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Picking them up tonight!

You should have seen it.  Two people our age trying to squeeze a giant piece of  furniture through a smaller than average bedroom doorway.

In order to get to that point, we moved the end table from the master bath, moved the vanity table and bench there in order to move the marble topped credenza in its place, the leftover living room TV on that, so the sofa could sit in the bedroom offering an extra space to sleep company and watch TV too in order to place our pretty new matching mocha recliners in its place in the living room. Easy!

This was a sofa well past its prime and existing on borrowed time when we got it in a used to used trade with the Youth Group. In furniture years it has to be older than Abraham on Isaac’s 40th birthday. The springs sag in the corner, there is no softness, it was beyond fixing.  Trust me, we tried stuffing it with towels with no discernable improvement.  Its one good feature, other than its color – it matches our fireplace wall, or rather, the fireplace wall matches it – is that the popup foot rests entertain the grandsons for hours making it worth keeping.

Because it is a full length sofa with overstuffed arms, the one piece metal frame disallowing separation, it’s huge, I mean hooog, very large, very heavy and stubbornly inflexible.  It’s a geezer. Being a single piece, it was also a 10 on the Clumsy Scale.

Take the door off. (drill noises) You lift that end.  I can only push it, can’t lift it. Twist it. No, the other way. The frame is caught. That’s a nice gouge in the wall. We’re painting anyway. Not this week! Okay, how about standing it up on end.  The arm is caught. Squish it. No, it’s the frame in the arm stuck now. Pull back your end. Can’t, too heavy. Yeah, walk it. Can you get back out the doorway? There’s no space to slide food to you.  If you pull your end your way… I need to pull the end my direction. Can’t. How about we flatten it by extending the foot rests? Now tip it. The metal frame is hitting the door frame. I’m not as young as I used to be! Wait, wait, my foot’s there. Can we turn it upside down and angle the back in first? Now I can’t (push, push) get (push, shove) the (hit, pound) foot rests back. This is a bear cat (spelling adjusted). What door did it come in in the first place? Front? No, I’m not ready to join the ranks of those with upholstered furniture on the porch. It won’t fit through the patio door either. Lean it there. I have to step outside and cool off.  You know, it’s pretty long. I think if the thing ever fits through the door we’ll have to move the armoire. Your chain saw won’t cut through the metal frame, will it?

It took just 10 minutes to unload the new rocker recliner boxes from the truck bed, unpack, and assemble them.  The small drop leaf end table was slipped in between.  Ahhhhhh, that feels great. Here, you sit in mine and I’ll sit in yours to see if either fits better or the same.  Mine’s fine. Mine too. Wow, they look good there. If we ever get the rest of the room repainted the walls will look as great as the chairs. The floor lamp goes behind the drop leaf. You know, the sofa looks pretty good in front of the window. Where’s the remotes caddy?

On the sofa. Do you mind getting up?

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Call in bed-head

Tennessee hardly ever is cold.  When I say cold, after 29 Minnesota winters, I’m not talking about a range of 25 to 44 degrees above zero.  People here call that chiiiiiiiiilly in 3 syllables.  To me, 25-44 says “coat.”  Below 25, down to 15 is coat and gloves.  Below that, add a scarf, but the hat is optional if your hair is like mine and you brave all to spare the do.  Boots seldom applied especially when my destination was dress-up.  Boots are in the basket with the candles and the inedible forgotten candy bars in the trunk in case I’m stranded.  I wasn’t so tough as I was fast between building and car.

Single digits, yea even, single syllables, says “cold.”  The temp on the porch is 10, outside the north window is 9.

While I was having weird dreams, the power came back briefly for about 5 minutes during which Honey started the coffee pot and jumped in the shower.  I woke up about 6, wondering if I was blind, found the flashlight and found Honey in the shower in the dark.  “Thaaank yooou.”  I’ll find the lanterns.  Why isn’t this one staying lit? Oh. The tail of the wick isn’t in the oil.  Duh.

The power hadn’t been off long enough for the interior temperature to come close to the exterior 9 and 10 numbers, but give it time.  Choices.  I could basin bathe, and dress by lantern light, or call in bed-head and dive for the still warm comforter cuddly bed.

“Power’s on.”  The lights being on were the first clue?

Add to list:  more firewood, another 2 lanterns, matches, batteries, charcoal.  Certainly not toilet paper, bread, and milk.  Those are gone before I get off work since the S word (snow) has been issued over the air waves.

Gonna do it this weekend!!

The floor tile is about to get …. uh …..

Better analogy: Remember press on nails? Did the same manufacturer diversify to floor tile?

The day I realized we were getting new flooring, I bought two boxes. My choices were simple. Either pull out the evil charge card and get all the boxes I needed or interrogate the sales associate aka clerk to confirm that we can come in once a week for the next 3 or 4 weeks and pick up another box off the huge pile in stock. “Yes, ma’am.” (There’s that horrible m word again.)

Honey approved of the pattern and at the end of the week on payday, stopped at Lowe’s and picked up another box. Wrong pattern. No matter. Exchange it tomorrow on the way to work. I saw the email when I got to work. “They’re out of our choice and won’t have it in again for two weeks.” Well, two weeks is about right for our schedule, but maybe the Lowe’s out my way has it. Two or nine emails later, we decided that since I was putting in some OT and since Honey was going to the shop anyway, he would pick up another box. One box. But, what if ……. No, just one at a time like we agreed.

Fortunately, the supply wasn’t sold out over the last 10 days and we have acquired another box. We have plenty to cover at least the walk ways.

I was getting rather used to the plywood look, primitive, but artsy in a quilty sort of way, varied with a spray of coffee and adventurously topped with microscopic shards of glass achieved by flinging in an impressively wide arc a cheap glass tumbler from the exterior water and ice access in the freezer door. Two of those glittery charmers attached to my left foot.

Honey sealed the seams with some grey goop, will snap a few chalk lines tomorrow evening, and smear the primer first thing Saturday. I’ll have to think fast to move the coffeepot to I-don’t-know-where-yet.

I think I’ll go to the video rental store and look for The Best of HGTV or maybe Texas Chainsaw Massacre. We’ll see how it goes.

Noah, I feel your pain

1986, a spring and summer filled with one violent thunderstorm after another with very few weekends giving us weather good enough for regular maintenance such as mowing let alone bush replacement.  And heat.  Rain, humidity, and heat.  That was the home improvement year that included the construction of our 10×18 screened in porch.  In case you didn’t know, Minnesota is infamous for its mosquito infestation.  The blood suckers are big enough for a social security number tatooted on their vicious little snouts, and mean enough to be demons from hell itself.  Enlarging the deck and screening it in was the high point of that house.  It was pure entertainment to watch the skeets cling to the screen and growl at us.  (neener, neener)  We had extra living space in the summer and a spare freezer for leftovers in the winter.  The other big home improvement was pulling out the old bushes in front of the house and replacing with rose bushes and some other stuff on the corner.  If you ask me what went out, you’ll get a blank stare.  I have been and continue to be horticulturally challenged.  And I don’t care.  They were overgrown and green, okay?

Honey worked hard that Saturday getting the last of whatever it was planted.  He was sweaty and pooped when he sat on the porch and declared that that was it, it, it for home improvement and he was done, done, done until next year, maybe the year after.  And just in time, because we could hear the thunder rumbling once again in the distance.

And God said, "Oh, yeah?"  He wasn’t out to punish anyone, He just knew something we didn’t know — as usual.  Here comes another storm and the entire neighborhood is a victim of ground lightning.  A bolt had hit a small tree around the corner.  The ground being saturated by weeks of rain, electricity fanned out.  Scullys’ microwave and garage door opener popped and Andersons’ 32-tune doorbell shorted, proceeded to play all 32 choices in the middle of the night and wouldn’t shut up.  The lady across the street unplugged her whole house every night so she sustained zero damage.  I guess being that … uh … careful pays off now and then.  Stan checked out the ham radio equipment and sure enough, it had been fried.  He shipped it off to Burghardt’s for assessment and submitted the claim to State Farm.  Done.

A few nights later, I loaded the washer with towels about 10pm and went to bed, a system that usually works well for a working mother.

4:00 am.  Honey marches into the bedroom and declares an emergency.  I knew somebody had to have thrown up and without a beat, told him it was his turn to clean it up.  "It’s not that."  I rolled over.  "Then, what?"   He’d been wakened by a strange noise coming from the water heater and went downstairs and stepped in a foot of water.   Our entire basement had been flooded wall to wall to wall to wall.  The kids were sound asleep on their little bed-boats.

The washer’s timer and switch had been fried by the ground lightning.  It was stuck on fill. 

We must have had a sump pump in the basement as the drain was subject to backing up during the rinse cycle.  It’s been 20 years, we can’t remember for sure.  Stan sloshed over to that corner and after shutting off the washer, he opened the window to run the hose out and immediately a quatro-zam-badzillion blood starved, bug-eyed, vengeful mosquitos loosed their clutch on the porch screen and zoomed into the house.  I swear they were laughing.

Do you know how much wet carpet weighs?  Lots.  Other than carpet, the wallboard was soaked, studs were wet, wallpaper peeled, and ceiling tile warped.  We had stored memorabilia under the steps, much of which was now destroyed, things like books, reel to reel tapes, and more.  Dad had given me the fiddle he had played at barn dances in the ’20s.  The case was soaked, the fiddle itself was in pieces, veneer popped out like a starched 1890’s collar.   Stan couldn’t save the case but he carefully and lovingly dried, glued and refinished Dad’s fiddle, beautifully restoring it not only for display but for use as well.   Six years later, on Father’s Day, Laura Lund played it for him in church.  He died later that year on December 23.  His fiddle is perched on my fireplace mantle.

The damage list was long.  $10,000 later we had a family room, 2 redecorated bedrooms, new carpet, new furniture, a platform under the washer and dryer, a refinished piano, a new Christmas tree, and a steel I-beam overhead where a wall once stood.  There was doubt if our insurance company would pay the claim.  But since it was a lightning damage claim instead of flooding due to a backed up drain, we were ok.  (Whew!)

That was one bad experience.  What do you want to bet that I’ll be neighbors with Noah in heaven so that I can’t complain forever?

Tune in next time for "Fun With I-Beams and Yellow Pianos."

The house that Russ built

Remember that picture of my sisters with the white house in the background? It was in the post titled “Not My Pear Tree!” If that poor decrepit house were a living creature, it would be a worn out swayback horse wishing some merciful human would shoot it.

No insulation, a wood perimeter over bare ground for a foundation, bowed floors, sagging roof, no plumbing, no furnace and no basement or crawl space to put one, but it was air conditioned of sorts–whatever the air was like outside it was in the same condition inside. You could see daylight around windows and doors. The first order of business was to stuff rags where possible and since they moved in in October, a means of heat was priority. To be fair to Dad, he did put up siding while Mom was in the hospital with Magger.

oil-burning-stove.jpgHere it is. Not a real class act in the field of photography, but who in their right mind wastes film on a thing like this? The oil barrel was on the outside and when the lever behind the box was turned, oil fed into the belly of the stove. Timing was everything. When just enough oil accumulated on the bottom, you toss in a lit match. Too much oil and the match either drowns or shoots fire out the door into your face. Too little and nothing. This was our sole source of heat. For humidity you place a pan of water on top of it. And it sat in the living room. There was an iron vent in the ceiling around the pipe that went straight up through the upstairs bedroom and ulitmately the roof. That vent was our only source of warm air upstairs.

Being bulky and taking up significant space, it was dismantled in the late spring, then set up in the house again in the fall. The last parent to go to bed at night turned the stove off. Dad, up at 4 am, started it. In the meantime, during the night, the heat was held in the downstairs as much as possible by shutting the vent to the upstairs. Hey! Parental units! You’ve got three small children upstairs freezing their little skitoskos off!! Whaddya mean shutting off our warm air!!

Oh, we’re sorry. Here’s the plan: We put all three children in one full sized bed with all the blankets in the house piled on top! Let’s back up here and remind the reader that these three kids did not get along!! And guess who was in the middle? Yup. The baby. Me!! Trapped like a rat in a trap.

Cameron, Illinois is in the snow belt. Yea, even the below zero belt. It didn’t stay below zero for more than a few days at a time but when it’s below zero and there’s no insulation and the windows are single pane and the heat vent is closed (!!) nobody wants to put a bare foot on a linoleum floor in the morning. So when procrastination caves in to necessity, you literally hit the floor running. And you beat feet to that ugly warm stove. Warm one side of the body, warm the other side, turn, turn, turn, until The Mother Unit yells to get the clothes on or you will be late for school. If you were smart, you put out your clothes the night before within reach of the stove.

In 1959, Dad bought an abandoned house from the railroad in the little town of Smithshire. He took it apart board by board and nail by nail. Whatever could be saved for future use was saved to build a new house. The kitchen and utility room that had been added onto the original nag horse of a house during the 50’s was still in fairly good shape. So Mom wanted to build the new house where the existing one stood. Dad wanted to build the new house in the back yard and tear down all of the existing dwelling. Mom won out. Hindsight shows that Dad should have had his way. What ensued was the most difficult, drawn out, complicated construction melee possible, mostly because we had nowhere else to live but in what was being built and torn down in sections. It took until 1970 to call it finished. By that time, the kitchen and utility room that had been new in 1959 were in need of remodeling.

The stories from the construction that need telling will be told later. Here’s the short version:

  • Take out the pear tree. Boo.
  • Build the breezeway out from the utility room. The intention was that a carport would connect that and the tin sided garage. This connecting carport never happened.
  • Build the new living room and one bedroom in front of the house.
  • Tear down the original 4 rooms in between the kitchen and the front section.
  • Fill the gap with the new dining room, bathroom, and two bedrooms.

I don’t know how old the original sagabond house was when Dad bought it in 1946. I think it saw more than a few wars. So do you think the wood was a little old and brittle? Does the phrase “lathe and plaster” mean anything to you? Tearing that thing down was a dusty, dirty job.

It was the summer of ’62, a weekend. We were making serious headway getting that middle section out of there. I was ripping off old old plaster and lathing with all my might. Pushing, pulling, and pounding off the old siding. This was downright fun and quite an accomplishment for a 12 year old bookworm. Dad was pulling down the ceiling. “Everybody. Come here and look at this.” As we gathered and looked up at what he was looking at, there was a hushed silence followed by a low soft whistle. We just stood there, staring.

Have you ever had a moment when you felt you were held in the palm of God’s hand? We all stood where the ugly old stove had held court, staring at the underside of the upstairs floor. Where the stovepipe had been was solid charcoal. Fingers of rippled charcoal streaks extended in a pattern in all directions from the stovepipe hole, one or two of them touching the other side of the house, inches from damning fresh air. How many fires had been snuffed out? How many times had the Hand of God Almighty thwarted a tragedy so that 3 little girls could grow up, marry, and make another generation? And, why save us when others die in fires? I don’t know. I just don’t know.

Considering the age of the house, the layout of the rooms, the close proximity to the source of a potential blaze, we wouldn’t have had a chance.

There is a God, people. In my 50+ years, I’ve seen his intervention time and again. But this was the first one I can remember. I will never forget.

Projects up The Wazoo

The Wazoo is a river in darkest Africa that flows through the Watusi tribal grounds.  No one knows its source.  It is where barges and barges of our projects have been carried up river where they collect and procreate like bunnies.   They float back down in groups, unbidden, and untimely.  We will never run out.  They’ve followed us everywhere since we signed the bottom line of home ownership.  If it wasn’t a room that needed painting or papering, it was a garage sale, shrubbery replacement, a sandbox or swingset, and just wait until I tell you about the steel  I-beam in the basement after our 1986 midnight flood.  We are currently building fence sections as a backdrop to a flower bed that is overgrown with grass.  And the new maple tree is simultaneously curling up and sprouting new grown.  Go figure. 

Of all our projects, the one that comes to mind as the most fun is the railing in the Litch house.  The second most fun was the removal of the wall between the two bedrooms creating a bigger and better master-almost-suite. 

When we first moved in in 1974 we were thrilled.  Moving day saw the two of us, Herb and Edna, Don and his whole family doing something.  Everybody had a paint brush in his/her hand.  Gary was in the linen closet, Herb painting in the master bedroom all day, Don painting in the spare bedroom a few hours, Stan, Kevin, and Greg hauling loads of stuff from the apartment, and Edna,  Berniece, and Linda  all over the kitchen disbursing dishes and pans and food.  Each room was a different color.  That was the 70’s and that’s how it was done. 

The basement was concrete and open 2 x 4’s because we could get a price reduction by leaving it unfinished.  The carpet was gold in the living room and hallway, blue shag (yes, shag) in the master bedroom, a green sculpture in the second bedroom, and a rust-brown-orange-yellow hexagon pattern in the kitchen.  The kitchen carpet fit the 70’s well and the crumbs blended into the pattern for well over a week at a time.  As time went on into the 80’s, the fall colors gave way to mauves and blues, and in our case, peach.  We did keep up with the times. 

I stayed home with the babies. I will treasure that opportunity that will not come around again, even though we had to sit on a $20 bill for two weeks consistently.   Both hosting and shopping garage sales became a way of life.  Being in the house during that time, I was able to see all the things that needed doing – lots and lots of projects.  One of them was the railing.  Make that two.  We had a split entry house, six steps up and six steps down from the front door.  The living room wrought iron railing protected one from falling into the entryway.   The Mediterranian look of black furniture, white walls, red accent–usually in the form of fur pillows or something vinyl, and black wrought iron was big then.  All we had of that look was the black railing to accent the gold room.  It didn’t take too long to get really tired of it especially when I was looking at it all day every day.  Taking that out was easy — unscrew 10 or so screws, lift off and carry to the garage.  The other railing wasn’t a railing at all but a wall–2 x 4’s, sheetrock, dark wood plank– it was a wall between the steps up and the steps down.  It blocked my view of, of, well, it just blocked!

I wanted Stan to cut it down and replace it with spindles.  Oh, but this and Oh, but that.  We need to be sure about something about loadbearing or keeping the steps from caving or I forget what all the dangers were.  "Don’t do anything," he said on his way to work.

Did those wedding vows actually say "obey" and was I to take that literally or not?  What was the root word that was loosely translated as "obey" and was that the King James verson?

Stan made sure he took all the applicable tools with him — didn’t he trust me? — but he failed to factor in the neighbor’s fully stocked garage and willingness to help.  Conveniently, Neil Dennin was home and let me borrow his saw.  It didn’t take too much work to pry off the ugly board, cut the sheetrock out with a razor blade knife, and saw off the exposed and now hazardous 2 x 4’s sticking up.  There.  What’s for lunch?

It didn’t take Stan long to sense there was something different when he walked in the door.  That ol’ Stan is pretty sharp especially when walls are … gone.  Guess we have to do something before the kids flip over into the lower level and hurt themselves.  Had Stan not had such a good nature, I think I would have been flipped over. 

So, off I went to the lumber yard to procure some spindles, a post, and a handrail, and call Mom and Dad to see if they aren’t doing anything special and want to travel 500 miles to install them.  They came.  Dad put the spindles in.  Upside down.  It looked great.

I’m really proud of that home improvement.  The best part was the look on Stan’s face that day when he came home to find the railwall … gone.  It was one of those Wazoo moments in time.   I wish I had a picture.