Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Christmas!

Wow. Where did December go?

Well, it went toward a multitude of year-end projects at work. And our annual holiday charity program. And sickness. Don't forget the sickness. Both the mother and I seem to have been battling some kind of crud or other all season. For me, it culminated in a trip to urgent care on Friday. I left with Rxs for antibiotics and ear drops.

I am very much improved. I shudder to think what kind of shape I'd be in had I not caved and walked the four blocks from the office to urgent care five days ago!

So, all is quiet on this front. I munched on barbecue meatballs, watched "Christmas in Connecticut" and chatted with friends on Facebook after the mother fell asleep. I was going to watch "A Christmas Story" but when she wakes up she'll want to watch it. And, it will be on again and again and again. And again.

Instead, I'm here in the light of the tree, watching the latter part of "It's A Wonderful Life." I love this movie, so I'm content to be right where I am and grateful to be so much better than I was, even if I'm not completely well. (I'd share a pic of the tree but Blogger has decided I cannot post it vertically. Whatever.)

It's been bitterly cold today and I'm contemplating brewing myself a nice cup of tea and perhaps spiking it. And, topping it off with a nice slice of fruitcake. Yes. That's a good plan. I'll do that!

But first, I'll wish you a very Merry Christmas. I hope that you are well, safe, warm and surrounded by love wherever you may be.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Two Tales of Black Friday

"You're an idiot."

That's what someone said to me on a friend's Facebook thread where I was talking about Black Friday shopping. The person was apparently vehemently opposed to the annual post-holiday consumer pilgrimage. I respect that.

I'll even admit that every year, there's almost always a strong case to be made for that opinion. And this year is no exception. But still, in roughly 13 or 14 years of observing this annual event, I've seen only a handful of incidents and those were minor at best.

Instead, what I have seen are people laughing, talking to one another and often, helping each other. People sharing carts when there were none and purchases were tough to keep moving in the line. Others offering a cell phone so a girl could attempt to contact her mother and let her know she was in line. Still others telling one member of a shopping "team" where they located one of the bargains so someone could quickly retrieve one while the team was still in line.

And today, when a lady discovered she had one less T-shirt than she had intended to purchase (either hadn't grabbed enough or had dropped one while making her way through the store), a guy piped up and said, "Go get you one. I'll keep your place and watch your stuff." And he did.

One reason I've probably had such positive Black Friday experiences is that I don't buy electronics. (Except online.) Or, I'm generally not seeking the season's hot new toy. That's not to say that I don't often shop for popular items; I do. They just don't happen to those things that folks generally would duke it out over or trample someone else to get to.

Through a combination of online shopping and devoting just a few hours to hit three stores on Friday morning (and mid-morning at that), I scored several of the items on lists for families and seniors we are adopting for the holidays at work. I also got a few things for myself, some gifts for friends, the mother and Toby -- and saved hundreds of dollars doing it. I also earned $90 in Kohl's Cash from some of those purchases.

I did all that and while I was doing it, no one was trampled or even rude. Lines moved quickly and shoppers were well behaved. Friendly even.

If then, going out to shop on Black Friday makes me an idiot, so be it.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been a busy day around here -- for me at least. It's probably the only day of the year you can almost always find me in the kitchen.

I got a later start than usual this year. Instead of being up getting the turkey ready at 8 or 9, I was determined to not get up until I felt like it. This year, that was 11:15. And for most of the next four hours, I was cooking, prepping or checking on something.

Then, after gorging myself silly, it was getting everything into the fridge, the dishes done and the kitchen cleaned up. Now, I'm quite tempted to emulate both Toby and the mother and just curl up and go to sleep. Instead, I may just tear into this.

Tomorrow, instead of a traditional midnight, 4 a.m. or 5 a.m. shopping start, I just have to get going in time to use a coupon at Michaels before noon and multiple discounts at Kohl's before 1 p.m. (I did most of my Black Friday shopping online, not including a pre-midnight run last night to Walgreens to score some toy deals for our charity program at work.)

Whatever you did today and plan to do tomorrow, I hope it's a lot of fun! Be safe out there.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Gee Thanks, Mother Nature

A couple of months ago, I was delighted when I saw a fall forecast preview that predicted a "warmer than average November." If only ...

It's been below average most of the month and downright bone-chilling for most of the past week. (Single-digit windchills tonight.) This wouldn't be a big deal except for one important thing: I have a patio to finish.

I took Friday off and the only thing I got done was a trip to Menard's where Lawrence and I picked up both the scallops and the columns, both of which had FINALLY arrived. It was just TOO cold to work out there Saturday. And so, it's supposed to warm up this coming week but Lawrence isn't available.

I had hoped he could put the scallops on the sides of the patio roof on Tuesday when it's supposed to be back near 50. But, he recently had a fender bender and is dropping his truck off for repair on Tuesday. Then he and his wife are heading out of town for Thanksgiving. He won't be back until next Sunday. Perfect.

So ... my one hope is that we're going to get some 45 degree or better days in December. The odds are in my favor because the average temperature is in the 40s. Which, apparently means nothing, considering that average November temps are the low to mid-50s.

I'm off again the next two Fridays (the day after Thanksgiving is a holiday at work) and I took the following Friday as one of my remaining vacation days. Here's hoping that I can get something accomplished THAT weekend since we're clearly running out of time.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Changing Up

I can't believe I haven't posted these yet, but I've been a little busy. And, since yesterday, been having trouble signing into my account. But that's a rant I don't have the energy to go off about.

So, the other half of the Special Project changed out the storm door on the front of the house as we had on the back. That happened last Saturday. As I did with the back door, I have to admit, I like it. While it wasn't as hard to install as the first one, it did take some time. The good news: It was worth the effort. That sucker seals up TIGHT. It will definitely help keep out the cold in winter and the bugs in summer in ways its predecessor never did.

I did not anticipate that it would change the look of the house as much as I think it has. You can decide for yourself.

I did not anticipate that it would change the look of the house as much as I think it has. You can decide for yourself.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A Roofing Lesson

I'll caveat this post by concluding that I am an idiot. In fairness, sometimes you don't know what you don't know. Except for picking up those ripped from the roof in 2006 (the roof our current one replaced), I'd had relatively little experience with rooftops. Until Friday.

Thursday evening, I spent 30 minutes at Lowe's trying to see what, if anything, might match the roof since I couldn't get what we have on the house to put atop the patio. Or so I thought.

I made up my mind that Friday morning the very FIRST thing that Lawrence and I would do would be to ascend the roof with samples.  So up we climbed with two sample booklets, an actual sample AND one of the roofing shingles from the 8 packs of Sierra Gray laying on my patio. Lawrence flipped that shingle onto the roof of the house. And my heart stopped for a second.

Not only it was a match, it was an EXACT match. And so, shingling began in earnest. Turns out that the part of the shingle that freaked me out, that off color ... you don't see that. That's where the next layer covers over. Stimpy, YOU IDIOT! Well, what did I know? Even Lawrence didn't immediately get that because he hadn't put architectural shingles up before. Of course, he has now.

The foreground shingles are the house. That upper portion is the new roof for the patio. If you don't see a difference, that's OK. There isn't one!

I shot this picture because you can't really appreciate the match as much from far away nor can you really see the detail of the architectural shingles from the yard. The slope of the roof isn't substantial enough that it shows like it does on the house or the carport.

See for yourself. I had to go halfway down the alley just to get a full view!
 You'll notice that there is actually some furniture on the patio, in addition to the plywood and soffit and fascia waiting to go up. We moved stuff out of the carport, now that the patio is at least covered, so that Pearl could have at least some of her space back.

It's the first time that Pearl has been in her own space in about 10 weeks. It took me more than one try to get her where I could reasonably open the door because is there is so much still under there!

To say I was relieved by the match and overjoyed to get this finished is a gross understatement. I was obsessing to the point that it was making me sick.

So now I'm siting here hoping they STAY UP THERE. Severe storms and wind here today. What should be a peaceful day of rest for me is just a little intense as we keep checking on everything. So far, so good.

Cross your fingers our luck holds out!

Friday, November 15, 2013

The "Special" Project

I alluded to a special project Lawrence and I half-completed. Well, here it is. We managed to complete this last Saturday.
This is the new back storm door. (Note the construction in the upper right corner.) Hoping tomorrow to put the matching one on the front. We had intended to get both of them up last week but man, this door had absolutely NO HOLES in it at all.

Instead of getting two done in three hours (including packing up the old doors in the new doors' packaging) it took that long just to get this thing on! I'm hoping that now that we've done this once, the front will go a little faster. We'll see.

It really makes the back of the house pop! I hate to admit it, but I like it. It was one of those things that the mother HAD to have. Our storm doors were still in pretty good shape . But hey, with all the work that has gone into this freakin' patio, I can't say I mind.

Today was focused on the patio roof. (More to come later.) But here's hoping that some of tomorrow can be devoted to switching out the front door.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Sorry, That’s Discontinued

If you’ve never heard those words before regarding a needed product for a home improvement project, I hope that you never do. But this week, it sucks to be me: I heard that phrase while trying to track down the shingles we have on the house.
Obviously, I’d like to have the same shingles for the patio roof. (Of course, I’d like to spend the weekend with Hugh Jackman, too. At this point, my odds with Hugh are looking better than my odds of scoring those shingles.) I thought I’d found them, too.
You can see the shingles in question in the banner and in the various pix of the house on this page. I mistakenly thought they were Owens Corning Sierra Gray. After several discussions and much research, I now believe they are actually OC’s Antique Silver – a color that no longer exists. The Sierra Gray is close – or at least some of it is. In this picture, you can see that the top half is a light gray with both black and white accents. Meanwhile, the lower half is dark and, of all things, has BROWN mixed in. WTF?!
My dilemma is this: Knowing that at least part of these shingles are dark and will create a checkerboard pattern on the patio roof that doesn’t exist on the house, do I just go with them?
They’re on the patio, sitting, waiting. Or, do I go a shade or two lighter with shingles that may not be in stock. If they’re not, that means going through the special order process yet again. *sigh* Frankly, I don’t like either option.
I’ve yet to break this to the mother. *triplesigh* And I’ve not yet decided what to do. But I'll figure it out. Somehow, I always do. On to Plan B ...

Monday, November 11, 2013

The Good, The Great and the Very, Very Ugly

I took yet another Friday off and the extended weekend produced a mixed bag of results.
The good: My neck and shoulder have healed. (Crosses fingers.) On Friday, we got the second side of the patio roof enclosed.
On Saturday, Lawrence got the drainage work completed, including attaching all the drip edge, so we’re ready for shingles.*
The great: I finished the brickwork!!! (Waits for vault of Heaven to open and cherubic interlude to the Hallelujah Chorus to begin.) We also managed to get half of the special project done. We only got half of it done because it took twice as long as anticipated. sigh. Stay tuned for details on that in its own post.
*The very, very ugly: Something is amiss with the shingles. I discovered this late yesterday, only after the mother kept nagging me about it. One half of the shingles are the color of our existing roof, as they should be. The other half? A weird mishmash of varying colors. Why? So far, no one can tell me. The solution? Hell if I know.
The end result of my one step forward, three steps back weekend put me in sort of a funk. Add to that Mother Nature's latest handiwork. We're being plunged into the deepfreeze as I type this. It was over 60 degrees today (and a day I had anticipated that Lawrence could shingle the patio roof) but tomorrow the high will be 38. Yes, 38. WTF, Mother Nature? Et tu?
Let's say that and a small family drama haven't done much to improve my somber and sullen state. On the bright side ...
This cold snap is only supposed to last through Thursday. By Friday and through the weekend were back over 50 degrees. And, I am taking yet another Friday off. (This is what happens when you take two vacation days all summer and maybe only three or four others the rest of the year before that! You scramble to get all of it in before the end of the year.) With the holidays upon us -- another thing that is irritating the crap out of me, the endless countdown of days 'til Christmas -- I'm going to get mighty spoiled by all these three- and four-day weeks. I think I deserve it though.
Besides, it's not like I'm sitting around eating bon-bons. I've been working my *ss off. As a result, I am the tired, grumpy and frustrated individual writing this post. I promise I will return soon in an improved frame of mind and will update with photos as soon as the weather relents.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Slowed to a Crawl

My neck/shoulder is better. (Today, it's moved away from my neck and a little down into my upper back.)

I debated going outside and trying to finish my brickwork. Thinking that I should just lay low instead. So, I'm holed up in the livingroom watching the TV adaptation of Stephen King's "Bag of Bones." This means that nothing gets done today. And that's on top of yesterday's rather slow progress.

That's not entirely true. Lawrence and I spent yesterday morning at Menard's. We picked up the shingles for the roof, all of the associated drainage pieces and another special order I'll share next week, once it's unboxed. I had some limited activity yesterday, helping unload the truck once we got back home and helping Lawrence by handing things up to him when he was on the ladder or the roof. His big progress was closing in one side of the patio's roof and covering it in roofing paper.

But back for a second to drainage. I think drainage, I'm thinking gutters. Who the hell knew it was gutters, downspouts, elbows, extenders, connectors, end caps, facia, soffit ... the list just seems to be never-ending. All of these pieces made up the largest chunk of the bill, too. Not cheap either.

Lawrence is going to come tomorrow and work on said drainage and then, ideally, at least start on the roof now that we have shingles. I'll be at work. I hope to be taking Friday off so we can deal with that special project and then back to the scheduled activity. Of course, all this is assuming that my neck/shoulder and now back decide to cooperate.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Earlier this week, I was awakened at 2 a.m. by an excruciating pain between my neck and right shoulder. It radiated into my upper arm.

It took a long time to die down and nearly as long to find a way to fall back to sleep, but I finally did. When I got up in the morning, the area had a twinge to it but I was other wise fine. But by the time I got home that night, it was kicking in again. Through a combination of heat, ice and electronic impulses, I made it to sleep and didn't get woke up.

But yesterday, the pain had resumed. Not unmanagable but definitely uncomfortable. By lunchtime, it had kicked into overdrive. I ended up coming home a few hours early to resume the hot/cold treatment. Had a hard time getting to sleep and this morning, I decided to work from home so I could keep switching the heat and ice. (Kind of hard to do at a desk, in office-appropriate clothing.)

So ... now what? Twisted something? Pinched nerve? Overuse? Slept wrong? I think it might be a combination of all those. It means I'm going to be slowed down at a time when, especially on the homefront, I can't afford to be. I know it could be a lot worse but d*mmit! I have things to do and with a pretty solid deadline.

Cross your fingers that this passes pretty quickly.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Oh, Menard's ...

I currently have four pending orders with Menard’s, three of which are directly tied to the patio project.

The oldest of these dates back to Sept. 15; the most recent is from Monday. I don’t yet have merchandise on any of these orders. I need to start by saying that, overall, I like Menard’s. They’re helpful. They have a large selection of merchandise and, in general, great prices. (I’m also liking the current 11 percent rebate, though it does have some sticking points for me.)

My biggest problem with them: delivery timelines. You might recall this started off on the wrong foot with my very first order when my brick delivery was delayed by multiple days.

On the columns that will wrap the posts on the patio, three to four weeks has now surpassed six and is on its way to seven weeks. New storm doors, which should have arrived at the end of last week, are still en route to a distribution center, not yet on their way to the store. Shingles, which were supposed to be in-store in six days (Oct. 26) were shipping yesterday.

On Monday, while placing a fourth order, I learned that I wasn’t being given accurate tracking information on the shingles. “I don’t know why the Internet had these as special order,” said Art, the guy who I’ve placed multiple orders with. “I’ve got these in the store.” Wait. What?!

So, it was with some hesitancy that I placed a new order for some vinyl scallop siding. After going into sticker shock from the estimate I got from Lowe’s (where we’d purchased what’s on the house and shed around 2007/2008), and getting a call back from Home Depot with pricing that was less than Lowe’s but still significantly more than Menard’s, I quizzed Art. “It’s November this week. Weather is not on my side. Is three weeks really THREE WEEKS … or is it six or seven?” Unlike some of the other companies who handled the products we’d bought, Art says this one is serious about their schedules.

Hmmm. Let’s hope so. Because I’d REALLY like to finish this project before we get snow.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Awning … Gone!

One of the highlights of Saturday was the long-awaited departure of the awning! Within the first 90 minutes of work, Lawrence and I got to the point I had hoped that we would reach during our workday on Monday. The awning came down and the rest of the rafters for both the roof and the ceiling went up.

Lawrence will be back Monday morning as I managed to score yet another vacation day to take advantage of the weather. On Saturday, it started out quite cold but warmed up into the mid-60s. The only downside was the wind. Man, was it wild! Luckily, as the day wore on, rather than being pretty consistently strong, it would only occasionally bluster. It knocked down THREE FULL SHEETS of plywood at one point!
In the end though, all of the effort was worth it. We continued to rack up some progress and now I’m paying for it by feeling like I’ve been ON a rack.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Going Batty

It never fails that when I have a million things going, I manage to add one more.

In this case, it’s at least 50 more. We’re having a Halloween party at work this week and I’m on the committee. A colleague and I got together Friday and I shared some possible decorations I made using my Slice machine. She liked them but said: “Can you make bats?” Well, yes, I can. “Can you make them bigger?” Well, no.

So instead of being able to use my little die-cut machine, I instead found a template online and I’m cutting bats of various sizes out by hand. I’m a little over halfway to the goal. And then, of course, I have to cut out several sets of the Slice decorations (in the foreground) so they can put those on tables. At least I have the machine to do that!

Meanwhile, I’ve been a little more obsessed with bats of another kind: the ones the St. Louis Cardinals are swinging. Yes, I’m deep in the throes of the World Series. These guys are killin’ me with these tension-filled games! They just won a little while ago, 5-4, with a truly incredible ending.

I was supposed to go to a birthday party tonight (sorry, guys) but in addition to the mother being sick, I am wiped out. I was outside from 8:30 until almost 6. Yep. Another full day for Lawrence and I; he left around 4. By the time I got out of the shower and got something to eat, the game was starting. I got sucked in pretty fast and just couldn’t make myself get up. The day had officially taken its toll.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

A Serious Disconnect

Have you ever seen the movie “Cool Hand Luke?” If so, you’re no doubt familiar with the line: “What we have here is a failure to communicate.”

Earlier this month, we ported our landline to AT&T Wireless Home Phone. Make sure you check this out. If you live in an area with relatively good cell coverage, it should work for you. And, at $20/month for unlimited local and long distance and a host of other plusses, there’s not much to dislike. But I digress.

So, the system works. (It won’t work with more than two analog phones though, both of which would have to be hooked into the portable signal box for either phone to be of any use to you.) D*mmit! I’m off track again, but the home phone is central to the story so bear with me.

The timing of this transfer is pretty advantageous. Just Monday, Lawrence had to remove the landline from the house (still connected, but hanging loose) so we could continue working on the patio roof. Before we can put the ceiling in, it has to be gone entirely. We’re still a little ways from that point, but the line has to go. Until I knew whether the wireless home phone would work, I hesitated to have the landline removed and mulled just moving it. Now I know the system works and now the d*mned line is in the way. So I called the phone company.

I called the number listed on their site for repair. I do, after all, need a lineman even though nothing was broken. I get automation and 97 choices. OK. Not that many – but not one that really helped. I ended up pushing the first option. More automation. Key in your phone number. When I do that, I’m dropped from the loop because having ported my number to wireless service, I’m now a Mobility customer with AT&T NOT a landline residential. It tries to transfer me to Mobility. I hang up and start over. I choose a different option this time. I get a person. When I explain my situation to him, he says, “You need to speak to Mobility.” NO! No, I don’t! So I explain again, spelling out WHY Mobility can’t help me. “I need a lineman … from the landline folks!” He puts me on hold, promising to connect me to a person. Before anyone picks up, I get: “Please enter your telephone number.” Oh, brother. Here we go … AGAIN! Disconnected.

On the third call, I go through the automated process yet again and then get another guy who again promises to transfer me. (He gave me a number though to call back in case I got disconnected again.) On the third ring, it took about five seconds for me to get this response: “Sure. I can get someone out there before 6 p.m. today.”

And about 90 minutes later, the line was GONE. BOO-yah!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

The Roof Goes Up and the Awning ... Stays Up

The ugly awning got a reprieve yesterday. Lawrence and I spent about 90 minutes on a trip to Lowe's, including total travel time, then loading and unloading. Purchases included: 12 sheets of plywood, two rolls of roofing paper, 72 feet of 1x6 and four more 2x6 boards. Yeah, that was fun. The good news is that the roof is on. Yay! We even got the roofing paper on. It will still need shingles (ordered), fascia, trim and drainage to finish it off. I had thought that we would be able to finish the roof Monday AND take down the awning while completing the ceiling beams. Wishful thinking. It took all day just to get the roof done. So, we'll be back at it on Saturday. Hoping the forecast sticks to what is currently forecast -- 60 and dry!

Sunday, October 20, 2013

The Next Level

I took the day off on Saturday to go and play with the MonkeyGirl and some other friends. Ah, what a wonderful diversion from the patio which has consumed almost every one of my free moments in the past two months!

Today, I got started on the "soldiering," putting the bricks that will cover the sides of the patio, after I finished the surface. A handful of bricks had to be repaired after the entire end row had come loose just as I was finishing up and it started pouring down rain. But I'm getting a little ahead of things.

On Friday, this project finally looked like something other than a prop on the set of "The Beverly Hillbillies." For the first time, I really got to see it all coming together. And, we even came up with a plan for that gap between the back truss and the house gutter! Take a look for yourself at where we are.

This shot is actually a little better. You get a good view of where the framing is divided between the roof (slanted) and the ceiling (straight).

For some reason, the mother still doesn't get this. And that's frustrating at hell considering that she is the one who is usually able to see things before they're really there.

If things go as planned, the plywood for the roof will be on, the awning will be off and the rest of the ceiling beams will be up.

It doesn't seem like we'll make the Halloween deadline that I'd originally hoped for but mid-November seems doable. The weather is about to change dramatically (highs in the 50s after being in the 70s) but I'm hoping it's only temporary and that I can get another few good days to get things done. Cross your fingers ...

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Hello, Awning

This thing has been hated and much maligned since we bought This D*mn House. I've never been a fan (always thought it looked cheesy) and to say that the mother hates, loathes and despises it might be an understatement.

But, in fairness, it has provided enough shelter to not get drowned by rain or buried in snowfall through the years.

It's still ugly and hated though. Looking at it now makes me want to get rid of it all the more. The mother will probably do a happy dance when it comes time to make this thing disappear. I hope her knee will be well healed by then because I don't think this is an event that will be too very far in the future.

So, hello, awning. Your days are numbered ...

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Stupid, Stupid Rain

In the movie "Impromptu," an aristocratic couple has a house full of artistes (including the likes of Mdme. George Sand and Chopin) and in one scene, everyone is jammed into a parlor, watching a thunderstorm.

One of my faves, Emma Thompson, cast in the largely forgettable role of the hostess, utters this line: "Stupid, stupid rain." It pretty much sums up how I feel today. Earlier this morning, I had to call Lawrence and cancel. I'd hoped to get in at least a few hours of work this morning. Long enough at least to get the truss solidly into place and build the smaller version that will go along the front.

Apparently, it's not to be. At least not today.

I was just telling Jayne over at The Kelly House (she who is nursing a broken clavicle) that the universe has a way of telling you to slow down. To be honest, I could use the rest. And at least I got a much subtler message than poor Jayne.

Besides, there's a ballgame to watch this afternoon (Game 2 of the NLCS). And if it's anything like the one I watched last night, I'm going to need to rest up to survive it!

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Up, Up and Away

I think I mentioned that the last chapter in Adventures with Lawrence included loading and unloading more than three dozen 2x6 boards of varying lengths.

Today, we broke into this stash and began putting them to use. There is an incredible amount of difference between hefting 10-footers than 14-footers. (Just ask my shoulders. They'll groan to confirm.) We started out with 2x4s.

The 2x4s were left over from what we had purchased and used to build the concrete forms to pour the patio. Lawrence promised me that this almost $90 worth of lumber would have a use once we got to covering the patio. Today, he made good on that promise.

When we started, I was having a very hard time trying to figure out just what the hell Lawrence had us creating. We took two 2x6s and sandwiched small squares of half-inch plywood between them. That had me scratching my head. Then he explained that those plywood pieces, jutting out from between the boards, had a double duty. On one side, they would help serve as anchors to 20-inch cuts of 2x4 running vertically throughout the frame. On the other side, they would help anchor 28-inch diagonal cut boards. It was all Greek to me, but what I saw was that the combination of the vertical and diagonal boards spelled out my initials: NV. Take a look. See?

The picture doesn't do this thing justice. It's massive. It's about 3.5 feet wide and nearly 18 feet long! And it's not light by any stretch of the imagination. So, just how were Lawrence (who is in his mid-70s AND not a very big man to begin with) and I going to get this thing almost 10 feet in the air? I'll admit, I was skeptical. You'd think though, that in more than six years of working with Lawrence, I'd know better than to doubt him. He is almost always a man with a plan.

Using multiple ladders and an array of ropes and pulleys (and me pushing a 6-foot ladder through the middle of it all, hoping against hope that this precaution wouldn't be necessary), this monstrosity began to rise. I was terrified the whole time this was going on. I was afraid that a) this ginormous piece we'd spent almost six hours building would crash down or b) Lawrence, who was being something of a daredevil more than 10 feet in the air, would fall.

After carefully repeating the procedure on both sides and then alternating between the two, we got the frame to here.
 It didn't hurt that I had an epiphany and brought out some furniture sliders to lay beneath each side of the frame to help push it along a board Lawrence had temporarily attached between the posts. Finally! The huge frame was suspended between the posts closest to the house.

But that was just the beginning. Now, this beast had to stand up atop each of the posts! Let's just say I held my breath a lot today. More than once I envisioned this thing crashing down onto the patio and shattering.

The really good news is that that didn't happen. Instead, using the pulleys and ropes he had to help us get the frame up to the boards, he then repositioned to pull the monster into place. And, just like that, it looks like this. Seems rather small and insignificant sitting up there like that, doesn't it?

The day, however, wasn't without its downsides.

First, the mother managed to get a flip flop tangled in an extension cord in the carport and fell. I don't think anything is broken but she bashed the hell out of her left knee and right hand/wrist. Both are pretty swollen and bruised. Say a prayer that these injuries manage to heal sooner rather than later.

Second, the frame is sitting several more inches away from the house than it should be. Not sure where Lawrence miscalculated on this one but we're going to have to come up with something to bridge this gap. Ugh.

Monday, September 30, 2013

So, So Close

The patio is so, so close ... and yet so far. My hope was to have finished the surface yesterday. This would mean that only the soldier bricks on the front and on the side facing my neighbors would be left to do. That was my plan and my hope. I almost got there. Almost.
Unfortunately, close only counts in horseshoes and hand grenades. With patios ... not so much. It looks like such an insignificant amount of surface yet to cover. Still though, it involves a few more bricks than you might think. I'm guessing somewhere between 75 and 125. Even going from first light until almost dark this was all I could do. I just ran out of time, out of light and out of energy. From this angle, you get a little better idea of just how much still remains along the other side.
So, as I usually do when one of my plans doesn't quite work out, I've created another one. I had hoped that maybe I could score a few more vacation days this week. Instead, it's Mother Nature that's messing with that plan. Rain is supposed to move in midweek with chances running through Saturday. So, the revised revised revised (yes, that's three revisions) plan is for me to finish the surface this weekend, weather permitting, and start on the soldiering. Then, try to score a few days off next week during which Lawrence and I can start on the roof for this bad boy.
For right now, that's the plan. We'll see how that works out.
I'm taking the scuttling of my original plans as a subtle message from the universe to slow the hell down. (I am so wiped out it's pathetic. I ended up taking a half a sick day today from work because I just cannot function.) A handful of drugs and a few hours of rest later, I do feel a little better but I'm still a charter member of the walking dead. Hopefully, this slight delay will give me time to rejuvenate and be ready to jump in again with both feet in a few days.
I'll admit, I don't deal well with failure. I was really disappointed that, despite my best efforts, I still couldn't get the surface covered. I really did try. So, for now, I'll take some consolation in the mother's comments last night as I lamented the as yet unaccomplished goal: "You got a hell of a lot done."


Saturday, September 28, 2013

The Return of the Rotozip

I was up shortly after light and outside by around 7:30. I was moving a little slow, but tried to quickly get into the groove. The bad news was that it took about five minutes to grind things to a halt.

I knew at some point I was going to need what I affectionately call "half bricks" to fill in awkward areas, including around the five posts. Their more formal name is 2x8 Holland pavers but my description is exactly what they are: a brick, cut in half, longways.

I tried to head this off by collecting some of these pre-cut gems from either Lowe's or Home Depot. What I found during the past few days was that neither store (at least not around here) carries them. D*mn! Looks like a clear case of having to do it myself. So, after a lengthy hiatus, I dragged out my trusty Rotozip.

Having to stop and do custom cuts slowed me down considerably, but there's something to be said to be able to cut a brick to fit! Or, in my case, about eight of them.

Just as I was getting into a groove, Lawrence arrived. He quickly set about ciphering, carefully figuring out what else we'd need from a structural standpoint. Then, we went to buy it (along with some more mortar and cement mix for the bricking). It took a while to buy, load and unload 540 pounds of material and 32 2x6 boards of varying length.

By the time we'd done that, my momentum was lost. I persevered and managed to add about 100 more bricks to the surface, far less than I would have hoped. Dark clouds began to herald the coming rain, so I began to get things cleaned up and put away. Here's the patio when I started. I didn't get to capture today's miniscule contribution because it's drying under a tarp since the forecast falls for heavy rain.
I'm hoping that the rain will finish overnight so that I can get an early start in the morning. The goal? Complete everything but the "soldiering" along the front rim and the rim on the far side. Here's hoping ...

The Next 275

It's now Saturday. In seven hours, I plan to get up and go back out to the patio project.

I have to get an uber early start because we're getting rain tomorrow. It couldn't have waited just one more day. Dammit! I got the two vacation days I wanted and did I ever make the most of them.

I was like a woman possessed on Thursday. I think I got down roughly 275 bricks. On Friday, I was moving a whole lot slower and by the time I thought about taking a photo, it was dark. Here's Thursday though. How's THAT for progress, especially when you put it up against my previous post?

Sunday, September 22, 2013

The First 100

I was outside at 8:30 a.m. I quit for the day around 6 p.m. In all those hours, I managed to accomplish this.
In fairness, all those bricks you see along the left perimeter? I had to mortar those. TWO rows deep. That took the bulk of the time. I also had to chip both along the house's cinder block and along the patio surface to get rid of some wayward patches that would have thrown things off kilter otherwise.

In all, it was progress. But when you look at the bigger picture, it sure doesn't seem like I got very far at all.
That's it? Really? And I worked ALL DAY?! Yeah. The good news is that this week's weather is supposed to be awesome. The bad news is that I may -- or may not -- be able to take vacation Thursday and Friday as I planned. Cross your fingers. I'm anxious to get back on the job and make some REAL progress! Here's hoping.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

They're here! They're here!

At long last, the bricks we bought at Menard's last weekend have arrived. They were originally supposed to be delivered Thursday afternoon.

But on Wednesday, they called and said they had to bring in more from another store so it wouldn't be another five days. FIVE DAYS? I just about had a cow. With a weekend of near idyllic weather, I couldn't have that. Luckily, by the time I got home, there was a message on my answering machine. The bricks could come, but not until Friday. Well, OK then. Still here in time for the weekend.

But on Friday, another delay. Friday morning was becoming Friday afternoon. But then, that didn't happen either. When I called Friday night, I got told Saturday morning. When no one called to say they were en route this morning, I called them again. It will be another hour or two, I was told.

This was putting a serious damper on the plans I had to brick the patio, starting this morning. I had a huge mess to get cleared up -- and more than 900 bricks to put down. I couldn't clean up the mess because I needed to put a Bagster in the driveway. And I didn't know if I'd have to move one car or both when, and if, the bricks finally arrived.

I wanted them put in the driveway at the back but feared I'd have to settle for having them brought to the front.
Instead, I got an ideal situation: the driver used the crane atop his truck to set them down NEXT TO THE PATIO! This means I won't have to traipse up and down the driveway with them. It also meant that once the truck was gone, I could begin cleaning up the mess of old rock by setting up another Bagster. So, today was a day of waiting, running around, and then cleaning up the mess. Tomorrow's agenda: Putting bricks down. Finally!

Friday, September 13, 2013


I have played with a lot of cement. You usually can't put roughly 900 bricks in place without it.

But for the first time ever, today I played with cement that came in a truck. A big truck. This truck. (Oh and that's Lawrence walking into the scene!)

And we got our 12x18 foundation poured. It was a horrid experience. Uber messy. Physically demanding. A job you CAN'T take a break from. And you have to move, fast, fast, fast!

I don't think the concrete had enough water in it because it started to set up even before we had all of it off the truck. It was unseasonably cool here today. Had it been in the 90s or above 100 like it's been for the last week or two, we'd have been seriously screwed.

As it was, we managed to get it done. It's not pretty (I neither expected nor need it to be) but it appears to be solid and level. I'm going to cover it with bricks soon so I wasn't concerned with having a perfect surface. What's unfortunate is that I have a moat of concrete in the backyard. It came from all of the excess we scraped off during screeding. I couldn't stop to level it out and it dried in place before I could. It will require a sledge or pickax to bust it up and get it low enough to just throw rock back over or to place pavers on. I bought 3.5 yards of concrete, mostly as a precaution because we had to fill the five holes we created to place the post. Seems 3, or more likely 3.25, would have been better. Live and learn.

So, I spent a few hours ankle-deep in cement. I was at it so long and the concrete was setting up so fast that at one point, I was afraid that I wouldn't be able to get out of it! It would be ironic to be an ornament, forever stuck on my own patio! But who knows? Perhaps I've created the next fashion craze: Mafia shoes!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Drive Time

Things I think about on the way in to work: The million billion little edits I have to make to the materials that are awaiting me. How many more million billion edits the client may have sent overnight, while I wasn't looking. I'm going to have to clear out the entire shed to get to those post hole diggers. God, do I REALLY have to dig more? Next hole I dig after this post adventure, I'm just going to fall in and call it a day. How are we going to solve for the gap between the existing gutter on the back of the house and where the new covered area starts? Yeah. All that stuff sloshing around in my head. And I haven't even had coffee yet ...

Monday, September 2, 2013

A Day of Laboring

On Sunday, I was outside before 8:30. I tore into the rocks around the old deck site that needed clearing. Nearly three steady hours of work and I'd barely made a dent in it. It was hot and steamy and I was already wearing down.

After a short break, I decided that I would try to at least get the lawn mowed, hoping that I would make it through before the approaching storm front arrived. As it turned out, I would only just make it.

I had to settle for brushing off rather than hosing off the mower. I hurriedly pushed it into the shed and then began tossing in everything else that goes in behind it. Before I could even shut the door, the mini monsoon arrived. Wind began tossing and turning the things that I hadn't yet gotten to. I made a mad dash for the carport, along with the now dilapidated cart I was using to haul buckets of dirt and rock out to the Bagster.

Just then, a massive gust of wind began driving piercing rain through the sky. I was first assaulted by and then soaked through with rain! There wasn't an inch of me that was dry. That's how a hot and exhausting work day ended.

The good news was that the nasty little storm front made for a MUCH cooler and less humid day today. I was outside by 7:30 and by the time Lawrence arrived an hour later, I had made some good progress. By the time he left, shortly before 3, this is where we were.

Amazing what a difference 24 hours had made! Our next adventure: digging five postholes that will eventually hold the top of our covered patio. Then, the next stop is CONCRETE for the foundation. Yep. We're REALLY moving forward with this project.

Saturday, August 31, 2013


Holy triple-digit temperatures, Batman!

Today is the second consecutive day of temps above 100 degrees. And it felt every degree of it. It was too hot to do real work so Lawrence and I made a short few hours of planning and then we took a trip to Lowe's to get the wood we'll need for the concrete forms. And a Bagster.

I used a Bagster for the first time a few weeks ago when we took the deck down. That thing was MEGA-stuffed. The only reason I was able to get as much into it as I did was that I strategically packed it. It got out of here successfully so I've decided to try it again.

This time, it will be rock and dirt. Rock and dirt that I have to dig up from around much of the area that surrounded what once was the deck. I did a little bit last weekend but to look at it, I didn't even scratch the surface.

It's supposed to be a little cooler tomorrow. A little being about five or six degrees. But, I need to work on the yard and on beginning to move all that rock. I feel like I've got the same quarry that Fred Flintstone did but the difference is that he got to sit his fat *ss down in a crane!

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Success: Part 1

BOOYAH! I walked out of City Hall today with a building permit! And I didn't even have to get bailed out jail. For me, one of the biggest issues was having to draw up a "plan" to share with our Building and Zoning office in order to get said permit. Have I mentioned that I don't draw? Well, I don't. So my very primitive rendering was a source of concern to me. The guy at B&Z? He asked me a couple questions. He gave me a thumbs up when I said we planned to put the four corner posts 2 feet in. The inspector has to come before we can pour the concrete over them to check. That's about it. It almost sounds too simple ...

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Gift of a Lifetime

I am a writer. I got my first desk around age 9.

It was a trash find that the mother found and refinished for me. It was only a few feet wide and maybe a few feet deep. A thick board slid out of each of the front legs to accommodate the actual surface that you pulled down like a drawer. The inside was filled with little cubby holes and just some open storage space. It served the purpose until I was about 14.

I didn't have a desk again until college. It came with the apartment I lived in. It wasn't anything to write home about but it was functional. Since then, I've had about five desks, each at the different places where I've worked. At home, I've had a cheap, flat sofa table that held my computer and, with some strategically placed café curtains, allowed me to stow a printer and scanner beneath.

After Memorial Day weekend, that all changed.

The mother saw a Dillard's ad in the Sunday paper. She saw a dining room set and we decided to go see it in person since our dining room chairs, more than 30 years old, are getting a little on the loose side. Unfortunately, the dining room set that looked like cherry wood, was actually a black painted finish. Pretty, but not in keeping with the décor at This D*mn House. We were disappointed but decided to mill around. Almost simultaneously we saw it.

The mother made a mad dash for it and I was on her heels. She began physically inspecting it. I just stood there with my mouth open. "Well, do you want it?"

Of course I wanted it. But where the hell were we going to put it? "Let me worry about that," says the mother. " I wanted to get you something really nice for your birthday anyway."
And so, in early June, this came through my front door.

It's OK. You can drool if you'd like. I'll wait. The middle drawer flips down to accommodate a keyboard. Instead, it's where I now stow my new laptop and my wifi unit. My printer lives beneath the table that you see a tiny glimpse of in the right of the photo and my scanner is against the wall (not in the photo). So far, it has worked divinely! It truly is one of the best gifts ever.

A few weeks ago, we lost power at work and I came home in the hopes of getting things done. I had not one, but two laptops (work and personal) on that desk!

We REALLY liked the chair but the sales associate told us we couldn't just buy those chairs. Sad because the ball and claw feet match our living room furniture. But we weren't sad for long. I managed to find them online -- at Dillard's! The place where you supposedly couldn't buy them. Hmmm. And, they were on sale. BOOYAH!

And so, after a bit of time online, a few phone calls and a two-week wait, our livingroom/diningroom combo is now all matchy-matchy. Now, if only the kitchen, the bedrooms and the basement were done! And, did I mention, we're in the throes of an OUTDOOR project right now? In fact, I'm heading to City Hall in the morning, hoping to secure a building permit. Wish me luck.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Inside and Out

I've been away for a few months, but that doesn't mean I really left. A special thanks to long-time reader Karen Anne who left me a comment to spur me along, confident that I was in fact out there still.

No worries - I am. I've just been really, really busy!

Since early June, I've been averaging between 55 and 70 hours (this past week). While it's exhausting, it's a good problem to have. (Remember how I spent 14 months working part time? Me, too. And I don't want to do it again. Ever.)

And the mother and I? We've been busy, too! In typical fashion, she's been bouncing back and forth between projects both inside and out. It's how she is -- 96 projects at once rather than one at a time.

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. I'll be sharing some photos this week to get you caught up properly. Hope everyone is doing well. Can hardly wait to check back in and hear from you again.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Gearing Up

Well, look at that! Blogger FINALLY is letting me post again. (I've tried at least 10 times this month.)

Life is going 100 miles an hour but it looks like we're back on the DIY bandwagon. Some of the activity is being sparked by some new furniture that will be coming soon. Now, all we need is for:

1) It to stop raining.
2) Me to strike a healthy balance between "busier than hell" and "snail slow" that will allow me to take some more vacation time.

Cross your fingers and we'll see what happens. With any luck, I'll be sharing progress ... soon.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

When Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction

Sometimes when I look at the headlines in the wake of a national tragedy, I swear I'm reading something worthy of The Onion.

No, I'm not saying what happened in Boston on Monday is even remotely funny. Hardly. But what kind of a world do we live in when the latest in a series of mind-boggling mass murder incidents involves exploding cookware at a marathon? There's something surreal and illogical about that.

It was just a fun day at an event that draws hundreds of thousands from all around the world. Most of the people who were injured weren't even participating in the event – they were spectators. They were cheering on family and friends who had put themselves through a grueling 26+ mile run.

Now, three of those spectators are dead. A darling 8-year-old boy. A restaurant manager who would have turned 30 next month. A graduate student, 26, from China. And now, about 170 others are beginning another grueling journey, trying to survive the loss of a foot or a leg or another even more catastrophic injury. Some of them probably won't succeed. It's bad enough when we have young soldiers a world away who are similarly damaged or destroyed. But noncombatants – people merely watching a foot race?

We still don't know who did it or why. (After today, it sounds like authorities may be closer.) But whether it was an act of international terrorism or just a local homegrown crackpot, it doesn't really matter. We just need to find them and stop them from inflicting who knows what on God knows who.

There are plenty of theoretical suspects to finger. And sadly, it seems like there always is when something like this happens. The truth is that many times, there really isn't any reason at all. It's random – whatever reason du jour some crazy person chooses to make it.

Why is the hate so strong? The insanity so irretrievably gone off the cliff? If you figure it out, do me a favor and let me know.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

St. Louis in Spring

Wow! Where is April going? Half gone already …

At 3:40 a.m., I was rudely roused by a roll of thunder that jostled my bed like a drunken lover trying to sneak into beside me but failed miserably. Welcome to springtime in St. Louis where hail and strong winds (if not tornados) are the new norm.

Last week, a tornado struck just across the river. No, actually TWO tornados tore through parts of St. Louis. The good news is that no one was killed. I was afraid for a little while that it was going to repeat its path from two years ago where it cut a swath through a neighborhood just a few blocks away! Luckily, that didn't happen.

And, outside lightning, thunder  and the occasional heavy downpour, we've been lucky. But, we've been in severe weather mode since Sunday and it's supposed to last right through Thursday.

The temperatures have been schizophrenic again, too. One day, it's 80 degrees. The next day? We're lucky to get above freezing. I hesitate to complain too much about that, fearing that we'll go straight from 65 to 85 like we did last year. I need that to not happen so we can get back into workin' mode around here!

More later. I've been busy and wanted to check in and say hi. So, "hi!" I'll be back soon with a bit o' commentary on current events. (It seems wrong to complain about some storms at a time when others are plunged into almost unfathomable grief.)

In the meantime, wherever you are, hope you're safe, happy … and the sun is shining.

Monday, April 1, 2013

An Open Letter to the Handyman Club

Caveat emptor, my friends, if you should consider "joining" the Handyman Club as I did.

They put out a nice little magazine. I will give them that. Unfortunately, though, they also like to take advantage of folks with their "how-to" books (and from complaints I saw online, with fees for tools they never deliver). I returned the first book, decided I didn't need any more of them and canceled. Then they sent another one. I sent that one back, too. Only thing is, at the direction of the USPS, I marked it "refused" and turned it in at the post office. BIG MISTAKE. HUGE!

Had I spent $3 or $4 on postage as I did with the first ... my nightmare might have ended. (Of course, they would probably have just sent ANOTHER book.) B*stards. I wrote to them, put notes on my account messages and tried calling them many times. In the end, they siced a collection agency on me. Yeah. It doesn't seem right but they wore me down. I caved.

Despite the date, this is NOT a joke. I mailed this letter with payment last week.

Enclosed is payment for $29.98 for the defrauding organization HANDYMAN CLUB OF AMERICA. Here’s hoping your client chokes on it.

Why? Because they are NOT owed this money.

The item generating this “debt” was returned to them, unopened and REFUSED more than a year ago. A previous item, which WAS opened and for which I paid return postage, was likewise returned at which point the company was told to CANCEL and send nothing further. They ignored this direction.

What your closing line should read is: “This is an attempt to collect on a fraud.” Your client is a sham operation at best. Had I done a better job of checking them out BEFORE joining them, I’d have found that out. Shame on me.

Shame on them for continuing to perpetuate a fraud. This “debt” was from a book that was returned to them in February 2012. It’s a book I should NEVER have received because when I returned the previous book they sent, I had CANCELED!! I followed up with them by phone and in writing multiple times, all to no avail.

I know I sent it back. They know it, too. By now, they’ve probably used this same book to rope in some other poor sucker. Who knows how many times they’ve “sold” that very same book. And now, they’ve used their scam to help your company line its pockets. Shame on you, too.

You are receiving this payment for two reasons: 1) I refuse to let a $30 scam damage my credit and 2) I want your company TO STOP CALLING ME. STOP! Please pay attention as this, along with a canceled check, will prove that our communication is at an end.

You have your damned money, regardless of the fact that you don’t deserve it any more than the dishonest lot you represent. Calling my house multiple times a day and hanging up is not only childish, it’s harassment! CALL ME AGAIN AND I WILL SUE YOU on that point and report you to local authorities.

Hopefully, you listen and comprehend better than your worthless client.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Remembering a Brother, Lost

It's a bittersweet day for me.

I'm an only child but for the first 21 years of my life, I had a pseudo sibling. I've written before about this faux brother of mine who was really a third cousin. He couldn't have been a better brother though if the mother had birthed him herself.

Steve was amazing. He was funny and sweet and just a genuine good guy. All that in spite of the less than stellar deck he was dealt. A diagnosis of chronic nephritis as age 7 after one kidney stopped working and the other all but did the same. He would recover -- miraculously -- after being given just two weeks to live. (He's actually written up in medical journals.)

But, every day of his life for the next 15 years was a huge struggle. And he bore it better than anyone should ever be expected to.

There isn't a day that goes by that I don't think of him, and none more so than this week every year. Today is the anniversary of his birth. Next week is the anniversary of his death.

He really was one of the best people I've ever known. Happy birthday, cuz. Know that you are loved and missed always.

Blogger is Back!

Well, whaddya know? Blogger is working again! (I've tried to post a few times recently and had major issues.)

Things are good for know. They've been busy (which is always good) but is largely responsible for why I've not posted much lately. It's 55 degrees outside. The sun is just now starting to go down but it has been out all day. Hard to believe that we are going to be under a winter storm warning in a few hours. We could get up to 10 inches of snow. BOO! HISS!

The good news is that we have everything we need and don't have to be anywhere. (At least not until Monday morning. And that's gonna suck!)

Hope everything is good with all of you. Here's a summary of what's up with me.

  • I'm still battling a sinus infection. (In my second week of 3 on antibiotics). The mother has done something to her neck/shoulder and has been miserable the past few days. She is coughing, too, and once we get going, it sounds like a TB ward around here!
  • I've been traveling again for work. Been to Dallas twice and would have gone again next month but it appears I'm off the hook for that one. I'm enjoying it though.
  • I got my introduction to Downton Abbey. Love it! I made it through the first two episodes of Season 2. I'm trying to savor it but it's difficult. I know I have a whole season after this one, but there won't be any more of it until NEXT YEAR! :(
  • If we can get a weekend where either the mother or I aren't sick OR I can get a good enough schedule from one of my key clients so that I can schedule a few days off ... we might actually get something else done around the house!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Catching Up

A while back, faithful follower Karen Anne issued yet another of her “speak to us” requests. At the time, I fully intended to honor that request. Life, however, got in the way.

This year is off to something of a raucous start with a multitude of things both good and bad going on. If the first quarter of the year though is setting the tenor for all of 2013, it should go down as a reasonably good year.

In the interest of bringing you up to speed and to getting me back on track, I’ll try to share a series of brief updates, some that even have pictures. Overall though, they don’t have much to do with the house. We’re back to the occasional trickle where the house is concerned. That’s something I hope to rectify in the not too distant future.

Patience, my friends. Patience.

Friday, January 25, 2013

10 Things I Did Over the 3-Day Weekend

1. Realized that January is getting away quickly and that I hadn’t yet posted to the blog in 2013. Happy New Year, everyone!

2. All but decided that I am going to have to resort to the cortisone shots if I am ever going to get full use of my arm back. Hoping that a few days of bad will lead to a long-term good outcome. (My arm is better but it’s been almost four months. Babying your dominant arms gets old!)

3. Got Pearl washed … finally! Poor thing. She was a very dirty girl.

4. Watched lots of inaugural coverage – but managed to miss the actual swearing in and Obama’s speech.

5. Spent my first workday of 2013 with Lawrence! We replaced the bathroom exhaust fan, got through a few minor plumbing and electrical jobs and secured the awning over the backdoor. (Between a hardware store run and working outside for a bit, I missed the inauguration.)

6. Napped.

7. Played trivia with friends. Our high school hosts an annual event and my circle from high school has reserved a table for 8 for several years now. While a few were not able to join us due to illness and other plans, we managed to fill all the spots. And, not only did we not have to worry about coming home in disguises (the scourge of the losing team), we scored 92/100! That’s a record for our group and put us within a few points of third place. Very respectable indeed.

8. Talked through a plan with the mother to consolidate and rearrange several things in the house. I’m not sure about some of it but when she starts using words like “pitch” and “storage,” I’m willing to give it a shot. (Stay tuned.)

9. Learned how to post a photo on Facebook using my phone. (I got a new phone over the holidays. Not an iPhone. Not an Android. So, while its functions are a bit limited compared to either of those, it’s light years ahead of the phone I had.)

10. Got an introduction to “Here Comes Honey Boo-Boo.” The mother is 32. The eldest child is 17 and just had a baby. The house is like an episode featuring one of the rundown properties the “Property Brothers” tries to get a client to buy meets an episode of “Hoarders: Buried Alive.” Let’s just say I spent 45 minutes of my life that I can’t get back watching people I could just as easily have seen during a trip to Walmart. Lesson learned.