Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Why I Hate Doctors

Or at least why I hate calling their offices. It's bad enough that you get an answering machine, even after you push the number that the automated system told you to in order to "make an appointment or speak to a receptionist." And this wasn't during evening or early, early, hours either. This was between 9 and 10 a.m.

I finally did reach someone in the afternoon. I may have been better off with the automated system.


NV: Yes, I’m a patient of Dr. X’s and they said to call today and make an appointment this week. I can do any day except tomorrow.

Receptionist: How about 10:30 Wednesday?

NV: That’s tomorrow – the one day I can’t do.

Receptionist: 2:15?

NV: Not if it’s on Wednesday.

Receptionist: Oh. Well, that time isn’t available the rest of the week.

NV: No problem. Is there another time that is available?

Receptionist: How about 1 p.m.?

NV: What day? Thursday or Friday?

Receptionist: That was for Wednesday. Oh, wait. You can’t do Wednesday, right?

(This was starting to sound like an Abbott and Costello bit.)

Now I have a headache, too. But I did manage to get an appointment – on a day that’s NOT Wednesday. Finally. I think I might have had better luck with someone who didn’t even speak English.

Feels Like Monday

I know it’s Tuesday, but I would swear it’s Monday. The whole day has been a comedy of errors – more typical of a Monday.

It started out by raining, followed quickly by me losing my badge for work. It doesn’t have my name on it or company name on it so I don’t think any wrongful use can be gained from it. And it HAD to have slipped from my pocket on the bus. I realized I didn’t have it just as I reached the lobby this morning. And went immediately back out into the rain and retraced my steps all the way to where I exited the bus. Honestly, I can’t believe this has never happened before in nearly 8.5 years. Here’s hoping I can get it back.

I need to call them, or I might just ask my driver to radio it in tonight. (My regular evening driver should be back today.) I’ve been trying to call the doctor’s office to schedule an appointment for a workup, some of which requires fasting. Right now, it sounds like a case of sciatica, so I’m taking high doses of ibuprofen.

I feel a little better. I just have to get up a lot. Sitting for more than five minutes gets rough, unless I wiggle and squirm. (That’s going to be precious with a client in for meetings tomorrow. I’ll no doubt be the crazy woman who fidgets constantly.)

The Sistahood

I’ve been very lucky. Blogging has put me in touch with tons of awesome people. Some that I know only in Cyberspace like Vicky, Ann, and Jayne. Or it’s put me in touch on a more regular basis with people I know in real life, like KayO, MamaMartha and sewwhat.

But among my regular readers – and commenters – I’m proud to include three of the very best friends in the whole world. You know them as cd, the MonkeyGirl, and plumbelieve. Both cd and the Monkeygirls (Mr. and Mrs.) have had active roles in This D*mn House projects. But get this, that’s not even half of ‘em! That’s right. There’s more! Four more to be accurate.

These seven fine ladies and I went to high school together. Our lives have now been intertwined for more than twice as long as they weren’t. And while the gatherings have tapered off over the years (due to conspiracies involving jobs, spouses, homes, weather, family vacations, and children) the bond is not diminished. It doesn’t seem to matter whether we last spoke five months ago or five minutes ago.

But the gatherings have tapered off. So, a serious nod to plumbelieve for taking the initiative in getting everyone together. She’s put a call out to regroup one Friday night next month. All eight have responded so far. (One of whom will be there in spirit only as she lives out west. A second may or may not make it due to a previous engagement. A third will come if the eldest daughter doesn’t have a game.) Not a bad showing at all. Now if we can all just get there.

I know it will be a great time.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Waylaid

A nasty, nagging backache that has been causing me grief for a while, has me waylaid today. I'm giving in and staying home, stretching out on some heat.

It might be another round of sciatica, because my right leg and foot are involved this time. It might be my nerves. i might have pulled something out of whack. Who knows? I've been trying to call the doctor's office without success. (Answering machine is still on.)

Not sure what good he'll do. He always acts like I'm nuts. (This was the doc who let me go with a sinus infection for three months. Allergist cleared me up in a single visit.) Thinking it's time to get a new one, but it's hard to find one accepting new patients.

Love those PPOs.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Finality

I had postponed the inevitable long enough.

The ground was snow-covered part of the day, and filled with mud for the rest, coupled with vicious winds. So, I could not take the final of final steps. But today, I did everything but that.

In opening the door, the absence of light seemed out of place. But the mother had turned out the lamp days ago. I couldn't bring myself to do it.

I cleared away all the bedding. (Tigger had four beds at one point.) I dismantled and pitched his well worn scratch post. I threw away his pillows. And mats. And bowls. I emptied and discarded his litterbox.

I created a bag for things that could or should be laundered. Everything else, I threw away. It seemed so wrong as I did it. It seemed surreal. It took several episodes of stop/start to complete the task.

Once I had carried everything outside (tomorrow is trash day), I started pushing things back into place. (We'd moved things to make it easier for Tigg to navigate.) I ran the sweeper and mopped the floor.

I surveyed the scene. An empty bed shell. A stack of laundry. The only evidence that a cat had once existed here: the frame of a window perch and some toys scattered on different parts of the floor.

Once outside, the darkened window caught me. (Second time in as many days.) But I did it. I trudged back into the house and breathed a sigh of relief.

A Messed-Up Calendar


Clearly, Mother Nature didn't get a calendar for Christmas. I know it happens, but it's just not supposed to look like this a full week into spring. My neighbor's just-blooming flowers look oddly out of place, don't they?

This photo was from early this morning. At least now it is already going away.

I think we got between 2 and 3 inches at most. The sun came out a little while ago and between it, and a slowly rising temperature, the snow should soon be a remnant.

Works for me.











Saturday, March 28, 2009

Springtime? Really?

Yesterday, it was almost 60 degrees and sunny. It didn’t start out that way, but as the morning progressed, it turned into an awesome day. I only got to enjoy it on the way home.

So, of course, it’s raining today. And now that the grass is turning green and the trees and flowers are blooming, it’s going to snow. Yep. I said s-n-o-w. (A four-letter word with good reason.)

The rain will mix with snow later today and then change to all snow overnight. They’re saying 2-4 now, but that it could be 4-6, and if the “thundersnow” happens, well … we don’t even want to talk about it.

The last time I heard a forecast for 2-4 inches of snow and we were hit with thundersnow … it was January 1982. We ended up getting more than a foot and it shut St. Louis down for days.

The mother and I are preparing to head out in a bit and grab some stuff so that going anywhere tomorrow isn’t necessary. I imagine we’ll have lots of company in our travels.

I feel real bad for my young colleague that we had the bridal shower for earlier this month. She’s getting married this afternoon. Maybe it will hold off long enough for folks to get through dinner at her reception. I hope that everyone stays safe and that it all goes well.

That’s the thing about life in this part of the country. No matter what time of year you plan something, there is always that change for some kind of weather anomaly.

So, off we go. But the best part is that when we come back, we’ll have Chinese food!

Friday, March 27, 2009

Itchin’ for a Kitchen

The topic hasn’t been breached in a while, but, redoing the kitchen came up again last night. The mother restated her desire for new appliances, though I don’t know what we can get when she was stuck so unwaveringly on this model, an appliance that will not fit in This D*mn Kitchen.

I should have seen this coming, what, with the sighs followed by, "I wish my kitchen looked like that," whenever any HGTV show sports a nice, new kitchen, complete with stainless appliances.

I’ve yet to measure using this formula I found online to get a rough estimate as to what we need for countertops and she wants to go to some shop in a nearby town and look. I have no idea if $39/sq. ft installed is cheap for granite! (Somehow, she seems to think I know all this stuff as if this information should fall as trippingly from my brain as the questions seem to from her lips.)

OK. My brain is trying to add this up as we go. New appliances. Paint or stain for the cabinets. (We already have the new hardware for the cabinets as well as the sink fixtures.) New sink and countertop. And we haven’t even discussed flooring yet. I’d love to get ceramic or marble but I worry about putting that much weight down. D*mn. This is getting expensive fast.

“But I have to get my ceiling first,” she said suddenly. Huh? The Michelangelo Project likewise has been a non-discussion topic for a while. It, too, seems to be front-burner again. Of course it is. It is the mother’s preferred approach to projects, the one whereby there is complete and total chaos.

Nevermind that the family room is now jam-packed with supplies for her bedroom and mine, and the storage shed, as well as an assortment of yet-to-be-painted gingerbread for outside.

Oh, and lest we forget TWO pieces of furniture for said familyroom that are in need of assembly as is the new mantelpiece, that also needs to be stained. And, as an extra project bonus, the downstairs ceiling needs to be patched from adventures in electricity and the closet, built more than a year ago, still needs to be trimmed out. I’ve now made myself tired, just contemplating all of it.

By all means – let’s start on the kitchen. We don’t have anything else to do.

Speaking of kitchens … If you aren’t already a follower of Jayne over at The Kelly House (formerly Dainty Digs) now is a great time to start reading her adventures. Unfortunately for Jayne, weather has sidelined her porch and kitchen projects. Unfortunately for the rest of us, it also halts the adventures of Jayne and her ex, Mare, who is helping her with these efforts.

They’re on hold ‘til late next week.

Luckily, there already are two installments in what I dubbed Kellapalooza. And therein, I feel is also the beginnings of one hysterical play, or maybe even a sitcom, as Jayne has shown that her talents are not limited to her profession and DIY.

At Long Last

Most days, I really love my job. But, just like everybody else, I still wait for Friday.

And finally, at long last, it’s here! This has been an exceptional week, so in a lot of ways, it was really good that I’ve been as busy as I have. I even have another busy day ahead today.
I was quiet last night because the Ladybird needed some love. The other night, amidst all the Tigger drama unfolding, I walked out to find that the mother had left the headlights on on the car. Luckily, only about 30-40 minutes had passed between the time she got home from Uncle Bill’s and I took off to get a few things or I might have gone out to a dead car.

The reminder bell that tells you when you’ve left your lights on was dinging to beat the band. How in God’s name had she gotten out of the car and not heard that?

In addition to noticing that the lights were on, I also noticed that only one of them was burning. Remember a few months ago when I had a fishtank for a headlight? It didn’t do that again at least, but it was burned out just the same. I was too tired Wednesday – and probably wouldn’t have made it in time anyway – to get it fixed. Since we needed an oil change anyway, the mother picked me up last night at the depot and we shot up the highway to the evil Wal-Mart’s automotive department.

We got in right away and it only took them 30 minutes or so to both change the oil and headlight. In the meantime, the mother and I did some household shopping, including picking up some items my godmother needed for Uncle Bill.

The mother has been over there every day this week; I’ve even been by once. It’s really hard to watch. I’m going to add dying to my list of what I think are human design flaws. It’s too hard. It should be much easier for not only the person who is dying, but for those who love them. (Actually, this applies to more than just humans, now that I think about it.)

What, you may ask, do I consider to be other design flaws? The first, and largest by far, is a lack of satisfaction. I don’t know anyone, myself included, no matter how good they’ve got it who wouldn’t rather have something else or something more. We don’t know when to quit, we humans. More. There always has to be more.

Case in point: The other design flaw on my list. I think that two is a grossly inadequate number of hands. (I know the moms are with me on this one.) C’mon admit it. You’ve wished you had another hand or two or six. I know I have. On the downside, manicures would be more time-consuming. And the cost of nail polish? Oy!

Unfortunately, I don’t think the extra hands would help me much today. Unless an extra pair of eyes came with them. Now there’s a thought ….

Thursday, March 26, 2009

A New Routine

Twice yesterday I had to remind myself.

I need to check on … Oh, right.

Hey, I’ve got to feed … no. No, I don’t.

This morning, I got up, stumbled through the dark house, and was standing in front of the refrigerator when it hit me. Oh, yeah. I’d even forgotten to reset my alarm. I now have an extra 15-20 minutes in the morning.

Responsibility for Tigger had shifted through the years. I initially was the main caretaker. Then, I switched jobs and had to be in by 5 a.m. and the mother retired, so she took over. When she got sick a few years ago, I took that responsibility back and I just never stopped. (She has 95 percent responsibility for Toby and about 70 percent for Ozzie during the week. And she’s fanatical about their care. If everyone were cursed with this kind of care, I guarantee you that the world would be infinitely more peaceful.)

Until the past few weeks, Tigg and I had a well established system. I guess it’s time to create a new morning routine. I guess I’ll just play it by ear and see how it goes.

One big plus for me in all this has been discovering just how many people really, really love their animals. They are full-fledged family members; way beyond pet status. So it’s nice to not be thought of as totally nuts but to instead find such a well of understanding. A lot of you are responsible for that. I thank you for taking the time to share those feelings with me.

The mother was much better last night. She said that, for all the trouble he is, it made it easier having Toby. (And believe me, he’s a lot of trouble. But he’s cute.) Toby had been uncharacteristically loving yesterday, and Ozzie, who was not sure what to do with her crying was even more attentive than normal. And both were apparently on their best behavior yesterday. It’s amazing how they know.

I went to bed early (for me anyway) and, considering all the sleep I didn’t get the night before, am better for it. Good thing, too, as it’s going to be a busy day.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

I Love My Nano

To say that today got off to a bad start would be sugar-coating it.

First, I couldn’t sleep. I finally gave up before 4:30. And then … well, you know the story between then and when I left for work. Our family shrank.

Second, I did not want to break down in front of the mother who was already upset enough between having spent yesterday with Uncle Bill and now, Tigger. So, though I willed them away, the tears fell on the bus. I got plenty of stares. Nice.

Third, while I could handle that, at the depot, the Brothers Weird boarded and WEIRDER SAT BEHIND ME. Directly behind me. Trying to look onto my computer, and muttering away to himself the whole time, occasionally going into that straight high-pitched Elmo voice at ear-shattering volume, mimicking everything the driver said. It was a little slice of Hell.

At one point, I almost moved even though I would have had to march to the back of the bus to get a seat. (The bus was kind of full this morning. Of course, it would be today.) I had to will myself to not spin around – Linda Blair style – and just yell, “CAN YOU PLEASE SHUT THE F**K UP?!” And I swear, if he had touched me, as he might have had I not been trying to type, I would have decked him. Clean-up on Aisle 5, man.

Instead, my Nano proved worth its weight in gold. Counting Crows, Sting, Chris Botti, Warren Zevon, and Paula Cole soothed my nerves the rest of the ride.

And work? Most people are nice there as a general rule, but people were SO nice and so understanding – it was a little overwhelming, but in a good way. A very good way.

The Other Side of the Window

It was a very warm Saturday in June 1992 and the mother was recuperating after being hit by a car. Trying to make sure that she was OK and work had me frazzled.
And on this particular day, I had to work, thanks to my boss at the time who had volunteered me for a several-month project that culminated with a huge event that day.

I got an early start and then dashed home to check in on the mother around mid-day. “I keep hearing a cat,” she told me. I heard it, too, but since birds often mimic cats, I didn’t think too much of it. I got the mother some lunch and prepared to leave.

As I walked toward my car, I heard a greater sense of urgency in those cries. I threw my stuff in the car and walked toward the sound.

I looked in the tree that is just beyond our property line, but because it was in full bloom, I couldn’t see much of anything, yet the cries kept getting louder. All of sudden, my eye caught something dark mid-tree. It was a tiny tail! There was a kitten in the tree! I ran back inside to tell the mother and got a ladder. I was very near the top rung when suddenly, the kitten sensed my presence and darted a few branches higher.

I gingerly stepped off the ladder and into the tree. This time, he didn’t go up, he moved horizontally, out onto a skinny branch. Somehow, he clung to it and the branch didn’t break.
What I didn’t notice was that the mother had ambled outside. She had broken some ribs and messed up a knee and a shoulder, so this took some effort on her part. I returned to the ladder and she yelled, “I can reach it!”

Before I could discourage her, she thrust the cane she was using to the top of the branch, handle side up, and tugged. The kitten couldn’t hang on, and in a split second, I was holding him. He had fallen right into my arms.

When I set him down to go inside – I figured he could use a little milk after his ordeal – he walked right into the house as if he owned it. Though we tried to find him a home elsewhere, he never left.

Until this morning.
Very early this morning, in the hours before dawn, Tigger headed for the Rainbow Bridge. My distinguished old gentleman (right at age 17) who loved to lay in the window and peer out is now on the other side. And, God bless him, he didn’t make me intervene.

Enjoy your freedom, old friend. We’ll miss you.

R.I.P, TIGGER 1992-2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Thrifty Consumerism Strikes Again

We all know my penchant for tools and for getting something to work in a way that maybe the manufacturer didn’t intend. Well, Mustang Sally over at Absurd and Askew managed to appeal to both of those character flaws of mine in a post she did on the Pledge Fabric Sweeper.

First, I like this product. I don’t, however, like not being able to empty it. It’s not very environmentally friendly to put that much plastic back into the waste stream, and it does fill up pretty fast. I can see from a manufacturer’s perspective where that would be an asset, though as a consumer buying a product that costs $5-$6, it’s anything but.

I use it about every other night on the loveseat and sofa. We have waffled slipcovers on both pieces of furniture, where both Ozzie and Toby are frequent fixtures, and it does a good job of nabbing the hairs that lodge in the crevices. I also use it religiously before tossing either these slipcovers or any one of the mongrels’ beds into the wash.

In that post, Sally links to this post which offers some instructions on modifying this otherwise disposable product (and what a waste to do that!) There are also some other good ideas in the comment section of that post.


You just know that I’m going to try one or more of them!

An Unexpected Find

My first visit to Home Depot over the weekend didn’t get all the materials I was after, but it did reveal something I’d been looking for without success: new drain extenders.

The current ones date back to 1987/88 when the carport was built and the mother had enough of the wrought iron out front and replaced it with the columns. (I wish I’d been smart enough to take pictures back then.) So you can imagine that they aren’t in great shape. They’ve seen a few too many violent storms and more than their share of snow and ice.

The hardware stores haven’t had these for years. I know, because I’ve looked. Sometime in the last several months, I found some online but then winter came and all other kinds of issues with it and I forgot about them. They were around $8 apiece.

The ones at Home Depot were under $6.50! Luckily, I did some wandering while looking for my PVC boards for the shed and there they were among the drains and downspouts. They hadn’t been there before when I was actively looking for them. And, store associate after store associate would tell me there was no such thing. Uh-huh.




I don’t have them all on yet (the mother insists that the drains be cleaned first), but I wanted to see if the plastic mounting bracket was going to slide easily over the drain. You know, like it shows on the label. If your experience is anything like mine, things rarely go like they do on the package.
But it did.
A sheet metal screw in each side and it’s firmly in place. And it also lets you flip up the drain to get it out of your way. Perfection.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Things That Make Me Smile

OK, I admit, I've been a downer lately. There's a lot going on that isn't good, but that's no reason to completely overlook the good is it? I don't think so.

So on that note, I've decided to recognize some of the things that make me smile.

Today was crazy busy at work. All day. That's a good thing. Definitely smile-worthy.

70-degree weather. With sun, (The day this can't make me smile, at least for a minute, you know it's time to just give up.)

Comments. Comments almost always make me smile. And emails from published authors? Oh yeah. You see both rows of pearly whites with those.

And these two. These two make me smile. A lot.
Doesn't Toby just look like he's thinking up some kind of mischief? Maybe 'cause he is!
The prospect of going home. (On my way now.) THAT makes me smile.
There's lot of reasons to smile. Lots and lots of 'em. Some days you just have to look a little harder than others.

My Faux Brother

This is a tough day for me. It's an extremely bittersweet one at any rate. You see, I wasn't always an only child.

The first half of my life, I had a pseudo-sibling. A brother from another mother, if you will. We weren't really siblings at all, but we always thought of one another that way. He was an only child (well, until he was 11). I was an only child. And we were born almost four months to the day apart. Our family jokingly referred to us as the twins. We lived down the street from one another for a good chunk of my life and we were inseparable.

His mother and my mother were first cousins. I would go places with him and his parents and people always assumed we were brother and sister. It was wonderful for me because I felt like a "real" family as I never had siblings and usually didn't have a father present.

His name was Steven and he was my first friend. He was the brother I didn't get from my parents. We were friends, quite literally, from Day One. Today is his birthday. And, he and I last spoke on this day in 1987.

It was a brief conversation. It was mostly chit-chat. I just wanted to make sure I called to say "happy birthday." It was particularly important because he was in the hospital and I thought it might cheer him up. What I didn't know at the time was that he was dying.

His responses to me were very slow, very unlike him. He finally said, "I'm kind of tired." I apologized and told him to go rest. Those were the last words from him I ever heard.

He slipped into a coma that night. He died a week later. He was 22.

As sad as that is, the happy part is that he lived 15 years longer than he was expected to. He suffered from chronic nephritis, an illness that had ravaged his kidneys after a strep infection had initially gone untreated.

He got sick not long after this photo was taken. There are dozens, maybe even hundreds, of pictures of the two of us together. This has always been my favorite.

He started dialysis in his teens and had a kidney transplant at age 21. It rejected less than a year later, leading to his death.

What's always been inconsolably sad to me is that if it were now, he'd likely be alive. Kidney transplants are as common as stitches. Anti-rejection medications have a great deal of success. They didn't then.

But the saddest part of all is that he was such a great person. He was funny and warm. (His impressions of cartoon character Droopy and of the Muppets' Swedish Chef were side-splitting.) He was smart, and kind, and supportive. He was everything I could ever have wanted in a brother and then some. And, sick as he was, he never complained.

Next week, it will be 22 years since he died and that wound is nearly as fresh today as it was then. I have this theory: There are certain things you never really get over. You just learn how to deal with them -- or else you go crazy. For me, Steven's death is one of a handful of life experiences that fall into that category.

I learned how to deal. I just never learned how to fill that void. I don't think I ever will.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Spring!

Another case of the weathercasters being wrong. While we were occasionally covered by clouds, it's been sunny and warm (upper 60s) most of the day.

I've been a slug. I pushed a little too much yesterday and today I made up for it by remaining in a self-induced vegetative state. I have been in pajamas all day.

The mother went to the funeral home with her friends (one of their mothers died) so I've had full custody of the creatures all day. That includes Tigger who is still eating, walking around a little more slowly, and talking less.

That's something that is going to become something of the norm in the immediate future. Our cousin is bringing my uncle home from the hospital tomorrow. She is taking a leave from our job to care for him during whatever time he has left. She's enlisted the mother to help. It's going to be a difficult time.

In the meantime, I consoled myself with how green the grass is becoming and with this gorgeous tree that is just beyond our property line.

It's so nice to be able to leave the door open and to be in need of a fan again. LOVE it. In fact, I love it so much, here's a little something I came up with.

Ode to Spring

The tree's in bloom, the grass is green

The blue sky dotted with a single cloud

Ole Man Winter has packed his bags

And Spring has shed her shroud.

The days grow longer, more filled with light

The frigid temps of winter are moving past

The birds are singing and building their nests

As Spring is settling in fast.

The vernal equinox has dawned

Soon the May flowers will get a good douse

Of the April showers that will fall at This D*mn House.

Mmm, breakfast!

That's what one of our resident squirrels appears to be saying about these Sno-balls leftover from St. Patrick's. I get the biggest kick out of these guys. I'm not sure if this is Zig or Zag getting the goods, but he sure looks happy enough about it.





Hostess bakery, even if it is a little stale, can't be too bad a way to start a new day. Especially if you're a squirrel.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Evening

What started out as a gloomy, damp day turned out to be a sunny, pleasant one with a high in the 60s.

The weather made my adventure in unloading the car a whole lot better. I managed to get the 7-footers into the shed. The 8-footers were carted downstairs and piled into the family room. That was a feat in and of itself.

I did some things today and that felt good. I also did a little bit of car maintenance (adding oil and windshield wiper fluid) during which I was outside when the sun was going down. At first, I only glimpsed the dropping sun over the back of the fence.


The sky began to change colors as the sun burned a steady orange/red. It was really beautiful to behold.

As I wrapped up what I was doing and began to put things away, I heard a flock of geese overhead. I was able to snap them as they were trying to get back into their trademark V formation.

The sun was really freaky as it fell. It was SO big. It really did look as if I could touch it if I only walked to the end of the alley.

Something I didn't notice until I had downloaded the photos and then was doing some cropping: one of the neighborhood's menacing cats is in the lower right corner of one of the alley shots.

Little marauder.

It was a good day on many levels.







Home Depot Freak Show

Hey, kids! Do you know what today's secret word is? It's rude! That's right, R-U-D-E. As in low-lifes with no basic sense of manners.

I went to Home Depot earlier as planned. My boards for the shed were there. (Brian in millwork can now rest easy.) As it turns out, I only needed five of them. That's because I did some replanning on the fly -- and saved myself well over $100 in the process.

I knew it was going to need a cart but I didn't want one of the flat carts that I used so much last year to haul sand, rock, and bricks. No, I wanted what I call a panel cart, with the dividers and the little risers you can lay boards on. They were pretty hard to come by. I found one though and had it with me as I looked at vinyl boards. It attempted to leave me three times in less than five minutes.

It was empty beside me while I tried to calculate how many boards to buy. Guy #1 casually strolls up and begins walking away with it. "Excuse me," says I. "That's my cart." He didn't even bother to push it back, left it halfway down the aisle. Jerk.

Guy #2 appeared just as I had the number arrived at and had determined there were enough boards on the shelf. I had turned around to set my piece of paper down when the cart began to move. It was SO close to me it even brushed my hip. This time I wasn't polite. "Hey, that's MY cart." I grabbed it as it rolled past me. The guy was visibly p*ssed and stormed off.

I pushed the cart to the edge of the vinyl board display, had both hands on a board and was turning to put it on the cart, when it began to ROLL AWAY again! This time I threw a foot on the edge, flipping one side off the ground slightly. The culprit stopped in his tracks. He had the gall to give me a dirty look and then walked away. Three times in under five minutes and at no time did anyone apologize or say anything at all for that matter.

Did people get an extra helping of rude at breakfast today? Sheesh.

Then, I got the extra added bonus of being the spectacle of choice under the contractor's canopy. That's because I defied all logic and some passersby by successfully loading 15 eight-foot 1x6 boards and 5 seven-footers of the same dimensions into Ladybird.
This is starting to be
too common of a thing for me. Maybe I should do a little marketing and sell tickets? I mean, if I am going to be looked upon like a circus act, why not?

I learned that I CAN fit multiple 8-footers in the car. I wasn't sure I could, but I was willing to give it a try. That's a good thing considering that Home Depot wouldn't cut these boards because they're PVC.

That brings me to how I saved the money. The ideal height of the boards I need would be 7.5 feet. That would yield me two pieces for the side of the shed per board. Unfortunately, the 7 footers wouldn't do. When I came across the 8-footers, which are essentially the NoRot boards I have used for trim pieces before, I was thrilled. So instead of buying and wasting seven footers, I spent about $6 more per board to yield two pieces each.

And you thought my skills were limited to loading.

So while my amazing feat of jamming a whole lot of boards into a passenger car was under way, there were two guys having a conversation about 10 feet away. When one of the guys started to walk into the store after snuffing out his cigarette, his companion grabbed his arm. "Wait," I heard him attempt to whisper. " I gotta see this."

Well, just so I don't disappoint you ...

The most amazing feat of all though is yet to be accomplished: Getting them out of the car AND, this is the ultra-tricky part, finding somewhere to store them.

Friday, March 20, 2009

D*mn You, Home Depot!

It is without fail, the curse of the discount offer. Let's send Joe Consumer a coupon and then, let's have none or precious little of the very thing (s)he intends to use it for. Oh, and it expires on Sunday.

And, we aren't getting more of said product for almost three weeks. WHAT?!

The mother met me at the bus station tonight and we headed off for Hardware Heaven. Well, actually we had a few detours. We stopped at the deli/boutique that we first visited a few weeks ago but did not dine at. I got a cool new key chain and a mock Chanel bag. Aren't I too cool? (Yeah, right.)

Then, we headed for our new favorite place to eat, the Chinese restaurant Shangri-La. Ah, I do adore that food. There's almost nothing that food can't help wash down.

Good thing. Because when I got to Home Depot, they had only five of the PVC boards I need for the shed. I need three times that. I didn't expect to get all of them tonight, but I did hope to get more than five. The Home Depot that is actually closest to home supposedly has eight. There was no way I could mak?e it there tonight to buy them.

So, couldn't I purchase them where I was and have the other store hold them 'til morning? Seems logical enough, right? That's probably why the answer is no. They would have to call both store's managers to OK it. And, this is the part that killed me, only "if the other store agreed to send the merchandise" to the store I was standing in. WTF?!

You've got a customer standing in front of you, money in hand, and you won't make it easy for them to buy your merchandise. Seriously?

The kid that waited on me was really nice and he tried to be helpful. He assured me that the other store really did have eight more boards, just like his computer said. (Brian in millwork said so.)

Brian, I'm headin' your way tomorrow morning. First thing. Those boards better be there.

Don't make me get medieval on you ...

It's a Spring Thing

There’s a crescent moon perched high in the sky yet the birds are chirping with such a ferocity – even in the pre-dawn light – that it can mean only one thing: spring is here!

Ole Man Winter is going out kicking and screaming, having taken us down into the 30s overnight. I had to drag out earwraps and gloves again. Here’s hoping that we’re finished with those days for now.

With the arrival of spring, I think the first outdoor project for the year has been identified: Pimp My Shed, Part 2. Remember how I did the back of the shed last year? Well, looks like I’ll be finishing the front (which I put a board on each side on last year) and doing both sides to finish things up.

The front will require some angle cuts because it slopes, but the sides are straight. I wonder if it’s possible to get two boards from one cut as it’s not very tall. Hmmm … need to get the ole tape measure out. And need to get the boards and screws to do this job this weekend as I’ve got a Home Depot offer that’s about to expire. They’re not nearly as generous as Lowe’s in extending those, so I can’t let it go to waste.

I won’t be able to start the job this weekend though. No. It’s going to rain – and they’re already forecasting rain for several days thereafter, including the possibility of severe weather on Tuesday. But, at least I’m planning again. That’s always the first step, right? And I’ve got 20 days of time off to schedule this year …

Let’s get this party started!

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Inside and Out

Remember this post? I got to go there for lunch today!

I’ve never been inside. It’s gorgeous inside, too, but I didn’t get to take my camera though. My big boss took some colleagues and I there to dine, so probably not the best circumstances under which to get touristy. It’s filled with a combination of Tudor and Victorian architectural features. Marble, archways, wooden panel walls, elaborate fireplace mantels, ball and claw base tables… and that’s just the start.

Suffice it to say that the interior of this building and the lunch were both quite impressive.
I think I surprised my boss with my knowledge of the history of the building. He went all tour guide and pointed out some really cool art pieces the building is now home to.

This reminded me that I still have some historic buildings to highlight. I thought I’d done more already, but apparently not. In fact, I haven’t even done one this year. The problem is that they take some time to do, at least to do them properly. I really do enjoy doing them though, so I’ll get to one soon.

The Brothers Weird

It is brisk this morning, around 45, and a big departure from the near-60-degree mark it’s been every other morning this week. Oh well. It is the last day of winter. Go ahead, Ole Man Winter, give it your best shot.

The temperature change is due in part to a storm front that rolled through last night. I took S, my bus buddy, to Wal-Mart with me last night. By the time I got her home, the sky was darkening up and the wind was beginning to blow. I hurried home, afraid I’d be dodging drops any second as the sky lit up with lightning and rumbled with thunder. But I was lucky.
I’d probably been inside a good five minutes before the rain started.

It’s been fun to confuse the bus driver these past few mornings by not boarding at my usual stop. (Tonight is grocery store night.) He’ll be really baffled when I do get on at home tomorrow!
This used to be a fairly empty bus with me being one of about four regular passengers. This week, we’ve had two or three times that every day.

Among the passengers are the Brothers Weird. They're twin brothers, 35-45, who clearly have some issues. They mutter to themselves and talk to each other in a language that only vaguely resembles English. I call them Weird and Weirder. Weirder is a carbon copy of Weird, except that his face is gaunt and his features pulled tight. And sometimes, Weird has a mustache. Today, however is clean-shaven. The other key difference is that Weirder has a voice that sounds identical to Sesame Street’s Elmo. I’m not kidding. It’s hard to hear that voice and keep a straight face.

I felt sorry for the pair initially. They used to both ride the early, early bus I took years back. In recent weeks, Weirder has become a regular on both of my buses, coming and going. I used to feel sorry for them.

But then, I saw how rude they were to each other and to fellow passengers. And they both stare which completely creeps me out. Weirder used to take the seat in front of me, sit sideways and turn and just stare at me. Luckily, he hasn’t done that lately. Though a few weeks ago, he did sit across from me, one seat ahead and give me sidelong stares.

That wouldn’t be bad except the bus mother, who was seated directly across from him, told me that his hand was, uh, in his lap.

Ewwwww. Perv.

So my sympathy has turned from mild annoyance to disgust. It was justified once again as this morning, Weird (the thus far non-perv of the duo) nearly knocked me over as I paused to slide into a seat. I sure hope this is not the tone being set for the day.

I guess it could be worse. It could have been Weirder. Ewwww.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Sad Irony

I was very saddened yesterday to learn of the grave condition of actress Natasha Richardson and I frequently checked headlines which, at one point, had announced her death.

What a horrible tragedy resulting from the most freakish of accidents! One minute you’re fine, the next you’re getting last rites. It’s even sadder considering that she seems to be both a very good and talented person, still quite young, in a happy marriage, with two adolescent boys who certainly don’t deserve to lose their mother, and was ready to embark on another project to work with her own mother, Vanessa Redgrave, on Broadway.

The irony? The mother and I have been watching movies off and on during the past several days either through On Demand or just the regular cable schedule. Now that our “On Demand” is actually working again. But that’s a whole ‘nother post.

One movie that I recommended over the weekend was Evening, starring both Richardson and her mother. (The mother vetoed this and we ended up watching Sense and Sensibility – which I’ve seen 100 times and still adore – and starring my she-ro Emma Thompson whom people sometimes mix up with Richardson. Then we watched Mr. Brooks, a truly troubled flick.)

So, before you ask … Emma is my she-ro because she is proof positive that you can shake a philandering (albeit talented) loser and still end up with a sexy younger man and have a baby after 40! Not to mention that she’s a tremendous talent. I love her period piece roles (S&S, Remains of the Day, Howard’s End) in particular, but she’s made plenty of other good movies, too.

Speaking of which, here’s more irony. If you’ve seen Love Actually, then you know that Liam Neeson plays a grieving widower, left to raise a stepson. (Judging from some of the stuff I’ve seen online today, I was not the first nor the last person to think of this.) My heart just goes out to them at this unbelievably tragic time.

Wild Wednesday

If you have or had a baby at home or you ever cared for an incontinent older person, then you can appreciate my morning. Let’s just say that I awoke to find Tigger in quite the mess.

It wasn’t that he got sick, I think he just wore himself out, so much so, that he wasn’t able to not step in his own mess and track both it and cat litter from one end of the room to the other and across his bed. (Unlike Toby, Tigger has always been relatively neat.) One thing is for certain: his system hasn’t shut down. That was the good news! And he’s as vocal as ever, giving me grief the whole time.

The mother came and helped me deal with the bad news. After I got one area cleaned, she came and got Tigger and cleaned him up. (I had him underfoot initially while I was trying to clean and he would just retrack over what was already cleaned. I couldn't clean him because I had nowhere clean to put him! It was a comedy of errors.) That way, I could focus on cleaning things up and getting him back into a clean bed.

I felt bad having her help because she had spent the entire evening clearing the yard of debris. And I do mean the entire evening. She’d gone out yesterday afternoon, was there when I got home and stayed there until 10 p.m. I had twice gone to retrieve her but at 10 I put my foot down and told her she had to stop. Enough already.

She was determined to get things done before rain moves in later today. I have to say that the yard does look very nice. It’s even starting to turn green again!

I spoke with my godmother briefly last night and my great-uncle’s situation is quite dire. She had gotten some test results (I don’t know what the test was exactly) where a normal reading would be 2.5. My uncle’s: 2,800. I’m no math whiz but I can easily see that when a number is more than a 1,000 times above normal, it can’t be good. And it’s not.

I just pray he doesn’t suffer. It’s so unfair to both he and my godmother. She has some really hard choices to make.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

When Irish Roots Are Showin'

I’ve always known that my maternal side had deep Irish roots and that from the mother’s maternal line, I’m only the fourth generation to be American-born. What I didn’t know until the past year or so is that I also have Irish roots on my father’s side. So, even though I can’t say much for him, I didn’t want to snub the Irish roots from the other side!

Unfortunately, I don’t have photos to share from that line. That’s due partly because there is a dearth of photos from that side anyway (I barely have photos of my paternal grandparents) and, because part of that line’s arrival pre-date modern photography by at least a century.

As I’ve been digging for my immediate paternal line, I’ve found links that go back six generations or more. One line features an ancestor who left Ireland before 1750. (A family legend I stumbled upon says that he met a soothsayer in the street who told him he would never spend another night in his father’s house. That day, he came upon ships bound for America promising fortunes through trade with the Indians. He boarded and never returned to Ireland.)

Somewhere along the way, he became very ill and a kindly servant girl at the house he was staying at nursed him back to health.

Once he was well, he paid off the indentured servitude of the girl (who was Irish or Scottish, depending on who’s telling the story), and the two were married. One of their daughters would marry my ancestor – a Scotsman’s son – who was supposedly murdered by a marauding Tory in South Carolina around 1780-81. Luckily, those two had a son first – who was probably not more than a toddler when his father was slain – or I wouldn’t be here to write this today. (Because that son had a son who had a daughter who had a son who then had a son that is –in the most minimal way possible— responsible for me.)

To me, that’s one of the most fascinating and humbling factors in genealogy: The idea that if any one person were missing from the tree, you would not only not be you, it’s likely you wouldn’t exist at all. It’s mind-boggling to say the least when you think about how many different people had to get together for any one of us to be here.

So, thank God for the Irish and for the wanderlust that brought them across the pond.

When Irish Eyes Are Smilin'

I've known for some time that for a St. Patrick's Day post, I wanted to write about my Irish heritage.
And that brings us to the lady in this picture. This is my maternal great-great-grandmother Bridget. She is from the last generation of my maternal ancestors to have been born in Ireland.


My American lineage was borne of tragedy. But aren't tragedy and the Irish often found in the same breath?

The story goes that Bridget's mother was cooking over an open hearth when the sleeve of her blouse caught fire. She was badly burned and died shortly thereafter, leaving her husband with two small children. A widower with a farm to run and two small children was the beginning of my American ancestry.

My great-great-great-grandfather decided to leave County Mayo and follow his brothers to America, with Bridget and her brother Tobias in tow. (We can't confirm it, but we think that her brother died on the boat en route.) Bridget ended up with family friends when her father died just a few years later in the Civil War. She married one of that Irish family's sons.

She married very young, even by the standards of her day, and started having babies almost immediately. Several of them died. She would bury several more as adults. She’d lose a son in a railyard accident, another to some kind of accident at a Mexican mine, and still another to tuberculosis. She’d lose a daughter (and that daughter’s daughter) to cancer. Her husband died in 1890, leaving her to face many of those deaths alone. Maybe her lifetime of losses is what made her so tough.

By all accounts, Bridget was quite the character. She was a tiny woman, but fearless. It's said she once confronted a would-be burglar asking him in her thick Irish brogue, “By hell if there’s something you’d be a wantin’ in here, why don’t you ask a person for it rather than to be a stealin’ it?” The man supposedly was so shamed by this, he ran off empty-handed.

As children, my grandmother and her younger sister would take Bridget’s beer crock to the corner pub and get it filled. (My godmother still has this prized possession, though I think Bridget was the last – ‘til me – to even drink on occasion.) Bridget also was the caretaker of a cut crystal creamer and sugar bowl, apparently brought over on the boat from Ireland. It had been her mother’s and her mother’s mother’s and who knows how many generations before that. It passed to Bridget’s youngest daughter when she died in 1922.

That is how we get to this lady, my great-grandmother, Julia, mother to my beautiful grandmother. She, too, was another character though you’d be hard pressed to find anyone utter a single bad word about her.

She was well known for kindness and generosity and I was told even before the Depression, her home bore the “mark of the hobo.” (This was some kind of an X or squiggly or something by which a home was marked so that other hobos knew a meal might await them there.)


There was a catch though. Grandma Julia fed them – but they had to write a letter home to let their family know they were OK. She paid the postage.

I grew up with these stories and always wished I could have met these ladies. My grandmother loved both of them fiercely. Sadly, Julia died about 18 months before the mother was born. She would never see either of her two granddaughters or her three great-grandchildren.

In some ways, I feel like I have met them. Photos of Bridget and Henry, as well as of Julia and her husband Rufus, adorn the walls of This D*mn House. The creamer and sugar bowl that you could look at, but never touch, is proudly displayed in a china cabinet. In the 1970s, the mother shadow-boxed Julia’s 1909 wedding dress – something she was allowed to play with as a child – and it hangs in the dining room. Her personalized glass from the 1904 World’s Fair is among treasures to be found in a shadow box in my bedroom.

So, on this day, it only seems appropriate to pay homage to the last generation of Irish and first generation of Irish American in one of my lines. I’m not proud necessarily of where they came from though Ireland is a good enough place. More importantly, I’m proud of having come from them, these strong, loving, determined, and generous women whom we continue to speak of so reverently, many decades after their deaths.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Arrival o' the Green

It was a gorgeous day. Sunny. No wind. Upper 60s. The kind of day you dream about after spending an extended period in the deep-freeze.

Even though downtown had their big parade for St. Patrick’s day already, there was still plenty of green to be found. Right outside our building, the fountain flows green!


This little display let patrons of a nearby pub know what was on today's menu ...









Even the grass had to get in on the action. That's one decoration that won't be coming down on Wednesday!


And while it's not necessarily an outfit I'd wear, you have to admit, it's mighty creative.

Earnin' o' the Green

I knew that anything I wrote yesterday was likely to be a complaint and bound to turn into a whine, so I forced myself to be silent and spare you all of the grumbling.

I rose mid-morning to care for Tigger who continues to hold his own. Then, I went back to bed – and stayed there until nearly 1 p.m., not like me at all. That was due in part to the muscle relaxer I took Saturday night, in an attempt to soothe my aching back, something neither ibuprofen nor Tylenol seemed to touch. It worked.

It’s warm this morning, near 50, and the dampness is thick in the air. It is supposed to be 70 today and even warmer tomorrow. They had surprisingly good weather Saturday for downtown St. Louis’ St. Patrick’s Day parade and drew record crowds. Looks like it will be even better for tomorrow’s Ancient Order of Hibernians parade in Dogtown. I would love to go but don’t dare take the time off right now.

I’ll probably take some vacation days next month though. Really need to get started on some projects around here.

In the meantime, I'm off to earn a paycheck.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Busily Quiet

I was quiet much of the day, busily dealing with routine tasks, and even some of this evening I found myself silent. And I was totally silent all day on the blog. My apologies.

I wish I had something really good to share. About the best I can offer is that Tigger is no worse. No better, but at present, no worse. So, he's still with us and he at least appears to be happy about it.

My great-uncle, however, has had lots of bad news. We aren't sure yet what it all means, but I think the synopsis may be terminal cancer. Lots of tests being done and results waiting on others. And as bad as it is for him, I think it may be worse for his daughter. Please pray for both him and our poor cousin. She's having quite a rough time.

I went to a birthday party tonight for a cousin who turned 3o. It seems impossible. He was just a little kid a few minutes ago. It was good to see this part of the family again.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Third Time A Charm?

The mother doesn’t get really excited about a lot of things, particularly things that don’t have anything to do with the house. But, a long-time jazz aficionado, she does love her music.

So, prior to her birthday in November 2006 when the local PBS affiliate announced that they would be giving concert tickets and host a special “meet and greet” with trumpeter Chris Botti, then a relatively new love of the mother’s, I knew I’d hit upon the perfect gift. While the concert event wasn’t until January 2007 and I didn’t have the real tickets, I made up a little flier. She was so excited. And I was all slapping myself on the back because I’d succeeded in this rare achievement.

But just before Christmas, the mother came down with a cold or a nasty virus. By the time I got her to actually go the doctor, she already had pneumonia. As the end of January neared and the concert date drew closer, she was on the mend and all riled up to go. It was so incredibly cold that winter though and a brief venture outdoors the day before set her back.

I still have the concert and meet and greet tickets at home. They were never used. Because up until an hour or so before we were supposed to leave, she was going to try and go, I didn’t have a chance to get them to anyone so they could be used.

She finally got to see him at The Fox in the summer of 2007 when he opened for Diana Krall. (She didn’t like Diana Krall. We left before the first half of her set was over. And I vowed that if by some strange chance Elvis Costello showed up on stage, I would brain the mother!) Chris came back to St. Louis on his own in January 2008, but PBS didn’t offer anything for this show. And I have to say, I think I enjoyed the show every bit as much as the mother. He’s an incredible talent and showman. And cute, too, for a blond guy.

PBS announced last June that they would again have the tickets/meet and greet for a show in September at The Fox. I was thrilled! I reupped my membership online. I even got seat confirmation. We were about five rows from the stage, dead center, in the orchestra pit! The mother was elated. The tickets would arrive about two weeks before the show.

I was still riding high last September, having just finished the porch and walkway project, and expecting the tickets to arrive any day when the call came: Due to a scheduling conflict, the Chris Botti show has been postponed. Postponed? Well, it was never rescheduled. The mother just was never going to meet Chris Botti. So, for my very generous contribution, I got nothing but the satisfaction of supporting public television. Even though that is a good thing, bummer for me.

That was last year. Fast forward to last night.

When I got home, the mother said: “Channel 9 called. They’re having Chris Botti live in-studio tonight and showing some new DVD.” I knew this had to be the one I’d seen press on last year in the wake of the cancelled concert. Sure, Chris. Blow off St. Louis and go do a live-taping of a show in Boston. (Which, while no one ever ‘fessed up to that, it’s exactly what was done.)

That was the DVD – him live at the Pops with special guests including Sting (*swoon*), whom Chris credits with discovering him, and John Mayer. They showed about half the DVD, including a rendition of Sting’s “Shape of My Heart” which I love, interspersing with Chris and St. Louis’ own Joe Buck who were hilarious together. And then came the announcement of a Sept. 18 show at the Fox – and a repeat of the ticket/meet and greet offer. When I couldn’t find that offer on their Web site, guess who was on the phone five minutes later …

We’ll have to see if the third time really is a charm. And wouldn’t it be marvelous if Sting showed up at one of these shows? Well, a girl can always hope.

Moonset

Yesterday, the early morning cloud cover was thick and it blocked the view of the moon, save a blob of white light that fiercely fought through.

This morning, there was no cloud cover, so the waxing moon stood low in the sky, burning brightly in the shape of a fluorescent egg. It was a beautiful sight to behold. Accompanying it, after the din of traffic had passed, was the unmistakable squirb, squirb, squirb of a cardinal off in the distance.

As the bus wound through town, the moon seemed to chase us for a time, almost as if it was running directly alongside. Then, as the pinks and purples of the morning light skittered across the horizon, the moon, dropping ever lower, disappearing behind buildings, took her leave of us.
Then, suddenly, there she is again. She’s lower still, and her powerful brightness has begun to fade, ever so slowly, as the morning creeps in.

While I am truly a night person, I think this has to be my favorite time of day. That space of time where the moon is just beginning to relinquish control of the sky to the coming day. There is something special and sacred about this changing of the guard, something that I have always been drawn to. It's a time I think of as moonset.

I think all of us have probably seen a sunrise and likely, some very beautiful ones. But if you’ve never witnessed the workings of the late winter sky in the hour or so that precedes daybreak, you’ve missed out on something no less than spectacular.

And the moon? She hangs there still.


Even as the sun begins to rise, blazing up a leg of the Gateway Arch, she holds firm.

Turning translucent and shimmery, she vigilantly stands by, her backdrop brightening around her, slowly taking hold.

Good night, moon. Your shift has ended.

And a new day begins ...


Thursday, March 12, 2009

Stupid Is As Stupid Does

I’m probably just grumpy because it’s so freakin’ cold out (we can’t even get above freezing!) but more things than normal today seemed to have flipped my “d*mn, that’s stupid” switch. But here are the biggest ones to light my fuse.

George Clooney sightings
For some reason, St. Louis news stations seem to think that spotting George Clooney downtown is breaking news. And it’s so important that they’ll post really fuzzy phone photos of him online. Why? This is strictly blog material, if that.


The Almost Invisible iPod
Granted, I was definitely among those who needed conversion to appreciate an iPod. I have a Nano, and last year, I bought the mother a Shuffle. Today, Apple announced the next generation of the Shuffle.

It’s even smaller than its ultra-tiny predecessor – as if it needed to be. C’mon. What do you want? A Shuffle the size of a salt grain? But it’s not the size that I find its most stupid feature. It’s most stupid feature is that IT HAS NO FEATURES!!!

Nope. You can’t forward, reverse, or adjust the volume. It has no controls on it. Instead, controls have migrated to branded headphones. My first question was “how could I use it in the car?” Here’s the answer.

If I didn’t know that the Shuffle sans controls was real, I’d think it was just a really amusing Apple parody like this one from The Onion (which is hilarious).


Safe Use of Power Tools
I saved the stupidest for last. It would seem that someone has completely misinterpreted the meaning of DIY.

Now you might think that because I am a big fan of power tools and that I stalwartly advocate multipurpose products, that this one might appeal to me. Let me say clearly and unequivocally: NO! This is one recreational sport that DIY does not mix with.

It’s almost too stupid to be believed. Kids, please don’t try this at home! And I have to say that if you really have to work that hard at it, you’re doing something wrong.

Brrrrrr

The price for enjoying multiple days of 70-80-degree weather is multiple days of brrrrrrr. Not Aaron Burr. Or even Raymond Burr. Just plain ole, in your face, cold and cruel brrrrrr.


I had so hoped we were past these 20-something mornings, but no. Today’s forecast high: 35 degrees. Brrrrrr.

I was in bed uncharacteristically early last night, at just past 10:30. That’s at least 60-90 minutes earlier than usual. I was so tired though. Work’s been busy (which is good), and you know what’s going on at home (not good) and I slept fitfully Tuesday night, so I started the day out tired.

Work was busy in the morning and then in the afternoon we had a surprise shower for one of my young colleagues who is getting married. I helped get things ready. I think it ended up looking festive in a traditional tacky sort of way.

I think she was genuinely surprised as our group gathered near the elevators on a floor below ours. At first, she didn’t even try to get off the elevator, completely oblivious to the whole thing.

It was funny.

They’re having a pizza party today to celebrate some office awards, so no venturing out into the cold for food. Works for me!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Of Cats and Countertops

We’ll see what the night brings, but Tigger had a relatively good day. Uncle Bill, on the other hand, did not. It has all been very distressing for the mother in particular as she and her cousin (my godmother and Uncle Bill’s daughter) are both only children.

And they are the only first cousin the other one has on their mothers’ sides. As a result, they are more like sisters and at the very least, BFFs. In addition to her own feelings, the mother has been internalizing a lot of our cousin’s, too, so she has really had a rough week.

To avoid the dark path that we’ve gone down the past few days, we’ve been talking about the house again. She saw an ad yesterday for some remnant stone place and called about countertops. (She wants to try and figure out how much it’s going to cost to finish the kitchen, the countertops being a big part of the overall project.) They asked for a rough idea of countertop square footage. How much is it? Ummm, small?

I honestly don’t know. We have very little counterspace but in square-footage terms I’m at a loss. So, I have to measure. But what do I measure? Sounds simplistic and straight-forward – until you try to do it. (Especially if you try to do it stressed out and on very little sleep.)

So, I found this quick tip online: If you need a quick measurement for square feet, measure along the back wall of the countertops, multiply by 25.5 which is the standard depth of countertops, and divide by 144. This can give you a rough estimate of how many square feet of countertop you need.

That almost seems idiot-proof. Almost. I’ll try that. Got any other quick and easy guesstimators for countertops?

From Summer to Winter

It’s 28 degrees this morning and the windchill factor is around 20. In the grand scheme of things, for a morning in early March, it’s not that cold. Until you consider that 24 hours ago it was almost 60 degrees.

And 18 hours ago, it was 80. Yes. 8-0. It almost seems like we’ve imagined the past few days now.

The drastic drop in temperature has made it even more important to ensure that Tigger is comfortable. So far, so good on that count. That's due largely to the mother who's been a constant caretaker.

He was weak, but very responsive this morning. He and I had a good conversation and I didn’t even do all of the talking. He was his usual vocal little self. I don’t know if he even understood any of what I said to him, but when I’d finished, he turned his head sideways and rubbed it vigorously against my hand.

I think the message got through.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Plate and Simple

Part of the reason I bought the new camera is so I could always have one on hand for my commute. (Or at least that's what I was able to convince myself of long enough to buy it.) That worked out particularly well on Friday when one of my fellow bus passengers began laughing and pointing out the window.

We were snarled in traffic, thanks to the basketball tournament, and the start of the Home and Garden Show, so I had plenty of time to snap this.


It’s still not as good as the one that Ty’smommy got last week in the parking lot of her Hobby Lobby. But it was still good for a laugh. Today, I'm taking those anywhere I can find them.

End of Life Issues

We don’t always make the right decisions, but generally, life is filled with options, loaded with endless possibilities. Or, it seems to be, until you get closer to the end. Then, suddenly, the field of choices narrows considerably.

It’s ironic how similar Tigger the Cat’s decline and that of my 83-year-old great-uncle are. They both need surgery, and both are too old and too frail to have it. Both are on medication. Both are receiving care that, at most, is palliative. And both of them have people agonizing over what to do with them.

Right now, Tigger seems to have the advantage over my uncle. He is home, surrounded by all his familiar things, not somewhere else in the care of strangers. He can still walk and eat, though in either case not with gusto that has been his tradition for nearly 17 years. The vet says his time is short. Very short. And with but a word from us, it can be made shorter still.

But we aren’t there. Yet. “You’ll know,” the vet said. I know I’ll know, too, and there’s no comfort in that. None at all.

So last night we spent a chunk of the evening rearranging furniture, repositioning bedding, and generally trying to make everything as easy as possible for whatever time is left.

I thought the inevitable had occurred during the four hours since I’d left him (and during which the mother had silently crept in to check a time or two or four) when I wasn’t met with the traditional long, deep meow. He was still in bed, one paw tucked around his eyes. But he was just sleeping.

Before I could get up from the floor, I got my greeting. And almost as quickly, I had a cat padding along behind me as I always do during the morning routine.

I might have rushed through it like I usually do.

But not today. Definitely, not today.

Monday, March 9, 2009

DIY in the News

Seems like when I spend time online searching for other things lately, I inevitably come across some kind of DIY/home improvement info. Today was no exception.

In these economic times, it’s hard to figure out what to do and how much to part with for a lot of us. I found some good information in this article given by a consultant from an aptly named business: Shoestring Design. There’s bound to be something in here or in the sidebar to trigger an idea or two!

Apparently, DIY clubs are becoming a popular trend. While I can’t claim membership in any such club, I know only too well how important help from family and friends can be. A lot of the things that were accomplished at This D*mn House last year would not have been without the help of CD, the Monkeygirls, and my cousin, Dago. Thanks again, guys!

This article has links to different ideas and how-tos for using brick in your home. I got a kick out of the paraphrased advice it gave from Tim Carter of “Ask the Builder” fame: He makes it very clear that putting up brick is not a job for an amateur, and is time-consuming and labor-intensive even for a professional.

Maybe he just means if you’re going to reside your house with brick – not if you were planning to cover your porch and replace a walkway, like, uh, some people did …

Then there are those who think maybe we shouldn’t do it ourselves at all.

Yeah, It's Monday

It’s as dark as night out. I had forgotten that it will be a while before it will be light in the morning again. I can tell you that at 6:30 tonight, it will only just be starting to be dark.
***
We were shocked to hear about a shooting during morning church services yesterday in a neighboring town. you may have seen it on your nightly news as it made national headlines.

I didn’t really know the Rev. Fred Winters, but I had met him and spoken with during the early years of his church, back in my newspaper days. You really have to wonder what would possess someone to kill anyone like that, right in the middle of a church. Especially, someone who didn’t – at least at this point – even appear to know the minister. Regardless of what your beliefs might be, you have to think that’s a heap of extra in the wrong department.

What seems even more wrong to me is for him to die so violently and senselessly inside a church he spent half his life building. Prayers go out to the pastor’s family and his congregation.
***
Tigger, my almost 17-year-old Tabby, isn’t doing so good. We’ve kept a close eye on him all weekend and he isn’t getting better. At his age, there are often more bad days than good days but he is tipping that scale in the wrong direction. The mother is calling the vet this morning.
***
My great-uncle, father to my godmother, is back in the hospital. She spent the end of last week with him and finally took him to the hospital early yesterday morning. She’s conflicted because she needs to work, but once he comes out of the hospital, he’s going to need 24-hour care. The mother is set to help, but I think he is too big and his needs to great for her to handle every aspect of his care.

Such is the curse of the only child.

***

I'm calling for my Zen. I could use some of it about now.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Welcome DST

I love DST. I welcome it. I hate going to work in the dark and coming home in the dark.



One or the other, I can handle. Both is a little much. Starting tomorrow, that won't be an issue,



The only thing is, I lose a little more than the hour the time change reflects.



Care to guess why?


And these are just some of them ...







Saturday, March 7, 2009

Connected

Life is quite a disjointed affair. People come in and out of our lives, either voluntarily or involuntarily. And sometimes, life is so hectic, that we can drift away from even those close to us, even those we share a roof with.

Some days, if we're really lucky, we get a chance to renew some of those connections. Today was just such a day for me.

I'd been online for just a bit when I got an email from my very dear friend PlumBelieve who had even called me on the way home last night. It was such a pleasant surprise and so nice to get back in touch.

This morning, the mother, intrigued by a brief article in the local newspaper about a new combination boutique/deli decided we should go check it out. Do some shopping. Have some lunch. Sounded good to me. I just had to get myself off the couch.

I finally got going. I'd showered and had just brushed my teeth when I heard a knock at the door. Imagine my surpise to find my very dear friend CD and her two boys standing on the porch! CD said she could only stay a minute as she was in between soccer games for the eldest.
He'd just finished a game at a school a few blocks from This D*mn House.

"I just couldn't drive by the house without stopping," she told me. And I'm so glad she did!

The deli/boutique had a few interesting things -- which we purchased -- but the food didn't seem nearly as appealing. Luckily, we'd discovered that a highly recommended Chinese restaurant was just across the way. We dined there instead and oh ... there aren't words. SO wonderful to finally find excellent Chinese food again!

On the way home, which took us past the cemetery, the mother asked if we could stop. We visited my great-grandparents' graves and the grave shared by Young Tom and my beautiful grandmother. We drove to the other half of the cemetery and I drove almost straight to the grave of my cousin, Steven. The last trip to the cemetery, I'd spent an hour looking for it without success because the area around it had had so many additions.

I dropped to my knees before it and carefully traced the letters of his name with my fingers. I patted the angel that sits atop the stone. I brushed my hand across the adjacent inscription: He touched many lives. That he did. And mine was lucky enough to be one of them.

So, today I've been blessed with the thoughts and presence of lifelong friends. I've shared an enjoyable day with the mother. And I've had the renewed sense of connection with those whom I can connect with only in my heart.

Stuck to the Sofa

I'm seriously lacking in the motivation department. And I'm not getting any help from the sack of fur on his back, asleep at my hip. Or from the other sack of fur lying on the sofa, using one front paw to shield his eyes from the light of the front door. (At least he's not yowling.)

Yep. looking at these two makes me want to curl up and go right back to sleep.

But, while it's cloudy outside, it's exceedingly warm. (Around 70 and it isn't even noon,) It's also very windy, so not conducive to any kind of yard work. (Yeah. It's breakin' my heart. Can you tell?)

Instead, I think the mother and I will go check out a new boutique/deli in a nearby town. Sounds like a good way to pass a summery afternoon. Especially considering that it will all be over tomorrow. Thunderstorms roll into night.

Friday, March 6, 2009

A Taste of Summer

My Zen (as my friend KayO dubbed it) held out all day thanks to the absolutely incredible weather and a few small victories at the office.

I don’t know how people who live in long-term arctic conditions stand it. I mean, I can’t even cope most of November, December, and January! By February, we usually get a few breaks. And we did this year.


But … March? We’ve got to be closing in on some kind of record – or broken one – for the first day of March. It was 82 at one point! That qualifies as summer in these parts. Everyone at work was buzzing about it all day.

And kspin tells me we were even warmer than the desert.

I had a late lunch and went out and soaked in as much of the warmth and sunshine as I could and then had to physically force myself back into the building. I went to my favorite downtown haunts but the fountains at Kiener Plaza were empty and silent. (The central fountain in fact was still littered with debris from last week's Mardi Gras revelers who couldn’t stumble another 10 feet to a trash can. B*stards!)


And, though Cardinal tickets went on sale today, Busch Stadium stood empty, too. (Not for long. Opening Day is just weeks away!)

But, I wasn’t the only one out sun-worshiping today.
The streets of downtown were filled with people, in part, the office-sheltered departing hibernation, and partly because the Missouri Valley Conference tourney is in town. (I had to look in the newspaper to see what it was because around 4 p.m. I heard a band start playing. My colleagues thought I’d lost my mind until they came down to my corner and could hear the invisible band. Clearly, I’m not a college basketball fan.)

As I watch the sun begin its decline, I know that this weather odyssey is temporary. And I hate to see it go. Really, I do. I know you’ll be back though.

But please, hurry.

Into the Moment

I walked out the door and the warmth immediately struck me. A dampness hung in the air. At some point during the night, a brief, light shower must have fallen. Not a soaking rain, just enough of a misting to tease the grass and let it know that yes, spring is coming. Shed your dead brown hue and turn green again.

Ah, glorious, wondrous spring.

I wasn’t in this good of a mood when I got up. And as I stood on the corner awaiting the bus, staring at This D*mn House, mentally noting the 101 of its jobs that await me, I rebelled against the feeling. A full-court, strong-arm push back against feeling good.

What is my problem? Here is a perfectly glorious day in the making (50-something at 6:45 in the morning, thankuverymuch) and I’m standing here, himming and hawing about things that mean absolutely nothing in the grand scale of it all and that I can certainly do nothing about right now.

Girl, get over yourself already. Seriously.

And then it occurred to me. It’s FRIDAY.

And a Friday with a projected high of 74 degrees.

And I’m standing, staring at a house that, for all of its flaws, I own –at a time when others stare at theirs, just hoping they’ll be able to scrape enough money together to keep walking across the threshold.

And I’m waiting on a bus to go to my job. A job I love most days, at a time when so many others don’t even have one at all.

And I’m tired. And that’s a good thing because it means I’ve been working, my days are full again, overflowing sometimes, and that is about as much job security as anyone gets anymore.

So stop fighting it. Just feel good. Breathe. Fill your lungs with the promise of spring. For once, just live in the here and the now. Be thankful for what you have and keep fighting like hell to hang onto it. In the end, that’s really all you can do anyway.

By noon, this moment may have been fleeting. (Who am I kidding? It could be gone by 10 a.m.)
But for now, it’s Friday It’s warm. The sun is coming up. I’m still gainfully employed. And spring really is coming.

Ask for nothing more. Revel in it.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Dollhouse Tour, Part 2

Picking up where we left off this morning, we were in the little girl’s room on the second floor. Now, we’ll go next door and check out the parents’ bedroom.
I’m not sure who that is supposed to be (the mother has increased the family size since the days I played in here.) Suffice it to say, whomever she may be, she’s a snazzy dresser.


Just look at this close-up.




Now we’ll head up to the third floor. First we’ll stop by the boy’s bedroom. I've always loved these third floor rooms because of the sloping walls from the roofline.

He has a little friend over. A little friend with a very bad hairpiece, too! I’ll apologize for the quality of this photo of the whole room. I clearly got rid of the wrong one when I was going through them.

But check this out. Can you even believe they make a chess set that small?! What I love is this game table – I have one almost exactly like it in the family room at This D*mn House.

Let’s pop next door and check out the bath. This would have been one high-class joint for that time period.
I just shake my head at how they think of absolutely everything and it’s all so tiny!



The mother says she is glad that it is all done now since it’s hard to see stuff that small to work with it and because she has the beginning of arthritis in her hands.

I hate to see her get to where she can’t do it all anymore because she enjoys it so much.

She still gets in there and moves things around occasionally, just like in real life. She decorates for the holidays, too.

There’s a ton of Christmas decorations, as well as stuff for Halloween and Easter, too.

What’s funny is that this isn’t even the mother’s only miniature project. About 20 years ago, she built a general store from a kit. It’s fully stocked and even has a small apartment upstairs.