Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day 2012

The problem with Ev is her over-developed Midwestern work ethic, which grievously prevents her from being able to make the acquaintane of, much less deeply embrace, her inner Lazy Slug.

So far today she's hung a gutter and downspout, climbed around on an extension ladder inspecting the porch roof and planning how we're going to cover it with the rolled roofing we bought yesterday, filled the subsidence holes under the driveway with Quickcrete, watered the yard and is now preparing to cut down at least two eight-foot-tall arbor vitae in the ungodly heat and humidity.

I, having fully embraced my own Inner Slug, believe that there's absolutely no reason to anything today other than lay around with a cold drink and fan myself until it's time to cook burgers on the grill. But, because I was raised by a woman far more like Ev than like me, my finely honed guilty conscience is going to force me to go out there and offer to help.

Have I mentioned that I'm not a hot weather, manual labor outside person?

Friday, May 25, 2012

Ooooh! Ahhhh! Pretty!

My mother was a very artistic person and so is my son, but that gene pretty much passed right through me without leaving a hint of artistic DNA in its wake. I have an eye for decorating, I built a dollhouse from a kit and sewed a pretty weird looking coat for Cooper, but that's about the extent of my craftiness. I admire the craftiness of others, though, and occasionally try to duplicate something I see online (yes, I've become a Pinterest junkie), so when I saw faux Sun Jars all over the interwebz I thought to myself, "Hell's bells, any moron could do THAT!"  And it's true!!  Any moron CAN!

I made a couple of modifications from the online instructions that cut the actual work down to almost nothing, and I like the result a lot!

Supplies needed:

1 dozen wide mouthed pint canning jars with lids (under ten bucks)
1 dozen solar path lights - the 3" diameter cheap-o's ($2.98 each at WalMart)
1 spray can of glass frost
some type of tool to cut thin metal without hurting yourself - I used a Dremel with a reinforced cut-off wheel
glue (SuperGlue Glass Adhesive is probably the best)


1. Remove the lids from the jars and place them upside down for painting.
2. Spray the outside of the jars with glass frost - two or three coats should do it - dries pretty much instantly.
4. Twist the whole light/battery/solar panel assembly off the path light.
5. Cut a slit in the band so it can spread just a bit.
6. Apply glue to the threads on the glass jar and the threads on the inside of the band and stick them together as if the band was screwed on, with the little slit on the back side of the jar.
7. Pull the tab to allow the light to come on and insert the light assembly into the mouth of the jar. It will only go in about 1/3 of the way.
8. You're done.

It may not be water tight, but solar lights are made to get rained on, so ... meh.  If it gets water in it, dump it out.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Two Other Things

1. I accidentally stepped on a dead bird that Mr. Man(son) killed and left on the sidewalk. It made a horrible popping sound under my foot that I can't get out of my head.

2. After the State of Illinois garnished my paycheck and diverted my income tax refund for non-payment of a student loan which no longer exists, I got a refund check from the state today. I was sort of hoping for a heartfelt apology from Pat Quinn but in lieu of that, I'll take the cash.

Self-Indulgent Pre-Ladder Drivel. Enter At Your Own Risk

Lori encouraged me to go back and look at the first year of the blog, so I did.

What I see is life in the middle of transition: new town, new job, new orientation in the universe. The end of a crushing free fall, the first glimmers of light after a long ugly walk in grayness and the process of learning to navigate a new reality. A few devastating failures, a few surprising successes, the daily slog through a life that's not particularly remarkable or important, except to me.

Six years later I feel pretty good, which paradoxically has left me less inclined to process the minutia of my life in such excruciating detail. I feel like the actual stories of life have become straightforward now, but partially because I've learned things that were hard to accept. People just get smarter by living. Life lessons are like wrinkles: you don't see each one arrive.

This weekend I'm going to tackle my fear of ladders by hanging some gutters and roofing a little patch of porch roof.  In anticipation of that I've been walking laps around the house looking at the roof and reminding myself that all sorts of people work on ladders all the time and live to tell the story, and that I don't have to be fearless, I just have to be brave.

Which led me to bravery, which leads me to:

I work in a tiny community hospital now, with a weensy E.R. and 26 inpatient beds, mostly occupied by elderly people approaching the end of their lives. I feel lucky to have this opportunity to meet them and watch their journey, even though at some point every damn one of them looks at my badge and tells me that they had a sister named Evelyn but she passed. I may be the only Evelyn left alive on earth.

My old people (because they become mine after a few months of waking them up at 4 a.m. and drawing their blood) are mostly small town people. Many of them have rarely left the county they were born in, and they think I'm impossibly worldly and exotic for having lived in Arizona. They're smart and funny and brave and petulant and sullen and immature and kind and ugly and beautiful and boring. They talk too much or not at all. They apologize for having bad veins, laugh at my jokes, yell at me for turning the lights on (or for turning them off), bitch about the food, worry about their pets, reminisce about their youth. They are almost certainly the same people at 80 that they were at 8 but with more layers and nuances. And eventually they die. They lead small quiet lives and die small quiet deaths. The process leaves me in awe.

I wonder if they realize how many people they touch?

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Weasel McPander-pants

It's almost June and you know what that means!  It's time for politicians everywhere to support Teh Gay and solicit our votes and our contributions!  Yay, Pride Month!

The President has come out for Marriage Equality, but Mitt's a little busy on the campaign trail right now, so we'll have to settle for this flier from his campaign when he ran for Governor of Massachusetts.

Thanks, Mitt!  We're equally sincere in wishing YOU the best, too!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Anatomy of a Project

We've done quite a few projects on the house now, but we almost never take pictures of the reason for the project or the process itself, because that would mean taking pictures of things that look crappy to us, and we're all about the "real estate photos" that carefully avoid showing the crappy. This time I thought I'd provide before, during and after photos of my current project:  Repainting the Porch Stairs.

It's important to note that the reason we do these projects in the first place is that something is wrong enough to require a project to correct it. Where the outside projects are concerned, the big raised bed is covering a ginormous sinkhole. The brick flower beds are making up for the fact that you can't dig in the yard because there's a house pushed into its own basement about three inches below the surface. The patio replaced a shady, sloping yard that grew clover, weeds and wild violets like crazy, but wouldn't grow grass.

Almost all of the actual house projects seem to involve paint. The red door replaced an atrocious black paint job. All the woodwork in the remodeled room upstairs had been painted and was a mess, as were the plaster walls. Like all the projects we do, we generally uncover whatever it was the last people were covering up with whatever we're removing somewhere along the line, and this project is no different.

First you notice that the peeling paint has gotten REALLY bad.
It starts out simple enough. The paint is peeling off in strips and you can pick it off with your fingers. It's gotten worse every year, and the weather is very nice this spring, so you figure it ought to be easy to scrape it off and get it to a paintable state and this would be a great time to do it.

Under the peeling part  you find the older, crackled paint. 
But this is a 115 year old house, so what ought to be isn't always. In this case, it appears that the original paint job was a good one, with the right kind of paint over concrete sealer and primer. Unfortunately, when it aged and cracked, the half-ass touch-up job was done with latex paint over the cracked paint, and only the latex comes off easily, which is obviously why they did it that way in the first place.

tap ... tap ... yep, it's hollow all the way from top to bottom
Damnit!  There's a mystery!  While scraping, I discovered some kind of repair I haven't quite figured out. The three other banisters are solid poured cement, but this whole section is hollow under that crack, which runs the length of the banister and seems to be a layer of concrete veneer of some sort. And the paint is REALLY falling off this one banister, so now I'm motivated to keep going and get it off.

These are the things you only find out after you've started something you can't un-start. We aren't restoration nazis, but when the options are to slap another half-ass touch-up over it or try to do it better so it will last awhile, I'd rather opt for last awhile if I can.

So that's where I am now.  Dalmation spotted stairs.  Luckily, I have acquired an amazing collection of scraping tools in the past three years and the stairs aren't going anywhere, and the weather is still coolish.

I'm beginning to think that removing old paint and replacing it with new paint is some kind of metaphor for life.

Gone Like a Leaf, but With More Gone and Less Packed-into-the-Bottom-of-the-Fence...

I have dispatched Baby Katie to the next station on the Overground Railroad: Dane's house. I'll miss her again. I wish I had more children. Oh, wait...

Back in the Saddle?

I dunno. Maybe more like taking the saddle out the the box and circling it warily and kicking the dust off, then gingerly flipping it up with my toe to check for brown recluse spiders that might bite me and cause a gigantic necrotic festering wound on my ass if I actually get onto the saddle.

Here's my deal this evening: I just got a snotty email from the retirement services provider for my employer because she calls the lab every day and can't get hold of me. Apparently her inability to complete her annual goal rest squarely on my selfish shoulders.

Right. Because I work nights. She knows that. I tell everyone, every time they ask and often when no one asks. Working night shift doesn't mean I'm available all day and then stay up for an extra 12 hours to work my shift. Working night shift means that I sleep all day, drink coffee and shower at 5pm, and put on my scrubs and come to work at 7pm. Picture that functioning somewhat like your own life, but 12 hours later...and then earlier...and then later...and then earlier. People who work night shift aren't being difficult, they're sleeping. In much the same way I don't call you at 3 am and then say "Oh...were you sleeping? I need to discuss your job with you. No I can't call back, I leave work at 5 am.", you can't expect to call me at noon and then be indignant if I'm not excited to hear from you.

If you need to make contact with me, you may have to inconvenience yourself slightly by calling at a specific mutually agreed upon time. This might curtail your freedom to be the sort of devil-may-care hippie financial analyst who makes phone calls based on your astrological portentions or the mysterious pattern of tea leaves in your chai tea from lunch. It might require you to organize your schedule, put off your golf game, stay sober for an extra half hour during Happy Hour or similarly inconvenience yourself. In return, I agree to let you manage (or mismanage, Ms. Madoff) my retirement fund for the next 20 years. With interest.

This is potentially a mutually beneficial relationship, provided you LET ME SLEEP EIGHT HOURS A DAY LIKE EVERYONE ELSE. Otherwise, if you insist on waking me up out of a sound sleep to make financial decisions that will affect the next 40 years of my life, my financial decision might very well be to find a company with a retirement specialist smart enough to figure out why people who work night shift are asleep during other people's office hours.

Sunday, May 13, 2012


Due to the overwhelming number of requests we've received to revive the blog (okay, there was one request), I thought I'd take a stab at it.  It's entirely possible the request was made so I'd stop haranguing and offending people on Facebook with my a) politics, b) homosectional agenda and c) potty mouth.  But, whatever the reason, let me just catch you up on what's been happening in Nowhere, IL since last October. Just think of this as one of those (very belated) newsy Christmas letters and skim to the parts that interest you.

We had a slight windfall last summer which we put to good use doing some remodeling, some traveling, improving the quality of our food and beer intake and generally living a few inches higher on the hog.  It was  fun while it lasted, but all good things must come to an end, so we're back to our usual status ... poor, but happy.  I'll just hit the highlights.


We finally decided to start tackling some of the cosmetic changes we'd been planning, starting with the removal of the previous owner's ill-advised and poorly executed attempt to collect a little more rent money by creating a creepy fourth bedroom out of what used to be a spacious open landing upstairs. We knocked down walls, tore out the unfinished closet, removed a door, pulled up the carpet, pried up the old linoleum, scraped the tar paper off the oak floor, refinished it, bought a fancy sofa and chair, bookshelves, a faux fireplace entertainment center and a flat screen TV, installed a satellite dish and turned the space into a sort of family room / tv room / sitting room. It's awesome.

We bought a new fridge and freezer to replace the rusty old freezer and the assortment of beer and apartment fridges we'd been living out of like teenagers for two years, and refinished the wood floors in the dining room and entry hall.  There's one more floor to refinish downstairs, but I've discovered that refinishing floors is like childbirth. You have to let enough time pass to forget the pain before you dive in and do it again. Not enough time has passed yet.


About three months after we moved Katie to Wichita, Ev moved her to Chicago. I had to work, and there isn't room for three people in her truck anyway, so she was on her own for this one, and it was a killer. I've lost track of how many days she was awake, but it was way too many for human beings. 

Our other trips were much more fun. We went to Pineville, Kentucky in September to meet a couple of longtime online friends, Ron (who lives in Pineville) and Lou (who drove down from New Jersey) and attend the Great American Dulcimer Convention. It was a great trip!  I got to see Harlan county, which I'd heard about for years since my ex mother-in-law grew up there. We enjoyed good music and great company. Ron and Lou are even more fun in person!  In fact, we had such a good time that we've made reservations to go back this September and do it all over again. 

When Christmas rolled around we came up childless for the first time in recorded history.  Ev's kids are all living in Chicago now and wanted to do an All Sibling Christmas, and my son is living in Nashville and couldn't get time off work, so Kwach and Ev decided to do something different this year. We didn't decorate, we didn't cook, we didn't buy the tiniest of gifts ... we started a new holiday tradition we'd like to call Jackpots for Baby Jesus. We'd like to call it that, but we can't, so we'll just call it the No, Virginia, They Don't Loosen Up the Slots For Christmas casino tour of  St. Louis. We got a fantastic deal on a room at the Omni Majestic Hotel and practically had the hotel and downtown St. Louis to ourselves ... free parking everywhere!  Woohoo!  Christmas dinner in the hotel restaurant was fan-tabulous, the gambling was less than fan-tabulous, but lots of fun, and we fnished our trip with the tour of the Schlafly bottleworks we've been promising ourselves but never got around to. Bought lots of spiffy Schlafly memorabilia and a few cases of beer, gave the last of our gambling money to the Casino Queen and headed home having enjoyed the best no-stress, non-Christmas ever. If fate is kind we'll do THAT again, too ... but with more winning.


It hasn't been a great couple of years for Smith-Rubinas pets.  First we lost Mrs Underfoot to a pack of dogs in our front yard, then Cuppy got too old and too sick and was dangerously close to losing her other eye, so we made the decision to put her down. I couldn't bear to do it, so Ev was kind enough to take her for me. Unfortunately, I paid her back in kind much too soon.  It seemed like we barely turned around before I had to do her the same favor with Melon Kiwi who just couldn't bounce back from another flare-up of the kitty AIDS. We were both a pitiful mess over the loss of these two. 

We settled into our new two dog, four cat status, but the Circle of Yife turned around yet again. Cooper had been going downhill for awhile, developed a chronic cough thing, had a strange bout of vestibular disorder that scared the hell out of me because she couldn't walk or stand up without falling over and running into walls for about twelve hours. She got over that and within a week had a full gastric torsion after eating her breakfast on New Year's day and was in heart failure by the time we reached the vet's office. She was such a big goofy pain in the ass ... balding, covered with fat lumps and skin bumps, deaf from chronic ear infections, allergic to everything but air (and maybe that, too) and had about the grossest assortment of behaviors known to dogdom, but damnit, I miss her something fierce. I hope we're done losing pets for awhile. 

So 2012 started out badly, but it's been going very well since then.  We barely had a winter, we managed not to be evacuated due to flooding this year and Spring came early and went completely nuts in our yard. Everything is growing like crazy, all the flowers are blooming, the tomatoes are starting to appear, Ev finished her big raised bed project and filled it with hostas, irises, an assortment of lilies and various and sundry other plants, and we've added a little paving stone path, a variety of whimsical decor items and a nifty spinning brass sprinkler. I made a gnome door for the tree at the back of it just this morning. We installed a tiered garden fountain we got from a friend who was moving and built a patio we just love, added more flower beds, planted some hops along the wall of the shed and I FINALLY got the front door project finished ... stripped off the old black paint and painted the ten foot tall front door bright red.  Now everyone in town knows which house is ours. They no longer say, "There's a house there?"  Now they say, "Oh!  The house with the red door!"  

I'm still opinionated, Ev still loves her new job and her co-workers, she's made a new best friend, the kids are all loving their lives, the remaining pets are healthy, the house is "coming along" as Ev says and we still feel like we won the relationship lottery. Oh, and we got Android phones just like people!  Android phones and TV?  Who are we???

Other than an end to the War on Women, a Democratic majority in Congress and the death of religious extremism in America, what more could anyone ask?