Thanks for checking into my blog!

As a "recovering" middle school teacher with a unique outlook on life, I stopped active teaching in 2010 and moved into another career path... writing! Here goes! In addition, I am a travel buff, forever baseball addict, movie fan, music fan, foodie extraordinaire, NCIS devotee, gardener, and more.

Just love writing for kids, travel writing and basic journalism. Pretty unusual, since I taught Home Economics! But there's a story here too - a non-fiction one or more...

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Something Tribbling here

Rule 21 -  make connections

    I’ve been forced, these past few days, to make a good examination of conscience. Sister Mary Eucharista (grade 3, St. Matthew’s) would be happy with me for this. I’ve had to take a good look at the projects Hub and I got done, things that cropped up during to add to the project list, and what is still on the table - like, stuff I‘d rather be doing. That middle part is the tribbling part. Have you ever gotten going on a project, then 7 or 8 more come up while you are doing that 1 major project? Some mathletes look at this phenomenon as subset problems of the greater problem. Other, more philosophical folks, defer to Murphy’s Law. Then there’s us Trekkies, and we find the situation totally Tribbling.

     Not a Trekkie? Almost everyone has heard of the Star Trek franchise. There’s the “Next Generation”, "Voyager", and the movies. Those of us of a certain age will remember the original series - you know, William Shatner’s life before Boston Legal and Priceline… One episode from the original series found the crew of the Starship Enterprise venturing to a port in the outer galaxies. Someone brought on board a salesman, who sold one Lt. Uhura a Tribble. These are cute, furry creatures that purr and coo. They are relaxing to have around. They were transportable in a pocket or purse. They loved to be next to their people. They had one drawback, which the crew found out about quickly. Tribbles reproduced at a rate that would make your average rabbit herd look like a bunch of cloistered monks. The fur balls got into the food and into the cargo, and ate themselves silly. They didn’t do any real damage to the ship, but they messed with everyone’s heads so badly… they had to go. And they did, but not without the crew learning something in return.


     Life around here has been a bit Tribbling this past week. Our kitchen is finished with a few exception (minor fixes). We moved box after box out of the living room and the contents have new homes in the new cupboards. Still to be unpacked is the dining room. We are painting the walls before we move the dining room furniture back in place. At this writing, we are in the final coats on the walls and trim.

     Add to this Ma Nature. Not only has she had hot flashes in the form of 100 degree-plus heat, she’s been a sweaty mess. Maryland gets ridiculously humid in the summer. This summer is no exception. Painting in this weather - even in an air-conditioned house- is challenging.

     Then Ma introduced us to Derecho. Talk about a blow-hard… he should run for public office. Seriously, the winds hit our neighborhood with such force that good trees got topped. One of my neighbor’s trees landed on our back patio and deck, with a renegade branch hitting and rolling on our roof. We got lucky with this item, since the insurance adjuster checked out the roof and found no damage. No major damage of any kind, except to my garden ornaments and gnome colony. But the tree needs to be cut up. The job is started, but we need to finish it.

     The heat has pretty much fried the gardens. I can’t keep up with the watering. There’s also the clean up of the yard on a regular basis. All this stopped while the kitchen project was going. And it’s really too unsafe in the heat to work out there now. At least for us, it is.

     Haven’t had the energy to read in the evening either. By the time dinner is cleaned up, my get up and go, got up and went. So there sits two Julie Hyzy books, just waiting to be read. There sits dog training books I use as reference in my manuscripts. Oh, to use them before their expiration dates from the library!

    Writing time suffered too. The only thing I could keep up with is this blog. I’ve got writing projects in various stages of completion just waiting patiently to be pulled out. One manuscript is almost submission ready. It needs just a bit of tweeking. My rabbit character, Esther Bunny, needs to contact her Jersey public again. That’s got to happen soon, too. And I need to work on the fabric I bought to make a stuffed Esther, as inspiration. My plans for Blog 2 are on hold too.

     Church duties came up again this week with two funerals. Ask any funeral director- no one dies on your schedule. And I need to combine scope and sequence charts for two different 7th and 8th grade religious education programs - to be used at the same time.

     This is beyond Tribbling. These projects are eating up my brain cells and I spend more time over-organizing my life than I should.

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Ok, Self. Time to prioritize…

1. Finish dining room. All else waits for that project to be done.
2. Finish cleaning up the tree when the heat breaks.
3. Read when you can.
4. Keep voice recorder handy. At least when an idea hits, you can talk it into the recorder. Do this instead of the post-it note thing. You already can’t find your desk already for the to-do list and the post-it notes.
5. Figure due dates, mark the calendar, and hit the gas peddle. We are off in warp drive to get things done.

Now, to take a deep breath and get back to painting the dining room.

     The grain shipment in the show was sabotaged. Do not sabotage your success, Self. Get it into warp drive.

Need more power, Scotty….

Captain, I’m givin’ ‘er all she’s got…

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Loose ends...

Rule # 41 - There doesn’t always have to be a moral to a story

     It’s almost one entire month since our kitchen got “crashed”. I sit here today trying to catch my breath and plot my next moves. I am tired - tired of camping in my living room, tired of eating dust, tired of trying to cook at a “campsite”, tired of things being topsy-turvy, tired of tripping over boxes, just plain tired. (Madeline Kahn, where are you when I need you to sing from “Blazing Saddles”?)

     But - and this is a big one - I am very satisfied! Now I stand in my newly refurbished kitchen and say to myself, “Self, you live here. This is yours! And you got class! (or at least it looks that way)”

     In the past few weeks, we’ve had so many contractors working here, the place sometimes resembled ants at a picnic. Busy, each day. Slowly, but surely things came together. Yes, we were inconvenienced a bit, and dust really doesn’t taste that great. But I had faith in the workers and our project manager. It paid off, big time!
Lots of dust
     We had a painter paint our walls a light green. I learned long ago that the mind reacts to the colors it observes. Hey, advertisers use that technique all the time to get us to feel hungry when we aren’t.  Green is a “sedative” of sorts. It seemed to calm the mind down. Light values of green should make the room a bit brighter. But our old kitchen was bright yellow. Very high on the visual stimulus meter. It was all right, but we needed a new look. Now, I’m not sure if this calm thing can translate into “I’m not as stimulated, so I’m not eating as much as before and should lose weight”, but it’s worth a shot. I’ve found a Zen color for me.

     I trashed carpet on that side of the house. Well, actually several animal pets trashed it for us. Hardwood flooring came in to replace it. It feels softer on the ole’ paws and achey, breaky knees and legs. And does it look fantastic!!!
     We used to have painted walls for a backsplash. Now, way back when, that was a cool thing to have. But these poor walls, and the paint, have been washed so much that the paint lost its semi-gloss finish. We got tile to replace it and put some decorative touches in there with glass bits.
back splash tile layout
      We lost the Formica counter top, complete with mitered seam that caught all kinds of food, and brought in quartz. Seamless quartz!  Cool, seamless quartz! Lovin’ it!
quartz counter top
another view of why we needed a back splash!
     I wonder how long my daughter will play with the new sink faucet. It has a sprayer built in. Switches to play with and now she just might be able to spray her brother from the sink. (Not on my hardwood floor, Lady!)
cool faucet with a pull-out spray head
     And so much more lighting!!!! Under the counter, extra overhead in the ceiling, new fan.... now I'll be able to really see when I cut myself chopping veggies. No more excuses!

     But if that was the only thing on my stress plate the past few weeks, this soul would be a bit more peaceful. But, no. Mother Nature had to get her 2-cents in, too. Our area was hit with a massive heat wave. Days of 100-degree plus heat kept us frying, or we felt like we were frying. On top of that, the Ole’ Broad had a temper tantrum in the form of a derecho. WTH? I had to watch the Weather Channel to even find out what that was. Seems like it was a sudden downburst of wind up to 100 miles per hour. Our area got hit with 60 miles an hour plus sustained winds with gusts to 75 miles per hour. And we live in a wooded, environmentally protected area… do you see a problem now? Ma decided to prune a few of my neighbor’s trees and dump them on my roof, patio, back deck, veggie garden (sob!), and flower garden gnome colony. Like I don’t have enough firewood, Ma! The weirdest part was, in all that wind, stuff at ground level didn’t move. Trash cans and lawn furniture didn’t budge. The winds were all 50 feet and above, sending the limbs onto power lines. Try calling your insurance agent after a calamity. Even her power was out for a few days. Next project - new roof? We shall see.

     And then the ants came back (real ones, not the contractor comparisons). It was hot and dry outside, so the little shits came inside. In my new kitchen… through the cracks that hadn’t yet been caulked… I hate ants… These are the very prolific sweet kitchen ants too. Sandy soil, hot temps, and dry conditions bring those little buggers out of their hills and into my house. It’s me or them… and I will win… until the next time…

     We still have to paint the dining room. Once that is done, the rest of the boxes can be unloaded and we can relax a bit. We are both tired but must find the energy to complete the task!

     Except for a few items that need to be corrected, we’ve been crashed and it was successful. My one and only kitchen renno is done! Time to break out another bottle of wine and celebrate.

     Thanks, Bill!

     And have I got a kitchen contracting company for you….!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Dust to dust

Rule #  38 – Seek Balance

     My grandmother – God rest her soul- would freak! She was a person who believed her sole purpose in life was to take care of the house and family. She also did not like dirt. She was the one who dusted the furniture each and every day, sometimes more. This situation would make her absolutely, freaking crazy.

     We had the drywall put up – the next step in our kitchen crash.  Now while the drywall contractor did his cutting outside, he still taped and mudded the seams, then sanded… And sanded… and remudded and sanded again. This went on for a few days. Now, I’m no Mrs. Clean, but I could literally autograph my furniture. There was wallboard dust in places I didn’t even know existed. We changed the furnace filter and I still think I ate some dust.

     Next step in the process is putting up the cabinets, more dust, but in the form of sawdust. This presents as brown flecks, versus the white powder of the wallboard dust (Dude!). Now there is no way at all, that I can keep ahead of the dust. Air conditioning is on, air is circulating with the house fan, and dust bits appear in the weirdest spots. We go through Swiffer dusters like they grow on trees and are emptying the vacuum more than we have in the past. 

     Add in our painter, who sanded, primed and sanded again. Then he painted. And more dust…  but a great color on our walls. It’s a nice, calm light green.

     In come the floor contractors! And more sawdust! We got hardwood through the dining room and kitchen. Cutting was done primarily on the front deck, but there is still sawdust in the house.

     Now the kitchen is really starting to take shape. We are past 3 weeks of the job and we are almost ready to move the stuff back into the new digs. Did I use the word “ready”??? I am MORE than ready. The project is at the point where we both want it done and over so we can clean up and reclaim our sanity.

     Both Hub and I are sneezing and coughing with the dust. He even changed the furnace filter – again.

     You know, as crazy as my grandmother would have gotten, I often wonder how she would have responded to this work. Bless her heart - she was a bit of a control freak. The house was her domain. When she said to do something, you were supposed to just do it. No questions asked. Screw it up and you did it again and again until it met her standards of cleanliness. My mom – her daughter – was not as much of a stickler. But Mom had her moments. She would get nuts over other people’s clutter. The nuttiness seemed worse when Nana was staying with us. Guess the grandmother had lots to say, and my mom was stuck in the daughter role. One thing I do remember about both women – neither went behind us redoing the job. You did the job to their expectations and that was it. My mom’s expectations were more relaxed, for the most part. I guess having six kids will do that to you.

     My expectations, for the most part, are non-existent. I am eternally grateful for true effort and an attempt at sweat at least as far as cleaning goes. Remember when I said that I taught middle school and high school Home Economics? Most of my relaxed attitude comes from that experience. I showed the students how to clean. I expected them to do it. If they didn’t, tiny livestock moved in – and you would be surprised how quickly the law of natural consequences kicked in and how fast the kids “remembered” how to clean the kitchens. The kids at both levels never left any classroom kitchen totally in disaster mode. But if they did forget a few things, I took the “dirties” and put them in the fridge until the next time they came in. The offenders had to clean up after stuff was frozen on the surfaces. They learned quickly. It was great to have after school detentions in my classroom, too. Behavior problems spent an hour after school scouring stoves, cleaning and sanitizing counters, all while listening to Pavarotti sing his favorite arias (and me, trying to sing along). Word got out, I got a reputation and detentions were not that popular. No one wanted to suffer the pain of listening to opera (or me). Except for this one fellow, who found he actually liked the music of opera. That fellow took notes… not sure if he was serious or just kissing up. Most kids complained about cleaning up after others. I told them to get used to it, especially if they ever had kids themselves.

     My patience is certainly being tested with this project. The professionals are just that – very professional. But sometimes I think I’m becoming my mother. I want it done and over with, so I can get everything back where it belongs. I have to remember to keep the faith. I also have to remember to be a stickler with the quality of the work. I have to be sure things that need redoing, get redone. Back to teacher mode…

     Note to self: trust that this job will be done, to my satisfaction and as close to on-time as possible and any issues will not resemble the pain of passing a kidney stone. Find your inner chi, self… deep breaths. It will soon be finished…

     Ummmmmmm….. Ohmmmmmmmm…. Ummmmmmm……

     And where is the latest, new furnace filter and box of tissues?