NaBloPoMo Day 9: No Apologies

Conveniently the Daily Prompt for November 9 was:

No Apologies.

Convenient because I didn’t get a blog post out for November 9 (aka NaBloPoMo Day 9). It’s like the universe was saying to me, “It’s okay. No apologies are needed.” 

It knew I had work. It knew that it was Monday. And it knew that we had our monthly homeowners association meeting that evening. 

I like to go to the meetings when I can because our community has issues. We had six months of pink insulation and no windows just last year … I like to know what’s going on. 



I Swore I Wouldn’t: A Balcony Garden Journey

I swore I wouldn’t try to grow tomato plants on our balcony again. That was about seven years ago. And I hadn’t grown ’em since. So imagine my surprise this year when all that changed.

When I started growing tomatoes the first summer we lived here I thought that no pesky insects could find their way to our plants way up here on the third floor. But find us they did. How’d those aphids get here? Are those other things mites?

Not only did insects find us but it wasn’t long before the squirrels did too. The outer shell of our building was coated in artificial stucco. The squirrels could grab the bumpy texture with their claws and scale up the side of the building like Spidermen in furry gray suits. Not only did the squirrels find us, I’m pretty sure they put posters up around the neighborhood advertising the free food to all their friends. Drove the cats bananas as the squirrels taunted them then escaped up a stuccoed pillar.

I tried sprays for the insects and mesh along with hot pepper sprinkles to discourage the squirrels. But they’d still find my tomatoes. 

There are challenges to growing tomato plants in containers and especially so when you have only a balcony and jugs to carry water instead of a backyard with a hose.  

The plants grew nicely. Tomatoes too. More than once I’d patiently wait one more day for a tomato to turn red only go out the next and find bites already taken out of it. How rude of them to take a few bites and leave the rest behind! Do they know how hard I worked to make those things grow? 

The last straw was the day I saw a squirrel perched on the bricks around the edge of our balcony. His fluffy tail twitched in excitement. I went out to shoo him away only to find a partially chewed green tomato sitting there. Cute but infuriating, those furry thieves weren’t even waiting for the tomatoes to ripen.  No tomato was safe. It was the last tomato. I was done. 

I moved on to growing only herbs, a few flowers (some of which the squirrels ate too) and hot peppers.  The squirrels bit a few hot peppers but soon left them alone. 

Eventually the outside of our building became less and less appealing as the improperly installed artificial stucco became discolored and cracked in places. Above the utility closet off our balcony there was a large gap left by our builder where several generations of pigeons made a charming home for themselves. But for us, the pigeons made a horrible mess. We tried mesh to keep them out, but they found another way in. Eventually we stopped trying to grow anything we might want to eat. Soon, we hardly went out there at all. Shame too, nice view.

Last summer, with building repairs in full swing (partially due to that artificial stucco), we couldn’t go out on our balcony at all. The winter before, the repair workers had wired our balcony door shut from the outside. We scrambled to save a few nice flower pots when they first did it. We had put our fresh cut Christmas tree on the balcony in a bucket of water, so we had to make special arrangements to retrieve that too. We didn’t even have windows for a while.

So early this Spring a visit to Home Depot resulted in the purchase of a few small plants. This started a slippery slope of greenery and a whole new battle. (Part 1 of a series.)

General Housekeeping

Here it is – Spring 2015 – already!

My poor blog has been nearly abandoned. Thank goodness I do a better job of paying attention to our fish, cats, and daughter (not in that order) or our home would be seriously smelly. And my daughter is doing a really good job of taking care of her new hamster. How did I agree to another pet in our wee home?

To update you, dear blog, in other news I have a new car. We haven’t yet sold the good ‘ol Saturn. But I now drive a spiffy Honda Fit. So no more holding my breath that the car will start and no more Metroing to work in sub-zero temps (and not even just because it’s Spring).

Building repairs have been more or less completed in our community – though we still need to do interior work like cleaning and organizing and painting a newly two-toned wall. One section in our living room was painted a textured cocoa shade long before the repairs and the rest is newly painted the standard white that the repair guys where contracted to do. We need to do other general repairs too that can move forward now that the building isn’t being pounded on 6-7 hours a day. The community needs to take care of an ongoing rainwater drainage issue. So repairs are done but there is still much to do. It isn’t all done. Kind of like laundry.

Our new microwave still works and it’s still attached to the wall. That’s a real plus in my book! Especially the attached-to-the-wall part because that was a little iffy.

Why we keep cramming our schedule to the point of overflow, I have no idea. I think I need a goal of enough but not too much of everything. My problem is that it doesn’t look like too much until we’re knee deep. I need to work on that. 

My daughter is at an all-day dance conference today, and I somehow ended up sitting in an Ikea eating breakfast after I missed the on-ramp to the beltway to get back home. I had a, “hey, look! Ikea!,” moment. I can’t complain too much. The breakfast is pretty yummy. The coffee was free. Ikea has lots of containers to help me organize things. The floor show was somewhat entertaining. 

The mom and two daughters sitting in front of me reminded me of how much young children like to use their vocal chords and not be confined to a high chair. I’m thankful the mom is keeping said child in the high chair. But the young girl is not keeping her food confined to the plate or to her mouth. So now that they’ve gone it looks like there was an egg and sausage explosion with the high chair positioned in the epicenter. That’s after the mom tried to tidy up. Somebody is wearing eggs on her pretty black Mary Janes today – inside and out. The older daughter seemed to find it all about as amusing as I did.  We are not laughing at her mom. Hugs to the mom. It’s more of an empathetic been-there-done-that. It’s better to find some humor than to feel the pain. 

I’m always a little amazed at how well people in public places can ignore other people in public – just never making any eye contact or anything. That’s what pretty much everybody else in the Ikea restaurant is doing. It’s a little surreal if you ask me. 

Now to figure out how I organize the rest of my life.

Achievement Unlocked

Today, work on the repairs to our building was officially completed in our home.

Sure, we have a few things left, but those are things we’ll take care of ourselves.


Woke Up

That I was tired this morning was nothing new. My attempt at making a hot beverage was.

I put a cup in the microwave so that I could make myself a quick cup of tea or maybe instant coffee. (I know, I know — instant, the horrors, right?)

Zapping it for one minute, our recently installed, new microwave beeped in readiness. I opened the door and picked up my somewhat warm cup only to discover it was dry as a bone.

The microwave had not boiled it out or magically beamed it to another planet. I had failed to put any water in the cup. The microwave must have warmed the small amount of ambient moisture so that parts of the cup and inside of the microwave were warm. That seemed like a really bad thing.

I feared I’d broken our new microwave. Shorted it. I was still craving a hot, caffeine-containing beverage. Clearly, I needed one. Maybe two. I tried again. I made sure I filled the cup with water this time and once again put it in the microwave, setting it to “cook” for one minute.

The microwave sounded different. I knew that sound — the sound of a fan blowing without the magical hum of a magnetron (the part that cooks) in the background. This was the sound our previous microwave made when it was “on” but not heating anything. Broken. That’s why we got the new microwave…

“Oh please, I do not want to go through that again,” I mentally pleaded to the god or goddess of kitchen appliances and regular God too. “Please let it not be broken.”

Maybe I was wrong about the sound. I opened and closed the microwave, turning it off and on again. I let it run for a bit. If it was already broken I couldn’t possibly break it more, could I? Then that distinct background hum finally kicked in. It was working again.

But by the time it beeped, my cup of water was only vaguely warm. Not hot. Dare I zap it some more? I decided to let the whole machine cool a bit. Maybe it had some kind of safety feature that turns off the magnetron if some half asleep idiot tries to zap an empty cup something gets too hot inside. I hoped.

Once all had cooled, sure enough it worked fine. Yay! I zapped my cup. And in about a minute I had a piping hot, not-so-instant, cup of coffee. A pot on the stove would’ve been quicker and tasted better too. But it worked.

Kitchen Nightmares, Level 3, “Hurt Me Plenty”

Last weekend felt like the difficulty setting on life just randomly upped itself a couple of levels. Kind of like when you’re in a treadmill and it gives you a random mountain to scale. Only, okay, nothing too major, so that’s something. But still.

Friday night I dropped half a chocolate peanut butter cream pie in my lap. We ate it anyway. (It was delicious!) The weekend went somewhat downhill from there.

Kitchen projects suddenly reset difficulty levels. “Hurt Me Plenty” level replaced the “Hey, Not Too Rough” level that I would prefer. If not for the lack of respawning monsters it would have felt like “Nightmare!” level at times. (These are difficulty levels for the video game Doom in case you don’t recognize them. Doom! And that’s kind of how it felt.)

We tried to install our new over-the-range microwave oven. This seemed like it would be such an easy task – remove broken microwave, install new, same-size, same-brand microwave, cook dinner! Presto!

Taking the broken microwave down was easy and lulled me into a false sense of confidence and security. I had watched many YouTube videos in preparation for the task. I felt well prepared. I piled a large stack of books on the stovetop to take the brunt of the weight, loosened a few bolts, and lowered the broken microwave to the floor. Easy. I didn’t break a sweat or even a fingernail. And I took a little pride in my accomplishment as a female and in doing it by myself. (I wanted it done and Dave wasn’t up yet. It was early.)

We had imagined the new same-size, same-brand microwave might actually attach to the same mounting plate already affixed to the wall (the metal bracket that holds the major weight of the microwave). But no.

We measured the old and new and nothing matched. Maybe that’s how life changes should be, but we had hoped microwave manufacturers would see things differently. There is both utility and efficiency in hardware consistency.

We had also hoped that, at the very least, the holes needed in the upper cabinet would be in the same place so that we could avoid turning the bottom shelf of the cabinet into Swiss cheese. I could have sworn at least one YouTube video said these holes were standard among over-the-range microwave ovens. But it was another no-go. As if the manufacturer randomly moved each hole several inches in various directions – except for one which is about two millimeters from where it needs to be. So close, yet so far! Pretty sure that was just to tease any annoy us. Ugh.

That’s when more trouble started. And I started to get sick. Not just feel sick, I mean I started sneezing my head off and having no energy. Time for a full-blown cold just when we’ve turned our one remaining construction-free room into a construction zone.

To be continued …

Foggy Morning Drywall

It’s a foggy morning this Wednesday, November 12.

We’re getting drywall! Finally. Work on our unit and entire building started almost a year ago when our balcony door was locked from the outside thus trapping our fresh-cut Christmas tree out on the balcony in a bucket of water. We could see it through a living room window and wondered if that would be it for the holidays.

They began work on the outside of our unit without telling us. We came home one day, and a sign had been taped on the outside of the balcony door window. The door was bolted (wired) shut from the outside. To be fair, technically, the former liaison to the community had posted a note in the lobby on the Friday before. Seeing as we couldn’t use the front parking lot anymore due to construction, we hardly ever walked through the lobby. The notice was in 12pt type and, at a glance, looked exactly like the previous note that had been up for two months. Out of date, it should have been removed. Danny claimed this was our notification. Communications where not his strong suit. We got a new liaison (our fourth) shortly after.

They would demolish the artificial stucco siding outside of our unit thus turning our balcony into a construction zone. We could no longer go out there except by clandestine escape through a window or the one day they let us out to reclaim our Christmas tree and a few clay flower pots left over from summertime greenery. It was cold and some of the clay pots had frozen themselves to the balcony which we freed with tea kettles of hot water. Sweet escape! The workers were helpful and nice as they helped us relocate the tree and pots.

Scaffolding would go up a few months later, then temporary security walls with their pinky, fluffy insulation, clear plastic, and fresh-cut wood smell. And zero windows. No daylight! Just singing workers on the other side along with the sounds of construction. Banging. Saws. Drills. Yelling. It lasted for months.

The pink walls came down in September. I can see this foggy Autumn morning through actual windows. We’ve been in a holding pattern with odd gaps, large sections of exposed 2x4s and fluffy YELLOW insulation peeking out at us. It’s a bit drafty too, so I’m hoping drywall makes that a little better.

One room will be finished soon, then the rest. We hope. Maybe it will be almost normal and free of leaks. It’s a process.

Pink Fluffy Walls, From the Top

The Daily Post’s Daily Prompt for July 19, 2014 is From the Top. It beckons:

Today, write about any topic you feel like — but you must reuse your opening line (at least) two more times in the course of your post.

We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. It almost sounds like fun, but these odd, temporary structures were built to facilitate repairs on our building. The crew can work on the outside while residents remain living inside.

I’m not sure how much I feel like writing about our cotton candy walls, but I’m hoping we can look back on this someday and say, “whew, we made it through!” There’s a lot of tragedy in the world right now. Our stuff seems pretty minor. But it’s our stuff.

These repairs are needed to fix faulty construction and the resulting conditions. Previous attempts did virtually nothing. Now that our buildings have practically turned into oatmeal, this is what’s necessary to really truly make our buildings sound. Put simply, the outside 25% of our home is being demolished and rebuilt. Some neighbors have not taken well to the repairs. They add angry, sometimes even comical, notes to public message boards.

It has been a long, drawn-out process. This mess shouldn’t ‘t happen in modern days of county building inspectors. But it did.

When the temporary “security walls” went up in early April, folks asked us how long it would take. The standard notification put the rough estimate at 2-5 weeks. I said I wouldn’t be surprised if it took two months.

And here we are. It has been over three and a half months. We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. The smell of freshly sawn wood has subsided, but it’s still pretty strange.

There’s near total darkness in our living room no matter what time of day. Is it 2:00 in the afternoon or 2:00 in the morning? We check a clock and turn on lamps.

Our “walls” are made of 2x4s, clear plastic sheeting, and pink household insulation. They have become like a fourth resident – a guest who has overstayed a visit.

Repairs are getting done. That’s good!

And an unexpected bright spot in all of this has been the workers. They sometimes sing and yell in Spanish or even play music. If I’m home I can hear them as if they’re in the same room. They kind of are in the same room. It’s quite surreal and usually makes me smile amid the chaos.

But I miss the windows. The natural light. I’ll think I’m fine and then one morning the darkness will feel heavy again like a blob from outer space.

We try to get out when we can. We need our sunlight and vitamin D. And we try to keep suitably occupied while indoors using a few of our light-emitting window-shaped devices.

A recent Daily Prompt, suggested we name our favorite procrastination destination. We have a new one. We started watching, Under the Dome.

Under the Dome is a TV miniseries based on the Stephen King novel of the same name. I’m not normally much of a Stephen King fan, and don’t normally watch much television.

It was the middle of the night. I was awake and too tired to do much else, so I thought I might stream some Firefly on Amazon. That’s when I saw the gleaming bubble on the artwork for Under the Dome.

I got hooked. King is certainly good at that.

I watched a little during the day, and then my daughter saw a bit of it. “What’s that, Mom?” I wondered if it was age appropriate for her, but I let her watch some.

She thought it was creepy. She’s right. Then, a couple of days later she wanted to watch more. So did I.

We had just watched another episode when I looked up at our pink, fluffy walls and said, “I kind of feel like we’re living under a dome with these walls.”

My daughter replied, “Yeah, I was just thinking that same thing!”

At least the dome let’s the light in. And well, we’re not trapped inside to the point that we can’t get out, so that’s good. Really good even.

But there is a strange fluffy presence looming over us from floor to ceiling. Much like the residents of Chester’s Mill, we don’t know when this barrier will go away. We are still living behind the fluffy, pink walls. It’s a process and maybe a strange little adventure.

Something New, Back of the Queue

With June’s Writing 101 ending, I like the idea of a daily prompt even if I don’t finish an actual post every time. I’m still trying to finish some of those I started for Writing 101. In the meantime, I really like this daily stuff and want to stick to my ten minute pledge. So seeing as The Daily Post has good ol’ daily prompts too, I’m going to give that a whirl.

I think this is actually yesterday’s prompt and that today’s is not yet up. The prompt is:

Back of the Queue

Is there something you’ve always wanted to do, but never got around to starting (an activity, a hobby, or anything else, really)? Tell us about it — and tell us about what’s keeping you from doing it.

This seems like a really appropriate prompt because I would say that I always wanted to write and hadn’t gotten around to doing it regularly for a long time. It’s not that I never did it. I’ve done it in some form since I was a kid. But I would often start and not keep up or not finish. I’ve started many more short stories than finished — all those poor characters just hanging there in unfinished lives! Unfinished worlds. I’d probably make a sucky god.

Before I knew what “blogs” were, I had a little website on the original AOL back when they actually offered web space. I’d try to update with little bits of thought and a few pictures. It was fine, but didn’t happen on a regular basis. Uploading to AOL was a bear! Blogs, actual blogs, make that easier. I started a blog on Blogspot, but it seemed kludgey too. Then I turned to WordPress. I like it better. But it’s hard to juggle writing with everything else when you’re a busy working mom with an active kiddo. So writing tended to get pushed to the back burner — a lot. I finally realized that time’s not going to just plop itself in my lap and say “lets go for a ride.” I’m going to have to grab it by the nape of the neck and make time even if it’s just little bits of time.

Last year I started to actually finish some stories. And now I’ve been updating my blog more regularly. My New Years resolution for 2014 was to blog daily, but I quickly realized that that wasn’t very realistic. I could manage several times a week, though, and then not beat myself up if I don’t get it done. So again, I like these daily prompts and just writing every day makes it much easier to continue writing when I want to work on a story. I still need to work on actually finishing them. My endings, the few of them I have, need work.

Wait, does this technically count for “something I always wanted to do but didn’t?” I’m actually doing it now, right? Kind of?

Well I’ve never been to Disneyland or Disney World either. I’d like to go. My parents never took me, and I’ve pass the practice on to  my daughter. We do hope to go! Maybe next year. Time and money have been an issue. Not that we’ve never been to amusement parks. Just not anything Disney. This year it’s even trickier to find the time. With repairs still going strong on our home, this summer is a bad time to leave for more than a few days. So I’m trying to look at next year as a very solid maybe. Go us!

P.S. I really like the word, “queue.” Who would have thought of putting all those vowels in a row and adding a ‘q’ to the front? It looks so complicated and sounds so simple.


Why Did I Stay Up So Late Writing?

I don’t know what I was thinking to stay up so late writing. I had a goal to get something done. I did it. That’s good.

But now I’m awake again. I want more sleep and I’m trying to get out for work. The repairs on our building are still going strong and the workers are not only early today but very loud.

On the other side of our temporary security walls, they drill, hammer, saw, drop heavy chunks of what I imagine was once part of my home. They yell in spanish. “Beuno!” And this morning they apparently have a boom box because there is also loud music blaring into my living room. I like the music and their singing. The pounding and sawing not so much.

I wonder if they know how well we can hear them.

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