Friday, January 25, 2008

Smart Assery In Action

The other day, N.'s elementary school sent home as part of their Wednesday weekly newsletter a notice that on Friday of THAT week they were having a 'I'm Going To College!' theme day, and asked that the kids wear their favorite college T shirt to school.

Well, what I DON'T happen to have lying around is a college T shirt in a childs' size.

Seriously, 24 hours notice?!

Because by the time I get the newsletter Wednesday evening, it only gives me 24 hours to get a shirt by Thursday evening to have ready at 7AM the next morning. It brought to mind the old game show, 'Let's Make A Deal' where Monty Hall went through the audience asking them to produce from their purses and wallets various weird things. "I'll give you $500.00 for 6 ping pong balls, but they all have to be plaid!"

Hey, THANKS school!

So in protest, I asked my fellow goons over at SomethingAwful.com to help come up with a T shirt design that I could print out on an iron-on and make my own T-shirt. I came up with: "California College Of Beauty, Auto Repair And Hair--Where Failure IS An Option!"

Some of the contributions were, 'Education Hut', 'Steve's College Of Stuff' and 'University Of Phoenix--Click Here To Graduate' among many others. The goons had great ideas. The winning design was suggested by one member, another created the design, so I got them both forum upgrades. I was able to get the T shirt done in time for her to wear on Friday, here it is...

That famous Ivy League school, 'Harrrvard'!

I love how he incorporated the Harvard shield logo. Hard to get a picture without tons of glare. I asked her what the deal with the finger was and she said, "It's my pirate hook!"

A better shot of the design, with less glare:

Although J. and I got a good laugh out of the whole 'Harrrvard' thing (colleges being modern-day pirates who rape and pillage your bank account), sadly, not one person at school got the joke. But the other kids DID like the skull and crossbones.

Thanks goons, you're the best!

Friday, January 18, 2008

Goodbye Carla

My sister Carla.

She passed away very unexpectedly on December 22, 2007 and her memorial service was held on January 5th, 2008--on what would have been her 59th birthday.

I've spent so much time crying and feeling restless and numb, that I don't know what household duties and 'things to do' I've missed or forgotten. I'll start to do something, then wander off and forget about it midway through. Most nights I don't sleep, because the minute it's quiet, with nothing left to do but go to bed, as soon as I lay down, my mind starts running over what happened. I'll lay there for a bit and invariably start crying again, then get up and go out into the living room so I won't keep J. awake. I turn on the TV, because anything is better than just sitting there rehashing her death and how horrible the world is going to be without her. Any distraction helps.

Carla and her husband avoided dying in a fire that burned their home to the ground on December 13th. They weren't home when it happened, and the house that they built themselves burned to the ground along with everything they owned. I spoke to Carla for the last time on December 19th, when she called to thank me for a Target gift card and some money I sent her to try and help replace some of what they had lost in the fire. She told me that they were moving into a furnished condo, provided by their insurance company, in two days. She seemed as chipper as she could be in such circumstances, and had a slight cold. She had epilepsy for many years but had not had a seizure in several years, and was on medication for it. She even joked about the nickname they had come up for their burned-out house--'Ash Manor' or some such. I wish I could remember what it was, because typical Carla, it was as funny as Hell. Before I hung up, she promised to call on Friday with the new telephone number at the condo. I felt better knowing that I'd talk to her again in two days.

Two days later I got a call from my oldest sister, telling me that Carla had suffered an epileptic seizure that day, and had fallen in such a way that her airflow had been obstructed and she had quit breathing. By the time it was discovered and help arrived for her, she was already gone. They had resuscitated her, but she was in the hospital ICU on a respirator and had not regained consciousness.

She died the following day. My brother was already on his way to our mom's house in Northern California, where he would escort her to Idaho. They decided to continue on to Idaho anyway to see if they could do anything for Carla's husband.

Between Christmas that was just a couple of days away and a massive winter storm that had descended on Idaho, it was a miracle that my brother and my mom even got there. There simply wasn't an available airline seat for me, and had they waited until there was, it would have caused needless delay. I hated not being there but felt it was more important to get my mom there quickly.

Right now I'm flip-flopping between sadness, loss, guilt and anger. The guilt comes from the fact that rather than send money and call, I should have made the trip up there to help her get settled in her new place...I had the time, since my daughter N. was off school for the holidays, I had the money...and lastly, I've been trained in CPR for almost 30 years now. If only I'd been there, I possibly could have revived her and kept her going till the paramedics got there.

I suppose all this will get better in time, I don't know. I guess, in a way our family has been pretty lucky--the only other family member to die was my father, back in 1981.

I have so many great memories of Carla. Spending a day with her and her husband was better than going to Disneyland for us kids, they were so much fun. Carla introduced me to old books (and used bookstores), Steinbeck, vintage children's books, old movies, cult movies, anything and everything quirky and weird, antiques--too many things to count, which I continue to love. She was a guiding force in our childhood, always fun and loving but at the same time witty and clever--everyones favorite.

When I was little they tell me that I couldn't pronounce her name, so I called her 'La La'.

Goodbye La La, I love you.

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

FTD, Kindly...


FTD, yes, the big guys, the florists you see advertising on TV, sooooo well known. A day and a half before my sister Carla's funeral service, I got online with FTD's website and ordered flowers. The arrangement looked beautiful, but their site is clunky and they make you jump through all KINDS of hoops to get some stupid flowers sent. But it did get done, with delivery promised to the funeral home on January 5th. This was on January 3rd.

YESTERDAY, I get a casual email from them telling me they are 'refunding my money since the order was cancelled'. TWELVE DAYS after the promised delivery date? What the Hell?! I never canceled them! Aw, shit, didn't those damned flowers get delivered?!

I email them back, asking them what the Hell. I never canceled the order, what happened? They reply that they don't contract with anyone IN Sandpoint, ID, so no flowers were ever going to be delivered.

'Angry' does not begin to describe how this made me feel. My next email to FTD was in full 'ream' mode. I told them how unprofessional they were not to know in advance where they were contracted and where they weren't, and if they had no florist available in Sandpoint, they NEVER should have accepted my order. I also told them to close my account with them. For the record, Sandpoint has EIGHT florists when you do a search online.

FTD, I can't think of anything bad enough to call you, so I'll leave it at this: Assholes.

The New Chicken Run Is Complete!

After many months of building, the new chicken run is finally done and housing the chickens nicely! Here are two pictures of the old coop before:

And the area where the new run was attached to the existing coop, which was left in place.

I had to give up my clothesline area temporarily.

The new run's framework is tubular steel, which used to be a canopy over our patio. A windstorm pretty much took care of the canopy one night, leaving the steel skeleton. So we recycled it!
As soon as you dig a trench, chickens set to work busily filling it in again.  They should work for Cal Trans, I swear. The race was on to get the hardware cloth up before they obliterated the trench.

Unfortunately one of our elderly little bantam hens, Chicken Sister (she used to have a twin sister, hence her name) in this shot has fallen into the trench we dug to bury the hardware cloth below ground in. Fresh dirt being irresistable to chickens, of course.  She had been looking over her shoulder at ME when I was taking this picture, when she SHOULD have been looking where she was going. This is her, wings outspread, legs dangling in the trench and looking like a chicken pancake, poor baby. Only her dignity was hurt, though.  The other chickens STARING at her didn't help. We lifted her out and she went on her huffy way.

The doorway is framed in and the hardware cloth wire is going up. Sheet metal connects the existing cinder block fence to the canopy framework. We didn't use wire here in order to reduce drafts. The hardware cloth overlaps by several inches to help block rodents and predators.
You'll notice in a lot of these pictures Phoenix and his hens are in the foreground, provided the ever-vital Direct Chicken Supervision that ALL projects require.

The corrugated steel roof going on. J. used steel 2x4's and sprayed in expansion foam to help seal any openings.

The view from the inside. Where the sheets of hardware cloth met, J. overlapped them be several inches and I secured the gaps with UV resistant heavy duty zip ties to keep out rodents, possums, etc. Metal 2x4's form the roof skeleton.

A better look at the sheet metal.

Inside again, looking towards the old coop. We left the old coop as it was and just removed a wire panel off the front of it to create the opening into the new run. The old coop door we closed securely and left as it was.

A better view of the old coop opening and how old and new connect to each other. The old coop door was sealed up.

The wire panel removed and the nest boxes rearranged. You can see the expansion foam in place in the ceiling.

The new door to the run. J. found two identical, perfectly working steel security doors, with locks, keys and doorway framing, sitting curbside one day. Perfect for chicken coops!

There is one more door, which will be installed soon when we attach an 'aviary door' to the run. Aviary doors are just a set of two doors set a few feet from each other, so one is always closed before the other can be opened--it prevents escapes of birds and helps keep predators out. J. is installing a new clothesline for me, it will fit inside the run and stretch from one end of the run to the other. The big metal T stands for the old clothesline we just left. Several banty hens have fallen in love with the one inside the run anyway, and perch on it at night.

So yay, it's done! We've already tested it by going away for Thanksgiving and leaving the chickens housed in it for three days, they did just fine. It's very nice to know that we can now stay out after dark, without having to rush home to put the chickens away.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Plymouth Is Home!

After 63 days, the Plymouth is home again with a shiny rebuilt engine, among other things.

And the dash is back together.

Parts replaced/repaired:
Engine rebuilt, new hoses, oil, filter, plug wires, etc.
Engine mounts
Harmonic balancer
Heater core
Water pump
Carb rebuilt
Engine & engine compartment painted
Replaced dashboard voltage regulator
Replaced Fuel gauge
Repair/replace dash wiring
Replace turn signal cam
Install 4 speakers
Replace horn ring
Replace/repair temp control cable
Install new trunk, door locks
Replace ignition
Fix driver's side door (drifted closed & bit people)
Repaired/replaced tailpipe strap/bracket
Replaced pass side front grease cap

A few kinks though: the convertible top rear window glass hangs up on the rear seat speaker, so I need to either find one that fits the speaker well better, remove it or find a way to mount it on a diagonal so that it slips into the speaker well better. Also, the gas gauge, which worked at the shop when I picked up the car, had failed again by the time I got it home. The speedometer, which had been fine, is now twitching at speeds under about 25, and when I floored it in a long, empty stretch behind the local Target store, it only got up to about 20 MPH, when I KNOW I was going much faster than that. Sadly, the clock in the dash didn't revive, either. The new engine runs a bit rough and feels kinda strange, but that may be due to needing to be broken in. But all in all the car is vastly improved and I'm happy with it.

It's a bright spot in an otherwise really, REALLY shitty month.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008