Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Crazy Woman … with a Trash Bag

It all started because of a three-pronged adapter.

I own several. I needed one. I couldn't find any.

This failure touched off a lengthy string of profanity as I ran from place to place looking for the half-dozen or so adapters that I know are located somewhere within This D*mn House or at least within the confines of the property (extending to My Pimped-Out Shed). And it touched off a frantic pitching session that is almost legendary among pitching sessions. (Every once in a while, living in a work in progress takes its toll. When you can't find things you are used to having readily at hand, that's often a blasting cap.)

But I'm jumping too far ahead. Let me go back a few days to the mother's brave undertaking to begin clearing out her room, a job which has been long-neglected and, as a result, might have qualified us for an episode of "Hoarders."  In fairness, a lot of it is due to stuff from the bathroom being "temporarily" (more like "long-term") stashed in there.  And, some of it is due to the fact that 2012 hasn't been the greatest year for her health wise. This is completely atypical of the mother who is a neat freak (yes, I am Oscar Madison to her Felix Unger) and I know it's been a sore spot with her for some time. Over the long weekend though she dove in headfirst.

So, while the mother was dutifully sorting and pitching, I started an effort of my own. I have a feeling that a few of the things may be regrettable but, overall, I'm starting to see a little progress. (And am now on a third trash bag, one of which is full of things to be DONATED.)

It's made the living and dining rooms temporarily unlivable but for the short-term, I can stand it. It's one of those things you learn to deal with when you are living in and serially remodeling a home and doing multiple massive projects simultaneously.

Sometimes you get to tell yourself to chill out, forge on and appreciate PROGRESS!!!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Under the Wire

It's hard for me to recall a Memorial Day weekend in recent history that did not include the purchase of paint. Memorial Day 2012 was no exception.

Thanks to an extended weekend, I managed to buy three gallons of paint with just hours to spare to still qualify for Behr's $5/gallon rebate. My receipt said 4:52 p.m. Very close indeed.

I just managed to complete my online rebate form. Online rebates are one of the greatest inventions evah. No UPC codes to clip. No paper form or envelope to fill out. No postage required. Now I just wait for six to eight weeks for my $15 to magically appear. (Those are always a fun surprise because you wait so long usually that you've already forgotten about it by the time it arrives.)

Completing the online process was probably one of the easiest, fastest and most productive things I've done during my time off. I've largely been involved with sanding cabinet doors and digging through all of the debris associated with the plethora of projects in progress at This D*mn House and trying to make sense of them all. And yard work. Lots of yard work. And much planning and preparing.

It was hardly the major progress I'd hoped for but, together with a little shopping and a little sleeping, it could qualify as a mini-vacation. So, you'll hear no complaints from me. 

Except that I have to get up at 5 a.m. tomorrow. (Not that I mind going back to work so much; it's more returning to the early-morning routine that I'm not that thrilled about. You get a pattern going after just a few days and it's hard to go back to your regular bit, or at least it is for me.) Having said that though I'll be happy to go back.

Here's hoping that your short week is going at least as well.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

A Visitor

We don't get a lot of visitors. And we rarely get visitors this young.

Or this cute.

But that's how we started Saturday afternoon. This is one of my cousin's GRANDbabies. (Her first grandbaby, in fact.) It was painful to type that actually. I have several cousins who are 10 are more years older than me (because my dad was the youngest of five), but this is a grandchild of a cousin who is only about half that much older. So, it makes it all the more surreal.

My cousin, her daughter and Baby S. stopped by for a while. At first, the baby was very quiet, almost sullen. For nearly an hour, she would sit silently as we chatted, only occasionally fussing.

During the second hour though, she seemed to come to life, cooing, babbling and thrashing around. She did NOT cry, something I feared more than once she was about to do. She even let me hold her ... for about 3 minutes. Then, she had to go right back to mom!

She's not much of a smiler, or at least she wasn't on Saturday but I did manage to catch her waving. (Pretty impressive for a not quite 7-month-old!)

I got to share some of my newfound family genealogy and was pleased to find that my cousin's daughter was at least interested, especially now that she has this whole new generation to share it with! (To me, that gives all the effort some real value, beyond sating my own curiosity.)

I TOLD you my Memorial Day weekends rarely ever go as I plan them. But at least this one has, so far, had PLEASANT surprises. Let's hope it's an ongoing trend...

Friday, May 25, 2012

Welcome to the Season

It’s Friday. Finally. And this particular Friday brings two things with it. First, Memorial Day weekend is the unofficial start of summer. (Of course, with the weather we’ve had this year, summer started back in March sometime!) And second, it is the official start of the DIY season.

I’m extending my holiday by taking a few days’ vacation (first of the year). That means when I leave work on Friday, I won’t be back until THURSDAY! Don’t envy me too much. I’ll be plenty busy.

I haven’t completely set on the duty roster because if I know one thing about planning for Memorial Day, it’s that those plans never quite come to fruition. I almost inevitably end up working on something I’d never planned to, generally courtesy of the mother and some project she manages to whip out of her backside. (I mean that lovingly, of course.) Or else Mother Nature intervenes.

That said, it will be busy.

Whatever you’re doing this holiday weekend, I hope that it is enjoyable and/or productive. Don’t overstrain, my fellow DIYers or next week will be intolerable! Be safe and have fun, everyone!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A Permanent Location

I did a strange thing on Wednesday. Strange for me at least though I know other people do it every day: I put a down payment on a home of another kind.

No, This D*mn House is not for sale and I'm not planning on vacating it any time soon. And, after almost 26 years, it's hard to think of anything more permanent, though there is. No, this residence has a much more permanent nature: a spot in a mausoleum.  

It's not actually for me. It's for the mother.No, don't panic. She's still very much with us!

The mother kind of sprang this on me a few weeks ago. (I think this flirtation with mortality came about in part because of all the craziness with my father and then the arrival of an advertising postcard.) I sent in the card for her and then promptly forgot all about it. And since it's not a topic I've ever been comfortable with, I was happy to do so.

So when the day came, I was very uncomfortable.  Uncomfortable because it's not a happy topic and uncomfortable because I couldn’t wait to see how much this would cost. Let's just say I was pleasantly surprised.  Since the cemetery is planning to build two new mausoleums, it was offering a heavily discounted price on its remaining slots in the existing one.

As I said, while this is technically for the mother, I can ultimately hang there, too, if I'd like. (I plan to be cremated so they said a two-for-one deal was acceptable. We can even add Ozzie if we want. And Toby, too, if that's how the mother wants to handle him when his day comes.)

While it doesn't cover all the costs of burial, it does cover the vast majority. And since funeral costs do nothing but increase (we were just told that the average lower-end, non-cremation burial was somewhere around $11,000!) it seems like a solid investment.

I want to be cremated. The mother doesn't.  Essentially though, a mausoleum does the same job (reducing you to ashes) just over time. And because it's a more efficient use of land than a grave, it's even environmentally friendly. That made me warm to the option, at least a little bit.

So we've made the plans.  We're now clear on each other's wishes. We've got a location. And ideally, by the time either of us needs it, it will have been long ago paid for. She'll need a casket. I'll need an urn or a box. (Or for that matter, a coffee can. Why the hell will I care? I won't know.) We've had the conversation. And now we don't have to talk about it anymore. *putting hands over ears* Lalalalalalalalalalala. End of discussion.

Seriously, I can say that it seems like one less thing to ever worry about. And I have to think, for whichever one of us goes first, there will be at least a little comfort in that.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Tuesday ToolTalk: B&D Rapid Charger, 9.6-24v

I have a number of Black & Decker cordless products. (If you follow the blog, you know that I love my 24v trimmer and my 18v combo tool set.) All but one, my trusty-dusty first 9.6v cordless drill, use the slide-in battery packs ranging from 18 to 24v. I am a huge fan of these products.

But trying to keep track of the chargers and making sure I have the right one for the right battery and watching the time to make sure I don’t overcharge the 18v batteries … whew! You need a traffic cop for this stuff. I borrowed this summary from an online review that I thought summed up the various B&D chargers out there.

B&D chargers also come in (at least) 3 varieties:

1) "Dumb" chargers that supply a constant charge current/voltage, i.e., like the charger that comes with most B&D products that has the brick that plugs in the wall and a small piece that slips onto the battery; these have 2 terminals.

2) "Semi-intelligent" 2 stage chargers that supply a constant charge current/voltage for charging, but then drop to a "maintenance charge state". These also have 2 terminals.

3) "Intelligent" fast chargers that charge at a faster rate, can sense overcharging and modify charge current accordingly, and then drop to a "maintenance charge state" once the battery is charged. These chargers have 3 terminals.

So when I saw that I could narrow my chargers down to one, I was thrilled. When I saw I could do this for under $30, I was ecstatic. And when I saw that this also was one of the “intelligent” chargers, meaning that it charges at high-speed AND I don’t have to babysit my batteries with a stop watch … I was out-of-control happy.

When I recently did my first trimming of the season, I was amazed how quickly my batteries were ready to go again. I had initially charged them the night before, periodically checking the charger light to see when one finished and then swapping it for the next. I set it on the counter, plugged it in, slid in a battery and voila! As I’m gearing up for more cabinet work, I’ll be using my drills and sander pretty steadily. It’s nice to think that I can always have a battery ready to roll while that work is under way.

Pros: This “intelligent” charger lets you know what it’s doing. A steady flashing light tells you it’s charging; a solid light means it’s done – no more guess work. A super-fast flashing light means you have a bad cell in the battery and it needs replacing. The unit is small, only a little bigger than the battery, so it doesn’t take up much space. I LOVE the versatility of a single charger. “Maintenance state” means that if I’m off doing something else and leave the battery in place for hours after its charge, no harm done.

Cons: I should have bought one much sooner. So far, that’s the only negative I can think of.

Conclusion: If you have multiple B&D tools like I do that use the slide-in (not lithium ion variety) batteries, this is a must. Frankly, I don’t know how I’ve been using these tools this long without it.

Availability: I got mine at for $29.98 – with free shipping. Not sure if this unit qualifies, but through May 31, Amazon is offering $10 off a $50 purchase of select B&D items. They’ve got some good deals on batteries, too, (which I took advantage of; watch for those results soon).

Monday, May 14, 2012

A Mostly Quiet Weekend

Hope everyone had a good Mother's Day.

It was a peaceful one at This D*mn House. The mother didn't feel like doing anything so for me it ended up being a rare day of lounging.  It kind of made up for being in a perpetual state of motion on Saturday.
For some reason, I was awake at my normal weekday time (5:20 a.m.) and still up nearly two hours later.  I made the most of it by going shopping ahead of what I anticipated would be a crazy crowd (11th hour Mother's Day shoppers). I was right because as I departed each store and drove off every lot, I noticed a steady stream of shoppers quickly taking mine and several surrounding spots.

Once I was back home, I got some information about a local recycling effort so that I could drop off the old TV. (Illinois passed a law that took effect back in January making it illegal to throw out electronics products.) I couldn't, however, get the TV out the door by myself and the mother was having trouble with her hands so wasn't able to be much help. It's not so much the weight, though it is a bit heavy. Mostly, it's the bulk and the fact that I can't seem to get my arms under and/or around it in such a way as to keep a good grip.

And so, for now, the TV still sits on a canvas in the dining room floor. Sigh.

Monday, May 7, 2012


I spent the entire afternoon working in the yard on Saturday – in 90-degree heat. Not exactly intelligent and yet I knew that if I didn't get it over with, it would only be worse.

How right I was! It has rained off and on since the wee hours of this morning and the grass is already showing signs of more growth. Sigh.

Despite feeling bad much of yesterday, I pushed along to get more things done. And today, I paid the price for it. In part being sick and in part because of raging storms between midnight and 4 a.m., I got very little sleep last night. So when the alarm went off this morning, I groaned.

And I stayed home.

I slept a good chunk of the morning – when I wasn't awakened by the trash truck, my neighbor's motorcycle or wrong numbers on my cell phone. Even so, I still don’t feel much better.

It's been a bitch of an allergy season, so I'm guessing that's part of it.  I had a fever so I hope it's not a bug. If it is, this is NO time of year to catch one – they never go away! Another part is that I'm just out of energy. Physically. Mentally. Emotionally.

 And all of this is complicated by an itch to jump back into house projects and GET THEM DONE! I'm sick of living in a sorta kinda done house. Especially when it should have been done a year or two ago. I'm hesitant though to get TOO deep into working on something lest the job front change for the better and equally hesitant to get TOO deep monetarily – lest the job front change for the worse.

This year is fast approaching the halfway mark.  I'm thinking it's about time that it does  some major improving. And soon.

So, to help it along, I need to make some kind of plan to move forward. Why should the universe make any effort on my behalf if I don't, right?

Sunday, May 6, 2012

It's Only a Super Moon

Call me jaded, but I expected something a little more impressive than what I saw from something with "super" in the title.

1. It wasn't that big.
2. It wasn't that bright. (Seen brighter ones that were just any old "full" moon. Or that's how it seemed to me.)
3. It didn't even seem that close. (Even though the moon was supposed to be closer tonight than at any other time this year.) I've remembered walking out and thinking "wow -- you could touch the moon." Didn't even remotely feel that way tonight.

The best viewing time was supposed to be at 10:34 p.m. CT though the moon wouldn't be closest to the earth until around 11. I shot the upper shot at 10:55 and the lower shot 20 minutes earlier.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Stalking the Dead

One of the ways that I've been coping lately with all the craziness of the living is to walk among the dead. No, I've not been strolling through cemeteries. I have, in fact, been walking – virtually – through generations of lives.

 I have been finding and documenting birth and death records and all of the little things that go on in between. Land deeds. Marriage licenses. Birth announcements and obituaries. Military service records. Newspaper clippings about the latest family get together or church social.

In taking these little sojourns, I've identified family I didn't even know I had and unearthed ancestors I could never have planned on finding. I've even connected with a few new distant cousins along the way and is THAT ever cool! And, having reconnected with some of my first cousins recently, it's a nice way to share what we know – and don't – about our family.

I've been doing genealogy off and on for 25 or more years, and with any kind of real dedication for about half that. I even started a blog a few years ago to share my findings and brick walls with any would-be relatives but I wasn't very good about keeping it up. (I'm back on the wagon though so if you stop by, you'll find a handful of very recent posts.)

I've already gotten my paternal grandmother's line farther back than I ever thought possible. And this has included a PHOTO of my great-great-grandparents! Booyah!

There are SO many more online resources available than there were when I first started checking in the late 1990s. Back in the day, you had to load up MICROFILM and painstakingly scroll through to "browse."
My interest has been rejuvenated in part by the reprisal of the PBS series "Finding Your Roots" with Dr. Henry Louis Gates. (LOVE that man and this is one of the fastest hours on television for me every week.) NBC also has a genealogy-related show called "Who Do You Think You Are?"

Sometimes, it can be incredibly fun to find out. So, if you've got the itch to shake your family tree I say, "Shake, baby, shake."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

A Real-Time Meet and Eat

Sometimes, our real and virtual worlds get to mesh and you actually meet a bloggy friend live and in-person! Vicki from Not so SAHM and I have been talking about such a meeting since way back when she lived in Missouri and it didn't sound like a pipe dream.

Sadly, I missed out on a chance to meet with Vicki and her two darling girls last year during one of her whirlwind stops in St. Louis. But when she recently gave me a head's up several days in advance that she and Du were bringing the girls to town for another visit, I was NOT going to miss out again!

During their stopover, the Not So SAHM fam wanted barbecue. Well, there was only one place to take them: Pappy's. I've only been there a handful of times but have eaten food from there LOTS. (Work uses them fairly often for catering.) And every once in a while, I've been underwhelmed. It seems to go in cycles. For the most part, though, totally delish.

I'm one of those people who worries about food recommendations. It would be just my luck that the one time I have out-of-town guests primed from primo BBQ that something would go wrong – except it didn't. Not only were Vicki and troop able to arrive ahead of schedule (because there's always the fear that Pappy's will sell out) but the food was great.  The family seemed happy with their ribs.

 The meal and the time both quickly disappeared. (Hope you enjoyed it as much as I did.) It was a pleasant visit and such a great kick to see Reagan and Ashlyn live and in action. Thank you so much, Vicki, for making the effort to meet and for sharing your beautiful family with me. Oh, and for lunch, too. (By slyly asking me what I was going to get, Du managed to stealthily purchase my lunch.) I was pleasantly surprised and a more fitting thank-you will soon be on its way.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Better News

I've been absent for a while and man, has it has been a craaaaazy time. I've got lots of catching up to do, so I should probably start out with one of the positive things that have gone on in the past month.

Many of you have been following the recent health saga with my estranged father. I am happy to report that, at least for now, he is doing better. He was rushed back to the hospital last week but, despite a rather grave prognosis, is doing better than when he was the last time he had been returned to the hospital.

So, for his sake, I hope that he is able to resume some quality of life.

I found out today that he is no longer on oxygen so at some point, I should be able to talk to him. I'm not sure what I will say. I'm sure that it will get awkward pretty quickly after "hi" but we'll see how it goes. In the meantime, I'll just keep putting little bits of positive energy out there, pointing it in his direction.

It's Raining Bowling Balls

I'm not sure what it is about April hailstorms. I do know that I am SO done with them.

Last year, they managed to rain down golfballs onto Pearl's trunk – the only part not covered by the carport. This year, they rained down TENNIS BALLS on the MonkeyGirl's ride, Luna. (A really pretty Volkswagen CC.)
We were scrapbooking on Saturday at a charity event the MonkeyGirl's office has each year (sometimes twice!) when the tornado siren went off shortly before 6. We all went into an enclosed stairwell and rode it out. We didn't have to wait long before, as the MonkeyGirl put it, "it started raining bowling balls." As it turned out, it really wasn't much of an exaggeration.

It's not a great photo but it's good enough that you get the idea. Bear in mind, too, that I took these pictures 15 minutes or more after the fact, after I had been holding it for a minute or two and then it was melting while my volunteer held it -- and it was about 70 degrees at the time. So this is smaller than when it fell. These suckers were MASSIVE!!!!

I've never seen hail this size firsthand before and I hope that I never do again. The scary part was that hailstones this size were NOT rare. They were still all over the parking lot after they'd done their damage. Windshields were cracked or busted out. Like in the car above which belongs to a fellow scrapper and was the first damage I noticed in the aftermath. Back windows were smashed out all over the place. Car bodies looked like they had been target practice in some kind of a bizarre game.

I knew there would be damage but to so many cars and all so severely. Meanwhile, Pearl was at the MonkeyGirl's house and appears to have come through the much smaller hail storm that happened there unscathed. Knowing that made me feel even worse once I saw this. That's the MonkeyGirl's windshield -- and only the beginning of the damage.

She has an incredible attitude about it. Luckily, we weren't on the road when the storm broke out, so no one got hurt. And, as she put it: "That's what I have insurance for."

Like I said,I've never seen hail like that before, except on TV or in pictures online. It's just unreal how much damage it can do and how quickly it can do it. Let's hope that we're DONE with this stuff! While I'm not bold enough to assume we'll never have hail again, it would be nice if it would be a while before it comes our way.