Thursday, June 24, 2010

Some Things Considered

I am not a shopper. Really what I mean is that I am not much of a recreational shopper. I don’t like walking the mall “just for fun”. (Surfing the Internet is a whole different story, but we won’t go there right now.) My attitude about shopping is fueled by the realization that the stores are filled with tons of stuff that nobody needs – gadgets that claim to make tasks that most of us never do easier, clothes that don’t look good on anyone, even the size 2 models, books about stupid stuff that only some delusional editor finds interesting, and still more stuff that you look at and wonder “what the heck is that”? My desire for retail therapy can most often be satisfied by cutting coupons, surveying the weekly grocery store flyers, and finding 2 liter bottles of Diet Coke on sale for 99 cents.

My tolerance for shopping has been tested and retested over the past few months as we have shopped for both the wedding and the remodeling project. I have found myself walking the aisles of stores I have never been in and shopping for things in which I never knew I had an interest. Actually, I didn’t have an interest – until now.

Have you shopped for a kitchen faucet lately? If not, here are some things to think about should you suddenly find yourself in your local home improvement store contemplating a kitchen faucet as an impulse buy.Do you want individual controls for the hot and cold water or one control for both?

  • Do you want a separate sprayer or one that pulls from the spigot?
  • Do you want one that comes with a soap dispenser?
  • Do you want stainless, brass, copper, black, chrome, white, or oil rubbed bronze?
  • Do you want to spend $50 or $500, or more?
  • We haven’t even gotten to style yet. What do you want it to actually look like? The choices seem endless and overwhelming . . . probably because they are.

And then is shopping for toilets . . .Yes, here too the choices seem endless.

  • Round or oblong?
  • Single or dual flush?
  • 14”, 15”. 16”, or 17” high?
  • Number of gallons of water per flush?
  • Self cleaning?

Oh, wait. Sorry that is not an option on toilets. I think that is on the list of considerations for ovens. In all of my recent shopping experiences, I have not seen a self cleaning toilet – and that would be so much more useful than the ambiance lighting for your shower that I have seen.

Despite the fact that self cleaning is not an option on toilets, as you can see, there are many other details that do demand thoughtful consideration. Can you imagine being the marketing agent that gets stuck with trying to persuade you to buy his toilet instead of the other guy’s? To be successful at that, you must know what the consumer is really looking for in his or her toilet. Again, how often do you consider the unique features of your commode? I realized the difficulty of this particular marketing dilemma the other day when we were indeed shopping for toilets.

We made several decisions easily. We chose bowl shapes based on the physical space in each bathroom, water usage based on our willingness to spend a little more upfront to save in the long run, and height based on, well, the fact that we are getting older and the higher the seat the less your knees snap, crackle and pop when you stand. Even narrowing things down this much, still there were many choices. It was time to read the very fine print on the couple of toilets still in the running (no pun intended) realizing that we would ultimately succumb to the power of marketing. We eventually made our selections. I must say that the “information” on the various toilets was not always useful.

On one of the toilets, we discovered that the manufacturer actually paid some marketing agency to promote their product by saying that it would flush a whole bucket of golf balls. The box had a drawing showing a bucket of golf balls being poured into the bowl. Who knew that we needed a commode that would accomplish such a fete! Wait. Who really needs to flush a basket of golf balls down their toilet? I suspect no one. And I also think that if you have a need to flush anything that even resembles a basket of golf balls you have bigger problems than any toilet can handle . . .even one that is self cleaning, if there were such a thing.

Some days I feel kind of guilty for spending so much time thinking about these things that I have never thought about, or felt the need to think about, before. Then I step back and remember that we must live in the present. And at this moment, kitchen faucets and toilets are the present. And so are wedding cakes, napkins, tuxes, and punch recipes, but the tales of shopping for these things will have to be tomorrow’s present.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Thanksgiving and Compassion

Many of the posts on this blog have been words of thanksgiving for the blessings that I have received in and through my two children. They are successful, happy and healthy kids. Sure, childhood has dealt them a few what seems in our society to be “rough days” – not enough sleep, too much homework, nagging parents, and broccoli for dinner. And they have also had days where their health has not been one hundred percent – ear infections, broken bones, strep throat, chicken pox, and swine flu. In the big scheme of things, these are all minor ailments and easily treated because we live in a country where medical care is readily available and because my family is very fortunate to have health insurance. Many in the United States take these things for granted; I hope that I never do. No matter how bad things seem here with our unstable economy, soaring healthcare costs, natural disasters, and perceived epidemics, the majority of the world views our life as living in the lap of luxury. For the life my family and I have been given, I am thankful. It is not enough for me to offer prayers of thanksgiving for all of these blessings: I feel called to offer my life in service to others. For the last several years I have been stumbling around trying to figure out how best to do that.

I enjoy writing. Thus far this blog has been a creative outlet for me, a place where I can share my thoughts and every now and then a few pictures. I know that it does not provide service to anyone other than maybe to elicit a smile or chuckle every now and then, but for whatever reason, I have continued to write. I may now know why and I also may have stumbled upon an avenue that affords me the opportunity to use my blog as a means of service.

A month or so ago I accidentally, or coincidentally, or purposefully stumbled upon a website called Compassion Bloggers are people who are using their blogs to get the message of Compassion International, a group who is dedicated to” releasing more than 1,000,000 children in undeveloped countries from spiritual, economic, social and physical poverty.” You can read more about the work of Compassion International at .

Compassion International is continually working to improve the living conditions for many children around the world. Each of these children is precious and deserves the care, love, and compassion that we give our own children. I share with you here the story of one eight-year old boy, Achilles, who lives in Burkina Faso in western Africa. He suffers from a congenital heart abnormality known as tetralogy of Fallot. For the past two years, Compassion International has provided medical care for Achilles at the national teaching hospital in Burkina Faso but because his heart abnormalities are complicated and extensive, doctors there feel that they can no longer address his medical needs. They have determined that Achilles needs urgent surgery that requires this young boy to be transported to a hospital in India that is equipped to perform this lifesaving procedure. An estimated $20,449 is necessary to cover travel and medical expenses for Achilles.

Look at this boy.

This is a child who has been in pain for five years and who has been too ill to attend school regularly.

Look at him again.

This time imagine that you are seeing the face of your own child. Imagine that you are the parent who for five years has watched your child suffer. Imagine praying desperately that someone will care enough to help save your child’s life.

Imagine doing nothing.

Do more than imagine.

Give thanks for the blessings in your life by donating to Compassion International’s efforts to raise money for Achilles. Go to to to do more than imagine.

Thank you!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Welcome To Adulthood

Today is June 9, 2010. How did that happen? Only a few days ago it was December 23rd . . .1992 and I was giving birth to my youngest daughter. And now, somehow she is five days beyond her high school graduation. My baby graduated as a co-valedictorian of her high school class. She looked so grown up and confident when she was standing in the middle of the huge college coliseum addressing her classmates and their families. Again I ask, how did this happen? It was just yesterday that I was changing her diapers and grinding sweet potatoes into baby food mush and taking away from her the dog’s rawhide bone that she thought was great for teething, and . . . I need to stop this. Judge for yourself.

Here is her message to the 2010 graduates of Ryan High School.

Needless to say, I am pretty proud of her.

So here I am. I have successfully raised two National Merit Scholars, two AP scholars, a salutatorian, a valedictorian, basically two amazing girls – if you ignore their housekeeping skills. There is still time for them to acquire those, I hope.

No more diapers. No more waking up in the middle of the night to the sounds of a crying child. No more helping with homework. No more packing lunches. No more finding the Tupperware container from Tuesday’s lunch in someone’s room on Friday morning when I change the sheets on their bed. No more running to Walgreens at 1 am for poster board for the project that is due in eight hours and has not yet been started. In all of this there is both joy and sorrow . . .for me and for Offspring No. 2.

Because she cares about me and my emotional well being and didn’t want me to be thrust into the role of being a parent of two grown up children too soon, my baby and I shared a moment of nostalgia the other night.

About 5 am I awoke from a dead sleep to the sounds of a crying child. I discovered that no matter how old they are or how old you are, the maternal instinct that kicks in when your baby cries never goes away . . .thank goodness. My confident, mature, almost out of the nest baby was wandering around in the hall crying uncontrollably. After calming her down a little bit, I finally got her to tell me what the problem was. Her tooth hurt. (I have to admit it is much nicer to deal with a middle of the night crying child when they have the words to tell you what is wrong.) After several failed attempts to ease her pain with traditional remedies, we turned to “better living through chemistry.” She finally went back to sleep and I called the dentist as soon as the office opened that morning.

As it turns out, she has an abscessed tooth and will have a root canal in the morning.

Happy graduation! Welcome to adulthood!

And the “What I did on my summer vacation essay” would have been so great – especially if it was written from her Vicadin induced state of the last two days!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Never Say Never: PART II

In my last post you read my perspective on our current remodeling project. Here is Weber's side of the story. I received this today while I was reading the paper. It is rather serendipitous (or not) that I had just read the "Love is" cartoon for the day - "Love is at the heart of a home."

As you have read, Kris and I are moving into “the old homestead”, as it were. It was my parent’s house and it has been 30 years this year, in fact, that they passed away and I came to own it.

My mother had started remodeling but did not get finished. The den and breakfast nook were done in a yellow and green scheme. The last remnant of this is a glass shade lamp that hangs in my classroom.
She did get the kitchen started (flooring, fridge and dishwasher) but the copper/bronze 60’s stove top and oven were still in place up until a few weeks ago. The oven had been dysfunctional for some years and the stove was not much better.

When I inherited the house I redid the den, moved into the master bedroom and turned what had been my bedroom when growing up into my office.

Kris is right; it is a house where I had many firsts and lasts. It was the first house my parents actually owned. It was from this house that I first drove a car. It was here that I lived with my first pet – a dachshund named Trisha.

It was here too that I “interviewed” for my first job. My first employment came when my parents had turbine ventilators put on the roof and my mother asked the man who installed them if he needed a 15 year old boy to help. Because my birthday falls on June 10, most summer jobs were taken by the time I was 15 and eligible to be hired. But it turns out that a helper was just what was needed and I spent the next two summers climbing on roofs. It was not too hard; a little hot; but I learned a lot and my help was useful. From installing turbines on 3-4 houses a day, the man’s daily installations rose to 10 or more just because I was there to haul things to him and shuttle materials up and down the ladder. This was in the first energy crisis of the 70’s and lots of people were having turbines installed.

And there also were lasts and endings. The only one of my grandparents whom I knew died here; as did my parents. My high school graduation pictures with my parents were taken in front of the fireplace in this house. I went off to college from here which I suppose is both a beginning and an ending. The two “boys” who grew up next door (I say boys because I babysat them but they were only three and five years younger than I) have both died tragic deaths.

For all those years growing up, it was a home; it was my home, a home that my parents lovingly created.

By the time of my first marriage, remodeling was again needed. Interior design is not my forte. I have no ability to visualize spaces. I can give directions by seeing in my mind all of the things on a route I know. I can read a book and visualize the scene (which is why I dislike movies made from books), but I cannot look at an empty space and see it filled. I also cannot do 2-D to 3-D. For example, I cannot match photos to people most of the time, let alone drawings (I am a forensic sketch artist’s nightmare).

When my first wife, Patrice, moved in, we first debated whether to stay in the house or move. As time went by and no move was imminent, again remodeling was needed. The two main bathrooms were done only because there was extensive termite damage to them and they were not safe. The windows in the front rooms were replaced out of need. Some painting and shelves were put into closets. Carpet was pulled up throughout the house because of the animals, but it was never replaced. Other than that, nothing was accomplished.

I was willing to let Patrice have her way; to make it into a home for both of us. Because I am not able to visualize, I would ask questions whenever she had ideas. She took these to be criticisms and I could not convince her I was just trying to understand. She felt I was maintaining a shrine to my parents. So as I said, little was done. By the time of our divorce, the things mentioned above were the only things that had changed in the 18 years we were married. As we grew apart, the house decayed around us. Windows were covered with material to keep the light out. Cleaning was not done. It became a dark, unhappy place. It was a house, not a home. This time last year I vowed that I would never live in that house again.

But that is all in the past and I too have learned to never say “never.”

The year or so living in the country has been interesting. I still lock my car door, though it is not needed. I like seeing the stars and hearing the coyotes. I enjoy throwing the Frisbee for Adidas in the huge “yard”. I like the upper deck. And there are fireflies – long gone from suburbia. I like seeing and hearing the horses and cows.

As Kris and I have discussed our future we realize that the big house in the country is too much for two of us. While we discussed what would be possible if we stayed, we know it is more house than the two of us need and more than we want to take care of. The drive to and from work is murder. I have put more miles on the new car we got last October than I did in the first three years that I had my old one. As Kris said, we will be within walking distance of her job, only a short commute to mine, and within 10 miles of church. Shopping, coffee shops, Waffle House, are all literally across the street. We will be closer to places where we can find and fulfill our mission in life.

But what to do with a house that has remnants of the 60’s, 70’s 80’s and has been virtually unlived in for a year? How to bring light to the darkness? How to make a lifeless house back into the loving home that it once was?

Simple. Gut it. Seriously. Remake it, redefine it, make it ours. Kris has already described some of what we have been doing – choosing colors, appliances, paint, tile, flooring, toilets. (I still do not understand the difference between the $69 toilet and the $200 model.) I get to figure out the cable vs Dish vs U-verse thing. (any input appreciated). And, I am excited about the new oven. I got two books on bread baking whose recipes I want to have more opportunity to experiment with.. (P.S. that is not a criticism of the oven in the country – it is a comment on the time we will gain at home together from not driving nearly three hours each work day).

Everything will be fresh, new, and most importantly will reflect who we are and what we like. Kris has done a wonderful job. My contribution has been to stay out of the way and try to see through problems (like not raising the floor in the garage where a pantry will go in case it ever gets turned back into garage space). And Paul, our beloved contractor, is a Godsend. As an artist (literally), he is meticulous; with a good eye and who sees what we see (well what Kris sees) and makes it a reality.

I have been trying to document the process by taking almost daily taking pictures. I put them on a webpage and have been commenting on the goings on. Sometimes there is not much to see or say because ”infrastructure” – wiring etc.- does not make for exciting photos. But as thing progress, there will be more. You can go look at it all: .

What was once a home and then only a house is once again becoming a home.