Friday, February 15, 2019


Shortly before we left for our trip to the Philippines, we met with the contractor who has been quoting our remodeling project and verbally came to an agreement though nothing has been signed at this point. The work involved is going to be a four foot bump out of our kitchen plus the addition of a covered front porch. Some of the work for the sake of not having to live for a year without a functioning kitchen is going to be done by the contractor and some of the work that we can live without for awhile will be done by me. This helps to keep the price down to something we can live with.

But before we could do a finalized agreement, we wanted to get our kitchen designed. We hired an architect a couple years back to layout all this but he essentially just dropped stuff here and there without any real design thought as to the functionality of the kitchen. It has always bugged us plus it made it hard to quote when you don't exactly know how many cabinets of what type you need.

So on a snowy weekend after our trip, we went to the cabinet showroom that our contractor wants to use and sat down with someone who actually knew enough to design a kitchen. It took over four hours but these two pictures represent what we ended up with including an approximation of colors.

The only thing undecided is due to the fact that we didn't know the exact dimension of the doorway on the right side of the above picture. I think it is further away from the double ovens and we can probably put another cabinet there but for now we just stuck a bookshelf turned away from the kitchen as sort of a place holder until I get the exact dimensions.

Since our contractor quoted us a price the first time for cabinets that wasn't remotely realistic as it turned out, and the designer at the cabinet showroom thought the cabinets were more than the second quote our contractor came up based upon the architects feeble design attempt, I'm guessing the next step is that the contractor will come back asking for more money. Since we haven't signed anything, we are just waiting to hear how much and make a decision if we want to proceed or not. But at least we do have a design so if we don't proceed now, we might be a step closer later when we do want to proceed.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Appalachian Trail

It has always been a dream of my father's to hike the Appalachian Trail. It has also been a dream of mine as well and for awhile when I was going through my knee surgery, I thought it out of the realm of possibility. These days after "retiring", my knee has gotten much better to the point it feels normal again so perhaps I can still try it someday. My mother wasn't so keen on the idea and really had no desire to do the hike herself but had promised to drive a support camper/vehicle for my father but shortly after that decision she was diagnosed with her brain cancer and it was shelved to focus on her bucket list instead.

My father is not a people person which is why my brother and I did most of the communication obligations that occur when a well respected member of the community dies. My dad instead holed up in the family cabin in Arkansas where he doesn't get a phone signal unless he intentionally holds his phone up in the air at the end of the driveway. He came back for a few weeks to do some estate stuff that needed to be done and then went back there again until time for his Appalachian trip.

My dad decided that what he needs is six months away where the most pressing thoughts are how to get through the day to his next camp spot and take his mind off my mother. I think it will be a healing experience for him and have been very supportive of his adventure. But with about six weeks before his planned start on the southern end of the trail, a lot has to be done to prepare and absolutely nothing has been started.

I'm planning on taking care of the farm in his absence which is a big endeavor in itself. They have lots of bills and paperwork to do. The farm is being rented out so hopefully not a lot of physical labor will be required on my part. Also, I will have to be a support person of sorts monitoring his progress and shipping him resupply packages along his route. I also hope to sneak away for a couple weeks, perhaps a couple different times during the summer to spend some hiking time with him along the way, assuming he makes it that far. He just turned 67 and isn't so sure he will make it so far but feels this is his only chance if he wants to attempt his dream.

So it looks to be a busy summer this year. The garden is going to be left fallow so I won't be doing any preserving of produce which was something I always did with my mom anyway. So perhaps this will keep my mind occupied as well and be healing. Also, if I am ever to do the hike, this will be a good study for me on what I will need to do to accomplish it.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Lacking Closure

Although I have thought of my mom everyday since she passed away and even the thought of her has kept me up some nights, I haven't done a lot of mourning. I miss her but I think I did a lot of my mourning over the past two and a half years when I found out her days were numbered. I think another part is that I haven't had the closure of putting her remains, in this case cremains, in their final resting spot.

I was very conflicted in the weeks after she died. My dad was going down to their cabin in Arkansas to get away and my brother and family were going to be there during that time as well. I on the other hand had the long standing trip to the Philippines. Before leaving, I talked to my dad and we had a talk about mom's ashes. I told him I wanted to be there when he spread them around and I thought it should be a family event. He agreed.

After we got back from our trip to the Philippines, we invited him up to our house to hear about his trip to Arkansas, plan his upcoming trip (more on that in subsequent posts) and to talk about our trip to the Philippines. During that conversation, he said that he had already scattered most of mom's ashes already. He said he got tired of looking at the box of ashes all the time and decided he needed to get them scattered. I understand this on some level and would have probably felt the same way but I was hurt.

However, there is still some left and another place in Arkansas that he still wants to scatter the remaining ashes so there is still some hope that I can be there when that happens. Also, some were put in a small urn and given to my maternal grandparents to keep and I have asked after they are "done" with them, (they are now in their late 80's) if I could have them back and put them in a small country cemetery near where we grew up and my dad still lives. Mom didn't want her body in a cemetery and wanted to be scattered out at several places and I feel that part is/will be honored. I don't think she would mind is just a small portion of her ashes are in the cemetery. I just feel that it will be a place where I can go and visit and know a piece of her is there. I also would like a headstone with her name on it so future generations can know that she did exist nearby even if the farm is no longer there. This feels more important now that the majority of her ashes are scattered but in areas where I won't know specifically where she is.

In a way I shouldn't be surprised at the outcome this far. My dad has always been one to not dwell on what others might feel or think. Mom was the one that would suggest things based on what someone might feel or think about something. Dad just went along with the flow. I just found all this out yesterday (as I write this post) and didn't sleep much last night. Instead I got up and worked on mom's smart phone. We can't figure out her passwords necessary to switch the phone over to my dad's number so he can graduate from a flip phone. I'm probably going to end up reformatting the thing but I'm first getting things off of it that might come in handy, namely her contacts. I guess I was naive and thought my mom wouldn't have all that many on there but after two hours of writing hundreds of names and phone numbers down on paper in case they get lost, I'm probably only halfway done.

Good for you mom!

Friday, February 8, 2019

Necessity is the mother of invention

When something breaks around our house, I often tinker with it to see if I can fix it first. This was more true when I was younger and things were made more simply and as time has gone by and computer chips becoming more common, it is less true. But in general, I still try to fix things first before calling for help.

Awhile back after the girls were off to school and I was doing my morning reading session on the computer, I noticed it was a bit chilly. I checked the thermostat and saw that it was about six degrees cooler than what it was set at but I could hear the air blowing from the register. So I felt it and found it to be cold air.

So I went downstairs and looked through the peephole and saw that the red light on the circuit board was flashing twice which after googling meant that it was locked out after trying to ignite too many times. I reset the board by powering the electricity to it and saw that it would try to ignite but wouldn't stay lit after more than a few seconds.

We were planning on taking off for a day that evening so I panicked and called the repair guy to ensure that it would get fixed before we had to leave. It was well below freezing outside and so leaving without working heat was simply not an option. I was told they would call me back shortly when they finished a few other jobs and take care of things.

I took a shower while waiting and decided to give it one more shot. I pulled the filter and saw that it was pretty full of dirt so I cleaned that out and put it back in. I cycled the power and the heater lit up on the first try and started blowing warm heat into the house. Feeling proud of myself I went to visit my grandparents as I normally do on that particular day of the week. I decided to keep the repairman appointment just to check and make sure that it wasn't the air filter and had just started up by some fluke.

Back home, I noticed the house was a bit chilly again. I checked and the board had locked out the ignition sequence again. Darn. It had been a fluke. I finished doing some other chores but it was getting to be a couple hours before we were planning on leaving and still no word from the repairman. So I decided to give it one more chance.

I googled common problems for that particular model when flashing a red light twice and got a list fairly long. I checked the ones I could but none of them seemed to be the problem. Finally I typed in the right combinations of words saying that it would light for a few seconds before going out and that brought up yet another suggestion to check the flame sensor. I googled up where the flame sensor was located and about fifteen minutes later I had it out. It had a bunch of black and blue buildup on the end of it so I polished it up with a piece of emery cloth (mechanics version of sandpaper) and reinstalled it. The heater fired right up and cycled perfectly for the rest of the day.

Thanks google! Also I have to thank the repairman who because he was so slow on getting back to me, I saved myself some money and taught myself something else that might come in handy in the future should it happen again.

Wednesday, February 6, 2019

Going Home

The airport in Manila is notorious (in my book anyway) for being a model of inefficiency. However it has three terminals that are separated by some distance and I have only been through terminal one up to this point in my career. However on this trip we were leaving via terminal two which I have never been in. With our distance from the airport, the huge increase in traffic congestion and other uncertainties, we opted to leave at 4 a.m from Tarlac for our 11 am flight out to Los Angeles.

The traffic ended up being light due to our early departure time and we had time to eat and get out at the terminal curb at 7 am, four hours before departure. Be warned, the following description is a graphic narrative of what it takes to reach your gate at terminal 2 in Manila.

  1. Find a cart for your luggage push it to the curbside check-in where your documentation is inspected.
  2. Once through you head to the next area where all baggage is scanned through an x-ray machine. We walk through another x-ray machine. Because you can't take the luggage cart through the machine, you must find another one to load up all your bags once through the x-ray machine.
  3. Now you get in line for the ticket counter. 
  4. Part way through that line, you reach a wider part of the line where all your documentation is checked a second time. 
  5. Further down the same line you come to an area where every single piece of luggage is opened up, unpacked, swabbed, repacked and closed. All three of our pieces of luggage were overweight so we also had to buy a colorful canvas bag to get everything under the limits.
  6. Once you finally reach the ticket counter we have our third documentation check. Our bags were checked through but since we were flying Philippines Airline and they can't communicate with other airlines, we only have our ticket through Los Angeles where we will have to get our tickets for the rest of the trip meaning another future trip through security stateside.
  7. Once with our tickets, we entered another area next door where we began with an x-ray scan of our carry-on-baggage for the third time, and our bodies the second time. 
  8. From there we waited in line to go through immigration and our fourth documentation check. 
  9. Once through immigration, we walked through the duty free shops and restaurants to our gate which is roped off and where we wait in line for our third trip through the x ray machine for our bodies and fourth time for our carry on luggage. We also submit to our fifth documentation check.
  10. We made it with about an hour and a half to spare. After an hour, I decide it was time to go to the bathroom and get some water for the long plane ride at facilities ten feet outside our roped in gate area manned by a half dozen security personnel. We can leave but are told we have to go through the security again. So I exit, use the restroom, buy two bottles of water and re-enter the security zone. I get x-rayed for my fourth time, my two bottles of water get x-rayed and had I bought any of my carry on baggage, it too would have been x-rayed for the fifth time and of course my sixth documentation check. Unfortunately, all bottled water was confiscated even though I have been through four previous x-ray machines for personal effects and couldn't have possibly brought liquid explosive this far. It was stuck in a drinking water case with many other unopened bottles of water that I'm sure were carried across the aisle to the store where I bought it from so they can resell it to the next unsuspecting passenger. 
  11. Finally we boarded the plane after going though my seventh documentation check.
After arriving at LAX, we retrieved our luggage went through immigration and customs in about a half hour, printed off our remaining boarding passes for the rest of the trip, went through a personal x-ray scanner, a carry-on baggage scanner and documentation check, ONCE, in another half hour and had the next four hours to do whatever we wanted without anymore checks before boarding the plane. I never thought I would ever say this but god bless the U.S. TSA!

Despite having four hours between check-in post customs at LAX before our flight to Dallas and a two plus hour layover there before getting the last flight home, none of our bags were there upon arrival even after we forked over $5 for a baggage cart. Turns out one of the bags was still at LAX and the other three in Dallas. So we did the paperwork and drove home without them. Fortunately the U.S. system for finding and reuniting lost bags with owners is very efficient and 15 hours later they were home with us. It would take us over a week to fight the 14 hours of jet lag and another two and a half weeks to fight the colds we got somewhere along the way back.

It's good to be back home.