Thursday, January 29, 2009
If you're looking for enlightenment, education and/or entertainment tonight, try one of the blogs over there on the right. I'm headed to bed.
Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Today I went and hung drywall while it stormed mightily outside. L has to go deliver newspapers tonight, so I made her a good dinner (breakfast?) from a recipe I have been wanting to try all week. What you see above is roast chicken with brown rice, oven roasted beets and shallots topped with walnuts and goat cheese, all served on a bed of baby spinach. And complicated as it sounds, it wasn't that bad to put together.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees
1 tiny chicken (mine was 4 pounds)
handful of whole garlic cloves, peeled
2 tablespoons of mayonnaise
rinse the chicken and pat dry. dust the garlic cloves with the sage and put in the bird's cavity. don't stitch shut - just fold the skin flap back over the opening to keep them from escaping.
Mix the mayo with more of the sage (a half teaspoon, maybe?) and salt and pepper if desired. I also usually add a tiny bit of summer savory, too. Paint it on the bird, tuck his wings so they don't burn and put him in the oven. Turn the heat back to 325.
Immediately get to work on the beets:
Peel and dice three large-ish beets (baseball sized). Toss with olive oil, and a little salt and pepper and put in a shallow baking pan. I used my regular brownie pan. I also sliced up a half-dozen shallots that I had around that were looking like they wouldn't last much longer before they went weird. I tossed them with the beets and stuck them in the oven next to the chicken. They need to roast for nearly an hour or until they are fork tender.
While that's doing its thing in the oven, prepare the brown rice according to the directions on the bag. Ours said to boil the water then add the rice, cover and simmer for 45 minutes.
When all of that is done cooking, take the bird and the beets out of the oven to rest for a few minutes. Remove the rice from the heat so it doesn't burn. Line your plates with a layer of baby spinach leaves. Scoop the beets on the spinach, and top with walnuts and little bits of goat cheese.
Place the rice on the spinach as well, and then the chicken. Because the bird was so tiny, I gave us each a full breast and wing portion. Thigh quarters make better leftovers anyway.
Oh, I put some of the garlic cloves on the plate, but for garnish only. They were still more firm than I wanted to bite into. Wow. But the chicken tasted yummy and was super moist.
That's it. Nothing fancy. Nothing weird. Hardly any spices. But what an elegant meal! (And I saved the beet greens to have tomorrow with my lunch leftovers!
Tuesday, January 27, 2009
This sudden flurry of actual work-related activity is due to the semi-hysterical weather reports I've been hearing in the past 24 hours.
"Storm's a-comin' " the weather guy screams. "Lotsa snow! Lotsa wind! Gonna be cold as all get-out!"
I took heed and packed all the materials I am going to need into the house so that I don't have to carry it in through foul weather. I can go there and work just as snug as a bug in a rug and let mother nature do her worst outside. I'll have a radio, a thermos and a quartz heater. Who could ask for anything more? Well, a toilet handy would be nice, but I can just zip home in less than three minutes to use the facilities, grab a snack, and head back to work. Makes perfect sense to me.
Then I got home and checked the weather report on line. The Weather Underground didn't say precisely how many inches of snow we're supposed to get, but they said it was definitely going to snow. I scrolled down the page to look at the details. Here is the actual text from the weather service Winter Storm Advisory that was posted on line:
Snow is expected to overspread the area Wednesday morning andOh. We're gonna get six inches of snow, and maybe some sleet and freezing rain. We always get sleet and freezing rain. That's why we're on the coast. It's what weather does here. Inland they'll get lots of fluffy snow. Here we'll get six inches of slush and crap. For this I got all excited and nearly gave myself a hernia moving lumber? Phah! What crap.
continue through Wednesday night. The snow is expected to mix
with or change to a period of sleet and freezing rain during
Wednesday evening. Storm total snow accumulations are expected to
range from 5 to 9 inches across the region by early Thursday
morning... with the highest amounts inland away from the immediate
coast. Any ice accumulation is expected to be a quarter of an inch
I am tempted to hit the grocery store, though. Not because I am a-feared that we're gonna be snow-bound like the Donner Party, but because I have a recipe for oven roasted beets in a salad of baby spinach leaves with goat cheese and walnuts that I really want to try. Served with roasted chicken and brown rice. Sounds yummy, doesn't it? See? So I might just go to the store. It's late enough now that I don't think I'll have to battle the hysterical hordes. Just a few people out for some last-minute things.
Note to non-Mainers. It is 7 p.m. as I type this. My local grocery store closes at 8 p.m. So, yes, 7 p.m. IS late to be shopping for groceries. At least here it is.
That's it. I'm off. I gotta have those beets.
And tomorrow, while the "storm" rages on, I'll hang drywall and put up trim. Yeah.
Friday, January 23, 2009
There is nothing like the smell of metal. There is a unique odor given off when metal is cut with a circular abrasive saw or with a torch. I lack a torch, but I do have the cut-off saw and I used it plenty today. I actually only made eight little spot welds to tack together the frame for the top of the bench I am making, but that was really quite nice. I had to figure out what the heat and wire feed speed wanted for settings, and I dared not just weld great hunks of stuff until I know the pieces I've got are going to fit together properly.
I took the initiative and weighed all of the parts and pieces today. I need to make sure that they do not weigh more than 75 pounds or I can't ship the thing via UPS. So far with all the big metal pieces totaled up, I've got just over 50 pounds. It's still gonna cost to ship, but at least it won't be refused.
Here's a picture of the frame for the padded top on the baby scale. Yes, it is a baby scale. I inherited it from my first mother-in-law who used to be a rural outreach nurse. I normally use it to weigh fish. This is a perfect application, though.
If you look closely, you can see that the frame weighs between 14 and 15 pounds. It's an old scale, but is still quite accurate. I think babies get weighed on digital scales nowadays.
OK, next exciting news of the day: I went up to Lowe's and bought the el-cheapo $100 benchtop model drill press. The gal asked me if I'd like the extended warranty (for two years). I told her that if the thing lasted through the next month, it will be fine. I don't know if I can kill it that quickly, but it's possible. I've been drilling all afternoon through 1/8 inch steel plate. I have to start out with a little pilot hole, then drill a bigger one and then another bigger one until I get the size I need. Note the little shards of metal everywhere:
And the metal on the floor by my feet. Notice the spatters of oil. I have to use oil when drilling through metal or else it will get too hot and burn up the drill bits and they won't work any more. So I have oil and little culicues of steel. Everywhere.
And here is the bench next to the drill. That metal stuff gets everywhere - and it's sharp! I have to be careful not to cut my fingers on the shavings.
While I was at Lowe's, I also picked up some of the fastener bits that I am going to mount to the bench. There are 30 of these little darlings just waiting for my creative application of them.
This is what my workbench looked like by the end of the day. And when I say the end of the day, I mean 11:30 p.m. That's how long I was at this today. I got almost everything cut that needs cutting, most of the pieces fit together and clamped so I can get a look at them, and several pieces drilled out to accept bolts. Tomorrow will involve more actual welding and tacking and such, plus lots more drilling. And lots more clamping. It's going to be another busy day. But I got so much done today that I feel really great about it. Like this thing is actually going to happen.
Oh, some bad news. It's not going to tilt. Not this one. Maybe a later model will have that option, but for my first one, that's just more complicated than I want to deal with. This is going to be the sturdiest spanking bench on the market, and it's going to look fantastically cool.
Thursday, January 22, 2009
I have had a very, very long day.
I only worked for six hours, but it nearly killed me. We finally finished clearing the sidewalks and pathways at the Congo Church today from the accumulated ice. In some places it was over four inches thick. I have seen guys fish on ice that thick if it's on a lake. No shit. Not saying I'd do it, but I have seen some that do.
I have an ice chopper, but it is not a very heavy duty one. It's good for half-inch to a full inch ice on a sidewalk maybe. Not what we were working through today. This stuff was brutal. It was thickest in spots where melt had dripped from a roof or along a low spot to collect and freeze. It was incredibly solid ice. My ice chopper and a short-handled roofing shovel were not going to take this stuff on and win. I got the nod from the minister and went to the hardware store for some bigger guns.
I was astounded at the variety and prices of the ice choppers available. Some were very wide and looked almost like a metal razor blade at the bottom. Others were made of incredibly thick steel with a sharpened edge just four or five inches across. And some were of the standard D-sort of shaped piece of metal at the end of a stick. I got one of the D-shaped choppers made with 1/8 inch tempered steel and a nice long handle, and another one, with thicker steel (1/4 inch probably) and a very short blade at the end of a long handle. Both are lethal looking things. It is easy to imagine either one easily chopping off the end of one's foot. Toes and all - shoop - gone! Eeeee shit.
Back at the church, we took our new tools and attacked the ice. Holy shit what a difference it makes to have the appropriate tools. It was still hard work, but it went much better than before. We worked a total of six hours each (my friend A and I). Chop, chop, chop. Scrape and shovel, scrape and shovel. Chop some more.
When I showed our new weaponry to the pastor, she was duly impressed and said that they would be most convenient when next the congregation became unruly and she had to put down an insurrection with force. I told her that I'd heard Congos could be like that. Worse than Unitarians, even. She agreed. It's because Unitarians have the worst time getting organized into a force that everyone agrees with. Consensus is the preferred method there, not majority rule. Congos are far more democratic.
By the time we were done, my arms felt as though they had been extruded from a pasta machine. I was all wobbly and chilled through. We got our pay and hit the local cheap and quick Chinese place for some soup to warm us from the inside out.
The sidewalks were cleared to their full width and to bare concrete. The big, decorative circle made of polished bits of granite and cement sidewalk is cleared and salted well. The steps are clear, it all looks fabulous. I really wish I had taken before and after pictures. I had no idea how extensive the paths were or how thick the ice was on top of them. They will be much easier to clear and maintain now that they are bare.
But my body is suffering.
After lunch, we parted ways. I went to have my weekly visit with my recovery sponsor, who also happens to have a hot tub/spa in her house. I peeled out of my soaked and salty clothes and tossed them in the wash while I was there and dropped myself gently into the hot water. I turned on the jets and high-pressured hot water massaged my feet and my back and my neck. It was heavenly. I held my nose just above the water's surface and felt the teeny little bubbles bursting when they hit the air, spraying me with their fine mist. Gradually, my body warmed and began to relax. My fingers and toes turned first pink then whitish and shriveled. My legs ceased to be the red of cold and became the red of warm. It was very nice. After about 15 minutes, I dragged my now par-boiled self out of the spa, made a cup of tea that I had to ask my sponsor to carry to the sofa for me (shaky hands from chopping and then sozzling) and we had our nice visit. I had no idea how miserable I felt when I first got in there until I noticed how much better I felt drying off and putting on some sweats.
But now my muscles feel like lobster that has been prepared wrongly by a bad restaurant - all mushy and squishy on the inside. I am home, I have had a bite to eat, and I can see no real reason for me to stay awake past 8:30 p.m. I will nuke the little rice pillow things to tuck down by my toes (L hogs the dog, so I cannot count on her to warm my toes) plug in my c-pap mask, hit the button that gives me air and drift off to sleep the sleep of the just. Perhaps I'll take some ibuprofen first, as a pre-emptive measure against aches later on.
It is 8:03 p.m. now. I just have to figure out what to do to fill the next 27 minutes... or not. G'nite all.
This NaBloPoMo thing, for instance. I signed up to blog every day in January, and I have now missed two days. One time I was riding in a tow truck with my disabled vehicle for four hours and did not get home in time to post, and yesterday I just had a brain cramp. Or something. I know I was very busy cutting and cleaning up metal yesterday afternoon, then I had an adult ed class in home wiring (wicked cool!) that went until 9 p.m., and quite frankly, after Tuesday's high, Wednesday didn't leave me much to talk about.
So I have missed the goal. But I hope to keep posting daily for the rest of the month. The writing and thinking exercise is good for me, and it costs nothing. And the routine is good for me as well.
So, to the NaBloPoMo gods: sorry about that. I will probably sign up again next month and try another time, but I don't think I will break my neck trying to meet a fabricated goal. Welding my bench in time for the FFFlea? Yes. Completing another job so that we have money to go to the FFFlea? Yes. Blogging? No. Sorry, but there it is. And now I have to go to work. Good day all.
Tuesday, January 20, 2009
And grinning. Even when I am crying.
It is a remarkable day.
I know there are some who don't like this guy, but I really do. He is smart. He is bold. He challenges us all to be better than we are, to be more than we think we can be, to work more, try harder, reach farther, and achieve more.
We went to the local liberal movie house to watch a live broadcast of the inauguration. There was no cover charge, only a request to make a donation to the local food pantry. We loaded up a grocery bag and brought it. Additionally, some $1,200 and change was raised. Quite awesome, considering the place only seats about 250 people between the two tiny screening rooms.
But they serve fantastic pizza and beer and soda by the glass or the pitcher, and everyone was in a festive mood, even at 10:45 a.m. Old friends greeted each other in the lobby and in the theaters. It was a great mingle and meet sort of event. When things really began to get underway, when the past presidents and dignitaries and such were being introduced, people settled down and got serious about the drama being played out live on the big screen.
I was struck by the fact that the ABC broadcasters muted the crowd microphone pick-ups when dubya was introduced. I noticed the lack of noise - there had been even moderate applause for the chimp's dad, after all. A friend who arrived late said she heard the introduction in her car on National Public Radio as she pulled into the parking lot. She said the boos were deafening.
I smiled. Sweet. Corporate media can censor the people, but the public's radio never should. Very cool.
Let it be said here and now that Aretha Franklin is a living legend, a national treasure, and the legislature of Michigan was on the money when its members designated her voice as a treasured natural resource of the state. She had on a magnificent black-lady-going-to-church hat that was approximately the size of a barcalounger and by the time she was done singing "My Country 'Tis of Thee," I felt safe in predicting that the song will never be sung in public again without unfavorable comparisons to today's performance. Aretha Franklin is a formidable woman of substance and style and she carries herself like the queen that she is. Damn.
What astounded me the most was when Diane Feinstein asked those assembled before the US Capitol to stand while Chief Justice John Roberts administered the oath of office to the new president, every soul in that dark little movie theater in Bar Harbor, Maine stood up. Many hats came off, and some held hands to hearts. The applause at the conclusion was deafening.
Later, when the Washington crowd was asked to stand for the singing of the national anthem, the crowd in the movie theater also stood up. Hats were doffed again, and nearly every voice there sang along. There was not a dry eye in the place.
I know the people who came to the party at the movie theater today. They are the old-school liberal lefties, the aging hippies and graying boomers. They are not prone to fits of patriotism or spontaneous acts of national pride. In fact, they are the ones who have been demonstrating on the village green every Sunday for the past eight years, protesting the war, Guantanamo, torture, and many, many things that the government has done in that time. Many of the gray heads have criminal records from sitting in back in the 1960s and again in the 1990s and 2000s. These are the disillusioned, the disenfranchised, the discouraged and cynical.
And every blessed one of them stood proudly today and reclaimed their country.
In just over an hour we will go to the local pizza/movie house, The Reel Pizza Cinerama, for a live broadcast of the inauguration. We will be surrounded by friends and activists whom we have come to know in the past year.
As you probably know, I am a white pagan lesbian woman of Irish descent. Translation: I have no rhythm or sense of music beyond some ancient chants. For me, my spiritual connection is on the solitary, silent and contemplative side. But I do appreciate and enjoy the joy expressed in black Christian churches in America. I poached this clip directly from Karen Zip Drive over at Pulp Friction. I hope she doesn't mind. I can't think of a better way to celebrate today. When I watched it at her site, the tears flowed down my face. I think I'll be bringing some tissues with us to the theater. This is indeed a happy day.
Monday, January 19, 2009
Dear god we can only hope so. It has got to get better. It just has to.
I am so tired that I can barely type. I know I have to do something with a nice thing I got from Robin, but I do hope she'll forgive me if I hold off until morning when I can be something closer to coherent about it. I am so beat it is not funny. I shoveled snow today for something like nine hours. My back hurts, my neck hurts, my hands hurt and little bits of me that I didn't know existed hurt. I'm going to take some advil/aleve/tylenol/whatever, drink a big glass of water and crawl into bed.
Sunday, January 18, 2009
We got a ton of snow today. Enough that school would have been canceled if it had been a weekday. I used to hate weekend snowstorms when I was a kid. Wasted snow, I called it. A weekend snowstorm meant dad would make me get a shovel and help. On a weekday, I was considered too small to do it myself, so the plow guy came. I had to shovel the steps and path and stuff. And maybe the mailbox area. But on a Saturday or Sunday? We were saving money, getting exercise and bonding. Yeah. Right.
I got up early today to go shovel out the Congo church. Nice folks, and this was my first storm, so I wanted to make a good impression. I was there early and shoveled like mad, only to look back at the top of the steps I had just cleared and see that the granite was white again with snow. Shit.
Hearkening back to the old Eli Lily ad slogan, "Better Living Through Chemistry," I spread something like 20 pounds of ice melt stuff on the massive front steps (30 feet wide, going up maybe 8 or 10 feet. Okay, maybe six feet, but it felt like more than that. I can't see onto the top step from the street, so that's close to 6 or 8 feet, right? Right. Anyway, I sanded the piss out of that baby, then spread around enough road sand pilfered from the public sand pile (for those readers not from New England, each town has a stockpile of sand mixed with road salt to spread on the roads by the snowplows. The public is granted access to that sand pile, generally with the understanding that commercial contractors will not take advantage. I figure I am not bringing it home to use, so I am just running an errand for the homeowners. It's their tax-dollar-paid-for-sand, so I have very little guilt over it.
Today we got about 8 to 10 inches of snow. Then it began to rain. A lot. I shoveled the Congregational Church this morning for their service, but about six inches had fallen before it turned to rain. When we get there tomorrow it will be flat-out nasty. I have hired a helper for the day, but I think we're both going to be taking pre-emptive doses of Advil. Gonna be a long day tomorrow.
I'll try to have those interview questions out tomorrow after work. And I have to do a cool thing for that neat award that Robin gave me. Please be patient with me. I'm working on it.
Saturday, January 17, 2009
Forecast for Coastal Hancock
Updated: 3:16 p.m. EST on January 17, 2009
Winter Storm Warning in effect from 7 a.m. Sunday to 7 a.m. EST Monday...
The upshot of this is that the snow and clouds and flurries and all the rest NEVER FUCKING END!Holy crap. I'm going to be shoveling for the rest of my life. No cutting metal. No welding metal. No really cool naughty thing. Just me and a shovel and some buckets of sand.
Today I went over to the local Congregational Church where I am the new snow-removal contractor. Not my regular rate, but I figure if I do a decent job, it will work in to more work down the line at my normal rate. Plus I plan to leave a stack of fliers in the vestibule. That can't hurt.
So I went over to see what was up and to clean up a little before tonight's church supper. The person who had the job before me apparently missed entirely that slushy snowstorm we had last week before the current five-day freeze-a-palooza we've been enjoying so much. With three inches of fresh slush on the ground before the Sunday service, it seems that people just tromped through, hoping the kid would come back to clean it up before it froze. He didn't. So now the walkways are covered with packed, solid-frozen ice. Lumpy, bumpy ice from all those footprints when it was still slush. Yeah. So I got there and with a metal roofing shovel, an ice chopper and two different snow shovels AND a broom, I set to work. I chopped what I could, swept the crumbs away and spread over 50 pounds of ice melt stuff on what was left. That and just over two buckets of sand from the town pile. Nobody will slip coming out of the supper tonight, although they might turn an ankle. I worked from about 2 p.m. until well after dark when L. came and we went in and enjoyed the supper. Now I am pooped. More snow is coming. I have three accounts now, and while that doesn't sound like much, one of them is a big, public church where lots of people come and go. It is important that I be there, be visible and be responsive when people ask if this can be shoveled or that can be sanded. Which means I am going to have to get up in the morning (like 5 in the morning!) to see if there is snow on the ground that needs to be addressed. Shit. I'm pooped from all that chopping, shoveling and sweeping already. Damn.
So, I am going to post an interview that asthmagirl over at Is My Cape Fluttering? did of me. She got tagged with an interview in which someone asked her five questions. Then she accepted five "interview me" requests in her comments section. I said what the hell and signed up. So she asked five questions and I answered. Here they are. I do hope I was interesting enough without being scandalous this time:
2. Do you think gays will be victorious and attain the right to marry across the board (all states)? When?
I was burned out (fired) in the newspaper world and found myself doing what I always did between jobs - working hanging wallpaper, painting, building this and fixing that. A friend suggested Women Unlimited, which at that time was offering a 14-week course in Bridge and Road Construction. I signed up, was accepted, got my dump truck license, learned how to read blueprints, learned how to weld, got certified in a 40-hour OSHA course and learned a bunch of stuff. I was accepted into the Sheet Metal Worker's International Association and became the first woman to enter the apprenticeship program in Maine. I left after three years. The work was not steady and involved a lot of travel away from home. I went back to newspapering for a while, but then migrated back to the trades. Today I am self-employed, and that seems to work best for me. I like the freedom, I like learning new things. I like the independence.
The ocean is only a few hundred yards from where I lay my head to sleep each night. I can hear the harbor buoy bell in the evening. Last week an eagle soared in circles over my house, hunting for prey in the field out back. I am surrounded by natural beauty. It is a marvelous thing. In the summer we are overrun with tourists, but there are still places where we can go that they won't follow. I like that. But standing on the rocks and watching the surf pound after a February storm has got to be one of the most beautiful things in the world. Nature is a violent, beautiful force. She will have her way.
OK, now I am going to do the same thing she did. The first five people who leave a note saying "interview me" in the comments section will get five questions from me that they can post on their blogs, etc. It really was not a bad writing prompt at all. Leave me a note and I'll e-mail you the questions.
Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I have known Dennis to be a stand-up guy before, known him to stick to his principles even when he thinks nobody's looking, known him to have a very real sense of right and wrong. He is one of my favorite straight guys in the world.
I am beyond words about what this might mean for us. It is bigger than I can grasp right now.
Here is the official press release from our queer lobbying organization. Blogroll buddy Darlene Huntress over at the Slant is one of the big shots there. She hasn't been posting lately, and I am beginning to understand why. This announcement must have kept her very very busy in the preparation.
Keep us all in your prayers. This has promise but it could get very very ugly first.
I just left the State House, where EqualityMaine and several of our coalition partners announced a bill for marriage equality. It was an extraordinary moment, and the start of a major new journey.
If this bill passes -- and if we can uphold it at the polls -- Maine will join Massachusetts and Connecticut in allowing civil marriage for same-sex couples.
We have growing support in the Legislature, but the road to victory has only just begun. The fight won't be easy, and we need you to get involved with this campaign right now.
Someone in Augusta asked me today if I thought we could really win marriage in Maine. My reply: we wouldn't introduce this bill if we didn't think we could win.
Our community is one of our greatest strengths. Together, we've won hate crimes protections, nondiscrimination legislation, family medical leave provisions and more. Together, we will win marriage.
A discussion about marriage has been going on for years, in Maine and nationwide. Recently we've seen equality prevail in Massachusetts and Connecticut and be narrowly defeated in California. What will happen here?
That's up to us -- and you. Please RSVP today to attend one of our February conversations.
Thank you for being part of this historic moment.
Monday, January 12, 2009
So de-lurk yourself.
But probably not in public.
People might not understand.
For real, though. Stop lurking. Leave a note. Let me know what you think. Even if you think I suck. Say I'm a self-absorbed, egomaniacal freak, whatever. Tell me what you think. I can (probably) handle it.
But please leave a note. I'd appreciate it.
Sunday, January 11, 2009
If only my life were that simple.
My truck broke down last night while I was headed home from Massachusetts. I had just had some Popeye's fried chicken at the Kennebunk plaza and headed up the highway. I was on the phone with my friend Mike when what felt a lot like a blow-out on my front left tire happened. He was an absolute peach and talked me through it, I got over to the side of the road, put my hazards on and called AAA. After waiting through the required automated message hell for a couple of minutes, I got a nice lady whose first concern was that I was ok. That was really nice. Got out and checked the tire, only it was not flat. Not sure what it was - maybe a ball joint? Axle? Ty-rod? I don't know enough about vehicles to know what it was. I do know I couldn't drive it like that.
We worked out the details of where I was, where I wanted to go, and the fact that my aunt recently upgraded us to the premium membership (thank goddess!!!) which allows for 200 free miles of towing. Turns out I was just about 180 miles from home. It took about an hour and a half to find a flatbed driver willing to drive nearly 400 miles round trip on a Saturday night with a storm coming, but a nice guy named Chris from Grondin & Sons Towing out of Sanford showed up and treated me nice. He even took Route 3 out of Augusta to Belfast and then up to Ellsworth to shave miles off the trip. AAA covers 200 miles. Every mile after that costs three bucks. Ouch. I was all for saving miles.
So we got underway at around 11 p.m. and I called home from Ellsworth at around 2:30 a.m. to have my sweetie meet me at the auto mechanic's garage. I got home here at around 3:30 or 4 a.m. and went straight to bed. I was utterly exhausted. That whole simulated blow-out thing scared the hell out of me and was discouraging as well. I had spent the money from this job six times already in my head, and none of it had been to fix my truck. What a pain. I had bills paid, fuel oil purchased, and maybe a hotel room at the upcoming FFFlea in Providence. Now all of that hinges on how much the mechanic is going to take. Damn. Back behind the 8-ball again. Some days it seems I can't win for losing.
On the up side, I did finish the bathroom. But not without incident.
Remember how I complained that the old tile had been stuck to 3/8 inch drywall? Remember how I said it was inferior and a bad idea and the wonderboard stuff I was using was much better - it being a half inch thick and all? Well, the added thickness of my wonderboard and the new tile was just enough for the shower fixtures to not quite work.
Oh, the plumbing bits are fine. The screws and bolts and such are just about a quarter inch too short to reach what they're supposed to. Because I did it right. And there is no access panel in the back because the landlord paneled over it. That would have been easiest - just get in there and lean on the fittings enough to get me what I needed, but nooooooo. That would be too easy.
I ended up sweating an extension into the pipe that is the tub fill spigot thing to make that work, the shower head thing was ok (thank the goddesses!) but the knob control thing was an issue. I ended up leaving the pieces for the lady's son to assemble today when the hardware store opens and he can get some number 8 by 32 machine screws that are 2 1/4 inch long. The whole family is under strict orders to not use the shower until at least 8 p.m. tonight to allow the tiles and grout to do their thing. I expect I may get a phone call asking how exactly the thing goes together, and if I do I'll talk them through it. I hated leaving the job not quite done, but I am some kind of glad I was on the road last night and broke down under a medium-clear sky and a full moon as opposed to today with a howling snowstorm. Bleah.
So here are the pictures of the finished product. Note that I made a couple of little shelves with the leftover trim boards. These are to make up for the towel racks that got ripped out with the tiles. I am most pleased with the result. If the colors look odd, know that the tiles and wood trim are bright white, the tub, the accent stripe and the tiled ceiling are all sea-foam green. The new floor is an off-white pattern.
Friday, January 9, 2009
Thursday, January 8, 2009
I didn't get to the floor like I had hoped, but the tile is up, the client is thrilled, and I'm just a wee bit impressed with myself. My finger still hurts and has developed a disturbing bump/lump kind of thing that makes me think there is the mother of all blood blisters under there. I'm not sure what to do about it yet, so I am taking a wait and see approach. It doesn't hurt quite as bad as it did yesterday. Tired and going to bed. Maybe I'll have more exciting things to report tomorrow.
Wednesday, January 7, 2009
I managed to get the last two pieces of wonderboard cut, drilled and hung in a timely fashion, then I cut up the fiberglass cloth to do an industrial version of seam-taping. Think drywall, but with fiberglass resin and cloth instead of tape and mud. Yeah, this bastard ain't gonna leak because of anything I did, that's for sure.
I put fiber putty over any cracks and seams. I then put resin and cloth and more resin over the seams, and I dabbed resin on each screw head to prevent any kind of chemical reaction with the adhesive or rust or other nastiness. Then I went around the bottom and sealed the gap between the top of the metal tub edge and the wonderboard with more fiber putty. That thing's goin' nowhere. Heh. Make me bang my finger, will you? I'll show you. The house could tip over and come apart in a raging flood and the shower enclosure would float away on its own. Like Chrsitopher Robin in his inverted umbrella. Only smellier, much smellier.
Yesterday's efforts were time-consuming but rewarding. It was great to work with Kevin and he was genuinely cheerful to do the nastiest and most menial tasks. I'd love to be able to hire him full time. What a great kid.
We got the demolition debris hauled off (460 pounds!) and most of the wonderboard hung. I finished that up today. No Kevin, though. Not in the schedule and not in the budget. I'm at that stage now where I can do one thing while I am waiting for another thing to soak, dry, cure, or whatever, but there just isn't space for two people to be doing things at the same time.
Since the fiberglass resin was reluctant to cure, and I didn't want to stick tiles to it while it's still tacky, I opted to cut a big hole in the floor and see what there was to see on that front.
Luckily, the plywood was rotted only along the edge of the tub and out maybe a foot or so at each end where the shower curtain allowed splashing. The plywood came up relatively easily, exposing a mish-mosh (why am I NOT surprised??) of planks below. The planks at the edges of the tub were a little soggy, so I set the clamp lights on them and left for the day. They'll be dry enough to address in the morning. I have this marvelous stuff from Minwax called Wood Hardener. I don't know what it is, but it is a miracle product. You paint some of this stuff on punky old wood, and it hardens it like fiberglass. Put some Bondo on it, sand it once or twice and paint it. Nobody will know the wood was ever rotten. I'm going to put some of that on the wood before I go for lunch and then deal with it when I get back.
The plan for tomorrow is to put up tiles first, douse the punky wood, go for lunch, come back and lay the floor and maybe do something with the walls. One needs some plywood and both need paneling. We'll have to see how far I can get. Tiles and floor are absolute must-do things, though. Wish me luck.
And here's a picture of the fingernail progression. I'm not entirely sure it used to point over to the left like that.
Tuesday, January 6, 2009
Didn't get all done today I wanted, but still got a lot done. Here are the two walls of the shower with wonder board up and insulation behind the long wall.
And here is me after making two cuts of that cement board with the abrasive masonry blade.
And here's my finger. I am acutely aware of what a strong, steady pulse I have. Yep. Gonna lose that nail.
Monday, January 5, 2009
This is what greeted me when I peeled back the plastic that had been duck-taped over it to prevent more leakage into the downstairs bathroom.
Yeah, it was pretty bad.
Then I started peeling stuff out of there and it looked like this:
I don't know if it shows really well in the photo, but the tiles were stuck to drywall. Not plywood, drywall. Not blueboard drywall, generally used for bathrooms, but cheap-ass 3/8 inch drywall.
On the wall with all the faucet bits, there were three horizontal boards that the stuff was nailed to. Not screwed, nailed. And they weren't two-bys, oh no. They were one-by-something-cheap and they were spaced nearly 30 inches apart. Yeah. really nice.
On the long wall, the drywall is covering up the rotted out beat up horsehair plaster and lath wall behind it. Look closely and you'll see the various layers of nastiness.
And finally, my lungs hurt just looking at the next picture. What you are seeing in the bottom horizontal piece of sheetrock peeled back at the left-hand corner to expose the fungus that had obviously been thriving between it and the plaster. Yes, I do have a mask. But it still makes my lungs ache to even look at it.
The red stuff in the hole? That's a kind of stiff paper air barrier that was put between the two-by-four wall studs (this is an exterior wall) and the plaster and lath. There is nothing between it and the exterior siding but air. That's right: no insulation. Oh, yeah. Nice stuff. There is some weird insulation kind of stuff on the outside of the wall studs but inside of the sheathing and clapboards. It looks like shredded newspaper or something contained in a brown paper pillow pack kind of thing. Very weird looking. I'll post that picture later. For now I am tired and tired and tired and tired. So I am going to bed. I've been to three meetings in 24 hours and am remarkable peaceful for a person who is so far from home, girlfriend and puppy and who discovered this morning that the floor next to this tub is also rotted and will have to be replaced. I'll go into more detail on that tomorrow. For now, here's a peek:
Now I am headed to bed. Tomorrow will be here very, very soon.
Sunday, January 4, 2009
So I got here, unloaded and went to check on the job. It looks like I might have a young helper for part of the thing. Lady's grandson is eight, small for his age, and hot to help break stuff. Cute little guy, very polite, and willing to help, such that a child can offer. Together (?!) we shoveled the path to the back door to allow access to the back stairs, then he helped me bring up some tools. First trip, I handed him three 36-inch crow bars. Their combined weight was probably half what he weighed. Undaunted, he wobbled off into the chill with his clanking load and he returned shortly for more. I offered him my tool bag (which I am sure weighs more than he) but relented and gave him a five-gallon pail with some odd tools and an extension cord in it. He wobbled that up the stairs with me behind him this time. I carried the tool bag, two collapsible saw horses and something else. We agreed that it was enough for one night and stopped there.
I think I'll be picking up a set of children's safety glasses tomorrow and maybe some wee little work gloves as well. He's so damned cute it nearly makes me want one. Nah, maybe not.
So I am in the home of my early sobriety and I went to a meeting tonight. I got there early, because that's what you're supposed to do, I found a meeting list book for the area and figured out where to go and when to be there, and met some neat people. Good recovery in that room. Some of the early and active folks there did all the right things thinking I was either new to the program or maybe new to the town and introduced themselves and welcomed me. Then I explained that this particular Sunday night meeting had been my home group back in 1985. Eyebrows went up all around. Ohhhhhh. OK. So you must know... and indeed, I did know those old-timers.
Only one I knew came tonight, a guy named Fred. Blessed, sweet man. He must have had ten years back when I was first coming around, so he must have something between 30 and 40 years now. Wow. Gave me a big hug and his eyes sparkled when he said hello. There's no reason on God's earth that we would know each other outside of the halls of AA, but he greeted me like I was a long-lost high school chum and it was grand. The only thing I can compare it to is like veterans greeting one another after a long absence. We've all been through hell out there, it's better here, but life can still be tough, and ain't it grand to see you again. I'm smiling now when I remember it.
Later on, at the break, I asked if he might know somebody, a young kid perhaps who would be reliable and would benefit from a couple of hours of under the table, day labor cash money kind of work. He thought not a minute and went to a young guy in the back row, chatting with friends and holding a cup of coffee. Sturdy-looking kid, reddish hair, pale skin, blue eyes and a ready smile, probably of Irish stock. My kind of people. Kid's name is Kevin. I'm batting a thousand. Of course it is. The only other alternative would have been Patrick or Seamus.
Fred introduced us, told the kid to take care of what I needed done (I think he might sponsor him) and then explained to me that Kevin's in a local men's half-way house. Those guys are just one drink away from going back to jail or out onto the streets. They're living good, but very humbly. The cash will be most welcome in his world.
Now normally there is no way I would have been able to find and hire a guy, part-time, for a few hours, with any assurance that he wasn't going to rip me off within four hours of landing in town. Especially a town that is not my own any more. But I was there, and Fred was there. And Fred has never caused me harm before, nor I him. I trust his judgment, and now that I am older and wiser than I was early on, he has no compunction about sending a young man, newly sober, off in my company for a day. In fact, I am confident that he knows that I will talk program and recovery to his young charge while we work. It might benefit the kid. I know it will benefit me to work with him, both in the sense of the job and in the reminder of what alcoholism can do to a person. Nobody gets into that halfway house because they've eaten too much chocolate. They get int there because it's the last stop before jail (or maybe on the way out of jail) and it just might save their lives. And they know it. And I will be grateful for the help and grateful for the company.
And it never would have happened if I had not been at the meeting tonight. Had I planned to ask somebody at a meeting to recommend a guy to hire? Yeah, but having a thought kicking around and having a plan ready to execute are two very different things. In fact, it was only at the break that I remembered that I needed a guy and thought to ask Fred to recommend one. I was not there to hire anybody. I was there for a meeting. And I got one and it was wonderful. And I got a bonus too - help on the job when I'm going to need it.
The speakers tonight came up from someplace that begins with an M. I can't remember. But the old guy who spoke had a lilt of the old country (think green) in his voice and a tweed cap on his head and he spoke of his first meeting in Marblehead, Mass back in 1962. Before I was born. Been sober ever since, bless his heart. I spoke to him at the break and he knows a guy I know from meetings back in Bar Harbor. You send him my love, m'dear, said the old guy. He was beautiful. I will send my friend the old guy's love when next I see him.
Again, I am smiling as I type. I cannot put into words what the fellowship of this recovery thing is like. There is a bond, a connection that goes straight to the soul and the heart and holds fast and hugs when it is there. I cannot put into words the loneliness of an alcoholic still drinking, either. There is a hole that goes straight through the soul and the heart that cannot be understood by anyone who has not felt it. The meetings I go to fill that hole, they don't just dull the ache, they relieve it, make it disappear. Not all at once, maybe, not for everyone anyway, but it does it. It makes no sense from a clinical or medical model, but it works. It is a rare, rare thing when I come away from a meeting feeling worse than when I went in. They fill me up. Like prayer and meditation fill me up. I don't ask why any more. I just say thank you.
Saturday, January 3, 2009
Tomorrow I leave for the South (Massachusetts) for work, which means it ought to be a Monday, which means today should be Sunday. Only it's not. And it's been screwing with me all day.
I never got out of my pajamas today - slept in, make two batches of bagels to use as sustenance for me while I'm gone and for L while I'm gone. She loves egg bagels, and the pumpernickel ones, too. Sure feels like Sunday there.
I've done all I can to to prepare for tomorrow's trip. I've made lists and lists and more lists and really all there is for me to do is just get on the road and do it. Actually, there is a ton of stuff that is in limbo right now. Like the suitcase can't be fully packed until morning when I pack my toiletries kit and my good toothpaste. And when I pack my good C-Pap. No way I'm using the spare for a whole week - I'd be unfit to drive coming home.
I'll have to pack the usual last-minute things too. Some grocery stuff, the laptop, cell phone, camera and all associated chargers. I have to pack my big book, my daily reader book and my serenity. I'm going to need it this week.
And honesty, I'll need it because the job I am going to do is a tough one that will require all of my brains and brawn and tools and every bit of delicate touch I can muster. It's going to be a fussy one, that's for sure, and I will be hard pressed to get it all done in the time I have allotted. I may have to pay a guy or two to haul the debris downstairs and out to my truck, but that's ok. It'll be worth it if it helps get things done in time.
This post is really something of a space-filler. I need one for today and I don't have much to talk about, so you get whatever falls out of my forehead onto the keyboard. I have a list of profound, deep, thought-provoking topics stuck to my computer, but I just haven't got the gumption to start one of them right now. Perhaps tomorrow after I get settled in.
I'm itchy to get going now. I'm ready. Emotionally, tool-wise, everything is pretty much ready to go.
But I'll stay. I think I'll take a nice long shower now before bed. Pack my good new slippers in my suitcase so they'll be ready to go. Enjoy a snuggle with L and the diminutive pooch. Maybe watch a ball game. The Pats are out of the playoffs (an 11-win team is out, but an 8-8 buncha schmoes is in?!?! That's a crime!) so I don't much care what happens now. But I'll watch the big guys chase the ball up and down the field. Maybe make some popcorn. Enjoy the last 16 hours or so I have left here before I leave my bed and my home for a week.
Matter of fact, I'm going to go do that now. See you tomorrow from down south. I'll be the one skulking behind the gymnasium.
Friday, January 2, 2009
But I wonder how much of this stuff is really good, healthy or worthwhile. I can prepare for next week by doing some pretty basic stuff - making a schedule, planning my meals and my meetings, making sure I know where the Sunday night meeting is so I can get phone numbers and make plans for the next night, that kind of thing. But more than that is really borrowing anxiety.
In the world of mental health professionals, the term "projection" is generally used to describe what happens when a person perceives his or her own feelings/issues/agendas in another. An angry person tends to see others as angry. A jealous person tends to see others as jealous. You get the idea.
In the world of 12-step recovery, we talk about "projection" as more like living in the future, almost like anticipating a scenario or outcome, but more so. We live in the anticipated situation, missing out on what's going on around us in today's world. We get so worked up over what we think is going to happen and how we're going to respond to it and how that's all going to play out, that before we know it, the day's gone and we've accomplished nothing besides this new hole in our duodenum. Fat lotta good that exercise did us.
This is sort of what I have been doing about the coming week. I've been fretting over it. Only that's all I can do, and so far it has accomplished not a damned thing, save given me a case of the grumpies and a mild headache.
In meetings we talk about the Serenity Prayer, and it's a good one.
God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.
In meetings, we generally only use the first stanza. The rest of it talks about concepts that lead to debate and philosophical and religious conflict (sin, the afterlife, a male deity, etc.) that not all members espouse. So we keep it simple. We ask for serenity to accept, courage to change, and wisdom to know A from B.
So this week coming up - what about it is beyond my control - a thing I cannot change? Well, everyone else's behavior is beyond my control, as are their feelings. The job itself is beyond my control, in a sense. I do not know what is behind those punky tiles, and I cannot know until I get down there and start digging. Therefore, fretting about it from here does not good, so I must let it go. I must let go of the fussing I've been doing regarding my aunt and her behavior, thoughts, and feelings. I cannot change them, ergo, I must accept them. (Note: accept does not mean endorse or approve of, it merely means to accept, without judgment.)
What can I change? Me. I can change how I think and how I feel and how I behave and what I say. I am about the only thing I have any control over, and even then there are things beyond my reach. My heart beats without my authority. My lungs operate without regard to my wishes. The chemical processes of my body march dutifully on whether I give permission or not. My realm of control is really in my heart and in my head. I can choose how I am going to think, feel and behave. Doesn't mean I always remember that. Doesn't mean I always make wise choices. Just means that I'm the only one accountable for that stuff.
I had a sponsor years ago who advised that I hold a mirror up to my nose so it touched. What I saw in that mirror, he said, was what I had authority over. Everything else, was none of my business. It could be my concern, but it wasn't my business to go meddling in. He was right.
I've been stewing all week about that damned tile job. I've been fretting about the tile, the client, the wet plywood, the tools, the stairs, money, and all kinds of things. Beyond making a couple of pretty good lists, what action can I take that will contribute to this situation in a productive manner? Not a thing.
OK, then. It is time to let it go.
What can I do today that will help my world? I can go to the bank, I can pay the rent, I can finish that shelf I'm making for a friend, and I can make a list of clothes and personal stuff I am going to need for this trip. Beyond that, I must let it go so it does not consume me.
An old-timer once said that worry is like rocking in a rocking chair. It keeps you busy, but you don't get far. It is simplistic, but it is true. Once I have done all the preparatory work I can, I have to step back and let go. I will get there when I get there. I will deal with stuff as it presents itself. In the meantime, I will enjoy today and what it has to offer me.
Thursday, January 1, 2009
Good god. It's day one of the new year, I had all kinds of wild ideas about profound and enlightening blog posts for a month, and all I've got right now is and overly full tummy and breath that could knock over a buffalo.
This evening's meal was a delayed New Year's dinner. After baking that foolish cheesecake yesterday, I had no ambition to address a sirloin roast. Frig that. I thawed some steak tips that Quinn did NOT get into and we had stir-fry. Nice and easy. Perfect.
But the roast was still in the fridge, and since it had been in the freezer once already, I couldn't really put it back, so I had to do something with it.
Remember last week when we stopped to pick up groceries that we could not find here? I got some pancetta and some prosciutto, plus the sirloin roast and the now-famous steak tips. Well, I also got this great little deli tub of peeled whole garlic cloves. Gawd I love those things. When I peel garlic, I generally smash it up first to get the skin off that way. They don't slice pretty afterwards, as a rule, and tonight I wanted pretty slices.
So I sliced and slivered up maybe a dozen or more cloves of garlic and laid out probably two dozen slices of the prosciutto in a large mat. I sprinkled the garlic on the mat, dusted it well with coarse ground black pepper, and wrapped that bad boy around the boneless sirloin roast (about three pounds). I tied it up with string jut like a brown paper package ("when the dog bites... when the bee stings...") and tucked 'er into the oven at 325 for about 80 minutes.
Once the spilled bits of cheesecake ash-ified themselves on the oven floor (oops), it stopped smoking and eventually the whole house smelled vaguely of bacon, beef, and garlic. I stuck a thermometer in it after a while, figured that rare to medium-rare was about right, and took it out. We boiled some potatoes and mashed them with butter and milk, threw some frozen string beans in some water and brought 'em to a boil and called in New Year's Dinner. It was simple, moderately decadent, and extremely filling. The prosciutto crisped up very nicely and the garlic slivers cooked up to that marvelous sweet, squishy stage just before they get bitter, and the pepper got the two talking to each other in very friendly terms. Oh it was grand.
Sorry, but the picture is lousy tonight. Camera was misbehaving and everything looks fuzzy. Could just be the excited jitters from the aroma.