Saturday, December 29, 2007

2007 - My Year in Review...

This is a great way to review your year. I got the idea from Sue (Inner Dorothy - check her out), whom I linked to from Wyld (VERY interesting blog, check him out too). These are the first sentences of the first post I did for each month in 2007. Reading them, it’s pretty obvious the theme this year (thoroughly unintended) was remodeling and’s to having a little more interesting life in 2008!

January: Here's what it looked like after I stripped the wallpaper but before I did anything else, in the master bathroom of my house...pretty grim.
February: So the deal was, I accepted this contract gig in Fort Worth, a little over an hour’s drive away, because the money was good and it was work I could do without taking it home with me at night, psychologically, I mean.
March: it's officially mine...(a reference to a painting I bought on ebay)
April: I'm sitting here thinking that the title of my previous post (money - that's what I want) does so not apply, right now.
May: Today, having volunteered to participate in a meme that's making the rounds, I’ve agreed to answer 5 questions asked by one of my favorite bloggers, Chris, of Inane Thoughts and Insane Ramblings.
June: I am SO not a morning person, and evidence of that is that it’s after midnight and I have to be up at 5:30 and rather than sleeping, I’m at my computer keyboard, typing away...
July: Today being the 4th of July, but a rainy, overcast, 4th of July, I simply slept in until about 9:30.
August: Soooooooooo...I’m busy at work, busy at home, including shopping for a new mortgage, which is hardly my idea of fun...
September: I'm painting my bedroom, a nice rich sort of ginger brown, a variation on the theme of the rest of the downstairs in my house.
October: So I have jury duty tomorrow morning (hmmmmm, make that THIS morning), and what with not having to drive to Fort Worth plus having already logged 23½ hours at work on Monday and Tuesday of this week, I feel as if I’m going on vacation.
November: I love Halloween.
December: I cleaned my kitchen and most of the downstairs as I waited for the Time-Warner rep to show up to repair the cable line.

Friday, December 28, 2007

What I Did Today - Friday, December 28, 2007

1. I had the garage door guy come back out to fix the genie. The safety beam had stopped functioning, so I could open the door with the remote but not close it. There was no charge, and it took him 5 minutes to fix the problem (the guys who'd done the original installation about a week ago had run a wire beneath the track, rather than around it).
2. I finished a fun read; a crime/thriller set in Chicago: The Blade Itself, by Marcus Sakey.
3. I drove Mike to Banana Republic at the Allen Outlet Mall where his shopping quest was successful (he'd be mortified if I was more specific than that).
4. Mike and I went to one of my favorite places in Dallas, Half Price Books, where I bought 4 Larry McMurtry's (All My Friends Are Going To Be Strangers; The Desert Rose; Duane's Depressed; and The Light Goes) and a Doris Lessing (Martha Quest). I love Larry McMurtry, a Texas writer who wrote Terms of Endearment, Horseman Pass By (on which the movie, Hud, was based) and Lonesome Dove, among others, all of which I've read and loved, but I think my favorite Larry McMurtry to date is Moving On. I'm looking forward to reading these new ones (new to me). And Doris Lessing...this year, she won the Nobel Prize for literature, and it occurred to me, I've never read any Lessing, and that bothered me, sooooooooo...I'd like to compile a list of Nobel prize winners for literature, and start working my way through it. I first thought of doing that a couple of light years ago, when I was in my 20's and read Kristen Lavransdatter. The author, Sigrid Undset, won the Nobel prize in literature for that trilogy in 1928. So if you're looking for good books to read, these are some great ones...
5. I spent a couple of hours on the net, looking at real estate across the country, which I do from time to time, to see what my options might be if I were to leave Dallas...

Thursday, December 27, 2007

What I Did Today - Thursday, December 27, 2007

1. Had the stairs measured for carpeting.
2. Did after-holiday shopping at Crate & Barrel (candles) and Pottery Barn (desk lamp).
3. Had a late lunch with Mike at Chili's.
4. Had the driver's side headlight replaced on my car.
5. Went to see Into the Wild (terrific book, disappointing film) at the Inwood with Mike and Chris.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Ah, Santa!

A pic is worth a thousand words...

Friday, December 21, 2007


So they came and changed out the top of the gates from the thing that resembled a bordello entrance to the simple arch that I wanted. There is still work to be done to make the gates as secure as I want them, however, I'll hire a carpenter to make those changes.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

fence Before & After

Well, the crew has finished building my fence, and I must say, it's beautiful. If my neighbors are drinking champagne to celebrate the sudden increase in their property values, it wouldn't surprise me. The only thing that's saved me from everyone's wrath (aside from my innate charm, of course) is the fact that most of the fences around me are in similar shape to the "before" pics, this being an older neighborhood and fences being a big expense.

As beautiful as the fence is, the gates are ugly. You may recall that my neighbors, Charles & Melissa (of the armadillo races) have terrific custom gates on their fence, with clean, simple lines. I wanted gates as close to those as could be built, and to that end, the fence salesman and I spent about an hour over there with Charles a couple of weeks ago, with the salesman taking pics to use as a guide in building the gates for my fence.

Then I guess he must have gone out and experienced a major head injury or smoked crack or something, because what I ended up with bears no resemblance to the clean, simple design we agreed upon, and doesn't begin to go with my contemporary house. No, these are gates for a corral on Little House on the Prairie or worse...e.g., if I were a madame in a New Orleans bordello, packing a pearl handled pistol, the gates would be perfect, however...that not being the case...I've told the company they're going to have to change them. Don't get me started on contractors deviating from specific instructions to go rococo all on their own.

I hope to post before and after pics of the gates soon...wish me luck.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Before & After - master bath

OK, time for some Before and After shots to document some of the changes that have been giving me headaches this week...

These are shots of the master bath. I removed the wallpaper and painted the walls in January. The tub is a nice, deep tub, and it's in great shape, but I hated the yellow cultured marble...a picture is truly worth a thousand words I had the tub recoated, for a fraction of what it would have cost to replace it...I think it looks great!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

What I Did Today, or Go Ask Alice...

I had the piano tuner come to tune the piano for my Christmas party, but the best laid plans, and all that...this guy (piano tuner now, diamond wholesaler in another life...uh-huh, there was my CLUE) said there is no point in tuning it, because what this piano really needs is to be repaired...$23,000 worth of repairs, to be exact...

It's a lovely piano, a 19th century Steinway baby grand, with real ivory keys (badly in need of repair, but not the only thing that needs repair on this piano), however, not having $23,000 for piano repairs (and having had an estimate from a very reputable company not that long ago for the same repairs for a fraction of that figure), I said thanks but no thanks...actually, I laughed and said, "Well, if I win the lottery..." Then the crazy piano man proceeded to tell me, completely out of context (why was I not surprised?) how his mother-in-law had tried to stab him, not once but 3 times, how he was able to disarm her each time because of his army training, yada yada yada...I swear, I LEFT psychiatry...and yet as he told me this long, dramatic tale I found myself wanting to run to a mirror to examine my forehead, to see if I have some huge tattoo there that I'm not aware of that says "TELL ALL!"...

The crazy piano tuner was leaving just as the tub and shower reglazing guy was coming up the walk...and of course, the two of them hit it off like syrup and waffles. Can I pick repairmen or what? They got into such a long conversation about musical instruments that I simply walked away and worked on my laptop until they'd talked themselves out. Then the reglazing guy had me show him the guest bath shower and master bath tub he was going to work on, and he spent some time telling me that although the tub would have to be sanded, he'd have to use some strong chemicals to etch the tile in the shower to prepare the surface..."These chemicals will make you high," he warned me, "but not me! They have absolutely no effect on me, and no one knows why!"

Uh-huh. That's what hatters (people who made hats) used to say, too, about the mercury they used, but there's a saying, "mad as a hatter..." and the phrase came about long before Lewis Carroll made it popular in Alice In Wonderland...

Yesterday, when I was checking references for these maniacs, being something of a maniac myself, I agreed to go see a reglazed tub at the house of one of the reference numbers I'd been given. I was supposed to talk with the man's wife; she wasn't in, but he asked where I lived, and when I told him the neighborhood, he said, "Well, you must be 5 minutes away, why not just come by to see for yourself?" He was German, with a charming accent. "Are you sure?" I said. "Yes, of course, come over, there's something else I'd love to show you too..."

Hmmmmmm, I thought, I'll bet. Suffice it to say, if this guy had come to the door in a raincoat, I'd have been RUNNING back to my car...but that wasn't it at all. A tall, attractive man a little older than I am met me at the door. First he showed me the refinished tub, which looked great. Then he took me to his den and invited me to sit down at his desk.

"Now just look out the window there, what do you see?"
he asked.

There was a mural painted on the wall of his garage; multicolored, narrow lines, carefully painted...symmetrical swirls, with, upon closer inspection, a couple of faint figure 8's...

"What do you see?"
he repeated.

I looked at the wall..."Well, it appears to be a cylinder of some sort," I said, studying it...

"Yes, but what IS it?"
he asked.

"I don't know,"
I said, but then he showed me a photo of himself standing in front of it, and I saw how his shadow fell..."Oh my gosh! It's a vertical SUNDIAL!" I said. I was immediately fascinated, because I've never seen a vertical sundial before.

He laughed. "Yes it is," he said, "actually, it's an analemma sundial," and he proceeded to tell me that, because our alleys are true east-west, it was the perfect location for this type of sundial. He spent some time explaining how he'd designed it, and showed me the lines for winter and summer equinox...he was very interesting, and a nice contrast to the craziness of most of the guys I've been dealing with this week.

Tomorrow morning: the reglazer returns to finish his work and the garage door guys come to replace the garage door. And maybe, just maybe, the fence crew will reappear...well, some of them have to reappear, as there are a zillion bags of cement stacked up against my garage door, and those have to be moved before the door replacement can happen...

Monday, December 10, 2007

...a new fence and some old memories...

These are some images of preparation for the new fence. The first pic, which reminds me a bit of a poppy field, is of some of the zillion flags planted last week by the cable and phone company, both of whom are taking no chances this time around. They'd flagged their lines before I had the pool removed, but as the lines were cut anyway, they apparently decided to err on the side of caution this time. Nevertheless, if I were a betting woman, which I'm not, I wouldn't give odds of more than 50% that some lines won't be cut seems to be the nature of the business.

The second pic is Leo, supervising the workers, and maybe spraying a little "eau de Leo" on the posts, just because he can...

The third pic, of the wooden post, looks like nothing, I know, but I have to admit I teared up a little, looking at that post...because it's the last of the posts that my Dad put in, over 20 years ago.

In April 1987, when Mike and Chris were just 20 months old, my Dad, recently widowed, took the train from Wisconsin to visit us. Dad was then 83, and considering the amount of alcohol he'd consumed in his lifetime, his liver should have been the size of Manhattan, and add to that the number of truly bad cigars he'd smoked, you would have thought he'd have emphysema...but in spite of those facts, he still enjoyed excellent, robust health (and looked considerably younger than his years...see pic). He could not abide being idle, and he must have been here for all of a day when he said that it hadn't escaped his notice that our fence needed some repairs, and if it was OK, he'd just as soon replace a few of the posts.

I bought a post hole digger, and he paced himself, and he ended up replacing 6 of them, I believe. 20 years later, a strong wind could have taken out most of my fence...and a summer storm did exactly that to about 12 feet of it last July...but those 6 posts remained firmly upright, and, thanks to the way he'd seated them in the concrete, none of them had rotted at the base...
so I found myself smiling, this afternoon, to see that the wrecking crew had to take sledgehammers and saws to those 6 posts, and then had to dig the concrete bases out of the ground.

I loved that, and Dad would have loved that too...

Sunday, December 09, 2007

What I Did Today - Sunday, December 9, 2007

1. I was being Sunday, I slept in today, having worked until quite late last night cutting tiles in preparation for tiling the guest bathroom. Still, I was surprised at how late it was when I looked at the clock this morning. Left to my own devices, I don’t usually sleep beyond 9:30, but this morning I did. In the kitchen I decided to fix myself a cappuccino. The smell of the coffee put me off a bit, but I persevered and toasted a slice of sourdough bread, and consumed both...which turned out to be a big mistake.

I spent the next couple of hours being violently sick to my stomach; the kind of sick where you just curl up on the cool tile floor in the bathroom between bouts. Eventually, I felt somewhat better, and crawled into bed, where in spite of a load of blankets I couldn’t seem to get warm. Then I remembered I own a heating pad, and that solved that problem...and I promptly slept the entire afternoon away.

This evening, my stomach is still rocky, but I’m sipping coke, and feeling grateful for hot water, and indoor plumbing, and automatic washers and dryers, among other things...

Saturday, December 08, 2007

What I Did Today - Saturday, December 8, 2007

1. I went to Sears to look at range hoods...a wasted trip.
2. I went to Lowe's to look at range hoods - no luck there, either, however, I bought subway tile (3" x 6" white ceramic) for the guest bathroom.
3. I went to Home Depot to look at range hoods (no cigar). While there I FINALLY bought new furnace filters (although I still need to put them in) and Tung Oil (great oil for unfinished wood). Walking down the tile aisle in search of a new trowel, I discovered the same tile I bought at Lowe's for 66% less, so I picked up more subway tile at Home Depot. I'm pleased with the savings, but dread schlepping the other boxes back to Lowe's...those boxes are HEAVY!
4. I spent a couple of hours beginning the arduous task of cutting tile to size, polishing the edges on the belt sander, etc., in preparation for starting to tile the guest bath. I hate prep work.

Monday, December 03, 2007

What I Did Today - Monday, 3 December 2007

1. I mailed a check to the construction company for the pool removal.
2. I made a copy of my property survey and mailed it to the fence company.
3. I worked 13 hours straight to make up for some of the time that I missed last week when my internet connection was down. Then I went online to post my hours, and had a pleasant surprise when I saw that I’d worked almost 24 hours on Monday and Tuesday of last week. Yeah, I have these work-a-holic tendencies, I admit it...
4. I talked with Mike, who’s making arrangements to come home for Christmas break. I can’t wait to see him!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

What I Did Today - Sunday, December 2, 2007

1. I slept in. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
2. I went into the attic and checked the size of the furnace filters because I know I need to replace them.
3. I went to Expo and ordered a new countertop for the master bath. I ordered the dark brown marble that I’ve been lusting after for the past five years, ever since the fire, and to add to the sweetness of the moment, I got 10% off (woo hoo!) because I had a coupon that applied...
4. When I came home, I discovered that Katharine had bought a wine cooler for the kitchen! I’ve wanted one ever since I got rid of the compactor 5 years ago, right after the fire. Since then, I’ve simply been hanging a kitchen towel over that space, and storing various items behind it. This is a Vinotemp cooler that holds 32 bottles, and Kath got a great deal on Craigslist, purchasing the unit from a guy who was remodeling his kitchen and no longer into wine. Brenden came over and helped Kath install it, and it looks soooooooo cool (no pun intended - see pic). Plus, considering the amount of wine I have in my house at all times, it's practical!
5. Tonight I’m going to hear the Dallas Bach Society perform the original version of Handel’s Messiah. This is something I look forward to all year. I can’t wait.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What I Did Today - Saturday, December 1, 2007

1. I cleaned my kitchen and most of the downstairs as I waited for the Time-Warner rep to show up to repair the cable line.
2. I had lunch with Anthony at BJ’s, where we had a Supreme pizza - delicious!
3. As soon as I had internet service again, I went online and did some work.
4. I bought tickets (online) for a performance tomorrow night at the Meyerson of Handel’s Messiah, which will be performed by the Dallas Bach Society as it was done at the very first performance, in Dublin in 1743. I love baroque music, and I especially love the Bach Society concerts which are performed on antique instruments, and usually in small settings, as the music was originally written to be performed.

Pool Demolition: the Saga continues...

Pool Demolition, Day 2 - Thursday
At about 11 AM, I lost internet access. I did the usual things: powered down, disconnected the modem and router, etc., etc.

Nada. So I called my cable supplier and had a tech walk me through the same process. Still nothing. The tech said, “Hold on, I’ll check your connection...” There was a pause, then he said, “This is looks like your line might have been cut...”

“It’s not so weird as you might think,” I said, and explained that there was a backhoe in my backyard. I didn’t tell the tech, but at least one electrical circuit was also taken out this morning. The cable company is sending out a guy tomorrow afternoon to restore the line. Ha! I wish him luck in finding it.

Here's why those lines you can see, the 12' deep hole is filled to the top with concrete and rebar...

I can, of course, write to my heart’s desire...I just can’t post until the cable is restored. This also keeps me from being able to work from home, which is what I had arranged to be doing while this is done. This means I will have to either use vacation days (of which I have precious few) and then have a small backlog to face on Monday, or I’ll have to work all day Saturday and Sunday to make up for Thursday and Friday (the more likely scenario at this point).

Ah, well...

Pool Demolition, Day 3 - Friday - Fun Toys at My House
It’s a little after 7:00. The crew is here, and of course I’m up, typing away. I am so ready for this project to be over. In spite of the fact that they inadvertently cut an electrical circuit and my cable line, this company appears to be doing an excellent job. The remainder of the shell of the pool was broken up and removed yesterday morning; then a great deal of time was spent breaking up the big debris into smaller pieces. When that was done, the huge hole was full almost to the top with debris, including tile, chunks of concrete and cut up rebar (see pic). Many pool demolition companies leave that debris in the hole and cover it with dirt, but that can eventually lead to the formation of a sinkhole, among other things. So, after they filled the hole with the broken debris from the pool, this company first smashed the debris into small pieces (see pic) before removing it.

By late afternoon, the hole was empty, and they began hauling in truckloads of fill dirt. They’re still hauling in fill dirt this morning, and that will be compacted and graded and then...voila...pool removal will be complete.

A dumptruck of fill dirt... Xander approves....

11 AM - When it rains...
No, it’s not actually raining, but...they’ve cut the phone lines too.


6:00 PM - Baseball, Anyone?

Next up: a new fence.
Katharine looked over the fence bids, and suggested I needed to get the guy whose bid I’ve decided to accept to lower his price by about 15%. I admit I was completely dumbfounded by the suggestion.

“But how would I do that?” I asked incredulously.

“Mom, it’s EASY!” she said. “First, you tell him you have a comparable bid for...” she named a figure one-third under this guy’s bid.

“He’ll tell me to accept it!” I said.

Kath laughed. “No he won’t,” she said, “he’ll counter”.

In response to my skeptical look, she laughed and said, “Mom, this is what I do all day for a living, trust me, he’ll counter! Good grief, Mom, it’s the last day of the month and he has to make his nut...”

“And if he doesn’t counter?” I said.

She grinned and said, “Well, Mom, then you call him back and tell him you found a couple of complaints against the other guy on the BBB site, and so you’ve decided to go with him after all....” Then she said, “Seriously, Mom, if he doesn’t drop his price, you absolutely must not sign with him tomorrow...”

She was born at home, so I know she’s mine, but I have no idea where she got these negotiating skills.


So I signed with the fence guy, and I did shave some numbers off the bid, but by choosing things that cost less.

Random observations
I hate being without the internet. I’d never really paid much attention to how much surfing the net has become a part of my day, but I’ve lost track of how many times, in the past two days, I’ve wanted to go on the net to look something up and felt incredibly irritated when I realized that I couldn' say nothing of blog-withdrawal...

Re that lost connection...the cable company (Time-Warner) totally no-showed. On Thursday, when I reported the problem, a Time Warner rep asked if I could be home Friday between 2 and 5:00 so Sergio could come to repair the cut line. I assured her I’d be here, and of course I was. At a little after 5:00 Friday, I called Time Warner to inquire as to Sergio’s whereabouts only to be told that he had called me twice, at 3:00 and 3:11 (ya gotta love the little touches when lying...not 3:00 and 3:15, but three eleven) and got no answer so he didn’t show.

Uh-huh. When asked what number he’d called (my land line being out), the T-W rep verified that it was my cellphone number (which is the number I’d provided, just to be safe). My cellphone was with me, turned on, batteries charged, all afternoon. I received several calls, including calls from the fence guy and the landscape architect, both of whom came over, but nada from Sergio. My call record showed no missed calls, and there were no voicemails from Sergio/Time-Warner. T-W rescheduled Sergio for Saturday morning, totally screwing my plans to drive to Fort Worth to log some hours. Just to make sure that Sergio doesn't no-show again, I intend to be an absolute pain about this, calling every hour to verify my appointment until he shows. Grrrrrrr.

Follow up note: Sergio no-showed again this morning, despite my calling in every hour to check that I was still on the schedule. At each of my check in calls during the 8-11 slot, I was assured that the records did not indicate that Sergio had tried to contact me, and the service call was still open, i.e., still scheduled. I was lucky enough to get the same T-W customer service rep a number of times, so he knew the situation (“Hey Art, this is Judi, I spoke with you earlier and the tech is still not here...”)

However, at 11:15 when I called to report that Sergio had again no-showed during the scheduled time slot and to ask for a status check on my service call, everything had changed. The records suddenly showed that Sergio had tried to contact me twice, at 8:12 and 9:10, and received no answer either time. Because he indicated he’d called me twice and received no answer (in effect, I was a no-show for the appointment according to the tech), he’d canceled the morning appointment and rescheduled it as an open, all-day call. To add insult to injury, I had not been notified of the change in plans.

Informed of this, I was furious and incredulous.

“But I’ve been at home, calling in every hour since 8:00 to make sure I’m on record as being home, waiting for the technician, and your records should indicate that!”
I exclaimed. I again had the customer service rep verify my contact number. “I’ve received two brief calls on my cell phone this morning,” I said, “but to make sure there’s no problem with T-W reaching me at this number, why don’t I hang up right now and have you call me back to confirm that it works?”

The rep agreed, and called me back; my phone rang; I answered.

“See, it’s definitely working!”
I said.

“Well, the tech will be there sometime before 8:00 this evening,” the rep said. “I don’t know what else to tell you..." Then she chirped cheerfully: "Is there anything else I can help you with?”

Uh, yeah, I’d like a good supply of Xanax for having to deal with T-W...

p.p.s. - AT&T called late this afternoon to confirm their appointment and came out and fixed my land line. At which time I called Time-Warner again. "I just thought you might want to know," I said, "that AT&T, who provides my land line, just called me on my cellphone to say that a tech was on his way over to fix the phone line. Their reps got through to me with no problem, and even as I speak, their tech is HERE, in the alley, doing the line repair. Maybe you need to talk with them about how they handle their service calls..."

Maybe it was a coincidence, but within 10 minutes of that call, Sergio was here, and FINALLY, I have internet access again. Hallejujah!

A couple more random observations...
I used to think that I wanted to work from home, but after the past couple of days I’m not so sure about that. Admittedly, I’ve been on call to the deconstruction crew, so this is hardly what “working from home” would usually be like. That said, I’ve found it incredibly frustrating but totally necessary to be here. For example, if I hadn’t been here, I don’t know when I’d have discovered the extent of the problem regarding the damage to the electrical circuit. As it was, as soon as I discovered it, I told the guys it would have to be fixed. After the workers spent a fair amount of time trying, unsuccessfully, to make the repair, this morning, the owner of the construction company came out himself to do it. He showed up, introduced himself, and announced that he intended to solve the problem by simply disconnecting that circuit from the breaker box. Whoa. As I explained to him, among other things, there’s a yard light on that circuit, so simply disconnecting the entire circuit wasn’t an acceptable solution. He agreed, and fixed it (at least, I think he any rate, the yard light works). I’m pretty sure that wouldn’t have happened had I not been here to discover the problem and get the ball rolling on the repair. The same is true for the cut cable and phone lines, but...because those lines were down, I got absolutely no work done, and because I needed to be here, I couldn’t even go out and run errands, thus my frustration...

I’ll have to do this again in a little over a week when the fence is put in. The salesman told me I’ll need to be here the first day, when they demolish the old fence and dig/drill the post holes to make certain everything is located where I want it. The next day I’ll be able to work because the posts will be setting up in the concrete; then I’ll need to be home for the rest of the week to make sure the fence is built according to plan; e.g., I want this gate to open out, this gate to open in, etc. I don’t know exactly how I’m going to do this, because, for starters, I don’t have that much leave left. Also, December is not a great time to be out, because we shut down between Christmas and New Year’s. Still, this has to be done, and I’ll have to work it out. I didn’t take the time to supervise the work after the fire, and I’ll always regret it. A number of things for which I paid good money ended up badly done because there was no one here to say, “Wait a minute, what are you doing?”

Which is not to say that I don't realize that in the big scheme of things, this is small stuff...and I know, I know, it's best, always, to not sweat the small stuff...