Friday, June 22, 2018

Math whiz (not)

After work today, I stopped off at a grocery store to pick up a birthday card for my great-niece. By tradition, I put as many dollars as the child is turning inside the card, so when I made the purchase I also did the cash-back thing to pull $20 out of my checking account. That's one of the convenient amounts they offer. I actually needed $13.

I said to the cashier, "I did $20 cash back. Could I please get a ten, a five, and five ones?"

She said, "I don't have any tens, so I'll give you..." and she trailed off.

"Two fives," I said. "No, uh, three, um...Suddenly this is a lot of math."

She agreed with me. I did receive three fives and five ones, which (carry the one) does add up to twenty dollars.

Saturday, April 7, 2018

Where does it go

I recently passed the fifth anniversary of starting my current job. The executive director of the firm mentioned the milestone in his monthly newsletter, along with some nice compliments my co-worker friend had drafted for him. I read it and thought I would forward it to my parents, and then I remembered. It's those little instinctive things, when you would naturally say something to the gone loved one, that cause a poignant pain.

My parents blessed me by being so interested in what I did. About 30 years ago, I worked for a company that published automotive information and textbooks. My first project was editing a textbook for potential mechanics (PC: automotive technicians) about automatic transmissions. My name was in the front pages as "Assistant Editor," if I recall correctly. I told my folks about it during a phone call, and my dad told me to find out how he could buy a copy of the book. So I went to the production manager next day at work and said that my dad wanted to buy the book. He thought that was so funny. I said, "Hey, if my dad didn't think I was wonderful, who would?" The production manager gave me a free copy to give to my dad.

I wrote the above a few days ago. Then I read a memoir of sorts by a cousin's son. My cousin lost her husband at (his) age of 59. Her son mentioned in his writing that weeks after his father died, he took out his cell phone to call him before he remembered he no longer could reach him that way.

Emily Dickinson wrote:

The Bustle in a House
The Morning after Death
Is solemnest of industries
Enacted upon Earth –

The Sweeping up the Heart
And putting Love away
We shall not want to use again
Until Eternity –

As it turns out, you can't really put that love away. It's there. I don't believe it is without use or purpose, though. In some way, I trust it reaches the ones I love. But it is a loss that I can no longer say it simply and directly to a physically present person, or show it by a hug, a touch, a look, an act of service.

Jesus said that when we do loving things for the people around us, we do it for him. That is the use we have for our love for the Christ and the saints in heaven, is to show it to others. Years ago I read in a book about Benedictine spirituality that the questions to ask yourself after an encounter with another person are: Did I see Christ in him? Did he see Christ in me? May it be so.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Good to know

Recently, I stopped at a grocery store to pick up some supplies, and one item I bought was a box of dryer sheets. I like to use those because they reduce static, but I don't care for any fragrance.

These are not only fragrance-free, but all-natural, blah, blah, blah, "Made for Sensitive Skin." Now, one of the myriad ways that I am an exceedingly delicate flower is that my skin is as sensitive as all get-out. Shopping for clothes, I'm all about 100% cotton because that's the most comfortable for my skin. And shopping for laundry supplies, I'm looking for as little as possible besides the actual product. But even I have never thought to check for this:

"Gluten Free." Although I am delicate in a thousand ways, I don't happen to have celiac disease, but, if I did, I would certainly want to know whether my dryer sheets contained gluten, just in case I decided to snack on one.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Hot spot

I'm back. They moved everything back in on a Friday. Now the house is jam packed with boxes and odds and ends. In the week since it all came in, I've managed to get one room clean and usable, and that room is the bathroom. The kitchen is usable but not clean.

When I tried to log onto the internet on my laptop, I couldn't get on. At first I thought, Oh, no, something's happened to my cable service while I've been gone. But after a little while I realized that what's missing is the little box and antenna thingy that passes on the wireless signal. It's in any one of a hundred boxes.

So all week my internet browsing was limited to my phone, which has 4G. I couldn't get new books for my Kindle and had to re-read from those already on the device. On my laptop, I just played solitaire and mah jong. When I looked at Facebook, I had my tiny phone screen, and when I wrote an email, I had to use the little screen keyboard on the phone. I'm not as fast at that as I am at touch-typing, as it was called, back when I took typing class using a machine originally owned by Fred Flintstone. I was going through kind of an internet withdrawal.

I was complaining to a co-worker and she asked if I couldn't use a hot spot. I said I had looked them up, but the hardware was expensive and you had to subscribe to some phone plan to use it. She asked if I couldn't use my phone as a hotspot. I indicated that, as far as I knew, I could not. She asked what provider I use and then asked to see my phone. She briskly found the place where I could turn my phone into a hotspot. We  tried it on my kindle, and it worked.

Well. File that under "Learn something new every day."

Just this evening after work, a man came to hook up the washer and dryer, which both use gas. When he turned on the dryer to try it out, it ran with a loud squeaking sound. I said it had done that before the accident behind it all. He took the dryer apart, vacuumed out all the lint (with his own vacuum), replace a few parts, and now it runs better than before. So not just restoration, but improvement!

Monday, February 26, 2018

My house saga: 5th installlment

Well, last week the contractors did have to move my date back to this week. Now, they expect to finish up on February 28th. I'm not hearing any noises like that won't happen. They really are on to the finishing touches.

I went to my house this weekend. I had bought a bathroom faucet at Lowe's for them to install, so I dropped it off when I looked around. The tile is all done and grouted, and it looks wonderful:

The piano was the first major item to come back home. It was moved by Kelly's Piano Service, rather than the company that did the rest of the moving, and Mr. Kelly moves pianos only on Saturdays, so back it came this past weekend. I mentioned to him that it probably would need tuning, too, after moving, but he said to let it sit and acclimate for a month before having it tuned. Interesting, huh?

In the above picture, you can also see the new wood on the stairs, and the new trim that is in the process of being installed. New paint, too, for that matter. (From reading British novels, I've learned that the British call the trim "paint" and the walls, just "walls." I read a story where a woman had xx-color walls with yy-color paint, and that confused me for a while. But, here, paint is on the walls, and the baseboard is part of the trim, which also goes around the doors and windows.)

In the library (used to be my dad's office), they're re-building the shelves on the east wall:

And in the bathroom, I have a new vanity, very pretty:

They still needed to put the mirror back together and install the faucet when I took this picture.

The movers are not available until Friday, March 2, so that (I devoutly hope and trust) should be my move-in date. I am taking the day off from work to be there, and then I'll have the weekend to make a start on settling in. I will probably sleep Friday night still at my sister-in-law's until I'm set up for sleeping at home. What a concept: sleeping in my own house. I can hardly believe it.

Home! Sweet Home!

Mid Pleasures and palaces though I may roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home;
A charm from the sky seems to hallow us there,
Which, seek thro' the world, is ne'er met with elsewhere.

Home! Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.

An exile from home, spendor dazzles in vain,
Oh, give me my lowly thatched cottage again;
The birds singing gaily, that come at my call;
Give me them, with that peace of mind, dearer than all.

Home! Sweet, sweet home!
There's no place like home.
There's no place like home.

To thee, I'll return, overburdened with care,
The heart's dearest solace will smile on me there.
No more from that cottage again will I roam,
Be it ever so humble, there's no place like home.

Words by John Howard Payne, music by Henry Rowley Bishop.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

My house saga: 4th installment

Okay, so this is not about the water leak. It's about my trees.

Last fall (long, long ago...when I had just moved out of my house), I became aware that a creature had been busy in my yard. Yes, "busy as a beaver." In fact, it was a beaver. I've never met him (or her, or them) face-to-face, but I've seen their work. I was going to say "handiwork," but of course beavers don't use their hands so much as their teeth. I saw their toothiwork?

I didn't quite know what to do about it. I did call my town's animal control, which is a division (well, one person) of the police department. He told me he didn't trap beavers. All he wanted to know was if the damaged tree was on private property. Once he knew that it was, it was obvious it was my problem, not his.

As time went by, the beaver more or less cleaned up after himself, chewing the log and branches into pieces and dragging them away into the creek. I knew this tree was a goner, because he chewed all around it, so it was bound to die.

Okay, yes. This tree is a pussywillow. A pussywillow destroyed by a beaver. Oh, grow up.

Well, just at the end of December, when I was living with my sister-in-law, we had an ice storm. Branches and trees were breaking and falling down all over the north county, including my back yard.

And by the way, my sister-in-law's house lost power for 46 hours.

Anyway, when it was all said and done, a good number of trees in my back yard had sustained damage or been destroyed. I had to call a tree guy to come out. He was getting lots of calls, but he did meet me—and my sister-in-law, who knows practical questions to ask—out at my place to see what I needed and make an estimate. A week or so later, his crew came out to deal with the mess.

A large pin oak, almost as old as the house, standing right behind it, did not (mercifully) come down, but branches had broken and fallen:

We had the tree guy just prune that tree extensively:

Another pin oak, not ask old or big, but quite large enough, had split and fallen right onto my neighbor's chicken coop:

My neighbor told me that no chickens were harmed, but naturally she and her husband were eager to see my tree removed. So we had that one just taken down:

One next to a shed fell over, root ball and all, so we asked him just to get rid of it:

I'm not sure what kind of tree it was. I have lots of trees because my dad liked to plant trees. He would say, "Old men plant trees, and young men sit under them."

A birch tree by the creek went down:

A neighbor's tree with a double trunk had already been causing me concern by how one side of it leaned toward my garage, so we obtained the neighbor's permission to have that part of the tree removed:

We asked the tree guy just to get rid of the doomed pussywillow:

And I sadly gave the word to take down a Deodora cedar that was not damaged by the storm but had failed to thrive since a neighbor's trees had grown tall enough to block the sun from it:

My dad had liked that tree very much, when it was in its prime.

Have I mentioned we had a lot of rain this winter? When the tree guy's crew came into the yard with their equipment, they left their mark:

The tree guy felt pretty bad about it and said that when the weather was suitable he would come back and try to fix it as much as he could.

So, indoors and out, it's been quite the year for my house. That's my house saga so far. I hope the story has a happy ending.

My house saga: 3rd installment

After all my belongings were removed from my house and placed in storage, I came back from Ashland (where I had enjoyed seeing Julius Caesar, Henry IV Parts 1 & 2, The Merry Wives of Windsor, and Beauty and the Beast) and moved into a hotel in Bellingham. An "extended stay" hotel.

My homeowner's insurance booked the place. My dog and I moved in on Labor Day, and we were there until shortly before Christmas. It was a nice enough place, but it's a weird feeling to live in a hotel. It's a kind of limbo. It's not home. I made my own meals, using the microwave and stove top in my room. There was no conventional oven.

One nice thing was that because the hotel was in Bellingham, where I also work, I could drive there for lunch. It took about 15 minutes each way, so I had about half an hour to spend in my own space.

Sometime in December, my dog's special dispensation to come to work with me expired. The first estimate I received, back in August, for how long it would take to fix my house was "probably three months." Well, three months was up, and I needed to find a new place for him to be while I worked.

I enrolled him in the doggy daycare program at Hyline Hotel for Dogs. That's where I boarded him when I went on vacation. They play with the dogs and give them attention, so he's been pretty happy there. He goes in willingly with his tail wagging, unlike at the vet's where (although they are very kind people there) his tail drops, he trembles, and he tries to hide behind me.

At one point, I became depressed about living in a hotel, so the dog and I spent a weekend with my sister-in-law. Then, at Thanksgiving, we spent that whole 4-day weekend with her again.

Close to Christmas, my dog became ill. He was droopy and sad at all times and had no appetite. So I had to take him to the kind vet's office, where it turned out he had elevated counts of liver enzymes and white blood cells. So I came away with an antibiotic and a liver pill (Denamarin).

Also close to Christmas my insurance company felt they had paid for my lodging quite long enough. They had approved three months, then added one more, but that was it. They decided the reason for the delay was the choices I made for having tile installed instead of just replacing the laminate and carpet that I previously had. They were probably right. Anyway, I was on my own for lodging. Once again, my sister-in-law to the rescue. I moved into her house just before Christmas, and here I still am.

So what has been happening with my house? you may ask. Well, workers came in and installed new drywall.* This involves multiple stages, putting there, taping it, "mudding" it. I really don't know anything about the process. I'm just trying to drag out the description to match how long it took to get done.

Then painters came in and painted all the walls and ceilings in the place. I told them to match the wall color as much as possible to the old one and do the ceiling the same color but a few shades lighter. I have read that a lighter ceiling looks higher. My ceilings are low. Some of my taller relatives can touch the ceiling just standing on the floor. I come from a tall family, although I am not among the tallest.

This winter we had tons and tons of rain, and after the dry-walling and painting were complete, In December, I received an email from the contractor that water was seeping in through the north wall. Have I explained that I live in a daylight basement? The front of the house faces north, and on that side the upstairs front door is at ground level. The ground slopes down to the back yard, and on the south wall my downstairs entry door is at ground level. So the north wall of my place is part of the foundation, and behind the drywall is cement.

The contractor believed the water was seeping in because of all the rain we'd had. They needed to open up some of the just-installed drywall to find the leak. It turned out to be coming in through a "snap-tie" hole. That was a hole left over from when the cement was poured into the mold when the house was built. Snap-ties held the mold in place and when the cement was set then the mold and presumably the snap-ties were removed. This hole was a ways up the wall and probably leaked this year because of the exceptional amount of rain we had, so that the ground water went up that high.

The Pacific Northwest is famed for being rainy, so when you have exceptional amounts of rain, you know it's a lot.

Well, what with the holidays and all, it was mid-January before the hole was sealed up and the drywall replaced and repainted. Meanwhile, I had picked out the floor tile and also a wood flooring for the stairs to the upstairs unit.

The floor guys had to do some leveling before laying the tile. The southwest corner of my house has sunk a bit in the 35-plus years since the house was built, and the floor tilts visibly in that direction. But they got it prepped and they laid the tile. Just this past Friday I met them there to choose a grout color. I think they were grouting this weekend. Then, workers will put my bathroom fixtures back in place, including a new "vanity." And they'll put in the baseboards and door trim. And they'll clean up the drywall dust.

I've recently been told my place will be ready for my stuff to come back in by Thursday of this week! I'm going to confirm that Monday or Tuesday. (Monday is Presidents Day; I'm not sure if the contractor's office will be open.) I did tell the mover guys that date already. I want to make sure it's still good. I mean, I was told three months back in August, then mid-December, then mid-January, then early February. So I have a slight trust issue about completion dates.

I will say, however, that the new paint and the tiles, even without grout, look great. I am SO looking forward to moving back in.

* Another word for "drywall" is "sheetrock." My uncle, my dad's oldest brother, was a contractor, and he once told my dad that all sheetrockers are crazy. My uncle was given to sweeping statements.

My house saga: 2nd installment - Supplement

I should mention that during the time they were packing up and moving all my stuff out, I was stressed out by the state of my leg. I wrote back in August about knee pain and the feeling I had one day that something popped in the back of my knee. My lower leg swelled up some, and then one afternoon at work I had a pop in the back of my knee or calf again and it hurt quite badly. I went to the doctor that same day, and he said that, although they had to test for a blood clot, he thought most likely I had a Baker's cyst.

So the next morning I went to an imaging clinic and they did an ultrasound of the leg. The woman performing the ultrasound said that I did not have a Baker's cyst or a blood clot.

A day or so after that, I had a phone call from my doctor's office telling me to have an MRI on my leg. The woman making the call said we needed to find out what the "lump or mass" in my leg was. Lump or mass? My mind immediately told me: CANCER! I began googling symptoms of bone cancer.

I went for the MRI. It's not a comfortable procedure. A friend of mine was talking about the claustrophobic feeling of sliding into that tube, but that was not the issue. As a matter of fact, they only inserted my lower half into the tube. I simply was uncomfortable lying on the thin metal shelf they place you on. They did their best to stuff pillows around me so that I could relax, but I was not comfortable, and when they're doing an MRI you have to remain as motionless as possible. It's not a quick snapshot, like an X-ray, it's multiple sessions of loud bangs and thuds surrounding you.

It was a couple days for the results. I continued googling my symptoms frequently and carefully reading the most horrifying results I could find. While the workers were boxing up all my belongings, I thought, "What if all this trouble is for nothing because I am going to die of cancer?" I pretty much made myself ill with worry.

Finally my doctor's office called me with the diagnosis: a hematoma. (Just an aside: Spell check wants to change "hematoma" to "tomato." Ha, ha. A tomato in my leg would be serious issue.) I said, "A hematoma. That's basically a bruise, right?" Right. I didn't bump into anything. But the woman at the other end of the phone call said that sometimes a blood vessel breaks spontaneously. She said the blood would be reabsorbed by my body. Gross. I mean, what a relief. And I was relieved, very relieved. I was grateful to get the good news before I went to Ashland with my sister-in-law.

It took some time, but eventually my leg unswelled (that should be a word) and the pain went away. I think it took a couple or few months, but it finally happened. And that's the story of my leg.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

My house saga: 2nd installment

My insurance company referred me first to a local water-damage mitigation company. I made an appointment with them, and they came out and made their recommendation: Pack out almost all of my belongings, cut away the drywall to a height of four feet on every wall touched by the water (technically that water was considered sewage), take out all the carpet and laminate and have it replaced, then they'd come back after contractors fixed the walls and installed new floors. So a huge truck came to my house, near the end of August, and they packed boxes and boxes and boxes of my stuff. In addition to my own not inconsiderable accumulation my house contained a fair amount of my parents' belongings that I and my siblings had not decided what to do with--they cleared out each of my folks' dwellings after each death and some stuff we knew right away to give away or who would take them, but whatever we didn't know whether to donate, toss, or keep, stayed at my house for me to decide. After my parents died, I was pretty sad and down and did not leap to the task. So I had a lot of stuff.

They took out most, but left the large appliances, my piano, and various pieces of furniture and odds and ends, assuming the contractors could move those from room to room as they made their repairs. Then they tore out the floors, cut away the walls as determined, ran fans to dry everything out, and treated all the exposed wall studs with mold preventative.

By this time, it was September. My insurance company next referred me to a local contractor. They came and made their estimate for the insurance company, which covered the cost of restoring my house to what it had been like before: wall repair, laminate flooring, and carpeting. That's how much the insurance would pay.

I had already been thinking of replacing my floors...someday...with either hardwood or tile. I had been thinking I'd do that in a few years. But it would be silly not to do it now. To have new laminate and carpet installed and then later replace them would be just dumb. So I told the contractors what I wanted. I decided on tile. Tile is a lot more expensive to install than laminate and carpeting, so the estimate for the difference between the insurance payment and what I'll have to pay is substantial. But it's time to bite the bullet and do it.

The first thing the contractors needed was for the cleaning company to come back and take all the stuff they'd left behind: the large appliances, piano, and so on. The guy who talked to me about it said that in the course of the repairs drywall dust would infiltrate any furniture in my place and it would be difficult to get it cleaned up. So there was about a week's delay until the cleaning company had a crew available to come and take everything else.

Once that was finally gone, it seems like there was a gap of a couple or few weeks until the contractors actually got started on the repairs. I guess their crews were still finishing other jobs.

As for me, right about Labor Day I moved into a hotel in Bellingham where the insurance company had arranged for me to stay. It was dog-friendly, as the phrase is. So the two of us moved in there. It was like a very small studio apartment. It had a bed, a couch, a desk, a full bathroom, and a little semi-kitchen with a 2-burner stove, a microwave oven, a fridge, and some cupboards and drawers with plates, pots, and silverware. I eventually worked out a pattern of shopping online for groceries from Fred Meyer on Friday night and picking the order up on Saturday morning. They brought it out to my car, so I didn't need to leave my dog in the car or in his kennel in the hotel room. If I had done that, he would have barked and cried and generally made a nuisance of himself. For a few months, I had special dispensation to bring him to work, where he spent my work day under my desk.

I had packed what I thought I would need for 2-3 months, so that even though it was August when I moved out, I took a big sweater. But I did not take my winter coat or the fuzzy robe I often wear in the house in the winter. I was vaguely given to understand that I would be out probably until Thanksgiving.

This is as much as I have energy to write tonight. I'll continue with the next installment when I feel up to it.

My house saga: 1st installment

I keep wanting to tell the story of my house damage and repair, and I keep putting it off until I have time and energy because it feels long, and then the longer I put it off the longer the story grows. So I'll just start. Blogs don't have to be highly crafted; they're just a place to dump some ideas out of a bucket onto the grass, so you and a few others can look at them.

So last August, a pump failed at my house. I live in a daylight basement and my housemates live above me. This daylight basement is below ground on the north, street-facing side, and at ground level on the south, backyard-facing side. That is because of the slope of the ground. So I have a deck and my door in the "back" of the house. Anyway, because I'm below street level, all my wastewater has to be pumped up out of my dwelling to the water lines above. There is one pump for this job. The one I had was installed in 1988 when my folks retired to Lynden and finished the basement in this house.

So on a certain August evening, I got out of the shower and there was water on the floor. The water was not just on the floor of the bathroom, but of the furnace & laundry room (where the water pump lives), of the kitchen, the hallway, and -- I did not realize at the time -- the bedrooms. I threw down every towel I owned to soak up the water and called a plumber. People who answered the phones at the plumbing places assumed that my pipes were backed up and I needed a rooter, but I strongly suspected the pump because a couple years ago I had some water spillage when the pump was unplugged. Anyway, it took me a while to find a plumber who wasn't booked out several weeks, and finally got one who could come in a few days. In the meantime, with no way for the pump to handle waste water, I essentially had no plumbing. It was the weekend by the time I got ahold of a plumber and received a promise of someone coming the following week. Each morning I got up and threw on some clothes and drove to the public restrooms in downtown Lynden to use the toilet. I did not shower until the plumber had come and installed a new, functioning pump.

My niece, who cleaned house for me every other week, let me know a while later that the bedroom I use as a library smelled bad. I keep that room closed off when I'm not in it, so that my dog can't wander in there unsupervised. I got a name from a friend of someone to call to tear out the carpet, which I assumed had been dampened by the water, and while I was on the phone with him I went into the room to pace out how big it is, and I discovered that the carpet was more than damp, it was saturated. Blech. I had my sister-in-law and her grandkids come over to move furniture out of that room into my guest room so I could have the carpet out. They discovered that the carpet in my guest room was also saturated. My sister-in-law said that my laminate flooring was also bubbling and suggested I start an insurance claim. So I did.