Sunday, September 11, 2016

I Shutter To Think About It

Yesterday, Lucie was at an all day scrap-booking event so I thought I would create a project and paint the faded house shutters.  Rather than going through the hassle of taking them down, painting them, and putting them back up, I thought I could just tape them off, put some paper around, and spray paint them in place.  Lesson learned...  It was WICKED humid but I was in the shade and it wasn't hard work.  I could reach the bottom windows on the step ladder but the upper windows required a lot of up and down climbing.  The smaller bathroom window was a story in and of itself - I couldn't reach it from the ladder so I wound up contorting myself out through it.  Plenty of neighbors out and about so they all got a good show.  Anyway, as the day went on, I could feel myself getting more and more tired.  I was drinking lots of water and taking breaks - but the only cold water from the garage fridge was carbonated.  And that came back to haunt me.  I finally got it done, but had to cancel dinner plans with friends because I was throwing up...  ha!  The heat, carbonated water, and twisting out the bathroom window all added up to a bit of a breakdown.  A cold shower helped a little but the bigger problem came later in the evening when the leg cramps literally kicked in.  That was rough.  Lucie came home and got me some Gatorade, Jell-O and chicken noodle soup.  I started feeling better pretty quick but those cramps were killer.  Feeling good today but my legs feel like I ran a marathon.  The shutters look great tho! (Left=before / right = after)

Friday, July 15, 2016

Doing Unto Others

I was in line at the grocery store today and the woman ahead of me realized, as she was paying, that she didn't have enough money in her account.  Just barely.  She had to put back a loaf of bread.  I told the cashier to put it with my stuff and I would buy it.  Of course the lady was very grateful but I told her I had been where she was and all was good.  Then I tried to lighten the moment by joking that I hoped that loaf of bread didn't cost $20!  She said it was just two dollars and the cashier finished ringing her up.  Oddly enough, for some "strange" reason, the cashier told her that she in fact had extra money on her account (I think it was an EBT card).  How much?  $2!  So the woman was able to buy her own bread, thanked me again, and went on her way.  When it was my turn to pay, the cashier said that because I was patient while she worked with the woman, she was giving me a $5 credit.  Not expected, not needed, and not my intention - but I felt God was smiling on me...

Monday, June 6, 2016

Mr. FixIt

It has been a busy few days fixing all sorts of stuff - or at least trying too.

Here we have the vacuum -

We never could get the replacement filter to fit properly.  But that didn't stop me from shoving one in and carrying on with the job.  We thought maybe it was generic filters not fitting right but after buying the name brand one, we found that one didn't fit either.  So off to Wal-Mart I went to look at their floor model.  Took it apart and took a picture and came home.  Eureka (pun intended) - the bottom of a previous filter was stuck in the housing.  Yanked that out with a pair of pliers and the new one popped right in.

The on-going issue, that may very well beat me, is air bubbles in the return jet to the pool - but only when the solar valve is open and only when the valve that diverts the water between the stairs and the wall jets is in a particular position.  I replaced O rings and swapped valves and tightened everything that could be tightened - still got the pesky bubbles.  They don't hurt anything but somewhere, somehow, air is getting sucked in.  On a positive, pool related note, I did manage to move the solar sensor to the top roof near the panels and that seems to really be helping in terms of valve opening and closing.  Season high of 81ยบ today and Mocha and spent some time in there together.

Today I was on the elliptical and noticed this wet spot on the floor coming from the AC unit:

Not good.  Called our AC guy and texted him a picture.  He called me right back and told me to check the condensation drain pipes that come off the unit and basically dump into a hole in the floor.  When I lifted them up, a big plug of dirt and debris blew out and condensation began flowing freely.  That was an easy one.

And finally, one of the solar powered driveway markers wouldn't light up anymore.  They are just basically a re-chargeable battery, solar panel and LED light.  So tonight I took that apart and found a tiny wire had become unsoldered.  That was another quick and easy (and free!) fix.

So it has been busy but overall everything has been either fixable or inconsequential.  And I can live with that...

Friday, June 3, 2016

Ashleigh Graduation 2016

It was a long and expensive time coming but Ashleigh graduated on May 19, 2016.  We were so proud.  She is on her way!

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Can't Argue With The Doctor

Today I went to a gastric surgeon for a consult for a colonoscopy.  Just routine.  That doctor's office also performed the gastric band surgery for weight loss.  While I was waiting in the lobby, I was reviewing their height and weight chart and was pleased to see that I am only "obese" which above "over-weight" but below "severely obese" and "morbidly obese."  With that on my mind, I went into the meeting with the doc.  He was great and as we were talking, I said, " Hey Doc - while you're in there, how about slipping on one of those bands?"  He told me that I didn't need one!  That coming from a doctor who sells and "installs" the bands.  Have to trust the doctor.  So I stopped at Dunkin Donuts on the way home to celebrate the good news...

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Come On Baby, Light My Basement

The other day I was at Costco and saw they had LED replacement lights for fluorescent fixtures.  We have one hanging over the ping pong table in the basement but it buzzes while it is on and doesn't put out a whole lot of light.  So I thought the LED replacement lights would solve both problems.  (They were about half the price of buying a whole new LED fixture and bulbs.)  So I went home and popped in the bulbs.  WOW!  Super white light but, as usual, nothing is easy.  The buzz was still there.  Did some research and found the buzzing comes from an old-style magnetic ballast in the fixture.  The newer electronic ballast alone costs a couple of dollars more than an entire new fixture with the electronic ballast installed.  Lucie said she was happy with the brighter light and could continue to live with the buzz.  Not me.  I ran to Home Depot, grabbed a replacement fixture and put it up.  Installed the LED bulbs and....  nothing.  They wouldn't light up.  I called the bulb manufacturer and they said their bulbs just weren't compatible with all fixtures.  So I took the fixture back and decided to spend a couple extra dollars, keep the old fixture, but change out the ballast.  That did not go anywhere nearly as easily as I thought and when I was done, sparks were flying.  Uninstalled the new ballast and threw out the old fixture.  Returned the ballast to Home Depot and went to Walmart for a new fixture.  Opened the box and the fixture looked like it had been dragged down the road - all dented and a big piece was not connected.  Ugh.  I tried it anyway but the new LED bulbs wouldn't work (regular fluorescent ones did though). Took that back.  Went to Lowes and got a new fixture.  This time, I got middle-of-the-road success:  two LED lights together would not work but one LED and one old-style fluorescent tube worked.  And it was silent.  So we have more light and no buzz.  I guess I will call that an improvement.

On a brighter (ha!) note, after one of my trips to Home Depot, I noticed my ATM card was missing.  They have the new style readers where you have to insert the card and I was sure I had left it in the reader at the self-checkout.  So I raced back (I hadn't left the shopping center parking lot yet) and went to the checkout lane I was last at.  Someone else was checking out - with their own card.  The attendant said she hadn't seen my card but another worker said someone just turned an ATM card in to the service desk.  (The person said they found it in the parking lot.)  So I went there and sure enough - there it was!  Whew.  God bless that soul.

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

I Called It

I blogged the other day about flushing the hot water heater.  This was the last sentence:  My only fear is some of the sediment might have been holding the thing together and now it will fall apart.  Time will tell I guess.

Guess what…?  Ever since I flushed the hot water heater, I heard water trickling near it but I thought it was probably always there and I just never noticed.  Yesterday I noticed that the sump pump had pumped – it RARELY does.  So I grabbed a flashlight and went down and looked over the water heater really good.  The top pressure valve is hooked to a copper pipe that runs across the top and down the back side of the heater to the French drain.  Sure enough, it was trickling right out in a pretty steady stream.  Fortunately it says online that the valve is pretty cheap and easy to replace.  It also said if it hasn’t been opened in a while (I had to open it to vent the tank to drain it), sometimes dirt or corrosion gets in there and prevents it from completely closing.  So I rapped it a few times with a hammer, opened and closed it and finally opened the bottom drain for a few seconds.  That seemed to “bleed” it – air wooshed out before the water.  I closed the bottom drain and the drip immediately stopped.  Just checked it now after the morning showers (and all night) – no drips, drain dry, and the sump pump had not pumped all nights.  Whew!

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Water Heater Flushing

At least today I was.  (Not really sure what a "bucket filler" is - I hope it isn't something bad!)  My friend had to replace his water heater and during his research, he found that about twice a year, we are supposed to drain and flush our hot water heater.  We have been here about 19 years so I guess I am 38 flushes behind...   It was a dreary and rainy day today so I figured I would give it a shot.  It is pretty simple - turn off the power to the heater, shut off the water feed, drain, re-fill, re-power, shampoo, rinse, repeat.  The problem is, the water heater is in the basement and the drain spigot is right at the bottom of the tank.  No way I could run a garden hose up the stairs to drain it that way (not enough pressure) and my pool pump doesn't have the right inlet to help.  So I just attached a garden hose to the spigot and put the other end in my 5 gallon wet/dry vacuum tank that I brought down.  I figured with a 65 gallon tank, I would only have to lug up 5 gallons 13 times...  Of course the hose was at least 75 feet all coiled up so it took forever for the bucket to fill.  Had to be a better way.  Out to the shed I went and sure enough, I had kept the old washer machine hoses.  Perfect!  Hooked one up and I was doing the bucket brigade pretty quickly.  Overall, it was a pretty uneventful experience.  I didn't spill a bucket down the stairs, the tank re-filled (and didn't leak), and my shower afterward was nice and warm. My only fear is some of the sediment might have been holding the thing together and now it will fall apart.  Time will tell I guess.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Texas Treat

Lucie was on a crafting project today so after church I went to lunch at Texas Roadhouse with some friends. There was hardly anyone there (surprisingly) but it took a really long time for our food to arrive.  Which was OK since we had a lot of catching up to do.  When the food was brought out, the waitress asked us to cut open our steaks and be sure they were cooked properly.  I had asked for mine to be cooked "medium" but it was clearly well-done.  I showed the girl but I said I was fine and didn't want to wait for another one.  It really was OK.  Well, 2 minutes later the manager arrived and asked if I had a problem with the steak.  I told her I sort of did but I didn't want to be "that guy" that complains about his food.  The manager was fantastic and agreed that my steak was way over-cooked and she would get me another.  She also said she would do a little something for my bill.  That was very generous and nice but I was fine - it is for sure I was going to eat that steak anyway!   A few minutes later, out comes ANOTHER whole complete meal!  Not just the steak but the ribs and potato too!  That was really too much and I was very grateful.  Clearly that was coming home with me in a doggie bag (but not for the doggie!) so we finished our meal and the waitress brought our check.  Dang if the manager hadn't credited the entire cost of my meal (and second one too!).  Super nice and way beyond.  I checked with my friends to be sure I didn't have any type of attitude and they confirmed I didn't - it was just a manager who understands good customer service!  You know we'll be back!

Friday, February 12, 2016

Taxing Time

Tax time is upon us again and as usual, I do the family taxes (using Turbo Tax).  It went pretty straightforward for Ashleigh and Elliott although I had to do non-resident taxes for Maryland and Massachusetts for them.  No problem - all done, filed, and refunds on the way.  Not so easy for Lucie and I.  (Every year we question how we, both with Master's Degrees, struggle with doing our taxes...)  We didn't get a certain form from Boston College and even though it was explained to me why not, I still didn't get it - cognitively or literally.  So I pressed on without it and got the return done.  This past year, the utility company Lucie used to work for liquidated its pension plan and we were forced to take a distribution.  It wasn't a whole lot and was an unexpected little surprise.  But nothing is free;  we paid the 20% federal tax up front but got hit with an ADDITIONAL 10% penalty for early withdrawal.  I tried to call the utility and went to their website for some filing advice but both were shut down.  Again, it wasn't a whole lot of money but it was just enough to push us to having to pay in instead of getting a refund.  Turbo Tax has a nice feature that shows a running calculation of your federal and state balance as you go but both federal and state were in the negative - and I hadn't even started the state yet!  When I finished the federal part, I was really discouraged about having to pay both.  So I told God that if we needed to pay in, He needed to help us out.  This morning I sat down to do the state portion and got to that same section about the early withdrawal penalty.  Yet there was a big difference.  In Delaware, there is no penalty on early withdrawal if the money is used for our or the kids' education.  Well it certainly was used for their education!  Even after significant scholarships, they have a balance to pay.  So I reported that the distribution was used for their education and was very happy to see that calculation on the screen started rolling like the big wheel on The Price is Right.  Not only did it roll up to the positive (refund), it was enough to cover the federal debt we owed!  Never saw that coming.  But isn't that the way with God?