Saturday, August 29, 2009

Chronos, Kairos, and Tiling

Gosh, what a title!

Yesterday I told Sally I thought we'd be able to finish tiling in a couple of hours. Ten hours later we were down to a few edge pieces left. By suppertime this evening we had all the tiles down.
Sally has been pretty gentle with me, considering my forecast of "a couple hours" left to go. In truth, tiling is a timeless activity. You don't really think about time, but it passes... sometimes quickly. When the project is finished, it all seems worth it, and the sore knees and long hours don't seem to matter. I've heard women describe childbirth that way. Perhaps this tiling is the closest I will coming to giving birth, if giving birth was a process that involved knee joints.

Anyway, we're past another important point, and now will move on to grouting and sealing the grout before we finally unpack the first of the cabinets. There's still lots of trim and finish work to do, but we needed to get to this point to make the next steps possible, including setting the template for the countertops, and installing the new range hood. Very exciting!

Speaking of exciting, Sally got a new laser level today so she can determine the high point on the floor from which to level the cabinet ladders, and I got an electric nail gun! Can't wait to fasten something!

Friday, August 28, 2009

Birthday Observance

Today is Sally's birthday, though I feel like I'm the one who got a present, as she finally came home from the Tri-Cities. She celebrated her big day by taking the day off so we could spend 10 hours tiling. We got all the tile down in the kitchen except one piece around the water pipes under the sink. We only have about 8 more partial tiles to install in the entry way. All that stopped us from finishing was the need for some transitional pieces at the top of the stairs.

I showed my romantic side by treating Sally to the Grande Meal from Taco Bell. That's 10 crunchy taco's, Amigo! To tell the truth, they weren't bad after 10 hours of tiling. And after 3 months of not having a kitchen, our creativity has waned, especially when it's late and we're already tired.

The other news of the day is that my bump was indeed a basal cell carcinoma, so I have to schedule an appointment to remove any more tissue that might be malignant. If caught early, such carcinomas are not deadly, but I admit to being less than excited about forehead surgery. My headache from Wednesday's procedure lasted about 18 hours, and I'm not eager for a do-over.

Tomorrow will feature a shopping trip to Home Depot for some tile bull-nose for the top of the steps, some wood molding for transitions, and grout. After we grout and seal we'll be ready to remove some cabinets from their crates in the garage and begin assembling the ladder bases on which they will sit. It's almost hard to believe that this is really going to happen!

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Cats are amazing timepieces. The feline currently occupying our domicile, known as Mr. Cat, seems to note the hours of midnight, 3 a.m., and 5 a.m. with the accuracy of a Seiko Quartz. He generally shows up outside the bedroom window at midnight, wanting to come inside for the night. At 3 a.m. he indicates his desire to resume exploration of the great outdoors, and at 5 a.m. it's back inside in hopes of an early breakfast.

You may think I coddle the cat by acquiescing to his requests. In fact, I coddle the cat by not killing him when he yowls outside the window or scratches the woodwork in my bathroom, two of his favorite attention getting devices.

Mr. Cat came into our family via Sally's mother. In that life he was known as Casper. Casper was adopted by Sally's folks to be a companion to Sally's dad after he could no longer manage a dog. Considering that he is, in fact, a cat, Casper was a good companion to Joe, spending long hours curled up on Joe's lap in the old recliner. After Joe's death Casper accompanied Sally's mother to a studio apartment in an independent living facility. When Cleo struggled with a chronic sinus infection she decided that it was allergies, and that Casper would have to be returned to a shelter or put down.

Casper's impending demise did not seem reasonable or fair, and so Sally flew to Colorado in December of 2004 to visit her mom and to rescue the cat. The first challenge she faced was getting him on the plane. There was a 15 pound weight limit, and Casper's studio apartment lifestyle had resulted in his ballooning up to nearly 16 pounds. Sally called me from the airport asking my advice. I said she should cram him into the carrier and try not to grimace or grunt when carrying him. I'm so helpful.

Casper made the trip, though I think Sally has stories to tell about that. Renamed Taj Mahal because of his coloration and shape, he soon earned the moniker Mr. Cat as a result of his stately bearing.

Anyway, I was just telling Sally how uncanny I thought it was that Mr. Cat was so good at telling the time. Then, this morning, I was awakened at precisely 3 a.m. by Mister expelling a hairball on the bed. So THAT'S why people don't wear cats on their wrists, even if they are highly accurate.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009


Well, I'm back from the doctor's office and mostly recovered, with the exception of an irritating headache. As I sat in the reception area and exam room for an hour waiting for an appointment that I had to make three weeks in advance, I pondered the state of our health care system. I'm not revisiting that argument, as it's clear to me that the opponents of a single-payer option are less than reasonable, and don't probably read my blog or much of anything else.

Once in the exam room, Dr. Holmquist administered a shot of Novocain into my forehead and then departed to care for other (im)patients while the anesthetic took effect. Before long I was a numbskull, even more than common, which brought back other head wound memories....

It was January of 1983, and Sally was GREAT with child. Sally experienced gestational diabetes while carrying Erin, which meant that anytime Sally ate, Erin gained weight... lots of weight. As a result, Sally gained quite a bit as well, to the point of being rather large by the time Erin's expected arrival date approached.

A week and a day before the blessed event eventually occurred, I played in a church league basketball game, which Sally and three-year-old Megan attended. At one point I went down the court on a fast break -- yes, I was once relatively fast, believe it or not -- for a lay-up. As the ball rolled around the rim before dropping through, I turned back up court. One of my teammates, Tony Abts, leapt skyward to follow in my shot -- totally unnecessarily, as it WAS going in -- and then returned to Earth at exactly the spot I was occupying. As both of us were keeping our eyes on the ball, neither saw the catastrophe in the making.

I felt the impact, saw stars, and found myself lying on the court. Someone told me to stay down, as I was bleeding profusely. Tony was standing off a little ways, mouth totally numb, not realizing that he had lost bone (dental enamel, actually) in shedding my blood. To cut to the jagged point, Tony was missing his front teeth.

Sally was quickly commissioned to drive me to the emergency room, where considerable confusion ensued. The staff fully expected to whisk Sally off in a wheelchair, only to be redirected to me. This confusing scene was reenacted several times as we went into the emergency room, got me signed in, and even after my prostrate form was wheeled into an examination area.

That wasn't the last of the slapstick. To quote the parson in the original "Parent Trap", it was a "situation fraught with humor". An orderly stopped in his tracks upon seeing me lying there, asked if I was already married, and countered my affirmative with a shake of his head and a single word: "Good".

After my wound was initially cleaned out, Sally remembered to tell the staff that one of Tony's front teeth had not been recovered. A subsequent flurry of additional cleaning and exploration resulted in the discovery and removal of the tooth from the mangled mound that had been my forehead.

Next, a resident came in offering me an option: We could call for a plastic surgeon and likely wait (and wait, and wait, given the late Sunday evening hour), or he could do the procedure. He said, "I'm not a plastic surgeon, but I did an internship with one." His statement was reminiscent of an infamous line in a commercial of the day, "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV."

I agreed, and the resident comprehensively explained and competently performed the surgery. A large, smooth oval was cut around the shredded remains of my blunt dental instrument, and the resulting edges of the flesh were pulled tightly together. Several layers of stitches were utilized in the process. The procedure had several interesting results:

  • My forehead swelled up into a FORE-head of immense proportions, frightening small children and exciting paleontologists everywhere, who thought they had discovered a Neanderthal throwback.
  • My right eyebrow was pulled upward so far that it was impossible for me to relax and close my eyes. That would be a good question for someone who evidences a facelift: "Gettin' any shut-eye?"
  • When the swelling subsided a week later, it did so by flowing down my face, discoloring and partially closing both of my eyes.
  • Finally, for months afterward I had absolutely no sensation on the right side of my face, from my eyebrow to my rapidly receding hairline.
As again today, however briefly, I had become a numbskull.

Oh, by the way, Dr. Holmquist excised my "bump", and will send the tissue to pathology. If it turns out to be a basal cell carcinoma, as I suspect, he will do an additional procedure not unlike that one I had done in Wisconsin in 1983. I wonder if Tony Abts is experiencing empathy pains.

Wednesday: Bump Day

The first item on my list today is a trip to Group Health to see Dr. Holmquist. I have a bump on my forehead that needs to be removed. Some of you may think my bump is the result of my hitting myself with the heal of my hand while uttering the Homer Simpsonesque "Doh!" during the remodeling. That's ridiculous. I hit myself with my right hand on the right side of my forehead, and the lesion is on the left.

I had a good day yesterday, crossing many items off my list including mowing the lawn, watering the backyard, and laying 50 tiles. I'm going slower today, in part because of the doctor's appointment, and in part because my knees are quite sore from yesterday's exertions. Given that, I have set more modest goals for the day, including finding appropriate opportunities to use the word "behoove" as often as possible.

Given that, and the need to get myself dressed and ready for my visit to the sawbones, it behooves me to sign off for now. I'll add an update about the bloodletting later.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


Some years ago my younger brother and his son were using their new label maker in an effort to enhance their home organization. They made labels for sporting goods, pet paraphernalia, and cleaning supplies. In a moment of brilliance, my brother printed and applied a label that read, "Label Maker".

In that same spirit I proudly announce the first item on my to-do list for today: "Make List".

I got quite a bit done yesterday, despite Sally's absence, including watering the garden and the raspberry patch, tasks Sally normally assumes with joy. The major items on my list for today are lawn mowing and continuing tile work. Sally and I laid 41 tiles during our first session Sunday. The new tiles, combined with the fresh paint and light fixtures also added over the weekend, give us the sense that we are making progress. I won't know if we have indeed progressed until I check my list....

Monday, August 24, 2009

Time On My Hands

I'm doing OK, but the dogs seem depressed.

Sally left this afternoon for a week of meetings in the Tri-Cities (Kennewick, Richland, and Pasco, for those not of the Washington persuasion). She will get to have dinner with Megan tonight, and will be kept busy by the meeting schedule. I, on the other hand, am faced with a week of time on my hands.

It has never seemed strange to me that many widowed men also die within a year of their spouse's death. I don't do all that well alone. Part of that is explained by my Myers-Briggs Personality Type: I draw energy from contact with others, and from the opportunity to formulate my thoughts by putting them into words.

Another part of my malaise is explained less by personality type than personality disorder. I find considerable comfort in a degree of personal routine. I rather like getting up at the same time each day, fixing coffee and oatmeal, and reading the paper after getting Sally off to work. It generally isn't long after she leaves that I begin framing my day's activity based on what I'll do before she gets home. I have tried to do the same thing when she's out of town, but can't seem to make the translation.

Along the way I have found a couple practices that help me fill the time and keep me from lapsing into total lethargy. One is making lists (the "C" expression of my OCPD tendencies). I like to make lists of things I intend to do, but also lists of things I have accomplished. I find the latter especially helpful in reassuring myself that I haven't totally wasted my time.

Another helpful practice I've discovered is blogging, which though a poor substitute for a good conversation with Sally, still allows me to formulate my thoughts by getting them into words.

My blog has suffered in past weeks from our focus on the kitchen (more about that later). So too my biking, which had attained compulsion status before I became a home remodeler. I intend to post several times over the next few days, and to get a ride in. This seems like a list in the making.

I feel better already.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Blue Monday

This weekend brought press releases stating that the Obama administration was willing to take a public health insurance option off the table in order to achieve other necessary reforms. As a strong advocate of a single-payer, public plan, I take this news to heart. This is the first time I have felt that my strong support for Obama may have been ill-conceived. Oh, true, there really wasn't much of a choice in 2008, and at least the current administration will make different mistakes than its predecessor, but I had hoped for more. The health insurance issue is providing us with a telling indication of the balance of power between those advocating the public good and those representing the power of the corporate few. As has been the case so often in recent years, the rich and powerful have effectively used talk radio and FOX News to manipulate a large segment of our society into doing their bidding.

In other news, CNN reports that 57% of those polled do not believe the stimulus plan is working. However, CNN does not report what percentage of those polled can spell "economics".

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

August Update

I feel badly that I haven't been writing much. I hate to deny the world access to my deepest inner thoughts. It just isn't fair, I realize.

Our trip to Reno and the ensuing debacles (the skunk episode and Sally's week-long excursion through central Washington) left both of us drained. We did have a nice weekend, and are getting back into gear. On Sunday we laid down a new layer of plywood subflooring, which readies us to install the cement backerboard and then the tile.

Thanks to Erin we learned about an INCREDIBLE product, Tecnu (weblink here), which utterly removed the skunk smell from the dogs' fur. The only remnants of odor are on their faces where we were reluctant to use the product. If you didn't know we'd been skunked, you wouldn't notice the odor in the house at all. Tecnu is sold at Winco Foods, and is in the section with sunburn and insect bite treatments.

In retrospect, Crater Lake and the Lava Beds National Monument were really worth seeing. You have to get off of the interstate to see them, but we're glad we did.

The apricots are ripe on one of the family trees, and are getting ripe on the others. We seem to have a good crop of plums, pears and apples, so this late summer will feature lots of canning and juicing in the kitchen, assuming I quit sitting at this computer and get on with remodeling!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Qvick! Ruunnnn!

So, in the ongoing effort to be a responsible human companion to our four-legged friends, I was out on a walk. The weather website showed some thunderstorm activity northeast of Spokane that showed signs of moving southwest (as if that ever happens). I thought there was plenty of time, especially given the limits Cayenne's hips place on our activities.

The sky was lovely and interesting, especially when I neared the intersection of 35th and Altamont, the far reaches of our excursion. It was then that I noticed the significant movement of the clouds moving from northeast to southwest (as if that ever happens). Given Cayenne's condition, I couldn't really push the pace (you can't teach pace), but no worries. Just as we turned down Crestline from 35th toward home, I noticed large, dark spots on the pavement. Thinking they might be frogs, I paused momentarily. I then heard the first THWACK of rain/hail.

Doing my best J├╝rgen Prochnow impersonation from Dune, I shouted encouragement to the dogs as I broke into a run: "Qvick! Ruunnnn!" The dogs immediately made the connection, and began sniffing for giant sandworms in Bill and Cis' yard.

I wasn't really that worried about melting or anything, and there was no lightning, of which I am famously afraid. It was the laundry on the line. Today was the last good day to dry, and I had washed the dog pillow covers in an effort (mostly vain) to remove the skunk smell. The pillows themselves were lying exposed on the deck where they had soaked up the sunshine. Towels, socks and underwear were carefully spaced on the opposite side of the umbrella clothesline. I had to save the laundry!

"Qvick! Ruunnnn!"

The dogs gave up looking for sandworms, and began searching for the Kwisatz Haderach.

Eventually I got everyone into the back yard. The cat, alarmed either by the storm or my broken English, followed us in. The laundry was saved, and everyone made it safely in just as.... it stopped raining.

This wouldn't be happening to me if I had a houssse-keeperr.

Now, as I post this, the storm has come. Cue the electric guitars. Let the Fremen dance.

A Season of Contradictions

These high summer days present us with one of time's contradictions. On the one hand, August tells time in its unique, slow fashion. The fruit ripens slowly, the lawn needs water every few days, and to be mowed on occasion. It all seems to unfold slowly, as if the whole world is avoiding breaking into a sweat. Even the sky is lazy.

On the other hand, I am conscious of the quickened shortening of daylight, and the rapid turn of pages on the calendar. Summer, so long-awaited, is already waning. Even the 90 degree heat can't keep me from shuddering as I contemplate last winter's snows, and the possibility of their return.

I should endeavor to enjoy as much summer as I can crowd into my moments. I'll start on that as soon as I finish this glass of tea, and maybe take a nap.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Things You Don't Want to Hear....

There are some words and phrases you just don't want to hear.

  • In relationships: "I've met someone." "It's not you, it's me." "We need to talk."
  • From the physician: "We can't be sure...we'll order some more tests."
  • From the insurance company: "That isn't covered."
I'm sure you can add your own set of least favorites to this brief list, some more serious than others. I can now add another category and phrase as well. You hate to get a call from the pet sitter saying, "I think the skunk is somewhere in the house."

Sally and I just returned from a whirlwind visit with her aunt in Reno. In a week we covered 2,000 miles, a National Park, a National Monument, 2 days with Sally's aunt, 2 days with Erin in Corvallis, and bookend visits with Megan in Kennewick as we came and went. As we began the last leg of the journey, we left a message with the pet sitter to inform him that we would be home a few hours earlier than expected. The pet sitter returned our call, saying that he had hoped to get the house aired out more before we returned, and that the odor was so strong he was concerned that the skunk might actually be in the house....

The next couple hours were filled with all sorts of mental images, speculations, and honest questions. Just who do you call to remove a skunk from your house?

We arrived back home prepared for the worst. In that sense, our pet sitter's warning accomplished its goal. Given that we feared we might be living out our own version of When Animals Strike!, we were relieved that there was no sign that a skunk had taken up residence with us. Cayenne, on the other hand, is quite odoriferous, as is anything and everything she has laid on, brushed against, or looked at.

This isn't the way we hoped the vacation would end. Sally also received word that her boss broke his collarbone over the weekend, and that she needed to cover the series of statewide meetings he had slated for this week. So we did laundry late last night, repacked her suitcase this morning, and hustled her off to central Washington.

For years we have preached that the worst times make the best stories. We will survive to tell the tales of the past week, and they will be humorous and entertaining. In the immortal words of countless kids on vacation, "Are we there yet?"