Wednesday, September 30, 2009

O! The Joy!

This was a day long awaited - the counters were installed! Like William Clark of Lewis and Clark fame writing in his journal upon seeing "the Ocian", we danced about the kitchen tonight in joy upon having the glorious end in sight.

Of course, like Clark, who discovered that "the Ocian" he thought he saw was actually the Columbia estuary, we quickly descended to earth upon realizing that the faucet we picked out months ago won't work with these counters and backsplash. I'll spare you the details. We went to Lowe's and got something else which might work better (Sally insists there will be no further difficulties.)

Anyway, here are a couple photos of the latest developments. We are hoping for a plumber appearance next week to get the sink, faucet, dishwasher and disposal all hooked up. We have plenty of trim work left, and that one, mischievous cabinet over the refrigerator. But the end is within sight. Or at least something that looks like an end. O! The Joy!

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Waiting Room

I'm in the waiting room at Lourdes Medical Center in Pasco, Washington. I'm, uh... waiting. Megan is having a surgical procedure this morning, and so I'm here to ferry her home and to make sure she's doing OK before returning to Spokane.

I drove down yesterday evening after dinner. Given that the range is functional, Sally had suggested that we fix pasta and fresh sauce. I agreed, but then became less than enthusiastic as the reality hit. We had to roam about our several kitchens looking for the pans, spoon, olive oil, and pasta. I left shortly after we ate, leaving Sally to wash the dishes and figure out where to stash the pans afterward, given that the remodeled kitchen isn't ready to receive them. We were excited to cook a meal in our new digs, but my sense is that it's a bit like getting your skis out in October, or your golf clubs in February. The excitement is there, but it simply isn't time yet.

We are really happy with the work we've done to date, and are eager to get past the next steps. The counters and sink are to be installed tomorrow, with the plumber on tap (!) for next week. After that time we should have a faucet, drain, dishwasher, and disposal. We also hope to mount the last wall cabinet this week, allowing us to move the refrigerator back into the room. There will still be finishing work to complete, but that will be gravy. Hmmmm. Gravy.....

I have one more work-related trip planned, to Forest Grove, Oregon. I'm doing a keynote presentation and a workshop on "Reinventing Stewardship" for the Central Pacific Conference. It will be strange to be in Forest Grove without Evan, Angie, and all their friends being there as well. In some ways it feels like coming full circle, as I was the keynote speaker for the West Regional Youth Gathering on the Pacific University campus in 1990. Back then, driving west from Lincoln, Nebraska, we would have had a hard time believing how big a role Pacific would have in our family's future. Back then, we dreamed of moving to the northwest. Now seems as if this upper left hand corner of the U.S. is home.

The doctor just came in with word that Megan is out of surgery and is doing fine. I'm off to see her....

Monday, September 28, 2009

Recovery Time

I'm back home from my Idaho adventure, having driven back from Mountain Home on Saturday evening. Sally and I had talked about mounting the last wall cabinet yesterday, but I just couldn't pull the trigger. Aging is a funny thing. In some ways I don't feel as if I have changed at all, and yet I notice big differences in things like recovery time. I just can't bounce back from travel or physical exertion as quickly as I once did.

When I served the Nebraska Conference I said that I might be interested in Conference work again when the children were grown, making travel less of a burden on the family. Now I find that the burden is on me. After 3 days on the road I feel like I need 3 days to recover. In the meantime there are all kinds of household chores that need attention, and more travel in the offing. Gosh.

I didn't want to pass up the opportunity of commenting on one aspect of my weekend excursion. I'm still absorbing the impact of standing at the corner of North 10th Street East and East 10th Street North in Mountain Home, Idaho. I imagine looking at a map of town with a red dot indicating: "You might be here...or not." It was reminiscent of the wonderful graffiti drawn from the history of quantum physics - "Heisenberg may have slept here." It's evident that Heisenberg may have gotten lost in Mountain Home.

Today will likely be the last day of summery weather, at least for a while. Though a high of 80 degrees is forecast for today, we'll barely make it out of the 50's the rest of the week. Sally and I noted a big ski sale yesterday next to our bank. It was inevitable that fall would come again, and winter on it's heels, no doubt. But I haven't yet recovered from last winter! I used to be ready for the change of seasons. I wonder if that's an aspect of aging?

(If you start reading the post over again from the top you can imagine that I'm repeating myself. Or did I write that already?)

Friday, September 25, 2009

Prehensile Toes

I am in Boise, Idaho this morning, enjoying the complimentary breakfast at the Shilo Inn. I drove down yesterday from Spokane and met up with Walter John Boris, now the Conference Minister of the Central Pacific Conference of the UCC. WJ has set up two opportunities for me to make members of his conference angry by telling them that everything they've been taught about stewardship is wrong. What an opportunity!

The drive was lovely, though long. I couldn't help but recall meeting a wrong way driver on the same, I-84 route during an all-night drive in 1990. I was really excited by the smoke ring blowing steam stack in Ontario, Oregon. Apart from those highlights it was a nice drive on a hot, early fall day.

I met WJ at about 7:15 local time, and we made plans to get some food downtown. The path to downtown was literally that: the Boise River Walk. We probably hoofed a couple miles on this lovely, well-developed trail, arriving downtown at the Reef Restaurant. The staff were unaware of any live music happening, which confused us, but a concert broke out nonetheless. WJ and I had good food and a couple beers while enjoying the offerings of the Shook Twins, from Sandpoint, Idaho. They played in a unique gypsy, folk, rhythm style featuring guitar, banjo, drums, and an interesting array of sounds emitted by the electronic mixer controlled by Laurie Shook's toes. I was impressed. Though banjo playing while barefoot is not rare - indeed, many banjoists have yet to become acquainted with footwear - I almost never use my toes for anything while playing. A new horizon beckons.

This afternoon we will make our way to Mountain Home, Idaho, for the Association meeting. I actually knew someone from Mountain Home once. He was the chair of a search committee that called me. After the congregation voted, this guy offered me the position for several thousand dollars less than it had been advertised for. I called the Conference staff person responsible, only to discover he knew nothing about it. It turned out that the guy from Mountain Home had cooked up the idea all on his own in an effort to save the church some money. I ended up taking the job anyway, though not at the reduced salary figure. In retrospect, I should have read the tea leaves.

Anyway, we'll venture forth, hoping that others in Mountain Home don't live down to my previous experience.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Don't call me numbskull....

Another day, another removal of a basal cell carcinoma. I am mentally shaking my fist at all those who, through the years, gave me a difficult time about my photophobia. Sunlight and I have never gotten along that well. I remember my dad being really angry at me because I wouldn't open my eyes and smile for a photo, posed so that I was looking directly into the sun. I remember "friends" in junior high school making fun of me for not having a tan, and their mocking tone when I tried to explain that I don't tan... I merely burn, peel, repeat.

Anyway, Dr. Holmquist removed my forehead spot this morning. He gave me a shot of novocain with the intent of deadening the area, but it didn't fully take. He then commenced the procedure, known as Electrodessication and Curettage (ED&C) in which the abnormal tissue is scraped off with a special tool, and then the area is cauterized with an electric needle until the bleeding stops. The procedure is often repeated, and in my case, three times.

So, when the anesthetic didn't work properly, the Dr. H was reduced to zapping me with his electro-dart, and then waiting for me to descend to the table so he could commence scraping. Scrape, zap, descend, repeat. And again....

When he finished, Dr. H said I would have a depression in that spot, but that it would fill in eventually. I left the office thinking, "I have a depressed forehead, but at least no one can say that I lack nerve endings there." That's lame, I know, but it was the best I could do in light of my condition.

In other news, last night featured an INCREDIBLY awkward and difficult meeting with a church. It was like being in Bellevue all over again (the city in Washington, not the psychiatric ward in the NY hospital, though that is an interesting notion). I thought, "How appropriate that I followed up that meeting by having my head examined and a portion extracted!" Perhaps I could recommend that to some of the other participants.

I've got to find another hobby.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Back in Time

I'm spending the weekend at beautiful Camp N-Sid-Sen on the eastern shore of Lake Coeur d'Alene. N-Sid-Sen is within the Great Green Cone of Cellphone Silence also known as North Idaho. There is one spot just outside of Spirit Lodge where, if you stand on one foot near a tree stump, you can make calls. This affords the opportunity to repeatedly shout the word, "hello", hear just enough about what's going on at home to get worried, and then have the call dropped.

E-mail and web-browsing are also completely out of the question. I have the sense that I will have lots of free time on my hands, but also a renewed realization that, though unplugged, I will not be unhappy.

As a kid I remember our summer treks to the Northwoods, our name for a beautiful plywood shack on the eastern shore of Winslow Lake outside of Iron River on Michigan's Upper Peninsula. The cabin was, as we used to say, 21 miles away from the nearest light bulb. We utilized a wood-burning stove, kerosene lanterns, and an icebox (cooled by a block of ice cut from a nearby lake) in the early years there. We never gave up the wood stove for heat, but switched to propane gas for lighting, cooking, and operating the gas refrigerator, a modern marvel if there ever was one.

The Northwoods was a great break for my dad, whose job entailed much time on the telephone and answering mail. In the woods we were outside the reach of modern communication. In addition, Dad wasn't required to wear a suit and tie, or shave, or bathe (the best defense against mosquitos).

As happy as this break was for Dad, my brothers and I viewed it with a degree of anxiety. How could we possibly survive without Saturday morning cartoons, Saturday evening Gunsmoke, and Sunday night's Ed Sullivan Show? How would Hank Aaron and the Milwaukee Braves fare without my continual surveillance and support? We sometimes lobbied for a shorter stay at the cabin, but never won the argument. The lure of not bathing was simply too great for Dad to pass up.

In the end, Dad's wisdom always prevailed. Despite our protestations, my brothers and I found a way to pass the time. We had fishing contests in which points were awarded for the various species and sizes of our catch. We built the "jump pit" for high jumping, really just two poles for holding a bamboo stick and a landing area filled with decomposing "logwood", which stained our jeans dark red but made for soft landings.

There were trips to the dump where we did target practice with the old "22", berry picking expeditions, and in later years, experimentation with explosives (combining the powder from multiple firecrackers into film canisters). After but a few hours the radio and television were forgotten, and we filled our time with all manner of adventure.

I've not jumped into a logwood pit for some years. I don't own a gun, and would be scared to death to repeat our experiments with explosives. Still, I think some time in the woods, far removed from the cellphone and computer, could be a good thing. I'll try to keep that in mind as I prepare for my trip to N-Sid-Sen. Maybe I won't bathe.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

More kitchen progress...

It may seem this has gone on for a long time. That's because it has. I started taking "before" photos in anticipation of our remodeling effort in early May. The thought has occurred to me that a long timeframe is very helpful in such projects: By the time you finish you're so relieved that any small improvement is gravy. This is akin to the little boy who repeatedly hit himself on the head with a hammer because it felt so good when he stopped.

We are now beginning to see glimpses of what the "after" views will look like. But even when the counters and sink are in, it won't be "after" until the baseboard is installed, the sill finished, and the pots, pans, plates, dry goods, scissors, calendars, dog water dish, and on and on are collected from their various locations throughout the western hemisphere and carefully stowed in just the perfect new spot. Either that or we'll dump them here and there with the solemn intent of sorting through everything later.

I want to share some photos documenting our progress. At left is Sally enjoying a cold beer after we got the pantry off of me and in place. The SolaTube hovers like a halo over her head... and yes, she is a saint. Another of her considerable accomplishments, other than drinking beer, was fastening insulation beneath the Pex tubing that will now provide heat from under the tile floor. Sally is either pointing to the insulation, or imaging herself entering the ministry. I report, you decide.

I have spent a great deal of time and energy on the opening into the living room, and the new cooking area. With the installation of the range hood, it is really looking good.

We don't have countertops yet, but that has not kept me from spreading all kinds of stuff everywhere.

And finally, for now, a view of the wall cabinets that we are installing. Progress has been slow, but sure, and we are excited about the way it's coming together.

Like my "Bike to Work Week" blog, the kitchen project will some day be in our rear view mirror. Then I will be able to write about, talk about, think about and dream about something else. Until then, we're all stuck in this together, eh?

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

A Matter of Time

It's hard to adjust to the daily paper cutting back to weekly publication -- I think we went through that in Beloit, Kansas. Yes, this is my way of acknowledging that I haven't posted anything since last Tuesday.

The kitchen work is progressing. The last of the base cabinets were installed in time for the templates of the countertops to be drawn up on Friday. That was an interesting process. A low tech, cardboard template was created, which will now be digitized so that the stone can be laser cut. What a melding of technologies!

On Saturday Sally and I cut two holes in our roof for the range vent and SolaTube. I was really anxious about it, but things went OK. By the end of the day we had a functioning stove hood and a lovely tubular skylight. In addition, Ron came from across the street and helped us install our Pex tubing for underfloor heat in the kitchen. We recharged the waterlines, vented air from the pipes, and fired up the boiler. Sally finished insulating the floor area beneath the Pex on Sunday, so we are now ready for cold weather.

Now that we have a vent, the stove is back in commission. I have cooked oatmeal and made coffee the last three mornings in our kitchen! In the process I have learned that our new kitchen is still small. Or, as neighbor Ron says, "The wall stretchers just didn't work." We will need to turn over a new leaf when it comes to having "stuff" out on the counters. Can we alter our ways? As the Possum Lodge guys say on The New Red Green show: "I'm a man - but I can change - if I have to - I guess."

Our other Sunday accomplishment was mounting the floor-to-ceiling pantry. I can tell you from experience that it weighs a gadzillion pounds. From what experience, you ask? From dragging it up the steps while on my knees, having it dropped on my head and rolled onto my reclined body, and later, from having it torn from my bleeding fingers as it crashed to the floor. Gosh, I wish we had film. It looks great now in repose. Stately really.

Next we will turn our attention to the wall cabinets. I plan to stay out from under them.

I am also turning my attention to some professional activity this week. I have been asked to facilitate an all-church retreat for Community Congregational UCC in Pullman, and then will be doing stewardship presentations at events in Idaho and Oregon. Along the way I am in conversation with the UU Church of Spokane about providing consulting ministerial services. They are a good bunch of folks that have been unlucky in love.

So, lots going on. The late summer weather has been lovely, and we've spent enough time on our bikes to enjoy it, if only riding down the hill to Sally's office and back. As I write this morning, I'm wondering about those of you who may read my ramblings, and am thinking how nice it would be to spend some time catching up, face to face, rather than deepening our virtual relationship. I trust that, in time, we'll get that opportunity.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Kitchen Progress

When last we visited, I had sore knees from tiling, but was feeling pretty good about the progress we were making on the kitchen. The soreness keeps moving from one body part to another as the progress continues, but the feeling of accomplishment remains fairly steady.

We were able to mount the cabinets on the new "window wall" on Friday, and then got the series of base cabinets on the opposite walls installed yesterday. We are looking forward to the templates for the countertops being created this Friday, with their installation 2 weeks after that. In the meantime, I will attempt to turn the eyesore between the lights into a range hood, and will also start work on the wood sill to go across the bottom of the windows above the stove and cabinets.

The only setback we experienced in uncrating the cabinets is that two panels, one 10" by 93", and the other 31" by 93" were delivered unfinished. These panels are supposed to go on either side of the refrigerator, giving it a built-in appearance. Sally just got a call from our former contractor, through whom they were ordered, saying that he would be in touch with the manufacturer about getting them replaced. These parts aren't as time critical as some others, so we're OK with waiting. Before we need them we plan to install all the wall cabinets and the large pantry anyway. There are also holes to cut in the ceiling and roof for the vent and Solatube, and lots of finishing work to keep us occupied.

We have absolutely no regrets about doing this ourselves, other than the sense that we are learning on-the-job just as we get the project finished. If we had only known where we were going to end up, we would have done some things differently in the beginning. Examples of that include our selection of a location for the gas line to the stove (the fit is a bit too tight), the ill-advised decision to follow the directions on filling the joints on the tile subfloor (resulting in difficult tiling and a slightly uneven surface), and our realization on Friday night that we had tiled over the access hole for the wiring for the dishwasher (thanks to some good fortune and a good drill we have power available now).

There will be life after the kitchen. This weekend included a trip to the Tri-Cities to perform a wedding. I am facilitating or leading events the last two weekends in September and the first in October, and even have an interview of sorts tonight for a consulting position. On the horizon is our planned trip to New Zealand to visit Evan and see some of the wonders there. Each and all of these things will be more enjoyable once we know we have gotten the remodeling work done.

Then there are the bathrooms to consider....

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Kitchen Update

At long last, we are starting to feel as if there is light at the end of the tunnel. The tile is down and grouted, and today will be sealed. Yesterday we brought a cabinet in from the garage and removed it from the crate, just to see what we have. It was exciting. We've never had a nice kitchen. I can't help but recall the infamous "Stovesaurus" in Appleton, Wisconsin, sorta like the one pictured here....

That was the same kitchen where I intentionally knocked the accidently super-heated pot off onto the linoleum floor, recreating the "China Syndrome" effect from the Jane Fonda movie.

Then there was the kitchen in Oakland, so small that the refrigerator was down at the end of the hallway. And the Aurora, Colorado kitchen with the ugly, cane-pattern wallpaper that we removed, only to discover an ugly, dark yellow wall beneath.

In Mount Vernon we remodeled all the other rooms, and talked a lot about doing something with the kitchen, but had neither the money nor the clarity of vision to do anything. I remember our grand plan to keep the dogs in the kitchen while we took an all-day trip. Cayenne climbed over the six-foot high barrier and greeted us in the front room we we returned. That kitchen was even too ugly for the dogs.

Thus our excitement as the light appears at the end of this project's tunnel. We have scheduled the countertop template process for September 11th, so we plan to have the base cabinets installed by then. The new range hood will require a hole in the roof, but that's why God created the Sawzall, flashing, and roofing cement. We need a hole in the floor for the copper tubing for the ice maker, but that's not a big deal. I'm uncertain about the old garbage disposal, and the dishwasher that was incorrectly installed before, but those questions will also be resolved in time.

So, step by step we move toward having a sink again, and a stove, the feeling of pride in an attractive room, and a sense of accomplishment at how much we have learned in the process.