Monday, October 25, 2004

One thing off my never-ending list

Monday after a busy weekend.

I don't really want to be back working, but at least I can look back with satisfaction at having actually accomplished something. The shed is painted at last! Winter can come and blast it with snow, and it will withstand the onslaught. Plus, it looks amazing, and every time I pass a window that looks onto the back yard, I stop and enjoy the view.

We didn't originally plan to paint it a different color from our current house color, but I couldn't find the paint chip that matched the house - we had a bit of reconstruction to do on the screen-porch a year ago, and we managed to come pretty close on the paint color then, even though the current housepaint may be 20-some years old (one "benefit" of aluminum siding is that paint lasts far longer than your fondness for its color). Given that it appeared to be lost, I had to choose between trying to re-do the match (possibly ending up with a third paint color that didn't quite match either the original or the reconstructed bit) or using the shed to test out a new color. We decided to do the latter, and I'm quite pleased with the results.

It's absolutely amazing how different a paint color can appear depending on its surroundings. On the paint chip, the color we ended up with looks like a yellowish olive green, and fairly dark. In the can, it's even more yellow and kind of brown - possibly because the can is sitting on the lawn, which is still unseasonably green. If I'd first seen it in the can, and had to make my judgement on that basis alone, there is no way that color would have made it onto a wall anywhere I might have to look at it - it's actually pretty ugly. But put it on a wall, surrounded with white trim and in the sunlight, and it's a lovely dark sage green. Go figure.

I admire like crazy those designers who can pick paint colors based on paint chips. When I do it that way, I end up with results I can't quite stand to live with, so I've given that up. The only way to be sure is to buy the smallest possible quantity of paint in any colors I'm considering, and to slap them up in big patches on the wall(s) to be painted. At one time, our dining room had a rather patchwork effect going, as I was trying to find a good wall color there. And in that case, too, we ended up with a color I would never have considered originally. Weird.

The shed had three different paint colors on it while we were trying to figure things out. The first one was a color I'd seen in an interior room several years ago at a Parade of Homes house, and liked so much I'd done some research to find out what it was. Internally, it reads as a medium sage green (although in the can, it looks like damp concrete). Externally, it was a perfect match for the gray color used as primer on the siding you buy at Home Depot. I had a terrible time figuring out whether or not I had painted all of the section I was testing it on. So that was a non-starter. Our second choice was one shade darker on the same paint chip thingie, and it seemed like it should have been perfect, but it was bland on the wall. At least I could tell if I'd painted something or not.

By the time we'd definitively rejected the first two shades, I'd managed to lose the paint chip. And the company that makes that specific paint is open at hours most inconvenient to a homeowner who works - I think the only time I find them open when I can get there is on a Saturday morning. Fortunately for us, Home Depot can match their colors - as long as I can remember their names. Which I couldn't in this case. That's where having an architect for a brother-in-law is incredibly handy. He has one of those cool wheels that holds every paint chip offered by the company that's never open. So I called him and in the course of about 15 minutes, he was able to give me the name and formula number. Armed with that information, I went and had a quart mixed up, and that one was the winner.

Before snow flies, I think we'll end up painting the whole garage that the shed is attached to, even if it makes us look a bit mismatched for the winter. My husband thought we should keep going, painting an occasional section of the house as the weather permits, but I'd rather stop once we have a single entire building done than have the house look part-finished for months on end. But no matter what we end up doing, the parts of the shed that were raw wood and siding last week are painted today, and the view from the kitchen is quite gratifying.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

A Visit to the Orthodontist, Compounded by Homemaking Magazines

What is it with orthodontists? Don't they realize they're a service industry?

My daughter had an appointment with the orthodontist this morning, at 9:00 am. Note that school starts at 7:35 am. The obvious conclusion is that if she has an orthodontist appointment, she can't be in school. It also means that if she has an orthodontist appointment, someone has to take her there, and that someone cannot be at work during that time. In fact, that someone's current employer thinks that orthodontist appointments should be counted as "vacation" which is rare and precious, as opposed to "sick leave" which never gets fully used. This does not please me. So I guess my overall attitude toward the office there wasn't exactly positive going in.

I spent her "15 minute" appointment (for which we left our house at 8:30 am) reading through Better Homes and Gardens and becoming rapidly discontented with my life. Why can't I live on a well-kept picturesque fruit farm somewhere surrounded by cherubic blonde two year olds dressed in perfect little printed corduroy dresses and willing to help muck the stables in them without getting a single stain? Why don't my thrift store finds look quaint and decorative, instead of just rusted? Why can't I work part time for an investment firm and still be able to afford a charming retro townhouse in San Francisco? Why do I never cook anything that could be described as a coulis? They had a recipe in there for "pecorino shortbread" - some sort of appetizer base thingie made with Romano cheese (or Parmesan, if you must). I can't even envision the lifestyle that includes pecorino shortbread more than once - and that one time, it would have been prepared and served by a professional caterer hired by a distant acquaintance.

So I wasn't really ready to be cooperative when they finally released the kid from the torture chamber and told me that her next appointment (to get the stupid things off at long last) would take 1 hour and had to be in the morning. And that it would be followed closely by a retainer-fitting, lasting 15 minutes, but that they didn't have anything late enough in the afternoon to keep me from having to cut out from work early to get her there.

I didn't break anything, not even the pen I dropped in disgust. I didn't even raise my voice. But I embarrassed my daughter, and disconcerted the lady behind the desk who was making the appointments - enough to make her say "Ma'am" in a shocked and annoyed voice. I bet she only works there part time, and is somehow able to afford to live on a cute and tidy ranch up in the mountains somewhere, surrounded by her charming cherubic blond two-year old twins, who feed the llamas every morning without being asked. Those would be the llamas who set the breakfast table each day and decorate it with sprays of seasonal flowers or berries grown right there on the ranch.

After I dropped the daughter at school and came back home in order to get back to work (never mind that I'm sitting here with all this work opportunity and using it to blog), it was 10:15. Nearly two hours spent for her "15 minute" appointment. She missed 2-1/2 hours of school because I was weak and allowed myself to be persuaded that she didn't have to go in before the appointment. My bad there. On the other hand, if I'd sent her to school first, the entire morning would have been lost in retrieving her beforehand - my lost time would have exceeded the 2-1/2 hour point.

I don't know. Maybe I'm asking too much. But wouldn't it be a really great thing if people whose primary clientele has to be somewhere every weekday during the 8-5 timeframe, accordingly set up their own schedules so as to minimize that overlap? Why can't the orthodontist (substitute your favorite inconvenient professional here) have office hours from 10-6 or noon-8 or on (gasp!) Saturdays, so that their clients don't have to miss school (and the parents of those clients miss work) in order to get their teeth straightened? I mean, I find myself pulling all-nighters for my (expletive deleted) clients more often than I'd care to contemplate, despite the fact that they ordinarily want my services during the daylight hours. Can't the orthodontist make a little effort here?

And they need to dump all of the "our life is way better than yours" magazines from the waiting room. I might have been okay if it hadn't been for that.

Monday, October 18, 2004

Minor Bird Rescue

I don't know if it's just that I'm home and working in the den these days, or if there's something sinister going on, but we've had two or three birds nail the big den window within the last week or so. Maybe it's time to get it cleaned so that it's more reflective - or maybe we should splash mud all over it so that it's more obviously a solid surface. I don't know which would be more likely to deter a bird from trying to join us in the house.

The latest victim of our attack window was a female (I think) robin. Hearing the thump, I saw her fall into the Jupiter's Beard below the window, and went out to see if she was okay. Apparently she wasn't - at that moment, anyway - since she let me pick her up. My daughter's home from school today (Fall Mini-Break, whatever that is), so I had her grab the dog to keep her from investigating too. I don't think her motives and mine would have been the same, somehow.

We put the bird into a shoebox lined with old towels (apparently, that's a no-no, because birds' toes can get tangled in terrycloth loops; it's amazing what you can learn on the internet. You should use old t-shirts should you ever have a similar need.) and left her outside, where I could check on her through the window. Despite being stunned, she was breathing really hard, and we could tell she didn't really want us around. I called the vet, who gave me a number to an urban wildlife rescue place, whose phone message told me to call a third number if I needed help with an injured bird. The number for injured birds informed me that their season was "over" (someone forgot to tell the birds), so I got on the Web.

What did we ever do for useful information before Google, anyway? I typed in "injured robin", and although I did find a few sites for Robin Hood legends, I found one that dealt specifically with my problem - what to do for a bird that tries and fails to fly through a plate glass window. Apart from the terrycloth towel faux pas, we had apparently done pretty much the right thing. And when I went out to replace the towels with an old t-shirt, the bird stood up and flew off. I'm glad she's okay.

Friday, October 15, 2004

Friday - At Last!

Lord, how I thought this week would never end! Fall is starting to set in with a vengeance, and it's so dark in the mornings that the stars (that's plural - I could still identify constellations easily) were out quite brilliantly when I went out to get the paper today. I'm a morning person, but when 6:00 am looks just like 1:00 am to an unbiased observer, it's too dark to get up. Doesn't Daylight Savings end soon? I just checked my planner, and it's not listed in either October or November. Either the government's decided we should just stick with Daylight Savings Time this year, or the folks at Franklin-Covey don't have a hard time getting up on winter mornings in the dark, so they don't think anyone else does. Certainly hope it's the latter.

We spent a Christmas week in Seattle a few years back, surprising my husband's oldest daughter, who lives up there with her mom. I'd been up that way a couple of times and never really understood why it has a reputation for yucky weather and general outdoor unpleasantness before that trip. I get it now. During December, the sun rises in Seattle (in Standard Time, mind you) after 10:00 am - and is pretty well set by 3:30 pm! How do they get any work done there? We spent the entire vacation sleeping - no mean feat when we shared the room with my mother-in-law, who was on blood thinners, and consequently needed the room's temperature set around 90 the entire trip (one night, I was so hot I spent about an hour in the bathroom with the door shut, just breathing cold air through an open window).

It's been a rough week on fronts other than morning darkness, though. For starters, I spent one morning having fun at the dentist's (see below). My teeth don't hurt much anymore. Then I had a last-minute job interview and am still sweating the results from one I did last week, for a job I really want. Combined with the fact that I really don't want my current job, the whole job hunting thing is very stressful. Based on my anecdotal experience, the economy appears to be picking up around here. In the past two weeks, I've had two interviews, both unsolicited by me, and a call about another. If nothing else, the odds seem to be improving.

It was really sunny this morning, but about noon, the clouds rolled in and now it looks like it's seriously considering snow. Smells a bit like it too. Around here, because of the wind patterns and the location of the stockyards, impending snow smells faintly of cow manure. Well, I'm ready for it - bought a box of firelogs a while back, and we still have some on hand. Brought the impatiens plants in off the screen porch last night. I don't know if they'll survive the winter indoors or not, but it's worth a try - they grew huge out there this summer, thanks to the drip irrigation that we put in. Nothing like three minutes of water daily to help a tropical annual flourish.

Anyway, the weekend beckons, without much in the way of plans to take the place of doing hardly anything. A little puttering, a little housework, a little shopping. One of our nieces is coming to spend the night Saturday, and we might go to a corn maze or something. A "to do" list full of little stuff.

Sounds good to me.

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


About the middle of last week, I started to notice that one of my lower molars had become both temperature and pressure sensitive - it sort of ached when I drank cold water or hot tea or ate anything hard and crunchy. Not much, but enough to make me reconsider using that side of my mouth for those things. And I thought it would be a good idea to see the dentist.

My appointment was this morning, and she found a crack running across the top of the tooth, under a filling, that was the likely culprit. I'm not sure I realized when I set up the appointment just what that might mean. It meant a crown. Before I left the dentist's office, some percentage of my tooth had been ground away and I'd had my mouth filled with gooey modeling compound no fewer than 5 times.

The dentist tells me that bottom molars are a little slow to react to anesthesia. We had a lot of time to discuss how slow they are - I think I must have been sitting there for an hour before I couldn't feel her squirting water on the cracked tooth. I lost count of the syringes of Zylocaine (or whatever it was) she emptied into my jaw.

It's starting to wear off now, and I'm wondering if I did the right thing. Because now my tooth hurts just by existing, and the hinge of my jaw aches from being open so long. And I have a sort of feeling that a headache is looming as well.

This is where the whole "working from home" thing starts to lose its glamour, I think. If I decide to bag it for the remainder of the afternoon, I remain at risk of people calling me here with stupid work-related questions that are hard to answer when my mouth works properly, let alone when I can't articulate some words without screaming - which also hurts. Not their fault or anything, since I told them where to find me.

In two weeks, I'll be getting the permanent crown, as well as a night guard to keep me from gritting my teeth in that area. I'm 100% sure that's what caused the problem in the first place, so I hope it will help.

It's all stress-related. I also hope to make an appointment with my daughter's acupuncturist (she's subject to migraines, and acupuncture is supposed to be one of the ways to make them go away permanently), because it's supposed to be good for stress-related things. Like insomnia. Insomnia is how I know that I grit my teeth, because I wake up at 3:00 am daily and find that they're tightly clenched together.

Something better start working quickly, because I don't want to do this again anytime soon.

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Satanic Queen of the Freshmen

So the daughter has been participating in the school play for the past month as a member of the stage crew. I'm cool with that; it's the first extracurricular activity she's really been enthusiastic about, and it's something I did in high school and adored. She's been staying after school for ever-longer periods as the date of the play approaches, requiring a parent to fetch her - and the school is not exactly in our neighborhood. More like a half-hour drive on the freeways. But it's cool, like I said, because she's getting involved, and it gives us some leverage to exert if her grades start slipping.

Well, yesterday in the car, she's telling me all about the events of the day, and she tells me that she and fellow stage crew members are going to make their own crew t-shirts. Black with long sleeves and brown lettering so that they can wear them while shifting scenery, and complete with nicknames for everyone. Her nickname?

"Satanic Queen of the Freshmen"


I mean, it's not like I was praying that she'd go through her adult life as "Muffy" or anything like that, but this really is taking things to the opposite extreme. She swears to me that the "Satanic" part only refers to the fact that her birthday is on Halloween (I'll expand on that below), and that the "Queen of the Freshmen" alludes to her take-charge nature and lack of proper awe for upperclassmen. It's a euphemism for "bossy". She takes after her father, I swear.

The best part of a nickname like that is that, being as long as it is, it probably won't last more than a couple of weeks. And that's when swimming starts, so she'll be able to exchange it for something more...aquatic. Or something.

So, about the whole Halloween birthday thing, as promised. First, it really is her birthday - I was there and I remember. Anyway, a while back, my husband was out in our garage doing something, and he was suddenly besieged by a bunch of little boys who live a couple of houses down the cul-de-sac from us (I told you this was suburbia). What with one thing and another, the talk turned to holidays, and he let slip that our daughter's favorite holiday was Halloween, because it was also her birthday.

"That's the Devil's Day," said one of the boys. "She must be bad, if her birthday's on the Devil's Day."

Yeah. Gimme that prime-time religion.

These kids' parents are home-schooling them so that they can have a say in whom they associate with. I would think that turning them loose saying things like that would do most of their work for them.

It follows as a matter of course that we're turning the front of our yard into a vision of Hell this year - as much as I can stand to drive by, anyway (I don't like scary movies). Just to make sure I don't have to listen to that stuff very often.

Did I mention that the stage crew T-shirts are going to have cockroach pictures on them, because that's how the play's director refers to the crew?

How feminine.