Monthly Archives: July 2008

to do: get a life

This is the first weekend we didn’t work on the house. We drove to Expo and picked up the rest of the bathroom tile, but that was it. We spent the rest of the weekend with friends, going to a concert and hanging out at their place and actually having fun.

Other than the odd run to pick up something we ordered, I don’t really have to think about the house for three more weeks. Our foreman, aka Joe’s dad, is on vacation, and we suddenly have a jam-packed social calendar. I know this should make me happy—this house has, after all, murdered my social life—but instead, I feel like I am in withdrawal.

Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate the distraction, but the delay, especially now, when we’re so close to getting the bathroom done, is killing me. Lately I’ve caught myself staring at houses as I drive by them, actually jealous of whoever’s lucky enough to live inside. They don’t even have to be nice houses, just finished.

I really don’t know how I’m going to make it three weeks.

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hot and bothered

In case you didn’t notice, it’s been hot. We know exactly how hot because the woman who lived in this house before us mounted a thermostat outside practically every room for some unknown reason. In a house without central air, that makes almost any kind of work a bitch, but especially work that requires you to go climbing around a non-insulated attic.

But we have no choice—if we don’t finish the electric before Joe’s dad leaves for two weeks of vacation this Thursday, we’ll have to tell Roy to hold off again. And everything for the bath is in or will be this week, so conceivably he could finish—what a beautiful word—the job and we’d have a functioning toilet again.

So this week is going to be a scramble. I am so psyched by the idea of finishing something that I even stayed to help with the electrical. We sorted out a jumble of wires in the kitchen and ran a new phone line. And I have an enormous to-do list once again. I’m kind of happy about that.

owning a home may be hazardous to your health

It was health scare weekend at our house. Joe woke up at 5 a.m. unable to breathe, and we had to rush him to the ER. Turns out the blood pressure med he’s been on caused an allergic reaction, making his uvula (that thing that hangs down the back of your throat; not, as Joe wondered, a “female part”) swell. Scary, but after they put him on steroids and anti-inflammatories, he recovered.

How I spent my summer vacation

How I spent my summer vacation

Because he did, because he’s the world’s worst patient, and because “uvula” is a funny word, we felt justified in making fun of his medical emergency the rest of the weekend. “Hey, hey, relax—you don’t want to inflame your uvula.

The other, less-funny disease du jour is asbestosis. When we removed the suspected asbestos tile floors, we never sealed them, a big mistake because the glue can contain carcinogenic fibers. This fact came to light, horribly, because a friend of Joe’s dad recently died of mesothelioma just weeks after she was diagnosed.

I researched it and I don’t think our risk is too high because the initial job was done pretty cleanly and safely, and we haven’t done anything since then that would make the stuff friable (reduced to tiny dustlike particles that easily become airborne). But still, better late than never.

So while Joe rested his uvula, his dad and I strapped on respirators and sealed the floors. He scraped up any loose particles and I vacuumed them up, then he used a roller to paint on sealant. When it was dry, we covered the floors with old cloths until we’re ready to level them.

This house may be the death of me yet. But let’s hope not.


on hiatus

Don’t get me wrong, I like the heat. But as long as we’re stuck in this holding pattern until the rest of the bathroom/kitchen wiring gets done, I curse the sun. And now they are predicting a heat wave. Crapcrapcrapcrap.

So I’m using the opportunity to bone up on gardening, which is like a foreign language to me. But it’s one I better learn fast, because the yard is huge, and probably the nicest part of this house (no lie, Joe’s brother just landscaped his front yard and paid a small fortune for a few plants.)

So far, here’s what we’ve identified:

  • three bushes of these gorgeous Roses of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus)
  • a large sweet gum tree
  • a monster pine tree
  • a giant wild black cherry tree, non-fruiting, and two smaller ones (trees reproduce like Angelina Jolie if you’re not ever-vigilant about not letting the seeds take root)
  • two crabapple trees – these get beautiful flowers in spring
  • a forsythia hedge
  • several azalea bushes
  • three rose bushes
  • irises that haven’t bloomed
  • a boatload of flowering hosta
  • tulip bulbs in the front beds, possibly some hyacinth
  • two peony bushes
  • ivy
  • a small pussy willow
  • a single branch of white lilac
  • a Gypsophila bush, commonly known as baby’s breath

And what we haven’t:

  • a nasty sticker bush that, strangely, had yellow flowers in the spring but no berries
  • some kind of groundcover plant I thought was a weed
  • a shrub that we think is viburnum only it has purple flowers

Yeah, I’ve got my work cut out for me.

happy birthday, Dad

My father died of heart failure at a relatively young age (56) ten years ago, but because it’s his birthday (and because the most exciting thing I did today was clean the shed gutter), I’m going to share a bit of Waldbieser family history.

I inherited whatever writing ability I have from my dad, but he was definitely not what you’d call handy. Case in point, this story, which has become a family legend. My father once bought a bookshelf, the kind you assemble at home with a hex key. Or rather, the kind most people with even an ounce of aptitude for building things do. Alas, not my dad.

Never one to read directions, he struggled for a few hours with screws and boards, called us kids for advice, and finally cursed it all. So it was a surprise to see the shelves in his living room one day. But on closer inspection, they weren’t assembled so much as they were propped up by the boxes of books inside. That’s right, instead of the shelves holding up the books, the books were holding up the shelves.

But hey, at least he never gave up.

sucking it up

Being the goodhearted wife that I am, I spent 5 hours vacuuming insulation dust and debris from the attic. I only finished half. Vacuuming is nowhere near as bad as scooping—it gets less dusty all the time, I don’t have Joe screaming that I’m holding the bag wrong, and you can actually see that you’re getting something accomplished when you stop. The biggest pain is descending the stairs with the bottom half of the shop vac to dump it out and clean the filter. I swear, the last thing I’ll see before waking up in traction will probably be this:

making miserable memories

47. That’s how many trash bags of insulation we hauled out of the attic. It’s also probably close to how many we have to re-bag because the plastic snagged on something and tore a hole for insulation to leak out of. But at least we’re done.

It took us 12 sweat-soaked hours in stifling heat (and we’d chosen to do it today because it was relatively cool, barely breaking 80), burdened by goggles, ventilation masks, and gloves, me in long sleeves and jeans because I can’t stand the itch of insulation. Joe pried up floorboards and we scrambled around the rafters, scooping up insulation in dustpans and filling bag after bag.

Joe can’t take the heat, so he had to go downstairs once an hour to cool off and stick his mask in the freezer. I worked through, except when the Foxes, family friends of Joe’s parents, stopped by. They had finally come to take “the tour”—too bad they had to bang at the front door (no doorbell) forever before we finally heard them.

I love the Foxes. Gene and Melodee (the only grown woman I ever met with that name, but she pulls it off) spent years renovating their historic home around the corner from Joe’s parents’ place, so they can, and do, empathize. They’re both into gardening, and helped us identify a lot of the plants and trees in the yard. As I showed them around, Mel kept saying, “This brings back a lot of good memories.”

“How can you say good?” I asked. “Wasn’t it awful to live through?”

“Well, yes,” she said. “So we’re glad they’re just memories now!”

Later, as sweat trickled into my eyes while I writhed on my belly, precariously balanced on three splintery wood boards laid across the two-by-threes, straining to scrape insulation out of the eaves, I kept telling myself, Just think about the memories. The miserable, miserable memories.