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Friday, January 29, 2010

The Little Brown Shack Out Back

Clearly this kitchen fiasco has been getting to me. Some times it even invades my sleep. The other night I couldn’t escape pornographic dreams. They were so vivid and intense. In the twilight of dreamland, my internal fat girl was in full control as she dreamt of the yummy goodness The Food Network has to offer. Paula Deen penetrated my slumber with fried chicken, biscuits and apple pie. God bless that lovely lady. And then I woke up to the nightmare that is microwavable chicken potpies. Do. Not. Get. Me. Started.

I love to cook and have not been able since December 16th 2009, when my kitchen exploded. (Please see posts below if you are a new visitor, and thanks for stopping by.) The things we have been eating are not just unhealthy, they are friggin’ gross. So I’ve been putting off eating until I am so hungry that I can’t think about how gross my next meal will be. Gas station food, really? Oh, yeah someone queue the Pepto commercial.

To give you an indication of how hungry I was, and to show what an asshole I am… I went to the job I hate to buy food. (I can’t believe I am openly admitting this.) I walked up to the cook who happens to have a birth defect…his friends call him Stubby. I call him Nemo…he has an under developed arm that ends above where his elbow would be…that’s not the bad part.

I said, “Dude, I’m friggin’ starving, can you make me something to eat and burn the grease off?” He asked me what was wrong, said I was out of sorts. (Lois gets cranky and stupid apparently, when she is hungry.) When I uttered the following, “I’m hungry enough to eat my own arm.”


Who says that to a one-armed guy?! Apparently I do, Jesus H. what was I thinking?!

Nemo takes everything in stride. He didn’t take offense or smack me with his good arm. He’s a good guy and even makes gas station food tasty.


Have you heard the phrase, “Opening a can of worms?” This renovation has been one can after another of wiggly not so goodness. The house opened a can of whoop ass on the carpenter. I almost felt sorry for him, but then I saw what he billed the insurance company, well... Over it!

He nickel and dimed us to death. The floor, countertops, even cabinet pulls were all “Too high for the budget.” His markup was beyond the pale. Just one example, he charged the insurance company $1,200 just for the counter.

We were actually losing five feet of counter space because we wanted a more feasible, user-friendly layout. Thinking the difference could be made up in a better quality counter than the Formica shit we had, I sent him our wish list. After many emails, phone calls of repeat denies on his end, we said just fucking do whatever. Mr. Lane picked out a Formica in coral sage. (not my favorite, but whatever) It was $80, no exaggeration. Is that robbery without a gun?

Because karma is a bitch, the carpenter thought he could come in here, rob our insurance company, remove everything that was water damaged, install new stuff and call it a day with fat check in hand. Easier said than done.

Besides the nightmare you saw in the post below, there have been so many other things that have popped up, seemingly out of nowhere. The photo of the brick was the last thing I saw before I went to the job I hate. My little wheels were cranking about the nightmare that awaited my return. As fate seems to do often, it stepped in…unbeknownst to me, no one was on the schedule after me. So when it was time to go home, no one showed up. I tried to keep my game face on but I needed out of that place in a bad way. An hour later my little savior showed up. Yes, I almost kissed a girl.

The workers were gone by the time I made it back. They had framed it up, secured each joist, dug out the dirt and debris, placed a vapor barrier down. It was so nice coming home to that after what I saw before I left, but why was it so fucking cold in there?! I’ll get back to that after a couple worm spills.

When he attempted to disconnect the plumbing for the kitchen sink, he found the drain was clogged like an artery with a Big Mac addiction. It was completely solid and had broken in half. Essentially, the water was just going straight into the dirt crawlspace. Obviously we had no idea, otherwise, I’d never had wasted so much time/effort draining bacon grease, oil, gravy, etc. into coffee cans.

He repaired and rerouted the drain because for some reason it was pitched the wrong way. Even as backward ass as it is out here in Bumble Fuck Illinois, water still does not run uphill. Next, he moved on to the copper pipes. Relocated them so they won’t freeze and that was where he ran into another problem. Unbeknownst to him, the electricity in the wall just stopped working. Anyone with a brain knows, water lines and electrical lines are two entirely different entities, yet somehow, in this crazy mess of a house, one seemed to effect the other.

Turns out there were loose wires in the wall above where he was working. Yes, that is called a fire hazard. I’m telling you, this kitchen pipe bursting has been one silver lining after another. Would this fucker have gone up in flames? Would we have been in it when it happened? Would we have made it out safely? Good thing we don’t need to know.

Apparently, the furnace also stopped working. It was 53 degrees in the house. The fridge wasn’t working either because it was plugged into the outlet that disconnected itself. Of course I didn’t know that at the time.

So it’s 6:30 p.m., just finished working an extra hour at the job I hate, I have hungry kids who are asking where I've been, I’m hungry, my old man is walking in the door after being on the road for a few days, as I’m screaming my face off in what the fuckedness. He gives me that look…that husband look that makes you want to poke his eyes out with a spork. Rather than give him the hairy eyeball, I summoned the sad puppy dog look, defeated isn’t my prettiest look but it works.

He pulled me in for a hug, patted my back and said, “I’ll figure it out.”

“Okay, I’ll fix the fridge. Welcome home.”

We went our separate ways to fix stuff. My job came easier than his. After seeing all was well in the fuse box, I got an extension cord and tried plugging the fridge into a different outlet. It worked. (We still had no idea livewires were floating freely in our wall.)

Mr. Lane called the furnace guy who couldn’t come out due to an ice storm, but talked him through troubleshooting. Something, not sure what, worked. By then, the kids and I had gone into the TV room wrapped like burritos and feasted on Cheetos and Sprite. Dinner of champions.

It took a while for the house to warm back up, but the 60 degrees it finally reached by the middle of the night, was a welcome feeling after coming back into the house…from going potty?!? Because there was no floor and our only bathroom is off of the kitchen, we had to go outside, walk around the house, come into the side door, through the mud room/laundry room and into the bathroom.

Here is the icy pathway to the bathroom. Can you imagine? Waking up, middle of the night, full bladder and having to walk out into the cold, it was -13 this particular night. We felt much like those poor bastards who lacked indoor plumbing who lived here in 1861.

Lane 1 went through the front door. I heard him but knew he wasn’t sleep walking this time. He needed to go to the bathroom. It was just before 3 a.m. I kept one ear open as I dozed. He returned spewing cussery like I’ve never heard from my sweet baby boy. Being the kind loving mother I am, I yelled, “What the hell is your problem, son?”

“Dad locked the freakin’ door. I can’t get in the bathroom and I feel like I’m going to crap my pants!”

I could hear the desperation in his voice. I got up, grabbed the keys, threw on my coat and shoes, walked out there, slip sliding the whole way, squeezed through the tiny walkway, smashing my elbow against the dumpster, muttered “fuck” and tried to unlock the door in the dark while trying to not allow myself to wake up completely. Epic failure.

Tried is the key word. The lock was frozen, reason 92 why I intentionally left it unlocked in the first place.

My kid was standing outside ready to shit himself wearing shorts and a wife beater?!?!? My elbow and head were throbbing, we were freezing and tired. We slipped on the ice until we got back into the house, where we found Mr. Lane had waken up from all the noise. He was pissed, but so were we.

The old man thought we were incompetent. He went outside to unlock the door, rambling his thoughts loudly… about how rude it is to be loud in the middle of the night waking him and probably everyone in the neighborhood, (hello pot, it’s kettle can you kiss my ass please) he went on about how stupid we are, how unlocked doors welcome trouble, blah, blah, blah.

He couldn’t open it either and was so pissed, he rammed it like he was a member of the Poo-poo Swat Team. The door was broken but open, successish.

Lane 1 and I looked at each other wide-eyed with a hidden smirk within our muddy colored eyes illuminated only by cold moonlight. Finally back in bed, unable to sleep, I reflected and laughed as I thanked God for my crazy family and shitty old house.

The next day, the carpenter tried putting a water line in for the refrigerator but the location was right where the room was where families once conveyed slaves during the Underground Railroad. The same room later became an ammunition bunker during WWII. He came up with a plan B after many failed attempts to penetrate the brick walls of the hidden room.

He installed insulation, sub-floor and decking. We could actually walk in the kitchen and not have to go outside to go potty! Crazy concept, huh?!

To make a really long story a little bit longer, it’s done. (Photo taken at 4:30 a.m. today reason 1,241 why it looks wonky.) And just for good measure this old house gave him one more little bite on his ass for screwing us out of a nice counter. The walls are not plumb! So when he installed our counter, he had to carve into the wall so it could sit flush. Then he had to fill the crack with caulk and repaint it. I think I heard my walls laughing at him.

We still need to cut out the window looking into the dining room as I mentioned in a previous post. We still need to soffit the edges of the ceiling and do some trim work, but for now it is habitable.

Last night I was finally able to cook. And we ate the shit out of those Spaghetti O’s.

Okay, that last line is a lie. I made breakfast for dinner. Biscuits, gravy, just like Paula Deen would have in my pornographic dreamland.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Symphony Of Destruction

(Yes, Symphony of Destruction, is a Megadeath song.)

To say this kitchen thing has been a headache could possibly be the understatement of the new millennia. It’s been a month since the pipe burst. Demo work finally began yesterday.


The carpenter couldn’t find anything we wanted (color, brand, style) within the insurance allotment. After 15 hours (driving time not included) over four days back and forth with the guy on the phone, internet and in home improvement stores, we finally said, just fucking do it, we don’t care how, with what material, just finish the damn thing.

How will it look? Only the carpenter really knows, and to be honest, at this point, I don’t even care.

It’ll be nice to take a shower, without one of the kids coming into the bathroom to get a snack. Yup, the fridge is in the bathroom, so much for the not shitting where you eat theory.

Just as I was about to breathe a sigh of relief that they were here working, and I was heading out to the job I hate, they uncovered what took my breath away.

Beneath the sub-floor, in half of the kitchen, the only thing holding the floor joists together was old brick from a previous renovation. They threw all of the debris and rubble in between the wood. When a house is this old, you can bet your sweet ass things aren’t exactly up to code, but this was beyond anything my little brain could comprehend.

The only thing holding the other half of the floor joists together was dirt. The joists were literally set in the dirt, not attached to anything.

As you may suspect, a lot of the wood had rotted.

The house could have easily imploded into itself having no support beneath it. Thinking back to the day the bank said, no dice for a loan, this is a good thing. Had we put out the money on credit, and run into this problem, we’d have been screwed. The carpenter called the adjuster right away to make sure the newest problem would be covered, thankfully they gave him a green light. So maybe a pipe bursting isn’t really that bad after all.

Another sad thing, which turns out to be a good thing, the kitchen was an addition built less than 150 years ago. Even though people stop here all of the time to say, “I lived here in 19(blank) when it was a tiny house/an apartment.” no one seems to really know when the addition went up.

This small town living is so funny to me. I don’t know if I ever told you guys about this but during the spring and summer, I’m outside in the garden almost always, and I can’t tell you how many people have driven up, walked up, drove up…on lawnmowers??? To say, “I used to live here…”

It’s fun hearing their stories, getting some history on the ol’ gal, and seeing the faces that may have slept in my own bedroom, but it’s odd for a city girl like me to experience as often as it does, especially when they want a tour...and a cup of coffee??? They really do! Last week when me, Lane 1 and his girlfriend went to the blood drive, people came up to us saying, “The house is looking really nice, better than I’ve ever seen it. Did I ever tell you my brothers lived there in the late 50’s?” (only every time I see you, you sweet forgetful little old gal) “I lived there in ‘72 in the upstairs apartment.” “It was a mess when I lived there in 1994.” Now that I work in a local gas station, even more people, some who I work with have said they too lived here. It’s weird, right?

As I’ve mentioned jokingly, I wanted to have a birthday party for her, my pain in the ass old house. She will be 150 years old next year. But now, it isn’t a joke. I really want to have a party for her. An open house of sorts to invite all of these people who have their own memories.

As things progress, I’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, I’ll be having a snack in the bathtub, bon appétit.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

You Raise Me Up

Sometimes a girl does need to post three times in a week. This post is a follow up to yesterday’s.

So many good ideas, and such great advice, I can’t thank you guys enough! I wish I had time to make it to a home improvement center before making a decision, but it isn’t in the cards since the carpenter will be here tomorrow. I realize what a difficult question I was asking of you, and appreciate all the time and effort you all put in, and the links you provided. I grabbed a piece of everyone’s ideas and mixed them up.

Now I need a pinky swear in the air… if you think any of this sucks, you will tell me as soon as possible. (yes, I can handle the truth)

To give you more of a visual, the kitchen dimensions are roughly 15’W x 17’L, the ceiling is vaulted about 14’ and is slatted (tongue & grove) oak, which is why I though a laminate hardwood would be too much wood. Never thought I’d hear myself say too much wood, hmmm.

We’re cutting a window out of the wall, looking into the dining room which I’d like in the brown, while the other walls would be the oatmeal color. I don’t like orange enough to commit to it as a wall color, but I like the idea of orange-toned or rust-colored accents.

Honestly, and this is embarrassing, whatever…we don’t have a normal dish set like normal people. We didn’t have a traditional wedding. We didn’t have a shower, reception or anything fancy where the doting family showers the bride and groom in gifty goodness. We’ve been shacked up 20 years, married in a courthouse, went back to our apartment where I cooked our wedding dinner, served to the six people who bothered to showed up... Mr. Lane and I included. Our dish set, as it were, is a mismatched dollar store find… but amazingly holds food quite well.

Like I said, all of the appliances are white, and in perfect working order, meaning, I’m stuck with them until they suffer an untimely death. The cabinets will be a medium oak, nothing fancy.

I’m leaning toward this type of tile for the floors.

Because the floor space is so large, I thought a staggered layout would break up the monotony of the room. (please correct me if I’m wrong)

With Rosemary Corian counters.

Although, I agree these don’t have to match, I like this color for the faucet and the cabinet pulls.

Last night after work, Lane 1 his girlfriend and I went to donate blood. Part of the process is having your blood pressure taken. Mine is never more than 110 over 70...until now. Not sure if the stress of all that is going on at home is getting to me, or if it’s just that job I hate, but something has to change. I always tell myself, if you can’t fix it, fuck it. It’s been a motto that served me well, but apparently I’m not able to convince all of my 2,000 parts to just fuck it right now.

I chilled out, meditated or whatever and they took it again. I was almost rejected! I’ve been donating my blood since I was a teenager, and have never been rejected, so for me, that was a big deal. With a little more time and patience, it came down enough for me to give. If you all hadn’t helped me, I have no doubt it would have been through the roof and they’d have told me to piss off. So thank you sincerely, from the heart of my bottom the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

HELP. I Need Somebody. HELP! Not just anybody. HELLLLP!

I know I just blogged a couple of days ago, but I really need your help.

The carpenter called and wants to go shopping. If you know me, then you know shopping is one of the things I do not enjoy, mostly because I have virtually no style. (If you’re not sure what I’m talking about, please see the posts below about pipes exploding and all hell breaking loose in our kitchen.)

He sounded so excited for me as he said, “I want you to pick out your colors,” like he was the wedding planner and I was the clueless bride.

“Colors?” I asked, confused.

“Yeah, your paint, countertops, flooring, wood tones and hardware.”

“Uh, yeah, colors. I can do that, but I’m going to have to get back to you.”

The freakin’ guy is ready to provide me with a brand new kitchen and I had to tell him I’d get back to him? After all we’ve been going through?! As if I hadn’t envisioned a dream kitchen a million times before. It must be stored away in the brain somewhere. Why can’t it surface now when I need it? What the hell is wrong with me? (rhetorical, no need for a real answer thankyouverymuch)

Is it old school thinking that your countertops and floor tile should be the same color? Or am I confused about “the carpet matching the drapes” theory? Since all the gray and balding issues I’m having in my nether region, I’m not very trendy even in that department. I’m running around with a hardwood floor that has a small gray shag rug laying on it, and some shit brow drapes, people! See why I need your help?

What is better, Corian or Quartz? (If you say granite, please note; I believe it’s a passing trend and isn’t as durable as it sounds, never mind it is super expensive.)

We’ve already decided on oak cabinets, since we have oak throughout the house and the ceiling is vaulted also in oak. It’s a medium tone, not too dark, not too light. Mr. Lane is also style challenged and said, “Whatever you think is best, honey.” Incidentally, that is the nicest way possible for a husband to pawn off a task on a wife.

What I need from you are color combinations, floor, countertops, paint and hardware. I like oil-rubbed finishes but until I know what color will work best on the floor and counters, I’m not sure if the faucet and hardware should be shiny, matte, light or dark. Does the faucet finish need to match the finish on the handles for the cabinets?

I Googled the shit out of this stuff. And still can’t find anything that seems remotely doable or anything like what I believe I envisioned.

All I am certain of is… my appliances are white, the cabinets will be oak, the floor will be ceramic tile and I in my head, I like the idea of the tile being staggered rather than in a traditional pattern. The scheme has to be somewhat neutral so it isn’t outdated in a couple of years. Me and the old man are both old fashioned and rustic, whether that falls into contemporary or traditional, I haven’t a clue.

So get those wheels cranking and leave me some good ideas. If you can, provide links. I’m much better with visuals. This is one of those times where I really need as many ideas as possible, so please pass on my question to friends and family. Thank you so much!

Demo is starting this week. Pictures will be coming soon to a blog near you. Stay tuned!

P.S. My friend Malea had a great idea but, I am over an hour (2 hrs. round trip) from the nearest home improvement center. I have to work and won't be able to take the trip before the carpenter needs answers.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


Lane 2 is probably one of the most likeable teenagers I’ve ever met. I’m not just saying that because she is my daughter. She has the best traits my old man and I have to offer in our goofy genetic pool. She is kind-hearted, smart, funny and never stays angry very long.

Every day after school, she volunteers at the teen center, tutoring younger kids. Some days she comes home and talks about how difficult it is to listen to a small, struggling, stuttering student read. In her head, she is imitating Adam Sandler in Billy Madison, “Ta-ta-ta-today junior!” But she keeps her game face on and positively encourages the child.

Here she is making the best of things, wandering around in the hospital as she waits for her grandma to get out of surgery.

During the summer of suck, she was a trouper. I know she missed her friends. I know it was hard spending all of that time away from home. I know it was scary as her G-Pa’s and G-Ma’s health was touch and go.

She figured out the timer feature on her camera and surfed on a hospital hallway ledge.

I know she was probably annoyed that I kept assigning mundane tasks to her. Like the day I made her climb on a ladder to clean an outdoor ceiling fan at her grandparent’s house. She had that look, the one that said, “Really, Ma?!” But she didn’t say a word… until her iPod fell into a cleaning bucket filled with water. Even though she bought it with her own hard-earned money, she just looked deflated, and sounded bummed but didn’t freak out like I or her father would have at her age. And I know spending two months-plus back and forth to hospitals really isn’t how a teenager wants to spend their summer especially with no tunes to listen to, but I didn’t hear a peep out of her.

The iPod couldn’t be repaired, so she started saving up for a new one. We pitched in a couple of bucks, which she really appreciated. Now, happy to have her music back, and before the kitchen exploded, I asked what she wanted for Christmas. All she could think of were funky socks. Really?! (I’d have been pretty annoyed if someone gave me socks.) When I was her age, I would have been pissed off if Santa blew me off. She just took that in stride too. Actually, both kids did. Even as a grownup, I was more upset about the plumber getting all of the Christmas goodness my paycheck had to offer than either of the kids were. (It’s okay, I know I have issues. Whatever!)

Last week, she showed another amazing display of awesomeness. Her iPod was stolen during a lock-in at the teen center. She had a pretty good idea who took it but had no proof. She was upset, don’t get me wrong, but she wasn’t boiling over…like I was…and it wasn’t even mine! It was one of very few events I didn’t chaperone, which pissed me off. I would have frisked every one of those little…darlings.

A couple of days ago, while tutoring, the kid she suspected came into the teen center. She kept her eye on him and noticed he was hiding something in his pocket. She could also tell he was looking at her when he thought she wasn’t paying any attention to him.

She and a friend walked up to the director of the center. And she said, “I’m pretty sure that boy is the one who took my iPod. And I think he has it with him in his pocket.”

When the director asked the boy what he was playing with in his pocket, he said it was his wallet. She said, “Let me see.” After stimmering and stammering, he said “It’s my iPod.” When she asked where he got it, he claimed his cousin gave it to him. She told Lane 2 to look at it to see if it was hers. Sifting through the songs, she knew it was hers, but the kid had deleted all of her photos, notes, and kept insisting it was his.

The director was pissed and called his parents. His dad came in first, and the boy named a different cousin than the one he'd mentioned before. Doubting his son’s story, but late for a meeting, he said, “We’ll talk about this later.” Then his mom came in. She was pissed. But not pissed at her thief of a son. She was mad at the director for making the accusation in front of the other kids. Dumbfounded, the director really didn’t know how to react or what to say.

Lane 2’s friend came up with a plan. Since she has the texting app, he decided to text her iPod while the adults argued. When the thief’s iPod went off, the screen showed “New text from Chinese Piper” which is Lane 2’s (personal, inside joke) nickname for her friend, that little brat still tried denying that it was hers.

Here she is with her friend who happens to look a little Chinese when he smiles. He's as goofy as she is.

Everyone finally knew it was Lane 2’s and she got it back. She lost all of her stuff on it because the kid put a lock on it, refusing to provide the code. It had to be reset, but she took that in stride too. Freakin’ amazing little girl.

Who knew you could learn so much from a teenager?

Me and the girl bringing in 2010.

Us waking up Mr. LaMe, who was sound asleep by 8.

My baby girl is getting her driving permit in a couple of weeks. This is the car she won't be driving. Hahaha! The day I took that picture, she was in a bad mood, which is a rarity, so I lied and said I needed to go get gas in the car. I came back with yummy goodness in a cup just for her, and her bad mood, much like the yummy goodness, disappeared at lightening speed.

I wanted to thank all of you for the well-wishes and prayers, phone calls and emails about Mr. Lane’s dad. One week short of six months…he was released from the hospital.

Here’s Mr. Lane and his daddy, celebrating the holidays at home.

He has a long road ahead of him, but is a true medical miracle. Physical therapists come to their house a few times a week, and hopefully they will soon have him completely out of the wheelchair…although it is super awesome with candy apple red fenders, hydraulics and has five gears! Seriously the freakin’ thing is supped-up like Dad’s ride has been pimped.

The update on the kitchen…well, there isn’t one. We are still waiting for the carpenter’s estimate to get approved by the insurance company. Until then, everything is in disarray and I’m going to try my best to be like that little girl of mine and just take it in stride.

The other lesson to be learned, when you wish for something, always be certain to throw in a clause, such as, “I wish I had a new kitchen…without anything in and or around me exploding in the process.”

P.S. It isn't Lane 2's birthday, Fifteen is just one of her favorite songs, and happens to be how old she is.