Wednesday, June 23, 2021

Construction anyone?

 There is still lots to do, but we have also made some great strides!  Picture number 1 is one of our three new windows.  The windows were installed by a contractor friend but all the finish work was done by us.  We had to do some insulation work with spray foam and then we trimmed it out, made the reveal and the sill.  The large shelf is the top of what will be a built in book shelf.  I will be able to have a nice place to keep my cook books at some point in the future and the cats will have a lovely shelf where they can watch the birds outside and where Val can eat up off the floor so that Rocky does not bother her. There were a few things that excited us the most about doing this. First off, finish work is fun.  It's like putting on make up or decorating a cake.  It's the reward for all the sweat and heavy lifting that goes into the job before you get to that point. The other  thing that made this so cool was that our contractor friend intentionally left the finish work for us.  Not because he did not want to do it, but because he looked at the work we were doing and felt we were up to doing it.  He is really picky about how his jobs look so I honestly feel this was a very high compliment.

OK in  picture number two, aside from me apparently moving at the speed of light, you see that we have made another huge step forward. We have begun laying the subfloor in the bathroom.  It goes into the lower part of the kitchen, which meant that I also had to rip up the 7 layers of floor that were there. Yes, you read that right. 7. There were two old lino layers, an insulating layer of newspaper and 4 layers of tile and various subfloors.  My wife cut the flooring with our circular saw and then I pried it up so that we are down to the original boards.  This was important so that the subfloor could lay through the bathroom into the lower part of the kitchen. It was also important because we were trying to find (and did) a missing heating duct that I plan to repair and activate in the lower kitchen area under that pretty window. Lastly, it is important because we have ordered two new base cabinets for the kitchen and I want to have the subfloor done in that whole area before they are delivered.  Laying this section of the subfloor also lets us work on building the wall between the bathroom and the kitchen.  That wall will be what one wall of our shower rests on so it is beyond exciting.  
And this is what we found as the final layer when I was taking out the old floors and subfloors.  Newspapers, which my mother says my great grandfather put down as insulation back in the 30's. Specifically in July of 38.  It was kind of intriguing to me as in September of that same year there was a big hurricane here that took down all the trees on our property.

We have tons more to do. It is sometimes daunting how much remains yet to do.  It takes so much time, partly because I only have weekends.  My friend who helps with things I need to learn how to do (such as plumbing or electric) is not always available.  He too is doing a bathroom and also has lots of kids and things that take his time. I hope that this weekend we will make more strides but we also have to make a dump run to get rid of the debris we have accumulated from the last few weeks of work. We are having friends over for a BBQ on the fourth and I don't want anyone getting hurt on the construction detritus.

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Property Manager At Last!

 Although I need to catch everyone up on the reno project that never ends  renovations, I have other exciting news to share.  (drum roll!) In two weeks I will be starting a new job.  I have worked at my present site since (wait for it) 1978.  Yup.  Not only am I old but that is a seriously long time to stay at one job location. To be fair, I have held three positions during my employ at this apartment community.  And the site was sold so I have worked for two management companies. But the gold ring--that position of property manager has eluded me.

I kind  of thought I had a lock on it about 2 or 3 years ago.  I filled in as interim for over a year while my company searched for a new manager. I lowered delinquent accounts, and reduced the turn over time on vacant units.  My regional manager wanted me to be promoted, but it did not happen.  The new manager is very nice and I was very helpful teaching her about the job and the site.

Around the holidays I saw an ad for a property manager in a nearby town.  I applied and had three interviews.  The hiring manager said they had to wait til they got two more applicants before their board would make a decision.  I understand wanting a number of candidates, but I am not sitting around like Sunday dinner leftovers for unknown weeks hoping you decide I am a good fit.  You either know I am or you don't.  A company whose decision making is THAT drawn out concerns me. There are decisions that require lots of thought and bids etc. There are also situations where decisions must be made expediently.  It left me wondering how they handle the latter type of situation and I just stopped following up because things did not feel right.

Spring came and I got a great review at my present job.  I was glad, and I got a nice raise and bonus.  I was pleased, but typically I get good reviews.  I work pretty hard at that.  Three days ago my desk phone lit up and it was our HR director.  They had a managership coming open in a nearby town (about 20 minutes from my home). She and our VP and our CFO felt I would be the perfect fit for the job and wanted to know if I would like to discuss this further.  I said absolutely and we set a teams meeting for the next day.  They l sat there, stunned.  The teams meeting was not really an interview.  It was an outline of plans for the site, explanations on staffing and goals for the property and a job offer.  Which I accepted.

I will start there in 2 weeks.  My present manager is really stressed because the list of all the things I do at our property is about 6 pages long typed. (I created that list for her when I first applied for the other job) The job description for my replacement does not include most of those things, so there are a lot of things she will need to take on or teach to two other office people, who have not done them in the past. (and who up to now have had no interest in learning them)  I feel badly for my manager, she is really really nice. But I am beyond excited to have this opportunity.  It comes at a time when my kids are older and I am comfortable being further away from them. KC will be a senior this year. (Not sure how that is possible but it is!) and Elisabeth is entering her first year of high school.  Before I accepted though, I ran this by the whole family and they were overwhelming in their agreement that I should accept the job.

The site that I will manage is nearly as large as the one I work at now and I will have a staff of 7.  There will be lots of new things to learn and new challenges.  I am really really excited!

Monday, May 24, 2021

Progressing to Pex!

 My friend (who is also a construction whiz) is back from travelling for his job and on Saturday he and his wife came over at noon to help in the next phase of the bathroom reno project.  (cue scary music) The plumbing!  This was not all the plumbing, really just a tip of the plumbing iceberg.  We had to replumb for my washer and dryer in their new location.  We went into the dreaded crawl space armed with humor, a gas torch and rolls of pex piping.  (which is seriously the coolest stuff ever!)  

My crawl space is hideous.  I am about 5ft 7 and I have to kind of crab crawl around it.  Picture the golem looking for his Precious in Lord of the Rings.  Yup, that was me.  For 11 1/2 hours!  Luckily my friend is a good deal shorter than I and could most often mostly stand erect.

It took so long because we discovered most of my existing copper piping was riddled with pinhole leaks.  Leaks I knew nothing about because the pipes were also wrapped in foam insulation.  Which was holding all that water inside.  Yup, right on top of the electric heater tapes that thankfully we didn't use this year.  The goddess was watching over us for sure!

But it meant a lot more replacement than we had expected.  And this does not address the moving of my sink, and toilet or putting in the 2 inch piping for the shower drain (which should be fairly straightforward but then again--this is my house where NOTHING is ever straight forward.)

I am truly blessed with good friends.  They stayed till 11:15 when we were as done as we could be with the job.  The washer and dryer work in their new location which is important. My wife has a cleaning business and we have a large family.  A washer and dryer gets lots of use in our home. 

In the crazy way of doing a project of this scope while living in the space, we will have to move the washer and dryer again when we are ready to lay the subflooring on that side.  Then we will put flooring down and move them back for good. (I hope)

I learned a lot, and it is actually fun using the crimping tool that fastens the pex plumbing.  My friend is a good and patient teacher and I am truly truly blessed with these folks in our lives.  I don't know too many couples who would still be laughing and joking with us when a job took as long as that did.  

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Mothers Day Weekend

 I took Friday off this past week so that I could sand the floor in my wife's bedroom.  This room has had carpet on the floor ever since I can remember.  Allergies and rugs don't mix well for us.  And the rug was old and in need of replacement.  In lieu of that, we pulled the rug out and discovered that the floor, although painted in several colors, was really in great shape.

So Friday I spent the day sanding the floor.  After about 4 hours it looked like this:

I love the honey tones in the wood.  It is really different wood from all our other floors. Those are wide pine floors. This floor has narrower boards--though still wider than is common in flooring nowadays and the wood tones are much deeper.

Today Kirsty has put 3 coats of Bona high traffic polyurethane on it.  It is looking even better than this "naked" shot.  It will be a week before we can move her furniture back into the room but it will be worth the wait.  Oddly, I love sanding floors.  Which is probably good because this is the 5th or 6th that I have done in our home  thus far.

We also spent time working on cutting down a 30 x 24 base cabinet.  It is now a 30 x 18 base cabinet. This was time consuming but not all that hard.  We have a circular saw now, and moving into the land of power tools definately speeds up things.  LOL  We also used my cool portable work table that I bought a couple weeks ago. This eased things too as I could set it up right in the upstairs bathroom where the cabinet was.  

The cabinet also has a drawer and we had to cut that down as well and install new drawer glides. Things went along swimingly until we discovered that the end brackets I ordered were not correct. I have ordered what I hope is the correct replacement and it will come in tomorrow.  If all goes well we pop that on tomorrow night and the cabinet will be ready for painting.  I'm proud of this little project. First of all, there is the fact that we repurposed a cabinet that we no longer needed into something we very much need.  We have very little storage in that bathroom and I need to create a place where Elisabeth can keep her beauty supplies.  

The other component to this is putting on a laminate counter top.  Of course they are not sold in the width and length that I need.  I was going to order one but the sales rep said that there is a $500 set up fee and the best bet would be to order a 4 ft counter top and cut it down ourselves.  Using painters tape would prevent the laminate from splintering.  Check out yo*tube the sales rep advised.  So I did. And it looks pretty straight forward.  I have ordered the slab and it will be in mid week.  Next weekend we can hopefully cut it down and it will be ready to mount.

The next facet of this particular room make over will involve an electrician installing two new lights in the room and the plumber installing a new toilet and the new sink and vanity.  Then the room is essentially complete until our first floor bathroom is done.  When that one is done, I want to have the tub resurfaces and it will go from old blue tub to sparkling white.  Even my daughter, who is a tough critic, likes the way the room is turning out.

And in spite of all those projects, we still had a lovely Mothers Day dinner with a surprise gift for my wife. I made her meal of choice--sweet and sour meatballs, mac and cheese, roasted aspargus and a tropical cake.  We pitched in and got her a kayak.  It is a fold up one so she should not hurt her back getting it to and from a paddling place.  She is super excited as she has wanted a kayak for a long time.

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Visiting Mom!

 December 2019.  That was the last time we saw my mom in Maine.  We went up for a Christmas visit.  It was wonderful.  The world was pre-covid.  We laughed, hugged, ate, and the kids and I planned to return in March for the annual Maple Sugar celebration. We'd visit with her and then visit sugar houses before returning to our state.

Then. . . covid.  I remember my mom calling me in March.  The world had not quite shut down yet.  I was still not grasping (as were many folks) how big the covid threat was and how it would impact our lives.  Mom told me she did not want me to visit.  I was shocked but said I understood and would not ever want to put her at risk. Covid still seemed distant and far away.  A couple days after that you could no longer travel from my state to hers and the Maple Sugar Festival was cancelled.  As was most of 2020.

We spent that year keeping in touch by phone, by email, by Facebook and by text. We sent cards and small gifts to her and to G who had lived with her for many years.  It was so worrisome.  For the first time, if something happened to her I would be unable to help.  I could not drive there.  I would not be able to visit if she was hospitalized. There was an undercurrent of helplessness all the time.  

So much happened in that time.  My kids grew.  My middle son moved out of the house. We lost two beloved pets.  G. passed away.  

Yesterday was the first time we could visit together safely.  My wife, myself and KC are all fully vaccinated. Chet is 1/2 vaccinated. Elisabeth is not yet eligible. My mom is vaccinated as well.  We had chet and Elisabeth wear masks for safety but it was still a wonderful wonderful day.  We washed her windows and hung her spring curtains. My wife cleaned her bathroom as mobility has become an issue for her and she can not readily do somethings that were once common place for her.  We ate and laughed. We hugged.  We cried. We laughed. We hugged some more.

Humans are meant to touch each other.  Stealing that from us was one of the hardest things about covid.  I did not even feel comfortable hugging or kissing my wife until we were vaccinated as I work in an environment where I have been exposed to covid multiple times. 40% of my staff had it.  I am part of the lucky 60% that did not.  I credit masks and washing hands frequently. 

So today I am grateful to be able to hug, to laugh and to be present fully with those I love.

Monday, April 19, 2021

KC is 17!


So this is KC's second Covid birthday!  Last year when he turned 16 we organized a drive by birthday parade and decorated inside with a Broadway theme.  I had pre-covid promised him a large outdoor friends birthday party and of course that could not happen.  I felt horrible about it all.  16 is such a milestone. And my kids have not typically had a lot of "friends" parties. We usually do family parties and only have big friends ones for milestone events.  

This year we had a local company come early in the morning before the teen was up and they put this banner on our front lawn.  Elisabeth was away this weekend--she had checked with KC before accepting the invitation months ago.  He said he thought she should go as since lockdown she has not had a lot of time out of the house and he felt she really needed it.  

But K and I still felt we had to do everything we could to make his birthday special.  Hence the banner.  He still had a family party and Rob was here, and cooked KC's favorite chicken entree and made a delicous carrot cake for the birthday cake.  There were gifts, phone calls from family who could not be here and lot of laughter.

I also made KC's favorite cinnamon rolls for breakfast yesterday --we have kind of had the whole weekend have lots of little bits of joy for him.  He loves these rolls which I typically only make on Christmas.  And tonight we will have a favorite supper of his, arroz con gandules.

He had time to go to a friends house and watch a movie.  He had time to see a favorite show with me. And he told me how very cool the banner was and that he didn't think anything could top last years birthday, but that somehow we did.  

Seriously, how am I so very blessed to have kids who feel the love and joy of experiences even in these harder times?  Celebrations have always been tremendously important to KC (top pic is when he was 3 and was helping to paint the rainbow mural for his party.)  That my son feels that his day was in no way diminished by the circumstances of covid fills me with such joy.  

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Cleaning the portal to H*ll


 Today's renovation photo is far from pretty!  This is the crawl space in my house where all the plumbing and HVAC live.  Last weekend I visited it under emergency circumstances for the first time in I think my whole life.  (which is kind of bizarre if you know I am in my 60s!) In the course of  stopping the plumbing leak with my friend, we tripped and scrambled over literally generations of debris.  It was immediately clear to me that I needed to get tripping hazards out of the space since in about a month we will be doing plumbing and electrical work down here.  

Yesterday was that day.  I put on my daughters wellies and waded in.  I moved out pipes that apparently plumbers had replaced and just left the old ones disconnected and lying around.  I moved out an old cabinet, old chair, broken fittings, pieces of wood that were lying around, 2 giant boxes of broken flourescent light bulbs and more.  

I would bring them to the main part of our cellar and then Chet ferried them up to the dumpster.  There is still damaged insulation that I want to bag up and get out but it is a lot better.  It still sort of looks like a portal to hell but at least you can move around in there safely!