Monday, May 31, 2010

The Marathon Happens

I'm sitting here covered in paint, sticky from both wallpaper stripper and wallpaper glue and trying to convince myself to get going because the marathon resumes in less than 8 hours.

We weren't entirely sure if the marathon was back on again today or not until mid-morning. By the time I loaded the car and made the trip, it was 12:30. We worked until nearly 11 p.m. During that time, we got both bathrooms under way. While we worked inside, a lot of my family worked outside, power-washing and starting to paint the porch which goes all the way around the building. Thank God it didn't rain.

I'll be so happy to get this done! Just getting to see the first phases of everything is exciting. I hope to have some "before and afters" tomorrow night!

Hope everyone is having a great holiday weekend.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

A Screeching Halt

I almost had everything all ready to go when a voicemail message irrevocably changed my weekend plans.

It seems family circumstances have canceled the renovation plans for now. (Everyone's OK, just not able to do some of the needed tasks.) So, it would seem that I got a break today. And, I might even be able to get something done around here. It's just a little hard to shift gears as I was all set to do something else. Now I just need to regroup and refocus.

After all, there is that lawn that's threatening a take-over. Of course, the mother doesn't want me doing it with staples in my head. I may try to get out there a little closer to sundown as the doctor had recommended since it is in some desperate need to be sure!

For now, maybe I'll go out and sand a few cabinet doors. There's a project that, like so many others around here, has fallen off the radar screen for far too long!

Friday, May 28, 2010

Two Words: PAINT SALE!

If it's Memorial Day weekend, you can usually count on two things: lots of flags and a paint sale at The Home Depot.

That's right! Get $5 off a gallon or $20 off a five-gallon bucket of Behr or Glidden paint now through Monday. (Some brands and styles are not included. Make sure you read the list in the link to be sure! That link can also get you to the site to submit your rebate online.)

In between all of the activity, I know that both This D*mn House and Another D*mn House will be taking advantage of this. We love Behr paint. I'm a big fan of their primer and paint in one, an offering that used to only be available in exterior selections. No more -- it now includes interior, too!

Glidden is good paint, too. Glidden is what was initially used some 20 years ago when This D*mn House was first transformed from a white house to a gray one. For its second painting several years later, we made the mistake of 1) going to a lighter gray and 2) using Sears' Weatherbeater. It barely held up a year and began to look as though we were becoming a white house again!

And, since it sounds like it's going to be beautiful weather around most of the country for this holiday weekend (drastic change for us as it usually pours), you've probably got something that needs painting ...

The Checklist

My godmother is a spaz so I'm not sure if all the stuff is actually there or not. I do know that some things were delivered yesterday that sound vaguely familiar. I won't know for sure until I get there this afternoon.

Today, I plan to start demoing bathrooms at the restaurant. Ideally, closing one of them. (We'll have to see if that's a workable arrangement through tomorrow's business day.) I've had a running to-do list and to-pack/take list for weeks and I'm slowly ticking things down as we get closer to the start of the Marathon Memorial Day Makeover. That's what I'm calling it.
  • Find wallpapering tools. Check.
  • Find flooring installation kit. Check.
  • Pack trash bags, drop cloths, disposable gloves. Check.
  • Gather up paint supplies and hand tools. Check.
  • Locate ultra-wicked scraper (that I used in our bathroom). Check.
  • Put together in box: wallpaper paste, paint remover, wallpaper remover gel. Check.
  • Fuel up Pearl (since gas is 23 cents a gallon cheaper over the river). Check.
  • Make sure that we have other basics (straight edge, decent scissors or a cutter, pen for marking) etc. Check.
That's just the short version. I have a longer version for tomorrow when I'll be hauling power tools in prep for the flooring adventure which I expect to start on Sunday. It's no wonder then that I can't get that one song line from Smokey and the Bandit out of my head: "We've got a long way to go and a short time to get there..."

It's going to be a loooong weekend.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

History Corrects Itself

In a story-changing shocker, the mother called me with news as I was leaving work yesterday.
My godmother had called. The special-order flooring for this weekend’s marathon project was not in –and it apparently wasn’t coming in. Great. Now what?

But then, in the very next sentence, the mother tells me that the godmother said Home Depot will work with her. They will give her any floor they have in stock that she wants. She wanted me to meet her there. So, we did. I wasn't going to abandon her mid-stream.

She found one. Oddly enough, it was a DuPont cherry model that we had looked at initially. Hats off to Ted in the flooring department who patiently worked through the conversion. And further kudos because he is having the floor delivered (along with the baseboard, chair rail and a new commode that she bought last night.)

It’s all supposed to arrive this afternoon. So, we’ll see if it shows up, and if it shows up correctly. If it does, I’ll stand down from my prior Home Depot criticism. It’s good to see a company making good when they – or in this case, one of their suppliers – screws things up.

But, based on my experience of three years ago, AND this one, I’ll stand by the caveat from my previous post: DON’T BUY SPECIAL ORDER FLOORING or, if you do, make sure that your purchase is made at least a month before you plan to use it. Six weeks might even be a better rule of thumb.

That should give plenty of time to work through any issues in getting the choice flooring or to develop an alternate plan with another choice and still meet a targeted deadline. I know this is a rule I will never violate again!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

History Repeats Itself

Almost exactly three years ago, I was putting laminate down in the livingroom and diningroom. The mother and I had spent forever picking out a kind we liked and then, because it was special order, we had to wait almost 10 days to get it.

We had company coming in from out of town on Memorial Day so there was a very clear deadline in place.

I carefully built in the two days that the flooring would need to just sit inside the house to acclimate when determining when to start my vacation. As it turned out, it didn’t matter.
The flooring manufacturer had changed locking styles – and Home Depot had sold me both kinds. Mind you, these two kinds would NOT lock to each other. Sadly, I discovered this as my project wound down – and on a Saturday. “You’ll have to call someone on Monday,” the clerk told me on the phone.

Great. The rest of Saturday and now Sunday wasted. On Monday, the news wasn’t much better. “You’ll have to wait 10 days,” the flooring guy told me, denying repeatedly that the manufacturer had changed locking styles. In 10 days, my guests would be gone, my vacation long over.

I called the manufacturer after a Google search turned up a flooring trade mag article about the locking style change. “Why yes,” said the manufacturer. “We did that in February.” February. A full two months before I even BOUGHT my floor! And, if someone had told me this, I would have opted for the other contender – a Pergo from Lowe’s.

But no one told me. In fact, they were acting like the change hadn’t even happened. That was three years ago.

So, it was with some trepidation that I went with my godmother to Home Depot last week – and special-ordered flooring. Flooring for the great holiday weekend double bathroom redo marathon.

The 2007 incident remained clear in my mind. So clear, that when the flooring guy said it would be in “in about 10 days” I called him on it. “The sign says 7-day delivery,” I said.

“Well, give or take,” he said. With this project, there is no room for give or take. This is why I had cautioned my godmother (whom I love dearly but who is the absolute queen of procrastinators) NOT to wait until less than two weeks out to attempt this. She didn’t heed my warning.

“Oh, it will be here,” floorman insisted. Really? Forgive me if I don’t believe you. So I pushed back.

We patiently sat for 10-15 minutes through a series of calls which ended with him saying that the warehouse “had plenty in stock,” and that it usually goes out “within a day or two of the order” and so it “should arrive by Tuesday.” Tuesday. That was yesterday.

And in the words of the great Yogi Berra, it was “deju vu all over again.”

When I talked to my godmother last night she was awaiting a call-back from Home Depot. “They said my flooring won’t be in until June 1,” she said. “I told them that was NOT acceptable.” June 1. As in NEXT TUESDAY! Next Tuesday, when the floor is already supposed to be installed and the restaurant reopens.

Though it inconvenienced me greatly, in 2007 I was able to get my needed flooring within a matter of days and get it down within hours of my guests’ arrival. It really didn’t have to be that way.

To their credit, the manufacturer gave me a rebate – about 15 percent – of which Home Depot promptly deducted their commission! I’ve still never forgiven them for that. And this experience isn’t exactly doing anything to fix that.

I don’t know yet how this is all going to shake out or what impact it will ultimately have on this weekend’s plans. But, the moral of the story is this:
NEVER, NEVER, NEVER buy special-order flooring – not at Home Depot -- unless you have at least a month before you plan to have it down. And even then, I’d still advise buying “in stock” if you can.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

June 1

That’s the day the staples come out. They get to stay in for a whole 10 days.

I had to go for a “wound check” yesterday. All is well. I’m advised to “keep doing whatever you’re doing.” I’ll give all of you some credit for that. Thanks for the many well wishes. They’re working!

At work, I told the story again and again. I’d forgotten how convenient a sandwich board might be in recounting the situation.

It was fun to watch various people respond. Some of their efforts to not laugh made me laugh. I mean, it is funny. As one of my colleagues pointed out, “You manage to do all of this stuff around your house and you don’t get hurt. You try to give your cat a pill and you nearly get killed.”

My boss was appalled and sympathetic. “Do what you have to. Take care of yourself,” she said.

I got home shortly after 2 yesterday. I took a nap around 3. The mother was adamant that I not mow the lawn – even though the doctor said I could, recommending that I put a clean hat on for the job and wait until closer to sundown.

So, considering that I have the marathon project at Another D*mn House coming up this weekend, my grass should be jungle height by the time I get to it. I guess it’s a good thing that we’ve had at or near record heat the past few days instead of non-stop rain.

Maybe that will keep it from overgrowing!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Bride of Frankenstein

OK. Maybe a slight exaggeration. It's not as bad as that, but ... walking around with staples in your head tends to make one feel like it is!

I finally got to wash my hair last night. The experience was a mix of fear, disgust and relief. Fear, in that I was going to inadvertently do something to the staples; disgust at the aftermath the whole ordeal had left in my hair; and relief that I was able to get rid of more than 95 percent of it. (There's still a small area near the roots that I don't dare get too crazy with.)

Once I got it washed, carefully combed out and dried, I tried to do another top-of-the-head shot with the camera as that's so far been the only way I can see what I even did. I have to say that this round of pics looked much better than the first round. You really can't tell anything is wrong unless I tell you, or unless you happen to be standing over me and can see the small patch of missing hair on my right side, which only exposes a few of the staples. Oh, and the little greasy patch from where I'm applying Neosporin.

That's another thing. In the picture, I count SIX staples. The orderly said five, but he must have lost count!

I have to call later this morning for a follow-up visit to see if they stay in for seven or for 10 days. And I'm freakin' a bit about getting them out. Those numbing shots and then the first staple are still too fresh in my mind. While that experience didn't last more than a few minutes, it's a few minutes I NEVER care to repeat, thankyouverymuch!

J, the elder of dear friend CD's two boys, a stitches expert, assures me that "staple removal is easier than regular stitches." I sure hope he's right!

I also discovered that I have a bruise on both my left shoulder and left hip, both of which let me know yesterday that they can hurt nearly as bad as my head!

The mother wouldn't let me mow the lawn. We hit a record 92 yesterday and she didn't want me to get all hot and get the staples all sweaty. She's worried that I'll get an infection. She was worried about me driving. "You had a head injury." She's just generally worried. But that's a normal state for her. She needs to chill.

The best news of all is that it isn't this coming weekend when the marathon at Another D*mn House is set for. My godmother sided with the mother on yard work for yesterday so I'm guessing she wouldn't have wanted me running around like a crazy person at the restaurant. In a way then, I guess it's good that I got lots of rest this weekend! I'm going to need it.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Breakin' It Down

On Friday, I DID manage to sneak down to watch the initial efforts -- part of an actual ceremony -- to tear down that ugly ass skybridge across Washinton Avenue.

It was supposed to start right at 5 with the wrecking ball, but luckily, that was more like 5:10 before the wrecking ball got busy. First, there was a lot of talking, including some words from St. Louis Mayor Francis Slay.

In one of my favorite shots of the day, I managed to get a closeup of some construction workers still standing on the bridge before the action got started.

But then, the action got going in a big way! At first, I thought they'd hit wiring or something, but no, just some good old-fashioned fireworks to celebrate.

Look at those sparks fly! And the little guy who was standing in front of me, even covered his ears.

All they really did was smash out window panels. I'll be watching in the next few weeks as the structure itself disappears.

Saturday, May 22, 2010

The Other Story

During the two hours I was waiting for to be treated -- after the hour I had been in the waiting room -- the mother was having a whole 'nother experience.

There was the couple in their 20s. He was blond and bearded, wearing a ball cap. The sleeves of his T-shirt barely concealed the tats that ran up and down each forearm. Another peeked out from beneath a shoe and still another flanked the edge of an eyebrow. She was darker-haired, probably shoulder-length (it was clipped up in the back so I can't be sure) and visibly pregnant. The first things I noticed was that she was clutching a pack of cigarettes. They had a little girl with them, maybe 3.

There were only a handful of others in the waiting room.

When I emerged, the mother was surrounded by people. The room was full.

As we reunited with Pearl, the mother filled me in. "There was a bar fight," the mother said. Some guy was beating his girlfriend on a parking lot. This got another couple pummeled as they tried to break it up. And then when the abuser's friends came over, more people came to assist and it turned into a free-for-all.

I knew something must have happened as a cop stuck his head in my room at one point and I heard him ask the orderly where "the fight" patients were.

The mother said they were a rowdy bunch. F this and motherf'er that flew freely in the waiting room. The mother chided them as there was a child present. "They knocked it off, too."

The mother couldn't be left alone that long and not get in on a conversation. She apparently at one point told them why I was there. She said that one of the guys who had tried to subdue the girlfriend-beater quickly asked: "Did some guy do that to her? I'd go kick his ass for her."

The mother was quick to tell him that if some guy had done that, he wouldn't live to tell anyone about it. She said that made him laugh. That made me laugh. If the worst of my childhood was good for nothing else, it made me completely beating intolerant. (If a man ever were to hit me, he'd better make d*mn sure I was dead or he'd live to regret it.)

There was also a newborn baby. The mother knew about the baby because she saw its mother and grandmother. I knew about it because while I had glimpsed both of them in the waiting room before disappearing on my own odyssey, I saw them again in the treatment area, the tiny baby's room catty cornered from mine.

The baby was OK from what I could overhear but was being taken to St. Louis just to be safe.

Sounds like I wasn't the only one who had an interesting night.

How Not to Spend A Friday Night

The evening was winding down and it was time to give Toby his pill. He was huddled in the corner of the sofa, down from the mother.

I approached him slowly, casually, acting as though I had no interest whatsoever in him. It's a skill I'm still perfecting but have been pretty lucky with.

Until last night.

I walked past him, reached back and grabbed. Toby pulled forward and out of my grasp with such force that it caught me off guard. I tilted, I wobbled, and then, unlike a Weeble, I DID fall down. The unfortunate part is that I was still trying to keep my balance. Had I just let myself go and fallen, I'd have hit the floor and only the floor.

Instead, I almost righted myself. Almost. And then I collapsed like a ton of bricks, my head forcefully striking the corner of the hall table. I didn't lose consciousness. Instead, I sat in the floor and ... laughed. For some reason, I do this sometimes when something initially hurts really bad.

But then the pain got really bad and I whimpered a bit. I instinctively put my hand on my head and when I pulled it away, it was full of blood. For 15 minutes, blood continued to pour down my face despite my best efforts to smash a cloth over it. If my hair wasn't so thick, it would have been worse. It worked as something of a mop to catch a lot of the blood.

It quickly became clear that a trip to the ER was inevitable. That made me laugh because the mother and I frequently joke about near accidents under stupid circumstances by saying: "Try explaining THAT at the ER." Well, I was trying to medicate my cat when ...

The parking lot was jammed though there weren't many people in the waiting room. It took nearly an hour to get seen. A nurse came out and poked around, gave me a fresh bandage to hold on my head and declared that I was OK. Still, the blood kept pouring.

I finally made an initial stop at the treatment part. The nurse was kind and consoling but her examination made the blood stream. I got a bigger glob of bandages and a wet cloth to wipe off my arm where the blood was now pooling. It was horrifying because I'm just not good with blood. Especially when it's mine.

I was taken to a treatment room ... where I sat for another 45 minutes. Finally, a doctor came in. His bedside matter left a lot to be desired. He roughly pushed my hair aside and grumbled, "OOOOOOh. Good one!" Good? Really? Not if you're me!

I asked about my injury and he said I had a gash about so big, holding his thumb and forefinger about 3 inches apart. "We'll get you washed, numbed, barbered, fixed and out of here," he said nonchalantly.

Wait. Barbered? Did he just say barbered? I asked. "Just a little," he said.

An orderly came in with a Bic razor and began shaving a patch atop my head. He grazed what had to be the wound and I nearly came off the stretcher. He left and returned with a battery-powered shaver and I watched in horror as clumps of hair fell to my side. "Hey," I said. "I'd rather not be bald, please. The Sinead look never quite caught on." He laughed, finished and disappeared.

He came back in and set a few packets of things that looked like curtain brackets on the counter and slunk back out. A female nurse came in about 20 minutes later to retrieve supplies from a cabinet. She glimpsed the packets and said, "Looks like you're getting staples."

Staples? In my head?!

That's exactly what happened. The three needles to numb me were horrific and the first staple was hell. I didn't feel the next four. Three and a half hours later, $50poorer and armed with a medical staple remover, I was finally done. They had initially wrapped an Ace bandage, holding a bandage in place, over my head and under my jaw. That slid off before I was done checking out. The kindly nurse from the initial consult redid it, tucking it under my hair like a bizzare headband. I was able to remove it this morning.

I have to contact a doctor on Monday, either mine or the surgeon they've referred me to. The staples will require a visit in a week to 10 days to remove them. I am not looking forward to it.

The worst part is that I have to wait until tomorrow morning to wash my hair. Earlier, I was finally able to try to wash out some of the blood. Disgusting! And that doesn't address what's atop my head, near the gash.

All in all, I have to say, it's not the way to spend a Friday night!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Thunder and Lightnin'

It stormed in the night with thunder so fierce it rumbled through my room like a freight train. The accompanying lightning so bright, it lit up the L.E.D. of the alarm clock without my pushing the button for the light. 2:31.

It poured against the house and the windows with such force it was like a multitude of garden hoses cranked to the max. I lay there for a while, at one point burying my head deep in the pillows, unable to shut out the storm's noises, noises that were beginning to sound as if they’d emerged straight from a Wagner work.

The next thing I knew, the alarm was going off.

This morning, giant pools lined the streets on my way in to the bus station. The air is thick and warm, the water content so high I feel like I could reach above my head and wring the sky. The bus is stifling and close, the only real air coming in when the occasional stop is made and the door flung wide for egress or exit.

It’s sprinkling still and I can’t help but wonder if the weeklong forecast can possibly be right. Starting tomorrow, it predicts the return of summer, sunny and dry with highs in the 80s. Spring, quite literally, has been washed away.

During yesterday’s staff meeting, I learned that the skyway project is going to last about three weeks. I also learned there is going to be struck by a ceremonial wrecking ball at 5 tonight. Unless it’s storming like crazy, which it could be, I’m going to try to duck out a little early and see if I can’t capture it in pictures. Stay tuned.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ain't No Sunshine

More rain. More. As if we needed another 1-3 inches of rain by tomorrow. Seriously?

I think we're at something like 16 out of 20 days in May with rain. Hopefully, the forecasters will be right (now there's some high hopes for ya). The weekend is supposed to be hot and dry. This will be the first time in at least a month that we'll have a rain-free weekend ... if they're right.

I won't hold my breath.

In other news, a long discussed plan to remove the skybridge across Washington Avenue, connecting the old Stix Baer & Fuller building with the now defunct St. Louis Centre, is actually moving forward. (And, I noticed that while I was off, the gutting is really speeding up at the old shopping mall, too. I need to get some updated photos of this.) It's funny, if not a little ironic, that I watched them build St. Louis Centre back in the '80s. Now, I'm watching them gut it.

They are officially closing that stretch of Washington tonight to accommodate the demolition. I know this because our bus will be temporarily rerouted while this is happening. I'm not sure how long it is supposed to take. I want to go down and get photos of it before they actually tear it down and also of the progress. I can do that ... if it will ever stop raining!

I just realized that I do have a picture of it, though it's largely covered by this massive banner advertising the All Stars game last year.

I've always resented that they attached this ugly thing to the front of the old Stix building. Obviously, it was convenient to have when there was actually a mall operating, but it was always ugly. (There's a similarly ugly, albeit smaller) version over Locust connecting the old mall to the former Famous-Barr, now Macy's.)

When news resurfaced that the Washington skybridge was coming down, I read somewhere that it's not actually attached by much so, ideally, it did little if any damage to the historic building's front. I sure hope that's the case.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Well It's Floodin' in Missouri

Today was actually the second consecutive nice day we've had. This month, nice days, much less two in a row, have been rare indeed.

I took advantage of Mother Nature's great mood to get in a brief stroll down by the riverfront. The river is supposed to crest tonight -- at 35 feet. That's five feet over flood stage.

I first went down to the main Laclede's Landing entrance. That's supposed to be two intersecting roadways there. And just beyond those chained poles? You're supposed to be able to park! There's also a huge Lewis & Clark memorial statue there that you can usually view at least some of. Not today. Not even the very tip of one of their hats (which is all you sometimes see when the river is up. Pretty good indicator of just how high the water is.

Look at the stop sign and the highway directional signs! Just to the left of the highway signs, what looks like a line, is the top a huge stone sign designating the St. Louis Riverfront!

Definitely looks like more of a boat launch today.

I went back up the road and onto the Archgrounds. It was a pretty busy place. There were some tourists but probably nearly as many people doing just what I was doing: using lunch to check out the rising waters.

There's no doubt that the water is plenty high. People were gawking, shooting photos and chatting on cell phones telling those on the other end about the scene before them.
I love that the sign tells you to park your RV, well, IN the river! Sure hope it doesn't sink.

But while the water is higher than it was last May, it's not nearly as high as it was in June 2008.

This is from June 2008. See what I mean? Of course, the river IS still rising ... I guess we could get there.

Four Days

Four days go really fast. Seems like it was just Friday five minutes ago!

Yesterday was a flurry of activity. I washed Pearl inside and out, did some necessity shopping (and some comparison shopping on molding and trim), mowed the lawn, completed several bill-related tasks (including renewing Pearl’s plates) and spent over an hour off-and-on the phone trying to nail down a reporter interview.

All in all, it was a busy day and I did get a lot done.

This morning, I barely made the bus. (In fairness, this is my Monday.) I was getting dressed when it all of a sudden occurred to me that I was on a schedule – and I was already behind! But, the mad dash paid off. I hate to be rushed like that.

Meanwhile, at work,I also saw that several things I’m working on are progressing and I still have a few others to get crackin’ on. It’s going to be another busy few days.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

The Lost Day

I got up early. On a vacation day. A day I could have slept in.

We were meeting my godmother to pick out and purchase flooring. I've been on her for months to do this, so I figured that it would be worth getting up early.

I should have stayed in bed.

We were supposed to meet at 9. At 8:05, the phone rang. She'd forgotten about a 9 a.m. appointment that was free publicity for the restaurant. We were understanding. Not very far off being ready to walk out the door, but understanding.

We finally meet up with her shortly before noon. It would be almost three hours later before we would part after she finally bought some floor! I'd also found both baseboard and chair rail for both bathrooms. It's a major step in the Memorial Day weekend marathon.

This morning, I need to do a bunch of errands one of which is checking on some wallpaper. It would be great if our local little wallpaper store still had the particular pattern I'm after.

Wish me luck.

Monday, May 17, 2010

The Obstacle Course, With a Twist

Much of Sunday evening, as the rain continued to fall and to gather in formation of the lake that always appears after a hard, steady rain, we were treated to one unbelievable audio visual show after another.

All of this on top of the barricade-lined rat maze that has turned our four-lane roadway into two lanes.

You’d hear a car coming down the road. Then, as it neared This D*mn House, splaaaaaaaaasssshhhh.

Fwmmp. Pop. Pop. Pop. And then a motor would inevitably try to stall until the driver hit the gas, gunning it to life, and recycling the sound effects. Fwmmp. Pop. Pop. Pop. Well, there goes a catalytic converter! Occasionally, there was the shriiiiiiiiiiiiiiiek of a power steering belt as it tried to shake off the deluge.

At midnight, this was still going on. Good thing I wasn’t yet trying to sleep. That’s because I’ve taken a few days of vacation. I needed something beyond the weekend to reenergize. Work has been incredibly busy, and thanks to 13 out of 17 days of rain so far in May, my left arm has been intolerable and regularly interrupting my sleep.

And, I figured I could use a few days of rest as I gear up for Memorial Day weekend. We haven’t worked out all of the details yet, but that will be spent at Another D*mn House in a marathon project. In fact, we’re going to meet up with my godmother later this morning to look at some flooring. It’s an important step in that project – and one I’ve been trying to get her to take for months, so that is great news.

I’m hoping we’ll be able to work out some more details today so that I can completely map things out. I’m a little concerned because it’s been so d*mn wet this month and because it almost always rains over Memorial Day weekend. But, we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.

Right now, I’m just anxious to get that project rollin’ and wrapped … because there’s plenty waiting to get done here.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Battling What the Rain Left

One of my faithful readers and commenters, Karen Anne, recently left a comment asking me about a weed-eater. Much to my surprise, I hadn't written about a purchase I made at the end of summer 2008: a Black & Decker Grass Hog (GH600).

Considering how much rain we've gotten lately, are still continuing to get, and how many weeds are springing up all over the place, this seems like a good time to tell you about it!

It's a corded weed-eater. I'd owned a corded weed-eater quite a while ago before abandoning it for a series of gas-powered ones. I bought three during six or seven years. They literally just couldn't cut it. They were bulky and heavy and you had to have a separate gas/oil blend on hand. It was a major pain in the butt. So, I finally went back to a corded model.

I'm not sorry I did.

The Grass Hog GH600 really rocks it. It only weighs a little over 5 pounds and it has an automatic line feed -- none of that annoying bump 'n go stuff. It has a 14-inch cutting swath and a 5-amp motor.

And, by twisting the body, it easily converts from a trimmer to an edger! All in all, a great little machine, available for under $50! (I found it at Amazon for $46 and some change. I purchased mine at Lowe's during one of their $10 off of a $50 purchase promos.)

Two caveats: Make sure you are using extension cords that are designed for power-tool use AND that are in good shape. You run the risk of overheating your trimmer otherwise.

And second, make sure you use .065 line. Any thicker, you also run the risk of burning up the motor.

Can I tell you that you’ll never have an issue with it? Well, no. But I can tell you that I have been using mine for nearly two years and it gets the job done.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

A True Silver Lining

Last Saturday, I was all in tizzy about the Chinese-alphabet spammer. And, I'm STILL continuing to dig out of that mess.

But the more I do it, the less I'm hating it. Don't get me wrong, spammers are the boil on the butt of the cyberworld and there's no way I ever want to do this AGAIN. (Which is why I now have comment moderation on and have already squashed a few would-be spammers this week.)

Still, going through and deleting each and every comment has been like a trip down memory lane. It made me laugh at some of my (mis)adventures and the many, many wonderful comments so that many of you regulars have left me. THANK YOU for that, incidentally.

This blog wouldn't be any fun without YOU!

Friday, May 14, 2010

The Obstacle Course

There’s nothing as refreshing as coming home from a nearly 12-hour day to discover that the four-lane roadway in front of your house has been reduced to just two lanes. And, it’s the two nearest your house. So, while it’s tough to back out of the driveway under ordinary circumstances, it’s going to be nearly impossible to do anytime between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. most days when the largest volume of traffic is generally on the road.

And, it would even be hard to pull in from the front. (Even with a spare lane, most people get right on my a**, often a little too close, though I have a blinker on and am clearly slowing down to enter my driveway.)

The construction zone starts just past the major intersection near my house. It goes on for another three blocks. I saw some of these signs as I made my way up the other main drag to pull Ladybird into her spot in the back section of the driveway. I had stopped at the edge of the driveway, thankfully, and popped the trunk to haul my grass to the dump. (For whatever reason, Mr. C. didn’t show up on Monday.) By the time I got back outside after dumping my stuff and changing my clothes, my clippings were gone. (Mr. C. had apparently loaded them and hauled them away in the interim!)

I had to do some running anyway so I used the extra 15 feet of space to pull Pearl out the backway. This was extra convenient because when I pulled back in, Pearl was facing the roadway. That made it so that we can drive directly onto the road, no backing required. This was good because the mother had an errand to run yesterday. With Ladybird absent from the drive, she was able to put Pearl back in place, face forward.

I’m not sure how long this is going to go on for. It’s going to be d*mned inconvenient for however long it is. And I forgot to mention, these went up Tuesday. Thanks to at least some rain every day, they've yet to be out there to start. Judging from this morning's weather, today isn't looking hopeful either.
Granted, the roadway just beyond my driveway really needs to be fixed as does most of the rest of the road, but it’s going to be a pain to deal with to be sure. (Not to mention all that construction dirt blowing on the house and the cars. We normally wash the house every Memorial Day weekend, but I think that will get postponed this year anyway. More on that in another post.)

What’s a little unnerving is that these barriers haven’t slowed 90 percent of the traffic down. People continue to barrel through. (The speed limit is 35 but I’m betting the average speed is closer to 45. And that’s average. There is a lot of traffic that regularly goes 50mph+.)

This will be the first weekend with the obstacle course in place. We’ll see just how many of the barriers are still in place by Monday.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Today’s Forecast

What else? Rain. (Intermittent thunderstorms.) Oh, yeah, and more chances for severe weather. What a way to put a damper on spring!

One of our interns had a tree fall on her car during yesterday’s storms and I had more than one colleague – on both sides of the Mississippi – who lost power. Mama Martha reported hail at her end of the world. And while I haven’t checked Pearl (I got home late and went almost directly to bed last night) I don’t think she suffered any damage. So, all in all, I’d say we were pretty lucky.

At least it's dry for now. Day is getting off to a crazy start though. I managed to actually remember to bring in a six-pack of soda this morning ... I just left it on the bus. DOH!

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Rockin’ and Rollin’

It was a dark and stormy night …

That’s probably an understatement. Storms nearly shook me out of bed, not once, but twice, between 3 and 5 this morning.

I could hear Ozzie growling first and then launching into a full bark as the first round of storms hit. Lightning lit up the room and thunder shook the walls, at one point, so hard that I thought the suncatcher in my window was going to come loose! I hit the light on the alarm clock. 3:16.
I padded into the livingroom where the mother, who was sick yesterday, was up watching TV.

“Bad storm,” she said and then flipped on the cable station that carries non-stop radar. Really? I hadn’t noticed. *rolls eyes*

The radar showed a healthy red and yellow band fanning out from west of St. Louis well into Illinois. At that moment, a very red cell was right on top of us. My brain had just processed that bit of information when the rain began to hammer the roof. I prayed there was no hail.

I didn’t see any little purple/pink patches within those cells, so that was good news.

I sat up for another 20 minutes, until the worst appeared to pass but knowing that more was coming. Sure enough, I had no sooner gone back to sleep than the scene from an hour before practically replayed itself. 4:10.

I rejoined the mother and a terrified Ozzie scaled the loveseat, nestling into my leg. I sat up until about 4:50 when it seemed to turn to just heavy rain. I plopped the O-man at the end of the bed, figuring he was less likely to growl or bark at the thunder if he could huddle at my side. The alarm was going off before I knew it.

The lucky part is that this isn’t a day where I really needed to be in with the chickens like yesterday and Monday. The world won’t end because I get there an hour later. (Which is still nearly an hour earlier than the vast majority, even then.)

The unlucky part is that I’d planned to spend that extra hour sleeping. So much for that plan.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010


The mother didn’t feel like going out for Mother’s Day. She was content to nap and cuddle up with one of the books I got her. (Score! I did well this year in picking out gifts.) Besides, we can go out one night this week when there’s not 500 other people jammin’ every restaurant in a 100-mile radius.

So, I took advantage of Mother Nature’s beautiful gift of a day (low 60s, sunny and NO wind) to mow. Unlike Saturday, where a steady 15-20 mph wind occasionally hit 30 mph, there was only an occasional breeze. Yeah, it would have been bad to try and compete with that!

I finished the backyard and noticed that one of my neighbors was loading the barrels he uses to take his clippings to the dump. I walked over to tell him that the dump is supposedly now closed on Sunday. His wife soon joined the conversation and we commiserated about this, about the fact that the city office that had informed me of this couldn’t tell me when it started, and about the state of our alley and streets. In general, a small, brief neighborhood gripe session.

They were grateful for the reminder. “I guess I’ll just unload it and go back in and rest,” said my neighbor. “I’ll hit it tomorrow afternoon.” I noted I’d be taking mine Monday night since the dump was open ‘til 7:30 at least four nights a week.

Hours later, shortly after emerging from the shower, I found Mrs. C. was at the door. She’d volunteered Mr. C. to take my clippings in when he takes theirs. Since it’s supposed to rain, I’d stuck my bags inside the shed to keep them from getting soaked. “Just have your mom open it up tomorrow and he’ll throw them in the truck,” she said. “It’s no big deal – he’s going anyway.”

Sometimes, it’s just an unbelievable blessing to have neighbors, especially ones like Mr. and Mrs. C.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Digging Out

I’d like to apologize again to anyone who got besieged with email over the weekend because of the d*mned anonymous spammer “somebody.” If you’ve been by the blog since, you know that I now have comment moderation in place, so I don’t think it can happen to either of us again!

While I've not had much time yet to do so, I'm also exploring to see if there are any ways that Blogger can help, though I'm not holding out much hope. I’m slowly digging out my inbox. I think in all, the villain “somebody” posted nearly 400 comments. Yes, 400, give or take. It may be even more but that’s what I’ve been able to pinpoint so far.

I’m slowly removing each and every one of those comments. Every. Last. One. At one point, it was posting five or six comments a minute and this went on for a number of hours, mercifully not posting that many times a minute the whole time!

I’ll also apologize because I’m new to this comment moderation function. I thought I’d be notified by email when this occurred, but no. I have to be on the blog to see that I have comments waiting (something I didn’t learn until yesterday morning).

So I’m sorry if it’s half a day before comments get posted! I’ll get better at it.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

D*mn -- She Was Right!

The mother and I argue. A lot.

Part of it is that we’re birds of a feather. We’re both strong-willed and determined to be right.
Part of it is that I’m slow to learn to pick my battles. Even when I am right, I need to just shut up.

And part of it, and this is the part that I hate the most, much of the time, she IS just right.

· The mother started early in priming me for college. She did this so well, in fact, that in kindergarten, I boldly asked, “Can I skip the rest of it and just go to college now?” (The poor mother. I wasn’t precocious or anything. *removing tongue from cheek*)
· In eighth grade, she announced that I had to “go take this test” one Saturday morning so that I could attend and all-girl Catholic school. WHAT?! My head nearly exploded. I begrudgingly took the test – thought seriously about blowing it on purpose, but reminded myself of what the consequences would be and aced it. Not only did I get a great college prep education, I made seven of the best friends that anyone could ever ask for. The mother was SO right on this one!
· I always knew I’d really stepped in it when she cited me the Golden Rule. “Would you want someone to do that to you? I don’t think so.”
· In the first few weeks of my longest relationship, the mother called it. “There’s something there that I just don’t like. I just know that he’s going to be trouble for you.” (It took me a decade to finally figure that one out, but again, she was right.)
· Occasionally, she’ll still zing me with one of Young Tom’s (her father’s) lines and I know that this wisdom is truly genetic. “Figures don’t lie – but liars figure.” “A fool and his money are soon parted.” “Don’t cry over spilt milk. Get back on the stool and milk some more.”
· Always care for creatures. This was something the mother instilled early and often both in word and by example. (And why the four-footed family members are more spoiled than any fur-free child ever could be.) But the love you get is worth it – without the expense of car insurance, college, and weddings.

So, as hard as it is, I’m conceding that she is usually right. That’s why she’s the mother. I can't think of a harder job.

Happy Mother’s Day to my mom and all the moms, and moms-to-be, out there!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Dear Somebody

I hope you roast in hell, you cowardly spammer!!!

Sorry, everyone. I had to put comment moderation in place this morning. Many, many thanks to ty'smommy who alerted me this morning or God knows how many more comments would have been left.

WHY do people do this? I am SO frustrated at this second I could cry or smash the computer or both. But, neither will get even with Somebody. I don't even want to print here what I hope happens to the anonymous Somebody, you worthless sack of crap!!!!!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Turned Around

Most days, I have to plan my mornings around the bus schedule which is changing slightly on Monday. I’m losing the very bus I used to always get before I started going in more than an hour earlier.

So, that means I will either have to catch the bus before it (which I just managed to make today) or the bus after it (which is later than I like to get in). I had initially planned to be in at 6:15 but when the alarm went off at 5, I reset it.

I didn’t go to bed until nearly 1 because I fell asleep for a few hours last night and found myself wide awake when I should have been going to bed. When I finally did go to bed, I was awakened several times in the night by many things, not the least of which was pain in my left hand knuckle joints.

My sleep patterns are totally shot at this point.

I’ve already seen all the reports on that recent study which says that less than 6 hours of sleep a night sets you up for premature death. (I generally get 5 to 5.5 hours on weeknights and anywhere from 7 to 10 hours a night on weekends.) So, I’ve made a genuine effort to try for at least six hours. It just doesn’t seem to be working too well. It’s confusing the hell out of poor Ozzie. Nearly every morning, he has this look on his face that says, "Really?" when I flip on the light. It’s confusing the mother.

It’s confusing me!

On those days when I do sleep a little later – like today – I find myself springing awake at 4 or 4:30 wondering: Did I oversleep?!

I’ve been trying to eat better, incorporating more fruits and vegetables and lots less junk. It’s going about as well as the sleep thing; I’ve gained a pound!

I’m not sure what’s got me so wound. Blind ambition? Things are going well at work, so well, maybe too well. I think this change is exactly what I needed. Could that little touch of paranoia be the culprit?

I think then that this means I have a new mantra for this weekend: Chill the f**k out.

Thursday, May 6, 2010


I drove to work this morning because I have to take the mother for some routine tests this afternoon. Coming in with the sun was a particularly interesting experience as a result.

As I sat with the window down, waiting for the security gate to open, I heard a distinctive EEK! There it is again. EEK!

As I drove up the ramp and wheeled around the corner, something flew over the hood at top speed. It seemed much too fast to be a bird. Nah. It couldn't be.

I pulled into a spot and got out. I grabbed some paper towels from the back seat to buff Pearl's hood and mirrors. (I just washed the car last night, so of course there is water shooting out of the overpass above the construction site on I-70. It was like driving through a rain shower!) Out of the corner of my eye, I saw it. Well, I'll be d*mned. It zipped toward me, went over the top of the car instead, and then went back to the square of parking lot where it has no hope of escape.

It was indeed a bat! I felt sorry for it because all it really wanted to do was get out.

Apparently, this happens a lot. (First time it's ever happened to me.) There is a "batman" who comes a couple times a week and tries to catch them.

So if you're ever in a parking garage in the wee hours and something buzzes past your ear, no, you're not losing your mind. (Well, maybe you are. It's probably just a bat.)

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Grabbing My Attention

It doesn’t happen very often, but it’s odd when I readily identify with somewhere prominently featured on the nightly news. That’s been the case in a big way this week as two places that I have visited in the past few years have been making headlines – and not in a good way.

The first is New York’s Times Square. Business trips plunked me right in the heart of the Theater District in both 2005 and 2006. I even got to go to a Broadway play (“Dirty Rotten Scoundrels,” which was awesome!) during my very first visit. I totally understand why New York is a writer’s mecca and why the people who live there generally don’t want to gravitate too far from it.

So it was with mixed emotions that I watched coverage of the would-be Times Square bomber (truly a member of the Gang Who Couldn’t Shoot Straight). On the one hand, I was sad that the city is under siege yet again, and on the other, relief that this guy’s graduate degree wasn’t in construction or engineering as he might actually have known something about explosives.

Then, well after I’d heard about flooding in Nashville, I heard that the Gaylord Opryland complex was under at least 10 feet of water! I’d stayed there in 2007 for about three days during a client conference/event. Except for the shuttle ride to and from the airport, it’s all of Nashville I got to see.

You know you’re in a ginormous place when, at check-in, they give you a map! And you’d need one, too. It was like having a city under a roof. I got to where I gave myself 15 minutes to get anywhere during my stay, partly because of construction that had parts blocked off and partly because it was too easy to get lost.

I thought it was a pretty cool place. Very rarely did it ever feel like you were inside. Luckily, I took pictures while I was there, because it sure doesn’t look the same right now. Here’s some footage of the damage I found online.

Absolutely unbelievable -- especially when compared to what I saw back in 2007. It's such a pretty place. I hope they are able to make it look like this again.

There's a boat that goes through part of the center -- from this area below. I'm sure that only added to the damage.

See these gazebos? I'm pretty sure it's one of them that is captured on the video in a close-up, submerged.

I feel incredibly sorry for all of the people who live in this area and who are so affected by these floodwaters. I know there are several relief efforts under way to help people whose homes or jobs have been flooded. One of the things I plan to do today is to find one and donate. If you can, I hope you will, too.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Tuesday ToolTalk: Troy-Bilt TriAction Cutting System

Earlier this spring, Troy-Bilt offered to send me one of its six new walk-behind mowers – if only I’d let them know what I think of it. Each member of this new family from Troy-Bilt is equipped with the TriAction cutting system.

Step one is a “rake” edge, attached to the front of the mower.

This pushes grass upright, giving the blade better access. Step two is the S-blade. Lower than the deck, its “smooth arc blade creates more lift in the deck, allowing grass to circulate and mulch more effectively,” according to Troy-Bilt. Step three is the symmetrical deck which “eliminates clumping and discharges as fine mulch” and “allows for maximum trimability by extending beyond the wheels on both sides.”

I opted for the TB210, a 21-inch, front-wheel drive, self-propelled model. In addition to the TriAction cutting system, it comes equipped with:
• 190cc* Briggs & Stratton engine (Some models come with 160cc* Honda engine)
• 3-in-1 convertible - side discharge, mulch or rear bag
• 2-year limited warranty

The mower was practically ready to run right out of the box – which included engine oil. I literally cut the carton end and rolled it out. The handle had to be adjusted and attached in two places, I needed to easily slide the cover over the grass-catcher frame, add the oil and some gas and I was good to go.
· Initially, I thought that the standard 1.86-bushel grass catcher was small but I quickly found out it was more than ample, thanks to the awesome cutting system.
· Both the six-position dual-lever deck height adjustment and three-position height adjust handle make it easy to get just the cut you want.

· An intriguing feature was the deck wash. Screw on your hose to the deck-mounted fitting, let it run with the engine running for at least two minutes and ideally, it cleans the underdeck. While it didn’t do a bad job, it didn’t do a really good job either though I nearly doubled the minimum time. (It’s kind of like rinsing dishes before loading them in the dishwasher.)

What I really liked:
· The TriAction system. It works! Even in tall grass, the mower didn’t even try to stall – it just pushed right on through. The clippings were very finely chopped, even when I did a few passes without the bagger. And, it really did let me get closer to the fence and utility poles.
· No clumping. Another credit to the TriAction system. Even damp grass moves into the bagger without clogging the discharge chute.
· Easy to use. You don’t need an engineering degree to set up or to run this mower, even if you’re not mechanically-inclined.
· ReadyStart Choke System . No priming required. I’ve never seen a lawnmower start so easily. Engage the blade and pull. That’s it. (And it started the first time, every time.)

What I didn’t like:
· Plastic. The rake guard, the side and rear discharge flaps, a guard over the engine, even the grooves to hold the bagger in place … all plastic. Plastic breaks off. And while metal may rust, plastic rots. A machine this good deserves a little metal muscle. However, Stan, Stan the Lawnmower Man assures me that these parts are easily replaceable when they do give out.

Conclusion: An A+ for both ease of use and performance. A B for design, but only because of all the plastic. A B+ for value and an A- overall.
Availability: Lowe’s, Troy-Bilt authorized dealers
Cost: $199-$299 (TB210 retails for $269)

(Full disclosure: Troy-Bilt provided me with the mower described in this review. I was not compensated in any other way for my test run.)

Monday, May 3, 2010

Unintended Art

After spending Friday night on storm watch and the threat of severe weather looming for Saturday yet again, we couldn't wait to get out of the house.

We did some shopping excursions late morning into early afternoon, carefully watching both the clock and the skies. And yet, as the afternoon wore on, the sun remained in place, spread out over a bright blue sky. Hmmm. Methinks the forecaster has done it again!

So, when we got home, I did what any self-respecting homeowner whose lawn is beginning to look like a jungle would do: I mowed. For a change, it was an interesting, if not kind of fun, experience. But more on that tomorrow ...

Yesterday, I logged some time with the bathroom walls. (Still stripping them down to prep for new wallpaper.) One bare spot began to take on an unusual
shape. "That looks like Ozzie's profile," quoth the mother. And I had to agree. It does!

Of course, the real-life model would NOT cooperate for a sideview. He repeatedly kept spinning around and looking at me like this.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Jumpin’ the Shark

What if you were riding in a car driven by your most excellent friend when you glimpsed this coming up behind you? What would you think?

Luckily, in the brief snarl of traffic that the MonkeyGirl and I found ourselves on the way home from Thursday’s Cardinal game, I had just enough time to capture these photos. So, are we dealing with a sports fan? A movie buff?
At any rate, the MonkeyGirl and I found ourselves humming the Jaws theme.

Duh dut. Duh dut. Duh dut , duh dut, dut, dut , dut, dut,, dut dut ….