Saturday, August 30, 2014

Rafters And A Rainout

Our goal on Friday was to hang the last two ledger boards (the boards nailed to the house that the porch is attached to) and hang all the rafters.

We hung the ledger boards with no trouble.  (And I forgot to take photos, but it's not really that exciting.)

Then we started in on the rafters. 

With the first three rafters up, you can start to see how the porch roof will tuck in just under the eaves of the house. 

I could never have figured out how to make the slope of the mansard roof just right.  Good thing Mare has built quite a few of these and has it down to a science.  From bottom up, first the ceiling joist, then the "Pat piece" to add a little height, and then the rafter.  Here Mare's marking the edge of the rafter so he knows where to cut it.
Then he marks the angle with an angle tool and one or the other of us (almost always him) cuts the rafter to length and we nail it in.  Repeat as necessary. 

We got about half the rafters done on the front side of the porch.

And about half the rafters done on the east side of the porch.

And then we hung the big hip joist and the hip rafter and stood there on ladders going "Uhhhh...." for longer than we probably should have because we couldn't quite figure out how to cut those two pieces of lumber to length.  That's why they stick way out there at the corner and look dorky.  See, the edges of them have to be lined up with the joists and rafters on both the front and the side of the porch and that has us temporarily stymied.  I said, "I think we should've hung two of 'em and cut one even with the front and the other even with the side so they come together at the end kinda mitered like."  And Mare said, "Something like that is probably gonna happen."  

Then we continued to stand on the ladders and ponder this until my friend Chris walked into the front yard and said, "Are ya gonna stand on them ladders all day?!" and I said, "We're just trying to figure out this stupid hip rafter."

At which point Mare said, "Hip rafter.  That sounds like a country music singer."

And I said, "Hip Rafter, appearing Friday night at the Snorty Horse Saloon."

And Chris said, "Y'all are crazy."

Which everybody already knows, right??

Shortly after that it poured down rain and we retreated to the Mexican restaurant for chimichangas and a good visit with our friend John while we waited out the thunderstorm.

When I got home, I took a couple more photos of the porch.

I might be in love with this porch already.

I mean, really. I think this porch is The One.

Today I'm going to finish priming all the porch posts (we primed them on sawhorses, so there are spots we missed) and go around and get rid of that yellow stripe around the top there, and maybe paint some of that trim if I have time, and then I'm going down to my friend Doug's farm to make some salsa because I have a bumper crop of tomatoes and there are only so many BLTs one woman can eat.

Porch construction resumes on Tuesday afternoon.

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Meet Pat

Do you know what this is?
It's not just a pile of lumber.  It's pure potential.

Pure potential that soon became ceiling joists.

Ceiling joists that had angled ends, because they'll eventually be part of the slope of the little mansard roof on the front porch.

Meet Pat.  Pat Tern.
Pat is a great little gal.  She's the Dolly the Clone Sheep of lumber.  Pat is the first, the original, of what Marion described as "somewhere between a gob and a shitload" of small pieces of lumber that also help to make the slope of the mansard roof. Here's Pat hard at work:

And here are Pat's clones nailed into place at the ends of the ceiling joists:
(And a hammer that I left hanging on the header joist.  It's still there.)

See how the angled ends of the ceiling joists and the angled ends of Pat's clones make up the slope of the mansard roof?
(In case you're wondering, "somewhere between a gob and a shitload" turns out to be 20.  Pat plus 19 of her clones.)

Tomorrow, we'll hang rafters.  So.  Excited.  

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Porch Building, Day One

I promised y'all yesterday that I'd share photos, and I have a lot of photos, so here goes.

This morning when I got home from work, Mare was sitting on the back patio waiting on me.  I grabbed the 1947 photo of the house and he grabbed his tools and we headed for the front porch.  We spent a fair amount of time staring at the photo, then the house, then the photo, then the house.  The witness marks and this photo are the only things we have to tell us what the original porch looked like. 

Finally Mare took a deep breath and said, "Okay, I think I know where to start."  We started with a plumb line from the witness mark at the edge of the original half-post, across the length of the concrete pad, and out to the edge of the pad.  Then we snapped a second plumb line from the edge of the witness mark for the other half-post on the other side of the porch, down the width of the concrete pad, and out again to the edge of the pad.  After that was a terrifying bit where Mare notched out the porch posts so the header joists would rest on the posts.  

I went around to the side of the house before the actual cutting started and primed a half-post so that I wouldn't distract Mare.  Talking to me might cause him to make a bad cut on the posts or chop off his fingers, and either one of those events would cause a big delay in building the porch.  Goodness knows we've had enough delays already! 

Next we figured out the placement of the posts, traced around the mounting blocks for the porch posts (the blocks help protect the posts by raising them off the concrete a bit), drilled holes for studs that we made out of threaded rod, and hammered the studs (which help keep the posts in place) into the concrete pad.  

After that we carefully measured along the plumb line to get the length of the header joist.  Our header joists are two 2x12's that rest on the notched tops of the porch posts.  We assembled the front header joist flat on the ground, all nailed together.

And then we stood behind that header joist with me on one end and Mare on the other and raised the whole contraption upright.  Now is a good time to point out that the porch posts are 9 feet tall, with a 12-inch plank on top of them, and Mare and I are both 5'4".  I'm glad nobody was around to take photos or video of the joist-raising, because it wasn't pretty.  Once we lifted the thing as high as we could above our heads, then we had to "walk" our hands down the posts until the whole shebang was upright, and then we wrestled the mounting blocks onto the studs and screwed the half-post into the side of the house.  It looked like this when we were done:

Looky, the first two and a half posts are up!!

That thing to the right in the photo is a brace that we temporarily nailed to the corner post to keep the header joist from going all whopperjawed when we let go of the posts.  By the way, my rose bush was sacrificed to the Glorious Cause of Porch Building and chopped off nearly to the ground. 

Now if y'all think that the joist-raising sounds difficult (and it kinda was) get a load of what happened next.  We couldn't do the same thing with the header joist going down the side of the porch (for some reason which I don't fully understand, probably due to sleep deprivation) so we had to set all the posts first and then lift the header joist up on top of the posts.  This photo kinda gives you a better idea of that:

See how there's a little shelf on top of the posts?  The header joist rests on that.  There's no room for error here, and again, the posts are 9 feet tall and Mare and I are 5'4".  Plus, I am a weakling.  We discovered that it's about a hundred times more difficult than you might think to pick up a 2x12 that's 15 feet long, climb a ladder, and then lift the thing over your head to precariously balance it on that tiny shelf while the other person runs to get the nail gun and you pray that you won't fall off the ladder, drop the joist on your own head or someone else's, and plummet to the ground in a heap of splinters.  

But after a herculean effort and a long string of profanity, we climbed down and looked at those three posts at the corner of the porch, and I swear that the angels sang.
That's some seriously beautiful lumber, y'all.

And then we realized that we had two more header joists to place (on the "inside" side of the posts) and I nearly bawled.  As we were placing the first of the two joists, my little noodle arms began trembling and I counted up how many hours I'd been awake:  twenty-two.

"Hey, Marion," I croaked.  "I gotta stop for the day."  I hated to do it.  One more joist to place.  Just one more, and all the framing would be done.  But I know that being really tired physically and mentally is a good way to get hurt, so I tapped out.  

And then I walked down the sidewalk, turned around, and saw this.

And I ran out into the street and looked back at the porch framing.

And then I just stood in the front yard all teary-eyed and took a good long look at it.

Five porch posts.  Three grouped together at the corner.  Just exactly like Mr. Kelly would've done it back in 1887.  

I can't wait for tomorrow.

Monday, August 25, 2014


The R+L driver and I just unloaded these beauties!  In this photo, we're actually looking at them upside down.  The far end is the bottom of the posts.  (I'm blogging from my phone, so I'm doing the best I can.). I promise better photos later, but I just wanted to share my joy with y'all!

And now, as much as I would love to stay up all day just staring at these beautiful posts (not to mention smelling them--fresh lumber smells so good!) I have to get some sleep because I have to work tonight.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Stay Tuned

Happy, happy news!!

This shipping confirmation from Vintage Woodworks and R+L Carriers means that my porch posts really are on the way to my house!  The shipper called yesterday to say that they'd be here Monday between 11:00 a.m. and 3 p.m. and that they'd call me when they're about ten minutes away so that I don't have to stay awake all day waiting on them.  (I have to work Monday night.)  That was really thoughtful of them, huh?

I called Mare to tell him and he'll be here Tuesday afternoon.  Stay tuned, y'all.  Barring rain or some unexpected disaster, we'll start building the porch Wednesday morning!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Monopoly Money

Sometimes there's a fine line between brave and stupid.

That "provisional money" that the bank put back in my account has been burning a hole in my pocket.  The email from the bank said only "Funds have been deposited provisionally in your account.  If our investigation determines that the transaction was a valid one, the funds may be reversed."  Huh?  

I called Banker Dude first and read the email to him.

"So what they're saying is that this is just Monopoly money, right?" I asked.

He told me that it's not Monopoly money, it's real money that I can use, and then he explained in detail what provisional funds are and how a dispute investigation works.  Or at least I think that's what he was talking about, because I didn't hear anything after the words "real money".  When he paused, I told him I had to go right quick because the cat ran away.  Whew.  There's only so much talk about money that I can take.

Then I called my bank just to double-check.  

Me:  "I have a question about what provisional funds are and I don't need a big explanation, okay?  I just want to know if it's real money I can use or if it's like Monopoly money."

Customer Service Person at Capital One:  "Yes, provisional funds are real money you can use.  The only way the funds would be reversed is if we discover that you filed a fraudulent dispute inquiry."

Me:  "Okay, thanks, bye."

Kudos to the guy at Capital One for not laughing at me.  

And then I did the thing that's either brave or stupid.  I called back the company that I originally ordered my porch posts from (Vintage Woodworks in Quinlan, Texas) and I told them I wanted to cancel my first order and place a new one for exactly the same thing.  I stayed on the phone with them to make sure my debit card went through.  They said that my posts will be shipped out on Thursday and I should have them on Monday or Tuesday.  

Sending another big chunk of money to the same folks that lost an identical big chunk of money just a couple of weeks ago?  That's either really brave and we'll be starting on the porch next week, or it's really stupid and I'll be filing another dispute inquiry with the bank next week.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Cursed Porch

This porch project might be cursed, y'all.  No, really. 

It all started back in April or so when I thought I could just tear the roof off myself and then saw through the rafters and have the whole shebang torn down in a week or so.  Then I had to call in my son to help out, and he caught the porch roof on fire with the sparks from a saw.  After that, he called upon one of his friends who used to be a contractor, and it still took them three weeks to tear the dang thing down, during which time Steve (the former contractor) declared that it was the worst porch roof he'd ever seen, and ending with the porch unexpectedly collapsing in a heap.  Then we had the problems with the building permit and the evil specter of frost heave.  

All that pales in comparison, though, to what happened last week.  Last week I ordered reproduction porch posts (which ain't a cheap date, folks) and the company I ordered them from lost my money.  Yes, you read that right. They lost my freakin' money.  My money is gone.  There's a great big hole in my bank account where that money used to be, and a payment to the porch post people, but they claim that the money never showed up in their bank account.  They say that nothing like this has ever happened before in the history of their company (which has been in business since 1978) and that they feel real bad about it.  They feel bad?! Hey, I'm the one who's out a whole pile of money.

After I freaked out about that and screamed and threw a hammer out into the street and then went in the house and cried (which I've been doing a lot lately and I am not a fan of it) it occurred to me that the new beau might be able to help with this situation, since he's a banker.  And he did help.  He advised me to file a Disputed Item Inquiry with my bank and he told me that it's absolutely impossible that the money didn't get to the porch post company, since the funds show as a completed transaction on my bank account.  "That money's not just floating around out there in space," he said.  So I called the bank and they started a Dispute Investigation, and in the meantime the bank put the money back in my account "provisionally", so that's kinda good, but I still don't have any porch posts.

Without porch posts, Mare can't start building the new porch.  (The posts are the first thing he needs.)  He's had to rearrange the other three jobs that he put on hold when he thought we'd be building my porch this week, so now he won't be able to get to my porch until at least August 25th.  That is, if I have porch posts by then....

Monday, August 11, 2014

Y'all Know Me

Y'all know that I'm not good at relationships.  Give me a lady screaming into the phone because her house is on fire and I'll handle that just fine, but when my cell phone rings and the caller ID shows the name of a guy I liked way back in high school and haven't seen since, I'll panic and let it go to voicemail at least twice.  And then I'll listen to the voicemail over and over and dissect it and ask my bestie things like, "Does his voice sound like he might be fat?" and "He said he can't wait to see me.  Do you think he's gonna be a clinger?"

Y'all know I don't plan ahead very well.  So when I bought a giant side-by-side Bosch refrigerator at an auction down the street from my house, I was pretty proud of myself for not only getting a great deal on it but also for measuring it before I bought it to make sure it would fit through both doorways and in the space in my kitchen.  I just didn't consider how I'd get it out of the house down the street and into my house.

And then I devised a cunning plan.  I texted that guy from high school and said, "What's up?  Got your voicemail.  Sorry I didn't call you back."  And he texted right back, "Just hanging out with my son.  What are you up to?" This was a good sign.  "Oh, nothing," I texted, "just at an auction trying to figure out how to move a fridge I just bought."  And the guy said, "Need some help?"  I love it when people fall into a trap that I've cleverly (or not so much) laid for them.

So that's how a guy I haven't seen in almost thirty years ended up helping me roll a behemoth fridge down the sidewalk and into my house.  The rolling-down-the-sidewalk was the easy part; the into-my-house was not.  That ended up taking the combined efforts of the guy from high school (whose name is Greg), his 15-year-old son, a dude from the auctioneer's place, and a guy who lives next door to the house where the auction was held.  And even after all of that, Greg still asked me out for supper the next night.  And I went and we had a great time.  And we've gone on three more dates since then.  And I hope at some point I'll stop giggling at nothing and gnawing on my fingers, but I make no guarantees.

Greg thinks my house is really cool and the work I've done on it is impressive.  That's the word he used, impressive.  Actually, not to brag, but I think he said "seriously impressive".  So when he offered to help me on the house, I took him up on it.

I discussed this offer with Mare and my bestie Amy a couple of days ago.  Mare said, "If he's never worked on old houses before, you might want to kinda ease him into it."

Y'all know I'm not good at relationships.  So I said, "Well, I was thinking that he could climb up on the roof at the front of the house and scrape the paint off the eaves."  And Mare's eyes rolled so far back in his head that I thought he was having a seizure, but all he said was, "Welllllll...."  Amy is far more blunt.  She whacked me on the arm and said, "If you ever want to see that sweet man again, do not--I repeat, do not--ask him to do that.  What is wrong with you?"  Oh.  Maybe that's not such a great idea after all.

So that's how a guy I've been seeing for only three weeks ended up helping me paint the front of the house gray.  No scraping of paint at all.  He carefully followed my directions (which I practiced with Amy beforehand) to not paint over the witness marks, which is why there's a yellow stripe at the top there. And he even said he'd be back to help me with the unmitigated disaster on the side of the house, which you can kinda see in the photo.  If I don't run him off somehow before the end of painting season.  Lordy. 

Friday, August 8, 2014


I was standing on the front porch (well, actually, the front slab) talking to my bestie Amy and scraping paint off a piece of corner trim when a van pulled up to the curb.  Amy said, "Jaynie, you have company."  I turned to see a young lady of late teens or early twenties walking up the sidewalk.  She smiled and handed me a small envelope, saying only, "Be sure you read the front, the middle, and the back!" before she skipped back down the sidewalk and left.

Inside the envelope was a little handmade card.

The front: 

The middle:

The back:

I laughed out loud at the surprise and the sweetness of it.  That girl has no idea how much this little card meant to me today.

When I went to supper tonight (at a bar called The Spotted Pig because I waited until nearly 9 pm to stop working on the house) I tried to give the card to my son's friend Jamie, who's a waitress there.  She laughed and said, "Somebody already gave me one--but give it to Heather because she's had a bad day and she's sitting all alone."

So I walked over to Heather, who I don't know, and handed her the card.  She looked puzzled at first, and then a huge smile broke across her little face.  "Thank you so much!" she said.  "I will pass it on!"

What a fantastic idea.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

And The Rug Went Whoosh!

If you follow me on Twitter (and if you don't, you should) you may have noticed a few odd tweets lately.

A more-frequent-than-usual mention of tears.  

An increase in the number of F-bombs deployed in my tweets.

My friends checking in on me and expressing concern about my general welfare.

There's a reason for that.  A reason I haven't shared until now because I didn't know how to bring it up, and also because I was embarrassed to admit I was struggling.  I'm supposed to be a badass, you know, affected by nothing.  Wonder Woman doesn't cry over stuff, right?


So here's what happened.  On May 6th, all of us dispatchers got called into a mandatory meeting, which is never a good thing, but it's particularly worrisome when you pull into the parking lot and see the vehicles of the Chief, the Deputy Chief, and the entire Union Executive Board.  Uh-oh.  Time to panic.

The Chief dropped the bombshell:  all nine of us communications officers are being laid off due to budget cuts and dispatch services are being shipped out to another agency.  Time frame?  Ninety days or so.  

And the metaphorical rug went whoosh! right out from underneath me.

I've never been a person who makes long-range plans, who counts on things always staying the same, who does things like set up retirement accounts and college funds for my as-yet-unborn grandchildren.  But a couple of years ago, when I turned 45, I thought maybe it was time to Become A Grown-Up.  Yeah, at 45. I'm something of a late bloomer, folks.  So I started saving money like crazy and paying extra on my mortgage and my car payment, and not using credit cards, and thinking about things like Return On Investment and Risk-Reward, all with an eye towards retiring at 60 and getting a part-time job that doesn't involve talking to people who are bleeding to death.  All of this was based on having a job at a fire department with the best salary and benefits in the Kansas City Metro area.  

And then the rug went whoosh!

I did not handle this well.  Not at all.  I handled it so poorly that I was very nearly sent home from work that night, but I convinced my supervisor that I was probably better off at work than at home all alone.  The next day I curled up in bed for 14 hours during which I alternately cried, slept, and ate Haagen Dazs off the same spoon as the dog.  

And of course, my first reaction, predictably, involved the house and went something like this:  wtf am I doing tearing off a perfectly good porch just because I don't like it and spending thousands of dollars to build a new one when I'm not gonna have a job in three months because that's just insane.  Then I got better. Then I panicked.  Then I decided that I really can make my house payment (barely) off the salary at QuikTrip.  Then I spent half a day curled up in bed crying. Then I got pissed off and threw a hammer across the yard.  At some point in the middle of all that, my best friend's mom was LifeFlighted to a neuro center after a stroke, and several bad days of missing White Trash Bob all glommed up on me at once and I bawled like a little kid when Mare asked me if I had a bigger prybar (I said "I can just run over to Bob's house and--oh."), and my favorite ex (The Big Indian, who some of y'all might remember) took a turn for the worse with his Afghanistan-induced TBI and PTSD so I camped out at his house to keep him from checking out permanently.  Because I like having my emotional plate heaped high, apparently.  

There is hopeful news:  today we learned that our last day here is September 2nd, which is of course bittersweet, but at least now we know; a few days ago I learned that I've reached the background check portion of the hiring process for an area police department and that I'm their first choice; both my best friend's mom and The Big Indian are doing much better; and the Fire Board agreed to give us two months' salary as severance.  

At some point, and I can't really tell you when that was, I decided that there's no way up or over or around this situation and the only thing to do is just to keep walking straight ahead and through it until I come out on the other side of it somehow.  Because I will get through this.  I will come out on the other side of it. Somehow.  Just don't ask me for specifics because I will lose my schidt again and cry, and I am an ugly crier.  

Friday, August 1, 2014

All's Well That Ends Well

When I hadn't heard anything from the Building Inspector about my permit by noon yesterday, I decided to give him a call.  He said he hadn't approved the permit because (and this is a direct quote):  "I think you're good with the construction of the porch itself, but I'm worried about the possibility of frost heave in that concrete pad since it's on a cinder block foundation."

When I heard that, my initial reaction was something like this:  (warning, NSFW language)

Fortunately, I controlled myself and squeaked out, "I don't think that's really a concern and I have to go now" before I hung up the phone and started yelling and throwing things.  And then I called my momma and used the phrase "This is bullshit!" about five times in 20 minutes, which is a new record and which caused my momma to use my entire name ("Jayne Elizabeth!') and cluck her tongue.  

And then I called the Building Inspector and politely invited him over to the house to inspect the concrete pad and the cinder block foundation under it.  He came right over (and ran his tires and hubcap up against the curb, which somewhat pleased me), walked all around the foundation and all over the concrete pad, during which time I noticed that he's kinda cute (is that inappropriate?) and then said, "I see now what you've got goin' on and that's not a problem at all.  I'll sign off on it and you can get started."

Later that afternoon I was walking back from City Hall with a crisp new Building Permit in my hand, visions of me sitting on the new porch having a grand time, kinda like Scarlett O'Hara at the barbecue, when a little kid about six years old stopped me.

"Hey!  Are you a woman?!" he hollered.

"Me?  A woman?  No way!" I replied.

His friend, about the same age, said, "See, I told you that ain't no woman!"

So much for being Scarlett O'Hara....