Friday, May 30, 2008

I Am Sam

Remember the movie "I Am Sam" with Sean Penn and little Dakota Fanning? What a great movie. If my cat Christopher was a person, he'd be Sam. Except that I don't remember Sam being destructive....Christopher, after all, did tear a giant hole in my screen door. Twice. Yep, he did it again. Went right around the patch. He might not be smart but, boy, is he determined. And boy, is he hefty. I wanted to get a couple photos of His Heftiness, so I asked Christopher to pose with a vintage yardstick that belonged to my Grandma Rosie for scale. He was more than happy to oblige. Here's the best photo of my Christopher and his giant screen-ripping paws:

Note that his giant screen-ripping paw appears to be about two inches wide. That's not trick photography; he's really that big.

Now to get this post a little more on topic, I have two house-related items:

1. Christopher's paws and claws may have met their match. Today when I was at Home Depot to buy a roll of screen I found this stuff called PetScreen. It's kinda ugly, but it's really tough. I imagined myself as a 20-pound cat doing the kitty version of "Prison Break" and I yanked on a corner of the stuff. Then I really yanked on it. Then I made sure no one was looking and I chewed on it. It's all about field testing, folks. Convinced that it's Christopher-proof, I plunked down almost $17 for a roll of it. (The same size roll of either aluminum or fiberglass is like seven bucks.) Saturday I'll take the flimsy, torn-up-and-patched-and-torn-up-again fiberglass screen out of the door and replace it with this stuff.

2. That's the dining room floor under Christopher. I've finally torn off all the carpet(s), pulled all the staples and tacks, hammered a few nails down below the surface, swept it with a pushbroom, and vacuumed it to get as much of that black glue residue off as possible. Next days off, barring mandatory overtime or other unexpected delay, I'll hang wet sheets in the doorways (all three of them) and sand the rest of that black stuff off there. Any advice or words of wisdom are most welcome; it's been about ten years since I tackled a project like this.

Sunday, May 25, 2008


Eh, I thought a couple of days ago, I need to get some of that bug barrier stuff. That thought was prompted by watching a parade of ten or so ants marching along the phone lines that don't work and are wrapped around the outside of the house. But that was a couple of days ago, and I've had other things to do. Like painting my porch ceiling blue, and helping my son fill out the voluminous paperwork for his very own little mortgage, and playing MahJongg Quest on the computer. So the bug barrier stuff hasn't been a priority, and I forgot about it.

Until today. Today I went out to my car, opened the door, and found....hundreds and hundreds of ants. Ants!! In my car!! Hundreds of them wandering all up and down the door post and crawling along the door sill thingy and and milling about on the floormat. I grabbed a paper towel and smooshed them. The survivors crawled out of the balled-up paper towel and bit me all over my hands. I smooshed them, too. Then I drove to Wal-Mart with a few hardy ants creeping up my bare legs and bought the bug barrier stuff I should have gotten a couple of days ago. And when I got back home, I sprinkled a generous swath of bug barrier granules all around the yard and the sidewalks and the porches and the steps. When I finished, I had about a third of a container left. And I used every bit of it to outline the carport.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Christopher Columbus

A big giant cat named Christopher Columbus (also known as Big Cat) shares my house with me. He's slightly mentally challenged, has huge galumphing white paws, hates Little Dog and is determined to escape our house and become an outdoor cat. We inherited him from our vet clinic after he began hiding under chairs and sniping dogs as their owners brought them into the clinic.

What does this have to do with my neverending house restoration? Glad you asked. In Christopher's quest to become a Big Scary Outdoor Cat, he tore a hole in the front screen door and pushed his way out into the yard. Yep, the front screen door. The one I just bought. The one my son ground down to the correct height. The one that replaced the door the stray dog chewed through. The one I hung about three hours before Christopher destroyed it. Sigh....

And in unrelated animal news, some sort of creature is gnawing at the sucky shingles on the back of the house. When I'm in the back bathroom I can hear it scrabbling at them. Little Cat spends an extraordinary amount of time in the bathroom staring at the wall as if the creature might burst through at any moment. Whatever it is, it leaves long scratch marks on the shingles. Whether from teeth or from claws, I'm not certain. I'm hoping it's a beaver or a woodchuck and that it eats all the shingles off like frosting on a cake. Stay tuned for updates.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Door to Door

Remember when I said I have the attention span of a gnat? And I said my whole house is destroyed? And then I started another two or three projects? Well, I'm still in the midst of all that mayhem and destruction. All the dining room furniture is in the living room because I'm going to refinish my dining room floors. I am. Really. About a third of the living room's painted-over wallpaper has been scraped off and there are about 20 paint chips taped all over the walls. Almost half of the entryway walls have been scraped down to bare plaster. The big ugly White House drapes in the dining room are gone, and now the windows are covered only by lime green roller shades and Sears sheers. (Say "Sears sheers" real fast three times. Go ahead, try it.) The dry sink from the entryway is in my bedroom because I'm going to refinish the entryway floor when I do the dining room floor. Oh, and because I really hated the living room carpet I tore it up and stuffed it in the garbage bin last month. No more, I told myself, and don't start another thing until you finish some of this stuff.

And then the other morning the cutest little chocolate Lab pup you've ever seen broke into my screened-in front porch by pushing through the screen in the front door. I shooed him out, thinking I'd fix the screen later, and went back to bed. An hour later, he was back. This time the hole in the screen was even bigger, and he'd broken the corner of the door frame. Shooed him out again, stuffed the screen into its slot in the frame, and Gorilla-glued the corner back together. That worked for about a day and a half, until the little bugger chewed the corner of the door apart, ripped the screen loose, and broke in again. No one seems to know whose dog this is. No one can explain his fascination with my front porch, either. The screen door, like everything not original to the house, was made cheaply and not well, so I decided it must go. This was a sudden decision made at 9 a.m. after two hours of trying to sleep while listening to cats wail at the front door because they can't go out onto the porch. (We have Killer Possums in the neighborhood, so I don't let the kitties out unless the porch is secure.) I carefully measured the width of the door and drove to Home Depot to buy another one. Note that the nearest Home Depot is, according to Google, 32.64 miles from my house. Note also that I have a Kia Optima, so if you're looking for a mid-size sedan you can haul a door in, this is your car, folks. It wasn't until I got the door home and tried to hang it that I realized measuring the height of the door as well as the width might've been a good idea. Sleep deprivation, my friends. The new door was just over an inch too tall. And me, without tools of any sort to shorten it. So I called the local lumberyard--which I never ever go to because its employees are even more surly and unhelpful than the ones at Home Depot, if that can be believed--and asked them if they'd cut down my door. No, they said. Not, sorry ma'am, we can't do that; not, we can try; and certainly not, sure, bring it right over. Just a flat no. With silence to follow. So I called HD and asked them, and amazingly they said...sure, bring it right over. This may be the only case in history of Home Depot doing more than what is expected. So I drove the 32.64 miles up there again, had the door sawn down, and drove 32.64 miles back home. I'm not good at math, but I think I just put 130.56 miles on my car in one day over a stupid screen door. And then I tried to hang it again only to discover that it was about an eighth of an inch too tall. So I flung it out into my overgrown front yard (my lawnmower's not working and it's rained nearly every day for two weeks here) where it was well-hidden by the weeds and wild onion until today. Today my son ventured to ask me, after I'd had only three hours of sleep, why the front screen door is missing. I explained it, and he thought for a moment and came up with a plan.

Carpenters and woodworkers, intelligent do-it-yourselfers, brothers and sisters and Jan from Gear Acres, do not read what follows.

We went outside in the rain, waded through the calf-high grass and weeds, retrieved the screen door, son ground an eighth of an inch off the top of the door with a belt sander. Manufactured by Sears circa 1985, so it's a big heavy one. An electric one. With a long cord. In the rain. 50-grit paper, if you must know. And it ain't pretty, but the door fits. Or, it will when I get around to hanging it on Wednesday or Thursday when I have another day off.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Stomp The Yard

I have conquered my yard. Bwah ha ha ha! (That was my evil laugh, and this has been the week for it, trust me.) Never mind that my yard is teeny tiny. I conquered it. Almost all by myself, too. In my yard there are no trees, but up until a couple of hours ago there were leaves. Lots and lots and lots of them. (Yes, I know it's spring and fall is traditionally the season for leaf-raking, but if you work nights and have two hours of daylight in the fall and then it rains or snows or sleets every single one of your days off, then all the fall leaves will still be there in your yard come spring. Crazy how that works.) The evil trolls who run the trash service in my little town announced that they would deign to pick up yard waste Monday through Wednesday of next week. Big of them, considering there is nowhere within the entire county to legally dump yard waste and the rules for burning leaves are so byzantine as to almost completely discourage that.

So yesterday, after a mere five hours of sleep, I raked leaves. And stuffed them into big paper bags. And then I raked some more. And then I played with the earthworms that were living under the ginormous piles of leaves. And then I raked some more. And then I tore down the clothesline I never use because I keep running into it and I fear the red mark on my forehead might be permanent. Did I mention I have no trees in my yard? All these leaves are from two giant oak trees in the Grinch's yard. (The Grinch, as you might guess, is the neighbor with whom I do not get along, not to be confused with the lovely Gwen and Floyd on the other side, who have only a big--leafless--pine tree in their yard.) I think I'd feel ever so slightly better about raking up all these leaves if they were from my own trees. I think. Maybe. Or maybe not. Eight bags of leaves. Eight. All piled up in the shed because it looks like rain today and I don't want that stuff getting wet and turning into a mammoth lump of leaves and paper in the middle of my patio. I conquered my yard.