Sunday, November 30, 2008

If Onlys and Should Have Beens

In the best of all possible worlds, everyone would consider each thought, action, and word and their effects on others. No one would suffer from an inferiority complex or lack of role models in life. All animals would be properly cared for; all children would be avid readers; all teachers would truly love students and teaching; all companies would have work for employees for a lifetime; everyone would be conservative and ecologically conscious of the environment. Every idea would be considered on the basis of value to life.

If only ideas were implemented as easily as words are spoken, those plants by the roadside that we consider weeds would be converted into biofuels. Acres of scrub mesquite would be uprooted and converted into building materials and fuels. Acres of prickly pear cactus would burn as clean fuel in our vehicles—vehicles which would be made from recycled plastics into a rubbery substance which would not break when bumped into a curb. The current billions of acres of plastics floating in our oceans would be reclaimed and made into building materials—providing millions of jobs in the reclamation process.

And as long as the perfect world exists, the huge holes punched into the landscape of Arkansas in the search for bauxite for aluminum would be reopened and converted into strip mines and then refilled and converted into gigantic gardens to feed the nation healthy foods untainted with poisons. The poisonous waters in those deep mines would be reclaimed and recycled into clean waters for drinking and irrigation. The poisonous residues from the water would provide another source of fuel for vehicles specifically used for farming—without contaminating either the soil or the atmosphere.

Finally, in the best of all possible worlds, all institutions from banks to governmental agencies would operate with scrupulous honesty and common sense. If only.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Commodity of Life

Unlike Roosevelt, we can’t claim that Black Friday will be a date that goes down in infamy; in fact, unless we read some of the headlines, we might not even have noticed that an occurrence on this particular Friday should have shocked and shamed us.  Ignoring headlines or the lack thereof, the shame remains for those who simply care more for things than for people.  Acquisition of things (or the desire for things) led the pack through the doors and over the body of a man who was trampled to death in New York.  How utterly shameful!

When the shoppers/murderers were asked to leave because a man had been killed, they argued that they had stood in line since Thursday and were here to shop, refusing to leave until forced to do so.  Callus is not quite the word for these people.  Starving wild boars and sows can at least be herded.  Insensitive belligerence should be treated with the cattle prods necessary to deal with unruly livestock.

What part of sanity completely unhinges for the word ‘sale’?  What part of civilization is so ‘civilized’ that a most ‘developed’ country can suffer a stampede of greed?  How can anyone justify hanging a big screen TV on the wall if its acquisition directly led to the death of an innocent person?  Has life truly become a dispensable commodity?

God forgive us!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Word Play

Thanksgiving was quieter this year than ever.  The grandchildren were calm and unusually quiet and were ready to eat when the adults sat down to ask the blessing.  Of course, at least one came back to the table to protest that all she really wanted was turkey without all that other “stuff.”  But other than the usual requests and compliments, it was a quiet group that sat at our son and daughter-in-law’s table.

Most unusual was the one phone call that we actually made ourselves in order to include our youngest son and his lady in our day.  That was one of the few times that everyone seemed to be talking at once and laughing about what happens when we feed leftovers to the family dog.  But little conversations eddied around the room and were easily heard by anyone interested.  And wonder of wonder, everyone seemed interested in whatever someone mentioned.

We can be very thankful for the improvements in communications today.  Calling that family member thousands of miles away makes us feel much less alone.  But the ubiquitous cell phone has had an unfortunate side effect that just frosts my flakes.  Some people seemingly want to include everyone within earshot in their conversations.  Oh, they don’t REALLY want to include anyone; they just seem to want everyone to know that the phone call is so important—or that the recipient is so important.  Once in a while I really wonder if someone is on the other end of that call—but PLEASE don’t put the caller on speaker phone to prove it!

New words come along all the time to explain our behaviors.  “Communifaking” covers the desire to appear to be communicating when we really are not.  Now that we have the word, surely we can try to understand the desire—or can we?

The restful quiet that our minds require does not necessarily represent solitude.  The house was quite full of children and adults on Thanksgiving Day.  And we all had reason to be truly thankful for the blessings of health and happiness.  Within the family no one felt the need to seem more important than anyone else.  No one needed to communifake or exaggerate to feel loved or appreciated.  Any play that could take place after that sumptuous and satisfying meal had to involve word play among the adults because we were simply too satiated to do anything physically demanding.

If this nation needs one blessing any more than another, surely being quietly capable of restful listening is one we could seek.  Word play should be an exchange, not a display of disruptive dialogue like communifaking.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Family Elm

Trees have families occasionally. Oh, the ones out there along the highways may not all have families, but some trees do. The old elm out front on this street definitely has its family. It grew up in the Dickerson fence from some dirt that came up from the Bonita farmland. Fang’s dad didn’t pull it out of the fence line when it was little, and it grew to be bodacious before the family even grew up and the kids were grown. By the time we got married, it towered over the yard and the front end of the house like a many-armed sentinel. It sucked up all the moisture from the front flower beds and dropped bushels of leaves all over the roof and yard, but it also provided shade and a refuge for birds.

By the time our children were old enough to climb trees, the tree was too tall to be safe climbing territory. A few swings hung from the lower limbs for a few years, but it was safe from the tree house mania which warped a few other trees around the yard.

Struck by lightning several years ago, one of the stranger characteristics seems to be a whiter streak of wood down one side of the old elm. And the worrywart of the family had some of the lower branches which hung over the roof removed about the time the lightning struck. The result of storms, worrywarts, and the electric company mandatory trimming has changed the overall shape of the old elm, but not its character.

This afternoon a certain unnamed grandson walked his way up to the very wide crotch of the tree. He used a webbed tie down as a rope and threw its hook across the crotch to snag a younger branch. When I finally saw where he was and where his little sister was demanding to go as well, I had the proverbial hissy fit and insisted that he come down immediately. Unfortunately, the child is genetically aligned with his grandmother’s inability to go back the same way he goes forward. My mother taught me to get down from wherever I had decided to climb by refusing to help me get down. A grandmother does NOT refuse to get a grandson down, so I hauled out a ladder and then made him help me put it away after he was down.

This old elm has its family, but I plan to keep it a nice arm’s-length relationship. No climbing—only shading and shedding. They can rake up piles of leaves for jumping in, through, or among, but the limbs need to remain childless. Some family members serve best who only stand and shade.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Tall Tales and Bible Stories

Back when our first child went off to public school, we wanted him to know the difference between tall tales, fairy tales, and stories from the Bible. Even back then a story circulated about the two little boys who were discussing Satan. One told the other that Satan was sure to turn out to be just like Santa—just his dad after dark.

Ignorance is pretty pathetic, but determined ignorance is deplorable. We don’t need to study Hebrew, Greek, or Aramaic to know the basics of the Bible any more than we need to learn BASIC computer programming to use a computer. But some things are pretty essential to sharing in the foundations of American thought patterns. Our laws are based—for the most part—on the Judeo-Christian heritage—the Ten Commandments. If we break it down to the two great commandments, we still acknowledge that there is a power or authority above all men and that we are our brother’s keeper.

At one time, when I did my first teaching of adult classes at college level, I naively assumed that every student would know the story of the three little pigs. A young man from the inner city area of Houston assured me that bedtime stories were not a part of his childhood. During that same year, a fellow student asked me about the story of Job because we were studying the play J.B. by Archibald MacLeish. Again, ignorance had the power to astound me.

While the level of ignorance has become more understandable because of the proliferation of different kinds of knowledge, some things are simply too basic to ignore. Our children and grandchildren are quite capable of text messaging and using the controls to the X-box with a dexterity that would astound many an older craftsman. And the children continue to practice these skills as if becoming proficient might determine the direction of their lives. Who knows? Perhaps these are the skills of the future. However, the ability to read, the ability to understand and apply knowledge to their lives, and the ability to discern the connections between the laws of the spirit as opposed to the rules of governments will determine the quality of life for future generations.

If our children and grandchildren have no sense of the origin of our social mores, they will not understand why we have lived our lives as we have. Whether it is an elective taught during zero hour or an extracurricular activity after school, Texas has made a good step in the right direction by offering the Bible as a class for our young people. No matter who teaches the classes—ministers or English teachers—nobody’s brand can cover up the entire hide and hoof to disguise what is really in that book: His Story.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Smorgas--What? Smorgasbord!

Well, if the black and white termite will settle down on the saddle blanket we put down for him, we might make it through another cool night. This critter doesn’t have the triple fur coat that our Chow had, so he gets a little cold outside. Naturally, that means he gets to come in with the rest of the family, including the cat hanging off my shoulder at the moment. No, the dog doesn’t get to rest on my shoulder, but if he thought I would let him, he would try. Oliver Twisted just tries to help with my computer keyboard, but he can’t spell any better than Fang can.

Cold weather has its advantages. Granted that perspiration was rolling off my nose today as I painted near the ceiling, but at least we didn’t need air conditioning just to stay in the house. But cold weather does seem to make paint dry a little slower. We have two rooms to paint and one wall to repaint in the kitchen. The lady at Sutherland’s wanted to know if we would EVER be finished with all our work on this house. I am not sure that it is even possible to ‘finish’ a house if a person plans to live in it or keep living in it. And we really don’t do things to the house just to have something to do or just to have a fresh change.

Our DIL has inspired Fang to do something a little different when painting this time. I suppose it is the new fashion to have the walls different colors in the same room. Our entire house has been one color ever since we completed the major part of the ‘overhaul’ or remodeling. Sutherland’s doesn’t sell that color any longer, so now we have a major change in the room which used to be the office—one wall is now R-E-D. Something about a little red wagon . . .The rest of the room will be a tan color called ‘dried stem.’ One thing about it, we aren’t likely to lose that little red wagon amongst all that dried grass.

Fashion has never been one of our biggest concerns—or even ONE of our concerns; but it is not that difficult to understand that some people’s tastes differ drastically from others. Cars, music, TV shows, or even the latest in technology are some of the areas that exhibit differences in taste. And then there are things that never change: religion and politics, civil liberties and senior disorganization, pot holes and public excuses, animal rights and biogenetics, global warming and nasty hangnails. Oh, if our tastes are somewhat eclectic, we can find just about anything for agreement or disagreement should we care to discuss our concerns. It’s wonderful to have such a smorgasbord of choices. But we can be most thankful for cold weather. At least we know it WILL change.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

No Laughing Matter!

Today a couple of ladies at the Texas Workforce Commission--now called Workforce Solutions--helped me hold my mouth just right to finally change some of the entries on some job applications. One lady seemed to think that it helped to hold one foot up in the air while attempting to get the right selection of forms and codes for same. If artists need the correct techniques to get beautiful results on canvas, in music, or in dance, these folks need more than practice in techniques. They need a magic wand!

Three of the women at TWC this afternoon seemed to be about on their last leg with fatigue, but they were still pleasant and very patient. To still have a sense of humor after a very busy day has to be an art form--or the outgrowth of empathy. Whichever, as difficult as it can be to have to search for employment, these people are there to make the attempts less stressful. Apparently they are mirrored all over the state of Texas--and all over the nation. Unemployment is not a laughing matter.

Saying that something is not a laughing matter always makes me smile and think the opposite. Nearly everything we take seriously has been made into a joke of some kind. For instance, the hijacking of that huge ship full of oil makes me want to suggest that we dress up a garbage ship off the East Coast to look as if it were valuable and send it to Somalia. Fix their wagons!

Here in WF we have a principal of a grade school who took the trouble to insist that repairs were much more sensible than new construction--to insist that a local small school was better for the students. Common sense! Hooray for common sense and American do-it-yourself enterprise! Those studies concerning the impact of new buildings or search committees for a new superintendent are more expensive than remodeling or running a job search with TWC. Local companies around here can do the construction work created by remodeling our buildings--especially since these are the days of fix it and make it do. And it wouldn't hurt to trust TWC to find a good man or woman for the superintendent's job! We have a good school board; let our school board interview a few folks sent to them by TWC. It looks like we can trust our school board's judgment of people.

No, TWC doesn't have a magic wand to replace lost jobs, and Wichita Falls doesn't have a fairy godmother; and even holding one foot up and grinning might not be very helpful. So what can we do for ourselves? We don't need to waste money on studies just because that is the way it has always been done (and it has NOT), and we can help create local jobs for those who are able to work. And no, despite helping to remodel this house as Fang's right-hand woman, I don't do construction work. But I admire those who can step outside the normal pattern to refuse to accept the closing of a school or who can have common sense enough to look for an employee who is qualified without having to hire a search team.

Patience and good humor--that's what the folks at TWC had today! Maybe it is because they are Wichitans. Wichitans always have to find a little bit of humor in life just to live here. Never can tell--maybe the next high wind will blow in a fairy godmother!

Monday, November 17, 2008

Harley's Pencil Habit

Today we received a small package containing a DVD, a note, and 39 cents. The return address was interesting: the rotten kid. The other address was almost that bad—something about the old folks. But the note inside explained the 39 cents—for Harley’s pencil habit. That blamed dog ate our carpenter’s pencil when it fell off the saw table. The pencil didn’t even get a chance to bounce!

We sat down and watched the DVD. Youngest son has now jumped out of an airplane into the wild blue yonder—and very quickly back down to old mother earth. It must have been a remarkable experience because he is still talking about it and finding ways to compare ‘normal’ life to what can be lived. If someone threw me out of a plane from any height—and I lived to tell about it—I would probably be pretty excited too.

The package we received was light weight and pretty funny. Then we went to Wally World and bought a very heavy package for Dad’s birthday. It’s noisy too, so he will be able to hear what he is getting for his 82nd birthday. Mom’s little package will not make much noise, but she won’t care. It is neat that their birthdays are within a day of each other and easy to remember. They get a year older right about Thanksgiving every year. Getting older still beats the alternative, and I suppose having birthdays is one habit we can keep.

Harley has a noisy habit—barking. Once in a while I look to see if he has actually discovered something worth the effort, but usually it is a stray cat, a squirrel, a motorcycle, or a sound from across the lake. The dogs on the other side of the lake have a Morse code all of their own. Two barks and a yip call for two woos and a woof from our back yard. If we ever break their code, we may discover a news source better than Fox ever hoped to be.

Other than making a little noise or shedding on everything with which he comes in contact, Harley’s only other bad habit is trying to be a lap dog. I honestly don’t know anyone with the right size lap for a Harley dog. And since carpenter’s pencils have lead in them, I guess we will just have to work on satisfying Harley’s main habit—chewing boots. If we can find one of those huge bones to let him drag around the back yard, maybe it will keep him off the tractor. If he ever learns to drive that thing, we are going to be in trouble! The insurance premiums for teenagers are terrible! And he is only four!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Smart Mouth!

They get it from us! Let’s not deny it—or even try to deny it. The kids get their smart mouths from us. Dr. Mardy Grothe had a quote from one of his readers this morning:

This week's contribution comes from Robert Kvinnesland, who writes:

After a heated argument with my keen-witted teenage daughter, I said in anger: "You know, since the day you were born, you've given me little joy!"

Without missing a beat, she smugly replied: "How about nine months before that?"

[Visit Dr. Mardy's web site:]

One daughter (who will remain nameless to protect the innocent—if there are any innocents left) was about to be chastised by her mother for a public display of affection. The mother began: “Young lady, when I was your age . . .”

That was as far as the mother got when the daughter reminded her that at HER age, the mother had a husband and two children. Mother went on about her business.

Then we heard about the teenager whose latest escapade garnered a lecture from his ‘other’ father figure. The kid cocked his head to one side and confided: “Don’t you think my dad really kind of DESERVES to have a kid like me.”

We have all heard the quips or maxims: You are paying for your raising; the sins of the fathers are visited upon the children; train up a child in the way he should go, and WHEN HE IS OLD, he will not depart from it.

Did you catch that last one? When he is OLD, he will not depart from it. It makes me wonder how old one has to be before one loses that smart mouth. I asked Fang, but he still isn’t sure if it was the training or the age thing; but he thinks I have a bit to go yet.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Googling YouTube

Kim Komando’s Video of the Day » Blog Archive » Arnel Pineda: The full story

I like receiving the Kim Komando newsletters because she invariably finds some of the most interesting stories about people, animals, and events. The story of Arnel Pineda is typical of her finds. But Arnel is not your typical person as we think about 'typical' here in America. He was blessed with a loving mother and a voice with range and emotion. The two are a winning combination for him now, but getting from childhood to where he is now could not have been easy for him.

Journey was a popular band in the 80s and has created some major statistics for itself, but more importantly, it has developed a following among various generations. With the addition of Arnel Pineda as lead singer, Journey now has a following among those who want to believe in the fairytale possibilities of becoming an American singing idol.

YouTube has done it again. From distributing scientific inventions to a dream of dancing horses, we now have Internet connections for those who are looking for band members, mechanics for compressed air engines, and places of escape in nature. Whatever our minds can imagine, we can look for with Google and find on YouTube. Amazing!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Bond with a Social Conscience

Quantum of Solace was an excellent movie—but not because it was another James Bond movie. Oh, the acting was good, the chase scenes exciting, the fight scenes believable, and the sex not quite so obviously a part of the ‘mystique’ of our favorite action hero. This time we saw no dazzling displays of future tech spy gadgets. The space-age hotel that blew up made me wonder why it managed to be so highly explosive, but the scenes from that part of the movie were particularly gripping. No, explosions, gun and knife fights while hanging from a rope and crashing through layers of glass and the usual cast of bad guys were all present and accounted for; but this was definitely not just another Bond movie.

The plot made sense without being grandiose—no moonrakers were going to colonize outer space this time. Instead, the eco-green movement became a force which contrasted poorer countries against the riches of their greatest natural resource—their—no, not oil. I won’t spoil the plot for anyone, but if I were to see this movie again, I would note who it was that stated: If we don’t do business with the bad guys, we won’t be able to do business at all.

Somehow we are never too sure who ARE the bad guys. If one nation can manipulate the political regimes of other countries, then are the manipulators as guilty as the leaders of those countries when people are made to suffer? As for the ‘silent consortium’ of schemers who work behind the scenes to control resources, one is made to think that this is more than a possibility.

Quantum of Solace is worth seeing. It leaves room for reflection.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Read It Again, Sam!

If all the books I have ever read were able to parade into this house and stack themselves against the walls, we would have to move out! When the children were little, it was very difficult to actually finish a book a week; so those people who don’t have children must have a much longer list of books than mine. My mother, father, and brother have always seemed to simply consume books the way some people eat potato chips—by the bag full. Amazing!

Attempting to ‘clean out’ the bookcases may be one of the more difficult chores for this family. Which books are really ‘necessary’ and which can be tossed or donated? Do we keep that ancient crumbling copy of Dodge Engines and Their Repair? What about A Guide to Old English? Somehow I honestly don’t think that either of us will ever need these books again.

One excuse for my own collection may no longer hold water: one of the children ‘might’ need a book on some particular subject. The Complete Works of Jack London might go to one of the children or grandchildren, but An Anthology of Modern English Poetry is not going to contain any of the ‘modern’ poetry from this generation. Sigh.

Some of the same problems we had in determining what to do with records and albums have now surfaced with VHS tapes and cassettes. We have outlived the technology of our youth. Our grandchildren wouldn’t even know how to play a 45 rpm record. They might know how to use a cassette tape, but in another ten years, children may wonder what those are and how they were used.

Today newspapers still have an appeal that online news sources, radio, and TV have not quite eclipsed. Something solid is in a piece of newsprint that announces certain accomplishments. The Internet seems so ephemeral in its content and capacity. And reading an e-book can be wonderfully cheap, satisfying, and otherwise brilliant, but being able to underline certain phrases in a book has never been more satisfying to some of us than it is now. No, the economic impact of the Web has definitely affected our local newspapers, but enough old timers still exist to keep ‘The Paper’ a necessity for our community.

Many of the stories we see in ‘The Paper’ seem to come straight off the Web, but enough local interest stories exist to keep most of us reading and waiting for our own particular brand of outlook. And let’s face it: a local newspaper reflects local values, concerns, and our particular needs. Generally speaking, we don’t really give a rat’s patootie that some idiot so-called man is in his second pregnancy. Our concern is for the young girls in our own community who should not yet be mothers. Economic stimuli for the nation matter to us, but jobs for the unemployed matter more. The cost of community services, the availability of good schools, and the future of our area: these are our immediate concerns. For these concerns, we have our local newspaper. Tomorrow I will pick up a copy and look at ‘the news.’

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

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Fang and HarleyB

Feeling Pretty Small

It never ceases to amaze me at the influence of teachers in our lives. It is absolutely scary! In all the years I taught, I can only hope that I never hurt the self-image of any of my students. It is almost certain that I hurt some feelings at least once. But students are not the only ones who can be hurt. Teachers have feelings too. No, our skins are NOT as thick as rhinocerous hide. Whether it is a comment from another teacher or some remark by a student, we all have feelings sitting out there on the sleeve not too far from our hearts.

Yesterday we hosted a luncheon of four friends who we got to know over the years as I taught. John is the sweetest and most humble person I have ever met. But he was the most patient man I have ever known as a teacher. Quietly pointing out how to accomplish each step of a task, he encouraged hundreds of students to 'learn to learn' on their own. He refused to do their work for them because he knew that they would have to be able to do it for themselves on the job. He reminded them of that truth daily. He retired this past spring, and it was a great loss to our group.

Phil had been working on his doctorate for some time, and we have all been calling him Dr. Phil for quite a while. He would grin and take everything in stride. Now he has been hired on by the local university to work as a full-time faculty member. He will be a great asset to that faculty. He taught Fang how to understand so much about computers and even how to make one of his own. Now if I had only been able to teach Fang how to do touch typing....

We all wondered how Dr. Phil had remained so calm during the past year after our favorite director retired. Well, the secret is out! When someone is sending nasty e-mails, just don't read any e-mails from that person. That works!

Cheryl taught business classes for six years and now is doing placement for the two days of the week that she is at the school. The rest of the time she is the youth minister for her church, a Girl Scout leader, a mother, a wife, and a new room builder with all that entails. In fact, one of the reasons for our friends' visit was to see the new office that Fang built for us. Next meeting will take place at Cheryl's house to see her new sun room. The day she was here she had cut 26 ceramic tiles and had 26 more to go.

It seems we all are builders in one way or the other. John is remodeling a house; Phil just remodeled a new home for his family. It is always great to feel a sense of accomplishment.

All of these friends have been teachers for years. I know that each has a love for teaching and a very real regard for their students. That is why it hurts so much to hear that a student has been made to feel small by comments from teachers. Words can raise us to another level; they can also take us to the depths of hell--IF WE LET THEM. Something Elenore Roosevelt said belongs here: We can only be made small--or whatever other injury someone intends--by others if we LET them.

The man who is featured in the news clip from this link reminds me that we don't have to be to feel small. Note that at the last part of the message, his life work has a dollar value for at least one other person. Not to say that a person's value has to be in dollars! I just don't believe that for a minute. But isn't it something that some people who received lemons can make such valuable lemonade.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

More Termites!

Sitting here shaking my head in wonder . . .The tree in the side lot next to the house has almost all the bark stripped totally away from the trunk from about a foot off the ground to about the height of a boy. True, the tree was already dead; but seeing the corpse standing there waiting for—well, what does a dead tree wait for? A good fire?

All three boys took part in stripping the bark from that old elm, and they probably worked harder at that task than anything that their parents ever required of them. Funny how a task like that can be fun if it is THEIR idea. Now if we had wanted that bark for some reason . . .
Little girl spent most of her weekend painting fingernails, playing with her new pink ‘cell phone’ chap stick holder, and doing an awesome job of very detailed coloring of all the ‘hello kitty’ pictures we could print off on the computers. She used her spare time to watch the boys build a fire, throw dirt clods, and dig in the dirt. But for the most part, she preferred the company of her Aunt J, her Paw Paw, or Oliver the cat. In fact, her bedtime partners had to include ‘Heavy Baby’ and the cat.

‘Heavy Baby’ actually had clothes on this weekend. A few times she has accompanied the girl and somehow managed to leave her clothes at home. However, on at least one of her visits, some of her clothes were applied to Oliver the cat. Oliver was patient, but not overly impressed by the selection of cat couture. But ‘Heavy Baby’ showed no resentment. She is the perfect little girl’s baby doll. Miss R’s other grandfather was asked to care for ‘Heavy Baby’ once while the little girl was waiting with him at a restaurant. Suddenly Granddaddy realized that the baby he had on his shoulder and was patting ever so gently was NOT one of his grandchildren. ‘Heavy Baby’ really doesn’t seem to mind if she is carried like a football.

Oh, my friend Carla says that all the greatest questions really all boil down to two: should I get a dog, or should I have children. My answer: why not both!

Monday, November 3, 2008

Termites and Gopher Wood

Nothing—and I mean nothing can try the patience of a carpenter—or even a semi-carpenter—like termites and gopher wood. Some years ago we discovered dry rot in a window sill and decided to replace the window unit in its entirety. Well, guess what! Dry rot in a window is just the beginning of problems for a house. Three years and every wall in the house later, we had totally remodeled our home except for one room. We really had no idea what to expect when we started this project!

All the sheetrock that we took out of the ceilings and walls was considered half inch thick, but the same size sheet weighed much more than what we put back up. Something had changed since the original house was built in 1951. We discovered other changes when we tried to measure and replace studs and other pieces of wood. It seems a 2 x 4 is no longer truly 2 inches by 4 inches—if it ever was. That means that all measurements that we made were more like guestimations. That has been so much fun. And, of course, over the years the house has settled a bit here and there. Even after the floor was leveled from underneath, I still think we lean toward the lake.

We are down to the last few strokes on that last room this week. The new wooden walls are up and we no longer wobble when we walk after the varnish finally aired out of the house. The laminate floor is laid and the trim is almost finished except for the side where the door goes. A door! Sitting here shaking my head and wishing I had held out for a beaded curtain! Anyone who has ever put in a door—pre-hung or otherwise—needs a medal IF he or she has managed to put one in without shouting, using barnyard language, or otherwise threatening the carpenter’s helper. To top it off, the black and white termite we call a dog was in the house today. Fang put something on the chop saw table and knocked off the carpenter’s pencil. I don’t think it even hit the floor before that darned dog ate the thing! Tonight we informed the youngest son that he owed us 39 cents for a new pencil. He wanted us to put it on his tab. Figures!

We finally sawed off enough on the bottom of the door that a full grown possum could walk under it, so maybe tomorrow we can get the door up and the final trim put in place. But first we have to find a drill strong enough to drill into gopher wood. It could be oak. Or it could be bois d’arc. Whatever kind of wood is in the top of that door frame must have become petrified or something. We visited Sutherland’s this afternoon and the lady at the counter wanted to know why we even bothered to come over there since we NEVER buy anything under $5. But today we bought a couple of good drill bits in hopes of drilling holes in that door frame. Maybe we could put that black and white termite on a ladder and let him CHEW holes in the door frame!

Sitting here wondering if Sutherlands and Fang are going to be able to adjust to not needing each other. Hmm. Maybe we can start on landscaping…