Thursday, September 18, 2014

No Machinery. No Hard Hats.

The den came down on Monday.

When the word “demolition” was first mentioned I had “move that bus!” TV reality show like thoughts in my head.

I certainly expected machinery. 

And hard hats.

I watched said machinery take down Carisa’s house.

So I didn’t dream it up.

I realize now that our builder never actually mentioned a word about machinery in the same sentence as “demolition”.

Or hard hats.

 I just naturally filled in the blanks 
and fully planned to have a picture taken 
with me ON the machinery.

Possibly wearing a hard hat.

But early Monday morning the only thing that rolled into my driveway was a normal size truck and a man on a bicycle.

Yes! He rode his bike to my house.

To tear it down.

I love that and find it incredibly funny 
at the same time.

Two men went to work on the den with a hammer and a crow bar.

They took down each wooden plank, board by board.

No sledge hammers.

No crashing.

No smashing.

HGTV has really ruined me on the 
expectations of home improvement.

Thanks a lot, Property Brothers!

As one man started on the wood siding, another was on the roof taking off the shingles.

After a few hours and my view still looked like this:

I wanted to go out and grab his hammer 
and start knocking down the den myself.

A dumpster was delivered later in the morning and I snapped this picture for Monte.

Nothing excites that man quite like an empty dumpster.

It’s like a blank canvas to an artist. 

Monte had ALL KINDS of ideas of how to fill it 
with 15-year-old paint cans and old yard chemicals.

Monte and I were absolutely convinced (with all the leaks this room has had in the past) that this part of the house was completely rotten and could be pushed over by hand.

Not so! By the looks of all the tugging and pulling and pushing and hammering, it was remarkably solid!

Monte and I were also preparing ourselves for the discovery of termites because

1) The number of dead stink bugs I found in the den cabinets.

2) Last winter's lice infestation.

3) Our neighbor found termites in her house a few years ago when she added on. (They probably just shooed them right on out of her yard to ours, right?)


Praise God, we didn’t have termites! 

We had carpenter ants.

There were tunnels and street corners and intersections 
and apparently a mayor and city council 
because they had been there for some time.

The builder showed me what one looked like and I was like, 

Oh hey, I’ve seen him before. INSIDE the house.


Our interior French Doors have now become our exterior doors.

And not to brag, but I get this sweet view every day right from my living room.

Our dog Nigel is just beside himself. 

The den is where his food and water used to be.

His bed.

His toys. 

His best view of the squirrels and birds from the top of my red chair.

He can’t quite get used to the change.

We put his bed in our room upstairs.

His toys in the living room.

His food and water in the kitchen.

He walks around sighing loudly with his nub of a tail down and his head hanging low because no one asked him and NONE OF THIS WILL DO.

Yesterday, I caught him banging his head on the French doors MORE THAN ONCE trying to open them to see what in the world has happened to life as he once knew it.

He’s also afraid of the backyard.

Maybe because he doesn’t recognize it anymore.

Or maybe because it’s just a painful reminder of what once was.

As Monte put it this morning,

“You are a dog. Get over it and poop in the backyard!”

Can you hear the sighing?

Interesting lack of compassion coming from the man deeply disappointed that the dumpster was filled to capacity (and there are still gutters behind the Sycamore) and he could not toss in paint cans and chemicals to his heart content.

In preparation to start digging, the air conditioner was dismantled 
and put into our garage this morning.

Good thing it’s going to warm up again this weekend.

And McDaniel will be primping to go to the Homecoming Dance.

I think Nigel won’t be the only one banging his head on the doors 
and walking around sighing.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Cleaning Out, Packing Up

Yep, we decided to build on to our house,

that’s just one of many reasons why we had a yard sale back in May,

to start the process of cleaning out before 
we started packing up.

A few weeks ago we cleaned out the garage so that we could load it up with boxes from the den/office that was getting ready to be torn right off the house.

We found all kinds of things stored in the garage that we had not seen in a loooooong time.

Tae Bo VHS tape
Hello, VHS Tae Bo tape.

 There was this gem:

70s family picture
Monte and his siblings Bryson, Bradley and Gretchen. I didn’t realize
there were split-rail fences in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.
Or the need to ever wear so many layers.
Or  large lapels.

 If you want to know the effects of storing pictures 
in a non-temperature controlled garage, 
just check out Monte’s orange eye. 

I wasn’t excluded in the treasure finds:

80s cheerleading picture

I was 15 and this was my cheerleading picture.

Seriously, who puts a 15-year-old on her belly on a picnic table?! 

Can’t you tell by my forced smile that I wasn’t digging it? 

Or maybe it was the strain on my neck having to hold up 
my enormous Dora the Explorer hair.


We found this poster that was made by our friend, Chris, who displayed it at our engagement party.

Waffle House Waffle Chatter poster

Monte and I met while working at the corporate headquarters of Waffle House in Atlanta. I was in corporate communications and Monte was in risk management.

I wrote a company newsletter called “Waffle Chatter”.

I didn’t name it. 

I had a column called, “Dear Karmen” like “Dear Abbey” except way more contrived with me answering questions about employee issues and the appropriate temperature in which to cook grits.

I started another column called “Safety Man” with Monte (before I knew him) and he’d offer facts about safety issues in the restaurants and how to deal with disability claims.

Both of those pictures in the above poster came from an actual “Waffle Chatter” issue.

I think I remember telling Monte not to touch his face like that in the photo shoot.

But he did it anyway.

Back to the garage.

We sorted.

We tossed.

We donated.

We sold.

We reorganized.

It took two days.

And it was a hot and steamy two days.

Good thing we had a canopy tent still set up from a birthday dinner.

Cleaning out garage

I got so heat-fatigued at one point that I found myself staring inside a hunter green and navy floral frame trying to figure out who the girl in the high-waisted acid washed jeans and big 80s hair was.

Then I realized

it was the picture that came WITH the frame.

I swear, she looked familiar!

I have always wanted all our seasonal decorations to be organized BY SEASON in an easy to retrieve kind of way.

But I’ve always voiced that desire in December when we couldn’t find all the Christmas boxes 
and IT WAS FREEZING outside.

So we got McDaniel to paint chalkboard paint on the edge of our loft and FINALLY organized all things holiday!!!

This is very exciting to me!!

Organized holiday decorations in garage

We can see the floor of our garage!!

There’s an enormous crack in it, 
but hey, 
we can see it!!

Clean garage

With the garage finished, I was able to move on to the den/office. 

I just stalled out for some reason. 

I’m usually a roll up my sleeves, 
let’s get this done, 
kind of worker 
but I could not. get. motivated.

Packing up den

I kept finding things to distract me.

Basketball game

This basketball game kept me sufficiently away from packing until I realized my high score of 17 consecutive shots paled in comparison to Ellie’s 30.

So I had Carisa come over to entertain me while I cleaned. 

She told me no one needed as many pine cones as I had 
stored in Ziploc bags in the cabinets of the den.

I will have you know I kept every single bag of them.

Den clean up

Even Monte commented that I was dragging my feet and that’s usually my comment for him.

But I persevered.

And sorted.

And tossed.

And donated.

And sold.

And organized.

And packed.

And got some pretty serious cramps in my back and legs.

I took down the maps that I hung on the back of the shelves a few years ago. 

I kept some (that I didn't rip, and threw away the ones that I did).

Taking down maps from shelves

I found a lipstick kiss on the border of California and Nevada and remembered that it came from a video broadcast project Ellie and McDaniel did a few years ago.

Ellie did a news broadcast explaining volcanoes and wanted to break away to a weather report, McDaniel being the meteorologist.

I let them each wear lipstick that we later realized was actually stain and it didn’t come off for HOURS! 

Which required an explanation when Ellie 
went to dinner with her friend’s family.

I can’t remember why McDaniel decided it was necessary to kiss the map during her weather report but she did.

Lipstick kiss print on map

I made this desk out of a door and two wooden snack tables and several rulers tacked to the edges. It served us well for a few years but we weren’t sure where to put it.

Door desk

So we put it on our curb with a FREE sign on it.

Door desk on the curb on trash tray with a FREE sign

The next morning it was still there and I was struck with a plan. 

With the adrenaline of a new idea, I was able to get the desk into the garage ALL BY MYSELF.

I know, it was like I became the Incredible Hulk.
But without the anger.
Or the green.
Image of Incredible Hulk, Lou Feragno

I put it in the basement in my craft room. 

Now Ellie can sew while someone does their homework.

If that ever is a situation that needs to happen.

Door desk in craft room

In fact, all the packing and moving inspired a lot more packing and moving.

On top of just trying to get that den/office cleaned out, I decided to completely reorganize my craft room.

And move an armoire from our bedroom to the craft room.

And a little farm table from the craft room to the bedroom.

Because, If You Give a Mouse a Cookie…

Image of If You Give a Mouse a Cookie book

I think you get the picture.

Monte and I decided the best way to move the armoire down the stairs 
would involve a quilt, him in front of the armoire, me behind it 
and Ellie with the telephone, her fingers poised to dial 9-1-1.

We all lived. 
But we decided that may go on the list 
as one of the dumber things we’ve done.

But we finally finished!!!

Empty den

Empty den
Yucky dirty carpet.

Empty den

Thursday, September 11, 2014

All Because Our Fridge Died

Are you familiar with the children’s book, “Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo!”?

Image of book “Because the Little Bug Went Ka-Choo"

The general idea is that this little bug sneezed, 
which blew off a seed 
which hit a worm on top of the head 
which made him mad and he kicked a tree 
and basically set off a series of events that ended up with Farmer Brown, 
a bucket stuck on his head, 
marching in a parade in his long underwear.

Things just escalated quickly.

Well, we have found ourselves in a somewhat similar situation at our house.

You may remember me mentioning that our refrigerator died last winter.

Completely and without question.

Image of cooler in the kitchen
We lived out of a cooler for about a week.

So Monte and I rushed and researched and picked out a new one.

We measured and measured and even had the neighbor 
come over and measure again so we’d know exactly 
what size refrigerator to purchase.

We like to shop at this place that is known for discounts on discontinued models and scratch and dents.

We decided on a fridge that has the freezer on the bottom that pulls out like a drawer and has two doors that open on top.

armoire style refrigerator with freezer drawer

It’s awesome! 

And thanks to the dent in the side, 
it was in our price range.

I wasn’t home when the fridge was delivered. Monte arranged to meet the the delivery guys.

The fridge slid into the cabinet space beautifully. 

Monte didn’t think to open both of the refrigerator doors. He just kinda peeked in one and went back to work.

When I got home I realized that I couldn’t open the right door all the way.

Not even close to all the way. 

Fridge door paritally open
This is me pushing the door all the way
against the wall with my knee for the
sake of this photo.

Something about the size of the hinges on top of the door 
and the proximity of our fridge to the wall .

I couldn’t even put the shelves in the right-hand side of the door because when it is semi-not-really-open the double-wide meat/cheese drawer (which is AWESOME) wouldn’t open.

So we had an incredible new huge fridge that we could only use half of because we couldn’t quite reach things on the right-hand side even if we stretched.

And if we could shove something over there--it froze.

Like my hummus.

And the eggs.

And my grapefruit Perrier.

Which was weird.

But not as weird as cracking open a frozen egg 
and watching that frozen mess plop into the bowl.

So we called the appliance place back about returning the fridge and the thing about buying from a place that sells discontinued and scratch and dents, well, they don’t really want to take the outdated, beat up stuff back.

Especially since Monte had already signed off 
that everything was A-OK at delivery.

Then we brainstormed about moving the fridge in the pantry and then making a pantry in the space that held the fridge.

During what was supposed to be a meeting with a guy to make the switch,

 we must've heard a little bug ka-choo,

because things escalated quickly.

We ended up getting plans drawn for an addition to the back of our house.

Actually, the plans included a 2-story addition 
but we opted not to pull a complete Farmer Brown 
and find ourselves in a parade, 
in our long underwear ,
with a bucket stuck on our heads.

I.E. Not be able to afford to put food in the fridge 
that we hope to soon be able to use fully 
as the manufacturer intended.

But we agreed to the first floor addition.

All because our fridge died.

Thursday, September 04, 2014

Then This Happened

Tuesday McDaniel turned 15 1/2.

No, we are not celebrating that with any sort of party or anything.

Not that BOTH of my girls haven’t tried 
to get me on board with that years ago.

McDaniel was eligible to get her temporary driver’s license.



She borrowed a DMV book from a friend and studied all weekend.

Thankfully, it was Labor Day so the weekend was longer than usual.

Monte downloaded an app on the iPad that contained 280 possible questions that they asked you in test format.

I sat with McDaniel and tried to help. About 60 questions in, I was ready to surrender my license and never drive again.


And I’ve been out on the roads.


Like, did you know that you can turn left on a red light 
if you are turning ONTO a one-way street 
FROM a one-way street??

I didn’t.

And I’m kind of “who cares?” about it.

The questions were worded in a way that confused even the most basic of road rules. I found myself reading and rereading and then READING OUT LOUD one question before I realized they were talking about the double lines in the center of the road mean no passing.


Just say that, people. 

It shouldn’t be a trick question.

McDaniel is a visual learner, as am I, so Ellie found some model cars around the house and Monte and I went about “acting out” some of the test question scenarios.

two people’s arms with small model cars acting out traffic rules
Looks like a collision is happening.

We used pens and pencils for lane markers.

It was really helpful.

While all the studying and quizzing and traffic simulating was happening, someone sent McDaniel a video of a miniature lamb hopping around the inside of someone’s house.

As their pet.

It was the cutest thing, really. 

Just as was the picture of the baby monkey girl dressed
with a bow in her fuzzy little hair.

Those eyes.

You say, “Isn’t that cute!” and you move on.

I should’ve realized the wheels were turning inside McDaniel’s head.

This was the girl that teamed up with Ellie to push for a teacup pig.

But I was too busy thinking of the wheels of the vehicular nature.

McDaniel watched the lamb video over and over and convinced herself that it would fit right into our lives here

IN the house.

B-A-A-D idea.

She even did research and discovered that a miniature lamb is just a bear to house train.

As is an actual bear, I’m sure.

So it was recommended that you buy this little lamb (who’s fleece is white as snow),

a baby diaper

making sure to cut a little hole in the back for its tail.

For the love of Pete.

McDaniel’s research also uncovered that if you don’t neuter your little lamb right away

it will develop quite a nasty little temperament along with its horns.

And it could take to ramming you.

And bullying any and all other pets in the house.

I asked McDaniel why in the world she wanted a miniature lamb that would need its diaper changed and could be violent.

She said so she could name it Tom Hanks 
(her favorite actor).

But most importantly,

so people could call her "Old McDaniel".

Well, E-I-E-I-O to that.

McDaniel managed to pass the written driver’s test.

Thank you, Lord!

And then we were sent next door to wait in a super long line to actually get her temporary license.

The sign said the agency closed at 5:00.

It was 4:30 and there were, what seemed like, 487 people in front of us.

I wasn’t sure how this was all going to play out.

The people watching was FANTASTIC.

Especially the older woman working there with really short hair but really long piggy tails that were a different color than the rest of her hair.


You could see the friendliness and joy drain right out of the workers with each minute that clock ticked closer to 5:00.

With 5 minutes to spare, we were the next in line.

Even though I secretly hoped we’d get fake piggy tails to help us so I could, you know, further assess the situation, 

a young gal told us to step up to the counter.

She was so lovely to us even after she mentioned she was really ready to go home.

We were then sent across the room to get McDaniel’s picture taken.

Another sweet, lovely lady took care of us and gushed over McDaniel’s name.

She even took a couple pictures saying,

“Oh yeah, you are going to be WAY happier with this one!”

Now, that is worth its weight in gold, right there.

Girl standing in front of license branch with her temporary license.
It’s official!
On the way home from the license branch,

no, I didn’t let her drive because we had just had a downpour and the roads were quite wet,

McDaniel pointed to a car coming our way.

It was a very old Land Rover.

 The kind you’d only see on safari. 

The metal panels of this vehicle were attempting to shake themselves off individually while traveling down the road at only a moderate speed. 

Not a smooth ride.

At all.

McDaniel announced that was her perfect car.

She’s been doing that a lot.

Remember this FRD that was her perfect car?

Missing the ‘O’ in FORD.

She said, 

“Can’t you just see me in that?”

Ellie added, 

“With a lamb in the passenger seat?”


her eyes practically turning into hearts, 

dreamily put her hands to her chest and screamed,


For the love of Pete.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

From Yard Sale to iPad Mini

Back in May, we had a yard sale.

In fact our entire community had a marketplace event where businesses had sidewalk sales and residents could register their own yard sales.

The city promoted it and provided maps listing each yard sale.

I planned months ahead of time to possibly maybe participate in the event.

But I didn’t want the pressure of HAVING to do the yard sale in case I didn’t get my act together and actually dig out and organize all the stuff we wanted to sell.

So I didn’t register with the city.

As the days got closer to the sale, we decided to motivate the girls by saying that if we made enough money, we’d buy an iPad Mini for the family.

That put McDaniel and Ellie into HIGH GEAR!!

So much so that I found myself saying things like,

You can’t get rid of Bali! 
You’ve had her since you were 3!”

#big ballerina doll
Bali is a ballerina doll that you could slip over
your feet to dance with.

ballerina doll #lifesizeballerinadoll
She used to scare the holy heck out of Monte. 
There were just too many memories attached to her. 

McDaniel liked to “watch” TV with Bali and sometimes she just stayed all night on the couch, 
legs crossed, arm propped up on the side of the sofa. 

Monte would come downstairs for breakfast 
and stop dead in his tracks every time 
thinking someone was in the house.

And sitting on our couch.

In a sparkly ballerina outfit.

Sometimes we’d just hang Bali up on a hook in McDaniel’s playroom. She had a handy loop at the base of her neck for just such a purpose.

But when you’d walk into the room, with her big ol’ head slouched over and her legs dangling…

well, it was worthy of a gasp. 


So Bali got pushed into the attic closet. Which is where McDaniel pulled her from and shoved her into a bin marked, “Everything’s $2.00!”

Didn’t seem like enough for a bigger than life doll with such startling capabilities.

Luckily, she didn’t sell!

But now I can’t remember if she went back into the attic closet 
or if Monte won and donated her to Goodwill.

Apparently, it meant a great deal to me since I can’t remember.

Then Ellie pulled out this to sell.

“Not Prayer Bear!"

Prayer Bear
It’s a prayer bear made by a lady down the street.
There are scripture cards in the front pocket.
The lady down the street gave this to Ellie when she was little along with a bag of costume jewelry to play dress up with.
close up of prayer bear wearing dangling earrings
Ellie made the prayer bear fancy.

Ellie started right away with dressing up Prayer Bear. See the cross necklace and dangle earrings?

I knew right then that Ellie had her very own sense of style.

Just like I did with McDaniel when I found all her stuffed frogs 
on her bed staring back at me wearing fake mustaches.

When Ellie saw my resistance, she quickly agreed and kept the bear.

I know, I KNOW! I wasn’t helping!

The day before the event, I went to a website to get some advice on pricing and displaying our items for the sale.

I got some great tips!

Like putting all our American Girl Doll clothes by outfit into ziploc bags and pricing them per bag. I did that for all our Build-A-Bear clothes too.
(Which we had a surprising amount of, to Monte’s dismay.)

Another tip was to group like items such as stuffed animals into a bin with one sign that says:

“Everything $1.00”.

a bin of stuffed animal frogs
McDaniel had a thing for frogs.
With or without mustaches.

frog coin purse

We also got the tip to put a FREE bin right by the street to draw people in. I put the ugly pillows from our sectional in the basement that were still in great shape but just too firm and unattractive for my taste. I also put random little toys and some home decor that I would’ve donated anyway.

The girls made a big pitcher of lemonade to offer our customers. Unbeknown to us, the girls slipped out a “TIP” jar and they raked in the cash!

The day started out chilly and overcast with a few scattered sprinkles.

We put out little signs at the end of our street and block and we had customers before we were finished setting out all our stuff.

wordy yard sale sign
McDaniel got a little wordy with her signs.

long-winded yard sale sign
My sign said:  YARD SALE with an arrow pointing to our house.

Our first patron was a well-dressed guy in a nice car who bought a bunch of the American Girl doll clothes and the cigar box purse that I took to the Kentucky Derby over 10 years ago. He also pointed to the book page wreath I made and asked,

“What is it?”


We never went more than 15 minutes without a customer for 6 straight hours.

And when we did,

Monte made the girls pretend to be customers, picking through our stuff to entice others driving by to stop in

because that stuff must be good!

2 girls shopping at a yard sale
The girls pretend perusing.

2 girls looking at an item at a yard sale
We sold that trampoline chair for a friend. Ellie
really wanted to buy it. But what is the point of
clearing out if they want to drag stuff back in?!

At the end of a very long day, we had enough money to mostly buy an iPad mini!

An iPad Mini

An iPad Mini on a table

The best part is that the girls don’t fight over the computer anymore for homework.

The only con is that now Monte plays soccer every night after work 
and does a lot of nodding 
and fake conversation responding 
while playing.

Hey, wait! 

Maybe I need him to teach me how to play now that college football has started…!