Is There Life Before Coffee?

(Random Thoughts and Memories of an Aspiring Eccentric)





The Migraines of Moving

Helpful packing and moving tips, from the internet:

1. Color code your move! Put a Post-It note or a square of construction paper on the doorway of each room, in your new house. Give each room its own color. Use a corresponding color of duct tape to mark and seal each box that you are moving. This will easily identify which room each box should go into.

2. Place a floor plan of your new house at each entry, with the rooms labeled (in the same color marker as the assigned color code). Those helping you move can quickly and easily locate where each room is located!

3. Remember to place plastic tarps or runners on the floors of your new home, so carpets don't get muddy.

4. Number each box. On a clipboard (or, if you prefer, in a cute journal), inventory ALL of the contents of each box. That way, if you suddenly discover that you need something particular... like a favorite bracelet, or a child's favorite action figure... you know exactly which box it is in. Bonus... the list will identify any boxes that are forgotten in the vehicle or left behind!

5. Pack a few days worth of clothing, daily toiletries, and other essential items in suitcases, for each family member. Then, you can take your time to unpack. Keep two separate boxes of "essentials" you might need, over the first few days... a coffee maker and coffee, towels, bedsheets, lightbulbs, aspirin and bandages, etc. (they give you two lists). Mark these "Last to Load... Unload FIRST!"

6. Create a photo essay of your new house and neighborhood, featuring all of the wonderful features that you and your family are looking forward to... a playroom, local park, library shelves full of exciting books, etc... and display it in your home, to build excitement!

7. Prepare pets and children for the move, well in advance. Take them to visit the new house and neighborhood, pointing out the features that you think they will love.

8. Have a big yard sale, before you move... this will drastically reduce the number of unwanted objects you will be moving, reduce your moving costs, and add a little extra money towards new furniture or decorating in the new house.

The list goes on and on.
I'm calling B.S.
I would like to offer everyone a more reasonable, simpler, and more REALISTIC list of moving tactics... one that I have utilized successfully throughout each of the many moves I've made, over the years.


1. Put stuff you want to keep in boxes. Fold them, with the ol' standby "overlap fold." Tape them with whatever strong tape you have, handy, if you must. On each box, write a simple word to identify where the crap goes: "Bedroom." "Office." "Kitchen." You get the idea.

2. If you really want to, write a second word to help give you a general idea of where the stuff in the box goes. For instance: "Bedroom (nightstand)." "Living Room (Movies)." If you have too many boxes of "Office (Desk)" to figure out where a pen or pencil is, you need to downsize.

3. Nobody has the time to spend, organizing a yard sale. Things are chaotic, enough. When you sort your stuff, be ruthless. Pack the things you want. Give away, throw out, or haul off the crap that you DON'T want. If you really hope to make a few bucks, wait to haul off the "donate" pile until you've got everything else packed in boxes and the house cleaned up. THEN have your dang yard sale. Whatever you don't sell, throw back in the bags or boxes and take in to the thrift store or church, for donation. If an item isn't good enough to sell, it shouldn't be in the donation bag to begin with... pitch it.

4. Arrange to clean your new house's floor, the day after you move. Seriously. That plastic is just going to be a pain to move, when it has furniture and boxes on it... and adds a new tripping/slipping hazard to the game of "carrying heavy boxes through a house." Just don't.

5. Do you really have the time to bring your cat and goldfish over, to take a tour of the new neighborhood? Are you willing to sacrifice a couple of afternoons, taking a photo shoot of the grocery store and the playground? Most of all, do you want your new neighbors to think of you as "That crazy lady who was taking pictures of my kids on the swings, and telling her poodle 'That's where you are gonna go potty.... yes, it is! Isn't it wonderful?' No. No, you don't.  The pets will adjust. 

6. Packing a couple of boxes of "essentials" for the first night is a fine idea. Be realistic, though. You know the box that says "Utility (Cleaning)" has the cleaning supplies. Little Johnny can play with his toys when the box that says "Johnny (toys)" comes off the blasted truck. Pack basic tools (whatever you used to take furniture apart), the furniture hardware (don't believe them when they tell you to "put them in a plastic bag, and tape them to the furniture pieces..." this only insures that you will lose ALL of the hardware, at once. Instead, put them in the bags, with a piece of paper that says what each bag of hardware goes TO, and throw it in the "essential" box).

7. Don't be lazy. Get your stuff put away. An overnight bag? Sure.But... SUITCASES? Look, if it takes you "three to five days" to unpack a box of underwear and t-shirts, you have no business having your own house, to begin with. 

So, there you have it... my easy-to-follow moving tips.
If I've missed anything, please add them to the comments, below!






The Great Grainbin Invasion of 2012

(From my Diary)

DAY 1:

That Friday was much like the rest of the week had been, in Central Ohio ... humid, no breeze, and HOT... about 100-105 degrees, hot.

I took a break from doing laundry and working in the garden, and booted up the ol' laptop. A longtime friend of mine (who happens to be a meteorologist) had sent me a message.
"Big storm, headed your way. Winds over 50 mph. Possible hail, up to two inches in diameter." 

Puzzled, I looked out of the big double windows. Blue skies. Not a cloud in sight. He must have me confused with someone else. I sent him a reply... "Clear skies, sunny, and bright, here."

After I sent it, I waited for an answer.
To pass the time, I watched the men working across the street. For nearly four days, these guys had been toiling away in the scorching heat, building a new grain bin. It was finally done... 48 feet tall (not counting the roof) and 30 feet around. They were installing the anchor bolts, now. Pretty neat to watch, actually.

Three minutes later, I sent my friend a second message.
"Sky grew dark. Hearing the first roll of thunder, as I type this."
Black clouds had suddenly rolled out of the Northwest, and it was obvious that we were going to have one doozy of a thunderstorm. My oldest daughter ran out to collect the grandbaby's toys, so they wouldn't get blown into the cornfield if the wind picked up. 

One minute later, she came into the house. Her nose was bleeding, heavily. I asked her if she had fallen. She shook her head no, and opened her clenched fist to show me two pieces of hail. Each was roughly an inch in diameter.
Now, the hail was pelting the house. Concerned for their safety, I looked out at the men across the street. Two had sought shelter. The third was frantically trying to collect tools and keep papers and plastic buckets from blowing out into the street. I saw a large (2 1/2 foot by 4 foot) piece of steel sheeting fly up off of the ground, and soar over my rooftop like a plastic bag in a heavy breeze. The man ran for shelter.

Instantly, the rain began to pour. My daughter and I began closing windows and unplugging electronics and appliances. The electric flickered off, then immediately came on. 
There was a tremendous crash, as a section of our front porch wall slammed against our front door. The trailer began to sway, like a boat on a rough river.

A huge POP exploded through the house. Flames shot out of every outlet, as the electricity shut off completely. I heard a second POP, and saw a 2 foot ball of fire, where my surge protector had been. 
"Take the baby and get into the storm cellar," I said. "I will be right out. Leave the back door open."
As she headed out the door, I smothered the flames and shut off our main breaker. I grabbed my "document binder" and cellphone, and bolted to the door. My daughter was standing there, in horror.

"Why aren't you in the storm cellar?" I shouted.
"Lightning hit it, Mom... it's on fire!" 
I told her to take the baby, and head to the doorway of my room. I ran outside and dumped the raincatch onto the flames. The rain was extinguishing it pretty well, so I ran to the corner of the house and looked up the driveway (Plan B was the tornado shelter at Chew's workplace, across the street). An electric pole was lying across our driveway, splintered like a toothpick.Two more leaned at a 45 degree angle, ready to fall. Downed power lines were strewn all over my yard and the road in front of our house.

I ran back into the house and dialed 911. No answer. I called three times. No answer.
We took refuge inside the walk-in closet of my bedroom. The trailer kept swaying, and there was an ungodly metal sound, like our roof was being stripped from the top of our house. When it finally died down, I went back out to survey a safe route, to get us over to Chew. That's when I saw it.
The new grain bin... all 80,000 pounds of it... was lying on top of our barn. The roof was wadded like a piece of foil, in our driveway. 

The wind had blown that 40 ton building across the street, digging deep ruts across our yard. It had, apparently, been deflected by our old maple tree, and crashed into the barn.
The roof of our chicken barn had been stripped like a banana peel, and was hanging to the ground.

The electric company came, 5 hours later, to move the power lines off of the road. They said it would be a couple of weeks before we could have power again. The important thing? Everyone is ok... AND we learned an important lesson.
Having an emergency plan is good, but it isn't enough. A "Plan B" isn't enough. Have plans for your plans, and then have back up plans for THOSE.

DAY 5:
Living without the electricity was an inconvenience, I won't lie, but we managed. We cooked and heated water on the grill or firepit... washed laundry, using a wringer bucket... lit the house with lanterns... and made sure we get the chores done before nightfall.
Chew set out a "solar water heater," of sorts... we filled buckets of water, and left them in the sun, all day. By dusk, they were warm enough to use for bath water. 
Over the prior couple of days, friends had brought us coolers full of ice. We put those in the ice house, and were pleased to see how well it worked. Our frozen foods had not even begun to thaw, on day 5!
There were a few reminders that things were NOT "normal," though. The obvious one is the 40-ton bin, laying on our barn. The owner of the bin and the construction crew each filed a claim with their insurance companies, and the two companies decided to go to court, so... no one is allowed to move the bin. The weight started shifting, and three of the rafters were now broken in half. This section was where we keep our hogs, so we had to skip the next round. This put a damper on our pork plans for the winter. 

Another "reminder"... all of the cars that stopped to gawk and take pictures. I wasn't comfortable with this, at ALL. I began approaching the stopped cars with a bucket, saying, "Hi! Thanks for stopping. We are taking donations for the Grain Bin Memorial Fund. How much would you like to contribute, today?" That slowed things down, considerably.
The only real inconvenience was the heat. We never had A/C, but I DID miss having fans! We kept a cooler full of ice water, on hand, and the girls made good use of the wading pool and creek. With the well pump down, any water that we drew had to be done by hand. It was so cold and icy, though, that it was worth it. We were grateful to have supplemented with city water, as it was running just fine. I would hate to have to trapse back and forth, to the well house, getting buckets of water.
All in all, we were glad to have made it through, without any injuries or destruction to the actual house. We had food, water, and a roof... flushing toilets and a way to bathe... a grain bin, on the roof of the barn...
What else can you do, but laugh about it?

DAY 6:

So, on Monday evening, we sat in our front yard and watched guys from the construction crew gather up their busted jacks, scattered tools, and remaining materials. They loaded them in the construction trailer and hauled out. 
Tuesday morning, the trailer was back. 
I thought nothing of it, until I was awakened by a banging on the back door.
Turns out, the guys we saw were thieves. They backed the work trailer (full of tools and materials) up to the rubble, threw everything in, then drove the truck 72 miles. They unloaded it, then brought it back. Unbelievable... in plain sight, unafraid of getting busted.

The electric company stopped by, last night. 
They surveyed the damage to the exterior poles and lines, shook their heads, and wrote some notes. They said that we were looking at a lengthy wait. They told us to consider finding someplace to stay, until they can get to us. I laughed.
"We aren't going anywhere," I said. "We were here before that dang grain bin was! Tell IT to go somewhere else!" I thanked them for stopping out, and offered them a bottled water, for the road. The looks on their faces? Kinda cool.

On another note...
Even though most of our neighboring town has had the electric restored since Saturday or Sunday, the stories are astounding.
One apartment building had a roof collapse. Fortunately, it was empty and being renovated, at the time. Looters busted holes in the walls. They stole all of the wires and copper pipes... and the furnace!
A man was assaulted, Friday evening, as he returned from the store. The attackers stole his ice chest, two bags of ice, and three jugs of water.
One gas station closed down, Saturday. They were requesting cash only. People started acting violent, so they locked up.
Generators were stolen from a retirement center.

Made our first trip to the store, this morning.
No bread.

Lost three hens and a roo, since it all started. Not sure if it was shock or heat related. The others seemed to be doing well, with the extra shade we put over the pen, and the flaps on their doors left open for cross breezes.
Emotional stress reared its head, for the first time, through this event.
My two daughters started bickering, the grandbaby dumped my fiance's dinner on the lawn, and the fireworks went OFF. I walked out in the cornfield, sat down, and bawled like a baby.

I'd like to say we were all prepped and ready, but there are just some things you can't really prepare for. Having every member of your family experience stress and negative vibes at the same time is both overwhelming and disheartening.
It's amazing how much the family unit can mean to you, at a time like this. Most of the time, we all work together... lighten the days with jokes and laughter... encourage one another to keep on "chinning it up."
Today, though, it seemed unbelievably hot. The air was heavy, and you couldn't keep that sticky sweaty layer off of you, no matter how many times you soaked down. It seems like every routine in our lives had a dozen extra steps... bathing, laundry, dishes, cooking, tending to the garden and the chickens, housecleaning... EVERYTHING.
It's not that HARD, really... but it's not "fun" and "interesting" after 6 days. We've done the two week camping trips... but we weren't ALSO trying to keep our gardens from wilting, our chickens from suffocating, our work clothes laundered, a one year old baby from overheating, regulate the house temperature without a fan, AND download pictures and create videos online... while constantly keeping a battery, phone, or computer on the car charger.
Our newer generator had stopped working... the big one is in the barn, beneath the splintered rafters and creaking grain bin. 

To complicate matters even more, our normally quiet little paradise was a nonstop parade of visitors. Insurance guys, the grain bin owner, the construction crew, the sheriffs (regarding the tool theft), friends and wellwishers, and every nosy gawking passerby with a camera in their cellphone or I-Pad.
(Note: I'm not whining, just venting. If anyone is wanting to know what this is like, this is it. No sugarcoating, no Superhero syndrome... this is just...well... reality. The crap they don't warn you about in the disaster movies.)

We all split up (my fiance went out front, to sit under the big maple... I was in my plot of personal space, in the cornfield... my youngest went back to the creek... and the oldest sat in her bedroom, with the baby),and we all collected our emotions.
I was ashamed of myself, for letting a petty event like this get to me. We had everything we need... we were healthy... what was WRONG with me? 

The storm warning sirens went off, in town.
I headed back to the house. The rest of the family was waiting for me. They had sliced up a watermelon, and we all sat and munched on our big slabs of chilled pink sweetness. As the storm rolled in, we laughed at the funny shapes the clouds made ("Look... it's a duck!" "Yeah, and he's talking to two elephants and a mouse!"). As it grew darker, we watched the lightning show come dancing across the sky.

I guess I just needed some time alone, to find my "happy place." I did. It's called "family." Tomorrow would be a new day.

DAY 7:

We woke in better spirits. I'm wondering if we didn't need that little spell of emotional meltdown, to remind each of us of what we need... what's REALLY important.

Chew had to leave for work early. He was delivering some farm equipment to one of the other hard-hit areas, in our state. It was past his usual lunchbreak time, and he hadn't returned. I could only imagine the closed roads and downed trees he had to navigate around, as he rolled through the side streets and country access roads of the Buckeye farmlands.

I got up, did a load of laundry, and started in on the chores.
I read that FEMA was dispatched to Central Ohio... supposedly handing out generators and water. I assume this is for the 425,000 people in Columbus/Franklin County who had no electric, because there was no sign of them around here. That's ok by me, but I wonder about all those lesser-prepped people who were (most likely) among those looting and panicking, over the past week. That had really been my biggest concern. It sucks that we have to worry about people like these... ones who'd rather steal or commit violence, than to take the time to stow away a few jugs of water or a jar of peanut butter. Fortunately, the only case we saw close to home was the theft of the trailer full of tools, across the street. I'm actually feeling relieved that so many people have no clue what an icehouse or root cellar are, if only for the comfort of security this ignorance brings.

The storms last night cooled things down, but only for a few hours. Just after noon, and the sun was beating full force. I set off to check on the chickens' water, fill the wading pool, and start fixing lunch. 

DAY 8:

We were heading to WV, and then MD. We would be home on Sunday, as I had to be at work.
My older daughter and the grandbaby would be staying home, this trip. As hot as it was, expecting a one year old to do well on a 6 1/2 hour trip, with no A/C... spend 2 nights sleeping on the ground, with day times spent at a racetrack... then to make another 6 1/2 hour trip home? That's too surrealistic to qualify as "doubtful."
So, we charged up her phone and a computer, to give her two ways to reach someone... made a list of emergency numbers and a reminder of the "chicken chores," asked a few local friends to pop in and check on her, and loaded her up with some little-to-no-cook foods and a special treat...lemonade drink mix.

Meanwhile, I got our gear charged and ready through the car adaptor (except the big computer... I'd have to find electric, en route). I had our clothes washed, dried, and packed... I even "pressed" our professional media shirts, by pressing them between two sheets of the steel sheets we picked up, in our yard. 

As I was packing food into coolers, and boiling water for coffee, two detectives came to the back door. They wanted to know about the thieves, who robbed the items across the street. I noticed them, eyeing the kettle of water on the grill... the girls, eating chocolate chip pancakes and scrambled eggs...laundry, on the line... me, with hair coloring settling in... and the sounds of a Disney movie, coming from the living room. Must not be what they were expecting, in a house with no electricity. This made me chuckle, to myself.

There is strength in self-sufficiency.

DAY 11:

We returned from our work, in Maryland, on Sunday afternoon. I took in water from the "solar buckets" and got a quick bath, changed clothes, and headed into town for my other job.
The oldest (and the baby) did fine, while we were gone. She even had the bed linens washed and drying on the line. The dishes were washed, and they had followed the meal directions I had left, to a "T"... no "extras" were nabbed, from the icehouse. This was a HUGE accomplishment, as two years ago, my oldest would not have cooked anything more complex than a microwaved Hot Pocket, couldn't go an hour without SOME kind of internet/DVD/video game/cellphone/etc.

One of the hens had gotten her leg tangled in some twine, that had blown into our field. She was SO proud that she had found the hen and cut the line off of her. She has the right to be proud... the hen would have surely died, by heat or raccoon, had she not been found.

I came home from work to find a message from the sheriff. I called him back, and he brought out reports for my fiance and I to fill out, regarding the stolen tools. Funny. It happened a WEEK ago, and they wanted us to fill out the reports NOW?
*shaking my head*
I don't like having folks show up, ininvited, here. That has been the most difficult part of the week. Police, detectives, insurance guys, nosy passer-bys, well-meaning neighbors and coworkers, church representatives... apparently, having a grain bin smashed into your building is the structural equivalent of being a very pregnant woman, at the store. Everyone wants to ask questions, offer advice, and gawk. At least no one is rubbing their hand on it, or asking if it is our "first."

I was terribly annoyed by random "stop-inners"... even the detectives, who felt the right to just walk into our house (apparently, no electric means your house is no longer a private home).

Last night, to our delight, the electricity was finally restored! UNFORTUNATELY, the surge had burned out some of our fuses and outlets, and melted most of our wiring. We had two working sockets in each of the two bedrooms, an overhead light and two sockets in the living room, the hot water heater worked, but our kitchen and bathrooms had no electricity.

We put a fan, in each bedroom. We had an extension cord running from our bedroom, to power the refrigerator. I unplugged our fan, at night, and used the outlet to charge my big computer. My daughter used her spare outlet for a light, or to charge her school computer. The surge fried all three of our computer chargers. I bought a universal charger, and we shared it. It also fried our phone charger... we use the car's cigarette lighter to charge it. If we needed to wash clothes, we had to unplug the refrigerator, and use the extension cord.

Chew got the little generator working, but we had already adapted to being without electric. Already, today, I had started a load of laundry in the tub... hung it out to dry... only to have him come home on his lunchbreak to remind me we CAN use the washer. I won't lie... I'm truly grateful to have the luxury of a hot water heater... a refrigerator... and fans. 

This morning, the electric company came back. It seems that they accidentally wired us directly to the pole, bypassing our meter. They said they have to shut us off, again. Once they saw how limited our usage ability is, though, they offered to wait to do this.
We may not have been in our comfort zone, fully, yet... but, by Golly, we had reached the perimeter!






Why I Hate Alligators 

  Once, some well-meaning moron gave me a duckling.
  I loved my duckling, during the brief time that I owned him. I fed and watered him. I walked him on a little red leash. I let him play in the bathtub.

  I named him,"Ducky."

  I wasn't a very imaginative kid.

  My mother had a pet, too... an alligator,whom I had named,"Al."
  (What did you expect?I already TOLD you that I wasn't creative).

 One day, I was playing with Ducky in my room. I took a restroom break and saw Al, swimming in the bathtub.

 Mother was cleaning his tank.

 Al looked bored. He was just floating, like a log.

  I felt sorry for him,sitting all alone in that big water.

 As I returned to my room, I had a brilliant thought.

  Al likes water. Ducky likes water. Maybe... just maybe... they could be friends!

  I took Ducky from my room, and carried him to the tub. Carefully, I set him in the water.

  Ducky swam to the end of the tub, near the drain, and paddled around in a flurry.

  Al just remained motionless, like a log.

  After a few minutes, I had another brainstorm.

  At daycare, when the teacher wanted us to play with each other, she gave us toys.

  I thought very hard... I was SURE I had some toys that might be suitable for these reluctant pals.

 I ran to my room, and dug through my toy box.

  A ball... that was good. Maybe, a boat?

  Suddenly, I heard a shriek.

  When I got to the bathroom, where my mother was wailing, I saw Al...

  Still motionless, like a log.

  Ducky was still at the other end, near the drain.

  Ducky was over by the side, where the shampoo was.

  Ducky was on the other side, where we hung the washcloth.


  There was Ducky, all OVER the place.

  A few days later, Mother donated Al to the Baltimore Zoo.

  I had lost my Ducky, and his killer was living the good life at my favorite zoo. It wasn't fair.

  Every year, though, when we travel to Florida...I eat a big serving of alligator.

  I do it for Ducky.







Do These Combat Boots Come in Pink?

 My mother was a strong woman. As one of the first female police officers in our area, she fought stereotypes, and always taught me that girls can do anything that boys can do.

  She was a liar.


  I found this out, when I was about four years old.

  I was in daycare. It was Christmas time, and we were making stockings, for Santa.

  Each of us had a big, red sock cut out of construction paper. There were hundreds of pictures, precut from catalogs and magazines, of all kinds of toys. We were each given a dab of paste, and told to glue pictures of the toys we wanted for Christmas on our stocking.

  Most of the children had virtual collages of dollhouses and kitchen sets or train sets and superhero figurines.

  My stocking had only one picture.

  It was a G.I. Joe submarine activity set.

 I had wanted one of these, with all my heart, since I first saw them in the big J.C. Penney wish book.

 It had a kitchen, medical center, armory, and much more... complete, with HUNDREDS of accessories.
 I pictured my arsenal of dolls (a Barbie, a G.I. Joe, a cowgirl, and an Indian woman) all sitting down at the little cafeteria tables, for a nice lunch... napping in the bunkbeds... showering, in the WORKING shower room... 

  I had to have it.

  I HAD to.

  I handed my stocking to the teacher.

 "That's a nice start," she said, without looking up from her romance novel. "Now, go finish it."
 "I'm done," I said. "I put what I wanted on it."

 "You need to put EVERYTHING you want on it," she said. "You only put one picture on. You don't want Santa to just bring you one present, do you?"

  "Yes. This is the only present I want."

  NOW, she looked.

  "You can't ask for that," she said. "That's for BOYS. Why don't you look again... there are some pretty dollhouses..." 

  She started digging through the pile.

  "I don't WANT a dollhouse," I said. "I want THIS."

  She ripped the picture off of my stocking, and slapped a picture of a baby doll ("It really POOPS!") on the still-wet glue. I watched in horror as she tossed my precious submarine picture into the wastebasket.

  "There," she said. "Now, you can either go put some more pictures on it, or you can hang it up to dry."

  Fuming, I chose the latter option. When the teacher was busy with another student (a young man, who had decided to paint his hair with the paste), I snatched my submarine picture out of the wastebasket. I crammed it into my pocket.

  My plans were simple. When I got home, I would take off the doll and replace it with what I REALLY wanted...

  A G.I. Joe submarine.


 At the end of the day, I rushed to get my stocking.

  It was GONE!

  The teacher explained that they had mailed all of the stockings to Santa, so he'd have time to get us the toys we wanted.

  I was devastated.

  I didn't want a doll that pooped, or ate neon-colored mush.

  I wanted my submarine.

  My only chance to prevent Santa from making a terrible mistake, and giving me the wrong toy, was to plead with my mother.

  SHE would talk to Santa.

  SHE would tell him I could have a submarine, even if I WAS a girl.

  Mother always said that there were no such things as "boy toys" and "girl toys."

  When we got home, I presented her with the paste-covered and torn catalog picture. I explained that I wanted THIS for Christmas... not the stupid doll that the teacher had stuck on there. 

  She listened, solemnly.

  She decided that I could write Santa a note, and she could mail it to the North Pole.

  Once this was accomplished, I couldn't WAIT for Christmas.
  I cleared a special corner, in my room, and told my dolls about the adventures they were about to embark on.

  Christmas morning couldn't come quickly, enough. 

  When it finally DID arrive, I sprang from my bed... ran to the tree... ripped open my present... and burst into tears.

  A blasted doll.

  Not the pooping one.

  This one sneezed, and had a runny nose.

  I burst into tears.

  My mother tried to reassure me.

  "Santa probably didn't have enough money for such a big present," she said, "So he got you something he thought you'd like just as much. Aren't you being a bit ridiculous... bawling like a baby? You know, some kids don't have ANY presents to open, this morning."

  I sniffled. This wasn't helping. All I could think of was that I would gladly send one of them this obviously allergy-laden doll.

  "Look, just because it's ok for you to like toys that boys normally like, doesn't mean that you can't play with dolls, too. No matter what kinds of toys you play with, girls and boys are still equal. You can still grow up to be anything you want, you know."

  I looked, again, at the doll. She was actually very realistic...and pretty. She reminded me of my baby cousin, Jenny. In fact, I would NAME her Jenny. Even more cool... she came with tiny, REAL diapers... a real pack of tissue... and a realistic baby bottle.

  I decided I loved her, after all.

  Even though I would never outgrow the disappointment of never getting that G.I. Joe submarine, I took consolation in one thing: I could grow up to be whatever I wanted.

  In my case, that would be a witch... who doubled as a marine biologist... with a pet dinosaur, and we would live with my husband (Grizzly Adams) on an Indian reservation in Disneyland...







Plumbing Problems (Part II: Tub Turmoil)

As usual, it started out as being all my fault, although I will thoroughly deny it. In Plumbing Problems...Part I, I mentioned a small hairline crack in the bathtub. This story continues from there.


I had climbed into the shower before work. A sharp "CRACK" (and searing pain in my right leg) let me know there was a problem. Namely, my right foot had gone THROUGH the bottom of the tub.


I tried to pull my foot back out. No luck. I hollered for Chew.


He appeared in the doorway and, with a concerned look, asked me how in the bloody (heck) I had managed to break the tub. I believe a diet was also suggested, as he urged me to get out and let him see how bad it was.


"I don't think it's bad, just a little gash," I whimpered.


"I meant the TUB!" He groaned.


His suggestion that we dial 9-1-1 was vetoed. Instead, we busted out the already-cracked tub from around my foot. I bandaged the wound while he appraised the REAL damage.


When I got off work, my handyman had been busy.


"The buffoons who lived here before us had used one of those plastic liners, with NO TUB under it! Can you BELIEVE it? It's a MIRACLE this didn't happen SOONER!" He declared. "I've already taken measurements, and it turns out that the hardware store has a steel tub on sale for $99.00."


We stopped at the store.


They did, indeed, have a steel tub for $99.00. It was a 60-inch model. The space for our tub was a 54 1/2 inch area. Chew asked the helpful guy at the counter ("Dwayne") if they had a smaller size of the "sale tub."


"Yessir," Dwayne said. "We have a 54-inch model. It'll be $189.00, plus tax."


"$189.00???" Gasped Chew.


"Plus tax," said Dwayne. "It's a special order. Monday through Friday, the factory pumps out these 60-inch models. On the third Saturday of every month, they shut down the whole assembly line and switch molds for one day, to make the 54-inch model. Workers are flown in from Siberia, just so the regular workers don't get confused and start pumping out the mini tubs, by mistake."


Grumbling, Chew fished out his wallet.


"Now," said Dwayne, "Were you needing a left- or right-handed drain?"


Chew looked at him, blankly.


"What side of the tub would you like your drain?" Dwayne asked.


"On the same side as the faucets!" snarled Chew.


"Well, I need to know if you have a left or rightside tub." Dwayne rolled his eyes. Bad thing for Dwayne to do, to an irate Chew.


Chew pulled out a notepad and pen. He drew the bathroom. He drew the tub. He drew the faucets. He added arrows and measurements, with the drain area circled.


We got our tub, and Dwayne put a gold star on Chew's artwork.


Returning home, we lugged the steel tub into the living room. Chew went into the bathroom and began smashing the old tub into pieces. I heard cursing, and peeked through the door to find Chew, clutching his head with both hands.


Beneath the tub, he had discovered...nothing. No floor. The particleboard the previous renters had placed beneath the plastic tubliner had disintegrated.


Chew lugged the pieces of plastic tub out to the burn pile, and set to work tearing up the REST of the bathroom floor, including the beautiful tiling he had installed after the prior toilet fiasco. Balancing on the floor joists, he measured the room. As I started dinner (translation: ordered pizza), he returned to the hardware store. A bit later, he came home with a Fan Van load of wood, nails, and various tools. He hammered and sawed, for several hours. By bedtime, we had a floor.


Of course, the toilet he had painstakingly installed the previous week was now in the hallway...


"I'll put the tub in after work, tomorrow." He said.


True to his word, Chew got off work early the next day. I found him, reading the directions on the back of the new tub's box.


"Five easy steps," He read. "Sounds simple enough. Step one: Put tub in position."


We maneuvered the steel basin into the bathroom, carefully lined it up, and...ripped a giant hole in the drywall.


Confused, we remeasured the wall space... 54 1/2 inches! We looked at the tub box...54 inches! We must have angled our entry wrong. We tried again. Two more massive gouges into the walls. Chew measured the tub...56 1/2 inches.


It seems that "54 inches" was the length of the INSIDE of the tub.


I thought quickly.


"Well," I said, "If THIS tub went, I bet the tub in the other bathroom will, too. We can put THIS tub in OUR bathroom, and install a shower, in here!"


We returned to the hardware store.


Chew had already determined that the gravity-feed for the old tub would not drain a shower (hence, the rotten floor), so we were here to buy lumber so that he could build a platform, to mount the shower on.


My role was to calculate the number of boards needed to create said platform. I figured we could do it with 2 boards and 2 pieces of wood sheeting. As I waited for Chew to return with more nails, I noticed a sign. "We'll cut your lumber to size, $1.00/straight cut!"


When Chew returned, I showed him the sign.


We scouted around the store, 9-foot boards in tow, until we found an employee who wasn't quick enough to evade us.


"We don't cut wood." she said.


I mentioned the sign.


"We don't cut wood." She repeated.


Frustrated, we toted our bulky load into the lumber yard (roughly the size of New Hampshire). Not an employee in sight. Chew stayed with the lumber, at one of the store entrances. I guarded the other. Our theory was, SOMEBODY must be here, and they weren't getting into the restrooms or breakroom until our lumber was CUT!


Patience paid off. Eventually, two guys peeked out from a building across the yard from us. We shouted. One tried to make a getaway in his forklift, but he was no match for Chew. My handyman drafted him with the cart full of lumber, taking the inside line towards the door, and cut off the worker's line at the last turn.


Defeated, the guy cut our lumber.


We headed home, victorious.


On the NEXT day, Chew had the platform finished, and we returned to the hardware store to buy the shower. After much debate, Chew decided it made no sense to buy a WHOLE shower, since two waterproofed walls were in place. Instead, he bought a shower BASE. He took it home, and it fit on his platform PERFECTLY! The only problem? The drain angle. The kit with the shower included a 90-degree elbow. we needed a 45-degree elbow. I went back to get the right part, as well as a new wax ring and hardware to reinstall the toilet.


When I returned, Chew was waiting. HE had to return to the store to get some kind of special sealant, to attach the base to the platform.


The NEXT day, I came home to a nice surprise. The shower was finished, complete with the third, waterproofed wall and a shower curtain! The toilet was reinstalled, better than ever. Chew had torn out our master bathroom's tub, lugged the steel one in, and had just returned from the hardware store (where he purchased the necessary pipes and elbows). Thanks to the internet, we were able to discover that the "stringer" mentioned in "Easy Step #4" is actually just a 2"x4", and Chew had it installed in place (even though there are no studs in the wall, and he had to build a sort of supporting frame to nail it up). Now we (once again) have TWO FUNCTIONING bathrooms, in Chewville!


Only one thing...


It seems that the tub did not include a drain, or something called an "overflow." Chew said we also needed some stuff called "Plumber's Putty."


So, we were off to the hardware store. Chew said, when we got home, we were going to have a big bonfire, to celebrate our newly finished bathrooms.

And, we did.  Chew started it by lighting those "5 Easy Steps," printed on the tub box.

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