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Archive for March, 2010

Warning: This is going to be a whiney post. A real rant.

The running theme in my life for about the past week has been lack of professionalism. Or maybe that’s not quite the right word for it…

The contractor and his crew came back this morning to fix their unfinished business — put in a section of baseboard in the kitchen they forgot, re-grout the floor tiles they made dirty with their filthy wet boots when putting the vanity back in, straighten the faucet they installed crooked, finish part of a trim that was left incomplete, take away the four giant garbage bags of trash, equipment, and boards they left on our side veranda which is shared with neighbors, and hang the shower bar. All of these things — except the shower bar — were mistakes or oversights we had to point out and insist they take care of or they wouldn’t have been done.

So… the men arrive this morning — on time, for once — and proceed with the work. Then they announce they’re done, we say our goodbyes, and a little voice inside tells me to take a quick peek at the bathroom. Where upon I discover the shower bar is hung TOTALLY CROOKED. Now, you would think that before you DRILL HOLES INTO SOMEONE’S LOVELY NEW SPANISH TILES to hang up a shower bar you’d check to make sure it was straight.

So I go running outside as they’re getting in their vehicles and gesture for them to come back, which they do, and I tell them the shower bar is crooked. I have become the girl who won’t go away and I’m hating myself for it, but it’s not my fault, dammit. So they go back up there, now standing with their dirty wet boots (because its pouring rain around here) on the grout they’ve just done a second time, and the contractor starts to re-drill new holes for the shower bar. One of his crew actually looks at the bar and says something like, “it wasn’t that crooked.” Well, yes it was… more than an inch off, and utterly noticeable. And besides, I’m the kind of person who quietly straightens pictures when I’m in peoples’ homes if I can get away with it, so a sloping shower curtain wasn’t something I can ignore.

At last, they left. The shower bar is straight. They are not coming back. Please, God.

The thing is, I like those men — all of them are very nice and pleasant. But where is the attention to detail? The craftsmanship? Doing things right? Where is the contractor’s diligence in checking his crew’s work?

Or is it me? (I really don’t straighten people’s crooked pictures, but I want to.)

But the theme continues… I went for highlights this afternoon. Being now in my fourth decade, I’m starting to get some gray and I’m using highlights for a little camouflage action. I was way overdue and with Easter coming, this head was in desperate need of help.

So I went to my usual place, which I don’t like much, but I can’t seem to find anyone better nearby, and my usual person — the co-owner of the salon — has apparently decided to move to San Francisco and leave her husband to run the business. “She is very happy,” they assured me. Okay. So I get a new girl and she is lovely and sweet, but it now looks like I was going for the trashy look — and if I pull my hair back it appears I’ve let some children paint stripes on my head. It is not pretty.

I know; I’m being negative. These are once again not real problems. But I suppose I’m left wondering if it’s just that I’m a perfectionist. Or if my expectations are too high. Or if it’s really and truly that hard to find people who are true professionals — which means that not only are they skilled, but they do their jobs right, and with pride. Not that you can’t make a mistake, of course, but you know what I mean.

I left a message for the stylist tonight, even though I don’t have time to go in again this week. Given that it’s Holy Week, there are much more important things to turn my head and heart towards… And that whole thing about taking the plank out of your own eye before you reach to take the splinter out of someone else’s? Yeah, I know.

BUT ALL YOU PEOPLE WHO TAKE MY PRECIOUS DOLLARS AND DELIVER HALF-ASSED SERVICES, YOU DRIVE ME CRAZY!

There, I feel a bit better now.

I’m thinking there’s a lesson in here, something God is saying in that funny God way.

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Holy Week begins

I can’t show you any pictures of our bathroom yet because it’s not done. A few things have to be finished by the contractor before we can sand, prime and paint. Stay tuned.

Yesterday was the beginning of Holy Week. With it, we enter the holiest days of the liturgical year, the week where the central events of the passion, death and resurrection of Christ are remembered.

This Saturday night, at the Easter Vigil, which begins at sundown, we will witness 10 people enter the Church at the Baltimore Basilica — which happens to be the oldest cathedral in the country. We’ve been walking with these 10 people since September since we are part of the team who has prepared them, taught them, prayed with and for them, and assisted them in any way we can. The group is diverse in every way and I continue to be amazed at how God moves in people.

I love this time of year and always long to make it reflective and prayerful. But there is so much going on over here… finishing the renovations, work project deadlines, appointments, preparing for my in-laws visit on Friday for five days, food prep, planning the Resurrection Party for our parish after the Easter Vigil service, and getting to the hair salon before I start wearing a head scarf. Not to mention a million other little things, with a possible overnight visit by a friend mid-week. And we will be at church services tonight and Thursday night.

Not complaining here, just processing. I’m a verbal processor. Which is really fun for my husband sometimes. Actually, I do want to complain about the contractor: He’s not a good communicator. Could he just call and confirm when he’s coming, just give me a ball-park? Okay, might need to vent that later. For now, I will move on.

Happy Monday.

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State of our bathroom.

No toilet; no water. That’s the State of the Household tonight.

The toilet had to come out in order to lay the new floor tiles down. The water had to be turned off to remove the vanity. The pop radio station had to be played loudly while we tried to work from home because we can’t leave while the workmen are in the house.

This was a good week for neighborhood friends to go to Hawaii. Plus, our pal Mags is around the corner, willing to share her facilities. Still… what to do in the middle of the night should nature call? This is when you covet two bathrooms.

Communication with our contractor could be a little better. It’s really hard to imagine how everything is supposed to get wrapped up tomorrow. But it sure will be nice to one day get this place back in some kind of order.

State of the upstairs hallway.

State of the bedroom.

You don’t want to see the kitchen. I’m too tired now to take a picture for your viewing pleasure.

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Well… it was too good to be true that we could sail through this renovation!

After ripping out our old tub and shower unit and installing the new tub, our contractor called us upstairs to present us with a little dilemma: The tiles on our floor don’t reach the new tub — there’s a gap now, about 4 inches. The floor tiles there now are old and no longer available. So, we can either fill it in with something else, which will look crappy. Or we can have the old floor ripped out, which means removing the vanity and the toilet, and put in new tiles. Which means forking out more money. Despite the fact that it’s like a sieve has opened up in our bank accounts, we’re going to do it. We don’t want to spend all this time and money and have an unfinished looking floor.

Oh — and putting in the new floor means no toilet for two days. Considering it’s our only bathroom, this wasn’t happy news. Thankfully, friends of ours in the neighborhood are off to Hawaii tomorrow for a week and are letting us use their facilities while they’re gone.

In prayer today, I was reminded that these are all problems of the privileged and I’m not going to allow myself to stress too much about money issues. Last night I was a reeling a bit from the new tally of our adoption costs. But I just know it will work out somehow.

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Sticker shock

I tallied up all our adoption costs tonight — what’s already spent, and what’s coming. I thought I had it all figured out at the beginning of this process, and I’ve been working with that number ever since.

Needless to say, I’m sitting here a little stunned. Would it be uncouth for me to mention actual numbers here? Would it garner us some sympathy? Or turn everyone off from adoption forever?┬áLet’s just say that I thought our upper range would be about $30,000 and I am substantially way off. Think of my age, and then go higher.

I re-calcuated three times, refusing to believe my numbers could be correct — Ethiopia is supposed to be one of the less expensive countries. But a number of things are contributing to the very large number: The additional “sibling fee,” for starters. The double costs for visas and other documents. The two trips — with four or five tickets on the return trip home.

The only thing we were “extravagant” about was the choice of our home study agency. We didn’t shop around — we liked the one we discovered right here in the city. It has an excellent reputation, much experience, and was extremely convenient. But only after we signed on with them did we find out that other home study agencies in the state are substantially less. I don’t regret choosing them at all, but I do realize that’s the one place we could have saved a bit.

This wasn’t a good thing to do just before bedtime in the midst of home renovations we have to pay for in three days.

Maybe I need to go back to night time bar tending.

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If you look up the word “handy” in the dictionary, you will not find my name anywhere near it. I can sometimes pound a nail into a wall or a board, but sadly that’s where it ends for the most part.

So I was bit proud of myself this weekend… I de-wallpapered (not a real word, I know) the bathroom all by my little lonesome. Brian was busy and the deal was that if I’d take on the wallpaper, he’d do all the painting afterwards. Fine by me.

Our bathroom isn’t large, but there are lots of tricky spaces, and the paper was really stuck on there. I found a strategy, however. Not wanting to use harsh chemicals, I combined a little fabric softener and warm water in a spray bottle, and used a scraper for extra help. I was able to get it off in two layers.

I found the whole thing strangely therapeutic. I get very perfectionistic about projects like this for some reason — every little spot MUST COME OFF, and then I start getting into perfecting my technique and there’s probably humming or singing along with it, but I can’t say for sure because I’m too focused on my task to really notice.

This is the only room in the house that was wallpapered before we moved in and while we didn’t love it, we didn’t hate it either. When that happens you tend to live with something longer than intended.

Tomorrow morning the workmen arrive. I’m hoping there will be no surprises when they rip out the tub and shower — you just never know with these 100 year-old houses.

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St. Joseph’s Day

St. Joseph and the Christ Child

Today is the feast of St. Joseph. It’s the day the Church pauses to celebrate the humble and courageous man who agreed to become the husband of Mary and earthly father of Jesus.

I’ve always loved Joseph. And I’ve been especially asking his intercession a lot for our children, since he was an adoptive dad himself. He faced many obstacles and tough times, and although there is no record of anything he said, his actions spoke loudly.

Normally, Fridays in Lent are days of fasting and abstinence from meat (and usually sweets and alcohol). Today, however, it was celebration time… so we headed to a new favorite restaurant close by for some delicious Mexican food and margaritas. We toasted Joseph, as well as the new tub we just bought. Joseph was a carpenter and probably a stone mason so I’m sure he gets the whole renovations thing.

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