Well - what can I say other than 'I'm sorry'. I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I heard from a lot of you that was concerned we were dead...swept away by a tornado... etc.etc. The truth is that I was just sick sick sick. I actually THOUGHT I posted a note saying that on the blog - but in my delusional nasal drip haze I must have accidentally not posted it. So I apologize big time. In case you need proof...here is a picture I took of myself this morning as evidence: PEOPLE MAGAZINE'S SICKIEST MAN ALIVE
This picture actually seemed disturbingly reminiscent to me...
Imagine how bad HE'D look if he was renovating a theatre :)
I am still not running on all cylinders - but I've rested enough that I can spend a few hours of precious nap time with you folks. With Janice here helping us try to push through the 'new wing' completion before she had to disappear for quite a while, it was most important for me to be either working or sleeping to get better. So thanks for your patience and sticking with me.
It has been quite the weekend - and it may take more than one installment to fill you in on everything - but I'll do my best. And, like I said, I'm not a 100 percent yet - so the chuckle per line quota ain't gonna be at it's highest :)
This weekend has been pretty full throttle. Although we didn't get quite as much done as planned - Janice and Rich didn't stop the whole time - while I kind of lumbered along like Eyore on a Nyquil overdose. Janice arrived about the same time Brian (our electrician) was taking care of some finishing work. He thought Tyler, his nephew/assistant had left some materials here that he actually hadn't - so he'll need to come back. BUT he did get the stove hooked up - which was pretty exciting. Rich and I still haven't quite figured out what Brian makes of us. He either thinks we're the two nuttiest boobs he's ever met and he just hopes the checks don't bounce... OR he thinks we're the wackiest boobs he's ever met, but he thinks we're actually not doing too badly. It's kind of funny...because more than anyone, he's been the 'person who actually SHOULD be doing this crap' who has been witnessing the progress along the way. He's so inscrutable that he's just impossible to read... He's incredibly nice...and very personable...but we have this vision of him going home and regaling his wife and kids with high-larious tales of our latest renovation abortion. You know in 'Funny Farm' when the wife sells her husbands high foibles as a children's book, portraying him as a squirrel. I think Brian tells his kids bedtime stories of the two hapless city slicker chipmunks who live together and are making a complete mess trying to tile their tree.
While he was doing that Rich had been assembling one of our last 'we haven't used yet' tools. The band saw. Which looks pretty nifty. He had to assemble it so that he could eventually cut the window plugs for the counter tops. Because the building is old and weird, and because we are putting a kitchen where one probably doesn't belong - but we have no option (other than eat pork three meals a day until we die... and as much as I love pork...) the cabinets sit in front of the new windows and sit above the original sill by about three inches. So Rich is going to install these neat window sill plugs out of the matching laminate. It's gonna be a really nice solution to a super-weird design problem. And heck, we have a nifty new tool...
The first major project of the weekend of note was the grouting of the shower. As this project involved goo, this was a task reserved for Janice and I. Now you may remember how hard I said grouting was the last time I tried it. I was totally wrong. It's way harder. I told Rich before Janice and I started this - in fact I think I tabled the issue before she even arrived - that I was worried that it was REALLY hard work on the arm muscles and I could not do such a large area alone, but I was worried that Janice might not be able to do it, because she has troubles with her hand acting up sometimes. But Janice was totally game. Poor woman. She worked HARD. And - this was a task very high on the goo factor. The grout color, chosen unanimously by some committee from which I should no doubt resign, was black. Black grout. When I mixed it - here's what it looked like.
And Janice doesn't like getting dirty. Well, she fared better than I did... but by the time we stepped away from the operation for sustenance... here's what I looked like.
We got the grout on in about an hour. And it's pretty hard work. And then we checked and double checked the instructions - which say (and this is the only part of the comic book illustrated back of the package ridiculous instructions that they bother to actually PUT IN WORDS) "Leave for forty five minutes". Which gave us just enough time to have dinner. Which happened to be scalloped potatoes, meatloaf and corn. Now, apart from being SUPER YUMMY, the odd thing about this was - that day at Jean Anne's, the special of the day was SCALLOPED POTATOES, MEATLOAF AND CORN!!!
So while we were at lunch at Nick's earlier in the day I tried to no avail to organize a good old fashioned "Pork-off" (sans pork) involving blindfolds and unsuspecting Nick's Kitchen clientele. Of course - that would have involved giving away all of our dinner... and I like scalloped potatoes A LOT. Yes, I ordered them for lunch too :) Anyhooooo... with-grout further ado...back to the evening's mirth:
So - we ate dinner. Munch munch...yummy yummy.
Then Janice and I went back (after the SUGGESTED forty five minutes) to cleaning the grout. Normally when I've say something is really hard, I think it goes through the "Jo Jo whines because he hates manual labor" filter when Rich and Janice hear me say that. Well... after about twenty minutes Janice said "This is not fun". Then after half an hour she said "This is really haaaaahhhhhd (hard)". And then after forty minutes she started talking to the shower walls like a drunken sailor. Because it SUCKS. I know it is really, really, really hard to believe - but of almost every job that I'VE had to do (I'm sure Rich and Bob have tackled worse) - but of all the tasks I've come across on this endeavor so far - THIS is the one that about half way through you are begging someone to shoot you and put you out of your misery. Because it is sooooo exhausting. AND I actually had improved matters since the last time, because at least now I had purchased the more abrasive scouring sponges which they sell in the tile aisle of Lowes. And, for the record, they DO make things a lot better.
However. The shower is big. About twice the size of the floor. And Janice and scoured and scoured and scoured.
Eventually Janice pulled maternal rank and called in reinforcements. Rich rescued us. This is an enormous advantage of having Janice around...because Rich probably would have told me to suck it up. But he knows Janice is not a wimpy whiney delicate flower - so when SHE asks for help - he helps. And rapidly, Rich realized that this job, did, indeed SUCK. As we watched our tricep muscles atrophy into mere whisps, he kept saying "are you sure you read the instructions right...this can't be right...this can't be this hard... are you sure you read the instructions right". Kind of like in Rain Man. Except Tom Cruise is more gay.
At the time when Rich came on board Janice was still going up and down the stairs refreshing our bucket of sponging water. The black grout was so...well....black, that the water became like ink within two minutes. And in order to even SEE where you had and hadn't cleaned - you had to have water that was vaguely clear. When Rich came on board he quickly decided to upgrade the Tweedle System. There was NO way were going to be filling the bucket from the kitchen sink and pouring the icky black stuff down his freshly plumbed sink... BUT he thought we should take all the plastic and carboard lining out of the tub and run the water right where we were. I was worried that it could spell disaster - but honestly - we were so worn out and the stairs just weren't possible. So we gave it a shot. The facets and the spiggot weren't yet installed - the water just came out of the pipe into the tub... It saved out butts. We took off our shoes and rolled up our pants - rich put on his bathing suit - and we just kept dipping our sponges and squeezing them out. We actually ended up looking like a very demented fountain installation. And for the first half an hour we had nice warm water fresh from the newly installed water heater. The next half an hour...not so much. By the time we were finished our skin was so wrinkled we could have put on a little more grout and toured as the california raisins.
And at One am we finished cleaning the shower. And I had a blister the size of Milwaukee.
Actually, that picture was taken before the grout-pushing extravaganza inevitably BROKE the blister. And then it got black grout in it. I looked like I had plague. Yes, mom, it got bactine in it.
Which brings me to another fun episode of: YOU LEARN FROM OUR MISERABLE SUCKY AWFUL MISTAKES: What we figured out - in hindsight - is that you need to time the forty five minutes from when you BEGIN the process. Which means, if you're working as a team, you have to either start from the same end - or opposite ends - and then - as soon as you've completed laying the grout (which WILL take forty five minutes) then you begin back where you started sponging it off. Because if you wait forty five minutes from when you FINISH - it's like rock. You're basically scrubbing off rock with a sponge. And then, because it's still a lengthy process, by the time you get to where you FINISHED the first step - forty five minutes will have passed...if not forty five hours. Capish?
In the morning we went through and patched any little areas that needed touching up. Doing such a large area - with a lot of little nooks and crannies - we were bound to have the odd small gaps missing grout. And, when it dried, there were a few areas where thinset was peeking through that had to be scraped out a bit - and then refilled. This time I used my finger to run the grout along the lines because it was smaller areas. The grout dried a much flatter black than it seemed when it first was applied - so when I was laying on the new stuff it was easy to get caught in the madness of touching up EVERYWHERE. Which it didn't need. And, this is just not a job that suits a perfectionist the first time they've ever done it...so Rich and Janice did a scan and finally said enough is enough. Cuz you could drive yourself crazy regrouting imperfect millimeters. This time we waited a MUCH SHORTER period of time...and it made all the difference in the world. With a light sponging it came off the surface of the tile - but remained in the joins where we needed it to cover with a new darker layer. yay.
And when we were through... we were pretty darn happy with it.
Take a good look at it folks - cuz about ten minutes later, the whole place looked like this:
Janice covered the vanity, the windows, the shower and the walls - every inch - so that we could paint. As I cried out "Noooooooooooooo". Because this is one of these renovation things that I just CAN'T deal with yet. You make progress on something...and then you have to hide it. So you can't see what you DID so you perpetually feel like you're getting nowhere. Part of why this weekend felt so tough was by Sunday, with the bathroom all covered up like that, I'd completely FORGOTTEN who much we'd actually accomplished. This is a character trait of mine which drives Rich looney. The "if I can't see it, it didn't happen" phenomenon. I'm like a baby - you know when you play peekaboo with a baby, it's mind hasn't developed enough to not realize you don't ACTUALLY disappear when you cover up your face. Yup - he's renovating with a mental infant. Of course, for you folks, this is not news.
And, at about this time... I had to go take my driving test. Which, I decided to take.
Yup. Rich and Janice had taken me out in morning, and taken me around town... and I was feeling pretty good about everything except the parallel parking... And then we did that and, IN THE GIGANTIC TRUCK, i was doing it successfully more often than not. So...I decided to go for it. And everybody kept telling me it would be ok if I didn't pass - I would just - at the worst - have the chance to practice another two months - and then be way more comfortable. Cuz, admittedly, I was trying to do this faster than I had anticipated...and faster than most people learn to drive. Can you tell I'm making excuses. Anyway - I tried to tell myself it would be ok if I failed (remember that 'jo jo not good at failing things' discussion we had?). And I went. Jean Anne took me and was awesome. The most nerve-racking part of the entire thing is sitting there watching the FOUR YEAR OLDS taking their tests before you. And passing. Anyway - when we got there, at first they didn't even think I could take my test. See, because I have a foreign driver's license (which means I actually can drive here WITHOUT a US license - so this entire process is actually an excercise in self-torture I suppose. Oh, that, and Rich would never let me drive the truck. That too :) ) - anyway - the foreign drivers' license comlicates their paperwork. It means processing me is different than an adult who's never driven... or an infant who's learning to drive the way most people do. And they have to wait like two months after passing their written test... and they can take classes....and they have to drive a certain number of hours etc etc. Apparently - it's much simpler for me. Except the failing the test part. But in terms of the PROCESS it takes to GET me to failing the test....that is simpler. But because it's unusual - and they never deal with it here - it's kind of hysterical. Because each person at the B.M.V. seems to know a different snippet of the procedure - but they ALL don't know ALL of what do with me. So each time I go in there a debate ensues...and people disagree... and Jean Anne just tells me to calm down and think of pie. So for a while there it seemed like they had made a mistake and I actually SHOULDN'T have been allowed to take me test yet. But I could. So I did. And I failed.
So here's what happened. Honestly, I actually did ok. Except the failing part. I didn't even get to park...and I can't decide whether I would have rather failed doing the thing I THOUGHT I would fail at... or it having gone the way it did. Anyway - I got killed by turn right on red. So here's the deal. This does not exist in Bermuda. So it's new to me. It also is not allowed in Manhattan - where I took my driving lessons. Which, Rich said, was really, really dumb of me to do. So - Rich wins. (I'll let you know, sometime in the next millenium, if there is something Rich ISN'T right about - so far it's about 1,233,492 to zero). So - turn right on red is one of those things that was not yet in my blood stream. I KNOW you're supposed to do it. I KNOW how your SUPPOSED to do it. If you asked me to write you an interpretive ballet all about turn right on red - I could. The problem with Jo Jo is that the intellectual property is not always utilized. So. I was doing fine on the test. Pretty well actually, I think. And then we hit this stop light...and I'm sitting there happily thinking "this isn't toooo bad". And then I suddenly realize that since he asked me to turn right...and I'm at the stop light...that I should turn right on red. Crap. So I even say "I should have turned right on red, Sorry". And then I do it. And I don't know how bad that counts against me...but we keep going. And now I'm HYPER HYPER aware not to do that again. So he asks me to turn right. And the light is red. And I'm right behind another car that turns right as well - and I say 'HA HA! I'M NOT GOING TO MAKE THE SAME MISTAKE TWICE...AND LOOK - THAT SMART GUY IS TURNING RIGHT ON RED TOOOOO... SO I'LL FOLLOW HIM, TURNING RIGHT ON RED LIKE WE RIGHT-AT-RED-TURNERS ALL KNOW HOW TO DO."
And I didn't stop first. Thanks for playing. We have some fun take home prizes for you. Bye now.
Actually - I didn't even KNOW I'd done anything wrong. That's, I think, what sucked so bad. Because I just slid through behind the other car turning right... and he didn't say anything. I knew something was wrong when he didn't take me parking (which I think he was about to do RIGHT when I screwed up that turn...waaaaaahhhh). So - then we got back and in the parking lot he was really nice...and since he knew I had a Bermuda driver's license... he said "I think you just need to famliarize yourself more with the rules that are different here for you in Indiana". Which was much nicer than saying "You're 34 and you can't drive you moron".
So then I went inside and had to tell Jean Anne. Which was AWFFFFFULLLL because she had been soooo good about driving with me every day. And like a perfectly mature 34 butch male in a public place filled with people and SUCCESSFULLY passing 16 year olds - I cried. Real nice. Ok - I didn't BAWL. But I definitely leaked a little. Ah well. I told you I sucked at failing things.
So - anyway - because I'm a grownup EXPERIENCED (hee hee haa haa ho ho) driver, I don't have to wait two months to take the test. I can try again in two weeks. But if I'm not more confident I'm gonna cancel until I feel really good about stuff and it's more instinctive. I mean - the reason I didn't pass is because I SHOULDN'T have passed, right. So that means I need to get better and practice more. And just like Janice keeps saying (to stop me from throwing myself out the window) most people have to practice for a really long time before they take their test. So...I rushed it a little. I haven't hardly at all this weekend because I've felt so crappy...but I'll get back in the saddle tomorrow.
So - after my fall from grace, it was time to paint the bathroom. Or rather start painting the bathroom. The first time. Oh, just wait, kids...this is delightful. The first part of this process I actually took care of the day before. Remember that ceiling patch Bob made that I tried to seam smoothly with the Drylock - but failed. Well - I took a stab at take two. It actually worked out really well. I bridged the change in level with fibreglass tape, and then filled the seams with joint compound. The finish didn't have to be perfectly smooth - because the drylock would add a texture on top. The important thing was to try and make the transition in height a lot smoother so that it looked like it blended with the rest of the ceiling. And... for once...success!
And when that had dried out (thanks to a little overnight help from the hurricane fan) I dry-locked it. Wayyyy better.
So - now we had the room ready to paint.
Despite our very very very best intentions and imported slave labor from Turkeyville - the drywall seam along one of the bathroom walls was just too evident. The problem was that it wasn't the seam itself that was the problem. The joint compound was smooth and covered the drywall tape pretty darn well. It was the change in levels from one piece of drywall to another. There was a ridge running the whole length of the wall. It was a SMOOTH, nicely joint-compounded ridge - but it was still very clear.
So I thought I had a pretty good plan. We had a can of that accoustical spray knock-down stuff that I had bought in order to blend the textures of the joint compound and the original wall leading to the bedroom. So I figured we could use that to give the whole bathroom a light texture and it would help even out the ridge and soften the eye. So. Janice and I went to it like worker bees. Everything was already masked off and sealed (because this stuff is not really directional - you need to protect the surrounding general area if you don't want flecks of goo stuck everywhere). And then Janice devised a nifty cardboard door-sealer which would enclose me in and prevent the spray from getting onto the adjacent kitchen walls. Now, I was convinced that Janice should actually be on-set with me as it were - in the heat of the action - like Anderson Cooper...right at the center of the story. Janice did not agree with this assessment. Her primary reason for this was her hair. You see, although Janice has been forced to shower in the Bathroom from Hell... she has drawn a very firm line. She has not, did not, would not WASH her hair in the Shower of Death. She thinks it's that's gross. Which is why she is working so hard on THIS shower. Because she wants to get clean in a shower where you don't feel like you NEED a shower the second you EXIT the shower. So - her hair was a no-goo zone. And this stuff seemed gooey. I came up with a brilliant solution. I took three paper towels folded them around her head and then surrounded them with a headband of painters tape. It looked like a very drunk version of those paper hats kids make. Now this hat was pretty darn freakin hysterical. Soooo hysterical in fact that Janice, for the very first time, refused to have her picture taken for the blog. That's how funny it was. So - the next time you are sad and you have nothing to cheer you up....blame Janice. Because this would have made you pee.
So anyway - she stays outside the bathroom. She has her cardboard door-sealing thing (which happens to have a crease in it, which conveniently folds down like a little trap-door so she can talk to me) and she seals me in, and I start to spray. It seems to be working just fine. I've used it before. No surprises. However - I've never used it in a very small, very sealed room before. After a few minutes I'm starting to get VERY loopy. And every minute or so, as I'm loopy, the little cardboard trap door pops open and I see the funny lady in the goofy hat. It started to look like this:
So I took a break. And then I kept going. So - we got a light texture over the entire thing. And let the stuff dry. There was plenty of drying time, cuz we ended up taking a trip to Lowe's to try and get some supplies Rich needed for HIS big weekend project.
It was determined that the whole ledge that ran along our bedroom, down the corridor, and into the first run of kitchen cabinets...was not in great shape. I thought it looked ABSOLUTELY PERFECT because I had already painted it. Months ago. And frankly our bedroom is the only room that really looks like a ROOM. It doesn't have a washing machine where one shouldn't be...it doesn't have giant holes in it... it doesn't make me cry when I look at it. It's a mess, because we have nowhere to PUT anything else yet...but it LOOKS LIKE IT'S SUPPOSED TO. Not any more. Rich felt, since the whole kitchen part of the ledge had to be replaced anyway (it was now a large gaping hole...so it seemed a legitimate statement) that it would be more sensible...and not TOO much work... to face the whole thing. So that it wouldn't look pieced together. One long run of ledge. He could open the original up, and install insulation (which would be deductible on taxes anyway) since the winter seems like it's going to hit this building pretty hard and then face the whole thing with sheetrock and replace out the prehistoric rusty baseboard heaters with nice new ones (and they're really not at all expensive to replace). And it would look a whole lot nicer. I made my sad face. Then Rich pullled out his ace. "Well I could also run the cable wire so that you could have a tv in the kitchen eventually. If you're good".
DAMN YOU PACK LEADER!!!!!
The demolition began. So this little project of his. Not so little. I mean, it's really taken him two days... but visually... it didn't look so pretty.
And then, you're busy getting high spraying a room with flecks of goo...and you turn around and see this...
Now... despite my lack of enthusiasm for this particular endeavor - you DO have to admire the Pack Leader's tidiness. Look at that room. Does that room look like he just knocked out, oh, half the freakin' wall????? No. If I had done the EXACT same task - it would have looked more like this:
Now, the whole day I'd been having band-aid issues. I couldn't keep anything on my hand to protect my popped blister (let's all savor that image, shall we). I was working in goo - and trying to keep it clean - but a bandaid kept falling off my palm, and the way my hand would sweat inside the rubber gloves just made it worse. So I ended up doing a Macguyver and kept it on my hand all day. In fact... I got the point where I forgot about it, and went to Lowes like this:
Ok, kids.... i'm sure you're eyes are crossed already... and I've been blogging for about two and half hours. So - I'll do the rest of the weekend catchup tomorrow for ya. But there's lots more fun stuff - including weiner xrays. Bet you've never seen THOSE before, right kids?
Thanks for being patient..and not giving up on me. I'm really sorry I abandoned you. xo JO JO.