Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I'm Gone but Haven't Left

For those who follow this blog regularly, you will know that since last fall, I've been prepping for the arrival of my brother-in-law and his family for their first out of country experience to come visit my family. Well that arrival will be tomorrow and as you are reading this, I will probably be on my way to retrieve a large passenger van that I have rented since between all ten of us there are only two legal drivers, my wife and I. This way we can all travel together and my wife is free to tell them about the sights we will be seeing while I do the driving.

We plan to pack their three weeks stay here in America with as much Americana as they can stand or desire so I probably won't be around here much until after the first week of July or so. Their bedroom is my office so in politeness, I will probably refrain from using the computer unless it is the old laptop with the 15 minute battery life upstairs. On the plus side, I'm sure I'll have quite a few stories to relay here on this blog when they are back safe and sound in the Philippines and my household gets cut in half back to five people.

Thanks for understanding and I'll catch up on your blogs when I'm able. Peace out!

Monday, June 13, 2016

Decked Out!

When I last left you hanging, which I'm sure you all were, I had just washed the deck with my gas powered high pressure washer using an aggressive tip and was able to get down to bare wood in spots but not everywhere. I am positive I took a picture detailing this however, I can't find it so perhaps I didn't. Anyway, take my word for it because it really isn't relevant other than in order to proceed, I knew I was going to have to use a similar opaque stain as what was on there before.

I ended up removing one of the balusters and taking it into the paint store where they dutifully matched the color. After I got home, I realized that the paint had probably faded so we were matching the faded color but the wife didn't complain too much so I think it ended up okay. Her exact words were, "Oh, you went with the same color." I took that as a yes, she was okay with the color.

Because the boards were really checked, I opted to hand brush the stain over the entire thing. The stain said to apply it between 50 and 90 degrees temperature and I wasn't sure if they were meaning air temperature or deck surface temperature which are too different things. Here this past week, it was hot enough that one can't walk on the deck barefooted outside of the shaded parts for more than a few seconds before jumping back to the much cooler shaded parts. So I would get up at dark thirty in the morning and stain the areas that got pretty much constant sun and then work on the shaded parts later on in the afternoons when it was a bit cooler out.

The stain wasn't quite as viscous as a stain I would use when finishing my wood projects but it wasn't quite as thick as regular paint either. The wood was so dry and thirsty that it really soaked in my first coat which I think will be good for the long term life of the project. However, many of the checks in the wood were still visible so I ended up doing a second coat which filled all but the biggest checks in completely and leaving the surface very nice looking, even almost newish again.

In the end, it wasn't too bad of a project to do and one that I should have done a couple years ago. Like I said earlier though, I wanted to strip the wood down to bare wood which is a much harder thing to do and I wasn't sure if we wanted to stay with the layout as it is. I'm still not sure but for $80 in stain and a weeks worth of labor which in my case is darn near free these days, it was worth it to give us another few years to think about the layout.

Friday, June 10, 2016


As you can probably surmise, the deck is my next project that I have begun. It should have been tackled a lot earlier but for awhile we were kicking around what our ultimate goal is going to be behind the house, namely below this deck. There is a crude concrete patio beneath that actually sits higher than the slab of the house so when we get real toad strangling rains, it can cause water to run up against the house where it previously water damaged the siding and underlayment. With both of those replaced, I want to fix that problem sooner rather than later. That means digging up the slab underneath, regrading to the proper height and putting in a new patio.

However, with all the things going on this year, there just isn't money in the budget to tackle it this year which means I let the deck slide another year or work on it this year and risk throwing away money if we decide to change it. After some consideration, I figured that whatever we end up with for a future layout, I can probably take that into consideration with the new patio so we can use the old deck a few more years and then redo it sometime in the future, after the patio has been completed. With that in mind, I broke out the power washer in the background and after snapping this picture, proceeded to thoroughly clean and strip any loose stain off the deck boards.

There are several things I hate about this deck. Whoever screwed the deck boards down drove the screws at all sorts of crazy angles making holes and splinters in the deck boards larger and worse than they really needed to be. These days they make jigs that allow you to screw them down from the side where they aren't even seen. The boards they used were very wet most likely and have shrunk a lot over the years leaving almost all the screws popped out. So before I did anything, I had to scrape the dirt and layers of stain out of the screw heads and sink them further into the deck which was a very laborious process. Many screws have twisted off or broke off over they years which makes sinking them further or removing them impossible. Some in the path where I most often walk I dig out anyway and others I just leave.

The power washer removed layers of dirt and some old stain but the majority remained behind. I had ideas of completely getting the old stain off to go with a lighter stain but after a half gallon of deck stripper at $45/gallon, I couldn't quite get a 2 square feet area down to bare wood so decided it was cost prohibitive to continue. Of course staining over old stain is not as good as staining over bare wood as far as life expectancy goes but since this deck may not have a long life ahead of it, I decided to roll the dice.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

A Good Death

I feel like my blog has been kind of a bummer lately. I've been recovering from injury, talking about my daughter dealing with grief and relaying problems I been trying to solve. Now my neighbor has died. One of these days things will even out with a streak of sunshine and good tales but not today.

I have known "Bill" most of my life but only really knew him these last four years since we moved onto this street. I knew Bill early on as a photographer for the local newspaper and as someone who has always admired photography but never really excelled at it, I knew which pictures were his. In high school he moved on to being an artist and author but I never really knew those areas in his life until I moved to the neighborhood.

I don't recall our first meeting after our move but I'm sure he introduced himself as Bill and a light bulb went off in my head connecting Bill with Bill. He introduced his wife "Mary" who although I had never met in my life, millions of others have in the form of romance novels of which she has authored well over a hundred of them. Living on the same street as a professional photographer and both of them being known authors made me feel akin to living among royalty.

As the years went by, we got to know them as most of those who did know them couldn't. We knew them as friends and neighbors while others knew them as celebrities. Not only have we been over to their house to dine and converse, but I've had beers with Bill after a meeting in which we both are members. It wasn't a real close friendship but it was a neighborly friendship and I think that suited all of us just fine.

Bill was a smoker during the day as all newspaper people seemed to be and that caught up with him well before I got to known him personally in the form of a pulmonary disease and prostate cancer. Because of the former, they couldn't stop the latter and so it started slowing him down to the point where he was hospitalized and eventually moved to hospice.

Because of their celebrity status, they were by nature private people so it was with surprise that I received a call from Mary asking me if I could come see Bill at his request. I drove to hospice and when I entered the room, all puzzlement of 'why me of all people' disappeared when I saw the smile on his face. We talked for awhile but the drugs holding back the pain made him fade in and out a bit. When he finally faded into a sleep, it would be the second to the last time. He made it back into lucidity a handful of days later to request a chocolate milk shake which he said was damn good and then slipped back under. A few days later my wife and I were driving back over to comfort Mary until the funeral home could make it over to retrieve Bill for the start of his final journey.

The next several days will be busy as my organization (among others) honors Bill and provides comfort for Mary. I guess I write this as part grief therapy for me and part of an explanation if I don't post anything really interesting for a few days. I will be back and hopefully with something a little bit sunnier to talk about. Today is perhaps the most perfect day we have received this year, it is also the 30th anniversary of the death of Bill's father and it is a religious holiday in the faith of Bill who was very religious. Bill picked a good day to leave behind his earthly bonds.

Bill had a good death.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Electrical Fault

I am someone who like to do my own work but I also know when things are beyond my wheelhouse of knowledge or if it takes specialized tools to complete that it would be more fiscally efficient on my part to just hire someone to do it for me. Case in point, on my recent remodel of the office, I hired a company that has done work for me in the past to help me troubleshoot shortening a return duck that apparently went "nowhere" so that I can increase the ceiling height of the room. This same company also does plumbing and electrical work as well which plays into this story.

Once they completed the duct work, I redid all the electrical which I have blogged about on here. I can do basic wiring but when I get into complex circuits of three or four way lights, I usually pass. Anyway, I rewired the office, tested everything and sheet rocked over it. I've been using it ever since with nary a problem until recently.

Using an outlet I have used many times before, I was vacuuming the floor after we officially moved the last of our office "crap" back into place and suddenly the vacuum shut off. A quick diagnosis showed that the vacuum worked but the one outlet no longer did. The following day, I popped off the cover and everything looked fine but it still did not have power along with everything downstream of the outlet. Not sure where that outlet got its power, I started popping off ceiling panels (thank god for ceiling panels over drywall) to see if I could trace where the power was coming from but couldn't find any wires there. The only place I could think of was an outlet now behind the filing cabinets of my desk but there was no easy way to get to them from the front. However, on the opposite side of the wall is our storage/laundry room with unfinished drywall up on that wall. A few measurements and a square cut out with a jab saw, I was able to rule out that outlet as the source of power. I poked, tested and checked for a couple hours before I decided I was completely stumped and gave up. I called in the experts.

They were swamped so a couple weeks later, they got me worked into their schedule and showed up. I wasn't sure how he would take it since I had done the electrical work myself and was thinking that I had perhaps screwed up somehow causing all this and now he had to diagnose my work behind sheetrock where he couldn't see. Together we ran through my trouble shooting up to now with him verifying but he couldn't find out where the wire supplying power to the electrical outlet was coming from either. Scratching our heads, he started tracing the circuit back from the electrical panel while I sat in the family room downstairs hoping for divine intervention. It came. There was an outlet in the family room on the other "side" of the office wall containing the electrical outlet but was under the stairs and not visible unless things were moved out of the way. After clearing the way, we quickly determined that power was out to that outlet as well.

After more digging, I finally found the wire heading to that outlet which led us to a junction box in the storage room which then led us to an outlet behind the water heater nearby where we finally found the reason for the fault. Previous occupants had spliced in a chunk of 14 gauge wire from that outlet to the outlet in the family room (probably because it was handy) where everything before and after that chunk was 12 gauge wire. The kicker is that this was a 20 amp circuit which means a minimum of 12 gauge wire must be used. My vacuum had evidently pulled just a little over 15 amps (that 14 gauge wire is rated for) causing it to overheat, melt the insulation and short out causing the outage. A new outlet and some 12 gauge wire replacing the 14 gauge wire later, all was back up and running.

Best of all, I learned that I didn't goof up wiring my office.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Lessons of Death

This past Monday we loaded up the banged up van and observed Memorial day by visiting some graves in the area. One of the first stops we made were to two people my family were close with who died in a head on collision earlier this year. Both Mike and Mary were friends of mine and I spent lots of time over the last four years I've live here in their presence. Mary worked at my daughter's school and taught religious education to her as well as just always being really friendly with her. My daughter was an alter server at their funeral but due to school, didn't get a chance to ever go out to the burial. I don't think she ever had time to grieve. My daughter picked out some flowers to decorate their graves and when we pulled up to it and walked over, she broke down and started sobbing.

I'm sure those of you are parents know, there is nothing worse than hearing your child sob in real grief. It is hard to hear because our natural instinct it to protect them from hurt. In this case however, I knew what she needed was understanding so I just put a hand on her shoulder and hugged her close to me and let her morn her loss. It was therapeutic for both of us. After saying a prayer, we moved on to another cemetery and other people that we had loved in life.

For the most part, I have been fortunate when it comes to death. My then living great grandparents died when I was 2, 11 and 15 years of age and for the most part I was too young to really know what I had missed. My grandparents are all still alive, at least the ones I knew. My biological father's father, died when I was in high school but I hadn't seen him since I was five years old so really didn't know him. And of course, my parents are still going strong. I myself and no longer a young chicken and if one were betting have lived more of my life than what remains ahead. My time of loss is coming because that is the cycle of life. I hope that like my oldest daughter on this past Memorial Day, I will be able to grieve properly when the time comes. I learned that lesson thanks to my daughter.

Wednesday, June 1, 2016


This has been my first and I hope only concussion. When the nurse told me that it will get worse before it gets better, I didn't really believe her since I already felt better than the day of the accident. However, I'm a believer now. Four days after the accident, whenever the Advil I was taking for the neck and later back pains wore off, I would start getting nauseated again. I would take another dose of Advil which would make the nauseating feelings go away. Meanwhile the neck pain transferred down to my lower spine and then back up again. Here it is five days after the accident and my neck aches more than it ever has to the point where Advil is hardly doing anything for it. It makes it hard to do anything when your mind is preoccupied with the pain.

Probably what worries me more than anything is that after the initial impact which I "remember" as only minor at best, I remember backing away from the car and driving slowly across the very busy intersection to a nearby shoulder. I have no gaps in my memory that I am aware. What troubles me is that I have no recollection of checking or even looking what the traffic around me was doing as I drove from the collision site to the shoulder. Perhaps it was the shock of being hit or what I am suspecting is that the collision was actually more violent than what my mind remembers and hence the very sore and painful muscles five days later.

My next project, which I was getting supplies for when the accident occurred, has been pushed off for the time being which makes my wife frustrated. She really doesn't understand the scope of effort that goes into completing some projects, only what it looks like when finished. I on the other hand, know that my neck and back won't allow me to do the initial prep work involved to do the project successfully so I'm trying to concentrate on healing. I will get to it eventually and she will be happy when she sees the end results and for me, that is all that matters.

(Edited to add that as of today, I'm about 95% back to normal.)