david the plumber and carpenter

“If I were a carpenter
And you were a lady
Would you marry me anyway?
Would you have my baby?

If a tinker were my trade
Would you still find me?
Carrying the pots I’d made
Following behind me”

I remember listening to this song in the backseat of the car with my parents as we drove from here to there. This past weekend and week, it came back to mind as David embarked on a plumbing and carpentry project in our home. Back in August our friend Colleen came to visit us in Boston. It was a super rainy cold day and she and I headed out into downtown Boston anyway. We spent hours getting soaked as we walked up and down the streets of bean town together. By the time we finally made it home we were chilled to the bone. Obviously, this called for hot tubs!  Colleen and I headed into our separate bathrooms, drew warm baths and soaked up the relaxation. A little later, when we were dried off and starting dinner in the kitchen, we noticed that the kitchen ceiling was leaking!  Something was wrong with the tub Colleen had used and the ceiling became saturated above us. What ensued was months of denial between David and I. We had a plumber come to the house immediately to check the damage and give us a diagnostic.  Supposedly, we would need to cut a hole in our kitchen ceiling and replace various pipes, joints, and the drain. The grand total would get us to $500 not including the repair work for the ceiling. Not interested in spending that kind of  money for our guest bathroom (since really we two never used it), we ignored the problem.

For the most part, we could ignore the problem. As long as the shower wasn’t used, the pipes remained dry and the issue didn’t progress. When guests came, we just awkwardly asked them to use our bathroom for all bathing purposes. The guest bathroom became no man’s land. This was working out for us perfectly, until we realized that this little baby was coming and with him would be a flock of guests to fill our summer. Also, we would eventually want the tub to bathe the little boy too. About a month ago, I decided to call the plumber again and have him come and do the repair. David was bummed to pay the price but agreed it would be faster that way. Weeks and weeks of phone tag with the local plumber left me frustrated.  Didn’t they want business? Why wouldn’t they call me back? And, when they did call me back, why were they also so quick to get me off the phone and say “Yes, Yes, we will get back to you.”  Perhaps the whole neighborhood was having massive plumbing issues!  Every house from here to Boston was experiencing explosive toilet pipes and they simply were too busy to come help us? Whatever their reason, David decided he would do it.

Donning his work attire, the project started on Saturday morning. It was quite scary watching him cut a massive hole in our kitchen ceiling!

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Once the jagged whole was cut, it was time to test the plumbing to isolate the issue and see exactly what it was we needed to fix. My job was to run the shower and tub and David would call up to stop me and I would bail out the tub quickly as the water came down through the ceiling hole. Of course, I was bailing and bailing the tub water and wondering, “Why are my feet getting wet?”  Yup, my bucket had a massive hole in it! So David came running upstairs with an array of pots and together we bailed the tub. What a scene!! We realized through these ridiculously trials that the issue was actually more minor than the plumber originally noted. In fact, the only thing we needed was to take the drain apart and reapply the plumber’s putty that creates the seal between the drain and the pipe. Knowing the issue, David widened the ceiling hole and we were off to Lowe’s to buy the putty, a new gasket, and to buy the supplies we would need to seal, plaster, and paint the ceiling.

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$75.00 later we were feeling pretty excited to be saving quite a penny with David at the helm of the project. Of course at this point in the project I had worked up quite the “observers” appetite and we stopped for some sustenance before round two.

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With our bellies full of Five Guys, David returned to the task at hand. He fixed the drain and I helped test the new seal and voila the tub was fixed!!  We could now have guests return to the house. David set down his plumber’s hat and donned that of master plasterer and carpenter.

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(Blurring action shot of the painting)
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It is amazing that the project is complete and I am SO proud of how well David did with it from start to finish.  There were no angry words during the process and I really got to see his engineer mind at work.  I like to think of him now as a Renaissance man.

post 3. the great wall.

It has been over a month since my last great wall update. You are probably thinking that the silence must indicate intense progress and therefore there is no “material” for me to cover on the blog. Alas, if only this were so. Unfortunately, when looking back over Summer 2013, it has become quite apparent that there were many excellent moments like our family vacation in June to Florida where we were able to spend much needed time together (not knowing then that it would be the last time I would see my Nanny). But there have also been quite a number of lows. And these lows have been low. The passing of my Nanny has been and continues to be a grave pain and sorrow. I still struggle to wrap my head around it and often find myself about to call her on the phone only to remember I can no longer do that.  While the wall is in no way the same type of low as the loss of my beloved nanny, it remains a thorn in the summer that continues to bring David and I down.

Two weeks ago, our neighbors invited us to a cookout. Perched high on their deck, we had the vantage point of looking down into our backyard. And, what did we see? A mess. Stones tossed haphazardly across the backyard in random heaps, a bobcat backhoe parked on the side of the house, a dirt pile stacked so high you cannot see the house next door, a partial retaining wall built, tools strewn about, a broken tent tossed to one side, another tent set near what should be a “work station,” trees and shrubs uprooted and dying on the dirt, and cement and sand where once grass grew. My personal favorite item in the backyard is a canister of the mason’s urine that he has left in the sun which we dare not go near for fear of a toxic death. A project that was projected to last 3 weeks is edging ever so closely to 3 months with no true end in sight. To say communication with the mason is difficult would be an understatement. David and I have tried to take a relaxed approach this past month and half. We have not called or texted him (as he prefers texting over answering his phone), unless he has not appeared at our house for more than 7 business days. Typically, when he does text back, he makes grandiose promises to work the next days including the weekend!  Of course, this never happens and David and I are left feeling foolish, powerless, and frustrated. The excuses continue to pile up including my two favorites thus far: getting wisdom teeth taken out and being attacked by a dog (though there were no scratches or bite marks!?!). Of course, if these things did happen along with the many other tragedies he has shared with us this summer then, like us, the mason is having the WORST summer ever!  But I cannot help feeling like he is a little bit of the boy who cried wolf.

Whenever we look out the windows or enter and exit the house we are reminded of our life savings that has seemingly gone down the drain and the disaster that has exploded in our yard. Lately, after finishing up a walk with the pups, we stop in front of the house and say, “Geez look at this house.  It is like the owners must not care about it at all. What a mess.” Then we hang our heads and walk inside. In my fantasy world, I wake up and the wall is completed this week, the fence goes up, and our “dog pen” (as the mason so eloquently calls it) is finished. But, this is not so. David and I have a knack for finding the lemons of life. Our pups (who we love unconditionally) have tons of health problems including explosive diarrhea should they eat anything other than their dog food, our house has numerous small but annoying glitches, and now our mason has taken the cake and become the lemon of the summer. Anyone have a recipe for lemonade? As ridiculous as this is and as outlandish as his excuses have been, we just want him to finish this project so that he saves face and we save some money.

Upon doing a walk around the “lack of job site”, Laura declared, “You got a shitty (expletive) deal! It is unconscionable!” I agree bestie, I completely agree.

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Laura examining the mason’s urine canister. She could not believe he would leave such a thing behind for weeks.

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*What is complete looks great and we are happy with the (unfinished) product but man, oh man, the process is a nightmare.*

sewing 101

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A few months ago I blogged about a book I read called the Creative Family. Its discussion on creativity and the importance of crafting made quite the impression. Her message of steering clear of focusing on one’s mistakes resonated with the perfectionist in me. When knitting, I am quickly discouraged by my project as soon as I make one mistake (which inevitably occurs as I am new to the hobby). Instead of harping on the snag and wanting to throw the item away before it is completed, she suggested understanding the beauty and character of those mistakes. She writes, “ The work of homemade is never perfect, and that’s the beauty of it.” As a DINK (double income no kids), I have a lot of free time in the summer.  This is not to make anyone jealous. I so very much want to have children but David and I have some financial goals we would like to reach before we expand our little family. So with this free time, I tend to be bored. As David can attest, I am not good at “relaxing.”  Relaxing is not in my vocabulary.  Yes, you can definitely find me lounging and nursing my post-school year hangover for the first two weeks of summer vacation.  But by week three, I am typically stranded in a sea of free time.  I want to try to avoid burning through money but I don’t want to be locked up in my house watching endless movies, so I find summer vacation to be bittersweet at times.  I love to read but after so many hours of this in a single day, I need something else.

That’s where crafting comes in. I was invited to a friend’s place on Tuesday to learn how to sew. Heather was beyond patient with me as she went over the Singer sewing machine set before us. I now know how to thread the needle, prepare the bobbin, and sew a “straight” line.  We practiced on a little draw-string purse made from some “scrap” materials. After this thirty minute entry into the world of sewing, Heather helped me pick out some beautiful material from JP Knit & Stitch and we started to plan out a fabulous tote bag project for the afternoon.  We paused for lunch at the new Clover in Brookline and by the time David was out of work, I had completed what I think is a pretty impressive tote bag.  I cannot sing Heather’s praises enough. She helped me get started, she encouraged me, and she and I joked the whole time about the bag being “perfect” and how we both struggle with the perfectionist’s curse/blessing.  Yet, the sad part of this is that while I left her house with the sewing machine and tote, she will be leaving on Sunday for Germany.  I am going to miss her and her husband, Robin, so very much.  In four years, they have become such dear friends. I am just so glad to have spent such a fun, challenging, and hilarious day with the two of them right before their departure. And, that tote will always been a great reminder of our lesson, friendship, and how I need to get my bum out to Germany to visit them ASAP!

post 2. the great wall.

Where post 1: The Great Wall explained the overall start of this project, this is going to be a rant. I promise in the future posts about the wall to do my best to just “go with it” and find the humor in it all.

He texted around 10AM with another excuse for this tardiness.  This time it was a broken cement mixer that was delaying his start. Up until this point I have kept my cool wanting to avoid being labeled an “irrational b*tch.” I texted back with a little sass,  “well you knew you were going to need one so I hope you figure out the best solution so that you can be here by noon =).”  David would go on to tell me that the smiley face was a bit unnecessary.  But, I just truly feel taken advantage of here by this guy and this was my first foray into sass with him.

At 1:00PM, he finally arrives and I decide to head back to him to say good afternoon. That is when I get hit with a level of condescension that surprised me. He starts by completely gendering me, “Well, I know that you are worried and it is quite clear that you suffer from anxiety but listen I am here and I am going to work. I would appreciate it if you didn’t nag me on the phone.” WHOA! First of all, my friend, you have taken a good chunk of our life-savings for this retaining wall and provided nothing in return and the rest of it is due to you upon completion.  My “anxiety” that you speak of is it not that at all, but rather my mere desire to see follow through on a job I am paying you for. Then, he gives me the sob story.  He tells me about his new divorce/separation, his broken arm (still no sign of a cast), his sitting in traffic to and from our house, his broken truck, his need to pay for camp for his son, the heat, the hard labor, his long doctor’s appointment, etc. etc. etc. While this may be true and then very sad, I cannot help but think there is a story for every day’s delay. I want to tell him I would never imagine going to work and telling my department head I was unable to come to class on time day after day and week after week because of my personal woes. You just don’t do that. Instead, I say “listen, I don’t ever want to have to raise my voice or be mean about this job, I just want to see you committed to the project as you claimed you would be on the contract and in your numerous promises.” He looks at me and says, “Yea, you wouldn’t want to get mean with me, kiddo. Trust me on that one.”  At this point I am furious.  Is it because I am a woman and young that you don’t respect my concerns about the direction (or lack thereof) of this project and that you seem okay with trying to intimidate me? I refuse to be turned into a nasty person over this. Instead, I smiled and said, “Well it won’t come to that because of course you will be here now every day as per the contract in order to ensure your future payments.”

Then I calmly walked into the house and stepped right into a puddle of dog pee. HaHaHaHaHa yup!

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post 1. the great wall.

This wall is a monster. When we bought our first home we were totally in love with it.  It was built the year we met and immediately I felt a connection to this mound of wood and plaster. It must have been built for us, no?  Everything inside is brand new and gleaming with that “never been used before” sparkle. Everything we do to the house will be a first. It is the perfect little nest for our young love.

Except for one thing…the backyard is a bit small. When we first spotted the home and fell head over heels for her flashy looks and sexy personality, we neglected to thoroughly price out the cost of redesigning the yard.  Our realtor seemed to suggest so nonchalantly that to build the retaining wall we would need to turn our sloping hill into more reclaimed flat surface was a piece of cake. Looking around the neighborhoods of New England these field stone retaining walls are everywhere.  How much could it really cost?  Well, the number was staggering. We spent our first year in a sparsely furnished home while we saved, saved, and saved for this wall. I worked extra hours, took on more classes, and even tutored three times a week on top of providing Pilates in the afternoon program at school.  And, after 10 months of this horrendous schedule that left us exhausted and without friends (because when you work like this, you see your friends very little) we had the money to build the Great Wall.

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We hired a contractor/mason we got through a friend’s recommendation (however, I do not hold any grudge or responsibility for this nightmare over my friend). The mason is a nice guy.  A bit chatty but then why not make a friend of the guy who is going to build you a 75ft long x 4ft high stone wall?  Well, he is a slippery one. Everyone always says beware of contractors. And now I know why.  The project timeline is 3 weeks. We are currently at 2 weeks in. The mason has only worked a total of 3 days of those 2 weeks but still demands to be paid according to our original project plan (How do we handle this!?).  It is nuts!  He likes to text and so he usual texts at night with some great line like: “Just wait until tomorrow. I will arrive at 6am work all day and then through the weekend.  You two will get so tired of my face by the end of this.”  Tired of his face? I would love to see his face!  What does he look like anymore??  I have kept my temper in check which is hard for an orignal Long Islander. I have never once raised my voice or acted out in aggression.  But, I am getting close to my breaking point. All I want to do is see him work like he promised he would so that this wall can be done in a reasonable amount of time. Currently, the front of our beautiful house looks like a disaster zone.  Trees tossed about, rocks and sand and boulders piled sky high and mud everywhere. Geez.  Being a homeowner when a MAJOR project is underway is quite difficult.

Today, I was about to lose my cool.  He promised to arrive at our house bright and early and no sign of him as per usual. I texted David at work and our conversation was as followed:

Me: I am going to go bat suit crazy on this guy should he ever show up.

David: Bat suit crazy sounds awesome!

Me: hahaha!  That’s right.  That is how crazy I am. I am putting on a freaking bat suit!!

David: Haha

By noon the mason finally arrived. At 1:10 he was off to Home Depot.  Back at 1:40 and then lunched for 20  minutes at 2:30. I have now decided to have myself a glass of wine and to seclude myself in my room.  Being home for the summer with this project going on is going to be interesting. To be continued….

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summer to do

Lists make me happy. Each day, I write myself a “to-do” list and revel in crossing off items, highlighting items, and adding new tasks. In an odd way, I feel like a superstar when I complete the list. Praise is showered down “you did it,” “look how organized you are,” and “wow, how did you ever get all of that done in a single day.”  While this is a little crazy, it is innately a part of me. Each morning, I arrive to my classroom and start a new fresh list for a new fresh day. So to feel a little less stressed about the end of the school year, I have decided to focus on the summer and all of the stuff I plan/hope to get accomplished:

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  1. Organize the Basement (go through the last of the moving boxes and make some shelving so items can be more easily located).
  2. Finally bring the last boxes to the recycling center
  3. Paint front door, I am thinking dark gray
  4. Paint the bulkhead
  5. Refinish the back porch stairs
  6. Visit with friends and family as much as possible
  7. Work on my blogging
  8. Attend teacher conferences
  9. Work on curriculum development
  10. Read Read Read
  11. Cook and BBQ
  12. Re-budget our finances
  13. Garden and tend the lawn
  14. odds and ends of cleaning and keep our home b-e-a-u-t-i-f-u-l
  15. Freshen up my Italian language skills (might be visiting a bestie in Rome)
  16. Power-wash house
  17. Steam carpets
  18. Exercise and take it seriously (as in drop these pesky 10 pounds I have hugging my body)
  19. Have the retaining wall and fence built in our backyard (just hired the contractor last night!!)

Ah….while this list is long, it feels so much better to have it written down and not floating aimlessly in my head. It is daunting but quite exciting to think that my daily school lists are almost on hiatus for the next three months of summer vacation and I can shift my attention to health, family, and home more consistently.  Summer, here I come (with my list in hand!!).

etsy holiday giveaway!

Today, I am excited to be hosting my first giveaway! Last year, my husband and I got married and while we were planning, we wanted to have a quirky way of setting up the seating cards. After scanning through etsy.com we stumbled across BasilicusJones. We found his work to be unique, playful, and just the right fit for the feel we were envisioning.  We special ordered this for the BIG day: fork seating holder. After buying our house in April, we reached out to BasilicusJones again.  This time, we were in the market for unique tie-backs for our curtains in the dining room.  Again, we special ordered serving spoons and BasilicusJones was not only helpful during the design process, but prompt, professional, and deeply passionate and enthusiastic about his work. I have loved working with this shop and all of the items we have received!!  In light of the holiday gift-giving season, I woud like to offer a set of two spoon hooks as a free giveaway to a special reader. To enter to win, please visit BasilicusJones shop on etsy.com. Then come back here and comment below on your favorite item in his shop. One winner will be drawn and announced at random at the end of the week!

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The prize

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The curtain tiebacks we recently purchased

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The wedding forks

Obsessed

During the school day there is very little “me” time. This is quite understandable since the school day really isn’t about “me.”  Rather it is about how each student is accessing, processing, creating, and recreating information, skills, and social experiences.  I merely get to be a facilitator, observer, and designer (and sometimes on special days a life coach, friend, therapist, sounding board, or personal excitement coach) of all of this. But, on the rare occasion when I do get a little more than a moment to breathe and run to the bathroom, I find myself obsessed with mommy blogs (most recently of the Mormon variety). It all started a few months earlier when my friend, Skye, introduced me to Soule Mama. Author Amanda Blake-Soule is a mother, DIY crafter, farmhouse operator, and overall enthusiast for “stuff” that is real and genuine.  Her crafts, farm, and photos are captivating and I find myself envious of the simple (and yet not so simple at all) way of life she leads and orchestrates with her brood of five children and husband. One afternoon, while talking about my obsession with following this “perfect and wholesome” blog, another friend, Laura, mentioned excitedly that she too has become obsessed with the blogging depiction of the 50s housewife spun off as a hipster chic Mormon Mommy Blogger. I decided to dig a little deeper. Why are we secretly and fervently reading these mommy blogs?  As the women’s studies teacher at school, I feel as though this new habit of mine is particularly disturbing. Weren’t we reading the Feminist Mystique in class and unearthing the “problem that has no name” or the “cult of domesticity?” And, now I am staring that “problem that has no name” right in the face and refreshing my browser each day hoping for new  pictures, stories, and mommy updates! I feel incredibly torn.  Luckily, I stubbled upon this article that gives me a little piece of mind.  At least I know now that there are many of “me” out there: Why I Can’t Stop Reading Mormon Housewife Blogs. I was particularly receptive to this part of the article’s analysis of my latest obsessive behavior:

“There’s been a lot of talk in recent years about “the New Domesticity” — an increasing interest in old-fashioned, traditionally female tasks like sewing, crafts and jam making. Some pundits see this as a sign that young women yearn to return to some kind of 1950s Ozzie and Harriet existence, that feminism has “failed,” that women are realizing they can’t have it all, after all. That view is utterly nonsense, in my opinion, but I do think women of my generation are looking to the past in an effort to create fulfilling, happy domestic lives, since the modern world doesn’t offer much of a road map…..But the basic messages expressed in these blogs — family is wonderful, life is meant to be enjoyed, celebrate the small things — are still lovely. And if they help women like me envision a life in which marriage and motherhood could potentially be something other than a miserable, soul-destroying trap, I say, “Right on.” I won’t be inviting the missionaries inside for hot cocoa now or ever, but I don’t plan on stopping my blog habit any time soon.” –Emily Matchar

This escapist part of my day into the world of Mormon Mommy Blogging has coincidentally encouraged me to continue working on my blog.  To think about the message I am making and to possibly try to bring a little DIY into my own home, kitchen and life.  There is nothing wrong with bringing inspiration into one’s life and in seeking to perfect that art of balancing work and life.  Sometimes, it is important to take a minute longer on the “life” part from time to time and perhaps that is what I am gaining from these blogs.