Wednesday, March 31, 2010


The Internet is at once a blessing and a curse. It has revealed all manner of news to me – good and bad – through the years. But, since it is a source of almost instantaneous information, I guess I shouldn’t be too harsh on it.

But last night, it got me again.

The mother and I had been talking about some of her friends who’d passed on, in particular one that I’m sort of named for. (Sort of, in that I wasn’t saddled with her ethnic name, just blessed with its nickname – by the mother’s design – a name that historically, only those closest to me ever use.)

From there, the mother started talking about this friend’s sons who had been in many ways the mother’s “first” children. She had babysat them both in her teen years and they had padded around after her like puppy dogs even when she wasn’t on the clock.

The eldest of the two was killed in a freak non-military accident during Vietnam. (He’d survived being shot in ‘Nam, only to come home and be run over by a military truck as he rode his motorcycle back to base.) He was only 19. It was tragic and things were never quite right after that.

It was no secret which of the two was their mother’s pick, something my mother railed about and against all the time. It was no wonder then that the younger brother went to great lengths to get attention, and in ways that were less than desirable.

J was six years older than me and during the years I was most impressionable, he was gorgeous. I can still see him in my mind’s eye about age 20 in this convertible ‘Vette that he had. What a sight that was!

He would surface periodically through the years, in between jobs and in and out of trouble. The mother would chide him, but she always had a soft spot for him. In the past decade or so, he’d settled some. Losing both parent s and getting married had taken the edge off a bit. Drugs and alcohol had ravaged his model-like looks. He continued to get into the occasional bad scrape.

Occasionally, he would call. (Often on the mother’s birthday, but mostly just out of the blue.) But there had been no contact for a few years. The mother had reached out some time back only to be greeted by a disconnected phone.

The mother just happened to mention him last night. I was online at the time, so I Googled him. Initially, first and last name weren’t enough because he happens to share his name with a popular NFL player. So I plugged in his mother’s maiden name which, I had temporarily confused as his middle name in the searchbox. But it was enough.

Instantly, the first result was an obituary. From exactly three years ago. My jaw fell open as I read. Yes. It was him. I couldn’t speak. I must have had a look of horror on my face as the mother immediately began asking: “What? What’s wrong?”

I almost didn’t tell her.

Finally, I just blurted out, “J’s dead. Has been for three years.” She was instantly over my shoulder so I bumped up the page size so she could read.

She was devastated. I was devastated for her.

Frankly, I was surprised that he’d made it to 48. He lived more than a decade beyond what I ever thought he would. Even the mother had to concede that.

She called a few friends, none of whom knew anything. She called a cousin whom she has kept in touch with who said she knew he’d been in a crash but even she didn’t know he’d died.

She called a long outdated West Coast number for an aunt (the mother had been close with the whole family at one point but many have died and the rest have scattered). The Internet, to its credit, provided me with a current number.

They talked until well past 2 a.m.

The silver lining is that the mother felt better. She reconnected with an old friend and got all caught up. And for me, the best part is that image of a young J, dirty blond hair waving, blue eyes glinting, riding off into the sunset in his ‘Vette.

Happy travels, J.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Country Song

Left my sunglasses at home
And my wiperblade’s bent
Bank card’s layin’ on the dresser
And my money is spent.

That’s been my morning thus far. It made me chuckle a little bit because it sounded like a country song. Not that I plan to become Loretta Lynn anytime soon. (My intolerance of country music is well documented though there are a few exceptions.)

Unlike yesterday, I got a jump on today and made the bus without issue. Good thing considering that I had frost on the windows and had to scrape them. Since the windshield was just a tiny bit fogged up, I flipped on the wipers – only to discover that the passenger side was frozen in place. It promptly kicked itself loose, flipped over and proceeded to bend in the middle before I could stop it. (Hence the bent wiper.) Thank God there’s no rain forecast for today. I’ll need to pick poor Ladybird up a new blade!

And I would have sworn I had sunglasses in my pocket but apparently not. I also thought I’d put my ATM card away but that seems to be just as much of a fantasy as the sunglasses.
The mother was busy with more picture frames this morning. She had managed to find some small complementary frames to go with the picture of the restaurant and with its founding family. I’ll have to fix and redo the content. She has names partially cut off and it doesn’t look right.

Adding that to my list.

Monday, March 29, 2010


It seems like it was Friday night just five minutes ago ...

This weekend got away from me before I knew it. I spent a lot of time in the car this weekend, most it by myself. It was some fun Pearl-bonding time! And we had good weather for it for a change, all except for some vicious wind. It was warm and even sunny for parts of it, so I won't complain.

The mother and I are working out a plan of attack for not only Another D*mn House, but This D*mn House, too. Neither of us can stand the current state of things too much longer! It will be daunting to take all this on, but, I've only used one day of vacation this year, so I need to get on the schedule in the next month or so. It's going to be a very busy spring that's for sure.

And in the time that the mother was in the car with me, I've managed to create a monster. While I have only listened primarily to First Wave on Sirius/XM, I made the mistake of introducing the mother to one of the jazz channels. She was like a little kid in a candy store when I showed her how a touch of a button shows the artist and song title. She had a fit.

"That is too cool," she said. "I really like it. How much a month did you say that was?"

Uh-oh ...

Guess I'd better be off to do something to pay for it!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Ch-ch-changes Take Shape

I’m in a much better mood, today. And even Mother Nature is cooperating. While it’s back in the 30s (brrrr), the sun is shining again!

My office is completely packed up and I’ll be moving to my new spot later this morning. (In fact, a load of boxes just disappeared!)

While I’m a little sad to leave my comfortable little quiet place, and I’ll now have to trek a little farther to catch those awesome sunrises and sunsets, I’m still very excited about this change. (Yes, you read that correctly. The person who hates change is embracing it.) The best part is that I’m not really leaving. (That would be a tremendous change and one I’m not sure I’d want. I’m quite happy here.)

So, on to new adventures from a new vantage point!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Not A Vagrant

I guess because I have a job, I technically couldn't be subject to any existing vagrancy laws that may still be on the books. Even so, it's a strange feeling to find myself with not a single dollar in my wallet.

Luckily, I had change. And just enough -- with a dime to spare -- to get a cup of coffee and a donut on the way in. This, in spite of the fact that I'd intended to grab a few bucks from the bank en route to work. (I tried but the stupid ATM was down.)

I've been broke before. In fact, it wasn't a whole lot of years ago that I found myself amidst a very nasty financial struggle. Luckily, that's in the rearview mirror. I'm not wealthy by any stretch, but things are a whole lot easier than they used to be. (Finally. After more than 20 years of effort.) Words can't describe how grateful I am for that.

Instinctively reaching for cash, only to find none there, was a stark reminder of tougher times -- and of the daily struggles that so many others are experiencing now. I guess that's why I'm madder than ever at some of the craziest factions running loose in our society. I try to avoid politics in this venue, but I'm too p*ssed to be silent.

There isn't ENOUGH chaos that PUBLIC SERVANTS are inciting the masses to attack their colleagues? And an entire group of elected officials, unhappy with their political setbacks, are grinding government to a halt. On purpose. Like little 2-year-olds stamping their little feet on the floor 'cause they need to pout. It's disgusting.

What would happen at YOUR job if you just decided, "No. I'm not doing ANY of this today" and walked out? I know what would happen at mine. I'd be docked or fired. And that is EXACTLY what needs to be done in the U.S. Senate. They need to return yesterday's salaries IN FULL. And if they keep it up, they need to be FIRED!

Aw. Unhappy because things didn't go your way so you're just going to use your elective power in spite? How ADULT of you!

Can't be bothered to meet with MILITARY LEADERS who came from all points of the globe or discuss the fates of HOMELESS VETERANS and NUTRITION PROGRAMS FOR KIDS who might not otherwise eat this summer? FINE. Get the hell out and give the job to someone who WILL do it. Your worthless a**es aren't needed.

And to steal a line from that philosopher Forrest Gump, "That's all I have to say about that." Thanks for indulging me. I feel better!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Grass Is Greener

Over the weekend, I noticed that the grass is starting to come up in odd, uneven patches, both in the front and back yards. On Monday, I noticed how green it was starting to turn already.

And yesterday, something fell from the sky that should make yard maintenance a lot less challenging this summer. But more on that later …

I’ve decided that if I give up eating and sleeping, I have a fair chance at even coming close to doing all the things that need doing. I try not to even think much about the house right now as a result but it’s hard not to. I want to cry every time I go in the bathroom. And the kitchen? I can’t even have that conversation. I have neither the time nor the energy for it.

Right now I have to focus on the restaurant and on work.

I move to my new office on Friday morning and I’ve yet to put a single thing into a box. In fact, I still have three drawers to clean out! My assistant is going to help me box things up, so in between meeting a few pressing deadlines, I should be able to make a bit of progress today.

I have some more pictures and frames to work on for the restaurant before we go back this weekend. I also need to gather up some more hardware to take along. Turns out I didn’t have as varied a selection with me as I thought. And I’m not sure if the Easter weekend project is on or not. That’s supposed to be a discussion topic this weekend.

In the meantime, I’m trying to pace myself and prioritize.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

March 23

Going through family photos over the weekend, it was fun to look at pictures of my grandparents and some of their siblings at various stages of life. As children. As young adults. Wedding photos. In pictures with their own children. And finally, pictures of the people they were in my lifetime, looking the way I knew them.

Maybe that’s why today seems even sadder to me. When someone dies at the height of youth, that is the image you hold of them henceforth. Forever.

Today, my faux brother would be 45. It’s hard to even imagine him at that age. Would he be graying? Bald? Would he have packed on a few pounds or remained youthfully slim? Would he have gone back to college? What would he be doing today? I wonder about that sometimes.

Really my third cousin, our families jokingly referred to us as “the twins” though we were born to different parents, and almost four months to the day apart. Don’t misunderstand – I feel fortunate to have had him at all. And I am eternally grateful for those extra 15 years. (He more or less got a death sentence at age 7.) But 22 is so young. So young. He missed so much.

It’s been 23 years today since we last spoke. D*mn. How is that possible? Thankfully, I can still hear his voice – that memory hasn’t faded. I pray that it never does.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Where’s My Whirlpool?

Yesterday was the kind of day that had me wishing like crazy that we had a jetted tub.

The day started early, for a Sunday anyway. I was finishing up my adventures with pictures and gathering everything up to load the car. As I started closing up boxes, the mother began pulling things out of the woodwork. “This needs to go. So does that.”

It created a bit of unanticipated packing. Finally, it was done and then it came time to load the car. Luckily, the rain was pretty minor while I carted things out and the wind kicked up only a few times. (It was crappy and rainy and cool yesterday.) The drive up was uneventful. I was glad that it wasn’t heavy rain and that I had fixed Pearl’s wiper blade!

I would spend the next five hours hauling, hefting and hanging. We didn’t get nearly as much done as I’d hoped, due in part to the fact that we had to change plans a few times. Hanging mirrors, pictures and shelves isn’t as straightforward as say, painting and wallpapering. With paint and wallpaper there is neither discussion nor debate about where it goes. You just do it.

The mother was disappointed because some of her plans didn’t work out. We’ll just have to see what else she comes up with.

I didn’t really get any pictures, except some before as the afters are still in progress. We’ll be going up again this weekend, I’m sure, as we’ll need to complete the planning for the Easter bathroom renovation.

For now, I’m just hoping to make it through today.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Playing with Pictures

In some ways, it was like going to a crop (scrapbooking event). I got to play with pictures. I got to make new pictures look old and give new life (in the form of enlargements) to very old pictures. I got to cut and tape photos in place. Only instead of a photo album, these pictures are going into frames.
We were supposed to go to the restaurant today. But the mother didn’t feel well. And honestly, neither did I. It had been a busy week and while I did start trying to get things together last night, I was pretty tired and my efforts were half-hearted as a result. Then, about 11 p.m., the mother springs on me that “we need pictures.” Oh, you mean the pictures I’ve only been asking you about FOR THREE FREAKIN’ WEEKS?! The ones that every time I would ask about you would say, “I don’t know what I’m doing with pictures yet.?”

Yes. Those pictures. I could have killed her.
I sent some pictures to Walgreens very late last night (or early this morning in a few cases). Some of those I turned into sepia versions today. Here I was rushing around this morning (picking up meds for Toby, working with these d*mn pictures and trying to make lists so we didn’t leave anything behind) and the mother had decided not to go.

This was a relief. I feel like I got a little time to breathe. Last night, I ran Ladybird through an auto carwash, came home and buffed her down, took Pearl to a DIY carwash and buffed her down and then went and bought some new wiperblades for Pearl. (Driving out of the carwash bay, I got a subtle reminder in the form of a frayed blade dragging across the windshield.) So, by the time I actually sat down to eat dinner last night, I was a little tired.

The rain isn’t here yet, but it’s coming, so I made sure I got that blade replaced. I did that this afternoon. I had bought one for the driver’s side, too, but didn’t change it because when I looked at the current one, it still seemed in good shape.

I also started seeing which photos look best in which frames. That, and picking out a few other assorted photos, will be part of this evening’s activities. I’ll also have to make sure that I have all my tools and hardware ready to go I think I’ll be much less likely to forget anything now, too, so that’s good news.

It also means I get to relax a little bit. And that is an activity that is highly underrated!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Count Me Out

If you know me, or even if you’ve just caught the blog with some regularity, you know that I hate repeating myself. I despise doing double work.

Well, folks, I’m a little annoyed that our government is asking me to – no, make that requiring me BY LAW – to do just that. And I’m not happy. And I think we all know that when I’m not happy with a company or in this case, the powers that be, I blog about it.
But first, the back story.

Most people got the 2010 U.S. Census form in the mail last week. We did, too. However, I couldn’t understand why as I had already filled this out and mailed it more than a month ago! And I even told THE CENSUS BUREAU GUY WHO CAME TO MY HOUSE just days later that yes, I’d returned it already.

Yes, that’s right. I filled out this incredibly detailed form (and in something of a delirium as I was suffering from a bug at the time) mailed it back and was awakened from a feverish stupor by someone beating the front door down. I stumbled to the door where I was greeted by a huge black man.

“Yes?” I croaked without unlocking the storm door. He introduced himself as someone from the U.S. Census Bureau. He flashed an ID and produced a business card. At this point, I opened the door and took the card.

“I already filled that thing out and mailed it back,” I said. “And I’ll tell you, I think that thing goes a little too far.”

He smiled and nodded. “We hear that a lot but there’s a reason for everything that’s asked. And we haven’t received your form.”

“Well, I mailed it already. That’s time in my life I can’t get back and I’m not about to go through all that again. Besides, I’m sick right now. So, do whatever you must.”

He thanks me but then says someone will be back if they don’t receive it. Fine. Whatever. I close the door and go back to being ill. That was five or six weeks ago. I thought that was the end of it. But then, the census form arrived last week. WTF?!

What I’ve learned is that while the form I filled out previously which is owned and marked as such as a product of the U.S. Census Bureau, it is NOT the census! Instead, it’s the American Community Survey. Now wait a minute … the WHAT?! The ACS, a previous “long form” version of the census form, being circulated to 3 million American households. Jeez. How lucky did we get? Look at this form and tell me that at least some of this information isn’t intrusive. Go on. And I’m a political liberal!

In the first place, $14 billion is a hell of a lot of money to spend just to count people. And in the second place, no wonder it costs so much when you’re sending out not one BUT TWO FORMS that ask some of the same information! Why can’t they just get the number of people off the form I ALREADY SENT THEM? It all supposedly went to the d*mn Census Bureau! And third, when the hell did SOME of that information become YOUR business?! I used to think the IRS was the most pain-in-the-*ss government agency. I guess not.

Apparently, I’m not the only person who questioned the legitimacy. Check out this headline.

I also found out that you are legally obligated to fill these things out. Really? Yep. And the fine associated with not doing so or doing so falsely just got raised from $200 to in excess of $5,000.
Well, I know we need to be counted. No argument there. But that other thing? I will NEVER EVER NEVER fill another one of those out again. Fine me. Jail me. Kill me. It ain’t gonna happen.

And if they didn’t get the one I already filled out? Tough.

No one is coming in my house and asking me those questions either. I mean, in this day and age, strange people coming in your home asking probing questions. Is that even smart?

Count me out.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Bridget and Mary

For most of my life, I’ve known about Bridget. She was my mother’s mother’s mother’s mother.

She was, by all accounts, a tiny fearless woman. In almost every story I’ve ever heard about her, she had a quote that began, “By hell …” spoken with a strong Irish brogue. Such is life when you grow up in a house with a picture of John Kennedy on the wall, years after his death.

I know Bridget’s story almost as well as my own. Born in County Mayo, Ireland, c. 1850. I shared what I know about her tragic childhood in this post last year.

Bridget’s granddaughter, my grandmother, would laugh when she would flip my brown hair forward to reveal the deep red that lies beneath it. “Your Irish roots are showing,” she would tell me. “Mine were the same way once.” I would marvel at that as I’d only ever known her to have a thick headful of gray/white hair.

My point is this: I’ve known about my maternal Irish heritage pretty much since Day One. But paternal Irish roots? Those are a relatively new development. But they’re there, just the same. And that story in America is more than a century older. It’s so old I can’t track it without having a pedigree chart in front of me!

The family lore is that Mary, an Irish Protestant, came to the United States in the early 1700s as an indentured servant. As luck would have it, she came across another Irishman, this one a Catholic, when he arrived in America, and was brought, sick with a fever, to the house where she worked. Mary nursed him to back to health.

Her fellow Irishman was grateful. So grateful, he bought her out of servitude and married her.

He and their sons would fight in the Revolutionary War. (And survive, thankfully.) One of their daughters would marry the American-born son of a Scotsman. That couple would, fortunately, have a child, before the young husband was brutally murdered by a Tory sympathizer somewhere around 1781.

That only child would come with his mother and her new husband to Illinois. And a little less than two centuries later, Mary’s great-great-great-great-grandson would marry Bridget’s great-granddaughter.

As a result, I sit here today before this computer typing this story.

Thank you, Bridget, for enduring a lifetime of tragedy so that I may know joy. Thank you, Mary, for working so hard and for having the compassion to save a life that, together with you, played an integral piece in the puzzle that is me. I’m proud to have your lives inextricably intertwined with my own.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Behind Schedule

You know I’ve been busy when both a gadget and a tool – and a power tool at that – are in my home for more than 5 minutes, still boxed. So yes, I’m behind on a few reviews.

In fact, I’m behind on almost everything. (My Google Reader remains in the triple digits but I’m trying to catch up with most of you. Honest.)

I did manage to get a little work done on the bathroom walls. Stripping them proved to be a real bear, but now I’m skim-coating again and it feels good. Now that the weather is starting to warm up, maybe I’ll be able to get my trim and quarter-round cut for in there soon. Wouldn’t that be fabulous.

I’ve almost forgotten what progress is like.

Monday, March 15, 2010

The Mystery Project Revealed

The weekend was damp, gray and – compared to normal temps for this time of year – cold. It gave me the perfect excuse to stay inside and finish a long-running project.

So, if you take some of these… (roughly 20 feet worth)
And add them to this …

What do you get? Maybe, you end up with one of these ...
It’s a new “daily specials” board for my godparents’ restaurant. It’s both magnetic and dry-erase. Currently, they are using a frameless 2x3 piece of dry erase. It looks cheesy!

This project was a lot more difficult than I anticipated for two reasons. First, I didn’t want the board to get too heavy. Second, I would need to enclose it both front and back because at least part of the back will be visible at any given time. (The board lives on an easel. We already got them a nice easel. Can’t wait to see the two pieces together!)

Finding fluted trim that wasn’t 6 inches wide was tough. Even this trim was wider than I wanted initially but I bought what I could find. It also needed to be wide enough to hold the corner rosettes. So, again, this trim was a compromise. Here’s what I did:

· I cut the horizontal boards 2 inches wider than the dry-erase surface so that once I attached the vertical boards, I didn’t use up as much writing space.
· I attached the horizontal and vertical boards for the front first to each other using corner brackets. Then, I used LiquidNails to attach the boards to the dry-erase board. (I had removed those ugly plastic corner and the board laid nicely inside the gaps.)
· Then, I took strips of 11/16-inch square trim and ran it along the back of each front piece, gluing them in place with LiquidNails.
· Then I took the horizontal and vertical boards for the back and screwed those into the trim pieces, effectively connecting front and back boards using #4x3/4-inch wood screws.
· After caulking all the gaps, I glued the rosettes to the front corners.

Isn't it pretty? It still needs a bit of touch-up paint (all of the painting is the mother's handiwork)and then it will be ready for delivery!

While this board is going to be used in a commercial setting, this is something you could do for your home or office, too. I’m thinking about doing one for my new office space! Notice I said thinking … I’m still smarting from all of the effort that went into this bad boy!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Contest I Won’t Be Entering

I'm a Type-A, competitive person. I thrive on a little friendly competition and, if there's an instance where it happens to be a chance to show up someone who's a bit on the cocky side, count me in.

I love to win, but I don't have to. I think we all know people who have to win and frankly, I could live without them.

The other thing about winning is that sometimes it's good to know up front when you shouldn't bother. I'm smart enough though to know when I'm bested and when I should just leave things alone. That's the case with this contest that HGTV is sponsoring in search of The All-American Handyman/Handywoman. But, a sincere thanks to those of you who have suggested it to me. I really appreciate your confidence! Honest, I do.

I'm sure there are plenty of people out there who are much more qualified than I am based not only on their DIY skills, but also their ability to host a TV show. Me? I'm still holding out for YOUR D*mn House -- after, of course, I hit Powerball.

Besides, look at that application! I don't think there are more than two or three people on the planet who have THAT much information about me and I'd prefer to keep it that way.

So, may the best Handyman/Handywoman win!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

I Can Finally Explain

Finally … I can talk about just what I was alluding to here!

Part of what’s kept me so silent (not to mention busy) lately is that I’m getting a new job. The beauty is that I’m not leaving my company. Nope. No starting over! I’m not even moving to a different floor – just to the opposite side of the one I’m on now. And, at least initially, I’m not even going to be doing anything all that different from what I’ve been doing the past few months.

So, it’s both a big change … and yet it’s not. It’s not a promotion exactly, more of a lateral move, but one that has a tremendous potential to advance. After kind of idling in park for a while, I think it’s exactly what I need.

It would be an understatement to say I’m excited about this. And it would be an equal understatement to say I’m humbled and gratified by the incredible reception I’ve already received from my future groupmates even though I’m not fully there yet. And to have been asked for … well, that’s been a little heady to say the least!

Where work is concerned, my ego has been anorexic for quite a long time. But in the past few weeks, it has been overfed with a menu of some of the most lavish and succulent dishes you can imagine. And it’s been wonderful!

I’m happier than I’ve been in a long time. Now, it’s time to get to work living up to all the hype.

Friday, March 12, 2010

The Prodigal Returns

I awoke in the dark.

Where am I? What day is it? What time is it? These questions all blew through my mind in rapid succession as I struggled to make the leap from sleep to consciousness.

It’s no wonder that I’m so slow to come ‘round. I’ve been so tired the past several days that I’ve been coming in, having dinner, maybe doing a few things and then falling into bed for a few hours. Then I get up, do a few things for 90 minutes to 2 hours and returning to bed.

Works been mercilessly busy – and that’s a very good thing. It just makes for an extremely tired me. And the weather hasn’t helped much. We’ve gone from sunny and beautiful to rain, to sunny and cooler, to cloudy and cooler still, to a soggy weekend on tap with highs between 45 and 50.

So, I haven’t done much beyond work, eat and sleep and that doesn’t make for much to share. I’ll be better over the next few days though as I catch up not only this blog but on all of yours. And I even have a few stories to tell.

The good news is that it’s Friday. The bad news is that the only person who ever had all of their work done by Friday was Robinson Crusoe.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Not the Post I'd Planned

As I drove to the depot this morning, I passed an older black lady wearing three hats and a trench coat. I recognized her as the homeless lady who used to camp out at an abandoned gas station on the main drag. (Apparently, police had finally discouraged her from staying there.) I wondered where she had managed to stay for the winter.

The bus station is down the street and within view of a mission that gives out food – serving it on-site – and clothing. (I’ve taken things there before and weeks later seen someone on the street wearing something that looked eerily familiar …)

Sometimes, the homeless hole up inside the bus station, waiting for the mission to open. Or, some ride the buses all day. (There’s one man that we call Cart Man, because he lugs around a folding cart of belongings, covered with a tarp. He has this long pole-like device that resembles a tree trimmer stuffed inside and sticking out. Many of the drivers will use that as an excuse to not pick him up, for fear that it could be used as a weapon.)

It sounds cruel and I used to think it was but many of these people, in addition to having nowhere to live, are mentally unstable. This problem is often exacerbated by alcohol. The problem is, you never know when one of them will snap and an otherwise routine bus ride will turn violent.

A driver was attacked a few months ago and luckily, more shaken up than seriously injured. She was only spared though because another driver arrived on the scene. The rule of thumb is that you don’t want to be on the bus station lot or near it, after dark. And you NEVER want to be there alone.

Joe, a guy who used to ride my bus, is often at the station when I arrive. He was there this morning and visibly disturbed. He seems like a really nice guy and unlike many of my fellow bus passengers, he regularly speaks to the homeless. He has even helped some out on occasion. I think this is because he works in a railyard where some of the homeless find at least temporary employment so he gets to know some of them on a personal level.

Today though, he was obviously avoiding them.

“I guess you can’t be nice to some people without worrying that they’ll end up on your doorstep,” he said, explaining that some of the men had been trying to follow him home. He fears that, because they know he is at work during the day, if they find out where he lives, they might break into his house.

It broke my heart to see him so fearful. I told him that if he is that concerned, he should at least notify the transit officials and let local law enforcement know there may be strange people around his house. I’m not sure what you can really do about it as long as there have been no laws broken but it seems like something that the proper authorities should be alerted to.

It further breaks my heart that, in the interest of our own safety, we have to be so cautions, so suspicious and appear to be callous to the plight of others. It breaks my heart even more that there are more than 3 million people in this country (estimated) who have no home. These statistics didn’t make me feel any better:

· 35% of people experiencing homelessness are families with children, the fastest growing homeless population.
· About one-fifth are U.S. military veterans
· 25% are children under the age of 18
· 30% have experienced domestic violence
· and 20-25% suffer from mental illness.

I'm a do-er, a solutions person --I hate situations where I don’t know what to do. Luckily, I found out that there are several ways I can help. The National Coalition for the Homeless offers these suggestions. I’ll be taking them to heart. If you’re able, I hope that you will, too.

It’s better than doing what many of us do every day to end homelessness: nothing.

Monday, March 8, 2010

On Tap

There’s a chill in the air, but at 40, which is warmer than many of the high temps for the days lately, it doesn’t feel that bad.

I had hoped I’d have mystery project photos to share but Mother Nature was playing games with me yesterday afternoon. The minute I got set up outside, it started to rain. Not hard, but enough to get everything wet so I moved my project and the blanket I had laid it on out of the way.

I did this three times during the course of an hour, spending more time moving my gear than working on the project. I finally set up shop under the carport but then it really started to rain and even there I couldn’t escape getting wet so I had yet another delay.

After that, the sun came out and pretty much stayed out until sunset. And as the sun sank, I managed to get the project into a single solid piece. I still have to do some caulking and add a decorative touch though before it’s officially ready for a reveal. Stay tuned.

I also recently bought a steam mop. With the entire upstairs void of carpet, except for a few throw rugs, it seemed like a good investment to handle cleaning our mix of hardwood, laminate and porcelain tile. Stay tuned for a review on that, too.

And … I also unpacked the Craftsman Auto Hammer I won a few weeks ago. I know, I know. I need to take it out of the box and for a test drive. Rest assured that with longer days coming (starting next weekend) and spring just around the corner, I promise I will be doing just that.

Watch for that review!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

A Remarketing Plan?

At This D*mn House, we love finding additional or alternate uses for things. So, when I spied this Case Logic CD player holster/fanny pack yesterday at Tuesday Mornings, I had to consider it for just a second.

At $3.99, it’s quite the bargain but … who carries around a portable CD player anymore? I’ve never even owned one and, thanks to the iPod, never will. What could I possibly want with this?
I took it out of the box and was happy to discover that it is thick neoprene, much like the Samsonite sleeve I use on my laptop. Though plastic, the belt buckle seemed sturdy enough. The pocket was generous and the velcro closure, strong. Hmmmm.

Yes, this just might work for … my digital camera!

I’m one of those folks who railed against getting a digital camera the size of a postage stamp, once I’d finally made the leap to digital. I’m on my second Canon Powershot (an SX110 this time) and both of my cameras, while infinitely smaller and lighter than their film-based predecessor, are chunky. I’ve never trusted the provided hand straps and always live in fear of dropping my camera when I’m moving around with it.

I currently use a small, well-padded eBag to store my camera and slip inside my workbag. On days though when I’m out and about walking (taking pictures for my soon to be revived historical building posts) this is not very convenient. Nor is trying to hang onto the camera at events, both personal and for work, in between shots or in between locations.

So, I think this antiquated storage solution will be just the ticket! There is even enough space that I could toss in a pair of spare batteries (in a little velvet drawstring bag). Hey, Case Logic, maybe you might want to remarket this product …

Poor Neglected Little Blog

It's all I can do lately to post. I can't bear to think about how far behind I am on my reading, so I will apologize to you, whom I follow.

We've been out running around which has worn me down. I was going to work on the mystery project earlier but went to bed instead. I'm up again now because the mother is sick. Hoping it's not a flu and not something I can catch. Ugh.

I'd hoped we would go to the restaurant today and unload some of the many things that have taken over my house but I guess that's not to be.

The good news is that it was a gorgeous day and I got to be out to enjoy it. Maybe today (supposedly another nice day, just with less sun) I might get some trim boards cut. It will be the first time I've had a chance to work outside in a good long while when it's pleasant.

Here's hoping later today that I can wrap up the mystery project.

Friday, March 5, 2010

False Bravado

I closed our local Lowe’s last night as my mystery project is turning out to be a little more difficult than I anticipated.

I got home a bit later as I stopped by a downtown book store where my company was holding a little after-hours gathering. Me+bookstore+trouble so it was a good thing I only had about 30 minutes before I had to hustle out to catch the last bus of the day out of downtown.

I’m not sure then what possessed me to start trying to build the little project last night. Maybe false bravado led me to believe I’d be done in no time. As a result, I spent the evening on the kitchen floor (the only open area big enough to work on it in) listening to To Have and Have Not, a Bogey/Bacall favorite of mine.

Around 8:30, I discovered that I needed some trim pieces to shore up what I was doing. Luckily, I’ve spent enough time in the molding sections of hardware stores to know what my options are. I knew something that seemed just perfect for my needs: a trim piece that is a solid 11/16” square. Just the ticket.

By the time I got shoes and coat on, gathered keys and wallet actually got to Lowe’s it was 8:50. I mistakenly believed they were open ‘til 10. Nope – just 9! This Lowe’s is laid out bass-ackwards to the one at Hardware Heaven that I normally frequent and I’ve still not made that adjustment so it took a minute to get my bearings. And the clock was ticking.

I found my trim pieces and, after a few failed attempts, located the aisle with the selection of wood screws. In my haste, I didn’t think out my plan and grabbed screws that I would later regret.

So, the good news is I actually STARTED a project. The bad news is I’ve yet to finish it! I’ve got to get it in gear though because I am pretty sure that we’re taking a trip up to the restaurant on Sunday. (MMMMmmm – turkey and havarti with homemade sweet potato chips await me. I guess I don’t need more motivation than that to knock this job out!)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

All’s Well That Ends … Better

The godmother called last night to report that she had picked up the Dream Vanity! It exists and has safely arrived at Another D*mn House. Whew! That’s one saga I really and truly hope is over.

That said, it’s still in the box. I told her to at least open a corner and make sure it really is the real deal. They could have given her anything! Especially, considering that she ended up getting MORE discount. Yes, she and the mother (better known as the Bargainator) are truly related. She got some kind of offer to get $25 off a purchase of a certain amount. This brought the final total of discount to $105! (Which means the $58 vanity for the men’s room was FREE and the final price for the ladies’ room vanity was just over $250 – a miracle considering that the next cheapest thing I could find was nearly three times that much.)

Here’s hoping that it looks as good as we all seem to think it’s going to. That project will be starting soon but there’s paint and wallpaper to get done first AND a floor to pick out and install. I’m tired just thinking about it.

And speaking of endings, the final episode of Faces of America aired last night. (It’s posted online today.) And I understand Netflix is also offering the series, so if you subscribe, DEFINITELY check it out. I can't heap enough praise on this production.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

What's That, Up in the Sky?!

"But soft! What light through yonder window breaks?
It is the East, and Juliet is the sun!”
– William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet

I’m happy to report that Juliet is alive and well and shining in St. Louis. FINALLY! You know that winter has gone on entirely too long when you open the door, see the rising sun, and can’t stifle a loud, “YAY!”

For a morning that reflects the gradually warming temperatures (closer to 30 than 20 for a change), I was surprised to find Ladybird’s windows frosted and find the bus to be freeeeee-zing. In fact, I’m still cold and am debating getting a cappuccino and trying in earnest to talk myself into oatmeal as a warming device instead. (Trying to lose the calories associated with this seasonal addiction.)

I’m equally happy to report that the paint on those trim pieces and rosettes is now dry. After a few stops tonight, maybe I’ll actually assemble something once I get home and maybe, just maybe, this blog will resemble something that looks like a DIY blog for a change…

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

A Taz Update

My inbox was flooded this morning so I didn’t immediately notice the email from Taz’s mama. I always am quick to open these as I love getting updates on this little girl whom fate saw fit to bring to This D*mn House last summer.

Taz’s mama shared a quick update: "She is forever sitting on my husband’s lap…..which is where she usually is when I come home from work. Once I get home, she follows me all over the place and when I settle down to watch TV she is in my TV room with me. She loves her window seat especially since we have a little bunny that is living under one of our bushes…..she is amazed by the bunny. She is very healthy…..eats, poops, pees and sleeps…….and plays like crazy. She keeps us laughing all the time.”

Just further proof to me that Taz was truly sent! I wish she had sent a photo. Bet that little girl is getting big! Taz’s mama also sent me the following which I thought was hilarious so I’m sharing it, too, as I know that the vast majority of you have furry family members.

The following was found posted very low on a refrigerator door:

Dear Dog and Cat --
· The dishes with the paw prints are yours and contain your food. The other dishes are mine and contain my food. Placing a paw print in the middle of my plate and food does not stake a claim for it becoming your food and dish, nor do I find that aesthetically pleasing in the slightest.
· The stairway was not designed by NASCAR and is not a racetrack. Racing me to the bottom is not the object. Tripping me doesn't help because I fall faster than you can run.
· I cannot buy anything bigger than a king-sized bed. I am very sorry about this. Do not think I will continue sleeping on the couch to ensure your comfort, however. Dogs and cats can actually curl up in a ball when they sleep. It is not necessary to sleep perpendicular to each other, stretched out to the fullest extent possible. I also know that sticking tails straight out and having tongues hanging out on the other end to maximize space is nothing but sarcasm.
· For the last time, there is no secret exit from the bathroom! If, by some miracle, I beat you there and manage to get the door shut, it is not necessary to claw, whine, meow, and try to turn the knob or get your paw under the edge in an attempt to open the door. I must exit through the same door I entered. Also, I have been using the bathroom on my own for years - canine/feline attendance is not required.
· The proper order for kissing is: Kiss me first, and then go smell the other dog or cat's butt. I cannot stress this enough.
· Finally, in fairness, dear pets, I have posted the following message on the front door:

1. They live here. You don't.
2. If you don't want their hair on your clothes, stay off the furniture. That's why they call it 'fur'-niture.
3. I like my pets a lot better than I like most people.
4. To you, they are animals. To me, they are adopted sons/daughters who are short, hairy, walk on all fours and don't speak clearly.

More Vanity Insanity

If you've been following the saga of the Dream Vanity, or lack thereof, you're in need of another update.

My godmother went to Lowe's last week fully intending to pick up the "big brother" of the Dream Vanity after I had been told the Friday before that the Dream model was discontinued and was no longer available. I'd been dealing with a manager who agreed to give me a deal on the bigger unit for all the confusion AND who was not present when my godmother went to claim the consolation vanity.

When she explained the situation to the youngster who was on duty, he quickly told her that what the manager had said wasn't exactly right. "They aren't unavailable," he said. "They're just a little harder to come by."

Apparently, the manager was full of crap when he said he'd checked all over. Within five minutes, the youngster on duty had located 29 of them in a warehouse in Rockford, Ill.! He said he'd order one for her and it would be in in about a week. She was ecstatic.

When she called with this news, I was skeptical. I knew that the placement of the phone call telling her that they could not, in fact, get this vanity was just a matter of time. But apparently, I was wrong!

On Saturday, she got the call that the vanity was now in the store, ready for pick-up.

I'm still not sure that I believe it -- or that I will until I hear that she has picked it up and ensured that it is indeed the Dream Vanity. That's still to come. Here's hoping that this is what I will one day see, all ready to be installed in the ladies' room.

The further beauty of this story is that if she did, in fact, score the Dream Vanity, she scored it at a seriously discounted price. Not only did they honor the original discount I secured with the manager, but I gave her a Lowe’s coupon to use. All in all, she saved $80.

That’s just about enough money to get a cut and a color for all the gray this little episode has put on my head!

Monday, March 1, 2010

What Am I Up to Now?

It got up to 47 degrees yesterday and I took advantage of the sunny afternoon to embark on a new project. It’s another one on the list of things for Another Damn House.

This used to be three 7-foot boards – until I worked out a design and turned them into four 38-inch and four 21.75-inch boards respectively.

I fully expect that these boards – along with four small bullseye rosettes (not pictured) – will have paint on them by the time I get home tonight. But then what will happen to them?

Just wait and see! While the application for this project is a commercial one, it’s something you could do for your house (if so inclined) and something I’m thinking about doing in my own office.

Hint: If you look closely at one of the photos in this post, you might see some familiar materials. This project though, while similar, will be very, very different.

Stay tuned …

The Kindness of Semi-Strangers

It didn’t occur to me until I pulled Ladybird onto the bus station lot: It’s March 1. A whole new month. Official start of spring just a few weeks away. Less than two weeks until daylight saving time. All good.

All except I forgot to get a March bus pass over the weekend. I hurriedly pulled out my change and pulled out $2. I added a quarter as I couldn’t remember if it was still $2 or gone up to $2.25. As I got out of the car one of my fellow bus-riders, Christine, emerged from her car. I asked her. She confirmed that it was $2.

Because I ride all the time and because I usually have a pass, she looked at me quizzically. “I forgot to pick one up,” I explained. “I will have to get one tonight.”

As I spoke, she began rifling through her bag. “Here,” she said suddenly, presenting me with a one-use pass. “I bought a bunch of these back when I had to go out to Barnes-Jewish.”

Thanks, I said and started to hand her my change. Better she get it than the bus.

“Oh no,” she responded, waving my hand away. “Just take it. I won’t use it.”

I don’t know her last name or where she works. I know what kind of car she drives and where she prefers to park it on the lot and when she rides the bus and where she rides it to. Beyond that, I don’t really know this lady.

It’s amazing how far little things like that can go toward restoring your faith in humanity. It’s not a big thing like solving world hunger or saving a life, but it matters just the same. So, thanks Christine. What a great way to start out the week!

I can’t help but think if everyone managed to do something like it every day, the world would be a tremendously better place. This got me thinking. It's not an original idea, but since it IS a new month, wouldn't it be great if I could do something to push random acts of kindness along? So I'm doing it -- and hoping you'll help.

I'm challenging each and every one of you reading this to CONSCIOUSLY do something, ANYTHING to help someone out EVERY DAY this month. It doesn't have to be big. It just requires you do something selfless, expecting nothing in return.

This won't be deviating from the norm for some of you, but if that's the case, do something you might not WANT to do, that might be extra inconvenient. And do it even if you already know the other person isn't even going to say "thanks."

Want to take the challenge? Leave me a comment below. At the end of the month, see if you don't feel better for having done it!