31 October 2009
This moving effort has been a huge investment in time, money and energy. Yesterday was the day that we officially moved all of our furnishings, appliances and animals from Cristy’s house and my offsite storage unit to the new house. The moving team was great [big kudos to Three Men Movers]. Naturally there will be a few million predictable tasks and errands that accompany a move. Now, thanks to Murphy, we can add three more to the list.
#1 the electrical plug for the clothes dryer is incompatible with the receptacle on the wall. Big problem. We have 5 dogs. Laundry is a constant in this household. We immediately went to Lowe’s to get a replacement connector with the proper plug type. Seemed like a straightforward fix until Cristy started working on it and found that she was unable to remove the old wiring. After consulting with several family members, Plan B appears to be to hire an experienced appliance repair person to replace the wiring. Cha-ching!
#2 Jasper figured out how to climb over the dog run fencing. OK, not a problem as long as we are here. The purpose of the dog run is to permit the dogs outside access while we are at work, but keep them away from the swimming pool. Sometime during the night, Jasper just climbed over the fence like it was nothing. Not good. We will go back to Lowe’s and buy another spool of fencing mesh, the taller kind, to replace the shorter segment that she scaled. Cha-ching! She is a clever dog, and obviously very motivated. I predict this will not be the end of the story.
#3 Jasper (again!) figured out how to dislodge the cover from the dog door. Another big problem. Having a cover on the door is a requirement to keep the dogs IN the house. Like when the lawn maintenance service is here, or when we are treating the yard with insecticide, or when we are entertaining outdoors and don’t necessarily want the canines standing at the fence howling to join in on the amusement. The solution to this problem is out of our current span of imagination. But I predict there is a high probability the cha-ching noise will accompany the solution.
In spite of the complaining about Murphy, it feels good to be here. Incredibly good. It will take longer than I anticipated to unpack and longer still to furnish it as beautifully as I want, but I’m not complaining. Every one of the non-Murphy projects can be planned, anticipated and will serve as a source of joy and inspiration as we feather this beautiful nest. For now, I sit here at the kitchen counter looking at the soft light all around me, the sleeping dogs and the haphazardly arranged furniture and feel nothing but pure bliss.
28 October 2009
I don’t fly the flag at work, but I do have a photo of Cristy and me holding hands on my cork-board. A handful of colleagues, including my boss, have met Cristy and a fair number of other colleagues know that I am gay and that she and I are involved in a loving, committed relationship.
Last week, as I was having a casual conversation with a co-worker in our office-kitchenette, it occurred to me that he thought that I was straight (as in hetero). In my mind, I had at least a few options: (a) immediately set the record straight (as in truthful), (b) ignore it – his assumptions are his business or (c) worry about it later. My preference would have been option (a), however a variety of work-related scheduling considerations prevented me from entering into what undoubtedly would have become a somewhat lengthy and personal conversation. I defaulted to option (c).
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a firm believer in option (b) as well – allowing everyone the opportunity to form their own opinions. But there comes a time in the formation of human relationships when trust and honesty trumps the “don’t ask-don’t tell” approach. My relationship with this coworker, while not personally close, is genuinely respectful and affectionate. I like to talk with him and enjoy hearing stories about his family. I appreciate him as an individual and as a professional. He is one of the many, many reasons that I love my job. So in my mind, not setting the record straight with him about being gay is lying. I cannot envision myself lying to this individual under any other set of circumstances, so why would I lie about this?
The truth is, I won’t. I will find an appropriate opportunity to fill him in on the missing information that will assemble a complete representation of my reality. I respect his ability as a mature human to adjust to the new information and reshape his opinions about me, if that is what he might choose to do. But I don’t think he will. I give everyone the benefit of the doubt about managing gay-out news. I think of it as little more than a slice of information that doesn’t affect anyone else personally. Oh, she has 5 dogs. Oh, she’s moving to a new house. Oh, she sent out that report with all those cool graphs last week. Oh, she’s involved in a committed relationship with another female.
Am I oversimplifying this perhaps just a tad? OK, possibly, but only to the extent that I'm not accounting for the element of surprise. Other than that, I don’t think so. I’m being straight here.
26 October 2009
Today, Cristy is my guest blogger, but I am her proxy. I am retelling the story she has relayed, in her voice, about one of these experiences. (Taking a few editorial liberties here and there Cristy, hope you don’t mind.)
The master bedroom has 2 clothes closets. Both are large enough to accommodate a twin bed and both have 10-foot ceilings with 3 layers of hanging space. One of the closets is slightly larger than the other, and since Diane’s collection of clothes and shoes rivals the inventory of the nearest department store, she took that one.
She made it clear from the outset that she required adequate storage space for her shoes and was not averse to hiring a professional closet consulting firm to build out the space. I thought a trip to Lowe’s might be in order on the off-chance that we could defray this expense with a lower cost solution. We found some simple wall-mounted shelving for shoes and purchased enough for about 14 linear feet of storage. She was ecstatic. After I installed it, shoes flew into the closet in mere moments filling up the space. It was an impressive display, if I do say so myself.
Five minutes later, she informed me that the closet was still not up to par. The bars for hanging clothing in the closets are not adjustable and are positioned to accommodate shorter items. She needed more space for longer items. But, she had a recommendation: just remove one of the shelves with its attached hanging bar. Then the one above it would have more clearance at the bottom. Sure, sounded reasonable enough. Anything to avoid that professional build-out.
She said she would get started on it herself. A few minutes later she returned and said that she could not get the shelf to budge. I went to take a look. She had removed the screws that connected the shelf to the mounting bracket, but the shelf was securely affixed to the wall and the supporting ledge with nails and caulk. We would have to dislodge it.
I took a hammer and rapped the lower side of the shelf a few times but, sure enough, it did not move. Diane took the hammer, and with impressive force, whacked the lower side of the shelf a dozen times. I looked on with astonishment. My girlfriend of the gentle and compassionate nature, the one who doesn’t kill insects and is a vegetarian, was hammering the sillystring out of this shelf.
She. Wanted. It. Gone.
With a renewed spirit, we both whaled on the shelf until it finally broke free and we pulled it out of the wall. She didn’t stop there. She moved right to the hanging rod and began pulling and twisting to see if it would dislodge. Together we pulled. Again. Then a budge. Another big tug. Then we noticed we were tearing away the top layer of dry wall. Oops.
She grabbed a hand saw. Plan B. Cut the rod out. Two self-inflicted bleeding wounds later (one for each of us), the closet was perfect.
I’m glad we don’t do this sort of work for a living, we would probably kill ourselves.
24 October 2009
This phase of work is complete, crossed off our treacherously long to-do list, as we take a giant step closer to moving day. Over 2000 square feet of flooring has been replaced with tile and wood, their deep grounding colors a world apart from the previous incarnation, bland and essentially color-free. The fireplace surround, formerly a nondescript ceramic tile is now gorgeous polished granite. The stunning dining room chandelier, a reproduction design of a French antique, replaces the former plain-vanilla variety from the big-box home improvement store.
Two very significant projects still remain on the list. One is scheduled with a contractor for work early next week and the other Cristy and I are going to initiate ourselves.
Dozens of projects, less critical to our daily existence, both large and small in magnitude, will continue to vie for our time, attention and home improvement budget, but we will address each in turn. We will find opportunities to enrich our world and enhance the beauty of our home in many ways; each project a chance to express creativity, practice negotiating and build our nest together.
Today we stop for a minute to exhale, look around and smile. We are moving forward. Making this journey, together, is the experience that matters to us both.
22 October 2009
It was trash day and I had 3 sets of molded styrofoam packing material from some new ceiling fans. To fit them into trash bags in the most economical way, I had to break them apart. Took a little longer than I thought, but in the end, there were only 3 bags of trash at the curb rather than 5 or 6.
Unfortunately, as I was backing out of the driveway, a gentle gust of wind caught one of the lightweight bags and tossed it just behind my car. I rolled over it breaking apart the bag and watched in shocked dismay as broken bits of styrofoam packing began flying, tumbling down the street. This was certainly not part of my original plan when I was attempting to be conscientious by packing my trash in the most earth-friendly manner as possible, considering the contents were hardly biodegradable.
I quickly parked the car along the street and ran indoors for a new trash bag. Then undertook the task of retrieving as many stray pieces of packing debris as I could locate. Finished, I headed over to the new house to apply the final touches to the chandelier project and start applying grout sealer to the new tile floor.
The silver lining is always better than the dark cloud. The tile floor is understated but very attractive. I had several hours to examine it up close and personal as I was painting liquid sealer into the grout lines. And more progress is being made on the wood floor areas of the house. It is going to be just lovely. The light border edging gives it a mildly informal look. I think exactly the sort of genteel informality that Cristy and I had in mind. I’m quite certain that before too very long, this big empty house covered with dusty footprints, adhesive and layers of plastic will morph into the beautiful home that we catch a glimpse of from time to time in our heads.
21 October 2009
Kudos to Lowe's for making the Valspar product return completely effortless. Easy, done.
Next up on the list of DIY projects is painting two cute little tables that will go in one of the guest rooms. Primer and first coat has already been applied to the first table. I wll begin sanding the second table this afternoon and look into replacing the drawer pull too.
And the countdown continues...9 days to go.
19 October 2009
Last year, just about this time, I found the inspiration to attempt a little project of my own. I decided to create some simple fall arrangements for the Thanksgiving table. I purchased some pretty supplies and invested many hours tending to this creative project. The outcome was underwhelming. But I laughed about it and put it behind me. Until now.
I am undertaking several DIY household decorating projects. My source of inspiration is not the house and garden network on cable, but the design*sponge blog. This blog regularly highlights the gorgeously successful outcomes of other people’s DIY home decorating projects. The photos make it look easy enough. I’m equipped with above-average intelligence, so how hard can it be, right?
First on the list is a chandelier refinishing project. Our house was built about 10 years ago and strangely, none of the earlier owners decided to alter the original décor. The builder-grade lighting fixtures installed in the 1990s that probably looked economical, but pretty enough then, now look down-right inexpensive and dated. Cristy and I had a vague vision for our dining room and I selected a new chandelier fixture for that room to replace the old one. The new one is gorgeous and it will look splendid. But we do not have the budget to purchase an equally splendid chandelier for the adjacent parlor. DIY to the rescue!
The old dining room chandelier is substantial, and nicely proportioned; its bright brass finish is dated and not exactly suited to our taste. So refinishing it for use in the parlor would be just the thing! On Saturday, I walked confidently into Lowes (for the 9th time that week) and described my “project” to one of the employees so she could direct me to all of the supplies I would need. Target look: antique porcelain finish. Way better than shiny brass.
Let’s see. I needed a 10-foot ladder, some spray-paint primer, 2 colors of latex paint, some crackle faux finish product, paint glazing product and a clear spray-gloss. Plus a drop-cloth, foam brushes and tape. Not exactly a low-cost project. But hey, we really needed the 10-foot ladder to change light bulbs and air filters anyway. Back at the house, I removed the chandelier, hung it in the garage, spread out the drop-cloth, taped up the light-bulb holders, cleaned the surface and applied primer to the metal. Step one complete.
Step two was Sunday’s task. Applied the latex paint base color coat. So far it looks ok, but this is going to take a while. I still need to apply the crackle product, glaze and spray gloss. Then I need to do something about the chain that suspends the chandelier from the ceiling. I guess this will be part-2 of the same project. Hopefully it will be finished by Friday when our lighting installer shows up.
17 October 2009
15 October 2009
Over the past 24 hours I have had the privilege to add to this list. Nothing so unusual as to rival the astronaut cyclist or the surfing nose piercing guy, but good enough for an honorable mention.
First, 6:55 am, driving to the house to meet the contractors. It is still dark outside. There is an SUV stopped in the middle of the road at precisely the location where I need to turn left to enter the subdivision. I slowly approach and determine that this car is not moving; the interior light is on. I decide to pass, and as I do, I catch a glimpse of the driver applying makeup. So weird, why not just do it at home in better light?
Second, shortly after noon, the same day. It has been raining lightly but steadily for hours. I am driving north on a busy city street and notice two pedestrians walking abreast of each other at the same pace and in the same direction but not side-by-side. There is a man with an umbrella walking in the grass at the edge of the street and a woman without an umbrella walking in the middle lane of this busy street. She seems immune to the cars whizzing by all around her.
Third, mid-afternoon, the same day. The rain has finally abated and it is now hot and humid. I am driving south on the same busy city street and notice yet another pedestrian in the middle lane. This time it is a young woman pushing a baby carriage. There are so many things wrong with this situation, including the fact that there is a controlled intersection not 200 yards away, that I just don’t know how to process the absurdity.
Fourth, approaching twilight on the same day. I am making my final trip over to the new house with a load of boxes and other belongings. The first turn from a major city street to a neighborhood street takes you along a fairway. If you follow the street it will eventually lead to the country club. There are no sidewalks along this road and the lighting is poor. As I made this first turn, I noticed a pedestrian walking on the street. A man wearing a suit and tie. Seemed like he should have been driving a BMW.
Maybe if I had seen only one of these sightings, it would have ranked insignificant and been lost among the minutiae of the day’s activities.
13 October 2009
“I’ll be there Tuesday morning at 6:45 ready to begin work.”
I was stuck at a broken traffic signal right about that time but arrived 10 minutes later to unlock the door to our new house for the first time. The crew didn’t waste any time and got right to work with hammers and mallets, breaking up the tile and carrying the debris out to their truck.
I started unloading my car. The first of five carloads of boxes, dishes and household items Cristy and I would carry over today.
Mid-morning an unexpected cancellation in another tradesman’s schedule permitted him to fit our foundation repair work in today. We met him at the house at about 3 o’clock, just after another car unload. By this time, the flooring contractor had taken a day’s worth of demolished tile and pulled-up carpeting off to a depository; Cristy and I had a few minutes of quiet in the house to plan our next move. But of course: a trip to Lowes! $350 later (not including $110 in coupon and gift card credits) we had several more projects mapped out.
I am headed back just now, with the last carful of belongings to move today. As a special treat, I’m bringing along some snacks for Cristy and am going to drop by Sonic to get a cold drink for us both. Too bad they don’t serve cran-tinis at Sonic.
Day one of the move-in extravaganza is drawing to a close. 17 more days until the remodeling and moving process will be complete.
12 October 2009
After I finished speaking with the excellent representative at Reliant energy, he enticed me to stay on the line while he transferred me to “partner services” with the promise of a discount coupon to Lowes. Well, I’m all about a discount, and goodness knows the list of items we need to purchase from Lowes keeps growing, so that was all he needed to say.
Next thing I know, I’m talking with a nice guy named Kevin with partner services. Still, this phrase that does not yet mean anything to me. Then he explains it. For the convenience of customers moving to another property, Reliant has established partner relationships with a handful of telecommunications service providers. He asks whether we need to transfer a home telephone.
I say no, we don’t have one.
OK, he says. We do represent a couple of cable and internet service providers that serve your area. Will you be needing cable or internet?
Yy-ye-ess. I say slowly, my palms beginning to sweat. Oh no. Is he going to ask difficult questions about high digital definition, ultra broadband super duper networking? Because I am afraid my head might explode.
So I quickly start backpedaling. But look, I say. I’m not the right person with whom you should be having this discussion. I don’t know much about televisions or computers.
That’s ok, he says. I’m kind of an expert.
Do I detect a certain amount of smugness in that remark? I think I do! So I quickly figure out the only way to respond will be to engage an ally. I ask him to hold while I conference Cristy onto the line with us. Fortunately for me, I know how to use the conference call function on my phone. Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha.
Thank goodness she’s there. And she can talk. And she is pretty darned interested in having this conversation too – she happens to know a thing or two about both of the vendors that he represents and ever-so-nonchalantly tosses in a jargony term or two.
I am so proud of her I could burst with joy. The blood is rushing through my ears and I can not exactly hear the particulars of their conversation, but I can tell that she is pressing for clarification on a couple of areas of concern, selecting an installation date, and deftly negotiating yet another signing bonus gift. Then it is over.
My heart beat returns to normal. I thank her profusely. She is completely calm, as if nothing frightening has occurred at all. She knows how I feel about technology – it is as if tiny men from Jupiter were descending into the room. She just laughs. I’m so glad I can amuse her, because I love her so.
11 October 2009
When I was a young girl, my mom made Christmas magical. She arranged table centerpieces, decorations for the foyer, gathered festive collections of pine cones, played holiday music on the piano, made scrumptious goodies and decorated our tree beautifully. She added the prettiest of touches to wrapped presents and Christmas cards. The house was fragrant with cedar boughs, cinnamon stick bundles and freshly baked cookies. None of our decorations were elaborate or expensive. What mattered most was the excitement and the joy that she shared.
Mommy let me make pretty paper chains to decorate my room and gave me extra pieces of garland for a touch of sparkle. I loved everything sparkly, glittery, twinkling. Every time I walked into my bedroom, I felt a fresh surge of joy. Today I have the same feelings about Christmas decorations. It is the one time of year when more is definitely more: sparkly, glittery, twinkling. I have been accumulating decorations for many years, so there is nothing very uniform in terms of an overall holiday theme. Just pretty. As I open each box of ornaments carefully packed away from the year before, I feel the same excitement from my childhood.
2009 will be my first year to share the holiday with Cristy in our own home. And there is so much of it to decorate. My collection of decorations that last year, in my small house seemed abundant will undoubtedly now appear spare. But over time, the collection will grow to fill the space. Each year we’ll add just a tiny bit more.
I am secretly hoping that I can convince mommy to come visit soon and make a gorgeous centerpiece for the dining room table. It would be the crowning glory of my collection and a perfect way to create the best possible Christmas energy in our home. Better than Santa himself.
09 October 2009
I am looking forward to selecting several patterns of pretty wrapping paper to use for lining cupboards, cabinets and shelves. I love the unexpected delight of opening a kitchen drawer or bathroom cabinet to find a beautifully patterned paper design peeking up from amidst the spoons, rolling pins or towels.
I am looking forward to organizing supplies in an assortment of bins and baskets, perhaps lined with some pretty cloth remnants given to me by a friend. Utility rooms can always use an added bit of cheer here and there.
I am looking forward to spray painting the two little tables I found via craigslist a nice crisp white. I might push the limits of my poorly developed sense of decorative inspiration and replace the drawer pulls with something simple, less formal.
Mostly, I am looking forward to being in the house and listening for the pace and rhythm of the energy there to give me clues to the unanswered decorating questions Cristy and I keep asking each other. I know the answers will come in time.
08 October 2009
I ponder this thought as I pass the same balloon signs on my commute each day. Particularly because air-loss, over time, in the balloon objects makes them collapse, reducing my level of overall confidence in the relative marketing impact.
My working hypothesis has reached equilibrium around the idea that perhaps this advertising mechanism is a very low cost approach at attracting attention. Perhaps the businesses that have engaged this mechanism subscribe to the theory “any publicity is good publicity.” Seems to work for celebrities, anyway.
07 October 2009
At a meeting with a group of colleagues last week, we discussed an emerging practice of prioritizing leads according to a certain criterion. It occurred to me that the de-prioritized leads might be recycled for cultivation in another area. Seemed like a reasonable possibility. I may have mentioned it in passing to a couple of other colleagues and they eagerly contacted me yesterday to inquire about the status of my validation effort.
After examining the population and the demographic descriptors around this population, they are not a good fit. My idea was baloney. But nonetheless, I’m glad that I checked it out. Better to have examined a pool of discarded leads than to simply discard them without any further thought. In the future, I might learn to be slightly more judicious in couching my ideas verbally.
06 October 2009
There was a snag or two along the way and for reasons that are perhaps beyond my comprehension, our lender required new signatures and new dates.
However, it is indeed complete, and we have purchased the very house we wanted to buy. And next Tuesday, a very skilled tradesman will start installing a thousand square feet of tile, which will initiate a chain reaction of pre-move-in events.
How we long to have cabinets and closets and a dog-door. How I long to have a place for my shoes and financial files and purses and wrapping paper. How luxuriantly different that will be from the way we have been living for nearly 6 months now with my belongings crammed into every extra square inch of space available in this home. I have not been able to access many of these items and perhaps upon unpacking them, I may discover that I don't exactly need to keep them. But that is a completely different subject.
From this milestone, a new countdown ensues. October 31st represents the last day of the month for offsite storage rental. My goal will be to substantially complete the very long list of pre-move-in tasks and engage the moving company to transfer our belongings to the new house on or before October 31st, All Hallow's Eve. We stand at T-25 (days) and counting.
Before I forget, kudos to each and every individual involved in this process. I have a new-found respect for individuals that work in this industry. But beyond that, I am honored to have worked with such a stellar group of individuals as those that supported every step of our journey: our talented and tenacious real estate agent Sandy Steitz, our fabulous mortgage broker team The Kyles Group, and the wonderful individuals at First American Title. A sincere thank you!
First, a common spider. Instead of pulling out the can of bug spray when finding a spider in the house, maybe a better approach is to move the spider outdoors. A couple of days ago, Cristy found a rather large spider indoors. Gracyn had it trapped in a corner. So Cristy retrieved it and sent it on its way outside where it quickly went to work locating a proper location for a new web. This is what spiders do. On the one hand, the spider selected a location near the eve of the house on the deck, a place frequented by humans and canines alike. It is doubtful that we would much like running into this spider or the spider web. But on the other hand, there are an abundance of flies in the backyard and this natural predator will surely do a superb job in assisting to diminish that population.
Second, a scorpion. This story comes to us via a friend that formerly lived in Phoenix. Moving to Phoenix from Houston with his wife and two young children years ago, he was first a bit surprised to encounter so many scorpions in that habitat and they responded by aggressively exterminating. However, the after-effect of this response was an incredible surplus of crickets. While it was common knowledge among their neighbors, my friends did not realize that the scorpions living around their yard helped to keep the cricket population in check. By coexisting with the scorpions, nature found the proper balance.
It’s all about perspective. Conquer the fear of a scary-looking arachnid. Coexist. Our reward is the benefit of the valuable service they perform naturally.
03 October 2009
Circular tables are not commonly available in excess of 6-feet in diameter. This one, at 7 feet, is probably the largest table that our new dining room can comfortably hold. Our hope was primarily, to find a dining table that could seat as many guests as possible. And secondarily, we wanted to achieve this by leveraging tactics of thrifty economics, thus Craigslist.
Thankfully, in modern day dining rooms, there is no need for suits of armor, heavy swords, or dueling over a chair. But as an homage to the legend loved by so many, we will keep the beauty of the Arthurian spirit alive in our new home with the addition of this beautiful round table in our dining room.
In the past 3 days, I have encountered 2 errors on 2 separate settlement statements. The first error impacted me to the tune of a couple thousand dollars. The title company caught the error just prior to our closing transaction. The second error impacted me by only $250; I caught the error myself. It was one of the few numbers whose meaning I actually understood and I was easily able to determine that it was incorrect. We’re batting 1000 on the incorrect settlement statement preparation average. Doesn’t instill a lot of confidence.
This quality control track record is not exactly wonderful. It gives me pause to consider whether there are other fees charged in my column incorrectly, but just not identified by anyone responsible for double or triple checking? The fact that I don’t buy or sell a house every day makes me nervous enough, but layering on the accounting mistakes I am witnessing in the transaction just magnifies this stress.
For better or worse, it will all be over at 1pm Monday.
02 October 2009
01 October 2009
Back to the boa, I thought this would be a relatively easy item to give away. I first asked a couple of young women at the office that I thought would probably be going out to a hip Halloween party and might want a fun, over-the-top accessory. No go on that idea. Next I offered the boa to a high-school aged boy who is involved in the performing arts at his school. That seemed like an obvious choice to me – he would probably know some cute girl that would adore it, right? No go on that idea, either.
So, I changed my tactic and decided to target a younger audience. I brought the marabou to work and took it by the desk of a colleague who has a young step-daughter. I thought that if she saw it in person, she would instantly know that her kid would just love it. Not exactly a fit. She did have a suggestion, though. She recommended that I try to give it to another colleague involved in a Halloween party for kids at work. All the volunteers for this party will be wearing costumes and she needed one. Well, that route didn’t pan out either.
I know two or three more colleagues here in the office with young daughters. But I have to admit that the outlook appears bleak. Fortunately, I do have a fallback plan if these prospects fail: donation to the prop collection for community theater via another colleague. Adoptive home of last resort, but I would nonetheless count that as a success.
Who would ever think that it was so difficult to give away free stuff?