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April 30, 2008

What A Day This Has Been

Well, we are into it now! The chimney is gone -- at least through the third floor. And, tomorrow they will get into the second floor bathroom to take it out (I think). There is no going back -- and do I feel totally invaded! Tom did a terrific job of getting some walkways up on the roof and his guys did a great job of getting that chimney down in no time. We have lots of used brick around -- and my neighbors are delighted to carry it away. It was hard for me to leave this morning and go off to my writing group. There are times I feel that my presence is needed simply to keep the house from flying away. It is sort of like not putting all your weight down so the plane will stay in the air. But, I knew I had to go -- I would have driven the guys crazy by my hovering. This afternoon I made cookies for them to keep myself out of their hair. The whole thing is so fascinating!

First There Was A Chimney

And Then There Was None

The Attic Bathroom sans chimney

The Happy Campers After Eating Cookies

Posted by Marilyn at 5:19 PM | Comments (0)

April 29, 2008

Email from Tom

I was lazing around this morning in my pajamas reading the paper and doing the crossword with my tea and toast by my side when the sound guy, Dave, called and asked if he could come early. I had timed my getting up and dressed for his scheduled arrival. I said, "How early?" He said he was in the back yard. I moved fast.

While Mike and Dave were happily installing cable through the open walls, I met with Tom and talked about all the stuff that is either in process awaiting subcontractors or up for future consideration. The main topic these days is windows for the breakfast room and the front of the house. I'm holding out for wood. His guys stayed home today because there was not much going on here. Neither was there anything happening at his other job site. Things are a bit in limbo. So, I went off to Seattle for an Arts and Lecture series that I attend. When I got home I found an email from Tom. We've gone from neutral to third gear.

He wanted to warn me to get out of bed earlier tomorrow, because he and the guys are climbing back up on the roof to begin taking down another chimney. I have two main brick chimneys -- one that climbs up the side of my house and is visible and one that goes through the center of the house and serves no purpose. Debbie wants that down to give us the room we need in the kitchen. I had a bid of $1,000 to take it down to the roof line. Tom figures he and the guys can do it for less.

And, by the way, he continued, Blythe Plumbing will be here to finish the lower bathroom, both wood floor companies are coming back to give us a price for including the stairs that go up to the lower living room in their bid, a painting company is stopping by to give an estimate, the electrical inspector is coming to check on Mike's work and the insulation will begin on Thursday.

Tom was unaware that I had just hired my neighbor's gardener to come and clean out my beds. Unfortunately, the beds are a direct shoot down from the chimney. My neighbor, Leah, is always finding these starving young men who work for $10.00 an hour and get her gardens ready for the summer. After we see how good they are, AmySue and I hire them too. This way, Leah does all the hard work and we reap the benefit. I have been aware that gardening has not been my top priority. As I see my neighbors pulling their yards together after the cold, cold winter we have had, I feel guilty that mine are a mess. So, I called Craig and he joined the long line of workers coming to beautify my house.

When it rains...

Posted by Marilyn at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)


This morning Dave Carpenter is wiring the new rooms for sound. Since he had built electronics from the time he was a kid, Donel was an expert on sound and high fidelity and wires and speakers and all that stuff that I never, ever wanted to know about -- except that I complained about wires everywhere all of our married life. Martin helped me get rid of a half dozen old stereo sets as well as sets of speakers that have been stored over the years. We had three old turntables alone. We still have a set of speakers and the system he had in his study as well as the expensive NAD system in our living room that we bought a year before he died.

When I had trouble with the NAD amplifier, I didn't know where to turn. We took it back to the NAD dealer and they sent it to a repair shop in Redmond. Fortunately, it was still under warranty (by a hair). It was repaired two or three times -- and finally emails to the company (which is somewhere in Canada) obtained results and I got a new, reconditioned amp. It has been wonderful to have the good sound back.

However, I don't have a clue about how things work -- Martin has tried several times to give me a lesson and I now can match up the white, yellow, and red plugs -- but I'm really hopeless. Martin is in Seattle and I just can't expect his friend Dave to always bail me out. So, I am utterly delighted to hear about Dave Carpenter. Mike, the electrician, introduced me to him.

He is high on my list to fill the gap between what I don't know and what my husband took care of. There are some things I have been willing to learn, but others that would take me a lifetime to catch up. My list of experts is getting longer and longer throughout this remodel. I told Dani when she moved up here, I have a great list of people to share with her. But, then, I'll also have a daughter and son-in-law close enough to call in emergencies. Poor Charles.

Posted by Marilyn at 9:55 AM | Comments (0)

April 26, 2008

Drip, Drip, Drip

This is how crazy you get when you are in the middle of a remodel. I came home from an all-too-busy day last night and literally sank into my sofa to watch Obama's pastor on Bill Moyer's Journal. While sitting there, I kept smelling something different and ignored it until after the program when I went room to room and found the smell mostly in the dining room. Then I heard the DRIP! The area around the radiator was dripping from the ceiling. I ran upstairs sure that I would find an overflowing toilet or something like that -- but found nothing that I could logically (in my exhaustion) locate as the source of the water. So, what did I do? I called my contractor!

Now, he is a really nice guy and he lives close -- but (in retrospect) the drip had nothing to do with anything that the guys had been working on. He wasn't home. So, I called Keith, my daughter's father-in-law, who suggested a 24-hour plumber. Since I was obviously too rattled to function well, he found a number and I called it -- and the plumber showed up 15 minutes later.

Meanwhile, I put buckets under the descending water and began to think more logically. Of course, it was coming from the radiator in Jeni's old room. I tried to tighten the radiator. Keith and Eulalah showed up minutes later and Keith tried to tighten it too. In the meantime, I called Charles to see if he remembered how to turn off my boiler which sends the water through the radiator system. He was present the last time the gas company restarted the boiler - but he could just tell me how to light the pilot. Finally, the plumber rode in on a white horse and tightened the nut on the radiator and stopped the flowing stream to the floor below. He also showed me the main valve to the radiator system - and how to turn it off.

I now know how to turn off the radiator, the water to the house, the electricity, and I'm not sure about the gas so I will ask about that next. I was left to explain to Tom when he called back this morning that the leak had nothing to do with him and I shouldn't have called him in the first place. It only goes to show that you can get used to having a person around the house who knows absolutely everything about fixing things -- and how easy it is to simply decide he is at your beck and call -- I wonder how many of his clients do that to him?

I told the plumber that 1/3 of the amount I paid him was for tightening the nut and the rest was for being available at night. I also asked Eulalah some time ago if I could say publicly on my blog that I loved her husband. She said yes -- well, she actually bargained with me and traded the permission for a broccoli salad for her Easter brunch. Keith has bailed me out painting more than once -- and there is something to be said when you are missing a husband, for having SOMEONE ELSE'S husband show up on your doorstep with tools when you are feeling frantic.

The sun is shining today and the drip has stopped. This is my first day in simply ages where I have nothing better to do than clean my refrigerator, wash sheets, pack up kitchen stuff, mow the lawn, and scrape paint off of a door. Believe me, puttering around the house at my own leisure seems like a luxury.

Posted by Marilyn at 10:09 AM | Comments (0)

April 25, 2008

Some Things are Just Plain Scary!

Two entries in one day - this must be a record! However, I have to post some pictures of Chas and Miles taking their life into their hands by removing the smoke stack from the old Swedish fireplace. We have waited as long as we could and today was the day. Remember that the living area of my house is three stories up in the back which makes the attic five stories. The guys used climbing gear and the intention was to unscrew all of the sections of the metal posts. However, they had rusted. So, they needed to saw through the pipe -- it looked like Mt. St. Helens with ash flying everywhere. I'm not sure I want to see my neighbors at the block party tonight. Anyway, they cut through it and then had to take it apart in pieces. They are still working on the bottom sections, but I think the worst part is over. They are contemplating taking down another chimney when we do the kitchen -- I have two chimneys on my house and one of them serves no purpose. They are brave young lads!





Posted by Marilyn at 2:12 PM | Comments (0)

Movin' Right Along

I've been so busy that I haven't had time for the blog. Dani and Nico just left for California. She was up for a week looking at houses. Two houses came up for sale that were under priced. She came up to see them, but the one she wanted went into a bidding war and the price soon became less reasonable -- and therefore, less interesting. Meanwhile, things swirled around me, the Skagit College class I'm teaching needed attention, my circle staged a huge rummage sale at church, and decisions had to be made on the remodeling. This might even be more doable if I weren't being tantalized to wake up at the crack of dawn by a smiling baby wanting to see his grandma.

While prices are going down around Bellingham, I'm spending money on my house. Go figure! I hope I can hang on long enough to see the money out of the remodel. The downstairs bathroom is finally close to being finished. A bit of plumbing and a bit of paint touch up should do it. Tom finished the new countertop and my dryer is installed and usable in the new space. The electricity is in the same stage -- the inspector should come momentarily. Mike, the electrician, is healed enough from his operation to be up on ladders, head sets on, and singing. A sound man is coming on Tuesday to install speaker wire in the open walls. After finally fixing the sloping floor in the old porch/new breakfast room, Tom and the guys put on my breakfast room deck -- twice. The first time was too small.

The real chaos is beginning as Dani and I removed items from my upper kitchen cupboards that are now all over the kitchen and dining room. Self talk is helpful. "Remember to take it one step at a time, Marilyn!" "Practice what you preach." I'm thinking of withdrawing from the rest of the world while I catch up on stuff around here -- but that is hard to do when the inside tasks coincide with the first bit of sun and the promise of spring. Somedays I can even begin to glimpse a future when this will be behind me and my only decision of the day will be whether to have my tea in bed or at my new breakfast room table.

Posted by Marilyn at 7:36 AM | Comments (0)

April 20, 2008

Busy, Busy, Busy

I will write more later, but I'm distracted at the moment by an 18 month old playing choo choo with a basket full of blocks. However, I want to post some pictures of the latest project. If you have been reading this blog, you know how utterly delighted I was by the destruction of my "tenement stairs" in the back of my house. Well, the next hated item to go is my horrible addition to the kitchen which will be made into a breakfast room. It is only remaining on the house (even though transformed) because it is the sunniest place to be. If there is one ray of sun even on the snowiest days, this room will catch it. It is only an old (very, very old) slanty porch. However, the bones are still good even after decades -- and so we will finally make it look a bit decent with siding and paint and fashion a lovely place to sit and have tea in the morning.





Posted by Marilyn at 9:27 AM | Comments (1)

April 12, 2008


My electrician has had an appendectomy. He was close to finishing his work and was singing (yes, singing!) along a few days ago and didn't show up the next day. I had a phone call from Tom who is in Arizona this week visiting his daughter. "Mike called," he said. "He is in the hospital having his appendix removed. He wanted you to know and to apologize that he will be laid up for awhile." (or something like that) -- In any case, we will have to wait for him to be able to get back on the job. He has to finish the job for the electrical inspection which must precede the insulation and the drywall. Actually, that is ok for now. I am having trouble deciding on the corner for the wet bar -- and may need some extra time to think. Debra is trying, but I just cannot make up my mind.

Long ago Don gave me a neon sign that he found for me, and I've never had a place for it. As a child I vacationed yearly on the beach at Ensenada in Baja. My whole family, including aunts, uncles, and cousins, stayed at Hussong's beach house and cabanas. Hussong owned much of Ensenada in those days. Somewhere or other, Don found a Cerveza sign from Hussongs for sale and bought it for me. Everytime I look at it, I think hot sand, deliciously warm surf, wet craggy rocks to climb, phosphorus waves on black nights, ice cream sundaes every afternoon at the local stand, my dad and uncles surf fishing at dawn, and sweet lobsters fresh from the sea dripping with hot, melted butter. I choose to forget the time my uncle playfully dropped a live lobster in my lap while I was lying on a lounge chair half asleep and sunburn or the time my cousin and I swam out too far and barely made it back to shore.

Back to the sign. Jeni and Ron put a frame around it, but it was never hung. I just couldn't see a Cerveza sign in a preacher's parlor! But, I'm going to put it in my new play room. Tom and Mike were skeptical that the neon gas was still viable. But, we checked and it is. So, some of my decisions which are slow in coming have to do with placement of the sign and the configuration of the corner cabinets. Most of the light decisions are made, but Mike has given me a little spare time to finish the corner. Unfortunately, it is at his expense. And, I do miss his smiling face and his cheerful singing!

Posted by Marilyn at 10:05 AM | Comments (0)

April 6, 2008

Ebb and Flow

Since I'm new to this remodeling stuff, going with the flow takes some getting used to. Actually, I'm so busy lately getting ready to teach my class, that at times I fail to notice that nothing much has been happening and things are at a standstill. That seems frustrating. The electrician is working behind the scenes and lots of decisions are in the making. But, that is different from the workers being on site and watching something take shape daily. This seems to be a time of subcontractor bids, a myriad of choices involving colors, materials, products, and a sort of limbo between phases of the job.

I'm STILL waiting on deck railing decisions and the settling of the problem that the upper deck workers caused for the lower deck. I'm supposed to be given a tour of aluminum railings which hasn't happened yet. We have three wood floor bids and three heating bids and I'm going for a gas fireplace to heat the basement room. I'm in the midst of making other final decisions in that room -- the electrician needs to know where things are going to go -- we need cable and telephone access and he has a sound man coming to make sure the room is wired. Believe me, there is much more to understand than I want to know. But, I also like the fact that SOMEONE is thinking about it -- and can tell me that I have to decide. Once those walls are closed, it is much more difficult to make decisions. So, I'm forced into making them.

I'm glad there are experts. I just don't want to be one. I hated to decide on lighting. What do I know about lighting? Donel was particular about lighting. He was always harping at me for reading in the dark or not putting a light on. I don't know if I have a lower light tolerance, or just was not as observant of my lighting needs. I really have to force myself to even follow what Tom and Mike are saying -- and try hard to make those decisions.

I'm so right brain that I know what FEELS right, but don't know how to get there. I want to say, "Make my place look like this" or "I like it to FEEL this way." But, that does not seem to be enough for those who need me to make specific decisions on how to get there. Like my painting teacher teaching me to notice the colors -- I need to learn to notice the particulars. But, that is so difficult for me. I am a synthesizer or a summarizer. I can take a myriad of parts and pull them together in a whole. It is why I like researching and writing books. It is even why I like to teach or to counsel. I am definitely not a person who can analyze all the nuances and pull stuff apart to figure out how it works. What I am forced to do at this stage of the remodeling is definitely out of my comfort level.

However, I have to follow my own advice: when in crisis or confusion, take one baby step at a time. I will definitely learn a great deal while walking through this phase. I don't want to get to the finished product and be disappointed that I did not pay enough attention. I don't like feeling out of control. I 'm afraid that I haven't the skills to do my part well. Patience is what I need at the moment. I hope the people I'm working with can also exercise patience with me.

Posted by Marilyn at 12:13 PM | Comments (0)