Saturday, September 27, 2008

That Thing You Do

A very long week. A very long, very trying week. I got absolutely nothing done on my house, forgot to mail my bills, and won't even get overtime pay for the 12 extra hours I worked on Wednesday because I took sick leave (for my mom) earlier in the week. But it's not all bad. My mom's home from the hospital--thank you, thank you all for the good wishes and prayers--and she felt well enough to go to work Friday afternoon. As my friend Bryant said, Jeez-o-Pete! Anyway, it's time for a little fun, and thanks to This D*mn House for the idea. It's just what I needed at the end of this mostly crappy week.

Step 1: Put your mp3 player on random.
Step 2: Post the first line from the first 30 songs that play, no matter how embarrassing the song. (Done. The next part's your turn.)
Step 3: Leave me a comment, guessing what song and artist the lines come from. Do as many as you can. A couple of the songs have been made popular by more than one artist; bonus points if you correctly guess which version's on my mp3 player.
Step 4: I’ll bold the songs as readers guess them correctly. (No cheating by looking up the lyrics on Google or another search engine!)

If the title appears in the first line of the song, I did this: [title] Didn't want to make it too easy, you know--although it's harder than it might seem!

And sometime next Saturday or so, I'll post the list of all thirty titles, with what each song means to me or says about me--a post that might be very revealing, depending on what 30 songs the Sansa shuffles up. Maverick that I am, I'm changing the rules just a bit. I can do that.

Ready? Here goes:

1: When I lost you honey, sometimes I think I lost my guts, too...
2: [Title] why don't you come to your senses?...
3: Here she comes now, sayin [title]...
4: Seasons change and lessons get learned/It's been awhile but my heart burns.... (This one's kinda obscure, so I gave you two lines.)
5: Monday, hard to wake up, fill my coffee cup, I'm out the door....
6: Even though the moment passed me by I still can't turn away...
7: Aight, dig it. Cold coolin' at a bar and I'm lookin' for some action...
8: I was bruised and battered I couldn't tell what I felt...
9. Harry got up, dressed all in black...
10. My heart knows me better than I know myself so I'm gonna let it do all the talking...
(NV, you better know this one--it's on your iPod, too!)
11. [title] of you every night I go through...
12. Woke up this morning the house was cold...
13. [title] like it's raining at mine...
14. I got the call today, I didn't wanna hear...
15. I can live without so much/I can die without a clue... (another kinda obscure one--bonus points if you know the movie soundtrack it was used in!)
16. From underneath the trees we watch the sky, confusing stars for satellites...
17. I move on like a sinner's prayer...
18. The man in my shoes runs a life...
19. Can you hear them? They're talking about us...
20. You're dangerous 'cause you're honest...
21. If it's a temporary lull why am I bored right outta my skull?...
22. Am I throwin' you off?...
23. You must be my [title] cause you shine on me wherever you are...
24. And I'd give up forever to touch you cause I know that you feel me somehow...
(Bonus for the movie soundtrack.)
25. If I leave here tomorrow would you still remember me?...
26. [title] I'm [title] for feeling so lonely...
27. Jessie is a friend...
28. Everybody knows where you go when the sun goes down...
29. I tiptoed in the room, I know you got to have your rest...
30. Well, I've been out walkin...

And there you have it. A few of them are gimmes, but those just make up for the two or three that almost no one will know. What do you win? Nothing but the satisfaction of guessing correctly. (Unless you happen to be a single man of marrying age and you correctly guess 4, 15 and 21 without cheating. That's the trifecta. If those conditions are met, and those songs are correctly guessed, we'll have to discuss the prize.)

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Where The Heart Is

Y'all know about my mama--how she's a 5'3" little dynamo who gardens, debates politics, still works part-time, gives out money and advice to her family, and occasionally could be found at my house exuberantly ripping those ugly shingles off my house while wearing Bermuda shorts and a little straw hat. With all of that, sometimes I forget she's 81. She sure doesn't act 81. Heck, she doesn't even look 81--she gets carded sometimes for the Senior Discount. But Monday afternoon I was reminded that she is, after all, elderly. And in spite of being one of the toughest women I know (from a long line of tough women) sometimes she is a little fragile.

I woke up Monday afternoon to a voicemail in Mom's fake calm voice that said, "Um, can you call me just as soon as you can?" So I did, and she told me that her heart was beating like a trip hammer and while she didn't want to wake me or cause me to be late for work, she was starting to wonder if she ought to do something about that, since it had been going on for four hours. Four hours?! So then I answered in my own fake calm voice, "Well, Mom, let's just go by the ER and have you checked out, just in case." And the woman who never, ever goes to the doctor for anything did not argue. Uh-oh.

The medical term is atrial fibrillation, and it's not uncommon in women, particularly women over 60. What it means in you-and-me terms is that the top part of her heart is contracting too fast. So the ER doc gave her meds to slow it down, and more meds to prevent blood clots, and they admitted her to the hospital. She's still there. So I will be there, too, instead of here.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Dante's Peak

"Can you reach most of the house with that ladder?" That was Karen Anne's question about the ladder I showed in yesterday's photo. The short answer is, no. But here's the long answer.

That ladder is a 16-foot extension ladder, and with it I can reach the wall I showed yesterday and the back half of that same wall. For the area above the dining room bay, I had the help of Mike (my friend Jill's husband) and a 24-foot extension ladder I borrowed from my neighbor Floyd. That's Mike there in the blue shirt, looking thrilled to be standing on my dining room bay window's roof in 100-degree heat. Just after this photo was taken Mike tore away the first of the shingles and discovered that a crack in the clapboards had been repaired with a #2 pencil. And just after he finished removing all the shingles we retired to the very well air-conditioned pub for a couple of cold beers.

That 24-foot extension ladder got dragged over to the opposite side of the house, where I myself climbed up it with, as Karen Anne said, "my heart in my mouth" to pull shingles off the peak of the house. There's nothing quite like standing in front of an attic vent in mid-July with oven-hot air pouring out of it and wasps dive-bombing you while balancing on tippy-toes at the highest rung of the ladder to pull off shingles with a WonderBar made slick by your clammy palms. Not that I was scared or anything.

My son Dylan's not scared, not even when using every bit of a 16-foot extension ladder to access the roof over the living room bump-out. You know that big sticker on ladders with the silhouette of the man falling and the big letters that warn DO NOT STAND ON OR ABOVE THIS RUNG? Yeah, Dylan stood a couple rungs above that rung. See the very top of the ladder leaning on the very edge of the gutter between Dylan's feet? Eek. I pointed out as I was leaning all my weight against the bottom of the ladder hoping he didn't fall that he could've used Floyd's much taller ladder, but he shrugged and said, "I don't wanna drag it over here."
Just this morning I was talking to my neighbor Guy about the probability that I might have to stand on those roofs myself to paint. I might've given him the impression that I had some anxiety about this because he said, "Just tell yourself you can do it. Don't look down. Just keep climbing up there and don't think about how high it is. You can do it." I can? I mean, I can.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Before and After

Remember back in July or so, when the west side of my house looked like this? Ugly. Really ugly. All those awful shingles still on the house, piles of shingles on the ground, trash bags stacked against the dining room bay. Poor little house. She deserves better. Well....

Just look at her now! She's starting to look kinda pretty, huh? I made up for playing hooky on Friday by working my hiney off Saturday and got all the yellow part done. Today I got up early and painted the green part and the black window sash before I went to work. (Please note that after all that debate and anguish about window sash colors, I decided to paint the window sashes black like they were originally. Valspar's Lincoln Cottage Black, to be exact.) I really like the colors Shirley picked out. It's only one coat of paint and it needs two, I'm not done scraping and caulking and priming the whole house, but it's a start. A pretty good start, I think.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Trip To Bountiful

"C'mon," he said last night, "go to the Ozarks with me tomorrow."

"But--" I began.

"No, no. Don't say you have to work on that house. You got a year to work on that house when I'm in the desert."

Now I ask you, how could I possibly argue with that? Not that I really wanted to argue against spending an entire day with the Big Indian, who's been gone altogether too much lately.

So we left early this morning and drove down to the Ozarks on back roads, playing the there's-my-house-game when we saw a log home in the woods or a little bungalow near a pond. He picked out a McMansion as his house and laughed at me when I said, looking at all the roof breaks and the sheer size of the thing, "I'd hate to fight fire in that house." He made the same comment about the next three houses I picked out, until I laughingly told him to please shut up. Driving on the bridge across Truman Lake, we saw pelicans bobbing on the water and said, "Pelicans?!" in unison. When we pulled over to look at the map, he joked that the way things are going if we took a wrong turn and ended up on a nearby military installion they'd probably keep him. I yelped and he swore when a wild pig burst from the brush at the side of the road and seemed to dare us to run over him. (We didn't.) We talked foreign policy, traded funny stories about calls we'd been on, had a quiet and thoughtful discussion of PTSD, and laughed about a co-worker's outstanding ability to garner donations for an upcoming party.

And there were two especially nice happenings. The first, at a Harley dealership where I asked a man about the Ceremonial Guard patch on his leather jacket and learned that he's a Navy veteran who served from 1967 to 1970 at Arlington Cemetery, when his unit averaged seven funerals a day, and that he was a pallbearer for Robert Kennedy's casket. When we left, that man shook the Big Indian's hand and wished him Godspeed in Afghanistan, then shook my hand and thanked me for my son's service and my support of the troops. Back in the truck, both of us were a little misty-eyed as we got back on the road.

And the other, on the way home when I walked out of a convenience store bathroom and up to the counter, where the clerk looked from the Indian to me and then said, "Midget?" (one of his nicknames for me) as they both burst out laughing. The man makes friends easily. Outside, he steered me to the side of the store, unfolded a paper bag the clerk had given him, and set up a little sidewalk picnic of pizza, chips and pop.

It was a wonderful day, one of those days that you just know as it's happening you'll remember forever. (Have you read the children's book Frederick by Leo Lionni? This was a day to store up against winter.) And I arrived home with two hours of daylight to spare, so I got some primer on the house after all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Hope Floats

Come 7 a.m. Thursday, I'm off work until Sunday night at 7 p.m. Maybe I can get some primer on the house. Finish up most of the caulking. Maybe, just maybe, get a little paint on the house. Before I get too optimistic, I'd better check with my friend NOAA. Here's what he has to say about the weather in my area:

Overnight: Clear, with a low around 52. South southeast wind around 5 mph
becoming calm. Thursday: Sunny, with a high near 80. Calm wind becoming
southeast between 5 and 8 mph. Thursday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around
55. South southeast wind around 6 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high near 82. South wind between 3 and 5 mph. Friday Night: Mostly clear, with a low around 57.
Light south southeast wind. Saturday: Mostly sunny, with a high near 80.

I just might get that done. Possibly, maybe.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Treading Water

Over on the other side of the state, they're getting lots of rain, too, causing Nicole at This D*mn House to wonder if anyone else is among the water-weary.

Count me in, girl, count me in....

Too much of my life is affected by rain. I can't escape it. All that rain (every one of my days off for the past two weeks) has stalled my house-painting plans. I haven't put a blob of caulk or wood filler on the house for at least ten days. Forget about painting--the new brushes I bought are still in their wrappers and the paint cans are still in the shed unopened. The insulation guy says he can't come out to measure the house until it quits raining. Same for the guy who's going to help me with the porch. To say I'm discouraged is an understatement. I'm nail-biting worried that I won't get my house painted before winter. I'm questioning my decision to tear off all the shingles, rather than finishing just the front of the house. I'm regretting the days when I could've worked on the house and instead let the heat drive me indoors. I'm even wishing I'd taken my mom up on her offer to loan me the money to pay someone to paint the house. I'm obsessively checking the weather forecast on tv, comparing the forecasts on various websites, looking at the sky on the way home from work every morning that I'm not driving through hard rain.

And then there's my personal life. The day before Labor Day, the Big Indian left for Lousiana with the Guard to help the people affected by Hurricane Gustav. He got home Saturday night and we talked for a couple of hours before he fell asleep while telling me about the extreme poverty he saw in rural Louisiana. He left early Sunday morning to report back to his unit for de-mobilization and I went to sleep again, thinking I'd see him that afternoon before I left for work. But mid-afternoon he called to say they'd been put on standby to go to Texas for Hurricane Ike relief. No word yet on when (or if) they're leaving or when they'll be back. And did I mention that he's already on standby for deployment to Afghanistan, sometime after October 1st?

And I know that all of this is just minor stuff compared to the terrible things that people affected by the hurricanes have to deal with. The situation in Haiti is heartbreaking, and parts of Texas are reminiscent of the aftermath of Katrina. Those people have lost their homes and I'm complaining about not being able to paint mine. I know my friends and family are safe in their dry homes; many, many people don't have that good fortune. But still, I am water-weary.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Hotel California

Rain. More rain. And then, more rain. Oh well, the master bedroom's almost reclaimed and the Big Indian's home from Hurricane Gustav safe and sound, so it's not all bad. I believe I promised some "before" photos of the bedroom. It ain't pretty. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I'll break it to you gently with the curtains first. Ewww.

The curtains were on a traverse rod about 9 feet long that can't be made shorter. Try carrying that out to the trash in the pouring rain. Note that the rod extends about two feet past the window on the left, covers the wall between window and door, and completely hides the door. Why? I have no idea why people do these things. My first thought was that these curtains (and the carpet) came from the Hotel Lexington, which was owned by the Camerons, the last previous owners of my house, and when the hotel closed they recycled the curtains and carpet. Not so. As I was stuffing the curtains into the trash bag--and trying to avoid being stuck with drapery hooks--I noticed the name Ely written on the hem of the curtains. Mrs. Ely lived in my house back in the mid-1960s, a couple owners before the Camerons. I wonder if it was Mrs. Ely who painted the trim bright turquoise blue to match the flowers in the drapes? I found that when I removed the curtain hardware; the walls were a lighter shade of turquoise at one time. I cringe to think how revolting that room must have looked.

Especially with this carpet:

Blech. This carpet gives me nightmares and makes BeeGees songs jingle unbidden into my head. ("Ah, ah, ah, ah, stayin alive, stayin alive...") It had to go. It's quite possibly the ugliest carpet I've ever seen. I almost forgive my son for leaving behind all kinds of debris and clothing on the floor when he moved out. He probably couldn't stand to see the carpet. When I rolled back the corner of the carpet, under it I found an emery board printed with "HOTEL LEXINGTON Esther & Lloyd Cameron, Owners". That prompted a phone call to my mom, who's lived in Lexington since 1947, to ask her if she recalled the hotel. She said the building's long gone, but it was on the corner of 9th and Broadway where an apartment building now stands. Since the emery board was under the carpet, I wonder if this carpet came out of the hotel and the Camerons kept Mrs. Ely's ugly curtains because they almost matched, in a strangely hideous way?

The carpet and the curtains are gone, piled up in trash bags out back in the alley. No rest for the garbage man. Sixty bags of shingles and tar paper over the summer, carpet from the spare bedroom last week, five bags of trash and another roll of carpet this week. He still hates me.

Monday, September 8, 2008

The Squeeze

I just came back to work after four days off. Four days of rain. Four days of standing on my front porch watching it rain. Well, not constantly standing there. And not constant rain, either, but enough rain during my waking hours to keep me from caulking or priming or painting the outside of the house. Darn.

But fear not, I did accomplish a few things on my days off. I think I mentioned that my son moved out a couple of months ago. That should've left both the master bedroom and the spare bedroom vacant. In reality, he left a few things behind. (Remember the bathtub?!) And I want that bedroom. The master bedroom opens up to a cute little side porch, and I want to sit there drinking tea and reading a James Patterson book. That bedroom has an attached bathroom, which means no more stumbling half-awake to the other end of house, dodging two cats and a dog on the way. (One of them nearly always gets stepped on.) And that attached bathroom is almost 5 feet wide, which means no more brushing my teeth in a bathroom so narrow that when I lean over to spit toothpaste my hiney hits the wall (I am only 5'4", but the bathroom's only 39 inches wide.) That bedroom has two heat ducts, making it the warmest room in the house. That bedroom has satellite hookup, so I can watch Gene Kelly movies all night long while snuggling in my bed. I want that bedroom.

So...a couple of days ago I bravely went in there with trash bags, boxes and cleaning supplies. I briefly considered taking before photos, but I was a little embarrassed. Okay, a lot embarrassed. My son's bedroom looks like Aerosmith partied there for a couple of days before suddenly moving on, leaving behind their laundry, their party detritus, and one of their guitars. The bathroom needs to be evaluated by a trained hazardous materials team before I venture in there again. The spare bedroom, which I haven't been in for six months, was apparently the Doberman's habitat, where he shredded a very large dog bed into teeny-tiny bits of fabric and stuffing. Those two rooms--and the bathroom--were almost overwhelming. But I forged on.

And this is what I accomplished in a manic frenzy of 12 hours: I picked up everything on the floor in the master bedroom and deposited it in the trash, in the laundry basket, or in moving boxes, as I saw fit; did the same in the spare bedroom; moved all the furniture and three sets of bookshelves out of the spare bedroom and into the master bedroom temporarily; tore out the fugly bright blue sculptured carpeting in the spare bedroom to reveal the lovely patched-together MDF flooring underneath; took a break and made some chocolate pudding from scratch, ate an extraordinarily large bowl of it, warm, and drank a big glass of whole milk; cut the yucky carpet into pieces, while swearing mightily, and stuffed it into trash bags until the remainder was just barely light enough for me to drag through the bathroom (yes, the 3-foot-wide one) and out into the alley while Little Cat rode atop the rolled-up carpet; laid down a pad and barely-used carpet that my mom gave me when she replaced the carpet in her mudroom and hallway; and then moved a headboard, an extra-long twin bed and a giant chest of drawers into the spare bedroom. Whew!

Then I texted my son and made arrangements for him to pick up his stuff--arrangements which I do not pretend to think he will actually keep--and drove to Wal-Mart to buy a curtain rod, sheers, drapes, and paint. Springy green paint, a happy yet calming color. I hope. We'll find out on my next day off. The curtains hanging there now have to be seen to be believed, as does the carpet. For now, suffice it to say that the previous owners of my house were also the previous owners of a hotel, and I believe they recycled. Photos coming soon.

Friday, September 5, 2008

The Hurricane

Thanks to Twitter and my compulsive checking and re-checking of the latest tweets from AC360, I was getting the latest Gustav news almost as it happened. Although I don't know anyone who lives in the area affected by the hurricane, I was watching and hoping and praying for the best. Thank God this one wasn't as bad as Katrina. I'll leave the analysis of that to the experts at the Weather Channel and the pundits on CNN and comment only on the storm's very small impact to me personally.

Monday I got two phone calls within ten minutes, the first from my son and the second from my (intermittent) significant other. Both men said the same thing: my Guard unit's been mobilized to Louisiana for hurricane relief. Because my son was due to start police academy on Tuesday he could opt out, and did. No such luck for the Big Indian. I didn't hear from him again until Wednesday night when he told me that he'd gotten there safely and then sighed, "It's bad down here." Not as bad as Katrina doesn't make Gustav any better for those folks affected by it.

Monday night the rain and wind hit here, weak little remnants of Gustav that blew acorns from Martha's trees into my yard and onto my roof with a rat-a-tat-tat that made Little Dog growl and bark all night. The rain kept falling all day Tuesday and Wednesday, finally tapering off early afternoon on Thursday. It spoiled my little plans to paint the house. But I'm not complaining. Not a bit.

Monday, September 1, 2008

And Now For Something Completely Different

More of the same: scraping loose paint, caulking, yanking out staples, filling nail holes. Oh, and pulling pieces of paper towels out of the nooks and crannies of the clapboards. Apparently the previous owners considered paper towels a good choice for insulation. And for large cracks in the clapboards? Just jam a #2 pencil in there. That's what Mike found above the dining room bay window. The pencil was painted white like the house. I'd post a photo of my progress, but since you wouldn't really be able to tell I decided not to bother.

And now, as the title promises, for something completely different. I lost Friday as a workday because I had to give an affidavit to the attorney representing the municipality I used to work for. (I left there to take my current job and still work there a couple days a month.) The former police chief of that little burg was fired for allegedly committing all sorts of nefarious deeds, although he's not yet--some three years later--been charged with a single thing. He's now suing the hamlet for breach of contract. My contribution to that litigation is this: three years ago when we were all being questioned by either the FBI or a private investigator (or both) I was told by an investigator that the tires on a Dodge Ram pickup my son bought from the police chief were allegedly illegally purchased through the state bid system. The serial numbers on the tires supposedly match those on a city purchase order. The investigator discovered this when she researched the VIN on the truck and learned that my son bought the truck, and then interrupted my sleep one winter morning and had me stumble outside in the cold in my jammies and fuzzy slippers to read the serial numbers to her. Neither the FBI or anyone else seized the tires as evidence, came to my house to look at the tires, took photos of the tires, or did any other thing that would prove the tires were (and still are) on the truck. I did not know any of this when my son bought the truck. I have no way of knowing if it's even true. Most importantly, I have no firsthand knowledge of how the Chief obtained the tires--I know all this only because the investigator told me. It seems to me the attorney should get a statement from the investigator, not me. It seems to me that secondhand knowledge, which might be hearsay, is not the way to build a strong case. Nevertheless, I was strongly encouraged by the current police chief to speak to the attorney. I believe the current chief's exact words--in response to my saying he could send me a freaking subpoena--were, "You can do it or you can not have a job here anymore." It seems to me that bullying is not the way to encourage cooperation. But I went. With a chip on my shoulder and caulk on my hands, I went. And I thought by now I wouldn't be angry about the whole thing anymore, but I am. Seems to me that going from a (supposedly) thieving chief to a bullying chief is a lateral move. And so I won't be going back. For this crap, I lost a whole workday.