...because everything is funny when it's happening to someone else!

Thursday, July 28, 2011

We Are Taj-Bound (Almost)!

Well, howdy do!  (If you've seen "Madagascar" you know how to say it)

Road trip, anyone?  Tank, Shawn and I will be loading up the Jeep and heading Taj-side this evening.  It'll be a late night, since we can't leave til Shawn gets home around 6, but at least we're all able to go together this trip.  There's lots on the Hope To Do list, so we'll be pretty busy.

An all-around handy dude that Shawn's dad knows is meeting us tomorrow afternoon to go over some ideas for the bathroom revamp/redo/overhaul.  Hope he sees some options we've not discovered yet, because it's looking all kinds of dire.  We have GOT to get a plan in place, since the plumbing and electrical can't really be done until we know where everything is going.

In other news...I just got back from my 2nd real PT appointment and I am cautiously optimistic.  I'm still sore and my right arm is still going numb, but the pain level is a bit lower and I have more non-numb moments than I was having.  So...progress!  Woo-to-the-hoo.

So, anyway...I'm glad to be headed back to Mayberry and have some time to visit the Farm Maven and the rest of the family.

To tide you over til the next post, here's an actual, unretouched photo of the Farm Maven showing me her stash of canned goods:

Me:  "Jesus, Mary and Joseph!  That's a sh*tload of squash!"
Farm Maven:  "It's called Being Prepared."
Me:  "For what, exactly?"
Farm Maven:  "Higher grocery prices, salmonella outbreaks, lengthy power outages and the threat of zombie apocalypse."
Me:  "Zomb--WHAT?!?!"

She's prepared, y'all.  And that's why, when the Zombie Apocalypse comes, I'mma be at her house!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Traction is more fun than you think

Happy Tuesday.

I know...Tuesdays are not by nature very happy, but it's hardly their fault.  Anything that comes on the heels of Monday is doomed.

But, I digress. 

We're planning a big Taj MaHell road rally this weekend.  Shawn's got Friday and Monday off, so we're going to load up the Family Truckster and head to the Greater Mayberry Area.  We're debating (read: arguing about) renting a UHaul trailer to take the new loveseat and sofa to Mayberry.  We'd have to store them at Uncle Todd's Cabin until the Taj is closer to ready, so that's a bummer.  But, if they stay here, we'll have to stare at them because there's no door to the dining room and the room is literally vomiting random pieces of furniture into the hallway.  It is driving me CRAZAY and I am so ready to get things back to semi-normal that it's worth it to me to UHaul them thangs to the 'Berry.  Shawn, on the other hand, thinks UHaul exists only to extort money from him and wants to devote the next three months to finding some very complex system of moving furniture without having to rent a trailer or drive two vehicles to Mayberry.  Sigh.  I said, SIGH.

Light a couple of candles and say a prayer to Our Lady of Successful Demolition, because we're going to tackle the bonus room ceiling this trip.  Nephew Two Bears and I gave it a shot last time I was in town, but I swear, the hammers just BOUNCED off the ceiling.  Given the fact that it was approximately 9 million degrees up there, I didn't need too much convincing to give up on the project.  We'll see if Shawn's seething inner rage can triumph over drywall.

In other news, I have gone to two appointments for my back/neck/shoulder and, while I don't feel better yet, I am having some brief pain-free moments...mostly when I am in traction.  I never thought I'd be begging, "PLEASE!  For the LOVE OF GOD, people!  Put me in traction!"  But there you have it.  One of the exercises the PT made me do today was to lean my head over and hold a ball wrapped in a clean pillowcase against the wall.  BORING.  Especially after 15 reps to each side and another 15 to the back.  I learned that the PT had no sense of humor when he didn't think my calling the device "a severed head in a pillowcase" was funny in the least.  You'd think people who make their living torturing other folks would at least see the humor in it.  Oh, well.  I guess I'd better play nice or they'll take my traction away.

That's all for now.  I'm off to pour cereal in a bowl and call it a balanced supper.  Hope your menu choices are more tantalizing.

Dang.  Now my pants are too short.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Weekend Ramblings

I can't believe it's been nearly a week since I posted anything.  Well, actually I can, because my brain has been about as active as this blog.  Don't know if it's the unrelenting heat or the as-yet-unresolved back/shoulder issue, but I have been just moving from chair to sofa to bed most of the time, with a lot of grunting and groaning when I do have to get up.  I'm SO ready to shake this off and get back to what passes for normal!
In an effort to rejoin the land of the living, I have an appointment with some spine and joint (hee, hee!  I said "joint"!) specialists on Monday.  I am really hoping some relief is in sight, because this crap has DEFINITELY gone on long enough!!

And now that I've bored you with news of my ailments, like the crabby old lady we all know I am, let's get on to other topics:

The Taj MaHell:  no news is pretty much no news at this point.  We did get an estimate from the Very Nice Electrician and we figure that the electrical work, plus the fixtures, will total somewhere around $2,500.  I'm going to really work hard to come in under that amount, but only if I can do it without sacrificing what we really want.  So, I'm scouring Craig's List, Overstock.com and every other site I can think of for good deals on light fxtures.  So far, no luck, BUT...I did find a sofa and loveseat on The Craig for $300.  (Shawn worked his Shawn Magic and got them for $280, because he is cheap and unrelenting and people will take less money just to make him go away).  Because we're at Gilligan's Island, they are currently crammed into the already ridiculously crowded dining room.  What?  Everybody doesn't keep bicycles in the dining room?!  But, just because I KNOW you care, here's a bad picture of the love seat:

Cute, huh?

I am really liking them...they are comfy *enough* even though they're not really flop-on type furniture.  The backs are high enough to lean your head back on and they have neat little wooden turned legs, which I think makes them work in an older home like the Taj.  I'm wanting to use different color pillows to jazz them up a bit, and I'm hoping that this light beige fabric will work with lots of different accents.  Right now, I'm loving sea glass colors, but come colder weather, I am sure I'll want some rich, darker colors to snuggle into.  There's just something about long stretches of 100-degree days that make the color burgundy unbearable to look at.  Burgundy, we'll talk in January, 'k?

In Tank News, we've had a busy spell of meeting with speech therapy peeps.  His current therapy is through Babies Can't Wait, which works with kids up to age 3.  When the new school year starts, he will transfer to services provided by the local school system.  We were initially told he'd be having his sessions at one of the local schools and that he'd be in a group of several children.  I really didn't like that and felt that we might need to pursue home-based services privately.  I just didn't see him receiving the same level of speech therapy in a group setting.  Plus, he's always been home with me, so moving to a school setting might be a real adjustment at first, which I could see possibly causing him even more delays.  The good news is that at our last meeting, I learned he has been recommended for 3 weekly half-hour sessions, provided in-home.  Hooray!  I'm hoping that there aren't going to be any budget cuts that will change that...we'll just have to see.

Well, enough for now.  Hope you're doing well and I hope you come back to visit soon!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Just Plodding Along...

Hey there!  Tank and I are still hangin' in Mayberry, having decided to head back to the coast tomorrow instead of today.  We met with an electrician and a siding guru today, so despite the fact that it is Sunday, we were still able to check several things off the seeminly endless list of to-dos.

I really liked the electrician and am deeply afraid of his estimate for the necessary repairs to the electrical system.  In addition to moving some ceiling fixtures and adding more in rooms that don't have overhead lighting, I'm also hoping that we can afford to change the closet pull-chain lights out for more convenient switch-and-fixture setups.  It's a silly thing, but will make a huge difference in the liveablility of the house, at least that's what I'm thinking.  We're also going to add some outdoor receptacles, since there aren't any now and convert two old 220v plugs (for window-unit air conditioners) to 110v standard outlets.  All in all, it's really just a hundred little jobs, but all of them will help us live more happily and comfortably when we are at the Taj.

The siding dude came to give an estimate on adding fascia board between the vinyl siding and the roof.  The Taj had gutters which had rusted through and when we removed them, we found that the vinyl siding had been installed around them, leaving big gaps at the top for rain to run down behind the siding and rot our house out from under us.  That's bad.  The estimate on the fascia all around the house is $450.  Due to my intense fear of heights, I am thinking that is a bargain to keep my happy arse off a tall ladder.

We're still struggling with where to put the washer and dryer, but I have high hopes that a solution is going to come through!

In the meantime, here are photos of the DESTRUCTION of the kitchen and den ceilings. Illegal child labor provided courtesy of Farm Maven's older two kids, Beck and Two Bears. Big shout-out to my helpers, who bravely withstood rat feces and dust falling in their faces!

Two Bears taking a rat-poop shower.

Beck is not sure this is in the best interest of our health.

Beck takes a break from sweeping up debris while Two Bears discovers the location of the old (demolished) chimney.

Well, that's about it for exciting news on this end.  I had hoped to make more progress, but  am learning that renovation runs on its own time table and getting upset about that doesn't change a thing.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Broadcasting Live from the Taj

It's getting surreal up in here.

Tank and I drove up to Mayberry yesterday and went to the Taj.  I barely noticed that there was a roof on the house, so focused was I on getting the bakery goodies to our neighbors who suffered through 14 1/2 hours of unrelenting hammering on Monday.

The neighbors were delighted with the treats and warmly welcomed us in.  And that's where the surreal started.  "You know," Nice Neighbor said, "That's not an architectural roof."  I looked across the driveway and...no, it wasn't.

Y'all.  It was the wrong roof.

The. WRONG. Roof.

And it was finished.  Done.  Over.

And Shawn was in a meeting 200 miles away, the roofer was due any second for the remainder of his pay and I did NOT know what to do.

I might have done the Home Alone face.

Fortunately, the roofer ran late and I was able to talk to Shawn, as well as Nice Neighbor about how best to handle this before we had to have a painful conversation.  Over the past 24 hours, we have determined that an honest mistake was made, but we have also determined that we did request IN WRITING architectural shingles.  Naturally, Roofer Madness doesn't want to take a hit on a job he's already done, but we also don't want to pay for a roof that is not what we wanted.

As of now, we're debating the possibility of either keeping the wrong roof and having the roofer refund a portion of the cost or having the right shingles laid on top of the ones he just put up.  It's silly, really, to put a new roof on top of a new roof, but I was so disappointed that we had plain, flat shingles when we'd specifically said we wanted the more dimensional, higher-end ones.  Sigh.  The roofer is a nice guy and a hard-working man and we certainly don't want to cause him any issues.  But at the end of the day, we're stuck with a 25-year roof that is just NOT what we contracted for.  I am hoping that each side can give a bit and in the end, we can either be at peace with the roof that's on there, or work out a deal that suits us to get the one we wanted.  I hate being taken advantage of by seedy workmen, but it's almost worse to have something like this happen, where you're not MAD at anyone, but the job is still not satisfactory.  We'll see how this shakes out.

In other news, I had a second electrician out to the Taj today and was really surprised at how much he seemed to NOT want the job.  He couldn't give me any numbers, other than to say we'd "start around $6,000" and it looked like it was going up from there.  He didn't offer to give me anything in writing and didn't seem enthusiastic at all about doing the job.  In fact, he acted like it was all just really a big bother to him and I figured he was just not the guy for us.

Shawn had met already with another electrician and I liked what he told me about him and also liked the fact that he was able to give us a ballpark estimate on the spot, after carefully checking the house.  I think we'll go with him, and hope to call him in the next few days to see when he could start.

I also met with a plumber, who was very nice and even told me a little about the house's history.  A man named Elliott lived there and the plumber said Mr. Elliott had a big lumber company back in the day and that he looked like Al Capone.  He said he always wore a white suit and a Panama hat.  He must have been quite an interesting man.  There's a very nice local historical society library here in the 'Berry, so I think I'll see if I can find a photo that we could copy and put somewhere in the house as a nod to its past.

Anyway, the plumber is going to price a few things for me and get back with an estimate in the next few days.  He was really creative and saw possibilities that I hadn't seen, when we talked about how to improve the poorly-laid-out master bath.  That's why we're needing a plumber, since we can remove and install bath fixtures, but this job is going to involve moving some things and also installing a tankless gas water heater.  I want to be sure that's done right, and I am willing to defer to a pro for it.

At the end of the day, the drywall man arrived to look at his part of the Taj rehab. While I have done drywall before, it is one of those things that really shows when you don't know what you're doing and I want the ceilings to be nice and smooth.  Again, I am willing to call in the pros for the right result.  I'll demo the existing ceilings and save money that way, so I don't feel too much like a cheater.

Well, it is pretty late and the Taj will have all new drama for me tomorrow, I'm sure.  Better rest up!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roofer Madness, Part Deux

Hi, there!  We've had news of great things happening at the Taj, but sadly, we aren't there to see it!

Yesterday morning, Mimi texted to say that the roofer was already hard at work.  Aroudn 8:30pm last night, the Taj next-door-neighbor called and very light-heartedly let us know that the roofer had arrived by 6:00am and was STILL pounding nails at 8:30pm.  I am planning to go by the wonderful local bakery, Bakers Pride, Thursday on my way out of town and pick up a nice little sampler of allthe delectable goodies.  Maybe that would make up for what I'm sure was a migraine-inducing day for the neighbors!

But, on the bright side--one project DONE!  I'm heading up to give it a look-over and then pay the roofer.  I'm hoping to also line up some electrical and plumbing contractors to meet me out there on Friday, so I can get bids and we can begin on those jobs soon.


In the midst of it all, one of my jobs has decided to go HAYWIRE over the last three weeks, causing me to question not only the sanity of buying such a project, so far away, but also how reasonable it is to expect to work two jobs (allegedly part-time) and still be a decent, involved and energetic mom to the Tankster, project house notwithstanding.  These days, I can't find time to answer emails, much less tend to all the have-tos on my many lists.

Recently, though, I've started to think differently.  Just the other night, we were watching House Hunters International and it came up that both Shawn and I secretly regretted never having lived overseas.  It suddenly dawned on me that we could, in fact, do it.  If we really wanted to and were willing to make some sacrifices.  I realized that we could sell the house at Gilligan's Island, keep the Taj (since there's no mortgage) and just...GO.  What a terrifying, wonderful, thrilling thought!  Now, we don't have plans to actually do that.  We might, but we're not planning it right now.  But what a thrill to know we could.

The trick is to keep looking at life that way, regardless of your age, your financial status, your job situation.  As long as air is still going in and out and your heart is still pumping blood through your veins, you have potential to do anything you want.  You just have to want it enough.

And on that note, I'm off to watch the All-Star Game.  Go, Brian McCann!

Friday, July 8, 2011


How about just a quick tour of some of the Taj projects?
Shawn was ALL ABOUT the yard.  Me, not so much.  But, I have to admit, it does look better out there.  Here are some before and after comparisons:

Rear of house, before

Rear of house, after

Garage, with wonky gutter making it look saggy

Garage with straightened gutter, thanks to Shawn!

The shrub under the back window was about 7 feet tall and 8 feet wide before Shawn attacked it:

Here it is a short while later:

And after all the violence was over...so was the shrub!

I wish I had taken a picture of the 30-foot-long and 8-foot-tall pile of yard debris we left, but you'll just have to believe me when I say it was STAGGERING.

Here's a little peek at some of the monotonous patching and sanding I was doing inside when I wasn't helping with the outside work:

Living Room


Master Bedroom

Well, that's about all I have time for, since a cute little dude is demanding my attention as he watches "Flushed Away" for the millionth time!

More later...

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Live from the Taj MaHell (sorta)

Wow...long time, no see!

I just got back last night from six days in Mayberry and what an adventure it was!  First and foremost, let me say that life in Mayberry may have its flaws, but so far, doing business with Berryites is a dream, compared to trying to get anything done here island-style.

Tank and I drove down last Thursday and stopped off at Uncle Todd's Cabin, turned on the A/C and headed over to the Taj.  Tank wasn't thrilled with being at the Taj, which was a surprise since he'd been so nuts about it before.  So, we stayed only a little while and then headed back to the cabin, where it was STILL 86 degrees inside.  We stripped to all but the essentials and tried to get some sleep.  The Cabin A/C was working, but apparently it has just been so hot that the house absorbed a ton of heat and it took about 6 hours to cool it down.  The next morning, we met the City of Mayberry inspector at the Taj and learned the many things that must be done to pass inspection:

--fill in or clean out and cover the pool
--trim all branches back from the house
--fix all holes in floors or walls
--bring electric up to code
--bring plumbing up to code

I nodded and made notes, thinking the whole time, "In 90 days?  Are you sh*tting me?!?!"

But then things just started to fall in place.  By the time Shawn, Tank and I left yesterday afternoon, we had been the beneficiaries of goodwill from two neighbors, two FANTASTIC City of Mayberry electrical workers, two of the nicest, most long-suffering A/C repairmen I've ever met and kind-hearted souls at all levels of city government.  Except maybe for the dude who made me pay $90 for a building permit.  But I guess maybe that's just his job.  We'd more than conquered the branches on the house, drained all but a little water out of the pool (we'll begin digging leaves out next trip, when hopefully they have dried and are less heavy), and we got the heating and air conditioning unit functioning (for $1100, but we also learned it is a VERY good 5-ton unit that will more than suffice for many years to come).

The roofer is coming next week to begin and we've already had one electrician come out and look at the job; we'll get his bid next week, more than likely.  We'll talk to another electrician and a plumber or two, then select the ones we want and get them going.  So far, we've been pleasantly surprised by the costs we've been quoted and have received several good recommendations from different sources, for the same contractors.  So, there, mean dude who made me pay for a building permit and also looked at me like I was a nut job when I said I was my own general contractor for this job.  I poop on your grave!

And outside of all the paid pros who made life so much easier for us, there was family in abundance!  Papa helped Shawn in the Taj yard until I though they would both collapse from heat stroke; Mimi fed us Fourth of July dinner and helped locate good local labor sources; Grandmother and Aunt Bebbie babysat Tank so that Shawn and I could try to kill ourselves working in the heat and Aunt Farm Maven fed Tank and me so full of fresh-from-the-garden veggies that we should be healthy for months to come, even if we subsist entirely on pizza and chips.  Tank's sweet cousin Rebecca also babysat and was a tremendous success, with not so much as a whimper from the little man, who usually protests quite a bit at not having Mama at hand!  We also had generous offers of painting and other help from Uncle Todd's bride Sandi and Uncle Todd himself helped me get through the experience with his medical expertise and the recommendation of steroid therapy and stronger muscle relaxers.

All in all, we had some very pleasant surprises and I think we left from our first work days feeling that this is, in fact, doable.

But now it's back to the reality of Gilligan's Island and the tons of work that piled up in my absence.  More soon, along with the first in-progress photos, I promise!