Monday, January 28, 2013

A Tapestry

Think of a tapestry. Hundreds of inches of thread in many different colors woven in and out of each other until they come together to make a finished picture.  One single thread on its own is not so complex or pretty but hundreds of threads woven together creates something much more complex and usually beautiful.

I see a parallel between a tapestry and our lives.  Moments and people and celebrations and houses and locations and jobs all coming together to create memories and memories adding up to a life.  Intersections of moments that change our course of direction making different outcomes that we have no control over...yet it all seems to work out.

God showed Himself to me this weekend.  And I keep thinking of the happenings surrounding this weekend as a tapestry that God has been weaving for awhile now.

My middle daughter and I went to Scottsdale to attend a baby shower for my oldest, pregnant daughter.  My sister couldn't make this trip to Scottsdale with me, although she wanted to.  My close friend from Atlanta was there however.  So I was with my 2 daughters and my best friend. I was in a "happy place."

Thirty minutes before we were to leave for the shower...just as we were putting on our phone rang.  My sister was calling me to tell me that my mother had just passed away.  My sister...who couldn't come to Scottsdale, was with my mother in her last peaceful moments and assured me that it was all good.  So I held back the tears and the emotions and carried forward through the next 2 days of happiness...visiting my daughter and enjoying the showering of gifts for my new grand baby.  And I was able to spend 2 great days with my best friend. 

My friend said to me, "Do you see that your sister couldn't come with you because God needed her to be with your mother?  And He sent me to be with you."

Ahhh, like a tapestry.  His great design. 

My mother has been in very ill health for a long time...and bed-ridden for the last 3 years.  She was 79 and still had all her wits about her but trapped in a body that failed her.  So there is a new peace within me knowing that she is no longer in pain or confined to a bed.  I want to believe she is reunited with my father, the love of her life.

Hindsight is 20/20 they say...and this weekend I can look back and clearly see God's handiwork in weaving all of this together in His perfect way in His perfect timing.

Dear God -
Thank You for my mother and the life You gave me through her body.  While we didn't always see eye to eye, I know she loved me and I loved her. Thank you for taking her out of this world full of physical and emotional pain and please, please, please take her to my sweet, calm Daddy.  I see clearly that You needed Catha to be here this weekend to be with my mother in her last moments and so You sent Debbie to be with me.  A perfect plan.  I mostly want to thank You for the peace I felt all weekend which I know I could not have had without Your presence around me.  Please continue to give me Your peace. 

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Intentions to Read

My Book Group met on Monday...and as's a lively group of 3 or 4 different conversations going at a time with wine and food and sometimes, but rarely, a discussion of the latest book we read.  We catch up on each other's minutia and discuss the latest great happenings in our lives.   A book is always chosen to be read by us all before we meet again.  But the book is simply the glue.  Whether we read it or not, we will meet again.  It's on our calendars. 

The last book we all read (but most didn't get to finish because of the busy holidays, etc.) was Casual Vacancy by J. K. Rowling. I am reading it on my Kindle Fire and it tells me I am at 40% completion. I intend to finish it because I am finally catching on to all the characters and their connection to each other. J. K. Rowling, of Harry Potter fame, can weave a tale. It's set in a town in England and begins with the sudden death of a man which leaves a vacancy on the town council.  From there it spins out in to characters in the town.  She puts in a lot of detail of each character and the room they're in and the street they walk down.
The biggest complaint we all had was there are way too many characters being introduced in the first few chapters and it's hard to keep them all straight. If you read this, I recommend a piece of paper and a pen to jot down each character as they're introduced with a note of "who they are" will thank me later.  I hope I didn't scare you away from this book because the ones that finished it said it was really good and worth finishing so that's my plan. 


The book we chose for our next read is The Art of Hearing Heartbeats by Jan-Philipp Sendker. 

Amazon's book description:

A poignant and inspirational love story set in Burma, The Art of Hearing Heartbeats spans the decades between the 1950s and the present. When a successful New York lawyer suddenly disappears without a trace, neither his wife nor his daughter Julia has any idea where he might be…until they find a love letter he wrote many years ago, to a Burmese woman they have never heard of. Intent on solving the mystery and coming to terms with her father’s past, Julia decides to travel to the village where the woman lived. There she uncovers a tale of unimaginable hardship, resilience, and passion that will reaffirm the reader’s belief in the power of love to move mountains.
This book has great reviews on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.  I plan on buying this one in the real deal...a paperback.  While I'm loving my Kindle, there is just something about holding a book and seeing your progress in pages...not a number at the bottom of the screen. 

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Project Snag

We just finished with the second week of the Master Bathroom Remodel.  So much has been done and things have been going almost too smoothly.  There have been a few minor the plumbing in the shower put in at an upward tilt.  Or the electrical sockets for the vanity lights not set in the right place.  But everything is fixable even if back tracking for the workers.

We have moved upstairs to sleep and shower and are trying to keep a handle on the dust. I'm thinking this is going very well.

 But then, the wall tile started going up.

The wall tile, which is Emperador Light marble, was going up in the shower and on the opposite wall.  I was not extremely happy with it because it was not the color I thought I was getting.  But I would go in there in the evening and try to convince myself it was okay. 

For example: 

We put Emperador Light marble in our Powder Room last spring.  I love it!  It's a great "color" and it makes me happy. 


But this is what was going up on the shower wall.  The tile on the inside of the framed out part is much more like the Powder Room and what I thought I was getting but I came home to all of this done and set in concrete. A lot of variation in hue.  Okay.  I am stressing but trying to like it.  I love the creamy tiles inside the frame...but the others?  Brown with a few lighter ones here and there.  Not what I thought I picked out.

We make a call to the tile people.  Everyone tells me it's "natural stone"....and they think it's beautiful....and look at me like "what is wrong with you?"

I call this taupe.  What would you call it?
And then the slabs were brought in on Tuesday.  SNAG.  They're taupe in color.  And the floor tiles which haven't been put in yet are very, very golden.  So I have cream, brown, taupe and golden tones of the same marble.  And call me a perfectionist (several did) but it was agitating me every time I went in there. 

So after much discussion and everyone (all men) telling me it was "natural stone" and basically get over it, I had an awakening.  Nope.  Not getting over it.  Because at the end of the day, this is the room I will come in to and at the beginning of each day, this is the room I will go in to.  And it has to work for us.  (Chuck is not seeing a problem with the tile....but begins to see I have a huge problem with it so he is willing to "fix it")

So we are taking down the wall tile  (about 40 have been put on so far) and starting over.  The slabs are the major expense and I like them...not that they are what I thought I was getting...but they are a very soothing taupe color.  So we started over, basically, on Thursday and went back to reselect a new marble for the floors and walls. 

This is definitely one of those First World Problems...and I have it put it in perspective. But it's a lot of money and if the color was bugging me now, it was only going to get worse in time and I would forever wish I had done something about it.  So take it from me, You Can Say Nope, Not Getting Over It.

We are going with Crema Marfil (there's a sample tile above the sink) which is, oddly enough, the first one I picked out and wanted but then chose Emperador Light because I loved it so much in our Powder Room.  Ugh.  Crema Marfil is creamy with white and some taupe and gray feathering so hoping it will compliment the slabs. 

On a positive note, the slabs are in, plumbing is in, new canned lighting is in and the vanity lights are wired for but not installed yet, walls are repaired and textured.  Cabinetry is almost finished and getting primed and painted.  Hopefully, the new marble will be delivered early in the week and we can pick up where we left off. 

I was asked to pick out paint early last week.  I did something I never do....pick from the tiny swatch in the fan deck of paint colors.  Normally, I buy samples and paint them on the wall, but I was feeling rushed.  So they put one coat on the walls and I asked them to wait until all the tile is in so I can decided if it works or not.  Right now, it doesn't look like it works.  So we'll call this the primer coat.  We are going with a "white" on the walls and a "creamy"  color on the ceiling.  Should be easy but there are a million whites and creams to choose from.  As you can see in the above picture, the walls are looking a little yellow but blue at night (?) and there is a peachy look to the ceiling.   So add this painting dilemna to the tile dilemna and I was somewhat a little freaked out.  Not stressed.  Not anxious.  Not worried.  Just freaked out.  The difference is it is a fixable problem.

Three things that I want to pass on to you...

1.  It's not a personal hit on anyone.  It's not the workers or their workmanship I'm unhappy with.  It's the color variation of all the marble going in to one very small area.  My vision is for a very serene look and it was not serene. We hit a snag, but that's all it is.  Do not be afraid to stop mid project and regroup.  Much of design is planned on paper and while shopping in stores and online. But when everything is finally coming together, there may be something that is just off.  It's okay to stop and rethink.  I definitely think if you're going with natural stone to ask to see all the variations.  Wish I had done this.  But ultimately, we had to be happy no matter how many people told us it looked good.

2.  Men see differently than women.  Every woman that saw my pictures agreed that it was off but all the men said, "naahhhh, it's natural stone....that's the look."  Well, yes, it's natural stone, but there is a process called culling.  Culling is where you pull from the boxes those tiles that look most alike in hue.  You may have to buy 10 boxes to get 3 boxes worth of tile that is the same hue.  Not done here...and I wish I could go back to last Monday and do this...but too late.   Most companies take back the unused tile with maybe a slight restocking fee.  Always ask.

3.  Do not choose paint colors under duress. I like to pick 2 or 3 paint colors and buy them in the smallest quantity possible.  Sure, it costs something, but not as much as buying the gallon then hating it and having to buy more of another color.  I usually buy a white poster, cut it in to fourths and paint on the matte side...leaving no white exposed because that fools the eye. Then I can move the painted poster to different areas of the room to see if it changes much with the lighting.  But under duress, I quickly picked 2 colors from the 1 x 2 sample and yikes!

So Project Snag should be back on track this coming week. 


In the meantime, Chuck and I are stopped up, sneezing and coughing. Could be a cold, seasonal allergies or just plain old dust.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Hairy Harry Pawter

It was a year ago on January 11 that we brought Harry Pawter home to live with us. Only because of his sweet brown eyes that look directly in to our souls have we kept him.
We are afraid to add up the cost of the destruction he has caused.
Pet beds, plants, mail, patio furniture, the legs on the kitchen chairs, a bar stool,  a Bible, beach towels, kitchen towels....the list goes on and on.
Seen a mess like this a time or two.
This basket was Dixie's bed.  Was.
Came home to this several times.
There is a paper mache letter H in the bed with him....well, what's left of it...
that Jordan made for me.  It was on the window sill in our utility room. 
I'm not sure where the patience and love for him came from.  All I know is that within one week of having him, Chuck and I were in love with him. 

Maybe it's the increased activity level.
Maybe it's because he's so smart.
Maybe it's because he lets us dress him up.
Maybe it's because he nudges his way and pushes with his snout
 until we're forced to hold him like a baby.
Maybe it's because he makes us laugh with his cute and klutzy ways.
Maybe it's that he has gotten us ready for grandchildren.
Pure adoration.
It was an extremely impulsive reaction to an email, pleading for someone to take this dog or he would have to be put down, a year ago.  I felt sick to my stomach the first week.  We were exhausted and put out for the first few months with the destruction he caused. 
But what a nice surprise this turned out to be.
Happy One Year to Us.
(I would mention that he is so good these days and rarely chews something up anymore
 but that would jinx it so I'm not mentioning it.)

Monday, January 14, 2013

Eating Dust Week One

Our bathroom remodeling project started last Monday.  I'm changing the name from Project No Control to Eating Dust. One week later there has been quite a bit of progress.  If I had to sum it up in one word it would be dust. My eyes are full of dust, my sinuses are full of dust and there is grit in my teeth. The bathroom is downstairs and down a short hall...but dust is in and on everything in the entire house. Upstairs, in closets with doors shut and even on the dogs.   I'd have you over for coffee, but you wouldn't like the grit in your mouth.

 Demo Day 1/7/13
(I had done a little demo on the wallpaper
and we had a shutter installed prior to Demo Day)
End of Week One 1/14/13
Some more pictures from this last week...
This is where the old tub was.  When they pulled the tub out,
there was a mound of dirt underneath it. 
 That mound of dirt was an old ant bed. 
 Welcome to Texas.
And hello old NAVY BLUE wallpaper. 
This is the paper that was on the walls when
we bought the house in 1999.  This room was dark, dark, dark
....except for the shiny brass. 

 A moment of silence for the ants. 
 The guy in this picture is the hardest working guy ever. 
 But he says nothing.  Nothing.  I talk to him...he says nothing.
  I ask "do you speak English?"  He looks at me....nothing.
  So I guess that's a no.  Which is "no" in English and Spanish.
  But he says nothing. 
Not even a change in expression. 
Okay...carry on.
 New tub set in concrete.
New tub and surrounding frame with a step up to the tub.
  The tub will be under mounted in a marble slab
and the left edge will now be a bench in the shower.
There have already been a couple of bumps in the road (like they made the step up to the tub 10" and I had to ask them to lower it to 7") and I expect there will be a few more,
 but already I can tell this remodeling is going to be worth it. 
However, I'm not sure we will ever get all of the dust dusted. 

Monday, January 7, 2013

Project No Control

Over the past couple of years, Chuck and I have spent many hours
 discussing our future plans now that our third child is almost out of college.








 Pour another glass of wine.

Many of these discussions take place in the back corner of our tiny backyard after a couple of glasses of wine.  Chuck always brings up living in the country.  I retort with Big City because I can't imagine what we would do as a couple if we didn't have restaurants on every corner.
 Not to mention he already has a very long commute but wants to work
 another 5 plus least. 
And really, the country sounds fun but high maintenance.
  Some days, all I really want is a one bedroom apartment.

Because of my passion for change and design, I would love to build a house....
but on the other hand, I'm not getting any younger and come home pretty tired
 in the evenings and Chuck has that long commute and we can't decided where
 that building would take place. 
So we usually just drop the subject for another month or so. 
All the while, time is going by and
we have our "dreamy" conversations that lead nowhere.

In the meantime, we decided we would update our master bathroom knowing that it needed to be updated for resale but we would enjoy the project and benefit from the results.  We have only owned 2 houses in our marriage but this is the only house where we actually have some equity.  Our first house was purchased for $105,000 in 1983, with an interest rate of 13 7/8.  (yep)  Years later we were able to refinance (years of waiting for the appraisal value to come up) but not before we had already paid way too much for that house.  Fifteen years later, we sold it for $108,000.  Do the math....we sunk millions in to that deal. 

Last summer, we filled out the application for a refinance on this house with the intention of taking some cash out of our equity to remodel the master bath.  Interest rates were low, we have equity and we could refinance, take out some cash and end up lowering our mortgage payment.  Win/win.  I tell you all of this, because it was our entrance in to REFINANCE hell and I feel like you should be warned. 

Timeline went something like this:

  • First of JULY - Send in application fees with all the paperwork to bank.  Get assigned our very own Loan Officer.  Easy enough.

  • 1 week later, our very own L.O. calls and says he got our paperwork and the ball is rolling....we are looking at closing in about 30 to 60 days.  Wow!  We better get going on that bathroom design.

  • We start looking at tile, light fixtures, etc.  because we think this thing could happen in September.  Working and shopping and getting bids.

  • END OF JULY, L.O. calls and tells us he needs one more thing signed so will fax it to us and then we can FedEx it back.  Ball is rolling.

  • We call to verify he received our signed paper and there is bad news.  L.O.'s son has been in a very bad accident.  Wow.  So sorry.  But, uh, how about that loan?  No, really I had so much compassion for the guy but he didn't act like it was that big of a deal....just told Chuck on the phone as a reason for him not returning our call.

  • Middle of AUGUST....another 2 weeks have gone by.  We are out looking at things, making decisions.  Having people come by to get bids.  No word from L.O.

  • We call weekly, L.O. doesn't call back. 

  • END OF AUGUST, we call and get a new bank employee on the phone, who explains that our loan is in process.  We're approved...they just have so many loans in process in may take a little longer.

  • SEPTEMBER.  No word from bank. Chuck is calling daily to the 2 phone numbers he has been given.  No one is returning calls.  It is apparent this loan isn't closing anytime we start calling plumbers, electricians and such to delay the project as we had estimated the last week of September would be the start date for the remodel. haha.

  • END OF SEPTEMBER, a new L.O. tells us that our first very own L.O. quit and apparently dropped the ball.  So we are basically starting all over on the process. Count it....July, August, September =  90 DAYS wasted.   They need a few more things signed by us.  First L.O. said he had everything he needed but new L.O. says no, no, we need much more paperwork signed.  They will fax and we will FedEx back to them. 

  • At this point, every response we get is " a week to 10 days."  We call on Monday, they say we should know something about closing in a week to ten days. 
  •  But then a week to 10 days goes phone calls from anyone that works at the bank.

  • Every Monday we call and leave messages and play phone tag....and several weeks later.... OCTOBER happens but no loan.
  • It is about the last week of OCTOBER, when I finally take over the phone calling from Nice Guy Chuck.  Up until now it has mostly been Nice Guy Chuck calling because I felt like nice was the way to go.  But nice wasn't working.   I call and leave tons of messages and am very disgruntled.  Some would call it very B*tchy. 
  • First week in NOVEMBER we are told our loan is finally going to close.  But, of course, there is a major Bank Holiday for Veteran's Day and oh, they forgot to tell us that there is a mandatory 3 full days between loan closing and "cash out" being funded. The cash was important because we had a huge list of items (light fixtures, faucets, tub, etc.) waiting to be ordered before job could start. 

  • Fast forward to the MIDDLE OF NOVEMBER.  We finally close on our loan. Three days later, we get our "cash out" funded and begin ordering light fixtures, plumbing fixtures and put a deposit down for the tile.

  • END OF NOVEMBER we have closed and ordered everything but the holidays are here so there will be no remodeling going on as I work retail and we have kids coming in for Christmas and need every bathroom available.  

 Just ridiculous.
 World ending? 
Worst thing ever? 
 Absolutely not. 
But in control?

So my warning to you is, if you think you are going to refinance in 30 to 60 days, don't count on it.  It happens.  I've heard it happens.  But it didn't happen that way with us and we spent and wasted a lot of time gearing toward that 30 to 60 day schedule. There were times during this four month period that I realized I could have bought crack cocaine or a handgun easier than getting a new loan on a house we had equity in with an excellent credit rating.

 Is it any wonder that being a rule following, tax paying citizen seems stupid sometimes?
I will be a rule following, tax paying citizen my whole life...just saying there are times I understand the rule breaker's mentality.


Here we are today, and the job is supposed to start today. 
 It is almost noon....but the workers are on their way.

They say.

I am calling this Project No Control. 

Today is Demo Day.
  A few before that when I am in the middle of this big mess,
I can remember why we did this. 

The main thing I want out of this remodel is a bench in the shower. 
I now have a 3/4 inch ledge in the shower that I balance my toe on when I shave my legs. 
Mostly, I just don't shave my legs.  (Are you still reading this post?)

We are getting a smaller tub with a marble slab surround...and moving the shower door to the right so we can encompass the end of the slab in to the shower for a bench. 

 This cabinet is being restructured...the top half will be
open shelving and the lower door will become 2 drawers.

 Demo actually began in October when my frustration level was at an all time high.
Three layers of wallpaper and some sheetrock were subject to my wrath. 

This is a reminder of a very bad leak and
an even worse repair job in the ceiling. 
As I wash my hair in the shower and look up...this is what I see.
 Hopefully, this will be gone in a few weeks. 

White tile.  I hate you.  Bye bye.
  I have used every product known to get the crud
out of this shower but nothing works. 
 This shower is clean but you would never know it.
Guh ross. 

So, after 6 months, it's finally happening. 

Project No Control.

Did I make any New Year's Resolutions? 
Only to remain in the moment and be patient.

I know I have no control over anything else.