Category Archives: The Renovation

Hotel Hornet

One of the unintended consequences of the home renovation this far has been an influx of unwanted bugs and critters on the inside of my home.  These are creatures that I try my best to avoid in the great outdoors, so imagine my horror to find them in my kitchen and den on a regular basis.  Now, before your skin gets the creepy crawlies, don’t be too alarmed.  We suffer no roaches here and our ant condo association days are on hiatus for the time being.  However, we’ve recently been host to a spate of hornets.

Many years ago, when we moved to Charlotte, there was a team by the name of the Hornets here and their mascot was the cutest thing!  It had unreasonably large dark eyes and a sort of pointy-down bottom covered in furry black and yellow stripes.  How quaint!  Maybe not-so-much in real life.  Besides, I never forgave them for the “bundling” incident when they tried to package funding for their (wholly unnecessary) new arena within the bond referendum for arts and science.  After that, the city of Charlotte held the door open for them and invited them to be brats elsewhere, hoping the screen door did hit them where the Good Lord split them on their way out.

But I digress.  Real, actual hornets have not so much invaded 714 Union, but they’ve been showing up like unwanted tourists in Washington DC during the spring bloom of the dogwoods.  One day as my daughter stretched out on the floor to watch iCarly or Wizards of Waverly Place or some such drivel, one of the nasty creatures (the hornets, not iCarly) stung her bony little hand.  How rude!  And this morning, when I arrived in my kitchen and turned on the light to give my beloved spouse the gift of freshly brewed coffee, there lay one brazenly napping on the white tile behind the sink.  It was so inert, I delighted myself to think it dead.  Before reaching out to sweep it away, though, I decided I’d better be sure.  “You alive, little sucker?” I cooed at it.  The hornet played possum.  I blew on it ever so gently then, held my breath and stepped back a bit and waited.


I woke it, apparently and it was not the least bit gracious about my intrusion.  It began to flutter its translucent wings and try to rouse itself to no avail.  Perhaps it had been drinking my vodka and was slow to move.  Well, that thought was more than I cared to entertain, so I reached for…ant spray.  Snap!  It was all I had, so I made do.  Blasting it with three long bursts, I declared, “DIE, you ugly thing – DIE!”  To my surprise, it obliged, but in a most horrific way.

I don’t believe I’ve ever actually seen anything or anyone “curl up and die” but I’ll be darned if it didn’t do just that in slow and dramatic fashion.  Its body curled into a tight C as its multitudinous flailing legs kicked in a furious attempt to fight it.  It’s wings moved so fast as to appear to be in a strobe light with vague flashes reflecting off them.  And as the fight to remain alive and most likely rise up and put a welt on my nose continued, the stench of the spray attacked my eyes with such ferocity that I almost regarded the insect with pity.  “Man that’s gotta burn!” I thought as I watched its final spasms.

I reached for a napkin and swiped the corpse from the counter top.  “You’ll hurt no one in my family today, sir,” I chided and tossed the lifeless form into the trash.


Hitting a dry spell

Lately, I’ve hit a dry spell. Not only is it not raining in my house any more, I can’t seem to come up with anything that entertains ME, so how am I going to publish anything fun for anyone else? So, speaking of not raining in my house, the renovations are coming along. Just a quick bit of what’s new with us for those who are wondering:

Laundry has moved upstairs. YEAH! Have now informed the children that it’s on them to do their own laundry since it’s only feet from their rooms.  (Preparing them for when sweatshop is installed in August).
Bathrooms are plumbed, electrified and roughed in.  Pipes in; toilets not yet.
Doors ordered, tile ordered, builder ordered to install them when they arrive.
Wall replaced in my bedroom.  Do not miss looking at naked insulation around the bathroom door.  Would prefer to see more attractive nudity in my bedroom. (LALALALALA…TMI:  I’m-not-listening! I’m-not-listening! I’m-not-listening!)
Back porch poured so I don’t have to “leap” in and out of my back door any more.
New roofs built over additions and in places where leaky roof and sucky tarps formerly existed
Bathroom and wall underneath stairs long gone bye-bye;
Wide open view to the back of the house obscured only by sheet rock dust
Crystal Bowersox rocking on American Idol…oh sorry, that’s my other life.
Ellen a good addition, Kara Diguordi still on my last nerve…Idol again…

Stay tuned (to Moonshine Musings) for a host of many, many more changes soon to be photo documented.  You can stay tuned to Idol, too.  What else are you going to do on a Tuesday night?


Construction continues…changes outside and changes inside.

Outside the house, there are several changes:  a new roof, a new dormer, new windows, a large pile of dirt where my lawn used to be, and most importantly, a bright blue port-o-potty by the front porch.  But as I have been overheard to say on many occasions, I am so happy to be underway with construction, that you could pretty much hit me in the face with a shovel and I’d just smile at you.

Inside the house, though, there has also been a development.  I engaged this week in a passive-aggressive and self-serving game of “If I don’t do it, it won’t get done.”  I’m not proud of it, but I will not lie.  Indeed, no one wins when one vies to be “right” at all costs.  But I have gotten ahead of myself.

It started with the washing machine breaking the day the back of the house was torn off.  Of course, that day was the coldest on record in NC in 57 years.  I threw in a load of laundry just before I left to run the kids to Catechism (that’s the Catholic version of Sunday School and it happens for us on Wednesday night).  Naturally, the kids were unable to find shoes and folders and whatnot and I was rushing them to leave as I shut the washer door and pushed the start button.  A moment later, when I was rooting around for my keys, my son, Bryce, came to report that the washing machine was “leaking.”  Dejavu…a la the raining kitchen.  I dashed into the laundry area to find sudsy water pouring out of the bottom of the machine.  Long story short, I took the kids to Catechism, Frank got the water to stop and the machine has stood idle ever since.

Unfortunately, I’ve had to make a few trips to the local laundry mat.  “What?” You say?  “Go somewhere to do laundry?”  I know, riiight??? Although my bank is now owned by a western entity that is a little looser about fashion than us East Coasters, let’s just say that “commando” is frowned upon – even on casual Friday.  So, it’s off to the laundry mat I have gone to do a few loads at a time a couple of times per week.  In order that I don’t spend more than the federal budget for any one visit, I bring home the wet items to put into the working dryer.  The dryer, of course, is located in the indoor/outdoor portion of my house now known as the freaking icebox! But I forgot — it can’t be a box, because it only has THREE SIDES!   BTW, tarps are even suckier walls than they are roofs…no, they’re exactly as sucky.)

Yes, I am a part time martyr.  But I digress…

Where was I?  Uhhh…passive-aggressive game/no one wins by trying to be right/broken washer/dryer in room with no walls during a freezing winter…ah yes:  toilet paper!

Toilet paper.  After the “joy” of the past several weeks, you could say I’m a bit pinched about the little things.  I could do the whole song and dance about not feeling appreciated and doing all the domestic chores, yadda, yadda, but I’m preaching to the choir:  NOBODY feels appreciated and EVERYBODY feels like they do everything around their house, right?  But for me it came down to being sick and tired of finding myself stranded one time too many.  The empty roll of toilet paper on the rack mocked me one time too many.  I stretched over to grab another roll out of the jumbo pack and started to replace the paper then decided I would NOT be the one to change the roll.  My kids know how to change it and so does my beloved spouse.  I decided I would wait and see who would give in first.  I would set the roll just above the rack on the counter top and watch what happened, all the while stewing each day that I was in fact a selfless and slavishly driven toilet-paper-roll-changer.  HA!  There will be  a great silent stand off.  Paper rolls will accumulate ad-infinitum.  They will spill off the counter top and into the sink.  They will fill the floor, tub and eventually, take over the bathroom.  Perhaps one day, my renovated house will include an unused bathroom filled with thousands of unchanged empty toilet paper rolls.  But  I will not cave.

And then it happened.  I came home this evening after a long drive home and bolted upstairs to the bathroom for some quick relief.  And what did I see?  I saw that I was wrong not as right as I’ve ever been.  I saw that I would not be the Charmin Martyred Matron, after all.  I saw that someone in the family (probably Frank) is a loving, caring and giving person.  Changes are happening in my house and in my heart.  It is good to be wrong.

Now, if I could just get someone to run to the laundry mat for me!

Middle age

Last weekend, during “the blizzard” of Charlotte 2010, I attended a poetry reading which featured my friends and fellow writers Anne Hicks and Richard Alan Taylor.  At the close of the performance time for the featured readers there was an open mic session.  Anne made me aware of this before hand, but I had been poetically dry for a while and didn’t feel like I had anything new to offer.  That afternoon, before I left, the snow began to fall and I began to fantasize about quiet, snowy mornings and hunkering down with something good to read.  There is a fireplace in my kitchen and when the home renovations are finished, there will be a sitting area in front of that fireplace with cozy chairs, a floor lamp and coffee table.  At that time, my roof was still leaking and the possibility of snow melt finding its way into my kitchen cupboards, made the fantasy all the richer.

As of today, the new roof is complete:  the house is water tight and I am excited enough about that fact to re-live that warm, wonderful feeling that growing older and more comfortable is within easy reach.  Knowing how blessed I am to live in America where I can vividly picture this blissful possibility, I share the following poem that I wrote last week for open mic at Green Rice Galleries

Middle Age

Hot buttered toast
Crisp fried maple bacon
And a bowl of cheese grits

Taken with tea,
The morning medications,
And the paper

The joy of quiet simplicity
The click of the heater turning on
To squeeze out the damp winter morning

Elicits a sigh over the kitchen table
The crinkled newsprint pages turning…
It is peaceful

This is middle age.


A hard rain

“…And itsa hard, itsa hard, itsa hard…Itsa haaaaard rain gonna fall,” Dylan sang in my head last Sunday night.  Bob Dylan has no bleeping clue about hard rain.

The renovation on our 150 year old house finally began in earnest after 7 years of stops, starts, trials, tribulations and of course, “the worst economy since the Great Depression.”  A construction loan was not easy to come by, but we managed.  To say we were excited about it is like saying Mark MaGuire used Flintstones chewable vitamins during the season he broke the all time record batting average. (I had been rooting for Sammy Sosa).

Be that as it may, when the project began “from the top down” I danced a jig knowing that the leak that began in my roof two years prior would be drying up.  No more “putting out the buckets” when the forecast called for precipitation.

Day one went very well.  Demolition started on the roof over the kitchen, and the fireplace that separated the kitchen from our dining room and our master bedroom with the impending addition was mostly obliterated.  I was one step closer to my very own, first ever bathroom for ME (and my husband) that first sunny day and oh, the joy.

The following days of the week brought drizzle and a visit from the engineer who okayed our plans to support the new roof and continue in the addition.  Before I knew it, the weekend rolled around and a tarp was nailed up to protect us from the elements. The builder and crew left the premises while I dreamed of the flurry of activity that would be occurring on Monday.

But with the weekend came not only a work stoppage and a flimsy tarp system, but God’s answer to every prayer raised in the Western Hemisphere during the prior two years for a relief from drought conditions.  God responded with a resounding YES on Sunday night.  As an added bonus, He sent wind for the wind farms, too, but accidentally to the Southeast instead of the western plains, and they tore the tarps away like a Band-Aid from a scabbed knee.

As the Vikings and the Saints duked it out for a trip to the 2010 Super Bowl, the leak started at the corner cabinet over the countertop.  We’d had that experience before, so we put out our little 8 ounce square Tupperware to catch the drip.  Ha, ha.  The remedy turned out to be like holding back the mighty Mississippi with a table spoon.

Thinking everything was under control, I returned to watch the devolvement of Brett Favre.  I heard an ominous splash which sounded like water that did not hit it’s Tupperware target, so I went to investigate.  The entryway to my kitchen contained a small pond.  I called out to my husband and ran to the laundry room to retrieve a towel or two and a bucket.  Think faucet here; think a steady stream raining from the ceiling.  I placed the bucket underneath the waterfall and held my hands out, gaping.  Where the previous owner had drilled holes to hang her artsy-fartsy baskets from the ceiling was a new sprinkler system.

Frank and I managed to get the situation under control with two buckets and 4 towels.  The mop was on standby for when the rain stopped.  Again: ha, ha.  After having wrung dusty water from dish towels which were now assisting the Tupperware under the original leak at the corner cabinet, I stepped toward the sink to wash my hands.  On the way, I noticed a new sensation.  It wasn’t exactly rain, but it was more like a kind of pleasant mist akin to what one would walk through in a theme park on a scorching summer day.  It was emanating from the vicinity of our refrigerator.  Frank looked up to find the cabinets above the fridge oozing a steady stream of ashy colored liquid which bounced off the top of the fridge and gaily sprinkled onto yours truly.

Believe it or not, the fun did not stop there.  A peculiar crashy-splashy “tink-tink-tink” thrummed in the pantry.  We looked panic-stricken at each other like 2 pre-teens caught with a cigarette.  Water was flowing from the attic access down the walls, and onto the shelving where we store our “dry goods.”  Quickly, we began relocating box food, Tupperware, paper bags, cans, and every other sundry item from the metal shelves to the kitchen table.  Placing another bucket on the top shelf to collect the majority of the flow and three beach towels on the floor to stem the tide into the kitchen, we thought we had it all under control.  Ha, ha?  You betcha.

The Saints had long ago crushed the hopes of the Vikings and we were tired.  I emptied a few of the buckets and wiped the counter tops and we retired upstairs to read a bit before checking on our kitchen, firmly believing that the rain would slow down soon.  I had a feeling that after reading a chapter, the counter would probably be a bit flooded, but that was easily remedied with another couple of dish towels.

Around midnight I returned downstairs to find the pond in the entryway had become a lake.  The pre-drilled basket holes were not enough for the rainstorm, so rain was now coming through the door frame to the kitchen as well as the dining room.  The dining room fireplace was leaking from both sides and the flood had spilled also into that room and a small creek was making its way toward the electrical system that supported our computers and my husband’s “home office.”  Calling out an expletive with no regard for the sleeping children, I brought my spouse running.  Several towels, more buckets, bowls and Tupperware and a significant mopping later, we nearly had it under control again.

When a darkening seam developed on the ceiling between the pantry and the stove, Frank decided he’d better grab a flashlight and head to the roof to do something about the tarps.  I could hear him up there in the deluge, hammering and cursing and I realized the wind could very easily sweep him off the roof or he could slip and fall.  The sky opened up and pored like I had not heard it until that point.  I called on all of our dead grandparents, my parents, the Blessed Virgin and the Lord Himself to protect my husband.  God knew I did not want to be left alone to deal with this leaky house!

Frank made it safely off the roof and came back inside looking very much like a wet yard dog that has been kicked one time too many.  I loved him more at that moment possibly than I did when I married him almost 20 years ago.  Again, thinking we had it under control with the re-nailed tarps he could get in place, we went upstairs to retire.

You guessed it.  The bedroom fireplace had leaked.  Water gushed toward the bed and into the carpet.  Bucket, towel, mop…bucket, towel, mop…it was the final insult.  I went downstairs to tend the counter top, the kitchen doorway, the pantry and dining room. Looking around, I counted 14 towels, 7 buckets, 2 pots, 1 roasting pan, 3 Tupperware bowls and a large storage bin and completely lost it.  This was a disaster.  Then, realizing that this would probably be the last time this would happen to us once the renovation was complete, I was able to take heart.  “It is just an inconvenience,” I said to myself.  “It could be worse; I could be in Haiti with the earthquake victims who have no homes at all.”

It sucked no less, but I felt a little better about it anyway.

At 2 am the rain finally started to taper off a bit.  We did one more round of emptying, wiping, mopping and swabbing and went back up and read so we could unwind a little.  By 3 am, there was blissful sleep.  At five, the alarm went off and the school system called to say flooding had delayed school.  Excellent; I had two hours to set things aright.  The contractor came at eight and work began again with renewed effort to replace the roof immediately.

Today there is tar paper and a schedule to begin adding shingles.  The addition over the kitchen is framed and roofed.  I could almost breathe a relieved sigh, but…

Tomorrow there is a forecast for rain and snow.  Ha, ha.  Shut up, Dylan.

Rain and pain part II

Note to my readers…


Week 1: Rain and Pain

Yeah, I’m still smiling.  Week one of my renovation brought rain 3 days out of 5.  However, in that time, I still saw a little progress and got a story.

Day one, the shingles and debris rained down.  I danced in my kitchen.

Day two, red clay and brick dust poured down the chimney as it was being removed from the space where my new master suite would go.  (Don’t panic, public…there are fireplaces in every room.  Only one works, however.)  My husband, Frank, had the men tape off the upstairs and downstairs fireplaces with plastic and that stopped the flow of lung-clogging powder.  What a relief.  I had almost considered investing in a Swiffer.  Glad that didn’t happen:  for Pete’s sake, it’s a paper towel on a stick!!

Day three, rain.  The engineer arrived and assured Frank that the plan for the build out would be solid in the new room.

Day 4, rain and story.  Although the rain came down and the framers could not continue work upstairs, we began the replacement of the windows in our home.  Some of these are from the renovation done in 1920 and all are in bad shape.  When I got home, I asked my spouse if anything had been done because I had not noticed any change.  He smiled at me and shook his head.  In his best southern church-lady voice, he crooned “Well, Bless His Heaaaaaart!”  and told me the first of what is sure to be many stories to come. Our front and side porches offer cover from the rain so that installation on downtairs windows that didn’t require a new sash could begin.  The first few went in just fine, but the third was giving the installer a bit of trouble.  It appeared to be too big.  He called my husband over to show him some quirks, thinking that the project manager had ordered the wrong size windows.  Frank assured him that the gentleman who did the measuring came out for a good half hour and checked it twice before ordering.

“Well,” the installer began, “the ones in front are about a quarter inch too short and the one back here is too big.”  I wonder if a visible lightbulb appeared over both their heads at the same time.  The installer got out his measuring tape, Frank went to the front porch to check the sizes of the windows stacked there.  Sure enough, there were a few windows that varied in size.  The installer promised to return the next day to correct the problem.

Day 5:  framers and window installer due to appear.  Rain appears instead.  Looks like rain on Monday, too.  I should still be able to get some windows installed sometime next week.  Or re-installed.  Possibly.

“Bless His Heaaaaaaart!”