Tuesday, December 30, 2003

My Front Porch

It's Official!  I have a front porch!  And I must say that it's the most beautiful porch I have ever seen anywhere!  Even my mailman thinks so.  He told me so when he stopped by on his route today.  It took my son two and a half weeks to build it, but it was worth all the aggravation we went through and every penny we spent.  Transforming this house into a home has been quite an adventure for me.  It's been very expensive, time consuming, frustrating and even painful at times.  But it has also been very exciting, satisfying, educational and down right fun and enjoyable, too.  It was a great opportunity to explore my artistic side, test my limits and impress my family and friends.  I amazed myself too, which was even bigger challenge.  But more than that, much more, was the fact that I got to work with my son the entire time.  It gave me the opportunity to really get to know him and to actually see for myself what kind of man my little boy grew up to be.  A wonderful man.  Honest, hard working, loving, smart, responsible and independent.  A fine craftsman.  Everything I had ever hoped that he would be.  I couldn't be any prouder of him.  I hope that he also got a better understanding of what kind of woman his mother really is, too.  I'm going to miss him now that he won't be here everyday, but I'll be enjoying his work  for as long as we live in this house.  There isn't one room that my son hasn't remodeled in some way.  I look forward to working with him again, and I hope we can start renovating again in the spring or early summer.

In the meantime, Ray and I will get the chance to really start living our lives together.  We have a lot of memories to make and I'm eager to get started.  I know it won't be easy. It never is and I wouldn't want it to be.  Like this house, great things take time and hard work.  Only then can you really enjoy them.  But we'll be together, Ray and I.  Through thick and thin... for better or worse.  Do I hear bells or is that just the sound of the new year coming in?  Don't touch that dial!  Happy New Year everyone!  

Monday, December 29, 2003

No peeking!

It's 7pm on Monday night.  The porch... my porch... the most magnificent porch ever created... is done!  We worked so hard today, but we still have to power wash everything.  I am covered with brown paint cause I painted the cement walls below the siding while Joe framed the lattice under the porch.  Then we had to drag about 50 plastic trash bags to the curb as tomorrow is trash day.  They were filled with all of the left over pieces of wood and building debris.  No one bag could weigh over 50 pounds so we couldn't put much in them.  Since I have to work midnight shift at the hospital tonight, I have to take a quick nap before I go in.  I'll take pictures tomorrow.  Without spoiling anything... let me just say that this porch was worth every minute we spent trying to get the permit, every hour Joe took to build it, and every penny it cost us!  Of all the exciting and happy days that I will ever have in my entire life, this will definitely be one I'll remember.

Saturday, December 27, 2003

The suspense is killing me!

Let's see... where was I?  I think it was the night before Christmas...  The new front porch wasn't ready by Christmas Day, in fact the steps weren't even finished.  But... everything will be done by Monday night.  Joe is going to install the lattice under the porch, paint the lower part of the cement wall below the siding, and power wash the porch, the stone walls and the driveway.  We will have to stop renovating for a few months and start paying off some of the loans.  In the meantime I've been learning a lot about leaking basements. We've had two estimates from water proofing companies so far.  At this point, I am only sure of one thing.  I never, ever want to have another basement.  For the rest of my life.  Even after that.  I'm am now going to be cremated.  I had agonized over that decision for many years but Ray helped me make up my mind in just one week.  Thanks, honey!

Christmas was wonderful.  Even though we didn't have a tree. Or Christmas lights.  Or stockings hanging by the chimney with care.  Oh... but we will next year!!  I went to a few really great After-Christmas Sales on Friday.  50-70% off all Christmas decorations.  Ray didn't like the ones that I had.  So I bought us dozens of new ones!  I didn't really save us a lot of money.  I was just able to buy a lot more stuff!  I can hardly wait until next Christmas!  I'm hoping that everything will be finished by then.  We want to add on a new dining room and completely redo the kitchen.  Ray wants to tear out the fireplace and put in a new one.  I want to have the hard wood floors re-sanded and polished.  Joe wants to put on 3 more decks.  Not porches... decks.  And we'd like to paint the driveway and get new carpeting.  I might even try to make my childhood dream of digging a tunnel to China come true.  Only kidding about the tunnel.  My only dilemma now is:  Should I keep up my Journal after we finish the porch next week or stop writing until we start renovating again?  I did want to keep my subject pure and focused...  Even though I have never been pure and focused about anything before...  Hmmm.

Tuesday, December 23, 2003

I know who's getting coal...

Sometimes we just have to wait for things.  I never did like hearing that.  From my parents or anyone else.  I've had lots of practice waiting for things over the years but it never gets any easier.  My son Joe went to a friend's Christmas Party on Sunday night and had a bit too much to drink, leaving him with a memorable hangover.  So even though Monday was a beautiful, warm and sunny day he was too sick to come over and work on the porch.  It was supposed to be finished today.  I was going to rush home from work to sit on my new front porch, take some pics of it and then run into the house to post them here in my Journal, to share them with anyone who was interested in looking at them.  The porch will never be finished by Christmas Eve now.  Even if Joe works on the porch all day tomorrow, he still has to go back to Home Depot to buy the lattice for under the deck.  He hasn't even cut the frames for the steps yet.  I'm sure he isn't planning on working at all on Wednesday or Thursday, so I guess the most I can hope for is Friday.  I know he's young and he deserves to have all the fun he can have.  He works hard and he's a good kid.  A man really.  And he has to do all the hard parts.  Work out in the cold.  He has no one to help him most of the time and he never complains.  His carpentry skills are awesome.  But damn it!  I wanted this porch so much!  I know I'm still going to get it but I wanted it for Christmas!  Couldn't he just get drunk on New Year's Eve after the porch was finished?  Maybe there's a lesson here for me to learn.  I'm sure Christmas is really about giving to others... not about wanting things for yourself.  It's about seeing the beauty in spiritual things not just material ones.  It's about giving and sharing and realizing what's really important in life.

THERE!  I LEARNED IT!  NOW FINISH THAT PORCH!  AND I HOPE YOU ALL HAVE A VERY MERRY CHRISTMAS!  HO-HO-HO!

Sunday, December 21, 2003

It's beginning to look a lot like... a porch!

It took 3 whole days for the stone cutters to finish the steps and make a landing below the front porch.  It's incredible to watch them work.  I have never seen anyone take so much time or pay so much attention to detail.  If they were building a staircase to heaven where the angels themselves would climb, they couldn't put anymore craftsmanship into it than they have for mine.  I am glad that these steps are so special because they will bring my most precious possessions to me many times.  My children, our families, and our friends.

Joe had an awful time spacing out the porch railing slats.  He too is a perfectionist, and each section had to be re-calculated as the measurements were slightly different.  He'll finish building the steps down from the deck tomorrow.  They will rest on the stone landing that the landscaper designed.  Joe is also going to install vinyl lattice under the porch to hide the dirt from the hill below.  We'll put down plastic and stones to keep weed growth to a minimum (which we should have done before we built the porch) but I still want it to be hidden from view.  The landscaper put in 4 electric lights beside the stone steps and many smaller lights that shine upwards to accent the tress and shrubs.  They are all on a timer and will automatically turn themselves on and off at dusk and dawn.  Joe is going to put deck lighting on all the porch posts, but we probably won't do that until the spring.  Everything looks so beautiful already, I can hardly wait until tomorrow!  I'm so excited I may even have trouble sleeping tonight!  I should be able to put up the pictures of my finished porch by Christmas Eve!  This is the best present I could ever, ever get!

As hard as it was to tear myself away the past few days, I managed to get out there and do some Christmas shopping.  As a matter of fact, I only have a few small items to get later this afternoon.  Now all I have to do is get them wrapped...

Friday, December 19, 2003

Good thing Santa wears boots!

It was f-f-freezing here in Jersey today.  How people work out in the cold all winter long is beyond me.  I could never do it.  I hate just walking to the car.  The porch is really coming along.  The landscaper sent out two stone cutters today and they broke through the EP Henry stone wall that they had previously constructed to begin work on the steps that will lead up to the porch.  Those guys are artists in every sense of the word.  They measure, design, choose stones, dig, lay, cut, glue, and level every single brick.  What they create is not only breath taking, but I'm sure it will last for eternity.  Unfortunately, they weren't the ones who originally constructed this house.  The basement is still leaking and I think it will continue right into the spring.  Every two hours we have to trudge down there to suck up more water with the wet vac and lay down dry towels to keep it from getting out of control.  I put down some old newspapers I got from the 7-11 store on my way home from work tonight, but I'm sure they'll only last a few hours. I'll have to call a basement water proofing company to give me an estimate, although I hate having to spend money on something so... boring and unexciting.  But... we really have no other choice.  I don't even know where to start but I guess I'll learn...

Thursday, December 18, 2003

Can you finance a bedspread?

Today was rainy and cold.  My son wasn't able to do any work on the front porch.  Since Ray and I were both off as well, I had planned to get up early and be at the mall by 7am where I thought JC Penny's was having a 50% Off Sale... on everything.  I have never in my life been confused, even remotely, with a morning person, so it was no suprise when I couldn't get out of bed.  I was shopping by 11:45 though.  I was disappointed to find that the sale was only on all the items advertised in the booklet, not everything in the store.  I know I was supposed to be Christmas shopping but they had a bedspread that I just knew Ray would like, and that's not an easy thing to find.  It was so expensive though.  The king-size quilt alone was $420!  Even if it was 50% off, the price would have been devastating.  For that kind of money I would expect the threads to be hand woven by celestial virgins on the highest mountain of Tibet, under a clear, midnight sky with only the light of burning candles made from the purest bees wax collected by Ponce DeLeon himself on one of his adventures to sew by, while neighboring villagers sang ancient hymns and danced wildly along the banks of a raging river as a 120 year old wise man drew the patterns on each and every individual quilt. By hand.  If not... I don't think I want to pay any more than $100.  Ray didn't think so either so we continued shopping.  He took me to Strawbridges next, even though I really didn't expect to find any bargains there.  The sweaters were wonderful.  We got 2 for his mother and at least 4 for me.  Plus a pair of Jones Of New York pants... the only designer label that has ever excited me.  There were no lines in that store and you could get as many boxes as you wanted right at the register!  It may have been a bit more expensive but I think it was worth it.  I would say that even if I wasn't using Ray's credit cards.  After a quick lunch (a gourmet turkey sandwich fit for the Gods) we went back home to take turns sucking up the water in the basement with the wet vac and throwing down towels.  Now that's romantic!!

Wednesday, December 17, 2003

I think we may be... waterfront!

The weather was so warm here in Jersey today that it melted all of the snow. Which then flooded my basement.  There is also a rather large brook across the street from us in the park. It's not close enough for us to hear it babbling, but it's apparently close enough for us to wade in it from time to time.  Without even leaving the house.  Ray was already at work when I discovered the flood.  Oh lucky him.  My son was busy building the porch and I wanted him to take advantage of the nice weather.  I guess it could have been worse.  Luckily, the many cardboard boxes that I had recently placed down there soaked up a lot of it.  All I had to do was empty them all out, dry off my stuff, transfer that stuff to new, dry boxes and then move the boxes to a higher and drier location.  Not everything was water damaged or ruined.  I can't tell you the relief I felt when I found that most of Ray's stuff was still dry.  His old bowling ball (he hasn't bowled in 10 years), his brand new, unused Marlboro sleeping bag (he has NEVER been camping), a plastic container with 3 old, stiff paint brushes stuck to the sides, one old boot from his last motorcycle accident, assorted automobile parts, and the poster sized wedding portrait of him and his ex-wife.  Oh how would I have told him if these items had been destroyed forever?  There was too much water to just mop it up so I had to run to Home Depot to but a wet/dry vac to suck it up.  I wasn't planning on this little expense.  Oh well.  To think I was wondering what I could get Ray for Christmas as a suprise.  It's a little early, but I'm sure he's gonna love it.  I bet he won't even mind that I had to open and use it before him either.  I had to hurry because I also had to get ready to go to work.  The walls keep leaking.  They are just oozing water.  It was pretty dark down there, but I could tell that it had leaked before.  There was an unmistakable smell of mildew.  I think there was black mold growing on the walls in some areas.  Probably toxic mold.  Fatal no doubt.  If I die before that porch is finished... Ray better bury me on the lawn NEXT to the porch.  And he better NOT ask Todd for a permit from the Zoning Department before he does it...

Monday, December 15, 2003

We passed!

The township inspector came out today and he approved our front porch frame!  My son started working on it right away.  Hopefully he'll be able to finish it within a week, if he doesn't run into any problems or bad weather.  I took a deep breath and a swig of Christmas Cheer and dove into the moving mess I made when I helped my daughters move out of their apartment a few weeks ago.  It was cluttered even before I moved my stuff in.  Now... it's a disaster area.  If the Governor dropped by for a visit I'm sure he'd declare it a state emergency.  But now I can see the couch.  We could answer the door if someone knocked, and have them come in and actually sit down.  They could even hang their coat up in the closet.  Oh!  I am making headway.  The upstairs living room is now even worse, but I'll eventually get there.  Sometimes it feels like I'm just moving the junk from room to room.  But each time the piles get smaller, and there are fewer and fewer boxes.  I doubt that I'll totally reach my goal of having the house to the point where I can invite the kids over for Christmas, but anything is possible.  I barely even started shopping yet and I keep getting interrupted to go to my job at the hospital.  But... the more money I make the more things we can do to the house.  Or at least start paying for the things that we've already done!  Ray says he'll drink to that!

Saturday, December 13, 2003

A porch by any other name...

The frame of our new front porch is finished.  It looks magnificent!  Although I have absolutely no sense of balance I climbed up onto the wooden beams last night, so I could remember what it feels like to have a front porch.  I haven't had one since I was a little girl.  My son Joe says that my porch doesn't really qualify as a porch because it won't have a roof over top of it.  He says it's actually more of a... deck.  Did I ever tell that kid that the Santa whose lap he eagerly climbed onto every year at the local mall when he was a little boy was really an unemployed transvestite looking to earn a little beer money?  I think not.  Well... whatever it is... it's mine and I'm calling it a porch.  I don't need a roof.  I guess it would be nice to sit out there during a rainstorm and not get wet.  Or sit in the shade sipping ice tea on a hot summer day.  And I suppose that I won't like shoveling the porch off after a snow storm or sweeping up the accumulation of leaves every week in the fall.  But if we decided that we wanted a roof on the porch we would definitely need to apply for a variance from the township.  Besides... the new shingles wouldn't match the old ones and it would cost a lot more money to build it.  Since we're being so honest here, I have to admit that I can't even find the time to bring in the newspaper let alone sit out on the porch sipping ice tea or watching it rain.  Oh, I'd love to be able to say that I would be doing things like that... but I  wouldn't.  If it snows all I need is a trail wide enough to make it out to the car and back to the house.  And now that I can handle a leaf blower like a cattle rustler, a few piles of leaves every week don't scare ME.  Like I said... I don't need a roof.  I am going to be thrilled to death with my new front porch just the way we designed it.  Once the township sends someone out on Monday to inspect the frame, Joe says that the porch will be finished by the end of the week.  This will be my best Christmas present ever!  I might even leave old Santa a beer and a pair of pantyhose out on the porch!  Ho-ho-ho!

 

Friday, December 12, 2003

Too busy for Christmas?

Sometimes I get so involved in things that I become almost oblivious to everything else that is going on around me.  I just realized that in less than 2 weeks it will be Christmas.  I haven't even started shopping.  As a matter of fact I haven't even withdrawn the money from my Christmas Club account yet.  If it wasn't for my 3 foot plastic Santa, there would be no inkling around here that the holidays were upon us.  This has never happened to me before.  How could anyone be too busy for Christmas?  I actually designed my last house around my Christmas decorations.  I chose the new custom made windows for Ray's house with the holidays in mind.  Our very first major disagreement involved my plastic, light up Santa.  When I first saw Ray's fireplace all I could think about were stockings hanging there on Christmas Eve.  Yet here I sit without so much as an idea of where to start.  I better get out there.  Hope I never have to plan a wedding or anything with a time constraint.  They'd be sweeping up the rice before I even picked out the invitations.  Ho-ho-ho.

Wednesday, December 10, 2003

On My Front Porch

Before I start... I'd like to wish my son Joe, a very happy 25th birthday today!  He's the best son a Mom could have and he deserves the best!

While Joe was digging the footers this morning, Ray and I went over to the Township to pick up the Permit to build our new front porch.  To me, the front porch is where everything important in life really starts.  Everyone should have one.  It's where friends and family knock when they come for a visit.  Where neighbors walk by and wave hello.  It's where you both smile and blush when someone sends you flowers and where cats take long naps in the sun.  The front porch is the place to enjoy both Trick-or-Treaters and Christmas Carolers alike.  There will be flower baskets and Eastwe Egg Hunts on my porch in the spring,  flags waving proudly on the 4th of July, lightening bug and butterfly catching in the summer, Halloween pumpkins glowing in the fall, Christmas decorations twinkling in December and snowman building in the winter.  It's where Ray and I will hold hands by candlelight late into summer evenings.  Where my kids and I will sit, laugh and talk till the wee hours of many mornings to come.  It's where I'll hold my grandbabies tight and rock them to sleep.  And the first place that Ray will pick me up and carry me over when we come home from our Honeymoon someday.  Yes... there's a lot of love and many memories waiting to happen out there on that porch.  And I just can't wait to start!

Tuesday, December 9, 2003

There's No Place Like Home

Sometimes things just fall into place.  I'm sure it's accidental, and hardly ever happens, but when it does... it feels SO good.  The Township called to let me know that the permit for my front porch has been approved.  Most of the snow melted today, and the rest of the week will be warm, so my son will have perfect weather to begin building.  While we were waiting Joe and I painted the master bedroom walls and trim and took down the old, mangled metal venetian blinds on the windows.  We replaced them with soft white honeycomb shades.  I even rearranged the furniture and hung my 'Gone With the Wind' framed movie poster above the bed.  Everything is warm, clean and fresh.  It's starting to look like a woman lives here again.  ME.  I think I may actually be falling in love with this house now.  Ray's house.  OUR house.  And I'm starting to feel like I'm finally... home.

Monday, December 8, 2003

The Last Frontier

It took me all weekend, but I finally cleaned out Ray's bedroom.  I am no doubt permanently traumatized, but I survived.  I had to do most of it while he was at work on Saturday and watching the football game with friends on Sunday.  I foolishly attempted to coerce him into helping me go through his drawers on Saturday night, but he had a story behind and a reason to keep every piece of junk in that room.  I soon realized that with him assisting me, we'd never finish.  Even after he returned home from watching the game, he started poking around the trash bags I had filled.  "You didn't throw away anything important, did you, honey?", he asked me numerous times.  "Nope", I answered truthfully.  Unless of course he thinks he'll need more than 20 pairs of shoe laces, 500 packets of eyeglass cleaner, 16 rolls of dental floss, about $2 in Mexican money, hundreds of batteries in assorted sizes, and thousands of rolls of film...  But I guess he DOES think that or he wouldn't have saved them all in the first place.  The scary part is that he knows exactly what he has and where it is.  At least he DID know.  Now... we'll be like every other normal couple who is in an extremely happy, fully satisfying, and totally committed relationship.  HE won't be able to find a damn thing... without asking ME first. 

Sunday, December 7, 2003

All I want for Christmas....

'Todd' kept me waiting in the zoning office for 20 minutes when I went to see him.   He was busy denying someone else's permit, no doubt. Suddenly... there he was.  The man who had occupied most of my thoughts for the past 2 months.  He didn't look evil.  In fact, he was hardly more than a boy.  Probably half my age.  But he held the future of my front porch in his hands.  I didn't know whether to kiss his ring or smack his little face.  He told me that if I was planning on "just replacing the rotted wood from the old porch, and using the pre-existing footers", then he would approve the plans.  I was stunned.  Why couldn't he have done this for me 2 months ago?  I didn't feel guilty lying to him, because if his office had given the previous owners of Ray's house HALF the trouble they gave ME, then their old porch never would have been approved in the first place.  Actually, there are no pre-existing footers.  That's one of the reasons the porch was collapsing.  So I looked right into his baby blues and without ANY trace of hesitation I told him the lie he forced me to tell.  'Todd' approved my plans, and I almost danced down the hall to the next office where I now had to get approval from THEM.  The lady behind the counter assured me that HER office would approve the plans by Wednesday.  Then my son could start to build it.  Of course I'm not waiting until Wednesdy.  We have to get those cement footers into the ground before it freezes, and it's supposed to be warm all next week, despite this weather that we're having right now.  Ray's flight to Utah was canceled and he decided not to go skiing after all.  So we are going to tackle that bedroom.  It's completely filled with stuff... his, mine and ours.  Not to mention his ex's, my ex's, his ex's father's, my kids, the previous owner's...  But I now have a plan.  If we aren't going to use it REGULARLY, if it would cost us money to replace it if we didn't have it, if it doesn't make our lives easier or happier in some way, THEN OUT IT GOES.  I was going to do this while Ray was away... but I'll just have to do it with him here now.  Ray is no match for me.  Afterall... I had three kids!

Friday, December 5, 2003

Let It Snow! For about an hour!

It snowed last night and we woke up to find our house surrounded by a winter wonderland.  I have to admit it looks beautiful, even though I am not a big fan of snow.  But Ray is.  He is a skier... the 'extreme' kind.  Which means he will ski off the top of most any mountain regardless of the danger.  He's very good though, so I don't worry too much.  He once thought about trying out for the US Olympics.  Me?  I'm lucky if I can walk out to the car through the snow without slipping and breaking an arm or a leg.  Maybe even my own!  Taking a bath is enough danger for me.  Ray is going skiing with a friend tomorrow and he won't be back until late Tuesday night.  I am going to take this opportunity to finish the bedroom.  When you live with a pack rat your only hope of throwing anything out is when they are away.  And one of the days that he'll be gone is trash day!  How lucky can I get?  The exterior front lights were finally delivered and my son put them up yesterday.  They look great but I think 100 watts is a bit too bright.  The wood for the front porch is just sitting in the driveway all wet and covered with snow.  For a few minutes I fantasized that I had 'Todd' chained to that pile, freezing slowly in his underwear, trying to fend off stray cats and gophers.  I'm smiling at Christmas Carollers as I slowly roast 'Todd's' chestnuts on an open fire while he screams, "OK!  I'll give you the permit!  Build anything you want!  PLEASE!"  It was so... gratifying!  I guess we shouldn't have had that wood delivered before we were sure the township would approve the plans.  But I think I'm starting to wear 'Todd' down...  In fact I'm heading over there right now to see him.  Wish me luck! 

Thursday, December 4, 2003

Be afraid. Be... very afraid.

I have always loved trees, so it's been a pleasure living directly across the street from a park. But today was my first actual experience with raking leaves.  Before today I thought of this as a 'fall tradition enjoyed by those lucky enough to live among trees.'  I now realize that it's... a curse.  It's not colorful fall foliage dancing merrily to the ground, signifying the end of one life cycle and a prelude to the next.  Oh no.  It's Mother Nature having a temper tantrum throwing millions of tree droppings to the ground, reminding us that our work is never done, and the better your harvest the higher the price will be at the end of the season.  The Township where we live sends a truck out twice a year to vacuum up leaves that residents have raked into neat piles at their curbs, making it unnecessary to scoop them into plastic bags. No matter what else is going on in your life you have to take out time to go and rake up the leaves.  It's not a task for anyone with an anger management problem.  The leaves continue to fall as you rake them.  Just as you clear one area a gust of wind blows your neighbors leaves over onto your property.  Nor anyone with a Type A personality either.  You could easily become so immersed in such a raking frenzy, that before you knew it you'd find yourself on the other side of the State, still raking.  But... I found something in Ray's shed.  A very powerful, electric... leaf blower.  Once I got the hang of it, I was almost as powerful as Mother Nature herself.  Able to whisk piles of leaves away in a split second, corralling them like a cowboy rounding up his cattle.  I could even blow away dust and debris from the driveway!   Maybe this magical and mystical tool has other uses?!  I could open the hatch in my car and simply blow all the dust out the back instead of using the vacuum!  The house!  I could dust an entire room in seconds!  Direct it all to the front door, into the driveway and back into the park where it probably came from in the first place!  Yes!  I will finally be... the master of my domain!  I am like a Super Hero just coming out of a telephone booth.  Be afraid dirt.  Be... very afraid.

Wednesday, December 3, 2003

Cheap and Gaudy?

Ray and I have had our first serious difference of opinion.  He does not like my 3 foot, light-up plastic Santa that has been adorning every one of my entryways since all of my children have been toddlers.  He even went so far as to say that he thought my Santa was "cheap looking and gaudy."  Now this is the same man who has a pair of bright white plastic hands, palms open, on a base that sit on top of his TV to hold the remote control device.  Nothing cheap or gaudy THERE!  But I love Ray.  I'm trying to remember that he never had any children and he doesn't get all warm and fuzzy when it comes to any activities that involve Santa or any kind of stuffed animal.  Except for that teddy bear of his that I accidentally threw out!  We'll NEVER be able to forget THAT now, will we?  I have kept myself busy though.  The outside lights finally arrived and my son put them up for me today.  The wiring was screwed up (what a suprise) and it took us about 2 hours to get all three up and working but they look great!  It's actually so bright out there now that I don't even need to plug in my plastic Santa.  Ray said that he found him lying on the side of the house last night when he came home from work.  Sure.  Sure he did. "The wind must have blown him over", he told me.  So he picked him up and carried him into the house "for safekeeping."  I put him back out there tonight where he stands under those bright lights, ready to greet yet another Christmas with me.  This year he'll delight my baby grandson like he delighted my kids when they were small.

Only this time... I started a new tradition that I'm sure I'll continue each and every year from now on... I filled him with some bricks and tied him to the hose bib!  And when we finally build that porch he's gonna have at least 2 light up reindeer standing beside him! 

Ho-ho-ho! 

Monday, December 1, 2003

Deck The Halls!

My daughters moved completely out of their apartment over the weekend.  They are now living with a friend who already had furniture of her own so they really didn't need what I had.  Since Ray had his own furniture too, my bedroom, kitchen and living room stuff is now being stored in my ex-husband's garage.  It's odd really.  He got all of our marital furniture in the divorce, and now everything that I had to buy once I was living on my own is now with him, too.  If it wasn't for the fact that I was planning on giving that new furniture to the kids anyway, I think I would be having a major anxiety attack over this.  Not having to pay for a storage facility helps a little too, I suppose.  I did take all of the Christmas and holiday decorations, wall hangings, silk plants and flower arrangements back to Ray's house though.  I didn't want my ex's girlfriend to confiscate any important stuff like that.  Although I won't have to help the kids pay the bills anymore (which is a relief), now there is so much stuff piled up around here I have to make pathways for us to walk through.  I don't even know where to start.  I'd love to be able to hang my Christmas decorations around the fireplace, but I guess putting away all of this stuff so that we can get out of bed without tripping and go to the bathroom without climbing over boxes to get there would be more important...  Wouldn't it?  Yes.  It would.  I should just wait until next year to decorate.  But...  Christmas only comes once a year you know.  This mess will be here forever.  What's one more month?  What if I'm not even living next year?  Life is short they say.  Of course, my life might be even shorter if Ray comes home and sees that I just decided to decorate instead of putting my stuff away.  Then I'd never get to put my Christmas stuff up.  Hmmm....

Friday, November 28, 2003

Wet Paint

For the past 2 weeks I have been totally immersed in paint.  House paint that is.  There are so many choices and decisions to make, painting a room can become a career.  The best advice I can give you is:  If you can afford it... hire a painter to do it for you.  Besides brain surgery, this is one thing you really shouldn't do yourself.  If you must go it alone, wash down the walls before starting (don't groan this is important unless you want to do it over again 6 months from now), and... USE A DROP CLOTH!  I mean... cover everything in sight.  Even pets and small children if you can't put them in another room.  NEVER do it 'together' as a couple if you've been married any longer than 3 weeks.  Don't even start painting if you are planning to have a party in that room in less than one month or are simultaneously experiencing one or more other crisis's or major life changes including menopause.  Most importantly... if you ignore everything else I tell you... NEVER PAINT OVER PRIMER UNTIL IT HAS DRIED FOR A FULL 24 HOURS.  I don't care what the directions tell you.  Knowing that my mistakes have helped others avoid disaster will lessen my pain and suffering.  I looked at hundreds of shades of white once I decided that was the color I wanted to paint most of the walls and ceilings.  I finally narrowed my choices down to Whisper, Lace and Snowy White.  I had decided against Linen, Indian and Fantasy White.  But before you go dipping that brush into the can you need to know who you really are.  Are you a slob? You should consider easily washable or scrubbable paint.  Just generally messy?  Better go with spatter resistant.  Like to linger in the shower or daydream in tub?  You definitely need mildew resistant.  A klutz, perhaps?  You'll be happier with the chip, scuff and stain resistant brands that are also easy to touch up.  Painting is no longer a specialty... it's a science.  Grads have M.A.B.'s.  You laugh.  Ever hear the question, "Is Primer really necessary?" on any of the big TV game shows like 'Jeopardy'?  No!  That's because that question is too hard to answer!  Now I know what 'The Thinker' statue model was really agonizing over...  "Should I use semi-gloss or high-gloss paint on the trim?"

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

No porch for you, Missy!

Ray and I went to see 'Todd' this morning.  According to him, if you take away the footage in front of our house that belongs to the township and to the sewer company, we do not have the required 35 feet between the property line and the edge of the proposed porch.  Therefore we cannot build a new porch, even though it would be placed in the same exact spot as the old one.  I tried to explain to 'Todd' that we had already torn down the old porch as it was rotting and near collapse, leaving us with no access to our front door.  Other than using the back door from now on, the only other thing that 'Todd' could suggest to us was to apply for a variance.  That's where you go in front of the Township Zoning Board and beg them to let you do something that is perfectly logical, justified, and reasonable but presently prohibited.  Before they allow you to do even that, you must fill out a 50 page booklet outlining your plans to a degree that would rival the raising of the Titanic, including documentation to prove you have notified every neighbor  within 200 feet of your property of those plans, have posted a newspaper advertisement to alert any all community members of your proposal and, maybe most importantly, enclosed a check for the amount of $550.  The Board will then decide if they will hear your appeal, and then you will be notified if and when this hearing will take place.  At that point you must re-notify all the neighbors of the hearing date in case they would like to attend.  If you can afford the cost, have nothing else to do, and you are still living by the time they approve your variance then you may feel better knowing that you did it legally and with the blessing of the township.  Personally, I think doing it without their damned consent is worth sitting in jail for however long they send me away.  Even though I really don't think that we'd get caught, Ray doesn't want to take that chance.  Is it too much to want to come home after work and be able to sit out on the front porch with your honey?  Hell... at this point, I'd just like to be able to just walk up to and get in the front door!   Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

It's A Conspiracy I Tell You!

I decided to call the township this morning to check on the status of our front porch plans.  Afterall, the girl in the office did tell Ray that she would try to "sneak it through a little faster" for him.  And that was ALMOST TWO WEEKS AGO.  They put me on the phone with 'Todd'.  He told me exactly what they told me FIVE WEEKS AGO when we first submitted the plans.  "I'm sorry.  The township does not allow anyone to build structures on their properties that are this close to the street."  I was stunned.  We had to give the original surveyor another $150 to come out and re-measure the property and draw up a new plan to show that the porch was NOT too close to the street.  Then 'Todd' informed me that they must have "misplaced" the new survey as he couldn't locate it.  I explained to 'Todd' that we had been patiently waiting for this permit for a long time.  That we had wanted to give out Halloween candy to neighborhood children from that porch last month... but it wasn't to be.  That we had hoped to bring Ray's mother over from Philadelphia for a Thanksgiving Dinner on Thursday but the only door that was wide enough to accommodate her wheelchair opened up onto the porch that wasn't built yet.  (She isn't really in a wheelchair, but I'm beyond telling them the truth at this point).  Then I told him that the only hope we had left was to hear Carolers outside our house on Christmas Eve...  BUT THEY WON'T BE ABLE TO SING IF THERE ISN'T A PORCH FOR THEM TO STAND ON!  'Todd' assured me that he will personally approve the plans on the spot if we bring them into his office tomorrow morning.  All this to get a permit to build a porch the same exact size and in the same exact place where it had been built 15 years ago.  Deja vu I guess.  Speaking of which... where's that bottle of Scotch from last month...?

Monday, November 24, 2003

Love me... love my stuff!

Before I moved in with Ray last April I had been living in an apartment with my 2 daughters.  I left most of MY stuff there for them to use, as Ray had more stuff than any one person on the face of this earth could ever possibly hope to use.  It's hard to believe that his ex-wife already took half of their stuff when she moved out and they divorced. But now my girls are moving and I have to take whatever stuff I want out of the apartment and bring it to Ray's house.  Anything that I leave behind will be stored in their father's garage, where it could be confiscated by his insignificant other if she happens to take a liking to it.  The problem is that Ray already has so much stuff laying around, that there is no room for any of MY stuff.  There isn't even enough room for all of HIS stuff.  Even his stuff has stuff.  He is a sensitive, caring, romantic and sentimental man, which are some of the reasons that I love him.  But these traits have caused him to become a major pack rat.  I figured if I wanted to get rid of any of his stuff that I would have to do it while he was out of the house, and dispose of it in someone else's trash.  "Honey?  You didn't throw away an old, beat up teddy bear, did you?"  It was under the bed, torn, tattered and dirty.  What possible reason could he have to keep it?  "My mother gave it to me last year.  She said it was mine when I was little and I slept with it every night.  She wanted me to have it in case anything happened to her.  I had to take it after she told me that she kept that bear for over 45 years..."  I have a sinking feeling that I will NEVER be able to live this little momentary lapse of judgment down...  

Sunday, November 23, 2003

Oh! That Wedding!

The Wedding was unbelievable!  The finest of everything from the valet parking to the top shelf liquor served throughout the entire reception with 300 invited guests.  It was held in the Benjamin Franklin Hotel in Philadelphia in the Grand Ballroom.  TWO STORIES!  The second floor was like a huge walk around balcony that over looked the dining room.  It was decorated for Christmas and everything sparkled and twinkled. There were 3 ice sculptures including a Porsche, since the groom was in the car business.  Each table had a centerpiece that consisted of a 2 foot clear glass cylinder containing fancy gold fish and betas swimming around inside with a large white lilly bouquet cascading down from above.  It was a sit-down dinner where they served filet mignon or Chilean Sea Bass, each entree decorated with an orchid.  And Lemon Intermezzos in between courses.  A 10 piece live band... or should I say orchestra played a wonderful array of music all night long.  The actual wedding ceremony was beautiful and fraught with many Jewish traditions that I had never been privileged to witness before.  The bride, who would have looked beautiful even if she didn't come from a family who owned and operated a large beauty parlor and spa, was also a semi-professional singer.  She wrote and recorded a song for her new husband and had it made into CD's adorned with fantastic pictures of the couple taken by a photographer on a secluded beach, which were given out to each guest as a memento of this day.  As if anyone would ever be able to forget this wedding. Now... they have the rest of their lives to make home repairs and design renovations... together.  It doesn't get any better than that.

Saturday, November 22, 2003

And Let There Be Light... THREE Of Them!

Lamps Plus wrote to me today to tell me that they have shipped the light fixture that I ordered.  Great news... except that I ordered three light fixtures.  I know it wasn't a typo cause they re-adjusted my bill so that I was only paying for one.  It was very honest of them to do that, but I wanted to pay for 3 lights.  That would be like booking a trip to Disney World only to find out that you're only going to Busch Gardens instead.  You discover that you were only charged for a trip to Busch Gardens... you know that you'll still have a good time... but you wanted to go to DISNEY WORLD damn it!  I wrote back to them.  Hopefully they will be able to send the other two lights out right away.  Since I woke up in a hopeful mood I might as well hope that the township will call on Monday to tell me that they have approved the plans for our front porch.  And the Siding Guys will come back and power wash the house to remove all of the fingerprints that they left behind.  And I won't look too fat in the dress that I'm going to wear to the wedding we were invited to tonight...

Thursday, November 20, 2003

My Cistine Chapel

I'm back from Atlanta.  We were stuck in the airport for over 6 hours because of the weather, and I was almost bored to death.  Luckily, I had a few Home Improvement magazines and mail order catalogs with me to read.  We'll have to take out another loan just to pay for the things I want to order.  While we were away my son Joe painted a few rooms in the house.  What a difference a fresh coat of paint can make!  Everything looks newer, cleaner and bigger.  He also replaced many of the old light switches and electric outlets with new ones, and insulated them from drafts by using spray foam caulk around the edges.  Lowes delivered the composite wood we are going to use to build the new front porch, but it will have to sit in our driveway until the township approves the plans.  I hope no one steals the wood in the meantime.  I don't think that I'll ever leave Home Depot, but I'm definitely having a fling with Lowes!

Sunday, November 16, 2003

I'll leave the porch light on for you...

You're remodeling your house and you need new lighting fixtures on either side of your front door.  You and your oh-so-significant other are mature adults.  You either go to Home Depot together and pick them out or you browse through an on-line catalogue and order them.  Or... you both spend every spare minute of the last month scrutinizing, comparing and agonizing over thousands of light fixtures from every on-line store across the country.  You each print up the ones that you like, which unfortunately, are never the ones that your partner likes.  Initially you say, "Oh, honey... I don't know about that one...".  Soon it's, "Are you out of your mind?  Where is your taste?"  Some companies are cheaper than others for the same exact light fixture.  Some companies have free shipping.  Of course it's not REALLY free unless you actually ORDER it.  Thank God for coupons.  They can help you make a decision that may have otherwise taken you the rest of your life to make.  One of the companies that I have been screen shopping (that's like window shopping only done at the computer instead) put a 'coupon' on their site that can only be used this weekend.  You simply enter a special code number when you finish your order.  Ray got to save himself $100 and I got to end what could have turned into a life long quest.  I can leave on that business trip to Georgia today happily knowing in my heart that somewhere in America my new lights are being loaded on to a truck to be delivered to me.  As long as they don't get lost in transit...  Or go to the wrong address...  Or get stolen if the UPS guy leaves them outside the house ...  Or get broken along the way...  Am I turning into a pessimist?  Nah.  I'm going to Atlanta for a few days and I will not even THINK about home remodeling until I get back.    PS:  This is NOT the size font that I picked.  I'm middle-aged now and half blind.  I'd never pick a font this small.  Uh-oh.  Is this an omen?  My new lights will be smaller than I expect... won't they?  That's OK... for the next couple of days all of my lights will be big and bright.  As long as the plane doesn't crash...

Friday, November 14, 2003

Did I hear the phone ring?

When Ray dropped the new survey off at the Zoning Office yesterday the girl behind the desk told him that she would "sneak it through faster" for him and that she'd call him later in the afternoon to let him know if it was approved.  He sat there grinning at me... trying to show me that a little patience, kindness, understanding and a friendly smile "can get you almost anything."  Not that phone call though.  I KNEW that she was just telling him that to get him and his friendly smile out of her face and away from her office.  She never called him back yesterday.  Or this morning.  I called her.  Her machine came on and said she "was not at her desk" and to "try again later."  I did.  She wasn't.  This time she was "out for lunch."  Finally someone answered the phone but told us that the girl we needed to speak to was "busy waiting on another customer" and would "call us back when she was finished".  We waited.  Ray told me not to be "a pain" and to "stop bothering them."  I did.  She still didn't call.  I dialed her number once again.  This time the recording said that they were "gone for the day."  I could feel a hot flash coming on.  To make matters worse the recording went on to list their days and hours of operation.  None of which included Fridays or the weekends.  I guess all the patience, kindness, understanding and friendly smiles are going to get us all the way to MONDAY now.  Actually... even farther.  We leave on Sunday for a business trip to Georgia and we won't be back until Thursday.  It will take at least a week after that to get the porch approved by Buildings and Inspections.  Maybe longer since we'll have the Thanksgiving Holiday in there.  But I'll still be ... thankful.  For that bottle of Scotch I have left over after putting in the master bathroom shower last week...

Thursday, November 13, 2003

I'm gonna miss those guys!

The siding is finished.  It looks incredible.  They have to come back and power-wash the house though, as they left a million dirty fingerprints all over it.  Most of those marks are on the second story... too high for me to reach without a ladder.  When I was younger I would have climbed up there myself to wash them off but now I realize what things in life are worth risking a slipped disc for, and those prints are definitely not one of them.  We finally got the property resurveyed to show the Township that the porch we want to build will be within their regulations and we resubmitted those papers today.  I hated having to file the papers once.  I detest doing it twice.  Ray says that if I don't start being nicer to the lady at the desk I might be doing it three times.  Everything that we still want to do outside is on hold until we get a permit.  I think that seeing the incredible transformation that all the work has done to the house has gotten me ... addicted to it.  Sitting here, wasting days at a time, doing nothing is driving me crazy.  I am so eager to go on to a new project.  Finish it even.  Christmas is coming and I'd love to have people over.  Ones who weren't wearing work boots...  I do miss the guys now that they aren't here.  You really get to know them when they're working in your house 5 full days a week.  Bobby's getting divorced and his wife gives him trouble about seeing his kids...  Rick's little girl will be 4 years old this weekend...  Jack has been married 3 times and his uncle was electrocuted at a construction site...  I wonder if Eddie's mother was admitted to the hospital?  Hmmm...

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

The Gates Of Hell... Wipe Your Feet First!

Sometimes I think that this house is fighting me every step of the way.  Maybe it knew that I didn't really like it when I first saw it, and even though I am beginning to love it now, it just can't forgive me.  Maybe it liked Ray's ex-wife better than me.  Or maybe... it was built over the entrance to hell itself.  And every evil, miserable and hopeless soul on their way to meet the devil has to walk through my front door first.  The porch collapsed, the pipes burst, the living room was flooded, the plumbing under the kitchen sink rotted through destroying the flooring of the room beneath it, the motor to the garbage disposal burnt out, the dishwasher valves cracked and today the sump pump broke in half cause it was rusty.  Our neighbors tree roots are lifting up the driveway out front and the Township keeps denying our remodeling plans.  The alarm system isn't working and the lighting fixtures are blowing... one by one.  I am going to make this house into a beautiful home if it kills me.   I can hardly wait to light the fireplace this Christmas Eve...

Monday, November 10, 2003

Build me a laundry room... and I'll do the wash!

Ray's old laundry room was so small I barely had enough room to stand in there while taking the clothes out of the dryer.  The storage room beside it was piled high with all kinds of items completely disorganized and almost impossible to get to.  We tore down the wall between the two rooms.  Left only one doorway but made it larger so that we could bring items in and out easily.  Because the room was next to the basement and had been flooded in the past we put a wooden sub-flooring that had plastic channels glued to it over the cement slab first.  If the room was ever flooded again, the water would be directed towards the sump pump located in the pipe room, and wouldn't just lie there and rot the new floor.  $350 well spent I believe.  We built a closet inside of an alcove for storage and we'll also add some cabinets.  I'm hoping to replace Ray's stackable washer and dryer with full size ones in the near future.  My son Joe is going to build a center island for me to fold clothes on.  You have to check out the before and after photos below.  Some of them are so dramatic.  A beautiful laundry room may not win a woman's heart but it's definitely on the way there!

Saturday, November 8, 2003

Sun Glasses at Night

Although we still haven't decided on which decorative light fixtures to put out in front of the house, I did get new flood lights and had the siding guy put them up.  The 2 in the front of the house automatically go on at dusk and off at dawn.  They will have to be adjusted though.  Maybe if they point down more the house won't be as bright and as visable as a baseball field during the 7th game of  the World Series at night.  The lights in the back of the house are supposed to be motion detectors.  Either they don't work or everything in my backyard is totally dead.  Which wouldn't suprise me at this point.  I was only going to re-use 2 of the lights that we already had.  When the siding man came to put them back up we realized that one of them is missing now.  Maybe it broke and one of the guys threw it away?  I'm sure they laid them very carefully in the MUD somewhere amongst the DEBRIS piled around the house in the past few weeks since they started this job!  I guess that wire will just be sticking out of the wall until I go out and buy another one.  The light on the inside of the front door doesn't work now either.  The siding man says that it's "just a coincidence" and that it doesn't have anything to do with "them."  I'll just add that to the list of things to look at this week.  Along with the 2 new pipes I discovered  leaking yesterday.  After the dishwasher broke down...  If I scream "help" would anyone come to rescue me?

Friday, November 7, 2003

Tap... tap... tap...

Ray's clothes are hanging in the new walk-in closet that used to be the attic.  He's thrilled.  The walls in the storage room are down and the new walls and doorway have been framed out.  We put in a new fixture so that we'll have plenty of light in the new laundry room when it's finished.  The Township rejected our plans for the new front porch even though it was the same size and in the same place as the old one.  It was even included in the old house survey that we have.  But the survey company didn't include the ground that the township owns on our drawing, so it looks like the house is closer to the street than it really is.  There is a rule here that there must be a minimum of 36 feet between the street and the house or any part there of.  Well... there is... but it's not on the drawing.  The only thing that we can do is have a new survey made.  All the work outside will be on hold until we re-submit it and hope that it's approved.  So that we can build the new front porch.  So that the stone layer can put in the steps and finish the walls.  So that the landscaper can plant the rest of the trees and shrubs.  And to think that it will cost us $150 more to get approval to re-build the same exact thing that we already had.  Which, of course, will lead to the re-assessment of our house causing an increase in our property taxes.  Sometimes it seems like we'll be paying for this project for the rest of our lives.  Even longer.  If we keeled over and died... the kids would have to pay an inheritance tax.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

Don't stop me now!

The vinyl siding is almost done!  When I pull into the driveway I can't believe that it's the same house!  We still have to build the front porch, have the rain gutters put on and get exterior lights.  Ray and I just have to come to an agreement as to which lights to use.  He likes ultra-modern contemporary lights and I like the traditional kind.  We're also limited in which kind we can pick by the space that the siding guys left for the light fixtures.  I wish they would have consulted me first.  The landscaper will  also add his own garden and walk-way lights.  I can't wait.  In the meantime, we'll be busy inside.  The master bathroom is finished.  It looks great!  I painted it a light brown first, but it didn't look as nice as I had hoped.  I was afriad to use a dark brown cause the room was so small.  I decided to just take a chance and I painted it a very dark brown.  I can't tell you how nice it turned out!  We're on to the laundry room now while we wait for the township to approve the plans for the front porch.  We're going to tear out the wall between the old laundry room and the storage room next to it that was flooded by the pipe under the kitchen sink upstairs.  OK...  I'm going in!

Tuesday, November 4, 2003

The Before and After Photos

These are the before and after pictures of the renovations we did to our house.  Actually... it's not a renovation... it's more like a RESURRECTION! 

Please click on the "View Larger" option.  It will put the pics in an album so you can see the before and after effects side-by-side.

I will keep adding more pictures and updating old ones as we go along.  Don't miss reading the story though!

The Sweet Taste Of Success!

The siding guys are finally making some headway.  They have finished the back and sides of the house and are almost done building a roof over the front door.  The landscaper put in the trees and bushes in the center island and on both sides of the driveway.  What a difference!  I am really starting to get excited!  Many neighbors have stopped by to tell us how great it looks!  Even passing joggers in the park yell compliments to us if we're standing outside!  We ran into a little trouble with the attic closet though.  Once again I had to run back to Home Depot many times to get just the right parts for the ClosetMaid shelving system.  Then... after we put the shelves up, I discovered that they weren't high enough.  All of Ray's suit jackets touched the floor.    I hated to take the shelves down and start over, but the clothes would get dusty and wrinkled if I didn't.  The back shelf couldn't go any higher, but the two sides could.  THANK GOD the walls were high enough so that the suits didn't touch the floor when hanging from the rod.  Also good that Ray isn't any taller than he is!  Joe had to replaster and touch up the paint from the marks of the previous holes, but when he finished it looked as though they were never there.  I am raring to go now that I've had the sweet taste of success!  Even if it was just a morsel.

Sunday, November 2, 2003

Alcohol... The Home Remodeler's Best Friend

I realize that things don't always go as planned.  It's not unusual to encounter obstacles, delays and unexpected expenses in life as well as home remodeling.  BUT DOES EVERY SINGLE DAY HAVE TO BE THAT WAY?  Can't there be one day that goes smoothly?  I bought the sink and the cabinet base it attaches to for the master bathroom.  Three times.  Once I found a nicer cabinet, once the sink was too big for the base and once I discovered that the sink was chipped.  I had to lug them up 3 flights of stairs each time.  The linen closet came in a box with no less than a million pieces.  Four of which were missing.  Back to Home Depot once again to get replacements.  I accidentally got some adhesive on the exterior vinyl wall of the corner shower while we were gluing it in place.  I tried ammonia, nail polish remover, peroxide, toothpaste, Vaseline, Massengill and alcohol.  The rubbing kind didn't remove the glue either, but the drinking kind made me feel a lot better.  My son finally got it off with 10W40.  The new sink and linen cabinet were a lot wider than the old sink had been and I feared that there wouldn't be enough room on that one side of the toilet now, as they were all on the same wall.  It seemed OK to me when I sat down on it, but Ray said, "Honey?  Look!  I keep banging my right elbow on the sink when I turn the pages of the newspaper too fast!"

I told him to quit speed-reading and I poured myself another drink...

Friday, October 31, 2003

Big family... not one arsonist!

The attic closet is almost finished.  I can't wait to get the clothes and all the stuff that was in the attic out of the bedroom and back in there.  We also have all the bathroom fixtures from the master bathroom in there with us too... we can't move.  And I can't find anything.  Just when I thought I couldn't get anymore frustrated... we had a flood.  In the only room in the entire house that didn't need a lot of work.  I turned on the water to the hose bib outside the front door so that the work crews could wash off their tools.  Apparently the pipe to that hose bib had frozen some years before and it had burst.  No one ever fixed it... they just turned it off and left it that way.  Now the living room was totally flooded.  The rugs, padding and sub-flooring over the cement slab are soaked.  We had to open up the wall to locate the leak to replace the pipe.  All the furniture had to be piled up in drier parts of the room.  After I called the plumber  I noticed that the garbage disposer wasn't working.  While he was installing a new one he discovered that the pipe that drained the kitchen sink must have rusted through at some point and all the water from the dishwasher, sink and garbage disposer was not going down the drain.  It was actually flooding the storage room beneath it.  The indoor/outdoor carpeting and wooden sub-flooring of that room is now completely rotting and mildewing.  The siding guys informed us that all of the outside hose bibs have to be removed and replaced because they are too close to the walls for siding to fit around them.  So... the kitchen sink pipe was replaced and I got a new garbage disposer.  All the exterior hose bibs are being replaced along with the pipe that burst in the living room wall.  My son and I pulled out all of the carpet and sub-flooring damaged by the flood.  Now the master bedroom, bathroom and living room are all practically unusable. But I have 2 really beautiful windows to look out of.  I can see the EP Henry Stone Wall... and that annoying weather station across the street.  I have a large family.  Not one arsonist.  Damn.  I could be on a cruise right now or having a face lift.  

Thursday, October 30, 2003

Window shopping isn't what it used to be....

There were 3 separate winows in the living room.  They were large... taking up the whole wall.  I wanted to replace them with one huge bow window.  When we started to take out the old living room windows we were horrified to discover that the wooden beam going across the top of the windows was a split header.  That meant that we couldn't remove the stud in between the old windows or the house would collapse.  The new window was custom made and already sitting on the truck in front of the house.  Un-returnable.  We would have to use a hydrolic lift to support the front of the house while the window guys took out the old beam and replaced it with a new header.  Tack on an additional $1500.  When they took the upstairs window off of the truck I realized that it wasn't the one that I had ordered.  I wanted a bay window with casement windows on either side and they gave me double hung sash windows instead.  I'm a Christmas decoration freak and I wanted that window to be as unobstructed as possible to display them.  The window guys checked.  Made a few calls.  I was right.  If I was willing to take this window instead... they wouldn't charge me for the new header they had to install.  And they would put a little roof over the front door... no charge.  Ray was immediately agreeable.  I was angry and disappointed.  Very reluctantly... I finally gave in.  When the windows were actually installed and I stood back and looked at them, I was thrilled.  I can't believe what a huge difference they make.  Good thing I opted to save the money.  Now I realize that we will be needing custom window treatments.  Poor Ray!

Tuesday, October 28, 2003

Take it off... take it all off!

The cedar shake shingles are all removed now.  It took 5 men a day and a half to do it.  Beating each tile with a hammer until it crumbled and fell to the ground in huge piles of giant tooth picks.  The property looked like the house had exploded.  Wishful thinking I guess.  The lower third of the house was covered by a thin cement called parging.  The previous owners had painted it brown.  It was now peeling, cracking and crumbling.  In order for the siding company to cover it with vinyl siding they have to nail wooden strips to the parging so they can attach the siding to it.  Of course... it will cost more.  But it will be worth it... I hate that parging.  The satellite TV men are coming today to remove that obscene dish they hooked up right smack in the front of the house years ago and re-locate it to a less noticable position on the roof.  I have no idea what they were thinking at the time.  The landscaper is starting one of the retainer walls on the front lawn today.  He's going to use EP Henry stone bricks.  The pictures of them in their catelog are beautiful.  He says they'll last forever.  A thousand years from now my wall will be featured on National Geographic.  "The thousands on tiny wood chips buried deep within the soil suggest that there was a great explosion.  Apparently all that remained was this beautiful wall and an ancient weather station a few hundred yards away..."  Sorry.  I think my mind is going.  Probably out looking for my sanity which left yesterday morning.  Maybe that explains why I decided to tear down the wallpaper in the master bathroom before we even finished the attic closet.  All I wanted to do was re-paper or paint it.  But once the paper was off I could see that there were gaps between every piece of plaster board.  Whoever put them up didn't use greenboard either... a must if the walls are in a bathroom.  Probably why the room had a tendency to get mouldy.  Black Toxic Mold no doubt.  I'm sure I'm being poisoned as we speak...

Monday, October 27, 2003

If I ever HAVE a closet... I'm never coming out!

It's raining today so the siding guys can't work on the house.  While my son is taking out all of the windows (except for the two in the front of the house) I am going to empty out the attic.  There is a carpeted, normal width, 4 step staircase leading to it from the master bedroom, and since there is no closet in the master bedroom, I am going to have Joe enclose it and make it into a walk-in.  Joe thinks the angles of the attic are so steep that it will cost too much money in labor to make it cost effective.  But how can you live without a closet in the master bedroom?  Besides... that little staircase looks stupid just going up to 'nowhere'.  And I detest the folding door that opens to it.

Right now we are using one of the other bedrooms as a walk-in closet for our clothes.  But it's on another floor and I'd rather use that room for something more functional.

ClosetMaid has a great web site that teaches you everything you need to know about designing your own closet.  Home Depot will cut all the wire shelves for you for free when you bring in your measurements, so your closet will be 'custom made.'  Even if you just want to make an existing closet more organized... I think ClosetMaid isa definitely the way to go.

 

Sunday, October 26, 2003

This IS progress... right?

As I stand back at look up at the house I have to remind myself that this is progress.  All the overgrown shrubbery and ivy has been pulled out, the railroad ties are gone and the dead trees have been cut down.  Almost all of the cedar shake siding has been removed.  The decks have been torn down.  The rented dumpster in the driveway is almost full.  The house looks... abandoned.

My son Joe is a carpenter by trade and he offered to work for us in between his regular jobs.  I am going to be his assistant.  Ray works long hours and he'd rather pay someone else to do the work than to have to come home and do it himself.  That's OK.  It will get done faster this way.

Joe took out the two windows in the front of the house that face the street.  We ordered two new ones from the siding company.  The window over the driveway will be a box window and the living room window will be a 9 foot bay window with casements.  Joe's going to take out all of the rest of the windows tomorrow and replace them with ones we ordered from Home Depot.  He said the best time to replace the windows was before they were capped by the siding company.  Makes sense... but when we started this project we only talked about replacing the decks.  There's so much indoor work that I wanted to get to.  Now... we ended up removing all the shrubbery, wood ties, and replacing the windows and siding.  Then we'll have to put in a new retainer wall and do some major landscaping.  I guess we'll have to replace the outside lights... the old ones won't look right next to the new siding.  And I'll have to get window treatments for the two new windows.  They are so big I'm sure they'll have to be custom made.

When I was reading the Sunday paper this morning I couldn't help but flip through the Real Estate section.  Is it too late to pack up and move?

Saturday, October 25, 2003

Ground Zero

I keep telling myself that this will get better.  The landscaper ripped out all of the shrubery in the front of the house today.  It was so overgrown it looked more like a jungle, and it was preventing us from getting anywhere near the house to start working on it.  But now the house looks naked.  There is nothing to hide the peeling paint, the cracks, rotting wood, and missing shingles.  The front deck which served as a porch was obviously falling down and had to be removed.  The second floor balcony on the side of the house had to be taken out as well.  None of them had been built with pressure treated wood.  The siding and all the gutters have to be replaced.  Some of them are barely hanging onto the house.  Everything has to be capped.  All the windows need to be replaced.  We will have to build a new front porch and a balcony.  The landscaper told us that the railraod ties that were holding back the dirt on the front lawn are shot.  He has to take them out.  The only salvageable structure seems to be the roof.  So far.  It could start leaking next week.  I'm starting to get scared.  How much is too much money and work?  Will we live long enough to see the house finished?  Would a jury of my peers actually convict me if I burned it down?  I better watch myself.  I'm already under surveilance by the Park Patrol.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Crime of the Century?

Ray's house is right across the street from a beautiful park.  That was one of the main reasons that he didn't want to move.  But several years ago the Township built a 'weather station' in that park, directly across from his front door.  As soon as you open that door or look out any of his windows you can't help but see the numerous satellite dishes and antennas enclosed by a chain link fence.  Not exactly the view to die for.

The Township never asked Ray if he had any objections before they built it, and I was sure that they would never consider moving it to another location.  The landscaper who is working on transforming our jungle into a lawn agreed to plant 2 or 3 bushes in front of that weather station yesterday, in an attempt to camoflage the area a bit.  It hadn't even been 10 minutes before the first Park Patrol car arrived.  The officer sat there, staring at the new bushes... talking on a hand held radio.  He was soon joined by another Park Patrol car and 2 local police cruisers.  Lights flashing, they closed down the street and searched the area.  Were they looking for... more new bushes?  They eventually noticed the landscaping truck parked in our driveway.  Several of the officers walked over to interrogate the workers.  Yes... they were the ones who had planted the bushes in the park.  No... they didn't have permission from the Park Commission.  Yes... we were the ones who had master-minded this shocking destruction of government property.  No... there were no plans to contaminate any other scientific data collection areas.  Yes... they would immediately dig up those bushes and remove them.

I could see the officers furiously writing in their little pads.  They will now have our names and addresses and that of our landscaping company... in case there are any future foreign shrubbery sightings.  Our pictures my soon be hanging on the back walls of Nurseries all over the State...  am I turning into a radical protestor?  If they ever fingerprint me... will my thumb be... green?

 

Tuesday, October 21, 2003

The House

Married 28 years... divorced for 4.  I think I'm winning.  I moved in with Ray in April.  In the house that he and his ex-wife shared before they got divorced.  He didn't want to move because he likes the location.  I really didn't want to live in 'her' house.  So we agreed to renovate.  By the time I'm finished with the house even a team of forensic scientists won't be able to find a trace of 'her'.  I practically live at Home Depot now.  They call me by my first name when I walk in.  I'm becoming an expert in DIY home remodeling... but it seems like I have to do each and every project 3 times before I get it right.  Funny... Brad Pitt used to be the man of my fantasies.  Now... it's Bob Villa.  I wonder if Ray dreams of Martha Stewart?  I doubt it.

Hello

Starting life over is a lot like moving to a new house.  You pack up all of your things, give away what you don't need, and throw out anything that's broken.  Then you take it to an unfamiliar place and try to find new places for all of your old things.  When you drive by your old place it suprises you to see other people living there.  Your new neighbors smile and say "hello"... but they don't really know you.

And most of your mail is simply addressed to... The Occupant.

That's me.