Personal Statement

Personal Statement

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Diaspora in Reverse: Weirdest Boxes Packed by Blackmon Mooring

(I have abandoned "Countdown to The New Old House" as a title, because the countdown has technically expired.)

In no particular order (because, seriously, how can you pick a winner out of these gems?):

12-x-12-x-16 carton containing (only) two 5-x-5 blown glass swans.  First of all, where did the swans come from?  They appear to be vases.  I have never seen these swans in my life.  Wondering if someone's chocolate got mixed with our peanut butter.  In any event, the BM packing ladies thought that they were important to someone, because they were swathed in yards of bubble wrap and lovingly nestled in a ridiculously oversized box.

12-x-12-x-16 carton containing (only) two lightbulbs.  Perhaps they mistook them for swans.

12-x-12-x-16 carton containing ten CD's.  Seriously?

Waist-high crate labeled "Bats".  There was, in fact, a baseball bat in the crate, along with a sugar mold (photo below for reference) and a wooden wall plaque that hung in PJ's (cowboy-themed) little kid room that said "Mamas, don't let your babies grow up to be cowboys."

Ummm, okay, all of these things are long, and made of wood . . . but "Bats" is stretching it, don't you think?

Individually bubble-wrapped rocks.  Not fancy rocks.  Smallish river rocks that the kids picked up on a lake trip.  Again, the BM women proceed on the assumption that EVERY TCHOTCHKE IS SACRED.  And, also, I am fairly sure that get paid by the box.

Individually bubble-wrapped wicker ball.  You've seen these at Pottery Barn.  They are fillers for really big vases, you know?  This one sat atop of a candleholder.  It was roughly softball-sized to start, but approaching regulation soccer ball (youth size 5) when all was said and done.

Individually bubble-wrapped votive holders.  CLEAR GLASS VOTIVE HOLDERS.  The kind that you buy at the dollar store . . . for a dollar.  They used SOOOOO much bubble wrap on these that I swear that I mistook them for double old-fashioneds when they were coming out of the box.

A Crock Pot marked "MBR."  MBR stands for "master bedroom."  No, we don't store a Crock Pot in our master bedroom.  But the former pantry is in the hallway that connects the kitchen to the master, and, naturally, when faced with a choice of assigning a Crock Pot to a KITCHEN or a BEDROOM, the BM packing women went with the latter.  Wouldn't you?

I could go on and on.  Seriously, I could.  It's soul-sucking.  In the coulda-woulda-shoulda category, we should have rented a POD.  But I didn't want to spend another dime on this little "project," nor did I want to haul 500-plus boxes out of the house, and then haul them back in.  So WE ARE DEALING WITH THE PROBLEM IN PLACE.  (What's the cooking phrase?  "Mise en place?"  More like misery in place.)

I am attempting to maintain my sense of humor about this.  But it's hard to maintain one's sense of humor when:
  • You cannot find your underwear, or your nail polish, or anything else that you need to get dressed in the morning and go out into the world not looking like a homeless person.  Somehow, exactly one-half of every outfit made it from the apartment to my closet.  If I have the top, I don't have the bottom, and vice-versa.  And the only brown shoes I can access are open-toed, but I can't find my nail polish, or nail polish remover, or nail clippers, so I'm forced to display my super-gnarly feet to the Western world (because (1) I refuse to get a pedicure, because if I go in for a pedicure, I will have to justify my jagged fingernails and multitude of hangnails, which I refuse to pay to fix until I'm done opening nail-killing moving cartons, and (2) I refuse on principle to buy duplicate nail polish, remove and clippers, because I already had to do that with underwear, and deodorant, and on and on).  LESSON LEARNED:    the proactive person who moves her stuff over first gets hosed.  My stuff from the apartment is trapped behind all of the moving cartons.  Spouse's stuff was hastily thrown into laundry baskets at the eleventh hour and resides on top of the moving cartons, in plain sight.  Grr.
  • Every time you try to use your cooktop, you remember that you cannot use your cooktop.  Said cooktop has a big sticker on the top that says (I'm paraphrasing):  "Before you even think of using me, you must rub me down with the Cerama Bryte that came with me, and you must buff me with the cloth that came with the Cerama Bryte, or I will be rendered horribly disfigured, and the world as we know it will end."  Small problem:  nothing coming close to resembling Cerama Bryte, or a buffing cloth, arrived with the range.  It took me a couple of days of unpacking boxes in the kitchen to confirm this.  And then it took me another day or so to remember to look up Cerama Bryte while I had Internet access at the office.  You can buy it at Lowe's or Home Depot.  Hey, no problem, we go to each of those places at least once a day, right?  Wrong.  The daily McGlinchey Shuttle to the Big Box Stores ceased to run the very day that I remembered to look up Cerama Bryte.  Seriously:  I called Spouse with the good news that I NOW KNOW WHAT CERAMA BRYTE IS AND WHERE WE CAN GET SOME, and he informed me that he had just purchased the last shelf bracket necessary to complete his closet reorganization project (and, in fact, had just pulled into the driveway on his return trip from Home Depot) and had no compelling reason to step foot in a big box retailer in the foreseeable future.  Since this conversation, we have both failed to make a pilgrimage to Lowe's or Home Depot solely to purchase Cerama Bryte.  Instead, when our macaroni-and-cheese-obsessed Big Kid asks for Velveeta shells, my response is, "Okay - wait, no, WE STILL DON'T OWN CERAMA BRYTE."  (If my sweet oldest child ever goes postal, my money's on "CERAMA BRYTE" as the words that will escape his lips as he plummets from the clock tower after being taken out by a sniper.)
In the personal growth category, I am pleased to report that I have become a ruthless downsizer.  If I don't have an immediate need for something, or if I can't find a rational place to store it, it's going in the trash, or in recycling, or in a box marked "Garage Sale," "Double Exposure" or "Goodwill."  This makes me happy.  Except that God, who has a RIDICULOUSLY WICKED sense of humor, decided that this week would be a great week to bury North Texas under a bazillion gallons of rain.  (Particularly ironically delightful when a drought, followed by a deluge, is the original source of your troubles.)  Last night, it rained, HARD, for six hours straight, and it was still drizzling when I left this morning.  Thus, the cartons bound for charity, or the carriage house, remain inside and underfoot.  So I'm shedding stuff . . . directly underneath me.

Serenity now.

Things I'm Digging: Pier 1's "Order on Hold" Feature

There's a running joke about a couple of my friends living under rocks, on account of how they are perpetually out of the loop (and sort of like it that way).  Over the last ten days, I have joined them as an under-rock dweller.  More precisely, I'm an under-moving-carton dweller.  No TV:  can't access them, and even if we could the surfaces on which they go are covered with stuff, and even if THAT wasn't true, we haven't located the satellite boxes yet.  Or called the satellite people to have them reinstate our service.  No Internet, either.  Just smart phones.  Smart phones for receiving calls and dialing out, smart phones for keeping up with the news, smart phones for background music to unpack to (thank you, Pandora app). 

Can't say that I "like" being trapped under something heavy, although it was kind of nice not knowing that a man in Miami (who I hope a month from now we won't be referring to as "Zombie Zero" - although that does have a nice ring to it) chewed another man's face off.  Or that a local nutso drove a semi truck (sans trailer) down the alley between two streets in our neighborhood, shot out into the street and killed a woman in a passenger van, taking out someone's garage in the process.  (So THAT's where the sort-of-freight-train-ish sound came from on Friday night.)

Anyway.  The reason that I haven't been blogging, or posting pictures from Box-apalooza, is that my only access to the Internet is at work, and I'm more than a bit swamped at work, after being out several days in connection with our diaspora-in-reverse.  Sticking around after hours isn't an option, thanks to our ongoing (and still pretty grueling) evening unpacking ritual.

But I do have Internet at work, and thank Al Gore for that, because I just saved myself some time on my trip home, thanks to Pier 1's Web site.  PJ's first grade teacher is retiring, after 27 years (23 spent on our elementary campus) - although according to PJ, she has been teaching for 43 years, which I guess might be possible if you were an elementary education major, went to work straight out of college and waited until age 65 to retire.  Anyway again.  Mrs. T. says that it occasionally feels like 43 years, but the real number is 27.  I wanted to do something to celebrate her (over and above the great Shutterfly book that one of the other moms put together with photos taken from throughout her teaching career, notes from colleagues and students, etc.), so I stopped at the Montgomery Street Antique Mall en route from the first grade awards ceremony (or, as I refer to it, "the festival o' PARTICIPANT! certificates" - don't get me started on our PARTICIPANT! culture, but I will share with you one bright moment:  midway through the proceedings, a wiry girl with dark hair and glasses wearing a navy drop-waisted jumper and white blouse with Peter Pan collar stepped out of the wings of the auditorium stage with her arms folded across her chest and her hands - SWEAR TO AL GORE - stuffed under her armpits, and it was all I could do not to shout out, "MARY CATHERINE GALLAGHER!  MARY CATHERINE GALLAGHER!").

Back to my MSAM foray.  Scored a cool wall chalkboard with a neat scalloped shape, suspended from a bright purple voile ribbon, and a lime green/white-striped Consuela shopping bag like this to put it in:

(Imagine, please, no fruit.  Just lime green/white stripes.)

Also found a purse package of tissues that I thought was appropriate (given that Mrs. T. started to tear up when she got the Shutterfly book today, but Evelyn's awesome mom had planned ahead and packed a box of Kleenex in the gift bag along with the book):

A concept was forming - sort of.  I would label each piece:

A bag for toting groceries home from Sprouts - IN THE MIDDLE OF THE DAY, BECAUSE YOU ARE RETIRED AND CAN SHOP WHENEVER YOU WANT.  (Sprouts reference is in recognition of the fact that Mrs. T. lives around the corner from my mother, and therefore around the corner from Sprouts, a cool organic grocery store that seems to be on the retired teacher route, if my mom's shopping habits are any indication.)

Tissues in case you get nostalgic - with a reminder of why retirement might have its benefits.

A chalkboard, in case you suffer withdrawals.

Hmmmm . . . what else?  Something that she could use in her leisure time over the summer, and beyond.  Aha - my favorite chalkboard carafe from Pier 1. 

Continuing with the chalk theme!  But does Pier 1 still carry the chalkboard carafe?

I consulted the Web site.  Yup, there it was.  And below it, a little button - encouraging me to pre-order my chalkboard carafe for pickup.  REALLY, AND FOR TRUE?  I clicked the button (if memory serves, it was blue).  I gave it my ZIP code, and up popped the location at Montgomery Plaza.  I clicked on that, and I was taken to a page that asked for my name, e-mail, phone number and pickup instructions.  The explanatory notes said that I could type ANYTHING in the pickup instruction window.  Ooooo, so very tempting to type in something really, really odd.  But, instead, I informed my friendly neighborhood Monty Plaza Pier 1 that I would be by to retrieve Mrs. T.'s chalkboard carafe after 5 pm.

Done and done.  I guess I should pop into Office Depot next door and get her some chalk.  Although I recall that a piece of chalk comes packaged with the carafe.  Wow, Pier 1 is all kinds of helpful and awesome.

And I will have that much more time to struggle with the moving cartons that continue to oppress me. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

This New Old House: Today Was Better Than Yesterday - Incrementally

And tomorrow, hopefully, will be incrementally better than today . . . .

With help from both kids, we unpacked a decent number of boxes yesterday, after Mom went into the office for awhile and attempted to work.  (Dad, apparently, took a well-deserved face plant into his pillow while Mom was gone.  Well-deserved, but ill-timed in one respect; see below.)

After a couple of hours of unpacking, Mom hit a wall and declared that it was time for a family game break.  Cranium Super Showdown was unanimously selected as the game of choice.  By "unanimously selected," I mean "Cranium Super Showdown was the first game to be unpacked from a box."

We played the game - Dad included.  Mom was judge and referee.  It was fun, and I think that both the break and the family time were appreciated by all.

Then we played charades for awhile - and then Mom proclaimed that it was time to take a face-plant of her own.  Dad shooed the kids out of the master bedroom (we played on the bed, because that was the only reasonably spacious continuous seating surface available) and managed to:

(1) Locate - and actually reach - the TV/VCR combo that used to be C's but is soon to be PJ's (maybe - he is lobbying for a satellite hookup, and the TV/VCR, which was a hand-me-down from a neighbor, plays VCR tapes and can be hooked up to a DVD, but it doesn't receive TV broadcasts).

(2) Set up the TV/VCR, and a DVD player, in a location that both boys could view from C's bunk beds.

Full harmony was restored.  Evidently, while Mom snored away (and I'm quite sure that snoring was involved, although Dad was too polite to say anything), they watched Justice League and Men in Black.

Everyone woke up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed (well, relatively so).  After nine-plus hours of sleep, Mom actually deemed herself competent to operate a motor vehicle and set out to get herself ready for an early-morning meeting with a potential client.

I managed to find a blouse, skirt and shoes that all matched, plus appropriate undergarments.  I even found earrings.  So far, so good.

Because of Dad's hibernation on Monday, the plumber didn't get called to be reminded that he needed to turn the hot water back on.  No problem - I don't know much about the new old house, but I have figured out how to operate the microwave.  And, also, an Igloo beverage dispenser (like a Thermos on steroids?) was one of the first things to be unpacked.  I boiled water and transferred it to the Igloo until it was full.  Just like the pioneers did - or would have done, if they had microwaves and Igloo products.

I went into the boys' bathroom, intending to shave my legs in tepid water.

Problem #1:  Um, where's my razor?  No idea.  Spouse ran up to the corner Walgreens and bought me a package of disposables.

I shaved my legs in tepid water, and then I bit the bullet and turned on the (cold) shower so that I could wash my hair.

Problem #2:  Um, where's the shampoo and conditioner?  Spouse packed it.  Spouse had a hard time locating it and seriously considered another Walgreens run.

Problem #3:  While Spouse was searching for hair care products, the pipes in the boys' bathroom started making a horrible groaning sound.  The kind of sound that does not sit well with someone who just spent ten months out of her house due to a broken pipe.

Me:  HELL TO THE NO!!!!!

Spouse (running around the corner with shampoo and conditioner in hand):  Maybe you have it set on hot.  Maybe there's air in the pipes.  Make sure that you have it set on cold.

I adjusted the settings.  Groaning stopped, and I sudsed up my hair.

Problem #4:  Water slowed to a trickle.  What the WHAT?  Admittedly, user error may have been part of the problem.  The water controls are space-age, and I have not yet received a tutorial.

But in the meantime I had a sudsy cranium.

Me:  Get the litter box out of our bathtub, 'cause I'm coming in!

(The litter box is temporarily in our bathroom, on account of the fact that we can't access the space where the litter box would normally go.)

Spouse moved litter box.  I dripped a path of soapy water onto my new wood floors.  I turned on the water - at least THAT shower worked fine.

Except . . . .

Problem #4:  Shower curtain is in a box.  I elected not to hang it, because I didn't want it to smell all litter-box-y.

Think, Kathryn, think.  Eureka:  ridiculously deep kitchen sink with pull-out sprayer.  I ran into the kitchen, clutching a towel around me.  I let go of the towel so that I could use two hands to wash my hair.

And then I remembered that we have not reinstalled the kitchen blinds, and that there are contractors outside building a frame for our next-door neighbors' home addition.


Spouse stood behind me and held my towel closed while I bent over the sink.  A friend pointed out that, if the workmen were watching, this set-up might have been far more titillating than if I'd just given them the full Monty.  Point taken.  Oh-so-happy to entertain.

I decided to dispense with conditioner, on account of how it was several rooms away, and I was now pushing the outside time for me to leave the house and make my meeting.  I also decided to let my hair air-dry en route to the office.  If I put it in a ponytail, it wouldn't look that bad, right?

Problem #5:  I own, roughly, 200 hair elastics.  None of them were immediately accessible.  Not even one stinkin' elastic in my purse, or in my car cup holder.

I pulled into the downtown Walgreens (not the friendly and oh-so-convenient corner Walgreens, but the one that I hate, because I'm fairly sure that I narrowly avoided a carjacking there once) eight minutes before my meeting, grabbed a package of hair elastics, some avocado oil leave-in spray to apply to my frizzy ends and another glossing product that looked reasonably helpful and was conveniently located next to the avocado oil.  I primped in the car.  No one tried to carjack me.  And I got to the office with a minute to spare.

Like I said, today has been better than yesterday.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House . . . Has Expired

We're in.  Not in the way we wanted, where we would have a few days to work at the house and then go back to sleep at the apartment.  No, that was not made an option.  I'll spare you the details and, for purposes of this post, merely state that we have dealt with more incompetence and classless, inhumane behavior in the last ten months than I could ever imagine.  And it makes me wonder how people who aren't attorneys navigate stuff like this.  We know our legal rights, and we have the skill set necessary to effectively stand up for them, but you have to imagine that there are a lot of folks out there who are similarly situated to us in terms of being dealt a lousy hand of cards, but who aren't similarly situated in that they don't know how to get around the obstacles that are thrown at them.

Heck, I don't have to imagine.  Since all of this started, I can't tell you how many people have shared horror stories about reimbursable expenses that never got reimbursed, getting booted from temporary housing with no place to go, etc.   It makes me want to write a book, or do a TV interview, or create a Web bulletin board for aggrieved consumers.

I can't focus on that right now, because I have more immediate fish to fry, but I hope that with the passage of time the anger doesn't completely go away, as I really do want to leverage our horribly negative experience into something more positive - both in the interest of helping others and in the interest of achieving some level of satisfaction and closure.

In the meantime, we're back in the house.  Furniture arrived Saturday.  Most of the contents of the apartment were moved - by us - on Sunday, with a gun to our heads, because a party that shall remain nameless was sending us threatening notices trying to evict us from said premises.  Which is interesting, because you can't evict someone under a lease once you have already constructively evicted them, and it sure seemed like we were constructively evicted from the apartment, when said party informed us that they were leasing the apartment out from under us (and gave keys to a third party to come in and clean our carpets while we were in the apartment), because we had given our notice.  Except we hadn't given our notice: it appears that someone else purported to give that notice on our behalf, with zero legal authority to do so, after assuring us that it hadn't, and wouldn't, attempt to give such notice under any circumstances. 

Oops, I said I would spare the details.  But you can kind of see where I'm going with the whole "what do people who aren't lawyers do to get through this stuff" comment?  Suffice it to say that, in the midst of moving, we had to expend multiple brain cells, and hours of precious time, pointing out our legal rights.  But we got most of the stuff out on Sunday - we thought.  After the second truck came on Monday with the containers bearing our non-furniture belongings, it took several more hours to clean out, and clean up, the apartment and tender keys, clickers, etc.  It was 3 am this morning before we got the last of the food put up in the freezer, refrigerator and pantry.  We literally collapsed into our bed (which, in and of itself, was like coming home - I forgot how comfortable our mattress is).  But sleep was kind of a dicey proposition, given that two dogs confused by all of the boxes were circling the bed like sharks, and the two older cats were nuzzling up against me demanding attention (they don't like change - the boy in particular), and the younger cat was amps on eleven:  "BOXES!  THERE'S BOXES EVERYWHERE!  I'M GOING TO CLIMB ON THEM, AND THEN JUMP ONTO THE BED AND TELL YOU ALL ABOUT THEM!" 

At 6 am, we learned that said younger cat knows how to work the push buttons for the oven.  Are you kidding me?  At least the range is operated by knobs - he can't turn that on unless he develops opposable thumbs.  But there it was at 6 am - beep, beep, beep.  Wuzzah?  Not my alarm, which was set for 6:40.  Coming from the direction of the kitchen.  Oh, thanks, Max, for turning on the oven timer.  I'll try to go back to sleep now, and if I drift off at all, it will be five minutes before my alarm sounds.  Also, mental note to get in the habit of checking to see if the oven is on - at least until the novelty wears off.

At about 6:35, the kids woke up:  "Mom, is it okay if we open a box?"  Um, not really, given some serious logistical issues (which I will explain momentarily) - but I decided not to fight them.  Good thing, because the ginormous box that they opened:  (1) only contained eight pairs of shoes, which amused them and gave me hope that some of the larger boxes are only large because they contained heavy or oddly shaped items, and that they will unpack rapidly as a result; and (2) contained a pair of shoes that were too big for PJ when we moved (I bought 'em on sale from Crazy 8 at the end of last summer) but now fit him perfectly.  They are slip-on tennis shoes with sharks on the toes.  He insisted on wearing them to school.  And he announced that unpacking was "fun," which was a tremendous reversal of his prior position, which could be summarized as "I-HATE-THIS-I-AM-SO-BORED-WHY-DO-WE-HAVE-TO-DO-THIS-I-WANT-TO-DO-SOMETHING-ELSE-WHAT-DO-YOU-MEAN-THAT-WE-DON'T-HAVE-TV-OR-INTERNET-I-REALLY-HATE-THIS."  (Kid, even if we had TV or Internet, you couldn't see the screen or reach a plug.  Also, we don't have hot water, because the plumber failed to take the clip off of the line, which means that we had to shower at Nana's last night, so, really, I think we have bigger fish to fry.)

More than once, I had to pull out the "I was an Army brat, we moved all of the time, and whining and other uncooperative behavior was not tolerated" speech.  To hear me tell it, I was responsible for packing and unpacking my own stuff every time we moved -including that first move when I was six weeks old.

The main obstacle du jour is that the Blackmon Mooring packing women decided to err on the side of caution and treat every object in the house as a priceless heirloom.  Hence, the FIVE HUNDRED TWENTY FOUR ginormous cartons that were delivered to my house on Monday and that now block out the sun.  My first reaction was, "Oh, dear God - we're hoarders."  Then I started opening cartons and discovered that they are 90% paper and bubble wrap - which creates another logistical issue, because (1) Spouse and I are committed recyclers, and (2) even if we weren't, the City of Fort Worth doesn't pick up trash in bags.  So, whether we put out the paper and stuff for bulky pick-up next week, drag it to the school's recycling bin or pass it on to others, it all has to go back in boxes - and it fits in the boxes better (allowing you to collapse more boxes flat) if you FOLD IT.  Ugh.  UGH.  UGH.  UGH. 

We are trying to see the humor where we can, and, to that end, we have created three contests:

1.  Dumbest Individually Wrapped Item.  Current front-runners are (a) stadium cup and (b) rock.  Actually, multiple rocks - they were vase fillers, and the packing women wrapped every stinkin' one of them.  You know, in case they were moon rocks or something.  (Actually, they probably are souvenirs from a river trip, so they probably are special - but they are also ROCKS.)

2.  Smallest Item Wrapped in the Biggest Box.  Self-explanatory.

3.  Funniest Item Description.  Packing women had limited use of the English language.  My personal favorite is "kitchen clothes."  (That would be aprons.)

We also have created a fun game called "What's In the Box?"  Explanatory notes, as noted above, are limited, and more often than not boxes of dining room and kitchen stuff fall into four categories:   "cups," "plates," "vases" and "decors."  A "cup" could be anything from a stadium cup to a crystal goblet.  A "plate" could be anything that you eat off of.  A "vase" could be an actual vase, or it could be any other roughly cylindrical object with an open mouth that was deemed not to be a "cup."  And "decors" - well, you could be dealing with anything from a series of individually wrapped rocks to a pig-shaped cookie jar.  So we try to guess what's in the box before we open it.

Thinking of a way to turn this into a drinking game.

In the meantime, our house looks like a rat maze.  There's one path through the common rooms, the hallway between our bedroom and the kids' bedroom is blocked with floor to ceiling boxes, and there's a tunnel straight outta Dig-Dug from the door to C's bedroom to the bunk beds, which are walled in on all sides by boxes.  Both boys are sleeping in there until we can make it through the living room, dining room and kitchen boxes and then relocate their boxes to the living and dining rooms.  It would be ridiculous to open them in place, because you literally can't access the locations where stuff needs to go.

So, for now, the boys' jobs are to help Mom sort through housewares and, in the limited space available to them, consolidate like boxes of their stuff (books with books, toys with toys), while sorting unwanted stuff into discard boxes.  Considering compensating them monetarily for number of cartons collapsed and pounds of items discarded.

While this is going on, the cats' litter box is in our bathtub, which is okay because we can't use our bathroom right now anyway, and are all using the newly remodeled boys' bathroom, which doesn't have the medicine cabinet door installed yet, so you can wash up in there but have to go elsewhere to look at yourself.

Good times.

I tell myself, and the boys, that we need to celebrate the small victories.  Instead of focusing on the sheer enormity of the work, our attitude should be, "Yay, we collapsed twenty more boxes" or "Yay, I found my socks."

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House: There Will Be Wallpaper . . . Or Wallpaper-ish Stuff

As of a few hours ago, we have the green light to move back into Casa McGlinchey.

Mind you, we don't have a certificate of occupancy . . . not per se.  There was an issue with our engineer not stamping a report, and the defect was not discovered until after he had retired and allowed his license to lapse, which is exactly the type of thing that you would expect to happen, given the track record of our restoration/renovation project, you know?  Luckily, an easy fix was proposed by the City, except that our now-retired, aged and kinda crotchety engineer was not inclined to fix anything, because apparently he didn't think the type of report that he was asked to provide was a necessary precondition to issuance of a certificate of occupancy, or some such, and he had believed that this was the case for years (decades, probably), so he decided to use our house to draw a line in the sand.  (Figuratively; he didn't turn it upside down and . . . well, you understand.)  So, basically, he refused to cooperate.  Yada, yada . . . the mayor's office got involved, and according to our inspector he was getting a couple of calls per week from higher-ups asking if our problem had been resolved (because they cared enough about our situation to call, but not enough to waive the requirement - because, apparently, the City was using our house to draw sand lines as well).

Long story short, we got another engineer to issue the report (WITH a stamp), and our inspector - who is now practically part of our family - was, I think, ITCHING to give us a C.O., but he couldn't, not TECHNICALLY, because Engineer #2 failed to include certain magic language in his report.  So we phoned Engineer #2 on the spot, he promised to revise the report and mail it out today, and the inspector gave us the go-ahead to move in, and he'll come by to confirm that the magic language has magically appeared later in the week.  (I should point out that every other house in our neighborhood is under some sort of construction, so the city inspectors just sort of camp out.)

Plan is to start carrying over stuff from the apartment tonight.  First thing I'm setting up is my new craft closet.  Before you say, "That's totally frivolous," allow me to explain:

Craft supplies abound at the apartment; and
I packed them first, because I figured that we won't be needing them while we are moving; and

The craft closet is totally self-contained and in a hallway; so
Moving that stuff first will free up more space (and boxes) at the apartment, and not create an obstruction with respect to the bigger move to come.

By the way, this is the same logic that led me to set up the cocktail tool/canape spreader drawer over the weekend.  I don't THINK that I will be throwing a cocktail party between now and when we are moved in (but if I do, it will have to be at the new house, because that is where the cocktail tools and canape spreaders are).  So, to me, it makes sense to move the non-essential stuff first.  If the outward appearance is that I am all about glue-gunning things with a martini in my hand, well, I guess I'll just have to own that as well.

Problem with the craft closet (formerly known as the pantry) is that the worker bees used it to store a variety of junk, like air duct covers and loose nails and screws (which made some sense because, again, the space is self-contained and centrally located).  Because that stuff was in there, they didn't paint the interior when they were touching up the other closets, nor did the cleaning crew attempt to clean it.  This creates a dilemma:

Do I:

A)  Add it to the punch list and wait to move in my craft supplies?   Survey says:  X.  This presumes that I am a patient person.  Incorrect presumption.

B)  Paint it myself?  No.  Not in the mood for tarps and brushes and TWO types of paint (one for the walls and one for the shelves).  With my luck, I would blemish my brand new floors.

C)  Wing it?  You bet.  When in doubt, wing it is always the best answer.

Plus . . . I really, REALLY want to trick out my craft closet "Mormon mommy blogger" style.  Have you noticed that the coolest, hippest lifestyle bloggers/mega-Pinterest-pinners are LDS followers?  Well, they are, and they all have fabulous craft closets.  And pantries, too, like the one above (from The House of Smiths' blog).

(That's not wallpaper in the photo, by the way.  SHE STENCILED HER PANTRY.  I bow down in tribute.)

I had already decided that I would line my craft closet shelves with a heavy Tiffany blue-ish matte-finished and flannel-backed tablecloth-y sort-of-vinyl (how's that for a description?) that I bought at Garden Ridge.  Only needed a little bit of it for Tiffany's- and Alice-in-Wonderland-themed luncheon table toppers, and it seemed like such a shame to get rid of what was left.

You know what would also be a shame?  Lining a newly painted shelf.  I mean, what's the point of painting something if you're going to immediately cover it up?  I told myself if I was going to go with the shelf liners, I should just ditch the fresh paint idea and (1) stencil or wallpaper the interior of the closet and (2) trim out the edges of the shelves.

Once I committed to winging it, my car kinda steered to see my friend Joann, where I lucked into two rolls of adhesive decorative . . . something.  It's not really wallpaper, and it's not really shelf liner, but it looks to be a product intended for exactly this kind of project.  AND IT'S A CHEVRON PATTERN.  What is up with me and chevrons these days?  Both boys' rooms are getting the chevron treatment in varying doses.  And now the craft closet is getting a (black/white) chevron treatment of its own.  Shelf fronts are going to be trimmed with black seam binding tape, and I've got a little sumpin'-sumpin' planned to finish those off.  The black will look great with the chalkboard labels that I have attached to all of my bins and boxes.

Hence, I have a date with an Xacto knife and some industrial-strength double-sided adhesive tape.  Can't wait to actually accomplish something.  Yes, I know that (almost) getting a C.O. after nine-plus months of hell is an accomplishment.  Designing a kitchen and bathroom totally on the fly:  also an accomplishment.  Not getting divorced during a double-whammy restoration project/mega-insurance battle:  DEFINITELY an accomplishment.  But I haven't accomplished much with my own two hands.  It's nice to have people build things for you and paint things for you.  It's also very frustrating, if you happen to be me.

Thus, people who know me will get the fact that it makes perfect sense to me to Mormon-ize my craft closet with a major move looming on the horizon.  That little bit of creativity will sustain me over the next couple of days.

And then, after we are all settled in, I am acquiring a miter box.  My mom thinks that she has one that she doesn't use.  (God, I love my mother.  And, yes, the apple did not fall far from the tree.)  I want a miter box because I want to try this thing that I saw on Pinterest where you put picture rail molding under your crown molding, leaving some space in between, and you paint the space as well as the molding white, so it looks like one HUGE (and expensive) piece of molding when you are done.  I want to experiment with molding, and this will involve a miter box.  Lowe's will cut your wood for you, but they don't miter.  (This is one of the MANY flaws in the Lowe's system.  Don't get me started.)

I'm sure that I will find a great many other things to miter.  But, first things first - crafting supply order must be achieved . . . .

Monday, May 14, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House: Small Virtual World

Spent a good bit of my Mother's Day tilting at windmills, and by "windmills" I mean "the interiors of my new kitchen cabinets."  Doors to the cabinets open, me standing with my head tilted to one side, trying to figure out what is going to go where, and how far apart the shelves ought to be placed.

After this exercise, I created a short list of necessary cabinet organizing gadgets.  On the list:  a rack thingy (that's a technical term) to hold muffin tins and loaf pans on their sides, which I think will be much more user-friendly going forward than my current system of nesting things in other things. 

So I locate the one that I think I want, which, interestingly enough, is consistently identified on the Interwebs as the "RUBBERMAID 1H42 PAN ORGANIZER."  This description makes me laugh, because it is INCREDIBLY specific, and, also, because 1H42 makes me think of H1N1, giving rise to a visual of a housewife organizing pans containing vials of influenza virus.  This image in my head, in turn, makes me wonder, WHY DOES THAT WOMAN IN MY HEAD HAVE SO MUCH FLU VIRUS THAT IT'S NECESSARY FOR HER TO ORGANIZE IT?  AND DOES SHE REALLY THINK IT'S BEST TO ORGANIZE THE PANS OF FLU ON THEIR SIDES?

After that outburst, I probably don't need to explain that I'm not operating on a whole lot of sleep.


When I pull up the RUBBERMAID 1H42 PAN ORGANIZER on Amazon, I am encouraged to also consider a similar product on the Miles Kimball Web site (I'm assuming that Amazon gets a kickback?).  So I go to the Miles Kimball Web site, and I view their product, and it has a mixed bag of customer reviews.  Some people love it, because it's "lightweight," but, apparently, some folks' "lightweight" is other folks' "flimsy."  I start reading the reviews one by one, and my eye catches on the reviewer description in the left-hand margin of one of the positive reviews:

Shreveport, LA."

Huh.  My dad has a cousin Penny in Shreveport, LA.  One of my favorite relatives, actually.

For a split second, I acknowledge that it's possible that there's more than one Penny in Shreveport.  But then the instinctive part of my brain kicks in:  "Nah, it's Cousin Penny.  Buying, and reviewing, kitchen organizers online is exactly the sort of thing that Penny would do.  And the review totally sounds like her.  It's your Penny, for sure."

At this moment, another part of my brain opines that it's probably NOT rational behavior to assume that there's only one Penny in the ArkLaTex who could possibly be my Miles Kimball reviewer.  Said brain segment starts to blame my lack of sleep - and then blames Fort Worth, my beloved adopted hometown which, I continue to maintain, IS THE BIGGEST SMALL TOWN IN FORT WORTH.  Everyone in this city is connected to everyone else, at least five different ways.  It happens several times per day:  someone mentions a name, and that name not only corresponds to a client/my child's teacher/my down-the-street neighbor/a friend from college, but the actual person corresponds to that other person as well. So forgive me if I'm predisposed to presume that a person who fits the general description of someone I know is, in fact, the person that I know.  I come by it quite honestly.

And then it occurs to me that I am also known to describe Fort Worth as being more Southern than Southwestern (notwithstanding that we're supposedly "where the West begins").  Not sure if Texas A&M will fit into the SEC tailgating culture, but let me tell you - TCU would fit in without missing a step.  All of the elements are there:  the men in seersucker pants and khakis with embroidered motifs, the little kids with their smocking, and women who can rock some serious hats along with their monogrammed EVERYTHING.  In a lot of ways, Fort Worth reminds me of . . . well, my dad's hometown of Shreveport, where I spent summers with my grandparents, watching Pearlie the housekeeper iron linens while she yelled at her "programs," and where dinner was called "supper" and was always accompanied by a relish tray, and at least four vegetables, three of which were fried and one of which was stewed okra.  And occasionally Cousin Penny and her sweet mother Fabol would kidnap me and take me to the country club or the tea room and encourage me to eat way too much dessert.

I have never actually lived there, so I can't technically own the philosophy that "you can take the girl out of Louisiana, but you can't take Louisiana out of the girl" - but there's a part of Louisiana in me, for sure.  For example:  I morph into Louisiana Girl every time I order the special or a vegetable plate-to-go from the cafeteria in our building.  Doesn't matter how much spice is already in a dish:  I instinctively reach for the jar of Trappey's Tabasco peppers that they keep next to the iced tea dispenser (I do opt for unsweetened tea, not "sweet," because when all is said and done, I am a Texas girl).  Then I douse everything on my plate with pepper-infused vinegar.  Why?  BECAUSE IT'S THERE.  It's just what you do.

So perhaps my ready acceptance of the supposition that everyone is no more than 2.8 degrees of separation (I'm estimating) removed from everyone else is a function of both nurture AND nature.  And, perhaps my tendency to gravitate towards all things funky and vintage, and my insistence on housing said things in a drafty old Tudor in an established neighborhood hunkered down under centenarian trees, comes from Cousin Penny - the first person I ever knew to:  convert an entire bedroom into a closet; appropriate an antique dental cabinet for jewelry storage; utilize an old ladder for towel storage in a bathroom; wallpaper her dining room with pieces of torn brown kraft paper bags; and carpet her kitchen (in an anything-but-neutral Art Nouveau pattern - the better to camouflage stains, I guess). 

Fitting that her name would randomly pop up on the day that Spouse pulls the trigger on a wall of vintage school lockers for the Big Kid's room.  (Because you don't particularly want to LOOK at teenage junk, you know?  It's so . . . junky.  Better housed behind steel (ventilated!) doors.  And, also, I am looking forward to conducting random locker sweeps - bolt cutters in hand, in case the cheeky monkey invests in a combination lock, or two, or three.)

Upgraded-but-still-bound-to-be-sorta-funky house in Funkytown, here we come . . . .

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Countdown to the New Old House: Almost Soup

I really hate to type this (for fear of jinxing things), but it would appear that we may receive our final inspection for our certificate of occupancy tomorrow.

This is obviously very exciting news.

What would be even more exciting: to be completely finished in ONE ROOM, just so I could take a picture. We are close on finish-out - so VERY close. The pot's boiling. But we haven't yet fully achieved soup. And we probably won't achieve soup until our stuff gets moved in, because, realistically, you don't want to tackle the punchlist until the movers are done bumping into things and creating more punchlist items.

So I'm trying to find joy in what I can - like these before and after photos of the boys' bathroom linen closet.  I don't actually have a true "before" photo, because the old cabinet was too ugly to merit a photo. You know those Fifties-styled bathroom cabinet drawers that have sort of a bullnose edge going all of the way around? Yeah, they were like that. With chipped paint and bad handles. And an awkward laundry chute-sorta-thing down below.

As such, this isn't a true "before" - it's an "after the contractors installed unfinished cabinet doors, damaging some beadboard trim in the process and revealing some unfortunate blue ceramic tile":

Aha.  THAT's why the prior owners put up the beadboard - the one feature of the room that I decided to keep.  Good decision, because eeeeeegaaaaaads.  Remember, if you will, that the entire room used to be Pepto-Bismol pink, except for the bathtub, which was the color of day-old salmon.

Except, apparently, the room didn't used to be entirely pink.  Once upon a time, it was pink AND blue.  It's like a baby shower threw up.  In a bathroom.

This is the "after" of the linen closet corner, with beadboard restored and handles installed:

Momma likes.  Momma also likes the pedestal sink, which Daddy doesn't like, because he claims that it's too low.  Low, Momma replies, is good, because it leaves room between medicine cabinet and sink for one of those nickel-and-glass shelves like they have in the Restoration Hardware catalog.  Oh, wait:  we have two boys.  And they are OUR boys.  Back-spacing . . . . .

because it leaves room between medicine cabinet and sink for one of those nickel-and-glass shelves like they have in the Restoration Hardware catalog a crown molding shelf painted to match the molding on top of the medicine cabinet.  On which shelf the boys can put useful stuff like their soap pump (which is bamboo, NOT glass) and their toothbrush holder (which is rubber, NOT glass - are you sensing a theme?).

Done, and done - except nooooooo, we're nowhere near done, because the plumber saw fit to cheat the pedestal sink to the left.  Good choice, to the extent that it creates a corner of sink decking that is protected on two sides by wall.  A toothbrush left in that corner has half of a chance of not falling on the floor.

NOT a good choice, to the extent that the sink is nowhere near centered under the medicine cabinet:

Um, yeah, that's a bit . . . wonky.  I have to take a moment here to marvel at the male repitilian brain:  some combination of men thought that, just maybe, this might pass muster with me.  Spouse at least took notice that something was amiss:  I believe that the exact quote was "the sink isn't EXACTLY centered under the cabinet, but it's okay."  REEEEEEEEEALLY?  Is it okay?  Is it in the neighborhood of okay?  After being out of my home for nine months, do you really think I'm going to live with THAT?

Told Spouse that sheetrock is the traditional thirteenth Mother's Day gift, so could he please have the cabinet, and the light fixture above, moved over to the left?  Spouse helpfully pointed out that the light fixture probably is too long to be centered fully over the sink if we leave the sink where it is.  So options are to:  (1) leave the sink where it is, center the medicine cabinet, and have the light fixture 96% centered (that's a rough approximation); (2) leave the sink, center the medicine cabinet, and buy a new light fixture to replace THE BRAND NEW ONE; (3) move the sink and leave everything else where it is, whereupon the sink will essentially be on top of a person sitting on the commode (NEXT!); or (4) have the electrician move the light fixture as far over to the left as it will go, have the main contractor center the cabinet under it, and have the plumber shift the sink ever so slightly to the right (that's what we call in the biz a "three-tradesman trifecta").

Option number 1, it is.

Question:  could just ONE THING proceed from start to finish without a glitch?  Don't answer; it was rhetorical.

In the meantime, I'm refraining from reattaching the molding to the top of the medicine cabinet (it came off in transit, so I painted it separately from the cabinet itself, and I just need to put it back in place with a little wood glue) and installing the mirrored door.  No point in doing all of that if the piece is going to get relocated.  And, also, I put the screws for the door hinges SOMEWHERE when I was painting the cabinet, and then the next day Frank the Hardwood Floor Guy showed up at oh-dark-thirty, and I moved things out of his way all fast-and-furious-like, and I have no idea where the screws ended up.

I will look for them tomorrow night and this weekend, when Project "Install All of the Light Switch and Outlet Covers, Toilet Roll Holders and Towel Bars, Line All of the Drawers and Start Moving Stuff Into the Kitchen Cabinets" commences.  Or hopefully commences.  We'll see what the inspector says before we start populating cabinets.  But hardware installation is a definite must.  Because Momma needs to see some non-wonky progress.

Oh, wait - Spouse, me and an electric drill? Yeah, some wonkiness is bound to be involved.

Side note:  SUPER happy about the extra foot-plus of depth that we reclaimed in the linen closet.  We purposefully didn't put shelves in the lower cabinet, because it would be difficult to reach down and access the back from a standing, or even slightly crouching, position - the thing is THAT deep.  (Easier to access the depths when you are reaching up, so we put in three shelves up top - plan is to store little-used items in Rubbermaid totes in the back, and towels, etc., in the front.)  Instead, we left the lower cabinet as one ridiculously deep cabinet, in which I can store ginormous bulk packages of toilet paper/paper towels/tissues from Sam's or Costco.  The kind that I never buy, because small, old Tudors don't afford that kind of storage space.  Well, I know ONE small, old Tudor that can accommodate bulk buying now!  Woot, woot, woot!  We had them tile the base of the lower cabinet, rather than put a wooden floor down there, to maximize storage space and also to address the inevitable flooding of the bathroom by one of the boys (or two boys working in tandem).  But there's a little lip there, which might keep water from coming in.  Also, benefiting from a happy accident in that, after we decided to tile the bottom of the linen closet, we learned that the guys were out of the floor tile, so they had to use the coordinating subway-style tile from the tub surround.  It's gorgeous and looks for all of the world like a decorative feature that was intentionally planned.  Wait, I'm not supposed to tell you that it wasn't intentional - that defeats the purpose.  Starting over:  WE HAD THE CONTRACTORS CREATE A DECORATIVE TILE PATTERN FOR THE BOTTOM OF THE LINEN CLOSET.  AND IT'S GORGEOUS.

It's the little things, you know?

Monday, May 7, 2012

Things My Mom Says on the Phone


"It's Mum. [My mom pronounces her name 'Mum,' like she's British, notwithstanding the fact that I call her 'Mom,' or 'Momma.'  I cannot account for this.  Also, she insists on identifying herself to me on the phone, as if (1) I don't have caller ID and/or (2) I would not recognize my own mother's voice.]  You're probably watching 'The Voice.'"

"Actually, I just got home from the store, and PJ had already appropriated the TV in our bedroom, so I'm taping it and will watch it later.  What's up?"

"I need you to make some calls from me."

"Ohhhhhkay."  [At this point, I'm thinking that either something has come up with their health insurance, and they want me, their attorney daughter, to intercede on their behalf.  Or perhaps it's a thing with the city - an easement issue or some such?]

"I want you to vote for Maria and Roshon."


"MARIA AND ROSHON.  On 'Dancing with the Stars.'  I want you to vote for both of them."

"So you want me to call . . ."

"ABC.  Six times for Maria, and six times for Roshon."

"Maria . . . Menounos?"

"Yes.  And Roshon is from the Disney Channel.  He's adorable.  He's a great dancer."

"Riiiiiiight.  Most of the kids from Disney are.   They tend to hire triple threats.  And, also, fairly sure that he's on 'Shake It Up,' which is actually a show about dancing."

"The important thing is that you vote for someone other than Melissa Gilbert.  I hate her."

"Sure, because Half-Pint inspires those kinds of feelings in folks."

"So, here are the numbers to call.  [She gives me the numbers.]  The lines are open now.  So I'm hanging up, so that you can start calling."

Yes, I actually called.  Roshon's line was busy every time, so I kept voting for Maria.  Six times.  Then I tried Roshon's number again, and was told that six was the maximum number of calls that I could make from my phone, period, and not just for one contestant.

At that exact moment, my phone rings.

"I was wrong.  You can only vote six times total, not six times per contestant."

"Yeah, I just discovered that myself.  The automated message told me to vote on, so I'm logging on now. [WHY AM I LOGGING IN?  BECAUSE IT'S MY MOTHER.  SHE GAVE BIRTH TO ME.  AND, ALSO, YOU HAVE TO PICK YOUR BATTLES.]"

"If that doesn't work, have your husband call."

"Ummmmmm, yeah, I'll just do the thing.  [NOT BRINGING YOUR SON-IN-LAW INTO THIS INSANITY.]"

In case it wasn't obvious from the foregoing, allow me to explain that my mother is like an old-school Chicago ward boss when it comes to DWTS voting.  SHE VOTES ON BEHALF OF DECEASED PEOPLE.  I am not making that up.  My grandfather, God rest his soul, continued to log DWTS votes for a year-plus after his demise.  Yes, I just outed my mother for DWTS voting fraud.  Fairly sure that she's not the only one.

Because this is serious business.  HALF-PINT MUST BE DEFEATED AT ALL COSTS.

I love my momma.  Or mum.  Whatever.

Still Alive . . . And Not Yet Incarcerated

Yes, I know that I fell off of the face of the Earth for a little while there.  Sorry about that.  I have been somewhat consumed with trying to move back into my house.  Emphasis on "trying."

Feel like I'm trapped in that Paula Adbul video with the cartoon cat.  "Two steps forward, two steps back."  Example:  Cannot get final electrical inspection until someone does something about the wire protruding from the middle of my kitchen floor.  The wire that was supposed to bring power to a plug in my island.  Except that the contractors didn't bother to ask where my island was, eventually, going to be located when they were tiling the kitchen floor - instead, they just randomly drilled a hole in a tile and pulled a wire through it.  Needless to say, the wire did not correspond to a point actually ON, or even remotely NEAR, the surface of the island.  No, it came up through the floor in the space where the island is open for stools.  Okay, I said, we'll roll with it:  we'll just put a plug in the floor.  Why do I need a plug in the floor?  I DON'T.  But it seemed easier than capping off the wire and replacing one floor tile.  So off to Lowe's I went.  One floor plug purchased (for the ridiculous price of $46 - suffice it to say that floor plugs are quite space-age).  Electricians cut a larger hole in the tile to make room for the plug - and discovered that the wire stub protruding through the floor was a dead wire stub, on account of how someone had severed the electrical under the floor.  How?  When?  We may never know.  The irony:  all of this time that I have been semi-worried about the (capped-off) live wire in the middle of my kitchen floor, the actual live wire was under my floor. . . . where it could have started a fire.

Lovely.  Just lovely.  Didn't I just pay a lot of money to have the wires removed from the crawlspace and pulled into the walls to avoid an arcing wire under my feet?  One wire remained under the floors.  JUST ONE.  And they managed to screw that one up.

So the electricians turned off that circuit and went under the house to fix the problem . . . except that another contractor (probably the same one who managed to cut the wire) failed to dig a sufficient trench to permit passage to the center of the kitchen.  Meaning that someone is going to have to go in from under our new range, run some sort of tool across the kitchen, catch the severed wire, pull it to where they can cap it . . . and then I am having the damned thing stuffed back under the floor, and the cut tile cut out and removed, and the $46 floor plug is going back to the store (if it's returnable), because, seriously, put a fork in me, I'm done.

Can't get inspected until the electrical work is finished - and, also, the plumbing.  Plumbing, like electric, is almost complete - ALMOST, except for stupid stuff, like the sink that is only half installed, because the top of the pedestal couldn't go in, because another contractor had put up new drywall that wasn't dry yet.  Isn't that ironic?  Wet drywall.  Adjacent to a sink.  Plumber can't - or won't - guarantee that he'll be back tomorrow. 

Meantime, I have cut drawer liner - yards and yards of drawer liner - that it would be stupid to install until they do the final cleaning.  I have the contents of my new craft closet packed and ready to go - but they just did touch-up paint in the craft closet, so it's still sticky.  And on and on and on . . . .

I have packed the apartment - to a point.  Doesn't make sense to go much further, given that I don't have a place for the boxes to go yet.

What to do?  Aha - Tuesday is trash day at the apartment complex and recycling day at the house.  So I spent my evening cleaning out the freezer, fridge and pantry at the apartment.  Pared things down significantly, filling two boxes of recycling and four bags of trash in the process.

And then I watched "The Voice."  And "Smash."  And now I'm blogging, and watching "Battle of the Network Stars,"  at 1:21 am in the morning.  Because, damn her, my friend Beth tipped me off that BotNS is being rebroadcast on ESPN Classic.  I'm not going to lie, seeing Ed Asner in a Speedo take a bath in the dunk tank, buoyed my mood.  (Get it?  Buoyed?  Because he's in water?  Anyway.)

This promises to be an interesting week.