October 22, 2007

Fall is Here!.

I love the smell and feel of fall. It reminds me of football games and bonfires. Funny how it can change from summer to fall overnight. The cold front came through about 4:30 this morning but with less wind than expected. It rained most of the morning, and was cloudy most of the day, with the high about 58ºF and winds 17-25mph. Made it seem pretty cool outside with the wind cutting through my knit shirt.

The only dark spot in my day was a trip to the dentist before we drop dental insurance. I hate, hate, hate, hate, going to the dentist. I have several chipped teeth which are sensitive to cold and just about everything. Still, every bloomin' dentist wants to tap on my teeth with a metal probe to see if it hurts. Yes! Yes, it hurts. Anyway, thirty minutes of torture and I have clean teeth once again, and the good news is that my blood pressure was 98/55, and this taken when I was dreading a dentist appointment. I haven't had pressure that low since high school when I was playing tennis every day. Must be the lovely fall day.

Until next time, may you have blessings and golden days,

October 21, 2007

It's Good to Have Neighbors

My neighbor has been working on his car for a couple of weeks and has taken the seats out while he replaces the headliner and carpet. He has found a way to drive the car when he needs to move it out of the driveway though. Yep, he put in a chair from his dining table. *grin* Must be a man thang.

I've been talking to my neighbor Di about riding with me. She finally said yes today and we went for a long ride around the neighborhood. The hills were hard on her but I showed her how to change gears and then it was a little better until her legs started giving out. She walked her bike up the hills after that, so I walked with her. The wind was blowing between 20-26 mph but most of the time we weren't going straight into it. I didn't think Di would go as far as she did, but she did great, and I was really surprised when I measured it later and it was 4.5 miles for me. Whoohoo! It didn't seem far at all, maybe because I was going a little slower than normal and had someone to talk to along the way.

As little as I know about cycling, it felt funny to be showing Di how to use her gears and adjust her seat. We need to work on riding and talking though.

Until next time, may you have blessings and friendship,

My ordinary life

October 17, 2007

Politicians Must Wear Rose-Colored Glasses

I don't usually talk about politics except when I'm mad, and today I'm mad. I just saw a commerical for John Cornyn, who is running for re-election to the Texas Senate. Senator Cornyn voted for the $700 Billion Bailout despite a huge volume of email asking him not to.

Now in this commercial, he says "We should work together and get back to basics, good school, ... low taxes to finally make government work again." We asked him NOT to vote for the bailout and NOW he wants us to work together? Why? So he can ignore us again. I don't think so.

Got this in an email today:

A Fable

Once upon a time a man appeared in a village and announced to the villagers that he would buy monkeys for $10 each. The villagers, seeing that there were many monkeys around, went out to the forest and started catching them. The man bought thousands at $10 and, as supply started to diminish, the villagers stopped their effort.

He next announced that he would now buy monkeys at $20 each. This renewed the efforts of the villagers and they started catching monkeys again.Soon the supply diminished even further and people started going back to their farms.

The offer increased to $25 each and the supply of monkeys became so scarce it was an effort to even find a monkey, let alone catch it! The man now announced that he would buy monkeys at $50 each! However, since he had to go to the city on some business, his assistant would buy on his behalf.

In the absence of the man, the assistant told the villagers: 'Look at all these monkeys in the big cage that the man has already collected. I will sell them to you at $35 and when the man returns from the city, you can sell them to him for $50 each.'The villagers rounded up all their savings and bought all the monkeys for 700 billion dollars.They never saw the man or his assistant again, only lots and lots of monkeys!

Now you have a better understanding of how the WALL STREET BAILOUT PLAN WILL WORK!!!!

Until next time, may you have blessings and discernment,


October 13, 2007

It's Scary and It's Not Even Halloween!.

Even though I know better than to go shopping on Saturday, I thought I was early enough to beat the crowd. I went to Target and Lowe's, Target because a friend told me she got some bike shorts there, and Lowe's because I needed stuff for the garden.

I went to the bike store yesterday and they only had one pair of women's shorts and they were in a size small. I also visited Sports Authority and they had no women's bike shorts at all. So I bought a gel seat cover and figured I'd just get some capri pants and make do.

I used to like shopping for clothing, but I really don't anymore. I don't know if it's because I'm older and don't like the current fashion craze, i.e. low riding pants that feel like they are always falling off and shirts that are too short to cover skin during any activity, or if it's because I'm overweight and nothing fits right. Probably a little of both.

But I trudged into Target and found their sportswear and workout sections. No bike shorts in either section. But I did find a variety of moisture-wicking capri pants and tops, so tried them on. I nearly gagged when I looked in the mirror. How many times have I looked with pity (if not scorn) at fat women wearing spandex or tube tops and thought "What was she thinking?" Even if I wore a ski mask so my neighbors couldn't identify me, I couldn't bear to wear something like this in public. On a bicycle. With people coming up behind me. There's got to be another solution.

There was, kind of. I found it in the maternity section. I am so glad I'm not pregnant with today's skin tight fashions. I didn't like seeing Demi Moore pregnant and nekkid on the cover of a magazine, and I don't like seeing normal pregnant women wearing a skin-tight dress over their bulging middle, swayed back, and ample derrier. Heck, I don't even like seeing fat teenagers wearing low riding jeans and a cropped top. Do they not have mirrors in their house or do they not care that their fat it hanging over the top of their jeans like a muffin crown?

Anyway, back to the maternity section. Since the normal clothes didn't have a t-shirt long enough to cover my ample backside, I thought I might find one for those few pregnant women who actually want to cover the stretchy part of their maternity clothes, and yet have a shirt that fits in the shoulders. It's not a pretty combination, but at least it's not disgusting, and I won't have to wear a bag over my head or ride in the middle of the night to avoid being seen.

Until next time, may you have blessings and comfortable clothes,

My ordinary life

October 08, 2007

Who Says Cycling Is a Low-Impact Sport?

That's what my doctor told me. But it's only low impact if you manage to stay on the bike.

This morning started out nice enough. It wasn't too hot, but really humid, about 82%. Sweat was rolling down my back before I even hit the pedals. I adjusted the seat, took a spin down the driveway, and came back to adjust again. On the way back to the garage, I thought I'd just ride it into the garage instead of stopping in the sun. I knew the edge would be rough, so stood up to go over it, slowing down while I entered so I could stop when I got in. That's where the trouble began.

A mountain bike it is not, and my inexperience could account for the loss of control when riding over the concrete edge. I braked and tried to slow the crash, plus had to swerve to miss the toolbox, and my shorts got hung in the handlebar so I couldn't get my foot down to block the fall. I ended up hitting the concrete with my right elbow and lay there dazed and embarrassed for a few seconds until I could muster the energy to get up. Luckily, nothing was broken on me or the bike, and a quick glance out the door didn't reveal any giggling witnesses.

I finished tightening the saddle and decided to go ahead and get my ride in. Two miles today, and I felt like I probably could have gone farther, but didn't want to push it. I'm finally learning when to use the gears I think. I love flying down the road with the wind behind me.

I felt pretty good when I got home, just a little stiffness in my thighs. But as the day went on, the bruises on my left leg are getting bigger and so is the bruise on my right elbow. I have a pain between my shoulder blades and my right thigh is sore. Riding a bike just wasn't this hard when I was ten.

Until next time, may you have blessings and good balance,

Exercise, My ordinary life

October 06, 2007

To Speak or Not To Speak - My Mind That Is

Mom said society overlooks women of a certain age who speak their mind, and she began speaking her mind at age fifty. Coincidentally, that was the same year daddy began spending more time at home.

Now I grew up in the South, where girls are taught to be gracious and polite no matter what the circumstance. Add to that my Southern Baptist upbringing which cemented any cracks in that foundation, and I could never bring myself to say to people what I really thought, even when their stupidity caused me to lose time or money. The other day when I relayed to mom one of life's recent annoying incidents, she asked me when I was going to stop being so polite and give folks a piece of my mind. Since I would like to work again one day, I don’t think this is the time to start speaking my mind. At least not publicly. While I don't speak out to others, I have been known to rant afterwards to my dear Hubby. Maybe that’s not the greatest idea because now I wonder if all those hunting trips were precipitated by a sharp-tongued wife.

After years of biting my tongue and watching my blood pressure spike with the effort, I have begun to see that mom could be right. If you've ever had a problem with a credit card company, or insurance company, or any mega company with an 800 number and a long, automated telephone screening system, you know how hard it is to keep your cool after being transferred to three or more people. Such was my experience today, and the last person I talked to is supposed to research the problem and call me back. Yeah, right. I have a feeling I will be going through this again tomorrow.

Until next time, may you have blessings and tranquility,

October 05, 2007

On to Plan B

This is part four of our story, the tedius stuff. To start from the beginning, click here.

Our original plan was to expand the kitchen into the dining area and then add a den and dining area. We were about halfway into the kitchen remodel when we learned that the septic problems were the result of a roofing company driving their truck over the septic lines, crushing both the pipe from the house and the main connection to the lateral lines and one bathroom had so many problems it couldn't be used. There went the money for our addition. From then on, creativity and ingenuity was the name of the game.

While I wish I had pictures showing the progress we made with the house, it was just impossible to have a camera with us in those first few weeks, and even afterwards, it was hard to stop what we were doing, and clean our hands so we could handle a camera.

Since we needed to do some major work on the bathroom and septic system, we wouldn't be able to build a dining room, laundry room, and family room now, so we revised our plan. We now needed to make the most of the 1406 square feet in the original footprint. It was too late to change the plan to enlarge the kitchen because we had already ordered custom cabinets and counter tops. That was a decision I regretted many times over. We never dreamed it would take so long to finally have a dining room. As it was, our only eating area was the peninsula in the kitchen, it only seated four and that was a tight fit.

Remember the original floor plan?

This is our new plan

Since the house had been built in the early 1980's with a farm house look, I wanted to continue in that vein. As much as I like French Provincial, it just wouldn't look right in this house. A neighbor, who has a lovely house with diamond shaped leaded glass bay windows, did the entire interior of her house with Spanish styling - Mexican tile, wrought iron stair rails, and thickly textured walls that resemble stucco. While the interior is well done and beautiful, it is such a contrast to the exterior that it is a bit jarring. I wanted the interior and exterior of this house to be in harmony. It is a simple, little house. It's rooms are small and need a clean, simple design.

So here are the changes we made:

Even though we didn't want the laundry room in the middle of the house, we were forced to keep it there now. We closed off the small hall and opened up the washer and dryer closet to make a larger laundry room. We used the upper cabinets from above the washer dryer in the kitchen to save a little money. We moved the kitchen door to keep most of the traffic at one end of the room. As it turned out, the exterior door by the fireplace leaked badly, both from rain and north winter winds, so we sealed it off for now.

We soon had these few walls moved and sheetrocked, the new tub in place, and the cabinets moved in the kitchen. Now we were ready to finish the walls. Hubby talked to the contractors he knew and bartered a trade for the mud and tape, and texturing of the living room and the patched walls. The contractor exchanged the work for one of our Gordon Setters and an extra spray rig Hubby had. Afterward, we moved all the doors into the garage and Hubby sprayed all the walls with a flat white and all the doors and trim with a white enamel. Colors could come later.

We had no flooring, no appliances, no curtains, no fence, and only one working bathroom when we moved in with two young daughters and three dogs, one of whom would soon have puppies. With most of our belongings still in the same boxes I packed when we sold our last house six months before, it was easier to put them in the garage than bring them in and unpack them. Still, having the rest of our stuff moved into an unfinished house meant working around them or moving them to other areas to get any work done. The remodel just got harder.

Before moving in, we spent every waking moment working on the house as hard as we could. After we moved in, the pace definitely slowed down. It is so much harder to get moving when we came home from work and there was a soft chair to sink into, and a tv to watch. Even so, we began laying tile, putting in fixtures, and making it home. We chose white tile with a slight marbled design to lighten and visually expand our small rooms.

About that floor tile. We have never tiled before, and thought it was a job best left to experts - until we got a few estimates. Then we looked at each other and said how hard could this be? With only the aid of a video we thought we could tackle the floor. It would have been soooo much easier if we had had the internet back then, and if the internet was the tool it is today. Our source for finding a place to buy tile was limited to the phone book and Hubby's contractor connections. Most of those recommended a big tile place, and that is where we ended up buying the tile. And since we knew we would be adding on a dining room in the near future, we bought enough for that too. A few months later, Hubby happened to be driving through an area of The City when he saw a sign for an outlet of that same tile company. He went in and found the exact tile we bought, for half the price! Still makes me sick to think about it.

We had a problem area in the kitchen floor. It was a depression made from the power float concrete finishing machine - we could see the blade marks on the outer edges. The depression was in the area where the water heater had been laying when we first saw the house and it extended into the water heater closet and the new laundry room, though not as deep in those areas. Hubby filled the deepest area in the kitchen and smoothed it over to the walls and into the other areas. It was still not level, but better. I don't know who poured and finished the slab on this house, but he has been added to my mental hit list.

The tile would run from the entry, across the back of the living room, and into the kitchen and utility areas. So we began by centering the line from the front door to the kitchen sink, and began tiling in the entry, crossed the living room, and through the kitchen on that line. Once in the kitchen, we first worked toward the nearest wall and utility areas That's when we ran into problems the video hadn't covered. Despite the fill that had been done, which was much less next to the wall, the floor still wasn't perfectly flat, and after Hubby finished that area, we left it for awhile to work on something else. We we began working on the tile again, it was obvious that the tile was off. The chalk line fell into the slope; where the line should have marked was thin air, pressing it down to make contact moved it down about 3/16 of an inch. 3/16 of an inch doesn't seem like much, except when it is at the end of a straight line of tile, especially when there is a group of tile off by that amount, and each one is at the end of a line of tile. We thought it would better after it was grouted, but we were wrong. Then we thought once the whole kitchen was done, it wouldn't be noticeable. Wrong again. Over the years I have learned to ignore it, especially after other things needed more attention, but I regret not fixing that when we first noticed it. What can I say? We were amateurs.

We had the kitchen tile halfway done when it was time for puppies!

Hubby did some wheelin' n dealin' and traded the other two adult dogs we had, so after the puppies were born, we were back up to six dogs and four humans living in the house. We knew we needed a fence, but it became more evident after teenagers on go carts from another neighborhood decided to start using our yard as a shortcut to their friends' houses. So work stopped momentarily inside so we could get a chain link fence around the backyard - about three quarters of an acre.

After the puppies were old enough to stay outside, that is, when they kept us up all night making noise, Hubby built a dog run next to the shed in the back yard with a doggie door into the shed. Once the dogs were out of the kitchen, we finished the floor tile and the backsplash.

Until next time, may you have blessings and tenacity,

Where Do We Start? The Remodel Begins

This is part three of our story. To start at the beginning, scroll to the bottom or click here.

Actually, it was easy to know where to start. Wearing particle masks, rubber gloves, rubber boots, and coveralls, we began by taking out the carpet. We pulled up one edge in each room and rolled up the carpet with everything on it, trying to minimize our exposure to the grossest stuff. We began a pile of our own on the driveway, starting with the rolls of carpet.

Once the carpet was out and the floor swept with an old broom, we cleaned the concrete slab and lower half of the walls with Nature's Miracle, let it dry, and then hit it again. Then we waited a few days and went over it with a bleach solution. Then I threw the broom and mop that had touched that yucky floor on top of the pile and raised my arms in victory. Hubby threw his particle mask on the pile, so I did too. I threw my rubber gloves on the pile and he did too. Smiling smugly, he ripped off his dingy, paint splattered t-shirt and threw it on the pile. I grabbed the hem of my t-shirt and started to lift - he didn't say anything. Isn't he supposed to protect me and keep me from harm? Wasn't that in the vows somewhere? Why is he standing there grinning, daring me to do it? I didn't. We have only met one neighbor and we already know she tells all she knows. That t-shirt did go in a trash can later though.

During those few days while we stayed away and let the enzymes in Nature's Miracle do their thing, the grill disappeared from the patio and the baby bed and changing table disappeared from the garage. Since the garage windows didn't have storm windows covering them, someone just pried a glass pane from one of the pathetic windows, turned the lock, lifted the window, and let themselves in to go trash picking. It bothered me that the house was so easy to break into, but it bothered me more that a neighbor(I guess) needed something badly enough to take it from there! As we say in the South, bless their heart.

Next, we carried the water heater to our trash pile and began removing the vinyl flooring in kitchen and baths. It's so easy to say we removed the vinyl; it just rolls off the tongue like: we removed our shoes, or we removed our dishes. There needs to be a verb that describes the back breaking, painstaking, frustrating ordeal of peeling up vinyl flooring. Oh sure, the first layer comes up easily enough; corners of vinyl never seem to stick down anyway. Get a grip on the corner and start pulling, while someone else uses a flat scraper under it, and it will come up in large pieces. But then there's that other stuff that is still stuck to the floor, part vinyl backing and part vinyl glue.

There are machines that make fast work of it, but the little rental place in our town didn't have one, and it wasn't in the budget anyway. We opted for a heat gun, which Hubby operated while I used the scraper. Heat the gunk, scrape. Heat the gunk, scrape. Heat the gunk, scrape. Finally, it too was done. Then we used more Nature's Miracle and bleach in those rooms and a couple of jugs of bug spray throughout the house.

The nice thing about having relatives in the construction business is that someone usually has the tool or piece of equipment needed. Since the living room ceiling was high, Hubby used his brother's scaffold to scrape the blown acoustic off the ceiling and upper walls. Taking the paneling off the rest of the walls left tears in the sheetrock, and we also found that the joints weren't finished there either.

Before painting, we cleaned all the ceilings and walls, cabinets, and closets. We gave away the trundle bed from the mudroom and took out the closet rod and shelf in there also. Cleaning is when we found a lot of little quirks and problems with the house. We also learned that the two bigger bedrooms were occupied by teenage girls, one of whom hoarded chocolate and liked Jason. There were mice who knew she had the chocolate even if her parents didn't, and they chewed through the closet ceilings to get to it. After cleaning, I set mouse traps all over the house and attic and immediately heard a snap. I wanted out of this house .. I wanted a box of matches .. I wanted someone else to empty that trap.

One closet had a single spur on the shelf. I wondered why anyone would only take one spur with them, though if they were moving at night without electricity, anything could be missed. A few days after finding the spur, I was at Home Depot and saw a woman walking through the store .. wearing a single spur.

I'd never seen anyone, other than at a rodeo, wearing spurs, or a spur. I've never seen anyone since then wearing a spur, or two. Judging from the clothes in the smelly heap in the center of the garage, that woman would have been around the right size, but too old to be one of the daughters.

It was also while cleaning that we discovered the first two, big, undisclosed problems. The first was that the sinks wouldn't drain very well. We had already seen a big box of Rid-x, so we put a bag of that down the toilet. It was no better the next day so we called a septic company. We later learned from neighbors that the previous owners had had the roof replaced recently and the roofing company broke the arbor over the side door and drove their dump truck into the back yard to get to the roof. The septic guy we hired dug up enough of the system to see that the truck had crushed the pipe going from the house to the first tank. Thank heavens they missed the tanks. The septic guy recommended we replace those pipes, add a sump pump to the last tank, and add a length of lateral line since there was a tree growing on top of one line.

The second problem was with the tub and toilet in the hall bath. The one piece tub and shower was kind of a golden brown, which was odd because the sink and toilet were white. A little scrubbing revealed that the tub really was white, under layers of grime and nicotine. There were foot imprints in the grime in the bottom of the tub, like someone had coated the bottom of the tub with greasy dirt, then stepped into the tub, and when they stepped out, the dirt stuck to their feet, leaving those two areas cleaner than the rest of the tub. After I cleaned an area in the bottom of the tub, I saw a crack running the width of the tub. The toilet also had a crack in the tank. Both leaked, and both were irreparable.

Also, while examining the crack on the toilet tank, I noticed that the wallpaper behind the toilet was loose. I tried to smooth it against the sheetrock only to discover that there was no sheetrock behind it. At first I was afraid a water leak had disintegrated the sheetrock, but after pulling the wallpaper back and seeing the deliberate cut in the rock as well as the pipe even with the back of the wallpaper, I realized I had found one of Moe's cost cutting fixes.

Between repairing the septic system and replacing that bathroom, our family room addition would not be done anytime soon. And we had already torn up the cabinets in the kitchen and ordered additional cabinets and counters, so there was no turning back with that part of the remodel.

Tim Taylor the Tool Man isn't the only one who enjoys a good power tool. I have used a lot of saws, but not a Sawzall. I wouldn't say it cut through that fiberglass tub like butter, but it made a mean jigsaw puzzle out of it. The bathroom door was too narrow to get out the shower/tub in one piece. I just hoped the new tub would go in through the door. We opted to replace with only a tub just for that reason.

We hired a local trash company to come haul off all the trash we had torn out of the house and the garage full of trash. A man came out to see how big the job was, and he asked if he could have some of the stuff instead of hauling it to the dump. Sure, we said, and he said he wanted the recliner, some mini blinds and the dishwasher. Good for us too since we wouldn't have to pay a dumping fee for those. Two men and one trailer arrived one Saturday morning and began haulng off load after load of trash.

That was the first day we had been outside long enough to meet any of our neighbors. The thirteen year old girl next door told us that her father took the grill but she didn't know who took the baby stuff. The previous owners had five children and the mom ran a daycare out of the house. I had visions of toddlers in the living room, on that carpet, while a big woman with one spur sat in a chair and watched. Then my gabby new neighbor got to the juicy part. Seems the parents were both heavy smokers and the mom wasn't big on cleaning. They had several dogs and cats. No kidding. One day a cat was missing. They searched the neighborhood, called for it every morning and every night for a week or more. Then they noticed an odor coming from the recliner. Yep, the cat got caught in the foot rest mechanism and was killed instantly. AND IT TOOK THIS FAMILY TWO FREAKIN' WEEKS TO SMELL ANYTHING!!!!! We all turned to look at the recliner in the garage .. the murder weapon. The trash hauler decided he didn't really want anything from the garage after all.

With the main demolition done, it was time to start making progress. Time was ticking on our rent house too. We had about two weeks before we had to move and we both had real jobs that took most of our days.

Until next time, may you have blessings and no missing cats,

Next in this series, on to Plan B.

More Background on the House - Our First Look

This is part two of our story. To start at the beginning, scroll down or click here.

It didn't occur to me to take a picture of the whole house before we bought it. The top photo was taken shortly after we moved in. Notice how Moe planted the yaupon holly trees under the porch roof? That was the first of many warning clues of the poor planning which we somehow missed.

This is a photo taken later when we had already done some work to the front, but the structure is the same.

The exterior was a little run down, colors were drab, but all in all, not too bad. Then we walked in the front door with Moe.

This is the floor plan as it was that day.

The smell of dog and cat feces and urine was overpowering and nauseating. Moe picked his way through the minefield of feces and trash dotting the living room carpet and opened the side door. Not that it helped much; in fact, it may have even pushed the stink deeper into the house. As Hubby and I stood on the comparably clean vinyl in the foyer, our eyes circled the living room, taking in every detail. The previous owners (remember this home was repossessed .. or possessed .. tough call) had painted the dark paneling with white paint - one streaky coat of flat, white paint on the walls, trim, switch plates, as well as a generous swath on the edges of the carpet. But they had not painted the blown acoustic on the ceiling and upper walls. The ceiling wasn't too bad, dingy next to the newly painted paneling, but the upper walls were something out of a bad horror movie. Huge cobwebs, covered with years of dust, hung in droopy folds over both walls. A tarantula or two would look perfectly natural in the corners.

Again, I didn't take pictures before we started working on the house. This black and white picture of the living room was taken by the appraiser. He was standing in the door from the patio and facing the hall to the bedrooms. At the time of the photo, we had already ripped out the carpet and had most of the paneling off the walls.

Next to the foyer was a small room, seven by seven feet, probably a mudroom, but we surmised that the previous owners had used it as a bedroom. Not a difficult guess since they left a trundle bed in the room. Over the bed was a clothes rod and shelf, with a few items dangling from bent hangers.

I've heard of people moving out in the dead of night, leaving much of their belongings behind, but I had never actually seen it before. The garage was completely full .. of .. stuff. Around the perimeter of the garage was a recliner that actually looked fairly nice, a baby bed and changing table, flags, pictures, a brand new roll of carpet, and a dishwasher. In the middle was an enormous pile of clothes, trash bags, food, toys, and papers. The pile was probably five feet tall in the center and the diameter was ten to fifteen feet.

The garage also had blown acoustic which was hanging in huge strips from the ceiling. The garage door had several broken windows which had been replaced with pieces of paneling, probably taken from the living room wall. Surprisingly, the door worked, which was a good thing, because I refused to walk on the living room carpet to see the rest of the house.

From the garage we walked to the patio on the side of the house. There was a nice grill on the patio as well as a rotting kitchen table beside the door that led to the living room. There was no roof over the door, the weatherstripping was shredded, and the carpet inside was dark and matted. We stepped through the door and on into the dining area and kitchen.

Among the clutter on the counter was a Fry Daddy, and above the fryer was a greasy stain on the ceiling. Obviously, this appliance had been in that spot for a very long time. It still had grease in it too. French fries anyone?

Lying on the floor was the water heater, shades of brown stains showing the recession of a pool of water as it dried around it. A long rip in the vinyl indicated it had been pulled from a nearby closet. The oven door was on the floor, propped up against the oven. I bet that was quite a fight. Too bad the oven tried to intervene.

This photo was also taken by the appraiser. He was standing in the dining area. To his left is the door to the living room and a pass through type opening. At the time of this photo, the water heater had been replaced and the counter cleared. That Fry Daddy was quite the eye candy, sorry you missed it.

A door led from the kitchen through a short hallway to a longer hallway and the bedrooms. There was a closet in the short hallway for the washer and dryer. The bedrooms and bathrooms were filled with trash; the bathrooms hard to see clearly because the electricity was off. There was probably more to the bedrooms than I could see, but I had held my breath so long I could feel my eyes bulging. I needed fresh air worse than I needed to see any more trash.

Moe said very little as he showed us through the house, but he didn't seem shocked or even grossed out by the condition of the house. When I could finally breathe normally again after we exited the house, he looked at us with a straight face and asked how we liked the house! We told him we would have to think about it.

I didn't like the layout of the house, but Hubby liked the location and convinced me that the layout could be changed to suit us. I said the kitchen was too small; he said we could expand it into the dining area. I said the living room was too small; he said we could build a family room on the back. I didn't like it's curb appeal, or lack thereof. It looked like a house plopped down in the middle of a pasture with just six trees scattered across the acre. He said we could plant trees and paint. The girls were noncommittal about the house, they would each have their own room and that was good enough for them. The dogs (we had four) would have to stay in a kennel until we could build a fence or at least a dog run.

I still can't believe we actually considered buying the house after seeing it, but we put pencil to paper, decided to offer him thirty percent less than he was asking, and see what happened. It wouldn't be the first house we had walked away from. When we made the offer, he told us he couldn't possibly go that low, after all, it was a custom house that was in good shape in a desirable neighborhood; it just needed to be cleaned. Actually, it needed to be burned, but we didn't tell him that. I have said it many times since then though. Instead, we just thanked him for his time and told him goodbye. He called less than thirty minutes later accepting our offer.

We looked at each other, surprised, excited, and apprehensive. What had we gotten ourselves into?

My husband grew up as the son of a home builder, so naturally he was cheap labor in the building business until he left for college. Once there, he worked for house painter and builders. After college, with a degree in psychology, he was drawn back to the field he knew best and took a job in sales with a paint company in 1981. He moved from inside sales to outside rep, and then to commercial coatings, and coatings issues specialist. Now he can analyze paint problems and the people who use it.

I grew up reading magazines about home design at a time when all my friends were reading Tiger Beat and other teen idol fan magazines. Most of my magazines were interior design but what I really wanted to do was design the house itself. Hubby and I had designed and built a small home with the help of my father-in-law and brother-in-law, who was also in the construction business. We had also done some minor remodeling on other houses we had owned, but had done nothing like this.

Still, with my ideas and hubby's abilities, we were up to the challenge.

Until next time, may you have blessings and a happy home,

Next, the remodel begins.


Moe, Larry, and Curly Built Our House

Twelve years and counting.

That's how long we have been working on this house. We bought this builder foreclosed house in the spring of 1995 knowing that it needed a lot of work and that we had a very small remodeling budget. What we didn't know was that it would take almost fifteen years to complete the work. There were many problems that had been cleverly hidden or just missed at inspection. Since beginning this project, we have come to the conclusion that Larry, Moe, and Curly designed, contracted, and built this house. Although Moe never gave us the full history of the house, over the years we have lived here, I have an idea what happened. Grab a soda and let me tell you the story.

Once upon a time, in the late 1970's, there was a young man named Larry. Larry graduated from college with a degree in architecture but was just a so-so architect without much imagination and he was unable to find a job. One day he was at a bar eating his lunch of free pretzels and drinking a soup made from catsup and relish packets while searching the classifieds and circling every architect job listed. A man wearing a trench coat, in summer no less, and sunglasses, with a cap pulled low over his eyes sidled up to Larry, and while looking the other direction, he whispered: "Psst!"

Larry looked around and then at the man. "Are you talking to me?"

"Don't look at me!" the man hissed. "You wanna job in architecture?"

Larry looked at the pretzels and catsup soup, which after five days had lost any appeal it ever had, as well as failing to quench his growing hunger. "Yes!" he whispered.

"Wait two minutes, and then follow me out the door," the man whispered, and then pulled his cap even lower, knocked off his drink and casually walked out the door.

Larry, waited the allotted two minutes and rushed out the door, leaving a pile of catsup and relish packages behind. Soon he was working in a dingy office filled with skinny young architects hunched over row after row of drafting tables. He was paid a whopping dollar per plan and soon learned how to turn out twenty to thirty house plans per day with the required number of rooms, regardless of appearance or flow of rooms.

At the same time, there was another young man named Moe who had also graduated from college with a degree in business. He worked at a dead-end job at a construction company and dreamed of owning his own business one day. After a few years, with some savings and a girl friend in the loan department of the bank, he was ready to do just that. He had heard of a guy who knew a guy who sold house plans for the bargain basement price of twenty-five dollars each. So late one hot summer night, he met the man who was wearing sun glasses, and a cap pulled low over his eyes. The man reached into his trench coat, pulled out a roll of newly printed house plans, and Moe bought as many as he could afford.

Through his girl friend, Moe learned of a small farm that would soon be foreclosed for taxes, and rushed out to buy it. Then, using the rest of his savings, he developed the land into a secluded residential neighborhood with two or three streets. He stuck his signs on every lot in the neighborhood and waited for the phone to ring. It didn't. A model home would draw people to him, he thought, so he chose the smallest lot, and the smallest floor plan, and began construction.

The neighborhood was on a slope that had been re-terraced into home sites, with the dirt from the high end filling the void at the low end. He hired a concrete contractor, plumber, and electrician. Then, as general manager, he hired Curly, a framer who had worked with him at his former company. Curly hired a few men who had worked with him before and they found friends and family to round out the construction crew.

Moe's limited budget didn't allow for soil testing or piers where the land had been filled. But he drove over it with his car a few times and assured the concrete contractor that it was solid. He knew it would look fine for several years. He told the concrete contractor to pour a foundation with shallow footings. And so he did. No one ever knew - until the foundation cracked when the fill dirt finally compacted.

When they were framing the roof, they ran short on blocking pieces for the rafters. They sent someone to Curly so he could order more. Curly pointed to four scraps on the floor and said: "Four, get them, and I'll get more later." The boy climbed back on the roof and said: "Boss said forget them, he'll get more later." And so they did. The central heating system was installed, covering the missing rafter blocks, and no one ever thought about them again - until many years later when the roof sagged.

When framing, the crew followed the line of the concrete slab rather than using their own measurements, because it saved time and therefore money. Someone else had already marked that once, right? Later, late one Friday, the bricklayers noticed the wall curved out in one spot. They sent someone to ask Curly what to do and they opened their ice chest while they waited. Curly told them to fill it in. And so they did. They laid their brick following the curve of the brick ledge and framing, and filled in the opening between the studs with their beer cans.

It may have also been a Friday afternoon when the siding was put on next to the roof. With no flashing. No one ever knew - until the next heavy rain when water poured down the wall.

When framing a bathroom, the framers set the walls without measuring the plumbing in the slab foundation. After the one piece fiberglass tub was in place, they began putting up sheetrock, first the ceiling and then the walls. When they got to the last wall, they finally noticed that the plumbing and walls didn't line up. The plumbing was hanging outside the edge of the two by fours making it impossible to put the sheetrock against the stud. They sent someone to ask Curly what to do while they took a break. Curly was in the garage where the table saw was being used. The boy explained the situation and this is what Curly heard: "The men said .. BUZZZZZZZ .. hanging over .. BUZZZZZZZZ .. so they took a break and sent me to tell you." Curly's reply: "I don't care if it is Monday and they have hangovers, tell them to cut it out and get back to work." And so they did. They cut the sheetrock, and nailed it above the plumbing, and left the part below it unsheetrocked.

When the house was near completion, Moe and Curly walked through the house with the wallpaper contractor while he prepared an estimate. When they got to this bathroom, the contractor pointed out the unsheetrocked area and asked when it would be repaired. Moe told him it was too late to do anything about it now. Repairing it would mean taking the wall out, which would mean taking the shower and the cabinets out. Simply not in the budget. Just wallpaper over it as if the sheetrock is there, Moe told him. Attach it to the baseboard at the bottom and no one will ever know. And so he did. No one ever knew - until years later when the wallpaper was removed.

The living room has a vaulted ceiling with eight foot walls on two side and fourteen foot walls on the other two sides. Moe chose to put paneling in the room, eight foot high on all four sides. When Moe and Curly walked through the house with the drywall contractor, they decided use blown acoustic (popcorn) on the ceilings because it was cheaper than skip trowel texturing. The drywall contractor asked about the walls above the paneling.

"Oh crap," said Moe, "I forgot about those." It's too late to panel it, and too expensive to skip trowel such a small area. You'll already have a scaffold in that room, just blow acoustic on them too."

"On the walls?" the contractor asked.

"Sure, no one ever looks up anyway," said Moe.

So he did. And no one ever knew - until the drooping cobwebs became coated with layers of dust.

The lesson to be learned from this story, if there is one, is never trust a builder who has clean fingernails and doesn't drive a truck.

So now you know the rest of the story.

Until next time, may you have blessings and happy endings,

Next is our first look inside the house.