Monthly Archives: May 2007

From Plumbing to Planting

So Saturday was a bit discouraging on the home improvement front. To be honest, I had plans to do some sanding and maybe mud and tape some drywall on Sunday, but when I got out of bed, the back was not up to it. I have a ruptured disc in the lower portion of my spine and I’m not actually supposed to be doing any of this. But what my neurosurgeon doesn’t know can’t hurt him. My back let me know, though, that I had definitely had enough.

That being the case, Sunday I decided to plant flowers and clean up the lawn. Somehow I had in my head that this was easier. After the flood, we put all the stuff we were going to have to throw away on the back patio, including the smelly and mildewing carpets. We’d had to save it for the insurance adjuster to see before we tossed it, so it was sitting there about a week. To get smelly. And muddy. Yum yum!

After cleaning up the remianing detritus, it was time to put together the new patio table I’d bought the day before the big rain. Finally, the place was starting to look somewhat like a back patio and less like a garbage dump. But then I went to hoe out the back flower bed before seeding it.

I think it was less than a week before the rain came that the husband cleaned out the gutters and downspouts. It was a good thing, too, because when 3 inches fell in an hour (9 in 24), the rain overwhelmed the gutters and pounded down onto the flowerbed, packing the dirt like concrete. So that is what I hoe’d through Sunday afternoon. Instead of mudding and taping drywall joints. By the time I was finished, my back was begging for mercy.

I’d bought a no-kink hose that day, too, and the first thing that bugger did was kink on me! Talk about false advertising! It took me nearly an hour to unkink that sucker and get it wound right. By that time, I was covered in mud. So a shower was called for.

While I was gardening, the husband had taken sons #2 and #3 to a local park called Storybook Land. Son #1, however, was on his first date. Now, I should really put that in quotation marks. He’s 11 years old, as was his date, but she asked him to go to Shrek with her and her mother. So I had the house to myself.

Note to self: next time you get the house to yourself, Catie, take a nap.

In the middle of my shower, guess who comes home. I thought I had another half hour, but the little girl’s mother told me (as I stood half in and half out of a very thin robe and dripping on my living room carpet) that they managed to get there in time for a shower a half hour before they thought they would. Thank goodness she was understanding about me being muddy and wet at 3 in the afternoon.

On a happy note in my little home disaster projects, I have new respect for my neighbor. I ran into him at one of the local hardware stores and we got to talking about the drywall project he’s doing at his parents’ house. I asked him a couple questions about texturing it since he has a tad more experience at this than I do, and he answered me. Now this may not seem too outstanding, but it was the first time all week I had asked a question involving a home project when I didn’t get that “But you have two X chromosomes!” attitude.

So what’s up for this week? That would be more of the same, I’m afraid. Oh, and shampooing the upstairs carpet. Tromping through flood waters and then onto that isn’t exactly good for it, either.

And, as promised, a picture. This ran on all the local news stations. It was taken two blocks north of me. North State Flooding

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Plumbers Are A Girl’s Best Friend

I should amend this and say even when they’re cranky. Of course, I might be cranky if I got a frantic call from some chick on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend begging for help over something she f***ked up.

Let me start at the beginning.

So we flooded a few weeks back, but not as badly as some people around here. I should post some pics of the situation two blocks up the street from us, but I’ll probably get around to doing that about the same time I get around to updating my links.

Anyway, so we got enough water in the basement to make us take out the flooring and do a little cleaning out down there. No big deal, right? Sure. So we had this shower down there I was thinking of taking out and replacing, anyway. It was massively ugly and Masonite, so it was basically rotting from the bottom up. I was also worried about how the drywall was behind it and how bad the leak was.

So today was the day. We have some insurance money to help us repair the basement, so we were definitely doing the shower. Since the hubby is basically the anti-Bob Vila, that leaves me. I don’t know when I got the idea in my head that I’m the toolbelt diva, but I’ve managed to successfully replace the shower surround in our upstairs bathroom (with one frantic but not too devastating call to the plumber who lives across the street), install a new toilet in the basement, paint the house (two sides of it anyway–the rest will be finished this summer), and do other DIY kinda things around the house. So tearing out this shower should be no biggie, right?

Next time I say that, tell me to go bake some cookies or something, okay? Tell me this is no place I want to go.

So I start tearing this thing apart, and it’s not as bad as I thought. I get under the Masonite and realize they’ve put down some good mahogany plywood behind it. Yay! I can sand that down and work with it. I think I’ve got it made in the shade until I go to pry out a nail or two. And the wall behind my hammer head caves in.

Long story short (too late–I always do that), the original shower had been stuff that looked like ceramic tile only it was plastic. When that started leaking, they put the plywood over it and installed the Masonite. That didn’t exactly fix the fact that the drywall was molding underneath there. For THIRTEEN YEARS!

You can imagine what I got into. So as I am stripping this all to the studs, I have to remove the handles of the shower.

Yeah. This is where the plumber came in.

I should have learned 5 or 6 years ago when I got in and did my upstairs shower. But in that case, it wasn’t my fault! The guy who had done our shower when we remodeled the bathroom did it poorly, which was why I was having to re-do it. When he put the diverter spout on, he soldered it firm instead of putting a threaded one on. So when I went to unscrew it, I broke the pipe. That lesson should have taught me.

So when the handle’s threads stripped today, I should have just given up the ghost. Oh, no. Not Tammy the Tooltwit Cate! I tried to FIX it. And made the situation worse. So here we are, on the Saturday before Memorial Day, with no water in the house and no plumber to be found. After about 50 calls, I found a handyman type guy who came out and told me what I already knew. To the tune $35. And then I finally found a plumber who could come out and cap the son of a b**** until we can get a new faucet installed next week.

Don’t have that bill yet. It should be lover-ly. Thank God we have insurance money. Who needs flooring when you have operational plumbing, right?

Sometime I will share why I think women are hampered in the home improvement biz because of bras, but not today. For now, if you see me going anywhere near a pipe, just tell me to go sew something. Seriously. It’s not that women can’t do home improvement projects. Not at all. We can. But life would be so much simpler in this respect if it were 1955 and I didn’t have to deal with this crap. And, of course, if I were married to Bob Vila.

I’ll check back when I tackle the dry wall.

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Writing in a World Gone Mad

I was emailing back and forth with a good friend of mine yesterday, and found out she had some bad publishing news. She’d been working on a project with two other authors who are among the higher echelons of the publishing world,  and those of us who knew about it were really, really looking forward to seeing it in print. Unfortunately, it won’t get there. It was rejected.

Big time bummer, to put it mildly.

But that’s life in the publishing industry. She asked, on a cheerier note, how goes the writing? My response? That’s a cheerier note?

My lack of production for the last several years has been a sore spot with me. When I first started writing seriously about 2001, I would knock out several pages a day. This was with three boys, one of whom was still in infancy. I was unstoppable. Or so I thought.

Every summer my productivity would lag. The summer slump, I called it. But come fall, I’d go all gangbusters again and make up for it. I wrote four books in three years, one of which was well over 700 pages. Oy! War and Peace anyone?
But now, not so much. For some reason, my summer slump in about 2004 has turned into a permanent one. Oh, I still write in my head all the time and even manage to get a bit onto paper every now and then.  But every day like I used to? It doesn’t happen, which makes me feel like a fraud.

Am I a writer? Yes. Have I been paid for my writing? Yes. Am I actively writing? Weeeellll…

I quit freelancing about two years ago because it was just too damned much work for too little return. And it was distracting me from my fiction work, I said. Justifying my perpetual summer slump. I still love writing, there’s no doubt about that, so why am I not productive?

I figured out that answer yesterday with my friend’s email.

I now know too much. I went in thinking I’d get published within a couple of years, and my advance would be in the six figure range. I know now that was a pipe dream. It’s nearly  impossible to get published to begin with, I’ve learned. And it’s a helluva lot of hard work and pounding of heads against brick walls. I’m up to that – rejections don’t bother me anymore. Much. But there’s a step beyond I was just able to articulate less than 24 hours ago.

Once you get published, it’s a bitch to stay that way.

Even best sellers are pounding their heads against that same freaking brick wall day in and day out. You can devote yourself to something for months on end, anticipating that pay day, just to have the whole thing pulled out from under you at a moment’s notice. Which sucks. I don’t know of any other industry that includes that kind of permanent tenuousness. (Is that a word? It is now!)

So I still love writing. I love sitting down at the laptop and putting my mind’s wanderings onto the virtual page. But the summer slump is permanent, now, and I’m afraid it will stay that way because I just can’t bring myself to sacrifice as much as I used to to pursue the career. I’ll get there in my own time, and I really feel I will be published. But when I do sell, I’m keeping the day job. There’s no way I’m counting on anything when it comes to the publishing business. I’ve seen it grind down too many people.

Even bestsellers.

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The Week from H-E-Double Hockey Sticks

One week ago this morning I woke up at 6 AM to let the dog out. When I looked down into my basement, I saw the tell-tale puddles that told me we’d flooded. The night before, the rain had been unrelenting. Little did I know at that point we’d recieved 9 inches of rain in 24 hours, 3 of which came in one hour alone.

So I got up the husband and we started bailing, but the water was still coming in. We saved what we could and left the rest to chance as the water started seeping into the outlets.

I walked out into my front lawn to get some air. I was pissed beyond belief. But it was when I looked up the street that I realized just how lucky we really were. Two blocks north of us was completely under water. We ended up with 4 inches. We got very lucky.

I won’t go into detail of how this week unfolded– I’m too tired. We lost pretty much everything that was in the basement. I get to go buy a new washing machine today. But they are estimating that some 200 houses in town will need to be condemned. In a town where no one has flood insurance- and for those who do, like us, it doesn’t really cover anything- a lot of people are really, really screwed.

So my presence this summer may be spotty. We’re just about done with clean-up, but there is a lot of work to be done to rebuild. But even as I whine about how my carpet is all gone and we lost a computer, etc, I know we’re truly lucky to even have a house to live in. We won’t be recarpeting, by the way. Can you say vinyl?

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The Bloodsuckers Bite– an update

In a classic no good deed goes unpunished moment, I have discovered that donating blood is hazardous to your heath. Mental health, that is.

The lovely people who sucked out two units of my red cells tested my cholesterol–free of charge– as a little thank you for donating. Little did I know that this would be the second time that donating blood would make me sick to my stomach.

Cholesterol has never been a big problem for me. My overall level has always been pretty good, and while my good cholesterol (is that LDL or HDL? I can never remember!) could have been higher, I was still in the pink. So yesterday when I logged on, I had no way of knowing the damned number would have been so freaking high!

I do have to add a caviat, though (a.k.a justification): normally when one gets a cholesterol test, they take it from fasting blood. The morning I donated, I had eaten eggs for breakfast. That has to count for at least 50 points, right? So I’m good to go.

Seriously, though,  it is probably slightly higher since I had eaten, but the real deal is I need to get off my fat rear and get it down. My weight, too. And this time I need to be serious. After all, I have three kids! I have a husband who would be lost without me! (Wishful thinking, I know.) But I need to get healthy, so it’s a good thing I actually like chicken breasts and broccoli. I hate exercise, though, so that is going to be a chore.

So who’s gonna join me? Let’s get all sweaty and decide to get healthy for a while before we dive back into thost chips! The kind made with the less-fatty oils, of course.

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