Sunday, January 31, 2010

Darnit

Due to circumstances beyond my control, there will be no putting together of sawed-in-half doors tomorrow.  Or the next day.  In fact, not until a week from Monday.

Mare's voicemail message said only, "Um, I know we planned to work on the doors tomorrow, but..uh...I'm not gonna be able to make it."

Mare is also building a timberframe house for some guy down around Truman Lake.  I bet it pays better than gluing doors together for me.  So I really can't blame him for not coming tomorrow.  But still...darnit.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Waiting....

We took all the half-doors off their hinges almost two weeks ago.  Wrote numbers on the doors and on the door jambs so we'd be sure to put each door back in the right doorway.  Threw the brass hinges in a pile on the dining room floor.  Left the original steeple hinges neatly piled on the kitchen table next to the paint-boiling Crock Pot. 

And the doors?  They're stacked together against the chimney in the dining room.  Waiting.
Waiting, just like me, for a day off and Mare's trip up here to put another door (or maybe two) back together again.  Sigh...

Those boxes there against the wall?  Don't worry, I'm not moving.  I just have to pack up everything in the china cabinet so I can wallpaper behind it.  And that big cat there?  That's Christopher, wishing he was little and agile enough to jump up on the buffet with Louis.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Hello, Beautiful


I think I can hear Mrs. Kelly applauding. 
For the first time in decades, her dining room door is in one piece again. 

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Door Dreamin'

I think I might be obsessed.  Just a little.  See, last night at work I kept thinking about filling in the seams and holes in that door Mare and I stuck back together.  All night long (in between sending the guys out to snatch people from the jaws of death, I mean) I kept thinking about that door and how nice it will look when it's finished.  Yep, just a little obsessed.  Not so's you'd notice or anything.

So when I got home I walked straight to the dining room and started mashing wood putty into that door.  First I filled the seam and then the holes where those stupid little cabinet knobs were.  (Did I tell y'all that someone put rubber bands on the knobs and then painted over 'em?  Yep.  Bet it was the same person who used paper towels and #2 pencils as insulation around the attic vents.) 

Then I did the same thing to the other side of the door.  Exciting, isn't it?  (In this picture I haven't wiped off the excess wood filler yet.)

But excitement didn't stop there!  After that, I filled in where the hinges used to be on the door jamb.


And then (this is the really exciting one, folks) I filled in where the hinges used to be on the edge of the door.  I'm actually kinda proud of how this looks so far.  Look at the nice edge I got on that thing. 

My idea is that, while I'm sleeping, the wood filler will cure and when I wake up, I can paint the door.  Mare might get a little pissy about that because he still has to drill out the holes for the mortise and the doorknobs, but he'll get over it.  Besides, he won't be back for a week and I don't want to wait that long to see how the door will look once it's painted. 

Now it's off to Dreamland for me.  Maybe I'll have that dream again where I find the big box of original doorknobs, backplates, mortises and striker plates....sure wish that one would come true!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Ode to O. Possum

Departed from this life January 18th or so, and still resting at the east end of the alley where he was mercilessly struck down in the prime of his life by a passing motorist, Mr. O. Possum.  Mr. Possum was well-known throughout the Old Neighborhoods National Register Historic District as a frequent and unwanted visitor to the front porches and trash cans of the neighborhood's homes and was rumored to be a possum of interest in the death of Mr. Blackbeard, a much-beloved cat of the district.  By his uniform unpleasantness and general ugliness of character, Mr. Possum won the unanimous disgust and near hatred of all who came in contact with him.  During his last moments, he appeared to be aware of his impending fate as his trademark snarl is now forever imprinted upon his lips.  Though called so unexpectedly from this life, and in the midst of his trash-raiding, we who knew him are consoled by the fact that never again will the call "Here, kitty, kitty" be answered by Mr. Possum's hissing.  Our loss is Hell's infinite gain, in that Mr. Possum shall surely spend all eternity posted at its gates. 

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

One Door Done

What?  You want to know what happened with the doors?  I tried to post last night, but I was just too darn tired.  Either that, or I have lead poisoning.  One of the symptoms is fatigue, you know.  But I digress...

First we turned the second parlor (reknowned for its pee-pee carpet, which is almost gone) into a workshop.  See? 

Lacking sawhorses or a decent worktable, we improvised with my extension ladder and two pieces of lumber that used to hold up the gigantic cornice in the dining room.  (By the way, the curtains on the left are soon to be gone; the curtains on the right are the keepers.  And does anyone know the name of the pattern of that quilt in the corner?) 

My idea was to take pictures of the door repair process as we went along, but Mare didn't really want me to.  "If it doesn't work, I'd rather not have my failure all laid out in photos," he said.  So, briefly, what we did was this:  we used maybe a dozen or so biscuits and a gob of wood glue, clamped the two halves of the door together with those big bar clamps you see at the left of the photo, and waited for the glue to dry.  And waited.  While we waited we went to KFC and had lunch, drove past an old farmhouse he used to own and learned it's for sale again, took the rest of the doors off the hinges and stacked the steeple hinges in the Crock-Pot for later.  Then we checked the glue.  Still not dry.  So we wandered into the front parlor to look at the line where the picture rail used to be and discussed how putting it up again ought to be the Next Big Thing we do while I lamented the cost of this Bradbury frieze I'm in love with. 

And then we hung the door.  See?

It still looks like a door sawn in half because of that big seam down the middle and the holes where the dorky cabinet knobs used to be.  Those will be filled in later with Wood Bond.  But it feels like a regular door.  Yes it does!  We took turns opening and closing it at least 20 times.  It works smoothly on those hinges I cooked the paint off of.  It might work even better with a doorknob, right?  I have one, a nice mortise set of Eastlake brass knobs that I scored on ebay.  But the old mortise hole was filled in with water putty which is hard as a rock.  Mare will have to drill it out to put the new mortise set in there, and we just ran out of time yesterday.  He'll be back next week to biscuit together another door and finish up this one.

But wait...what's that to the right of the door, on the trim?  Is that...could it be?....Yes, it's restored transom window hardware!  Here's a somewhat better look:

(I really need to get a better camera.)  Bigify that photo and check it out.  The operator rod seems to be bronze, the little knob I showed y'all earlier is brass, and the thumb lift (that little thing at the bottom of the rod) is copper.  Wow!  Who knew that was hidden under all those layers of paint?!  We got the paint off by sticking first one end of the rod and then the other into a big pot of boiling water...but that left the middle still painted.  We figured out that if we laid the rod across the pot and turned it rotisserie-style, the heat from the steam would soften the paint enough for us to remove it.  Hence the lead poisoining comment at the beginning of this post.  We had probably half a cup of paint flakes, most of which I'm certain contain lead, all over the range top, the floor, and our shirts.  But of course we took safety precautions, right?  Yeah.  We pulled our t-shirts up over our faces.  This is why we get our lead levels checked every year or so.  We are Not Careful. 

One door done (almost) and only six more to go...

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Today

Today I ...

went to Wal-Mart, which I never, but never, do on a Sunday morning, and now I remember why...

called the antique mall and...

brought this very cool 1950-something RCA Victor console box home with me...


and put my stuff inside it while it was being thoroughly inspected by two of the kitties.  (The tv that's in there is temporary; my bigger tv is too large to fit inside there.) 

And after that...

I replaced this thermostat...

with this one, which is programmable so I don't have to worry anymore when I'm at work that I forgot to turn the heat down, and which will make the house nice and warm when I'm awake and a little less nice and warm while I'm sleeping, all without my doing a thing...

And then,

I tore out two more strips of pee-pee carpet, which I carefully measured to be sure they were short enough to meet the trash company's exacting standards...

And after that...

I rearranged the furniture in the front parlor.  Under the watchful eye of Louis, of course. 

And tomorrow...
Tomorrow Mare is coming over and we'll work on the doors.

But tonight...
Tonight I am taking a nice long shower and then snuggling with the kitties.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Four Days Off

In just a few short hours I will be at the brink of four days off.  Well, actually, it'll most likely be a few long and boring hours, but I'm trying to be more positive.  And, as my friend-like-a-brother John consistently points out to me, "You work nights, hun.  It's nights off."  Okay, John, okay.  Four nights off.  Anyhoo, I have nowhere to be but home until Wednesday night.  Ahhhh....  Even though this happens every other week, I still feel like a little kid on the last day of school.  Antsy.  Full of plans.  Ready to run out into the parking lot at the stroke of 7 a.m. and yell "Wahoo!"  (Quick, name the movie which contains the line "When was the last time you said Wahoo?")

I have just a couple of teeny things that I could work on in the next four days.  (Or nights.)  I could paint the trim in the dining room, or put more of the wallpaper up in there, or tear out some swaths of pee-pee carpet, or paint the trim in the second parlor, or paint the second parlor.  Or, if the weather's decent, I could go to the flea market in search of an armchair for the second parlor.  With a phone call, I can find out if the antique mall still has that cool console tv box that I wish I'd bought before the big snowstorm hit and prevented me from going back to buy it.  If it's still there, almost a month later, then I am meant to have it.  That baby's comin home with me this weekend...unless someone else already scooped it up.

Expect progress—and photos—over the next few days.  Wahoo!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Afghanistan


This photo makes my heart turn over.  The soldier in the driver's seat of that truck is my son's friend Brian, and he's taking a nap.  In a truck in Afghanistan.  I think what makes the tears prickle is that Brian's doing something so ordinary in the midst of something so surreal.  Brian.  A kid I consider a son.  Sleeping in a truck.  In a war.  I hadn't heard from Brian in a few days, and then I got this photo.  A couple of days later he sent me a message that said only, "I [bleep]ing hate this place."  My Mom Radar told me that something was wrong, more wrong than the usual homesickness and boredom and fear (he rarely admits to) of being a 23-year-old Army soldier in Afghanistan.  But I waited for him to tell me.  My boys, as Brian and my son Dylan are collectively known, are like that:  independent, smart, tender-hearted enough not to want to worry their mama until they really need me.  Brian is especially reluctant to tell me things he knows will make me worry.  Because he doesn't have kids of his own yet, he doesn't know I worry anyway.  Every day I worry over little things like whether he has enough snacks to eat, if he's too warm or too cold, if he and his fellow soldiers are getting enough rest, if he has a good platoon sergeant....  I suppose I do it to keep myself from worrying about the big things, the obvious things to worry about, the things I cannot even put into words because merely thinking them puts a cold lump of fear in the pit of my stomach.  So I waited for him to come to me. 

And he did, in a conversation on Facebook chat that lasted nearly an hour, until he was called away to chow.  He began by asking me if I'd seen the news or read anything about Jalalabad, the closest city in Afghanistan to where he is.  I answered, more brave than I felt, "I don't watch the news, remember?  You told me not to.  :)"  And I knew, I just knew what he was going to say.  The short of it is that his unit, along with some other soldiers, were handing out candy to little kids when a terrorist wearing a suicide vest walked into the crowd and blew himself to bits.  Children were killed.  Reports vary, but according to NATO it was two.  Two, too many.  Brian received very minor injuries, what he described as "a couple of burns and some little scratches".  I tried to find out more about his injuries and he shrugged off my questions.  "It's nothing, Mom.  Really."  Then he told me that some local people believe a soldier had thrown a grenade into the crowd.  "They said we fragged em, Mom," he told me.  "We're out here trying to help them and they said we fragged em."  That's what hurts him, I realized, much more than those little scratches—the thought that the families of those children believe that soldiers were responsible for their deaths.  I told him, "It's propaganda, honey.  If the Taliban can convince the locals that kids are being killed by soldiers, it's all the better for them."  Of course it is.  Of course he knows that already, has been told exactly that in briefings and by fellow soldiers, and said as much.  I scrambled for more to say, sitting there at the end of my desk in the comm center, while the ordinariness of shift change and routine radio traffic flowed around me.  I typed, quick as I could, "If you were here right now I would give you a big hug.  I can't do that, but I can still tell you what I'd say if you were sitting in my kitchen instead of the freaking desert:  I love you.  I know that you and the boys [because they are, all of them, so young] in your unit would not do that.  Americans might hate this war, but they still love their troops.  Don't worry.  Don't fear.  Go to the Combat Stress Office when you need to.  And remember Psalm 46.  "  I hope it was enough.  And I hope, in the face of what's being reported, that I am right.  I hope that when, God willing, Brian comes home in October that his country embraces him again.  I hope that we have learned the foolishness in rejecting our soldiers just because we reject the foreign policy that sent them into war.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

I Fixed It Myself

Nothing makes me more motivated to solve a problem than sheer pissed-off-ness.  So yesterday after supper, thoroughly mad and frustrated about this whole shower drain situation, I resolved to fix it myself.  By that time, the standing water had finally drained out of the shower and I was really tired of taking baths and waiting on a no-show plumber. 

I reasoned that if it was cold enough in that bathroom to freeze the bathmat to the floor and for a crust of ice to form on the kitties' water bowl, then there was probably some frozen water in that shower drain.  So I braved the basement.  I took with me the space heater that has three settings:  Scorching, Death Valley, and Hubs of Hell.  Because there are no outlets in the basement, I ran an extension cord from the kitchen down into the basement and connected it to the space heater in the crawlspace where the water pipes are.  I didn't see any burst pipes or a flood of water in the basement, thank God, so I set the space heater on Hubs of Hell and left it blowing hot air onto the water pipes.  Then I set two big pots of water to boiling on the stove.  (I would've set three big pots there, but Reed still has my biggest stock pot, darnit.  He's lucky, considering the snit I was in last night, that I didn't call him right then and demand it back.)  Next I got out my trusty hand-cranked snake/auger thingy and ran it down the drain as far as it would go.  It came back up with little flakes of ice hanging on the end of it.  Theory confirmed.  The next hour or so was a cycle of boiling water, then snake, then more boiling water.  When I started seeing glop on the end of the snake instead of ice, I knew I was making headway.  Another hour or so of snaking, a couple applications of baking soda and vinegar followed by more boiling water (thanks, Kate!) and then the drain was clear.  Hooray!

I believe the cause of the clog was a giant ball of glop somewhere about 15' or so down the drain line.  The drain has run slowly for some time.  However...I think what completely clogged the line was ice forming around the glop.  That ice was caused by several days in a row of single-digit temperatures and, to put it bluntly, that it's too damn cold in my house. 

So how do I keep the drain from clogging up again?  Well, to prevent the glop, once a week or so I'll do the baking soda-vinegar-boiling water thing.  Easy peasy.  To prevent the ice, I bought one of those oil-filled radiators (thanks, Christine!) to set in the bathroom.  It has a thermostat and will cycle on and off, unlike the space heater I've been using in there.  When I'm gone, I'll just leave the door open between the back porch and the rest of the house to let more of the warm air back in the unheated part of the house.  That should keep the back porch warmer, at least above freezing.  Hopefully that will work.  If not, I'll have to break down and use that wall furnace after an HVAC guy checks it out.  I'm hoping not to have to do that since the wall furnace runs on natural gas and will be expensive.  It occurs to me though that natural gas for the rest of the winter costs less than a plumber's bill if the pipes freeze and burst.

And speaking of plumbers, as of 12:29 p.m. today I have neither seen nor heard from the plumber I called more than 24 hours ago.  I guess Jan's right that the economy must not be as bad as we think it is.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Dear Mr. Plumber

Dear Mr. Plumber,

First of all, thank you soooo much for not showing up this afternoon as you said you would.  My friend Greg says he thinks plumbers must be very busy this time of year, with the extended cold weather and all, and I guess Greg's right.  You must be really, really busy to not even have 30 seconds to spare to let me know that you weren't coming by today.  But that's okay, I really didn't have anything else to do today.  My 82-year-old mother who is snowed in at her house and whose mailbox was knocked off its post by the snowplow really didn't need me to come over and put the mailbox back up on the first day in two weeks that we've had weather warm enough to stay outside for more than 15 minutes without incurring frostbite.  The post office will be happy to hold her mail for yet another week.  (And by the way, I never thought I'd say this, but you could take some customer service tips from those people at the post office.  They were nice to me this morning.)  And I didn't need to go to Wal-Mart for my mom and get her some groceries.  Not really.  Instead, I went to the local supermarket that doesn't have the kind of orange juice she likes and where everything is way more expensive.  She didn't mind paying $5 extra for the few items I got her and drinking pulpy orange juice.  I bought her a really small container of it, because I can go to Wal-Mart in the middle of the night.  Really, it's no trouble.  And don't feel bad because I didn't get any more wallpaper hung up in my dining room because I didn't want to be standing on a ladder matching damask pattern when you showed up. 

If you could read this, you'd probably harrumph and say that I should've gone ahead with my day.  And you're right, I should have.  But here's the deal:  I didn't fix the mailbox, or go to Wal-Mart, or hang paper because I didn't want to make you wait on me.  I was trying to be considerate.  Evidently you don't know the meaning of that word.  You probably don't know this old customer service adage either:  A happy customer will tell 2 or 3 people about your company, but an unhappy customer will tell 20 to 30 people.  Guess what?  For some strange odd reason I can't explain, so far this year I have an average of 95 hits a day on this little blog.  Some of those folks might even live in this area.  So, this is for them: 

L & P Plumbing.
 Don't call 'em.
They no-show.

Dissing bad customer service.  Just another lil service I provide.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Tales of Woe

Uh-oh.  I think I might've really messed up this time.  And with those prophetic lines begin my tales of woe.  Yes, more than one tale of woe.  In fact, three tales of woe, which are probably related...

The first:  Thursday night when I was taking a shower I got some water on the floor and the bathmat.  I was in a hurry to get on the snow-packed, slick roads because my usual 40-minute drive to work now takes almost an hour, so I didn't wipe up the water or even pick up the bathmat.  Friday morning when I came home I tried to pick up the bathmat.  It was frozen to the floor.  Told y'all it's cold in that bathroom.

The second:  I was griping to a friend about the cold bathroom/back porch area.  Said friend used to work for one of the HVAC guys here in town.  He pipes up, "Don't you still have that wall furnace back there?"  I explained that yes, it's still there, but his bossman had told me not to use it.  Friend looked downcast.  "Um...I think when he said that he wouldn't use it, he just meant because it's expensive, not dangerous."  Oh.  So I could have been using the wall furnace all this time??  Apparently.

The third:  Friday night when I took a shower I noticed that the drain was emptying slowly.  It's always a slow drain, but Friday night it was really slow.  Aw, it'll be okay, I thought, and left for work.  Saturday morning when I came home—some fifteen hours later—there was still about an inch of water left on the shower floor.  And then, as if that's not bad enough, when I flushed the toilet, the bowl overflowed and ran out all over the floor. 

Uh-oh. 

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Sidelined

Well, you know what they say about best-laid plans....  Apparently all that reaching up and tugging on the wallpaper aggravated an existing shoulder injury (which was caused from tearing off cedar shingles over and over and over) and so I've had to be content with ground-level projects.  Like painting some more of the baseboard in the dining room and second parlor.  And shivering.  And grumbling at all the snow we've been getting.

Monday, January 4, 2010

The Closed-Door Policy

The closed-door policy seems to be working.  Without access to the dining room, the kitties can't sink their evil little claws into the new wallpaper.  I put up a few more strips of it:


Look at that ornery Louis scrambling up the ladder!  I snatched him down from there and tossed put him back in the kitchen before he could do any damage.  Also, look at that ugly chandelier.  I detest that thing.  At first I thought maybe if I paint it and get it new shades (which is what I did with the chandelier in the front parlor) it'd look a lot better.  Now I think it's beyond hope.  And, if you would, please ignore that mess on the dining room table. 

I also hung up a panel of the new drapes I just bought so that the kitties would have something else to tear up—I mean, so I could see if I liked the drapes with the wallpaper. 


The drapes really aren't as shiny as they look in this photo.  The flash on my camera makes them look like wrapping paper.  They're fake raw silk so they do have a little sheen to them, but not that much.  Those sheers will be replaced with ones in a more creamy color.

I'm hoping to get a bunch more done on the dining room before I go back to work Wednesday night.  It's too darn cold and slick to go outside, so I might as well get something done while I'm hunkered down inside the house.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Overlooking the Obvious

Yesterday morning I came home from work, feeling a little bit like I might be getting sick, so I made myself a cup of cranberry tea and went into the dining room to turn up the furnace.

That's when I saw it.  More cat-induced damage to the wallpaper.

I set my mug on the floor and whirled on Louis, pointing an accusatory finger at him.  "Was it you who did this?!  Was it?!"  As if the cat's gonna answer me.  Poor Christopher, my simple-minded behemoth cat, waddled quick as he could into the kitchen to hide under the table.  No sign of Marie.  She was probably someplace picking wallpaper shards out of her claws.

Then I sat down on the dining room floor, still in my uniform, boots, stocking cap and winter coat, sipped my tea and had a little Pity Party.  I felt like crap, Wednesday was Sean's birthday, I'd had to dig my car out of a 3-foot snowdrift after a mishap at the end of the alley, and now I have to repair wallpaper again.  Damn.

In case you're wondering, here's how I fixed the damage:  I used flat-sided toothpicks and tweezers to open up the claw marks a little wider, put a drop or two of wallpaper seam adhesive on the edges of the slits, then mooshed them back together with my fingernails.  I used a damp paper towel to wipe off the excess glue and to make the paper more flexible in the hopes it would moosh together a little less visibly.  All in all, it mooshed together pretty well.  It took me about half an hour to do this.  I would've taken photos, but I really don't want to remember this moment.

Then I did what every girl does when she's having a bad morning:  I called my mama.  "Those damn cats," she said.  "How are you gonna keep them from tearin it up again??"  I sniffled back, "I dunno, Mama, I'll think of something."

So I got into my favorite jammies, the Tootsie Pop ones my bestie gave me for Christmas, and snuggled down into my flannel sheets, thinking about how to cat-proof the dining room as I tried to fall asleep.  I could take the cats to the vet and have them declawed, but that's kinda mean.  Or I could close the cat flap and banish them to the laundry room/back porch, but it's pretty cold back there.  Or I could try to clip their claws myself, but Marie's objections might send me to the ER.  Or I could give the cats away and solve the whole problem, but I'd miss the little critters.

Or I could just shut the door from the kitchen into the dining room and the rest of the house.  Oh.  Yeah.