiculous, I’m pretty sure that it’s also against the law.

You can’t *69 them to get a number and the phone company is no help. We’ve been on a “do not call” list since they were initiated so I’m not sure that even did any good.

Suggestions anyone?

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Thinking Like … the Mother?

Dear God, please tell me I didn’t just type that, but I’m afraid it’s true.

Since I just cross the street to catch the bus in the morning, and I usually have a few minutes before it arrives, it gives me the right vantage point and just enough time to stare across at This D*mn House. As I was gazing yesterday – both complimenting and critiquing my work – I had an idea that made me say a VERY bad word.

It has to do with one of the popular conversation topics of late: Christmas decorations.

Looking at the cleared space where the shrubs from Hell previously were, I thought: A small tree in the middle on either side would look cool! Of course, I was thinking a 3 or 4-foot prelit tree. When I shared the idea with the mother, she said: “I’m way ahead of you. I’d already thought of that. I figured you’d blow your top if I suggested such a thing.”

Really? Moi? Hmmm. At least she seems to recognize that I have limits.

Of course, she was thinking of not-lit trees. She’s afraid of having the cords outside “in the weather.” Yeah. I’m not going to win that argument. Then she thought we might get small real trees. Uh, wait. Didn’t I just dig up that sh*t so we don’t have to deal with live anymore? No way, Jose. That will not fly.

We’ll just see what happens.

So why the swear word when we’re at least in agreement on getting a decoration? Well, it’s not only one more thing to do, it’s one more thing to find a place to store.

Even the mother had to agree with that. Scary.

Injury on Aisle 5

I’ve always been a night person. No matter that the alarm usually buzzes between 5 and 5:30 each weekday morning. A lifelong night owl’s wings are rarely clipped for good.

So, arriving at the store at 11:45 p.m. is not a new experience for me. In fact, with few exceptions, I prefer it. There aren’t the crowds of the evening rush, no screaming children, and no jam-packed aisles to navigate. Or so I thought.

One of the things I don’t like about night-time shopping: stockers. I know they have a job to do, and a rather narrow window of time in which to complete the task. But for the wee hour grocery-gatherer, they represent an obstacle equivalent to road construction on an otherwise open freeway.

Their boxes block the aisles. Their over-burdened carts seem to lurk around every corner. They seem to stand or kneel just far enough into the center of the aisle to make the shaky-wheeled cart (how do I manage to get this one from the hundreds at the front of the store?) so difficult to maneuver around that it adds drama that I don’t need.

There were more cars in the lot than I expected. (No doubt I wasn’t alone in my turkey strategizing.) Still, a relatively light turn-out. As I began filling the better-odds-of-hitting-the-lottery- cart, I looked up to see a pair of big brown eyes watching my every move.

They belonged to a boy who appeared barely old enough to walk. Clad in a Spongebob sleeper, one hand tugged at a coat draped over the cart, while the other maintained a death grip on a bottle. All the while, he continued to stare. As I placed apples and then a stalk of celery into my cart, he began to babble and laugh. I said hello to him as I passed, gave him a mini wave and he responded with a blubbery grin. I saw a flash of teeth as he suddenly flopped forward and drilled them into the cart handle. Uh, mom, do you really want his mouth on that?

As I made my way through the store and around the stockers, I would occasionally hear a ruckus erupt in the distance. I was focused on my list and didn’t pay that much attention. Until I got to the paper aisle. Apparently, the boy’s mother had left the cart next to a stack of boxes piled high with rolls of paper towels. The baby was now avidly launching the towels – a roll at a time – into the aisle. One of the stockers noticed and began picking up the towels but the baby had too much of a head start.

Two aisles later, the mother did a bad parking job once again, this time sidling up to a case of canned goods. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except the box top had already been shorn off by a stocker. You wouldn’t think those stubby little hands could do it, but by the time I got there, the aisle was littered with cans thrown by destruction in a diaper.

Again, his mother was nowhere to be seen. (I was beginning to think this kid was wheeling himself through the store using mindpower or something.) And again, a stocker began picking up the contents of the now empty box. Or so we thought.

I turned around in just enough time to watch the tyke of terror heft one final can into the aisle – and right onto the back of the stocker who had bent down to retrieve the prior casualties. As the poor guy fell face forward, the miniature maelstrom began bouncing and giggling. (Could this be Damien? I wondered. I half expected Wagner to start pouring through the speakers.)

Are you OK?! I shouted to the stocker, who was now attempting to get up. He was visibly half-grinning, half annoyed as he got to his feet. “Yeah, I think so. That little bugger’s got quite an arm. How old is he?” Huh?

I quickly shot a look behind me. Surely he didn’t think … apparently that’s exactly what he thought. I explained that the catalyst of chaos was not mine. Just as I stopped talking, another stocker turned the corner. He grimaced as he glimpsed the imp. “Look out,” he said to his colleague. “He’s lethal.” I couldn’t help but chuckle at that one.

Apparently, he had pulled that stocker’s cap off and proceeded to pull his hair on a previous visit. So where is this kid’s mother? “I think I saw her a few aisles over,” the stocker said. “She always seems to be forgetting something.”

Yeah. Like maybe that she has a kid?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The Return of Lawrence

So Lawrence, good as his word, called earlier this week. He’s on tap to return to This D*mn House this weekend. In fact, he’s coming on Friday.
During that initial visit, I anticipate that he will:

  • Put the wayward piece of scallop siding over the porch back in place.
  • Remove the old and install the new locks and handles on both the front and back doors.
  • Install a new bathroom fan.
  • Check the outside faucet. (I think it’s a faulty shut-off valve.) Potentially repair this.
  • Put in a new outlet in the dining room. (This is the one he couldn’t get to on his last visit. This is an activity that might also wait until Saturday when I’m home as it requires a lot of running up and down stairs – a lot more than the mother is up to.)
  • Remember those really pretty bells I bought a while back? I may also go ahead and have him put those on the doors, too.

And for now, I think that’s all that we need Lawrence for. When we get to the bathroom and kitchen, assuming that we do that before spring when he’s aleady supposed to be back on-site to help me with the driveway, he’ll be getting a call.

I just the love the promise of so much progress! I love it all the more, considering that I don’t even have to be there for most of it to happen.

The Turkey Strategy

It can’t be because I have too much time on my hands because I don’t. That means I must just over think even the most mundane things. (Yep. One of the many charming features of my warped personality.)

The latter could apply to my strategy for buying the holiday turkey.

A local grocery store regularly offers $10 off a $50 purchase on Thursdays. (Sometimes they do it once a month; lately, it’s been every week.) To go one better, through the holidays they’re offering what they call “bonus bucks,” which give you a $1 back for every $25 you spend. And to even go one better, you get turkeys at a special sale price when you spend $50. (For me, that means Honeysuckle White for 79 cents a pound. Or less, because they won’t be undersold by their competitors and that’s the current going rate. Mmmmmm. Turkey.)

To say that the grocery store will be bedlam this Thursday would be a lot like saying that Charles Manson had a bad day.

Normally, I go straight to the store from the evening bus, having driven to the bus station that morning. The last few weeks, I’ve even dragged S from the bus along with me. This week though I may have to change that. From past years, I know what it’s like when they run these promotions before Thanksgiving. People go nuts. They line up four-deep around the freezers and they literally pounce on turkeys as soon as there’s a bare spot in the crowd.

I’ve stood aghast watching grown men and women tussle in turkey tug-o-wars. It’s not a pretty sight.

I don’t care to subject myself to that experience this year so I’m rethinking my shopping strategy. It’s a 24-hour store. There are 24 hours in Thursday. There’s no rule that says I have to go during the evening rush. I’m thinking either I go just before midnight tonight, checking out after 12, or I get up at 4:30 or so tomorrow, giving myself an hour to get to the store and back before leaving for work. Knowing that I am not a morning person sort of makes the decision for me.

So be warned Tom Turkey. I’m comin’ for ya. Tonight.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

When Pools Aren’t Good Things

Nagging problems suck. Especially when they defy all of your efforts to solve them – repeatedly.

That would be the case with the “pools” I inadvertently created when I bricked the porch. I never even considered trying to remove the base and collar around each of the columns that support the porch overhang. I simply bricked up against them. (I freely admit I don’t know what I’m doing most of the time. I try to read about whatever I’m doing and then just keep trying until something works.)

That worked fine – except for the roughly 2-inch gap I created in a square around each column. (Directly surrounding the square of the base.) Even that’s not a problem until a good rain comes along. Then all of the water pools around the column, and I’m sure, slowly seeps underneath the surface of the rest of the bricks toward the edge of the porch. With winter coming, that’s a very bad thing. Housing that moisture underneath makes the bricks even more likely to pop out of place after an extended hard freeze.

I’ve known about this for a month or more now and I’ve tried to remedy it. Initially, I thought I could just go buy a new base. Columns are popular these days – both inside and out – so much so that Lowe’s and The Home Depot both carry them in a variety of sizes, styles, and materials. I didn’t anticipate that I would find them in aluminum (which is what our columns are). I thought I’d be more likely to locate PVC or wood. I did.

Unfortunately, they were either a) too small, b) the wrong style, c) sold only as a cap and base set (I need only the base) or d) all of the above. So I went online and started looking. I talked to a couple of different companies – one of which told me what I wanted to do wasn’t possible and even if it was, they wouldn’t just sell me the base. Other companies had just wood, and again, only as a set.

Then I thought I could buy some fancy composite trim and align it along the edges of the gap and successfully close it up. The first boards I bought were too thin. The second set was a good size, but they still didn’t close up the gap as I’d hoped they would. Buying bigger would look stupid.

Now what? On a whim, I went back online.

This time, I found a company that would sell me just the bases and in Colonial style. Made out of PVC, I think my most likely candidates are a 10- or 12-inch size, both of which the company has in stock. (I’m not sure yet because I haven’t measured. It was just too damned cold last night to do it.) The price was reasonable enough, too. Ideally, I should be able to cut one side of the base and lay it over the gap and around the column.

So, cross your fingers … I’m going to try to order them by tomorrow and I should have them before the end of the month. I’ll keep you posted.

Thermostat Wars

I now remember what I hate most about winter.

Oh, I hate the cold and the snow and ice to be sure. I despise dressing in layers and wrapping up so much I look the kid in “A Christmas Story.” And I don’t like stuffing a hat or ear wraps onto my head. (Though I’m more likely to go out without a coat than with my ears bare. They’d get me sick faster than anything.)

I hate all of that. Give me a beach and a palm tree to decorate any year. But what I hate the most revolves around that little digital box in the hallway. And she who rules it, rules the house.

Yes, I’m talking about the thermostat – and the wars with the mother than ensue because of it. This seems to happen at the start of every season, but at no time like during cold weather.

We got into the 20s last night, but even before the temperature dipped, I came home to find the thermostat kicked up a degree. I quietly turned it back down. When I went to take a shower (it’s right outside the bathroom door), I discovered that it had been kicked up again. I turned it back down.

This happened at least one more time before I went to bed. The mother slept on the sofa which meant Toby said not one word last night. Ah, almost six consecutive hours of uninterrupted sleep. (Turns out Toby had eaten part of a ribbon he was playing with Sunday night. He had deposited it both on the livingroom floor and in his litter box shortly before I got home last night.)

I still woke up before the alarm though. Why? Ozzie was pacing because he was hot, I imagine. I was even a little too toasty myself. And that doesn’t happen much, especially when it’s cold outside. She’s been at it again, I muttered and got out of bed.

Sure enough, the thermostat had been jacked up not one, but two degrees. Never mind how much that’s adding to the power bill. (Clearly this is the Young Tom gene -- the energy miser gene -- that I got that she didn’t.)

I couldn’t stand it. Are you crazy? I asked the mother. It’s not even that cold yet. What are you going to do when it really gets cold?

"It is really cold," came the answer from she who refuses to use a blanket.

I shudder to think about what she will do. I shudder to think about what the thermostat is on now, right now, now that I’ve left the house. I shudder even more to think about what the next power bill will look like.

Winter’s not even officially here yet, but it’s going to be a long one.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Changing the Street View

The mother was clearing out a storage bin during our Saturday night pack and purge downstairs and came across some old photos. One was a partial exterior shot of the house from around 1988.

We didn’t even have the columns yet. Either side of the porch overhang was supported by black wrought iron. And if you looked really closely, you could see that the white cast iron furniture on the porch today was once black. (I had even forgotten that –as had the mother who painted it – ‘til I pointed it out. When we bought the house, it was white with black shutters.)

I wish that I had pictures of the progress of each change the exterior of this house has undergone in the past 18 months. In 2007 alone it had scalloped siding added to the front and to the eaves on either side, a ceiling fan and outdoor outlet were added to the carport, and the entire house was repainted – twice.

And this year? Well *modesty mode* this is the year to end all years where outside was concerned. The porch. The partial removal of Hell’s shrubbery. The walkway. The new railing. The sealed driveway. But most recently, the complete removal of Hell’s shrubbery.
You really notice all that at the front of the house. Remember back at Halloween, when I had yet to dig up the last of Hell’s shrubbery? Just in case you forgot, here’s another look.

And, all those bricks in the Halloween photo? Well, now you can see part of what was done with them. They’re serving as planter bases for the planters out front, now that all of Hell’s shrubbery has departed! (This shot is from pre-sunrise this morning. Minus any real light – natural or flash – the house color is a little distorted, but otherwise, this is the house as it looks now. )
And see all those d*mn leaves?! That’s just since last night. And I have no trees.

So, that’s what I’ve been busy with lately. We put lots more rock down, too, to make it all sparkly. It looks a little sparse, but that will change once the gingerbread gets put back in place. (The mother has yet to paint most of it.) That will give it a little more color and depth. She was just lamenting last night that it's not up yet.

Even so, I can't help but be a little excited because it has come such a long way in a relatively short time. (Especially when you consider that the mother and I did almost all of it. We brought in Lawrence for a few of the jobs, but mostly it's all us -- with some pitched in efforts by good friends like CD and the Monkeygirls.)

The mother didn’t get to put any flowers out yet. (She was going to do fall, but I said at this point, go with Christmas.) Those might show up mid-week when we’re expecting a slight warm-up outside. (Close to 60 degrees.) We’re also currently pondering just how much holiday decorations will go up, too. (Hell, we just got Halloween put away over the weekend!)

With all the work that’s still on tap, I’d hate to have to deal with taking down a lot of decos, too. But, it does only come once a year ...

Some Days You’re the Dog

Brrr. Even though it’s around 40 degrees this morning, I’m quite cold. That’s due in large part to this bus which is like sitting inside a refrigerator. At least having the computer in my lap generates some heat and helps a little.

It probably doesn’t help that I’m a little more than grumpy considering that I only got a few hours of sleep last night courtesy of Toby the Cat. I’ve never been inclined to willfully harm an animal in my life, but during the past five hours or so, I’ve thought about it – many times.
He screamed all night. Screamed. And screamed. No amount of food or comforting seemed to quiet him, at least not for very long. And of course his timing is perfect.

I was already tired. I spent the afternoon picking up leaves and determining that my plan for the columns on the porch was not going to work. Back to the drawing board on that one.

The leaf job was a lot more time-consuming than I anticipated, so it was all I could do to finish it before dark and still give myself enough time to load the car and drive across town to the dump before it closed at 5:30. (That’s actually a rough estimation of time, too, because the attendant is usually at the gate, ready to close it, by 5:20. So, if you aren’t inside at 5:20, you aren’t getting in.)

Then, the mother and I carried Christmas presents downstairs to the spot we’d cleared for them Saturday night. I unboxed the new super-duper Shop Vac I bought a few weeks ago and then carted out all of the excess trash so it wouldn’t be there for me to deal with this morning. Fun times.

So I’m tired, sore, cold and I just can’t wait to get to work. Yes, there’s a nice pile of dung lingering from Friday just waiting to greet me. Some days you’re the dog. Some days you’re the hydrant.

Today, I’m clearly the hydrant.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Gearing Up

It's nearing 50, so there's no reason to put it off any longer. I've still got a few outdoor tasks to deal with. Hoping that I have enough daylight to finish.

I'm still In yesterday's jello mold I think. I keep saying in the next hour, but I still don't move. I'll be moving soon though. Really.

After dinner last night, the mother and I took on the basement. We packed, tossed, put away, cleaned, cleared. It still looks like a warehouse, but a neat and orderly one. Upstairs is still a "where house." As in, Where's this? Where's that?

The mother seemed pleased with the progress. Especially since it means we can take the rest of the stuff out of the dining room today. Then we'd be down to just one big box. Man, that would be serious progress!

All of you who live and do work in your homes simultaneously know exactly what I mean. The clutter can take over if you let it. And sometimes, it seems just too big to take on.

So that's when go medieval on it. And that's what we did yesterday. I'm so glad I just vegged all day. It made last night go well. Of course, by midnight, I was starting to fall asleep, which is early for me, on a weekend. I was in bed by 1.

I guess all I can hope for is as successful a day today. Here goes nothing ...

Saturday, November 15, 2008

The Constitution of Jello

That's what my will to do anything appears to be made of today --Jello. You'd think after nearly eight hours of virtually interrupted sleep (awakened just long enough by Ozzie to pull him into bed) I'd be rarin' to go. You'd be wrong.

For the last 90 minutes, I've been like a slug, slowly moving from room to room, periodically pausing on the loveseat. I watched most of an episode of The Starter Wife (which, until last week, I didn't know was now a regular series; I had previously watched its mini-series debut). I fed Tigger. That's my total accomplishments.

I was supposed to take the mother shopping. But I think she's been deterred by the cold, windy weather. Brrr. We'll see if she changes her mind this afternoon.

I think part of my problem is that it was such a tough week coupled with the fact that all the ground I covered was undone in less than an hour yesterday afternoon. (It's a work thing. I need to chuck it and move on.) It was a nasty blow and it put me in foul mood to start the weekend.

But hey, it's Saturday. I've got a Yorkie keeping my feet warm and a remote control at my side. There are things I could do but I'm thinking not. I'm thinking this is a good day to veg.

Who's with me?!

Friday, November 14, 2008


It has rained most of today and the sky is still a pale, almost white, gray. (About the same color This D*mn House was before we repainted it last year.) So I’m glad to have captured yesterday’s sunset. I don’t think there will be anything nearly that spectacular, if there’s anything at all, today.
I had a pleasant surprise yesterday in the form of not one, but two days off to extend the holidays! I already had planned to take a vacation day on Dec. 26, but yesterday we learned that it is being given as a holiday this year. YAYYY! Additionally, we are also being given Jan. 2 off. Wow! What a way to start the year.

This means that I need to reschedule a vacation day. Plus, I still have to sneak in that half-day I didn’t get last Friday. Lawrence and I may be working on a project again sooner than I thought.

The Flower Man never called this week as planned. (Many of you have asked, so this is an update.) Giving him the benefit of the doubt, he may have tried to call Tuesday or Wednesday, but I was online most of the evening finishing up and catching up on stuff for work, so he wouldn’t have gotten through.

There was no such obstacle last night. Unless he tried to call during the 90 seconds that the mother was on the phone with an old woman who kept insisting that she was her sister. (Which would be very interesting indeed considering that the mother is an only child.)

So, perhaps it was just a very passing fancy.

I bought a new daybed forever-ago for the family room. It’s still sitting down there, unassembled. Along with the old one and a whole bunch of other supplies for projects yet undone, making it look even more like a warehouse.

They’re predicting snow flurries for tomorrow so it doesn’t sound like a day to complete the few remaining projects outdoors, including leaf removal. Might be a good day for switching out daybeds … if a shopping adventure isn’t planned. We'll have to see how the mother feels as she still seems to be battling the bug.

In All Its Splendor

For several days now I’ve been witness to some pretty amazing sunsets. It’s one of my few consolations about the time change. Since I’m still at work when it happens, and I have access to some of the coolest high-rise vantage points to see such things, it’s something I might otherwise miss.

But every day I’ve watched from my little corner window and wished I had my camera. Yesterday, I actually had my camera with me. (One of my colleagues just marked 30 years with the company and we threw her a surprise lunch, so I took a few shots during that.)
As sunset drew nearer, I waited expectantly. I saw some pinks start to appear, but then just as quickly, they were overtaken by cloud cover. Damn. And I had my camera handy, too!

So, I went back to what I was doing. A few minutes later, I looked out again to see a huge orange stripe being burned into the sky. Pinks, blues and purples surrounded the backdrop of downtown. Oh. My. God.

I grabbed my camera and ran to the conference room at the west end of the hall that is filled with windows. (From my window, I could only see a sliver of it all.) From the conference room, it was like colors has exploded into the sky. As I ran, I tagged my assistant. She already knew what I was going to look at! Pretty soon, a few other coworkers came in, too.

This is some of what I shot. They’re pretty. Some are a little out of focus, but you can still see the colors. (It’s through glass without a flash and I guess I didn’t stand perfectly still.) But even these don’t accurately capture what I saw.

One of my coworkers pointed out that the colors are something to do with the atmosphere. Yes, I said. It’s gases being released or something like that. Or at least that’s what I’ve read.

At times like this though, I prefer to believe that it’s a higher power making his presence known, flexing a creative muscle, and maybe even showing off a little bit.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Trenches Mean Trouble

When I got home last night, I didn’t even get my jacket unzipped before the mother said: “Go look out back.” Her tone was neutral, maybe a twinge of ominous, so I wasn’t sure whether I would like what I was going to see or not.

The funny thing was, I could barely see anything at all – until she yelled, “Isn’t that just horrible that their yard is all dug up that way? Remember when ours was like that?”

I peered harder out the kitchen window and saw that indeed my neighbors’ yard was dug up. Since it was already so dark out,I didn’t appreciate the whole effect until the light of day this morning. As I drove past on my way to work, I saw the skinny trench in progress. Ugh.

Wow! I think they’re replacing their sewer line. I seem to recall them having sewage back up into their washing machine a few weeks back. They had a guy over there working on it and I thought whatever he did at that time had solved it. I guess not.

For us, this was 20+ years ago and it was the water line. Remember my dear cuz, Dago Joe, who helped get rid of my sidewalk debris and took down my old fence? Well, he took me to rent a trencher and we dug the back yard up using it and spades at one point in cold, pouring rain. It was a day in hell to be sure so I’m not likely to have forgotten about it!

Then Joe laid the line and drilled into the basement wall to connect it up. Once all that was done, I filled in and patched the wall. (I did a sucky job of it, too. Of course, then I really didn’t know any better.)

Yeah, I feel bad for my neighbors. I’m just glad it’s not us because I sure don’t relish doing that job again ever, much less any time soon.

The Triplets

When I drive to the bus depot, I’ve mentioned how the area just outside the rotting downtown of my city was once “the” place to live. After a slide in recent years, the neighborhood known as the Park District is starting to come back to life.

It’s not much of a challenge, considering that it has some glorious turn-of-the-century homes as well as one of the finest collections of brick traditionals I’ve ever seen. The latter is today’s topic. Three candidates in particular.

Have you ever noticed a string of houses either next to each other or within blocks of one another that have the same basic design? I see it all the time and I'm always fascinated by the different interpretations of the same basic house.

I've always noticed this about the pair of houses across the street from one another. I've noticed it particularly because one of these two houses happens to be a favorite of mine. I've had my eye on it since I was a little kid, always thinking what an incredible place to live that would be. And when it went up for sale last year I nearly went nuts. It was all I could do to not schedule a tour.

But sometime in the last year, I discovered there was a third house using the same basic design. It' s a block away, but on the same side of the street as my favorite. Now they all have very different features and I think that is really cool. See for yourself.

This house has the five windows across the top, two on the bottom. But its windows are bay windows. And it has a two-car garage with a balcony on top.

This little beauty -- this is my favorite. It has the five windows across the top, too. Similar front door style but no bay windows. It also has those glorious windows across the top. LOVE those! But my favorite thing? That portico with the balcony. That would be such an amazing place to entertain!
And here's the one I discovered only recently. Much simpler than either of the other two. Completely different window layout -- due I'm sure to the fact that they have enclosed the area on the side.

They're all the same design yet with very different interpretations. Which one do you like?

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

In Kind

Who would have known there was a special time to be kind? It’s both encouraging and discouraging to me that tomorrow is World Kindness Day, part of World Kindness Week, as promoted by the Random Acts of Kindness Foundation.

Discouraging, because there seems to be such a lack of it that we have to declare a day or a week in which to observe it. Encouraging, I guess, in that someone is taking the time to point this out and trying to combat it head-on.

Why do I know this? That’s the funny part. I tweeted about the Liberty Mutual commercials at some point recently. I had just seen the newer version of what I call their “random acts of kindness” series. You probably know the ones I mean. Where it focuses in on a person seeing someone else do good (return a toy that a baby threw on the ground, grab someone before they walk into traffic) and then you see that person do their own RAK. It’s typical pay-it-forward behavior. It may be corny, but I love it!

And I said so in my tweet. Which led to a new follower on Twitter. Which led me to find the organization and its site. In addition to the regular observances, they have monthly calendars with a daily activity (that looks like it’s designed for kids) to do. Help a classmate. Give away a treat. Hug an adult. Small things that can have big impacts.

What I found comical? The calendar only goes Monday through Friday. I’m guessing this is to follow the school week, but still … you don’t have to be kind on Saturday and Sunday?

They also have all kinds of activity ideas for individuals, groups, communities, and even the workplace. Who couldn’t use a little extra kindness there?

A friend of mine recently told me that her sister said I was “a kind person” based on some of the comments I left on her blog. I don’t know that her sister’s assessment is dead-on, but I know that I love the idea that she thinks it because I can’t think of a higher compliment to be paid.
So, I’m asking you that if you read this please:
1. Blog about World Kindness Day.
2. Do something nice tomorrow.
3. Be really generous and do both.

It’s not a contest and there’s no prize except the really good feeling I bet you’ll get by doing it. And just think, if everyone did something nice for someone tomorrow … wow.

Smart and pretty are nice compliments. (Yeah, I like those, too. They’re always great to hear.) Give me “kind” any ole day though. Even “smart” guys relished being kind.

“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”Plato

Baby Needs Some Beadboard

In as much as Baby could really use some beadboard, this is an entry to get me in the running for a $100 Home Depot Gift Card. Wouldn’t that be an awesome way to kick off the holiday season? It’s the perfect gift for the DIY-er! (Especially since I should have my own personal parking spot under the contractor canopies at both Home Depot and Lowe's, right?)

If you think so, you can enter too over at Todd’s site, Helpful Advice for Home Construction Improvement. Or, at least, check out his site. Todd’s building a house so he might be able to offer something useful for you. I particularly like his product reviews. And, Todd was gracious enough to offer me a guest column slot earlier this year.

Why, you ask, do I need beadboard? There’s already beadboard up in the kitchen and bathroom, downstairs in the family room, and a stack waiting to go up on the mother’s bedroom walls. Well, I need the beadboard for my bedroom. I think I told you some time back about the lovely toile pattern that is going up in the bedrooms. (The mother’s is black; mine is a wine color.) Really pretty stuff and I can hardly wait to see how it turns out!

With the holidays coming, it would be nice to not have to shell out the money to buy the beadboard! Plus, I should even have a little left over to put toward wallpaper paste. Or toward Liquid Nails adhesive and some finishing nails. Or, some chair rail that will separate the beadboard from the lovely new wallpaper.

Todd doesn’t say how the winner will be selected (whether random or by actual judging). He just wants a blog entry with a link back to the contest. He’s got it!

It sure would be nice to find a little something extra in my stocking this year. At the risk of bragging, I’ve been very, very good this year. And I've got the blog to prove it.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


It’s been a long while since I did any projects with my good buddy, Lawrence the Handyman. By next weekend, that may change.

A little while after I’d gotten home last night, the mother casually says, “I talked to Lawrence today.”


“He just got finished working on Friday … and he was at Lowe’s.” (He disappeared on us in late August to go back to the union job he retired from. Apparently, he can do that for a certain number of weeks a year without affecting his retirement or Social Security benefits.)

You’ve got to love Lawrence. He’s always involved in some kind of a side project or another. That’s why he is going to call early next week to see about a late weekday or weekend time to come and work. He was at Lowe’s picking up supplies for his current adventure. And I have never, I repeat never met anyone who is harder to discourage and next to impossible to rile. It makes him a lot of fun to work with.

Meanwhile, the list of things for him to do at This D*mn House continues to grow. It currently includes:

  • Replacing both the front and back door hardware
  • Installing an outlet in the dining room (the one he didn’t have time to do back in August)
  • Possibly replacing the shut-off valve on the outside faucet (If in fact that’s why the faucet is leaking, in spite of the fact that it is turned off both outside and inside)
  • Installing a new exhaust fan in the bathroom

And that’s just for right now. We’ll have stuff for him to do in the bathroom and kitchen (when we get there) and he already told me he would help me try to shore up the driveway next spring. That’s going to involve lifting up the carport and raising the columns in the now sinking driveway. It’s probably good we didn’t get to that job this year.

He may not have wanted to come back. Ever.

Thank A Vet

It's Veterans' Day and I can't let it pass without saying thanks to those who have served and are currently serving our country. I salute you.

I've got a record of someone in my family serving in just about every conflict ever waged from the American Revolution through Vietnam. A few were even killed. Some were turned away. Like my maternal grandfather. After Pearl Harbor, Young Tom went to enlist. Being over 40, he was deemed "too old" to serve. (I guess it was a good thing or I might not be here. Had Young Tom been accepted and deployed almost immediately as so many were in early 1942, he wouldn't have been home to create my mother, thereby ending the family tree that branches to me.)

Our country has a mixed bag of reactions to those who have served. Civil War vets were revered; Vietnam vets were spat upon. It's an understatement to say that those who have served are not getting their just desserts today.

According to the National Coalition for Homeless Veterans: the VA estimates that nearly 200,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. And nearly 400,000 experience homelessness over the course of a year. Conservatively, one out of every three homeless men who is sleeping in a doorway, alley or box in our cities and rural communities has put on a uniform and served this country.

That is unacceptable and unforgivable. But there are things you can do. For starters, the NCHV recommends these:

  • Determine the need in your community. Visit with homeless veteran providers. Contact your local mayor’s office for a list of providers.
  • Involve others. If you are not already part of an organization, pull together a few people who might be interested in attacking this issue.
  • Participate in local homeless coalitions. Chances are there is one in your community. If not, this may be the time to start bringing people together around this critical need.
  • Send a financial donation to your local homeless veteran provider.
  • Contact your elected officials. Discuss what is being done in your community for homeless veterans.

But the most immediate thing you can do today is to turn to a vet you know -- or maybe one you don't, but that you know is a veteran -- and just say "thanks."

Monday, November 10, 2008

A Case of the Mondays

Having Toby the Cat wake me up isn't unusual. Being glad that he did, is.

Instead of yelling at him to shut up -- like I normally do -- I forced myself out of bed this morning and pushed the light bar on the clock. 5:40. 5:40? Wait -- I set the alarm for 5:20! What the hell? Simple case: Rocket scientist here set it for p.m. instead of a.m. Don't you love it?

I did tackle the laundry yesterday – 12 loads in all. I came home to find the mother cleaning out the shed. Mind you, she’d been in bed for two days with a bug.

It was just over 40 degrees and there was enough of a breeze to keep wind chills in the 30s. Hello! Get your a** in the house! At least she had the good sense to bundle up. (Parka. Hood up. Long johns under sweat pants. Tennis shoes and socks.)

She was unflappable and I couldn’t make her go in. Best I could do was try to get as much done as fast as I could. I wanted to mow and pick up some of the bazillion leaves in the yard but she would have none of it. Instead, I picked leaves out of the landscape rock. Fun stuff.

I added more rock around the deck, the sides, and the front of the house. I finished my project with bricks, but photos will have to wait. (It was dark when I finished. It was dark when I left today. It will be dark when I get home.) Plus, the front isn’t completely done … yet. But it’s close!

We managed to get both the wheelbarrow and my faithful little cart into the shed. I’ll have to move them both to get the lawnmower out over the weekend as I have to mow at least one more time. Won’t be happening immediately as rain is supposed to start tonight and run through Tuesday. Spot showers are forecast for later in the week and then another cold front moves in late Friday, just in time for the weekend. They even used that four-letter word in Saturday’s forecast: snow! (As in “snow showers are possible.”)

God, I hate winter. And it’s not even officially here yet. I managed to get a nice case of chafed skin between the wind and cold yesterday. Now my face is ultra red, even with some powder foundation over it. Ugh.

I may try and claim the other half of my ill-fated vacation day on Friday. It’s supposed to be in the low 50s and relatively mild ahead of the cold front. Then I could get the yard mowed and ideally wrap things up outside. That would be a remarkable achievement.

I tried to take on the long-dreaded linen closet last night. I managed to reclaim a shelf each for sheets and towels. But it’s pretty crammed in there. Even after I took clean sheets out for both mine and the mother’s beds as well as a clean sheet for Ozzie, it was packed tight.

We get to wear jeans to work this week and I had to laugh. Earlier today, one of my young colleagues came into my office and said: “It smells really good in here – like clean laundry.” Uh yeah. Everything I have on – everything except my boots – was in the laundry yesterday!

I’m sure glad it wasn’t the opposite effect.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

D*mn --- It's November

I thought it was supposed to be warmer today. I guess that is a relative term considering that it is November.

The wind chill is under 30. It's still a bit windy and it's all of 36 degrees. Why couldn't I have been born to people in a warmer part of the country? I guess I could always move, but that would be way too much of a hassle. Not to mention way too much of a shock to my change-resistant ways.

I was hoping for 10 degrees warmer and no wind. Does that really seem like a lot to ask?

I guess I'll go deal with the mountain of laundry that I've been putting off. Maybe it will warm up this afternoon. Sigh.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

No, It's NOT For Sale

Who'd have thought that something as simple as removing a sign from my front yard would nearly cause a chain-reaction accident? But that's exactly what happened this afternoon.

There I was, after unloading a quarter-ton of rock from the car, trying to put some of my bricks in place. (This will all be explained eventually. It's part of finishing the front of the house.)

I was slowly removing my election sign from the yard when a series of screeching tires and horns suddenly bellowed from the street. I looked up in just enough time to see a car come to a complete stop in the lane of the four-lane roadway closest to This D*mn House. A woman was practically hanging out of the window of a gold mini-van.

I took two steps forward and caught a somewhat sheepish look on the woman's face as she clearly made out the sign I was holding. "I thought you were putting a for sale sign up." she yelled. I think she was about to say something else but whatever it was was lost as the van suddenly lurched forward and then sped away.

I guess I shouldn't be that surprised. The house directly across the street has been for sale for several weeks now. One night, we watched a car drive by multiple times. On their final trip, they shined a flash light first on the house and then on the for sale sign, presumably to make out the number to call.

Three open houses later, and a few private showings I've seen, and they still don't seem to have sold it. I guess the mid-street stops don't always pan out.

LeaveS Me Alone!

The godmother is making my life so much easier. Instead of having to drive 35 miles to her house to retrieve the mother’s birthday cake, that distance has been cut to less than half that. Turns out she has to see a patient (she’s a mobile nurse) this morning that’s much closer to home for me. So, we’re going to meet up a little later this morning before she has to be there.

The mother is still feeling bad. This morning she’s very cold. At the risk of being completely selfish, I sure hope I don’t get this. Just dealing with the congestion from a headcold or the early stages of a sinus infection are already more than I can cope with.

The sun’s out but it’s chilly (40) and the wind from yesterday is supposed to resume as it warms up. (And warming up is relative. The high is like 44.) Ugh. As a result, leaves are EVERYWHERE. It’s the thing I dread the most this time of year. Even worse than the temperature change. We have no trees. Just leaves. We get leaves from everywhere. It’s ridiculous.

It’s worse this year because the saplings that Rand D planted last year now have enough leaves to make a big mess. The Neanderthal planted two trees as well, but only one is problematic this time around. Lawn and leaves sound like jobs for tomorrow.

With the wind, I don’t dare scamper up the ladder to tack down the piece of scallops in the gable over the porch that seems to have come loose. I guess that gets moved to tomorrow’s list too.
I want to finish the front of the house this weekend. But as the mother has a role to play in the completion, I’m not sure it’s going to happen.

I also have to add to my list draining the hoses. Yes. I did this already. The mother, however, decided she needed the hose last week while it was still warm again. And when she couldn’t successfully unwind that, she got out a new one. So now there are TWO to be drained. I’m just lovin’ that as I thought this was a task I already had done!

At the very least, I have to unhook the hose and cover the faucet. It’s supposed to get down to freezing the next two nights.

So, tomorrow is shaping up to be leaves, lawn, scallops, hoses. Today, I just might take on bricks. Yes, bricks. We’ll just have to see …

Friday, November 7, 2008

Not the Ideal Birthday

First, I missed the call. (I was in a meeting.) It came much later than I would have guessed because the mother is sick. Yes, sick. There should be a law against being sick on your birthday. And on Thanksgiving, too. (I got food-poisoned once a day or so before T-giving and it was one of the most depressing holidays ever as a result.)

The bug that we've both been trying to get all week apparently hit her hard overnight. She was up and down most of the night (I only heard her a time to two; it's not that unusual, so I didn't think anything of it.) I took a nap earlier and I now feel worse than I did before I laid down. Ugh.

She did open her present. She was impressed. And I did get the speech about not buying anything. The sad part: It still sits inside its box, unopened. That tells me just how sick she is. Under ordinary circumstances, she'd have met me at the door this afternoon, bugging me to set it up before I could even put my stuff down.

It was cold, windy, and gray, too, so even if she had felt a bit better this evening, she probably wouldn't have wanted to venture out.

The forecast now calls for more wind (up to 35 mph gusts) and highs in the low 40s tomorrow. Not very conducive for the outdoor things I want to do. Guess I'll push those to Sunday when the wind should dissipate and the temp goes up just a few more degrees (to around 46).