Sunday, July 27, 2014

At the beach with my kiddos...

Unless we get a rainy spell, I'll be back around after I get home in a few days.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014


This was the garage right after I moved in. And it stayed like that for a while, a staging ground for unpacking boxes. It's a single car garage with old wood plank walls and virtually no organizational system other than one cabinet and a few random nails in the wall. And for the record, I absolutely love the wooden walls. Several people have suggested that it would be easy to insulate and put up sheet rock. But the idea of covering those walls just makes me very, very sad.
After I got the last box unpacked, I started drilling and arranging and now have a system of hooks for things to be stored along the walls. I made some plain sheer curtains to let in light but allow for privacy.
I put up the long board from the book shelf I tore out of my room and under it a small cabinet with a door that I brought from my old house. And yes, I am the kind of person who thinks a garage can stand a little art.
The cabinet sustained water damage when the washing machine faucet sprung a leak, so after I'd cleaned it with bleach and let it dry thoroughly, I painted the side and the doors with a can of paint the former owners left behind. The doors are made of oriented strand board and I discovered in my last house that a couple of coats of paint make OSB less rough. Those three enormous pipe wrenches I found at my old house.
The door into the house had been scratched by a dog (I'm assuming). I filled that in with wood putty, removed the door handle and dead bolt and painted it with the paint I'd originally bought for the dining room and then hated in there.
But it works on this door - it seems very cheery to me. (I have some crazy backlighting going on in this photo because I had to open the garage door to get the shot.) I like knowing where everything is and not having to step over things. But you know what I like most of all?
That my car now fits easily inside.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

It occurs to me that I probably shouldn't announce that someone had threatened to kill me and then just disappear. So back to what else is going on on my life...

When I had the house inspected prior to buying it, the inspector expressed some alarm at the decrepit state of the heating and air unit. It was chugging along but was disturbingly hot to the touch.  I was given a price reduction on the house and planned to replace it. But to get the rebate from the utility company, I had to schedule an energy audit with TVA. If you saw "O Brother Where Art Thou?" you might remember that the Tennessee Valley Authority flooded many a homestead in the Southeast to make lakes for hydroelectric dams.
Anyway, the TVA energy consultant echoed the concerns of the home inspector, but more from an energy inefficiency stand point. I opted for a dual fuel HVAC, which means that it runs on electricity until it drops below 35 and then switches to a natural gas furnace. Because of our hydroelectric dam system, electricity is reasonably inexpensive in these parts and the best choice for air conditioners and heating in all but the dead of winter. Electric heat pumps become inefficient when the temperatures approach freezing. This dual system, then, is the best of both technologies.
Enter the heat and air guys. They set up camp at my house Friday and went about replacing the old unit. The man on the team responsible for the electric work and the gas line commented to me that he was glad to see the electric lines were easily accessible and not stapled in. I heard him saying to the other guys, "Yeehaw!  This is gonna be easy!"
I overheard one of the guys telling a story about going into one home and seeing a bag of weed left out on the table. I was wondering what prompted that story until I remembered that they also had to work in the crawl space to fix the sagging ductwork. Maybe it was the 46 bottles of wine I have stashed under the house. And since he'd also been inside sealing up the vents, maybe he'd also noticed the additional 25 bottles there. Yeah, okay, that's more than 70 bottles. I like to be prepared. Sue me.
By early that afternoon, in spite of working in the rain, they were done and my new system was quietly saving me money. Or at least it will be when this cool spell is over and I turn the AC on again.
There was also the matter of this old water heater dying in the garage. For our first month here, the best we could hope for was a lukewarm shower. Not a summer problem, really, but rather than fixing it, I decided it would be a good idea to upgrade that as well. I asked the TVA auditor about tankless water heaters and he said that would require running a gas line from the opposite end of the house. He suggested I consider a hybrid heat pump water heater instead. I'd never even heard of that, but I like the sound of it.  It uses a heat pump to pull heat from the air around it to heat the water and then kicks in with an electric heater when the air is colder. And it sits right next to my freezer, which really heats the air around it. As a bonus, the heat pump acts as a de-humidifier. Here in the foothills of a temperate rain forest, a de-humidifier is always a useful thing. At the store where I ordered it, several people stopped to chat because it's not a common option yet. For one thing they are way more expensive than standard water heaters. But with a projected energy savings of about $350 a year, it will pay for itself in three years. Sign me up.
The man who came to install it said his assistant was across town and rather than wait, he was going to lift it (250 pounds, empty) into place himself. I said I'd help but he laughed and said, "Oh no, I'm not going to let you touch it!" A wise decision given my pathetic upper body strength. Not only did he make sure the thing was level, meticulously bend the pipes to perfect 90 degree angles because he said haphazard pipes bugged him, AND explain to me how to use and maintain the heater, he also noticed my off-kilter freezer and insisted on leveling that, too. That's service.
Over the new water heater, I hung this painting of a caped robot my older son made when he was in elementary school. With it's gray tank-like body and red top, it just matched. Even the ribbed legs and arms of the robot matched the metal pipes. Which leads to the next post about fixing up the garage.

Monday, July 14, 2014

This is a first.

I've been a little pre-occupied the last several days. It started with a patient I'd been working with about managing his aggressive, impulsive behavior. Charged with stalking, he painted himself as a misunderstood victim. But he continued to act out and make threats to sue various people. At the beginning of last week, after our session, I got a voicemail saying he was canceling all future appointments with me because, he said, I was working against him with his physician and the woman he'd been stalking. The message continued: "I’m going to find me a lawyer and I’m going to put you and Dr. X in prison. If I don’t put you out of business, I’m going to put you in prison because y’all have teamed up against me. Don’t never call me again. Bye.”

Well. In my business, the therapeutic relationship essentially ends with a move like that. I called for a legal consult with my liability insurance and then sent a termination letter explaining that.

Another angry voicemail followed, accusing me of abandoning him and saying he'd never come to my office again. But I knew I hadn't heard the end of it. Cut to Thursday when a police officer knocked on my door and asked me to step outside. She wanted to warn me that the patient had gone to the physician's office and said he'd never killed a doctor but was going to. And that he knew that doctor and I were conspiring against him. She said it was clear that he was threatening both of us and when they arrested him, they found he'd gone out and bought a bunch of ammo for a .45. Since he's already been charged and is awaiting trial for the stalking charges, he's not allowed to have guns. But he's made it clear to me he has access to them even though he doesn't have them at his house.

This morning, another voicemail saying he needed a psychological evaluation to help his case: "I need a written permit from you, telling me about my psychology service and and whether I'm crazy or not. I need that. To take to the court. Now, if you don't give it to me or send it to me or let me come over there and get it, I'm going deny these Medicare claims and file a fraud report. All you got to do is let me come over there and you write it out and give it to me. Now you call me or do something or I'm going to fill out this Medicare... deny all these claims that you got on me. Bye." As if you can retroactively cancel services already provided and then claim fraud.

I drove to the courthouse to see about getting an order of protection and was given a multi-page form to complete with all kinds of information I didn't have on me and told I'd have to get a judge to sign it. Why would they make that so difficult? And if it was difficult for me, imagine what it would be like for some poor, uneducated woman in an abusive relationship. Next I drove to the police station and as soon as they heard who I was talking about, I was taken back to an office. The chief of police and another officer sat down with me to take my statement and listen to the recorded messages. The police chief was angry - they've been dealing with this guy for a while now and want him taken care of. The upshot of all this is that until his court date, he can bond out each time he's arrested. They've requested that his bond be revoked when he does go to court. And they are also requesting a psych eval for commitment. I was told by both of them to call if he came by again, made any more phone calls or even if I just had the suspicion that he was around.

When I got back to the office, there was yet another voicemail reiterating his wish for me to get an evaluation to him, ending with: "Now Medicare.. I know I didn't have to pay nothing for all those visits but Medicare did and if I don't get it I WILL call Medicare. Bye." And a couple of hours later, another: "If you don't call me back within the hour on my cell phone and tell me that you are going to send me an evaluation report or you're going to give it to Dr. X, you've got ONE hour, or I'm going to call Medicare. Bye." Like he's a kidnapper setting terms for the ransom drop-off.

The officer called this afternoon to let me know that a warrant had been issued and that he'd gone to the guy's house to arrest him only to find the guy had been transported to the VA hospital. I found myself fervently wishing he'd had a CVA or a massive MI or something else that would put him out of commission. And I don't like wishing harm on someone.  It feels karmically wrong. The officer said that as soon as the guy is released from the hospital he'll be arrested. But has already told me not to have a false sense of  security because he'll be released again quickly, to stay aware and call them if I need anything. What I need is for this guy to go far, far away.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

One room at a time.

Let's start with the living room. This was the house when I looked at it before buying it, still filled with the owner's furniture. The walls in most of the house were painted an inoffensive neutral - in this case, basically the color of masking tape.
After painting, the living room now looks like this. Those two glowing things in the back are paper lantern light fixtures. A friend of mine came over to see the place and when he looked around the room he said, "Wow, this is great! This house is SO you!" "Obnoxious modern hippy" is what my older son calls my decorating style.
One of the first things I did was replace the blinds. They were the standard aluminum mini blinds and had been on the windows for a while. They were difficult to raise and lower, the turn stick that opened them had broken off on one side and although the larger middle set was white, the two narrower sets on the sides were beige. I had a discount coupon on blinds from my mortgage lender so I called the company and they sent someone out to bring samples and consult with me. A week or so later, another guy came out and installed them quickly. He told me the ones I picked were his absolute favorites but that people rarely bought them.
I chose these light-filtering cloth blinds so that even closed light comes in. And white wooden valences to match the crown moulding.
The view from the dining room - opened, the blinds are barely noticeable. I'm realizing the wall colors I chose look very different depending on the time of day of the photo.
I had someone hang the TV for me, since I couldn't locate the studs, even with a sensor, through the heavy plaster walls. I bought a seagrass basket to hold the DVD player and the cable box, and drilled holes in the back for the cords.
The contractor's assistant is the same one who saved the crystal light pulls for me because they were "old and fancy." He's heavily tattooed and sports a ZZ Top-like beard. As he was helping me thread the cords through the basket he surprised me by saying, "That's very craft-y.  I like it. I'm going to have to do that." Book doesn't always equal cover.
I brought with me five wooden dynamite boxes that I'd found in the bomb shelter of my last house (seriously, you can't make this stuff up) and made them into furniture. Because how often do you see shelves made out of boxes that used to hold explosives?
The other side of the room. That glass-fronted attorney's bookcase was another find at the last house. I walked away with some treasures from that place. It feels good to have the boxes un-packed and the piles of stuff gone. Now I don't cringe every time I walk through the room.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

One last post about electrical stuff.

Let me say up front that I can get entirely side-tracked by minutia. When the electricians replaced the ungrounded three-prong plugs with old-style two-prong plugs to make it meet code, all of them were white. Which was fine except for the sunroom.
Enter Amazon, where I was able to order brown replacements and wire them in myself. As I was working, I was careful to note first which wire went where. Important since some of the outlet boxes had two wires, some four and some six.
The white outlets I removed from the sunroom went to replace old outlets that were just dirty and/or painted over.  It took way longer than I was expecting because that old wire is nearly unbendable. In some cases I had to soak the painted screw heads in mineral spirits to loosen them and one even had to be removed with needle-nosed vise grips.
I'm so skittish about electricity that I just cut the power to the whole house whenever I do any work that requires wiring. Just in case the house was originally wired by a lunatic or the labels on the circuit box aren't entirely accurate. This means I have to work during the daytime.
All the light switches were the standard toggle sort and I replaced them all with these more modern rocker types. No real reason except that I like them better. For the living room light and the bathroom, I put in a lighted switch so I could find it in the dark. In all, I wired in 13 outlets and 9 light switches.
The doorbell was broken (and ugly) and on a couple of occasions I've looked outside to see someone patiently standing at the front door, thinking they had rung the doorbell. I yanked it out of the wall and painted over that spot and also removed the push button outside. Now people know to use the door knocker.
This was the hall light. The day we moved in, I glanced at it and had this conversation with my younger son:
Me: "That's got to go."
YS: "Why?? It's shiny brass!"
Me: "Because it's shiny brass."
YS: "But, Mom! Brass is as close as you can get to gold!"
Exactly. It was absurdly difficult to remove the old lantern-style light. This new one, though, was fairly easy to wire in.
Another example of old and fancy, but in this case I decided not to keep it. I actually find it kind of appealing in an over-wrought sort of way, but crystal chandeliers are so not me. My grandmother always wanted one and she would have wept to know I took it down without a second thought. I got on-line to order a replacement since I couldn't find what I wanted in the stores I checked. When they said it shipped from China, it turns out they meant that literally. I had to go to the post office to sign for it.
This is the paperwork with the lamp in its entirety. No wiring instructions at all. Nothing mentioning that they use different colored wires than we do or that the fittings were a different size than what is standard here. No hanging hardware at all, either. I dug out my tool box, took a deep breath and just figured out a way to hang it.
It reminds me of one of those balls of amber that has a fossilized insect encased in it. Which may not be a positive image for everyone, but I do like this glowing lamp.  I was looking for a dining room lamp that made me think of honey and this was it.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

I wasn't a fan.

If you google "1980's fans" you will find all the fans that were in my new house. Which makes sense since the previous owner bought the house in the '80's. This one was in my room - that gold-colored stenciling was a popular feature of that era.
The bedrooms had these blades with wicker insets. I remember we had chairs with seats made out of this stuff when I was a kid. There was always a little piece of it that had gotten torn and would stick into your leg.
Every single fan had a shiny brass base. Including the one on the sunroom, which had no light kit at all.  All serviceable, I'll admit, and not one to my liking.
But ceiling fans are very useful in hot climates like mine so I opted for replacing them rather than just putting in lights. I'd installed the ones in my last house and planned to do these, too. I cut the power to the house and my younger son set to work dismantling the fan. Which, while a pain, turned out to be the easy part. The wires coming out of the ceiling were an indeterminate color and there was no ground wire. I called Hunter's tech line and was told to consult an electrician. I asked if this was the first time anyone had ever tried to install one of their fans in an older house, but since I kept my tone reasonably friendly, I don't think she got my sarcasm. I capped off the exposed wires and we moved on to the sunroom fan hoping it would be easier to install. Nope. Every place we drilled appeared to be just acoustic tile without wood underneath. I caved and called in a contractor.
For the sunroom, which has knotty pine walls, I got a fan with dark antique brass. The glass globes are also darker, making the light a little warmer-looking. The contractor and his assistant were apparently able to find the solid wood to hang this from.
The kitchen to this more modern fan with an LED light fixture. It looks a little like a space ship to me, and operates by remote. (Ignore the red kitchen - that will change.)
Two of the bedrooms got these standard sort of lamps. I'm sitting under one now and it's very comfortable.
And my room.  I snagged these cut glass globes and pulls off one of the fans I was donating and used them instead of the frosted glass globes and metal pulls it came with. This is the one really feminine room in the house and I liked the sweet, old-fashioned look of it.  The contractor's assistant had actually set aside the crystal pulls for me and said, "I thought you might want them because they are old and fancy." I couldn't argue with that.