Saturday, February 28, 2009

My Four Walls

I was so tired last night, so I was 10 times as pissed that I had a) gotten up early to make the bed and b) now had to undo it before I could actually go to bed. To console myself, I had the presence of mind to try to make good use of the opportunity: I took pictures.

Since we're going to eventually get to changing this space, I thought this was a good time to capture it the way it is now in preparation for true before and after. So, if you'll indulge me, here's a little tour. Wall 1: That's the view from my door. That's my bed. In the right hand corner, that little what-not shelf? It was my great-grandmother's. The mother says it was in their livingroom. Over in the left, on the other wall? That little framed picture is a silhouette of me that the mother had done. it's one of two. (You can't see the second one, or a third that I had done as a gift to her at age 25.)

Wall 2: Now we're inside. That's the view from my bed. Both the bed and this vanity were purchased at the now defunct Bombay Company. We loved that place! That photo in the round, gold frame? It's my great-great grandmother. She's the mother-in-law of the great-grandmother whose shelf is on the other wall. Just to her right, that's a photo of the mother around age 6. On the floor at the left is my pen collection. Just behind the door, that little dress ... remember my beautiful grandmother? That was hers. (It's beginning to occur to me that my room is a time capsule. About the same size as one, too.) Wall 3: This is the view from my bed. That's where most of my clothes -- in season -- live. Off to the right is that cabinet that passes as a closet that desperately needs to be organized. Outside the door, through that arch, goes into the livingroom. You can see the light coming in the front door. Oh, and that bed? I think you know who that belongs to ... Ozzie! Yup. Though he logs just as many hours in my bed as in his. During the week, he always starts out in his bed, but at about 4:30 every day, there he is, standing on his back legs, leaning against my bed, waiting to be picked up. On weekends though, I don't even bother putting him in his bed. That way, unless Toby decides to shatter the silence, I can usually sleep right through!

Wall 4: Next to my bed and just opposite the closet, is another piece of history. While it looked nothing at all like it does now, I received this doll house at age 8, from my beautiful grandmother. I lost interest in it a few years later but the mother took it on with a vengeance. It's done down to the most minute of details, both outside and in. I have to think there is something of an inspiration in it that led to This D*mn House.

In the immortal words of Porky Pig: "Bbbbp. bbbp, bbbp ... that's all folks!

Thanks for indulging me and coming along.

Doing My Part

I just ran out and got a Sunday paper and some milk. It’s only now starting to flurry and it’s nearly 2 p.m. Fine by me. I don’t care if we don’t even get the dusting they are now calling for (as opposed to one to three inches.)

It’s really cold again (around 30) and the winds are blowing at 15-20 mph so I guess that explains why it feels like it’s in the teens. Because it is so cold, I gave the birds an extra bowlful of seed. (I usually only put this out at night so it’s there for them in the morning.) They’re all out there now, enjoying a late lunch.

Considering that snow was in the forecast, and that it’s the end of month which means payday for some of us, I was stunned by the lack of people out last night. Usually, the grocery stores are jammed. I went to two different ones and found myself second in line at each. At Hell’s answer to retail – otherwise known as Wal-Mart – I glided right into the checkout. There weren’t even 95 people in my way as I grabbed items throughout the store the way there usually is.

I can only guess it’s the economy. Oddly though, the parking lots seemed to be full at the various restaurants along the way. Luckily, those still seem to be packing ‘em in.

Combining the grocery store visits with a special trip to pick up some decorations and paper goods for a surprise shower in a few weeks, I did my part to help the economy!

I’m still tired from last week and from my late night/early morning of yesterday even though I got more than eight hours of sleep last night. So, I have no motivation to take anything on today. It was all I could do to talk myself into folding up and putting away the bedding I got out for nothing yesterday.

Everyone else seems to be crashed, so I may do the same and sneak in a nap!

Stood Up

The mother's friends stood her up today. I felt bad for her.

One of her friends' mothers, who is now around 90, kept calling her every five minutes while she and the other friend were on their way. They never made it here.

It was a seriously busy day at work and being worn out before I ever got started didn't help much. Then, once I survived the day and made it home, I turned around and left and went to get things so I don't have to do it tomorrow in the snow.

Yes, I said snow. I mean it was 70 two days ago and almost 70 the next day. Why wouldn't it snow?

On that note, I'm calling it a day and a night.

Friday, February 27, 2009

Friends on Friday

The current temperature is about half of yesterday’s high. It’s always lovely when you have back-to-back days at or near 70, only to be plunged once again into the deep freeze. While it’s a shock to the system, ti’s not a surprise. I knew this would happen.

They’re now saying one to three inches of snow tomorrow. No wonder everyone is sick!

I was up late and I got up extra early today so I’d have time to make my bed. Not pull back the sheets and adjust the covers, fold in the corners stuff. No. This is drag out the comforter and sham and throw pillow making-the-bed stuff. And because I am one of the best kids ever, I did the same for her bed.

You see, the mother is having company today. A few of her friends are coming over.

I’m not sure why exactly this is necessary. I mean, I go to my friends’ houses without stepping foot in a bedroom. And these people have been to the house before. It’s not like they haven’t seen it. And it’s not like it’s the new bedrooms yet.

So, I totally don’t get it. I guess she just wants to leave the doors open without risking embarrassment. At least one of them hasn't seen the porch and walkway yet. I'll be curious to hear about what she had to say.

In what was a highly unusual turn of events, these plans just popped up yesterday. So that sent the mother into overdrive. You'd think the Queen was coming or something. And she gets so annoyed with me when I just fail to see the drama in all of it. "You bring people in here when it looks any old kind of way," she chides.

Well, yes, I do. I figure they're more about coming to see me than my house. But that's me. Logic that's totally wasted on the mother.

I just hope Ozzie behaves. He doesn’t always when people come and I won’t be there to make him mind. Toby won’t be a problem. Part of his mental shortcomings make him completely anti-social. He’ll either slink under a piece of furniture or hide out in the bathtub until everyone is gone.

Here’s hoping she has a good day.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

A Little Request

Considering the latest news on the housing front, I thought it might be a good time to show a little love to This D*mn House.

Dear House, Sometimes I get very annoyed with you. You’re too small. You’re old. You’re expensive. You’re much too needy.

But, at the end of the day, you’re mine. They can’t take you away. (Unless I don’t pay the taxes.) I’m not even ashamed to claim you anymore. In fact, I’m rather proud. So, we might as well face facts: We’re stuck with each other. While the mother still likes to daydream and regularly checks out the real estate sections, I don’t torture myself with them anymore. I’ve accepted that I’m not going anywhere. I've made my peace with it.

Things are getting off to a slow start this year, I know. But, the almost continuous worship at your altar that’s been under way for most of the last three years (and a good chunk of the past two decades, though more sporadically) is about to resume. Thanks to the economy, I’m just not sure how much worshipping we can do.

Please recognize that an awful lot of nice things have been done for you in the past 18 months or so. And a lot more things are on the horizon. So please, be cooperative. Be patient. Be helpful.
That’s not asking for too much, is it?

Where to Start

The week, very much like this month, is flying by. I mean, can you believe that February will be over in a matter of days? Seems like this year just got started and already nearly two months are gone.

Absolutely nothing has been done on the house either. That’s a little disheartening considering that by this time last year, we had already built a closet and run a gas line to the fireplace!
So, I’m going to see if this weekend we can pick up the pace. At least a little.

It may be something as simple as mudding and taping the family room ceiling and the area above the closet doors where the trim won’t quite cover the gap. From there, I might even get to put the trim up. I guess we’ll see.

It wouldn’t be major progress, but it would be a start.

I still don’t know what all is on the agenda for the rest of the year. (The mother has ADD when it comes to those kinds of decisions and, as a result, regularly changes her mind about which project or projects she sees as a priority as well as on the order in which they’re done.
I won’t be taking vacation before next month, so that precludes anything we can’t live without on a day-to-day basis. (Like redoing the bathroom, for example.)

One thing I would like to start as soon as the weather breaks is aligning the carport. For the past several years, it has started to sag to the point that it is quite noticeable. It not only looks bad, it’s probably not all that safe either. I’ve discussed a plan of action with Lawrence and he’s agreed to help but one never knows what his schedule is like.

And you can never rely on the weather. Last year, every time I got ready to start on the brickwork, it would rain. I had hoped to acquire all my materials throughout April and get under way by early May. I didn’t get to start until mid-June.

Here’s hoping for a relatively dry spring.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Glorius Day!

It was absolutely glorious outside today. Not at all a typical day in St. Louis in February. When I went to grab lunch, it was already in the upper 50s.

Later, when I saw it was 65, I had to take a little walk. I needed to soak it in and savor it, keep it in my being like camels do water because, you know, it may snow Saturday. Seriously. And it got up to at least 70 today. Why can’t Ole Man Winter just die already?

Lunch was free by the way – thanks to Fred over at One Project Closer who blogged about Quizno’s efforts to give away 1 million subs. I had a honey bourbon chicken on wheat that tasted all the better because it was free. Thanks, Fred! If you’re interested in getting a free sub, you’d better hurry. They were near the halfway mark when I printed my coupon this morning. (they send it to you via email.)

Speaking of email, I got one last night letting me know that a package I am anxiously awaiting shipped out. It was in Phoenix and leaving for destination unknown this morning. According to tracking, I can expect to see it Monday.

While it's not DIY-specific, it will have a role to play on the blog. It’s safe to say you’ll be able to see and read all about it once it arrives!

Can We Get to "Better" Now?

There is no love lost between me and banks.

I grew up in a house where they were reviled. (Young Tom lost more than $2,000 – a princely sum in 1929 – and never trusted banks again.) They took advantage of the mother and I when we purchased This D*mn House. They continue to prey on me today in the form of credit card APRs that consistently go higher though I usually pay more than what’s due and it’s paid on time.

So, while I don’t hate banks, they aren’t exactly in my top five industries. I think a lot of us feel that way these days. I couldn’t help but be touched though by the story of Leonard Abess Jr.

The Miami banker, lauded during President Obama’s Congressional address last night, reportedly gave a $60 million bonus to about 470 bank employees – past and present. In an age for an industry where corporate jets and $1.5-million office redos are the norm, what do you say about a guy like that? A guy who takes money he could easily have just walked away with, and gives it to his employees? You call him the exception, rather than the rule. If you’re me, you feel badly that he is painted with the same broad brush that vilifies so many of his colleagues these days, deservedly or not.

You also say “thank you” for putting more than a glimmer of hope back into humanity. The greed-mongers who have looted establishments and robbed blind the common man could learn a lot from this guy. Not that they’d ever listen. They don’t give a sh*t in the first place.

I’ll admit that it wasn’t a story I expected to hear. Especially not during a speech that immediately resonated with me when the economy was referred to as “the worry you wake up with and the source of sleepless nights.” Because the fact of the matter is that people are terrified.

I hear about it on the bus. I hear about it in the grocery store. I hear about it at work.

With each new announcement of lay-offs at whatever company it is, I think the country's entire workforce collectively cringes. We exhale the breath we were holding, simultaneously breathing a sigh of relief that “it wasn’t me.” Yet. And it's not that I live in mortal fear of losing my job. It's just that even thinking that it's possible is alarming.

Is it any wonder then that people are putting off buying homes or buying cars or anything else classified as "major?" Of course, that only makes the economy worse, but how can you blame them? That's money they may need in the not too distant future just to eat.

I know it's going to get worse before it really starts to get better. For me, that's the scariest part. I'm past ready to see the "better" get started. And I'm not a patient person.

For now though, I'll try to be encouraged by every bit of light I see. And today, that light is Leonard Abess.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A Dangerous Discovery

I made the most amazing discovery last night. But there are some things that the world is a safer place for me without.

Amazing? Dangerous? I’ll let you be the judge. This is my discovery:

You can watch entire episodes of HGTV’s Carter Can right freakin here! One episode is titled “Carter in the Kitchen.” I am in SO much trouble here, folks.

Don't have time to watch a whole show? You can get a quick eyeful here. There's a series of short videos. That's a good thing.

Oh. My. God. I may never get another thing done ever again – online or off.

The Monthly Fix

It’s not like I have a lot of time to sit around and read magazines, but there are two that I really enjoy: Newsweek and This Old House.

This Old House’s March issue arrived over the weekend and I took a few minutes to go through it last night. If you don’t subscribe – and you’re a houseblogger – you should. But, you can catch some of their great tips this month right here.

There were a few that reached out directly to me as they will likely come in handy on a few of my projects. Like:
  • Ladder safety
  • Installing crown molding
  • Cleaning plaster off brick

You really should check out their site. Even if you're not a regular DIYer, there's bound to be something there you'll like or can learn from.

Sadly, what’s not online is a gorgeous c. 1907 house in Alabama for just $75,000! (It’s the last page of the magazine. And I’m in love with it!) Of course, it would probably take at least $50,000 to $100,000 to fix it up, but it sounds like a worthwhile investment.

Too bad – or maybe it’s a good thing – it’s not closer!

Monday, February 23, 2009


I overheard part of a conversation this morning where two people were discussing paint.

They were discussing it very thoroughly, too. Brand names, colors, price, interior, exterior, finishes … they covered the whole spectrum in a little under 5 minutes. (As long as it took me to heat up lunch.) I half expected one of them to flip out paint swatches at some point.

I don’t like to paint. I can paint, though not always very well. And I do paint as it was all me that did the house in 2007. Two coats, thank you very much. But it is among my least favorite things to do.

In its defense, it is a project with immediate gratification. Even on a huge project, just 10 or 15 minutes worth of painting and you can already see what you’ve done.

It’s still too cold to do any exterior painting jobs here, and I prefer those to interior ones. (You can afford to be a little messy outside.) And outside, you aren’t trapped indoors with the lovely smell of paint.

While I’m not a good painter, I am adequate and I do have a few tips to share.

· If you’re messy, like me, paint thinner can be your best friend. I usually keep two rags nearby. One is dampened with paint thinner, the other with soap and water. Soap and water work great if you catch your oopsy immediately. The paint thinner comes to the rescue if you don’t notice right away.
· Using the same brush the next day? You don’t have to wash it out. Just stuff your brush inside a Ziploc bag. Keep it out of the sun or away from heat and it will stay like this for days.
· If you’re painting siding or trim, the smaller foam rollers work perfectly. I did an entire house this way. And those disposable pads? I’m not a fan of them, but the mother, who is the painter at This D*mn House, swears by them.
· If you know you’re going to have a tight squeeze, try an artist’s brush. We have some gingerbread up at the apex of the house and I only take it down every few years. To keep from getting white paint on my gray house, that artist’s brush is da bomb!
· The clear plastic deep lids that DQ puts on top of their blizzard and sundae cups are great for holding paint. I had a small metal bucket that was just a little bigger than the cups and I used that bucket all summer the year we painted the house. If you can’t recycle, at least reuse, right?

And The Oscar Goes To

The days are definitely getting longer. The sun is rising as I type this. Not just the lights and colors in the sky that precede the sun’s arrival – the burning orange orb itself!

Yesterday was a relatively quiet day. I had to coax myself to dress – by 1 p.m. I’m starting to make this pajamas-in-the-afternoon a Sunday ritual. And it’s not always a bad thing. I got to watch A Mighty Heart about the kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, and a cute little movie called Martian Child with one of my faves, John Cusack.

There were an outrageous number of people out yesterday, especially considering that it was cold and very windy. Everywhere I went was jam-packed. I guess some people must have been hosting Oscar parties. (That didn’t occur to me until I was on my way home.)

The Oscars weren’t very surprising. Slumdog Millionaire pretty much swept the floor with everyone else, except in a few cases. I’ll admit I wasn’t too sure what kind of host Hugh Jackman would be and I really had my doubts when he launched into the opening number. But both he and it ended up being delightfully different.

I also liked the change in presentation of the biggest awards. I have to think that win or lose, having some of those greats pay a personalized tribute to you was a pretty good consolation prize!

Saturday was all about fun. The marathon crop (nine hours of scrapbooking) was an incredibly good time and I got a lot done – 10 pages completely done and two others with a title and photos only. We even texted the MonkeyGirl who said that she thought scrapbooking by the sea was an untapped market. Haven’t heard yet if she actually bought a villa or not.

The only disappointment to Saturday was that I didn’t win Powerball. The good news is that neither did anyone else. That means that there’s still hope for Your D*mn House.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Is Blogger Wigging Out?

Or am I? There don't appear to be any posts on my blog. WTF?!

Usually, Blogger corrects itself but it's been this way for at least 2o minutes now. I'm starting to wonder if this will be visible once I post it.

UPDATE: It IS visible, but Blogger is clearly having issues. Of course, so am I. The biggest one? trying to get dressed. I just want to stay in my pajamas. It's too cold to go out. Really it is. At least yesterday I had to motivation of something fun.

Somehow, though, I think my fellow shoppers might find the pajams odd -- even for me. So, off I go to drag some things back to This D*mn House.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Should Be vs. Is

I tell the mother all the time that there’s a world of difference between should be and is. Case in point. What I should be doing:

• Sleeping. (This is questionable. Between the wind that’s tearing along the back of the house – and directly beside me – alternating with yowling courtesy of Toby the Cat from Hell, I’m not sure it would work.)
• Finishing up some things I left hanging at work yesterday.
• Tearing into the basement and doing some major organizing in the family room that would lead me to:
o Swap out the old daybed and assemble the new one.
o Swap out the old bookcase and assemble the new one.
o Mud and tape the holes in the ceiling from adventures in installing electrical outlets.
o Mud and tape the gaps at the top of the closet built more than a year ago so that the trim can be put up.
o Put up said trim.
o Taking down decorative posts and the existing mantel on the fireplace to make way for the new one once the mother stains it.
• Catching up on everyone else’s blogs and putting in the many comments that I intended to when I initially read their posts.
• Reorganizing my bedroom closet (read: cabinet) because I have so many coats and jackets jammed in it that there isn’t much space for anything else.

But the operative word is should. Because here’s what I am doing:
• Preparing to shower and dress.
• Loading up the car.
• Heading to an all-day (nine glorious hours) crop.

Sadly, our gang will be a few short as the MonkeyGirl thought that hangin’ with the hubs in the Caribbean would be more fun and Harriet forgot that she had volunteered to freeze her a** off in the Mardi Gras parade. But that’s OK. See you soon, MamaMartha and MissJ!

Friday, February 20, 2009

A Nod to Housebloggers

Hey, it looks like some of our housebloggin’ kin have link love to look forward to courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times! Ran across this today and it’s set for publication tomorrow.

Laughed when I saw it because it highlights several blogs that I regularly read and enjoy. A nice nod to those of us who are not only crazy enough (read:stupid) to take on the most psychotic of DIY projects, we BLOG about them, too!

It did, of course, get Liz’s name wrong over at A Constructed Life. Somehow, she’s now “Amy.” Maybe the baby isn't the only news going on over there. Hmmm.

Writer Janet Keeler even included Liz and Joey’s banner descriptor: "Remodel an entire house. Stay sane. Remember to have a life." What she neglected to mention in her story is the stress that comes with living in and working on a home simultaneously.

Which, if you believe Newsweek, isn’t all that bad necessarily. I just got my copy yesterday and the cover story is "Stress Could Save Your Life." So maybe all that house-related hub-bub, work-related worrying, and financial fiasco fever isn’t that bad for you after all.

Well, maybe.

Of Earworms and Other Amusements

Mercy sakes alive, looks like we got us a convoy …
Thanks go out to KayO for having planted that little ditty in my ear last night with her post about a compilation CD she received from a vendor. It’s an earworm that has burrowed in and stayed there. Did it crawl into your ear now? I'm ready for it to leave mine.

The sun is already rising high in the sky. The days truly are getting longer. YAY! (For right now, it’s just an extra few minutes of light where I’ll have that damn song stuck in my head.)
It’s cold now (around 20) but headed for 50. It won’t stay that way, unfortunately. It’s going to be cold again tomorrow. But why do I care? I’m going to be inside all day, scrapbooking!

While I still don’t have everything together yet, I was looking to see just where I was in my book for 2006. Looks like I’ll be working on my second trip to NYC, my first two trips to the new Busch Stadium, the second of which feeds into the Blackout of 2006. Our lovely week in 100-degree heat with no electricity at This D*mn House.

And then, it’s onto this critter, the cat whose internal clock is in serious need of adjusting. Yes, that would be Toby. He had appeared in our yard, just a scrawny little thing, maybe 8-10 weeks old, about two weeks ahead of the hellacious storms.

He was SO funny last night. I would whistle and his head would promptly pop out of one of the holes in the cube. I had to see if I couldn’t snap a few pics of him.

He’s in his little vinyl cube, one of two that he owns. When they’re both popped up and attached together, it takes up a good chunk of the livingroom.
These aren’t the greatest photos, one, because I took them sans flash to avoid getting laserbeam eyes and two, I wasn’t paying a lot of attention to settings because I had to hurry up and catch him while the gettin’ was good.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Vignettes, Part 2

This falls straight into the category of “I wish I had a camera.”

Our ever resourceful bus driver, tired of the window that kept flopping open (and it’s not exactly warm outside either) and of her repeated maintenance reports being ignored, fixed the problem. She raided the first-aid kit and taped the window closed with THREE BAND-AIDS! We’ll see if it survives the trip home.

(It didn’t. It has popped open twice already. Maybe I should start carrying duct tape.)
UPDATE: Another lady and I were able to rig it and so far, it has stayed closed! Damn. This is like being at home. Do I have to fix everything?!
Tomorrow is FRIDAY! *happy dancing* It’s isn’t that I’m not grateful for all of the work that has come my way this month. I am. Truly, I am. I’m just incredibly tired. Wake me when it’s over, please.
I’m still having a hard time understanding how a tax cut can help you if you’re one of the people who was put out of work and has no income.
I’m encouraged by some of the energy efficiency provisions in the stimulus package giving you credit for things like energy efficient windows, insulation, and water heaters.

Weatherization is a good thing. It moves products. It saves energy. You spend less on your utility bill and that leaves you more money to spend elsewhere. At least that part of it is good all the way around.

Too bad they’re only for 2009 and 2010. Won’t help me with the new water heater I bought last year!


Write this down because it’s earth-shattering: I went in a Michael’s and I purchased nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. Bupkus. Goose egg. And, I’m going to a nine-hour crop on Saturday.

I know. I probably should take my temperature.

The mother got some cute decorations for St. Patrick’s Day though. Watch for those.
I’ve been trying to get the mother to get herself a new mattress. She won’t hear of it. So last night I did the next best thing. I bought her a new mattress topper.

She has one on her bed now but it’s past worn out. Clearly, she had forgotten how expensive that one had been because she began to balk something fierce in the check-out last night. But I didn’t budge. I’m buying it, so don’t worry about it, I said. It was a little expensive, but I was able to take advantage of a 15 percent discount that was only good yesterday, on top of the sale price. Here’s my senior citizen, I told the clerk, pointing to the mother. (Saved over $30 extra, thanks to that.)

It’s one of those memory foam deals and the little sample they had out seemed quite comfy. I’ll let you know how it works out.
It’s bitterly cold with snow flurries this morning. I don’t know what the temperature is, nor do I want to. I do know that the wind is gusting up to 30 mph so that is a large part of why it’s so miserable. It’s not supposed to warm up again until Sunday. Sigh.
I “evicted” Ozzie last night. From the moment I got in bed last night, he was restless. I kindly asked the mother to deal with him and she did. Didn’t matter though. Toby was in full-throttle yowling mode and he wouldn’t shut up. So, I didn’t get a lot of sleep.

At about 4:15, I yelled at him to shut up. Remarkably, he did. Five seconds later, my door opened and I heard the unmistakable clatter of claws on wood. “Here is your dog.”

Gee. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

House History

I found it! I found it! I found the original bill of sale for This D*mn House.

I think I told you a while back that the original owners came to visit a few years after we bought the place. (They’d left at least 20 years earlier then. There were two more owners over the next 20+ years before we bought it.) The couple built this house and raised two kids here. From all accounts, they were very happy here. I've got to think that karma counts for something.

During that visit, they brought us this document that outlines all the construction costs and the final purchase price for the house.

Both the mother and I thought that was pretty awesome. In typical mother fashion, she got a nice matte and framed it.
We had it hanging in the hallway going into the basement for several years thereafter. Then, when I painted the hall a few years ago, the mother decided to do some picture reshuffling. That hallway is chock full of photos. Not a single inch of bare space to be seen.

So apparently the bill ended up in the family room. I’m embarrassed to admit that I failed to notice that until last night. I’m not even sure why I did but I’m so glad I did! It was bugging me when I didn’t know where it was.

I can’t quite make the date out, but the PAID stamp was from sometime in 1940. I guess this would officially qualify as the house’s provenance?
And I’m dying laughing at these prices. Granted, both the kitchen and bathroom are tiiiiiiiii-nee but $10 to paint ‘em both?! And I can’t help but wonder what the “feature strip” in the linoleum was. I guess it was lucky they didn’t need more than 54 linear feet of it. (A true testament to how small the kitchen is. It’s less than 80 sq. ft.) Although 8 cents a foot for anything in the building material category is almost impossible for me to fathom.

And this final figure just cracks me up.
Even so, it’s almost 50 percent over the median U.S. home price (unadjusted for inflation) in 1940. And it’s about 33 percent above the average price for a home in Illinois, listed on that same table. I guess you can’t count the building expense in the purchase value though.

Mud Slide

It’s surprisingly warm this morning. It must be in the 40s.

I know that it’s not supposed to last long. The temperature is expected to plummet this afternoon. Oh, and with winds gusting to 35 mph – my favorite combination. Cold and windy.
I’d say we should enjoy it ‘til then, but it’s rainy and gray. It’s not raining right now, but we got at least a few showers overnight.

Many of the sidewalks, still coated with the debris from the snow and ice of a few weeks ago, are now covered with a thin layer of mud. I had to dodge it as best I could getting on the bus. Even so, I managed to do a bit of a slide. A mud slide, if you will. And not the good kind, MamaMartha!

If it were going to be warmer this weekend, I might get out there and clear some of the debris so that the next time it rains, there’s no mud. Two reasons though while that won’t happen. First, it’s supposed to be cold. (We might even see snow flurries Saturday morning.) And second, I am going to an all-day crop Saturday! I can’t wait.

The last two weeks have been pretty stressful on multiple levels, so it will be a nice change of pace. Besides, I've got to get back to things around this house again soon.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Speaking Out

Samuel Johnson once said that, “No man but a blockhead ever wrote, except for money."

Well, I guess that makes me a blockhead extraordinaire. Oh, I do get paid to write – but not this blog. No, this blog is about the sheer love of words. It’s about making a connection with people I know and with people I hope to.

And, based on the title, it’s a good outlet for all things related to this money pit I’ve called home for more than two decades.

You may have noticed the new graphic in the right-hand margin. If you haven’t , please do. It’s for a new blog that went live today. It’s called ViolenceUnSilenced and it’s dedicated to stamping out domestic violence. Unfortunately, it’s a subject I know a little bit about.

Fortunately, there are sites like this that give me a chance to put that experience to what I hope will be good use. I truly believe that being safe in your own home should be a right, not a privilege.

I stumbled upon Maggie quite by accident a few months ago. She has a blog called Okay.Fine. Dammit. (How can you not love that blog name?!) And she happens to be a terrific writer. So, I visit regularly.

But back to the site … at some point, Maggie will be running a post I wrote. I hope you will read it.

More than that, I hope you will go to the site now and read the first post. It’s quite compelling. It puts a very normal face on an extremely dangerous and dysfunctional issue. Take her pledge and put the ViolenceUnSilenced badge on your site. Post on your blog and Tweet about it, too. Get people there.

I think it’s a remarkable thing that Maggie has done. The least we can do is help get the word out. You may help save the life of someone you know ... and not even know it.

So, I'll happily be a blockhead if it encourages just one person to get out of an abusive relationship. Will you?

Too Tired for Words

Maybe it’s the weather. Maybe it’s a low-energy phase. Maybe it’s because work has become unbelievably – and suddenly – very busy again. (That’s a very good thing, too.)
Whatever it is, I’m tired.

So that’s why I fell quiet last night. Thanks for the emails asking where I was.

I’m here, lurking in the shadows, catching up on everyone else’s blogs. I'll be back soon. Promise.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Presidents’ Day

It seems ironic to me that on a day set aside to honor George “I Cannot Tell A Lie” Washington and “Honest Abe” Abraham Lincoln that the Illinois Senate seat battle, which most recently got a governor impeached, garners headlines like this: Perjury or not, Burris shows he is at least a liar. This whole scene just makes me oh, so proud of my home state.

At least George’s birthday isn’t until Sunday. He can distance himself a little from all the hub-bub.

Which brings me to questions about this holiday. If the whole idea behind this holiday is to combine the observance of Washington and Lincoln’s birthday, what part of that didn’t Illinois get? The state still observes both Lincoln’s birthday and Presidents’ Day.

OK, I grant you that even though he wasn’t born in Illinois, we lay claim to Lincoln. Hence, we’re the Land of Lincoln. And, at least for this year, it was his 200th birthday. You only get one of those, right?

While I still think it’s double-dipping to take both days, I can at least understand that.
But why does Missouri’s state government take both of them, too?

I guess I shouldn’t question it, considering that Ole Abe, more than 140 years after his death, is still our most popular president. Well, at least according to C-SPAN, who recently released their latest rankings of America's 42 ex-presidents.

I guess my grandparents must have been onto something. I grew up in a house where pictures of three of the Top 10 on this list were proudly displayed: Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Online versus Catalog

It's one thing to find an item for different prices at different stores. We expect that, don't we? In our capitalist society, it's ideal to get the item we seek for the best price. So, we are forever pitting online against online or online against brick-and-mortar or online against catalog. Or at least I know I am.

But what if the online price and the catalog price are different -- but from the same store? *scratching head* That's right. I said the same store.

That's the situation I found myself in Saturday night buying slipcovers from JC Penney. (Yeah, I know. Wild weekend, eh?) But they're expensive. And with a dog and cat constantly on the sofa and loveseat, you gotta have them. Or buy furniture every two years. Or use ugly sheets. I don't like those options.

Anyway, we bought a good set a few years ago. They've held up admirably. Survived dog and cat yack (among many other really not-to-mention things) multiple washes, and still bounce back. They're beginning to get a little thin though. So I decided to check into new ones. I just bought the mother a new coffeemaker (she is starting to put together stainless steel for the new kitchen) and it came today. In the package, was one of their million mini-catalogs. Inside, slipcovers 50 percent off. Booyah!

I go online and a sale price comes up -- but it's $20 more for each piece than in the catalog. WTF? How is that possible?! I'm just about to call their customer service when, on a whim, I key in the product code from the catalog. When I do that, it asks me for a code off the catalog. I key that in and voila! Catalog prices.

So what's the difference between online and catalog? In this case, $48. Had I gone by the sale prices online without seeing the catalog, that's how much more I would have paid. Next time you're shopping online, see if there's a companion catalog. You never know how much you could save!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Day for Adoration

"I was adored once, too."-- William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night

May you be adored, too. Especially today. (Even if your English is as bad as the person's who made this decoration in our kitchen.)

Friday, February 13, 2009

Grocery store Giddy

There is food in This D*mn House – actual, real food. And we’ll probably go out to eat tonight. Go figure.

Seriously, we were down to the dregs. There was almost nothing to eat. At least for us. The animals? They were covered. They always are. Of course, they eat better than we do.
Food is expensive. I’m not sure how you people with kids do it.

And since I actually bought food for a change, the grocery bill was almost twice what it usually is. I bought bread, fresh produce, cereals, meat, canned and frozen veggies, French fries, cookies – stuff you can eat. Maybe some stuff you shouldn’t eat, but hey.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised by the total. But I was. The good news? I got $10 off (store promotion) and I had another $11.50 in coupons. For those of you keeping track, that’s $21.50 total in discounts, or about 18 percent off my bill. SCORE!

I felt bad because Sandy had gotten so little. I felt even worse when I found out that she had been told that she has to take a week off work without pay sometime this year. We both agreed though that if that is the worst of it, it will do nicely, thank you.

As we were leaving, she asked if I’d planned to drive through anywhere. Many times after our little excursions, I do. I tried to call the mother but no dice so I just made an executive decision and picked something up for her.

Sandy wanted to go to Burger King. I had to wheedle it out of her since she thought it was such a big inconvenience. (It's across the road from the grocery store for Pete's sake!) I only eat breakfast there on occasion, but I played along. I’d have even treated if she’d have let me.

She said since the bus is rerouted she doesn’t get to go there anymore. She was something just short of thrilled once she confessed where she wanted to go and we were on our way.

We both laughed when we pulled up and there was an “angry” Whopper on the menu. She cracked up when I asked the girl if I could have a mellow one instead. (The girl didn’t see the humor in it.) I laughed even harder because Sandy had laughed.

It takes so little to make some people happy. I guess it helps makes up for the rest of us.


Tigger the Cat was determined to get stepped on this morning. Despite my best efforts to avoid it, I got the tip of his tail and the edge of a back foot this morning.

One of my attempts to avoid him even forced me trip, sending the bottle of Downy I was carrying skittering across the floor and crashing me into a bucket which promptly dumped the mop, broom, and dustpan it was holding. I get up, muttering a string of profanity.

From upstairs, I hear the mother: “WHAT WAS THAT?!” It’s just me, I reassure her.

When I get back upstairs, she sternly says, “That was not just you. I think there must ‘ve been a car crash. Something shook the house.” OK. Whatever. I hurriedly finish getting dressed and head out for the bus.

Before I can even sit down at work, the phone rings. It’s the mother.

“I told you that I heard something earlier,” comes through the receiver. Well, I guess she did. And this must have been it!

They’re saying people 15 miles away heard! Luckily, it doesn’t sound like anyone was hurt. Here’s hoping.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Competing for the Holiday Dollar

Both Home Depot and Lowe’s are wasting no time in getting things going for the President’s Day holiday weekend.

I checked email earlier and Home Depot wanted to be sure I knew that they were offering 10 percent off of home appliances valued at $398 or more. Hmmm. Maybe the mother could find something with a price tag to offset her displeasure for anything that is not the one and only refrigerator she had picked out – but that will not fit in our kitchen.

They’re also offering $5 off a can or $20 off a bucket of Behr paint. Now that’s something I might have to look into. The appliance sale goes through Feb. 18 but the paint sale ends Feb. 16.

Within 30 minutes, Lowe’s followed suit. Their email didn’t tell me exactly what was on sale but linked me to an ad that did. Here’s some highlights:
· 10 percent off Energy Star major appliances
· 15 percent off Levelor special order blinds and shades
· A $5 mail-in rebate on their Valspar paint (I’ve never used this stuff. We’re Behr fans and only HD carries that.)
· A $100 gift card when you buy $400 of Owens Corning insulation.

These sale prices are only good through Monday, Feb. 16.

Not coincidentally, today is Abraham Lincoln's 200th birthday. I guess, in this hour of need, he would be glad to know he's still doing his part for the country, this time to pump up the retail volume!

For Sale

Tonight is grocery night, so I drove to the bus station. My fellow commuter Sandy will be going along for the shopping trip. (I had to laugh because one of the days last week that the car was in the shop the Daily Act of Kindness was “Offer a ride to someone who needs it.” As if I could have!)

Driving to the depot, my head almost did a Linda Blair spin when I saw a “for sale” sign outside one of my favorite houses. It’s actually the house next door that’s for sale, but I didn’t realize that initially. So I was able to calm down pretty quickly. Good thing. One less thing to taunt myself with! I know JeanMartha knows that feeling all too well after coveting a certain barn property recently.

What I noticed though after the major realization that my favorite triplet wasn’t for sale, was that a lot of other houses were. In that block alone, I counted eight. EIGHT. One or two are almost always for sale, but eight? The next block, four. Then two. Then one block with none. So that means there are at least 14 houses for sale in a three-block area. Wow. Sounds like a buyer’s market to me.

I heard last night that the home-buyer incentive was one of the casualties of the stimulus plan but there might be an alternative credit included in a future treasury plan. Sounds like it’s something my city is going to need.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

In Defense of St. Louis

Talk about kicking you when you’re down. To me, that’s what Forbes has done with its second annual list of America's Most Miserable Cities. Don’t we all have enough negative and bad sh*t floating in our heads, hearts, and homes right now? Gee, thanks. *rolling eyes*

To create this list, Forbes looked at the 150 largest metropolitan statistical areas in the U.S., which meant those with a population of at least 378,000. They rated the cities on nine factors: commute times, corruption, pro sports teams, Superfund sites, taxes (both income and sales), unemployment, violent crime and weather.

Granted, I’ll give you weather hands down. And, up until last week, I’d have argued commute times. That’s because the Metro bus system is cutting routes dramatically after a failed sales tax referendum back in the fall. (Luckily, that’s not the case on my side of the river.) But sports teams? Seriously? We are Baseball Town USA! So what if the Rams suck?

Admittedly, I’ve got a horse in this race. I’m plenty peeved to find St. Louis at No. 10. Now, I’m not a Gateway City resident. I do, however, hold a much deeper affinity with the city than I do with the one whose ZIP code I’ve shared for the past two decades. I work in St. Louis. I went to high school there. Most of my friends live there. I like to hang out there. It’s just generally a great place.

It’s home. So, Forbes, you can kiss my butt. Is your city on the list? Did you get a bum rap?
In protest, I’m going to point out what I think some of the greatest things are about St. Louis. Feel free to comment and add yours!

Forest Park – In addition to its beautiful greenery, a backdrop for the 1904 World’s Fair, it is home to the St. Louis Zoo and the St. Louis Art Museum, two wonderful establishments you can visit FOR FREE! Not many cities can say that.

The Arch – I take it for granted. I could almost see it from the house I grew up in (could see it from the roof). I now see it at least twice a day. I can even see it in part from my desk at work if I stand in front of my window just right. But I can’t tell you how awesome it is to see tourists gawk at it from the ground or shake each other awake as they drive down I-70.

The Hill – Mama Mia! You want some Italian? They got it!

Soulard – History, architecture, food, eclectic bars.

The Ancient Order of Hibernians – These folks throw one hell of a parade every St. Patrick’s Day in Dogtown without fail. And, on the Saturday before St. Patrick’s, there’s another parade downtown. It’s good to be Irish!

The Cardinals – Great bunch of guys. World Series in 2006. Enough said.

And that’s just a few things. I could go on and on. Just knowing that there is so much more I could say is enough to make me happy.

The Eighth Dwarf

Today, I am the eighth dwarf personified: Whiny.

It does no good to whine. Logically, I know this. Realistically, I can do nothing about it. It’s a combination of sleep deprivation, tension, hormones, and the weather. No bright beautiful moon in the sky today. Just endless gray. And rain.

The rain poured on the house last night like a battering ram. It started in just before I went to bed and continued periodically until after 4 a.m. They said we got between 1 and 2 inches in all. The streets are even muddy. All the dirt and grit left from the snow that finally melted last week has been washed to the surface making a murky, soupy mess.

I don’t think we run street sweepers any more. Probably one of the many casualties of budget cuts, so this mess is likely to be disappearing and reappearing for some time until eventually, traffic will successfully spread it to other locations. See? I told you I was whiny!

I need to just shut up, drink some tea, and go get some work done, don’t I? Sounds like a plan.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Nice While It Lasted

I didn't get to take my walk today. Bummed me out because the wonderful and unseasonable weather we've enjoyed the past few days is on its way out. It was 71 degrees today! I was so thankful for it though. The rain started earlier tonight and it looks like it will hang around again through tomorrow.

Also going away, though I don't know when for sure, is my door-to-door bus service. A service road behind the construction that has the main drag closed now has traffic lights. They aren't on yet -- or at least they weren't earlier -- but once they are, the bus won't have to detour right in front of the house anymore. At least it got me through some really nasty winter weather so I'm grateful.

I'm happy to report that the Ladybird is finally home. Picked her up tonight and the old seatbelt is back in business. All of her many pieces appear to be back in place. That's a relief!

The wind got my favorite umbrella on the way home last night. Just outright busted it up. Poor thing never had a chance.

It occurred to me during the past few days that I haven't done a historic architecture post in a good long while. Watch for one of those this week!

This D*mn Lawn

The moon was back again this morning. This time, it was full and bright in the morning sky, thumbing its nose at the rising sun. No ominous black cloud, just pure beauty. In fact, I could still see the moon for the first part of my commute, even as I began to glimpse the sun breaking through the morning sky.

Before the rain rolled in and began clouding up the sky, yesterday was also a beautiful day. Sunny and 71 degrees! Today is to be a repeat performance – minus the rain – with a high of 73. I will have to go out for a walk today as this is the last of it for a while. It’s day like this that help sustain me when it’s 30, 15, or 2 degrees.

Standing across the street, I got a good look at my lawn this morning. Or, I should say, the dead brown straw that appears to be passing for my lawn right now. Man, it looks awful. I’m glad that I don’t have to worry about mowing it yet, as we all know how much I love yard work. But still, it looks like some seriously bad carpet.

I need to get some weed and feed. However, the last time I used that stuff, it seemed like we had more dandelions than ever before. It was like it fed the weeds instead of the grass! I probably should do something to it though. I probably should already have done something to it, but you know I was a little busy last fall.

What do you do to treat your lawn? And when?

Monday, February 9, 2009

Review: Shift3 Projection Alarm Clock

Getting to work every day is part of what keeps things going at This D*mn House. It’s an important job – and why I haven’t entrusted it to a digital clock for more than a decade. After we went through a series of power outages in the late 1990s that made keeping time difficult, I switched to battery.

The problem with that though is that when I wake up in the middle of the night I have no clue what time it is – without getting up and hitting the snooze/light bar. I’m generally a light sleeper so sitting up, crawling to the edge of the bed and fidgeting with the clock could actually wake me up. Another thing I hate about a digital clock is having it shine in your face all night.

So, for some time, I’ve seen in passing these clocks that project the time on the ceiling or a wall. I never seriously went out looking for one though. Then, a Tuesday Mornings’ flyer came last week, advertising just such a clock for under $20. Sold!

We didn’t make it to the store on Tuesday when the sale started and I didn’t have a car for a couple days last week so I felt very lucky to still find exactly ONE on the shelf Saturday. I didn’t even know it came with a whole bunch of other features including:
· AM/FM radio
· Six audio settings including woodsy sounds, rain, crashing ocean waves, and cawing birds
· Thermometer for both inside and out

You can program the alarm to wake to radio or one of the audio settings. I don’t use the alarm, but I checked to make sure it works. I don’t think the outdoor temp thing works. I put the remote sensor to it in my window – away from direct sunlight – but while it was warm this weekend, it was telling me it was 68 or 70 when I knew it was below 60 degrees!

Note: The directions for this thing tell you to “remove the battery cover” on both the clock and the remote sensor as each requires the use of 2 AAA batteries. For the clock, no problem. For the remote temp sensor, BIG problem. There is no battery cover! You need a tiny Phillips screwdriver to undo the case to put the batteries in. Wonder why they don’t include THAT in the instructions.

I don’t see me using the radio much. I might get some benefits though from the audio settings as going to sleep to the sound of crashing waves might help drown out a yowling cat!

So far, the light from the projection screen doesn’t bother me. Since it goes upward, it doesn’t shine in my face. It casts both the time and the alleged outdoor temp on the ceiling. It’s been very cool to wake up, look up, and roll back over knowing how long I have ‘til the alarm goes off! If you do want to just use the clock without the projector, it comes with two backlight settings for night viewing.

If you’re interested in one of these, there are some to be found online. Just Google it. I Googled it the other night to see what was up with the battery compartment on the remote sensor. I think the cheapest I found was $25 – worth it if you want one of these like I did!

A Sight to Behold

When I threw open the backdoor this morning, the moon, nestled atop a black cloud in a slate-colored sky was there to greet me. Waxing toward fullness (tonight) it was huge and bright and looked almost as if I could reach it, if only a threw a ladder onto the deck. It was ominous, but beautiful.

It’s an image I wish I could have captured. Suffice it to say that if it hadn’t been a workday, I’d have been setting up a tripod on the deck in an effort to try! I could scarcely take my eyes off of it as I carried the trash to the alley. When I made a second trip outside a little while later, I had hoped to see it again. Sadly, it had slipped into the final remnants of the night sky, chased off by approaching daybreak.

I can finally feel my fingers again. I greatly overestimated the temperature, or, more accurately, how it would feel to me. It’s in the 40s, definitely not a temperature to complain about based on recent weather. But since it’s going toward 70 today, I thought a ¾-length sleeve and a rain slicker (we could get rain as early as the evening commute) would suffice.

I dropped the car off again this morning, only today I had plenty of time to catch my regular bus. No two-block mad dashes for me. Instead, I was able to take my time, and sadly note the decay of the neighborhood, something that was nearly as chilling as the early morning air.

I’d gone to grade school about four blocks from here, a building torn down nearly 20 years ago. I hadn’t thought about that place in years with its turn-of-the-century brickwork, marble stairs, and always shiny hardwood floors. It made me sad. Architecture was making an indelible mark on me even then.

Watching the bus lumber up the road was infinitely comforting, both because it could ferry me away from this post-mortem of a neighborhood and shelter me from the cold. Today, I needed both.

Sunday, February 8, 2009


I don't expect a ticker tape parade or anything, but wow. I was surprised to see that this is my 500th entry. Thanks for coming along for the ride!

Speaking of which, yesterday was AWESOME! The wind died down, the sun came out (for a while at least) and we hit a record-breaking 70 degrees. It was truly wonderful and a much-needed pleasant afternoon for both the mother and I.

We looked at several and purchased a few things for the house, I got some scrapbooking bargains, and I got something hellacool for my room. (More on that in another post.)

Without intending to, I created a project for myself. The mother had her heart set on a cast iron bell. She wants to replace the one hanging out in the carport. I'm all for that. I've never liked that thing.

Besides, I think this new bell is kind of cool. The problem is that the hardware for the clapper isn't flush with the bell so the whole thing hangs down unevenly. I made the mistake of inspecting it and then saying, "I could probably drill this out a little..." Yeah. Me and my big mouth!

Hopefully though, I WILL be able to do it. But not today. Today has got to be about laundry. It's piling up, much to my chagrin.and i'm starting to run out of clothes. And, the now melted snow managed to do some nasty splashing on the legs of both the jeans I had on yesterday and the khakis I wore to work Friday. I need to try and get those stains out before they get good and set.

So, I'm off to get into Irish washer-woman mode. But, I can't do that without giving a nod to the original Irish washer-woman herself, me sainted grandmother. That's her in the photo. Of course, I never knew her when she looked like that! She was quite a lady. And, if she were still alive, today she would be 99! Ninety-nine? Man, that just doesn't even seem possible.

Of course, she was well ahead of her time. She didn't marry young Tom until she was 28 and didn't have the mother until she was 32 -- both unheard of in the 1930s and '40s.

Even though she isn't here to celebrate it, happy birthday, Gram. I still miss you.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

On An Excursion

For total clarity, if anyone read in my last post that I was actually planning to do all that – please reread. Total work of sarcasm. Or just read this and know that it was put out there to illustrate how crazy it sounds. No overnight family in my future, folks.

Wow! I just nearly had my arm pulled out of socket while opening the back storm door. Not sure how high the winds are gusting, but it’s pretty high.

The sun is out. It keeps drifting in and out of clouds but for right now at least, it’s out. There’s a chance of rain but since the next several days are set to be water-logged, here’s hoping it bypasses us. The really awesome news is that it got up to 66 yesterday and may well do it again today. The snow is all but completely gone now. Yippee skippy!

The mother and I are heading out for a while. I’m not sure what exactly the quest entails. See, she has this way of telling me she wants to go somewhere. She usually has a set plan in mind, but it’s never shared with me until we’re on the road. You’ve got to love it.

Yes, we can head out because I have the car back. It’s not fixed yet, mind you. I’ll be dropping it off again Monday morning. What’s so hilarious is that the poor thing is in pieces. The panel I took out last weekend is laying in the console. The back seat is not in place and it’s filled with other panel pieces. The driver side speaker is laying behind the seat. Poor Ladybird.

In the trunk, the upholstery is all pulled away and there’s these two electronic boxes laying there. So, loading and unloading is lots of fun. (I made a few stops on the way home last night.)
I’d better hop. I still need to get dressed, hit the bank and gas up. Here’s to a fun Saturday afternoon.

Friday, February 6, 2009

All Her Children

You wouldn't think I'm in a light-hearted mood and reveling in Fridayness, though I am. I probably shouldn't even go there but what's the point of a blog if you can't occasionally empty your mind of its thoughts? This has nothing to do with DIY or anything really except that if I don’t get this out and I have to hear or see one more media report on it before I do, my head may explode. You’ve been warned.

I’m a single, 40ish woman. I’m not in a serious relationship. I’m an only child. I longed for siblings while growing up, and I’ve always wanted children of my own. I still feel a little bit cheated in that department. But as the sun begins to descend rapidly on my time in which to become a mother, especially in the most conventional way, maybe I should find myself a donor and run myself over to the nearest fertility clinic.

Knock me up, doc.

Never mind that the economy’s in the crapper, I’ve got a house to maintain, and I’m already worried about staying employed to do it. I’m relatively certain this is not something my insurance plan covers. Even so, I could probably still find enough money to do the procedure. Maybe by mortgaging This D*mn House and selling off some possessions, I could squeak by. After all, it's what I want and this is all about me. Aren't I just a portrait of responsibility?

And if it worked, I could have a baby – or two. Or four. Or 12. Sounds pretty crazy, doesn’t it?

Well, it is -- and that's the point. But what if, for the sake of argument, we said I didn’t have a job, or a house to mortgage? Oh, and I already HAD SIX KIDS?! That’s not just crazy, that’s selfish, and irresponsible, too. And Nadya Suleman –the new mother of 14 after having octuplets last week – maintaining that it is anything else is nothing short of delusional.

I’m not saying she set out planning to have this precedent-setting brood. Still, I burst out laughing when I read that she “only wanted to have one more baby.” Um, sweetie, you’ve GOT SIX AT HOME! One still IS a baby! Well, OK. If this was someone who decided to be a single parent, had the financial, physical, and emotional wherewithal to do it, just to have a child, I’d still disagree with them philosophically, but hey, live and let live. Lots of women do it every day. More power to them if they can handle it.

I’m not doubting for a second this woman’s ability to love all her children. But I am saying unequivocally that she did not act in the best interests of any of them. (I love my dog and cats, too, but that love isn’t doing enough for them unless there is food in their dishes and a roof over their heads. What if I suddenly decided to go adopt 11 more? How could I hope to provide enough love and sustenance for all of them without drastically taking away from the original three? The answer: I couldn’t.)

Who is going to take care of the 14 of them – financially and physically? Is she just going to foist all this on her parents? The state? The federal government? God knows they already have enough people they can't take care of.

I know plenty of parents ready to pull their hair out with two or three under the age of 10 or 12. But FOURTEEN under age NINE?! Supposedly, she has collected (depending on which news report you believe) $150,000 to $170,000 in disability payments from a back injury 10 years ago, worsened by pregnancy! Hello. Anything in this woman's head? She was not even thinking about her health or of jeopardizing her ability to care for any of her other children. What if this pregnancy had paralyzed her? Yeah, that would have been great for all her children! Really good thinkin' there, mama.

It’s a substantial sum of money, probably gobbled up by her fertility treatments, but a sum that wouldn’t even cover half of the birth expenses of the octuplets. Even assuming she still had the full amount, and that she had only one more baby instead of eight, that breaks out to less than $25,000 per child. How far will that go? Not far. Parents, I know you agree on this if nothing else!

This woman has no long-term resources, no support system, and, dare I say it, no sense.
She told morning TV she wants to be a counselor. I think she should get counseling first. Clearly, she needs it before attempting to help others.

The thing that gets me the most is the bad light this is casting on infertility treatments generally and the implantation of multiple embryos. They do this because first, it gives them the best chance to become pregnant, and second, because this is both an emotional and expensive procedure. Why wouldn’t you want to get the best odds possible? I know several people who have had them, resulting in one, two, and in two cases, THREE babies! For the others, it resulted only in more heartbreak.

Where the light should be shone instead is on the doctor who agreed to do this and on the people close to this woman. Her own mother even said she has problems. Why didn’t someone intervene? Reproductive rights are one thing. This, however, is insanity. I guess no one ever bothered to tell her that just because you can, doesn't mean you should.

So, I guess that’s it. I’m going home tonight and telling the mother that I’m planning to have children. Lots of children. As many as I can, as soon as I can.

I’ll be committed before sunrise.

The Game Plan

It’s actually not too bad this morning – a balmy 32 degrees. We’re supposedly heading for 59 today!

They said 62 for tomorrow but for both today and tomorrow, we’ll be getting some funky winds. And starting tomorrow night, we’re in for several days of rain. Great. Oh well. It’s better than it being 20 degrees or lower every day.

I did some measuring, pricing and head-shaking last night after which the mother and I decided how to proceed with The Michelangelo Project. That said, it’s getting put on a back burner – for now. We had a long discussion about my concerns and we’re in agreement to focus on the basement and the bedrooms in the immediate future and take a “wait and see” approach to everything else. (Pretty much what I outlined in last night's post.)

She wants to get some of these projects done as badly as I do, so it was a heavy-hearted experience to have to talk about putting them off. Oh well. Consider it another season or two of life for the blog.

It isn’t like we don’t have anything to do in the meantime. And, thankfully, I already bought 90 percent of what’s needed to wrap up outside, so that won’t require any really significant investment to complete. We’ve even still got a good 12-14 weeks before I can think about starting on that, too, as I want to be into much warmer weather first.

And, at least before things started to get too ugly with the economy, we got an awful lot done last year. That’s a good thing, too. Frankly, I’m not that anxious to start on much of anything. I’m finally starting to emerge from “the plague” and work has been kickin’ my butt this week. But that is a good thing. So I guess it’s just rest up, rock steady, and roll on.

Right now, we still don’t have a car. Jim called yesterday and said that he was trying to find something with a schematic to identify the path of all the wiring as it appears that the seatbelt motor isn’t getting any power. Way over my head, so more power to him – literally. It doesn’t sound like this is going to be easy or cheap.

But then a ticket for not wearing a seatbelt, combined with the extra insurance costs for points against my license wouldn’t be either, right?

In any case, I need to pick it back up tonight as we’ll need things this weekend. So, here’s hoping for good news on that front.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Decisions, Decisions -- Delays?

I keep asking myself: How fearless should I be? Just how bad can the economy get? What’s the likelihood that I’ll find myself without a job this year?

None of us want to think about those things, or at least I know that I don’t. But I have to force myself to. It’s time, or soon will be, to start deciding which house projects to take on. There are so many things that I want to do, but after doing some preliminary calculations, I just don’t feel comfortable pursuing most of them. At least not right now.

So I think what I will do is get Lawrence in for some of the smaller projects and to finish up a few things that have just been hangin’ for a while. The unfortunate part in this is that some of these jobs require me to take on things like getting new countertops and putting in backsplash in the kitchen. Then he could put on the new kitchen faucet and sprayer. And, the mother could go ahead and paint/stain the cabinets (we aren’t sure yet) and I could get the new door and drawer pulls on.

The ceiling could wait, if it had to. But then I’d want to get the new appliances we’ve been talking about for months. And before that, I’d want to put in a new floor. Or would I?

If I do the ceiling in the bathroom (actually before I would) we’d want to rip out the fiberglass tub surround. I want to put tile in it (ideally white subway and the mother is liking black grout) but I’m afraid of what kind of shape the walls behind it are in. So, there I’d be all ready to do one job and get stuck with an even bigger and more expensive one to do before I could continue.

Right now, my gut says to just get the family room in order, finish out the closet trim and other woodwork down there, and then focus on the bedrooms. (The only supplies I’d need are wallpaper paste for both rooms, and some beadboard and chair rail for mine.)

Maybe by the time we’d finish that, I could have a better idea of the long-term and just how much money I could part with and still be OK if the worst happens. It really sucks that it’s this way because I thought maybe, just maybe, this might the year that all of the big stuff could get done. Instead of moving forward at 90 mph like I’m used to doing, I’m practically paralyzed by doubt.

I guess that’s just the way of the world right now as this news would seem to indicate. At least I'm in good company.

Was It Only Yesterday?

Could it really only have been 24 hours ago that I was standing in my room, still in my pajamas, inventing new forms of swearing? I guess it was.

I dropped the car off this morning. I gave myself plenty of time as I dropped the car insurance off first.

While driving past the bus depot, en route to the mechanic’s, I got about two blocks away when I spied the bus coming into the station. This bus is the bus before mine. I knew it would be cutting it close, but I decided to try to catch it rather than wait almost another 20 minutes for mine. (It’s 18 degrees today, with a wind chill of 5. Better than other recent mornings, and warm air is coming TODAY, but still.)

I made the last few blocks to Jim’s, turned the car around and parked out front, killed it, grabbed my gear, locked ‘er up, and tossed the envelope with the spare key and a note into his drop box. Then I ran like hell.

It’s two blocks back to the main drag and bus route. I was diggin’ for all I was worth when I saw that the last 30 feet of sidewalk were covered in ice and snow. Damn! I had to detour into an alley and across a huge parking lot. None of this would have been bad, except that if the bus had come right then, he would not have been able to see me as a building on the lot blocked my view.

I cleared the building, carefully made my way around some snow and ice on that sidewalk to a clear spot. No more than a minute later, I saw the bus lumbering up the road. Yay!

So here I am. And I wish I had my camera. The sun is still rising in the sky and it is illuminating one whole leg of the Arch. Beautiful. No. Gorgeous.

Here’s hoping that the tone for the day stays just like this

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Review: Twin Draft Guard®

It’s been a very cold winter already and it’s still got several weeks to go … Sigh. But something I finally bought over the weekend – after weeks of seeing it advertised on TV – is making the season a bit more bearable: the Twin Draft Guard. I paid $9.95 for it at Wal-Mart.

I am, by nature, a skeptic. I never believe anything I see on TV. And through the years, manufacturer after manufacturer has done little to change that. So, it was not all that surprising when I opened the box to find, in a nutshell, four pieces of foam and a skimpy, brown cotton sack.

Yeah. Right. This is really going to work, I thought as I assembled it as instructed. The directions say to measure your door width and cut the tubes a half-inch shorter. Luckily, I didn’t do that. I laid it down along the door first and found that I already had at least a half-inch gap at the hinge side of the door.

Then, I just wrangled the loosely connected tubes (joined by a very fragile collar on the end of one) into each side of the bag, pulled over the excess and sealed at the velcro closure, tucked in the corners and slid it under the door. I had a very tough time closing the door, but finally it did. And the draft? It stopped.

It was a cool night (40ish) but not frigid when I installed it so I put little stock in the success. The next night, however, it got down in the teens, and then lower during the morning. Still no draft. The door was still hard to close, but working a little better by last night. When there was still no draft! Mind you, this skimpy bit o’nothing replaced one standard towel between the storm and front door and a second, chunky towel on the inside.

Caveat: There is more than one type of this out there. If you want to buy this one, look for the “As Seen on TV” label.

A second caveat: I looked at a ton of online reviews. I’d say it was about a 60-40 split in the product’s favor. The biggest complaint was that it didn’t fit the door. Frankly, I’m concerned about whether this will work on the other two doors I want to use it on. But, I’m going to find out and I’ll let you know.

The second biggest complaint was that it fit too loosely, got bunched up, and needed constant readjusting.
A handful of people complained that it didn’t work on carpet. I can’t attest to that as we no longer have any carpet in the house except in the downstairs family room. I can tell you that it seems to stay along the door, unlike the towels, so I don't trip over it -- also like the towels.

A few more people reported that it didn’t hold up. (There were a few reviews though that cited having the same one, still working, more than two years later.) I can’t attest to that either. I can tell you that if the thing wears out, I’ll go buy another one. And for now, anyway, the towels can stay in the linen closet!

Guess Who’s An Idiot?

Oh, that would be me. The one who doesn’t bother to turn an alarm on!

Nice, huh? And on a day where I’ve already got a lot going on. Why not stress myself out a little more by waking up 15 minutes after my bus has already gone by the house?!

Me, at 6:58 a.m., still in pajamas, when it’s not the weekend, a holiday, or a vacation day is never a good thing. That said, I’m slowly making my was toward the office now. Looks like I’ll be there in about 25 minutes or so.

I just need to chill out. Which, actually shouldn’t be hard since it’s FOUR degrees! I guess they’re lucky I didn’t just sleep until sometime next month.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Ice Cold

Another busy day and another day where I’ve managed to lose something. Yes, another set of ear warmers! Can you believe it? Not the ones I just got, but still, fairly new.

I’m hoping they’re just laying around my office someplace. One thing is certain: I had them on when I arrived this morning. I know this because it was TEN FREAKIN’ DEGREES with a wind chill factor of -5 No one gave us a warning on this stuff. It’s only going to get into the 20s again tomorrow, and it was supposed to be 50-something. Now we’re talking half that.

So, here’s hoping I locate them in the morning.

Speaking of weather … well, why not? I’ve done little else most of the day! I’ve been talking to and emailing with reporters most of the day, in parts of the country hit by the ice storm last week, some of whom just got power back themselves. I was even able to commiserate with them, to a point. Our massive power outage was in the summer. Granted, 100-degree weather, but summer – not this crapola!

And speaking of being cold…this is giving something I bought for the house over the weekend a true work-out. If it is still performing well, I’ll definitely be buying more. Expect a review tomorrow.

Feelin' Catty

Cats. They are EVERYWHERE. Or at least it seems so to me in the last 36 hours.

First, it was Tal over at Renovation Therapy. JeanMartha regularly reports on Tal’s exploits which always seem to center – or be right in the center – of whatever she’s doing. We love Tal!

Then there’s Buddy and Finn, the stars of Satan’s Fur Puppets. Buddy seems to forever be hangin’ around his mistress’ keyboard. He and his brother are adorable.

Of course, Gene at DIY Insanity, can give you some great tips on building special places for your constant cat companion(s).

And last night, I nearly choked reading a post of Jayne’s over at The Kelly House. Maybe it’s because a friend of her son’s gave a description of her resident feline with issues, Marie Antoinette, that struck way too close to home for me: "That cat is a demon who wants me dead."

The description reminded me ever so much of our mentally unhinged Toby the Cat. But he’s just so damned cute, isn’t he? If we aren't playing peekabo, during which his eyes get as big as silver dollars, he always seems to have this disdainful scowl pasted on his face.

Here, he's using his brother's loofa toy as a footrest ...

Hmmm ... I wonder what bit of orneriness I can cause today ...
He did, of course, wake me up at 4 a.m. -- after I'd gone back to sleep from the gazillion mile an hour winds that woke me up an hour earlier. (Yeah it's a whopping 10 degrees this morning.)

He's cute, to be sure. Don’t be deceived though. He really IS a little demon.

Monday, February 2, 2009

In Search Of: A Can Opener

If you’re over 35, you probably remember that show, “In Search Of,” hosted by none another than Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy). We watched it religiously when I was growing up.

At This D*mn House, the mother and I have resurrected it. When something is lost (keys, checkbook, cellphone), one of us will invariably take on the deep, dry Leonard Nimoy tone and announce: “In Search Of: Nicole’s wallet.” Anyway, it can get pretty funny.

Over the weekend though, during our trip to Tar-jay, we spied a v. cool under-the-cabinet can opener. Since the first year that we lived here, there has been one under the cabinet to the left of the sink. I think we’re on our second or third one. They’ve all been Black and Decker and the current one has been in place for at least a decade. Great way to keep extra appliances when you have almost no counter space!

Since the kitchen is on our near future redo list, this new B&D can opener got our attention. However, there were none on the shelf. Even in cyberspace, they can be a little hard to find (though I did find some). Here’s the problem: I’m a firm believer in stuff I read posted by actual users. You know, the people who bought the stuff to begin with.

Unfortunately, where this can opener is concerned it’s almost a perfectly split decision. That has never happened when I’ve been doing online research! And, there appear to be about six different versions of essentially the same can opener. It’s nutty.

This one is Model B001EU510E. It was $24.99 at Tar-jay. It has a cover that closes over the opener part itself so you don’t see it when you’re not using it.

So, do you own this can opener? Know anyone that does? I’m collecting opinions on it!

0-2 on the Day

For about a minute, more or less, my Super Bowl prediction was right on the money. The Cardinals were up by 3 as the clock raced toward the two-minute warning. I could scarcely bear to watch. (I probably shouldn’t have.)

I knew it was wishful thinking on my part, but at least it made for an interesting final five minutes of the game! The Steelers deserved the win, that’s for sure. And the Cardinals had nothing to be ashamed of. That turned out to be my second defeat of the day.

The first had come hours before when, in typical me fashion, I attempted to remedy the seatbelt situation myself. I had found a site online that offered some advice on getting to the seatbelt motor and manually moving the latch to where it should be. At first, I couldn’t find the panel in question.

When I got online again, I found another site with a drawing – I was in business! I crawled into the backseat, located and carefully removed the panel. Once inside, sure enough there was the manual control knob right on top as both sites has described. It was remarkably easy to move, in spite of the cramped quarters. (Anyone with hands even the slightest bit bigger than mine would likely have had problems.)

It was extremely slow-going though. Ten or 15 twists of the knob only moved the latch a fraction of an inch along the track. And, the rough edges of the knob did a great job of removing a layer or two of skin from my fingers. But, I persisted, and painstakingly got the latch into position. I slid the belt into place. Then, I reached inside and started the ignition.

Instantly, the belt slid forward, back into the OFF position – just what I did not want it to do. I shut the door and held my breath, hoping it would immediately sail back into place. It did not. All my effort was wasted.

So, the car will have to go and visit Uncle Jim, my mom’s long-time friend and our trusted mechanic for decades. Knowing that we might have to spend a day or so without a car, depending on Jim’s schedule, I made an early-evening grocery run.

While neither the seatbelt light or alert had gone off on Saturday when the problem first began, at intervals last night, it started going off. Ding – and that would be it. I’d drive a mile or so and then ding, ding, and the seatbelt light appeared on the dash. I’d rehook the belt and both would cease. The problem with that though is that in its current position, the belt interferes with the steering wheel, so I couldn’t leave it latched long. I’d undo do it and within a few miles, the ding cycle would repeat itself once more.

I’m encouraged by the fact that the latch actually moved along the track. That would signify to me that the track is in order. Maybe it’s just the motor. (I found one of those online for $25. I think it’s the right one at least.)

Here’s hoping this doesn’t become an expensive fix.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Melting Away, Day Two

I think it got up to or at least near 50 today and it was 57 yesterday so the snow is largely gone. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this little taste of spring. I only wish that it could stay.

I mean, these images look a whole lot different than the ones I posted last week, right?

I am really, really grateful for the change. It's going to get cold again starting tomorrow but at least it stayed warm long enough to get this crap outta here. Good riddance.

A Super Bowl Prediction

I'm shocked by the things I remember sometimes, or more correctly, by the things that trigger them.

I was confirmed on Super Bowl Sunday. My beloved Cowboys were playing that year and I'll always remember the parting words our archbishop uttered at the end of his homily: "On Super Bowl Sunday, how could I not leave you with a Super Bowl prediction? Dallas by 10." There were a few boos, but people mostly laughed and applauded.

Dallas actually won by 17, beating the Denver Broncos 27-10. I hadn't thought about my confirmation in an eon. I only thought of it while watching a report on Super Bowl commercials a little while ago. That was a damn strange train of thought!

I probably won't watch it, or much of it. But I'm going to make a prediction anyway: the Cardinals by 3.

I think that's wishful thinking on my part, but I can't help myself. I've hated the Cardinals ever since Bill Bidwell took them to the southwest. I grew up rooting for them except, on those rare occasions, when they played the Cowboys. Then my local loyalty always fell by the wayside.

As a Cowboys fan, I have ALWAYS hated the Steelers. ALWAYS. So there is no way I could root for them now. Besides, I'm proud that Kurt Warner could thumb his nose at the Rams because I thought he got a raw deal. He'll be wrapping up his career in the not so distant future, so for him, I hope he can take it out on a winning note. So, that is more than enough for me to set aside my years of hatred of the Cardinals.

I think that he and his wife, Brenda, are great people. Good old workin' stiffs who managed to hit it big -- and never forgot where they came from. (They recently sent about 80,000 coats to the St. Louis area as part of their Warner's WarmUp program. Never mind they don't live here anymore.)