Sunday, December 23, 2012

Bathroom Reboot

It's taken me awhile to get back into the swing of the remodeling projects that I had going in the basement but I got back on it this weekend and have more results.  As long as you don't peek behind the curtain at the unfinished shower project, my downstairs bathroom is looking pretty awesome!

Here are the before pictures.  Note the blue smear paint on the walls, the yellowed vanity top and - well the blue...There used to be a flat huge mirror on the wall just to the right of this picture.

And now a coat of paint covers the blue, I refinished the vanity top and got some new bathmats/shower curtains. TA DA!

New mirror on the wall, and refinished vanity top.

Yay for having a nice bathroom!

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Tons of work - totally worth it!

Remember the basement?  Yeah we had pretty much forgotten about it too...since Josh left for San Antonio and James started school at Iowa State we were rarely even down there.  So it seemed odd that Chad and I decided to take on the basement project this fall of course I jumped in with both feet.  

The first two rooms that we started working on were literally blocked off last summer.  When we took up the disgusting carpet there was even more disgusting tile stuck down with thick black tarry adhesive.  The walls were crumbling and well - everything was smurf blue...

So...a ton of drywall, two gallons of paint (Valspar St Francis Hotel), hundreds of square feet of carpet tiles, a lot of elbow grease (including Jackson and Joey who helped me hammer out tiles) and we now have two functional bedrooms in our basement!!

 And then there was the kitchen.  Thank goodness it was a quick project without as many hems and haws over what I was going to do. All of the beautiful **sarcasm** green plaid wallpaper was taken down wall holes were patched and a new coat of paint (English Rosewood - Dutch Boy) and some new decor was put up and...its now a pretty kitchen!  YAY!

**nevermind the mess

Last but not least the dining room area.  The first picture was taken during our second tour of the house before we put in our offer.  The ceiling tiles were yellowed from cigarette smoke, the carpet was stained and gross. The second photo shows what we found under that carpeting...not much better (you can kind of see the gross tiles in the front bedroom back there too.

So I did some more drywall repair, a nice coat of the same paint I used in the bedrooms put down more carpet tile and polished the woodwork.  Right now its a cozy sitting room because its convenient storage for the furniture while I tackle the other side of the basement and bathroom but eventually we will have a pub table and chairs in that area.

The next chapter is to come.  My bathroom is pulled apart down there at the moment its mostly painted but the shower surround fell apart when I was cleaning the grout so there are some major issues down there.  Just wait there is more to come!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Thoughts/rant on this "Fifty Shades" thing

I admit, I was curious to see what all of the hype was about and, since I happened to have downloaded copies of the "Fifty Shades of Grey" series by E.L. James I thought I would give it a go.  I popped them into ibooks and dove in.

The first thing that struck me is that the writing wasn't reminded me of something written for teens and I SERIOUSLY hope that was not the demographic they were going for with this novel.  The inner monologue of the main character was inane and I found myself skimming chapters full of gratuitous and completely unnecessary sex scenes. I honestly think I may have enjoyed the book better if there wasn't a love scene every four paragraphs.

For me, the most disturbing about this phenomenon is the Christian Grey obsession.  The man is a psychopath, a sadist, a control freak and, quite frankly, dangerous and should NOT be an ideal to which any young woman (or old woman as some of the followers of the novel have proven to be) should aspire.  Period.  We may have seen a softer side as the novels continued but I have felt compelled from halfway through the first book to issue a warning.


If you find a man, no matter how rich, handsome, sexy and powerful he is, if he stalks you all the way across the country when you tell him you need space that is NOT normal.  If he convinces you that the only way you can be together is to do things that you are not comfortable with it is NOT healthy.  If your boyfriend admits that he loves punishing you and hitting you you RUN away from that situation because you WILL get hurt, physically and emotionally.  If they are so controlling that he tells you what and when to eat, who you can and cannot see, and goes to the extreme of buying the company for which you work just to be able to have control, that is a sickness and you will lose yourself in the process of making him happy.

The "heroine" Anastasia continually talks herself out of common sense.  I'm all for exploring new experiences as long as you are in a loving and respectful relationship and have clear expectations.  What I am not cool with is the glorification of the "kinky fuckery" as the book calls it ad nauseum. This girl had protected her virginity despite other advancements from nice, normal men but her resolve melted at first sight of Christian and was gone in minutes instead of the weeks and months it takes to build a mutually trusting relationship.  It is not cool, not normal, and not healthy.  Ana doesn't even get a chance to breathe before being pressured and smothered by her boyfriend.  How is this even acceptable in our society?

Please, don't look for your own Christian Grey.  Most women who get into relationships such as this end up broken, hurt, and abused.  Shelters across the country are filled to brimming with women who fall in love, think that they need to sacrifice themselves and their morals to make a man happy and stay in the abuse because they are convinced that love is more about pleasing their husbands and boyfriends than creating a two way relationship.  Just remember, the story doesn't always end with the power of love triumphing over deep seeded mental problems.  Most of the time, the story ends badly.


I have one book to go but I have to cleanse my palate with a book that doesn't make me cringe constantly first.

Monday, July 9, 2012

A Change for the Better

I think that I have always known that the way that I live my life was ultimately poisoning me.  I have smoked, drank, eaten poorly, watched too much TV and not moved my body enough at various points in my life.  Looking back, I can see that the times when I have been happiest have been the times when I have treated myself the best. So now here I am, facing demons again.

Being a road warrior is awesome - flexible scheduling, getting to meet new people in new places all the time.   But it has its drawbacks.  Like having to grab quick meals on the road...usually resorting in choices between Casey's pizza, McDonalds or Subway.  Some choices are better than others but all were slowly seeping into my system.  Making me feel fat, lethargic and lazy.  Behind the wheel is not the best way to have an exercise and activity filled lifestyle either.  So I know that I have to make a change.  One for real and one for good.

It all started with a documentary - something that I picked up just on a whim and from recommendations from friends and family.  Forks over Knives.  And while I am more skeptical than to buy into all of the claims of health and happiness it puts forward, it did sprout a seed that I had planted in my brain long ago.  Natural is better.  Not rocket science and so simple that it makes me feel dumb not to have caught on long ago.  So I did my research.  Everyone from Dr. Oz to the CDC and many stops in between and I made some decisions.

Chemicals are killing me.  Sugar, caffeine, Artificial sweeteners, nicotine, processed foods.  It was all making me tired and heavy.  Last year when I did the HCG program I felt amazing.  Truly great.  Even just eating 500 calories a day I felt great because I was eating good healthy foods, lean proteins, fresh vegetables and fruits.  Over the past year, however, I have slipped back into old habits, put on an appalling 30 pounds over the day I got married and my energy level has plummeted.  So no more chemicals.  Sounds easy right?  uh huh.  Easy until you go without your morning coffee, without your diet soda or sugar laden cereals or breakfast bars.  Easy until your kids beg you to go to McDonalds where even the french fries have sugar in them.  Easy until you realize you live in Newton and there is no whole foods markets within an hour radius of my house.

Not easy.  But hopefully worth it.  Today is day two - low dairy - vegetable base - organic.  I'm exhausted and my head hurts but I can feel the toxins leaving my body.  Without getting graphic, bathroom times have been much easier.  From the research I've done, this is normal, getting my body back to basics.  By next weekend I should be feeling better and then I get to add in moderate exercise.  Stay tuned for more updates!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The Making of Window Woman


Linda watched her daughter race up to the end of the line at the zoo.  The preschool field trip had gone well and now they were making a single file line to wait for entry to a show featuring trained tropical birds.   Linda was glad for the opportunity to chaperone the trip and thankful that she got to stay at home with her children as they grew.  Money was often tight but they always had what they needed and wanted, a vacation every year, a nice Christmas and beautiful birthday parties.  Her daughter was one of a kind.  Ever since she had been adopted five years earlier, Linda had realized just how much having a child could change your life.

Back in the line, the little girl at the end of the line soon began talking to the two kids in front of her.  Some unseen force seemed to propel those two kids to the back of the line while her daughter moved forward.  The child repeated the process on the next set of friends talking, circling, and slowly moving toward the head of the line.  By the time the doors to the theater opened, Linda was amazed to find that her daughter was marching in directly behind the teacher, the first patron into the small arena with the prime seat to see the action.  Not one of the children in the preschool class seemed to have noticed the girls clever rise from the back of the line to the front and nobody complained about her cutting in front.

Little did Linda know that the girl she saw at the age of five moving effortlessly through the crowd to become a leader would use that skill throughout her life.  The girl was constantly circling, mingling and gently rising through the ranks to become a centerpiece of anything she did.  That girl was (and is) me.  Window Woman, Gutter Girl, and the sales manager and CEO of CNA Company.

I live in Iowa (please think corn and not potatoes).  Born and raised here, I became proficient at moving through the farming communities and participating in such rural events as "The Corn Carnival" and "Cow Chip Throwing Contests".  Iowa is a place dotted with communities where everyone knows everyone else.  It's a place where John Deere trucker style hats are worn without irony or fashion conscience and rusty Ford pickup trucks are the primary mode of transportation.

Before you cast me as the same bucktoothed, tractor riding, Wrangler wearing farm girl (unless you are into that kind of thing, then by all means feel free.) Let me explain that my more formative college years  were spent in Kansas City surrounded by the Core Four who taught me about the finer things in life.  By using cheap housing and sometimes interesting roommates I was able to forge that same appreciation and carried it back to Iowa with me.  I am a salesperson in every sense of the word.

I drive.  It's the primary function of what I do.  My card may say Sales Manager, my job description may say "in charge of in home presentations and product sales" but really what I drive.  A short commute for me is a location an hour or less away.  Most days the trip on my odometer reads 180 miles or more, 5 days a week, 2-6 hours a day just me, the road and my audiobooks and podcasts.  My office staff seems to never runs out of tiny, backroads towns that nobody has ever visited voluntarily, to send me so 90 percent of each of my days consists of this view through my windshield.  I refer you to the song "Interstate 80 Iowa" by Heywood Banks for more information.  If you have ever travelled that stretch of highway you will be LAUGHING hysterically after viewing that video!

I love people.  I love them the same way that a farmer loves his cattle.  He nurtures and cares for them, provides them with their needs, but, in the end, the farmer has a dark purpose, and that is steak night.  I come into people's homes, comment on their framed photographs of their grandchildren, smile warmly and speak intelligently.  I educate the consumer on what to look out for in the big bad world of home improvement contracting. "Don't worry little calf - - um prospect - - we are here to take care of you." And in the end, I get my steak dinner and my customers get what they want and need and (unlike my analogy of before) nobody has to die in the process.  

OK so that's a little harsh, and most times I get poked and prodded like rump roast at the butcher shop as well.  People are a timid bunch they are afraid to get what they want in case I don't come through for them.  Nobody likes to look like a fool.  So no matter how long the drive, how many cups of coffee it took me to remain awake and alert, how much gas station pizza and individually wrapped snack cakes I had for lunch, how much  my back aches or how early the dog woke me up to be taken out to poop, I pull up to the house, turn on the smile, and start building the trust we deserve.

My company has been amazing to me.  They took me in at a place in my life where I was single, had 2 kids (one of whom was a newborn) and was in danger of losing my house, and they took a chance on me.  The products are superior which makes my job very easy at times, and very, very difficult at others but I really do love people and want to help make their homes comfortable.  (Besides, I make a darn good living doing it).  This collection of stories is meant to share some of the good, the bad and the ugly about what I do, who I meet, and the thoughts that are inevitably running through the minds of every contractor that you have come into your home as well.  

Payne Stewart is quoted as saying "If you can't laugh at yourself, then how can you laugh at anybody else? I think people see the human side of you when you do that."  Welcome to the human side of sales.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

What doesn't kill you (aka Corky the Car Guy)

Chapter Three - Coralville, IA

It was already nearly 10:00pm  when I, disguised as mild mannered Window Woman, packed my cases in the back of the van, tucked my signed contracts into my case and pulled out of the townhouse complex in Coralville.

The lazy morning had turned into an action packed afternoon full of stops at the outlet center for a return and the umpteenth trip to Lowe's for yet another haul of stuff to be installed in the house.  I had my sticky note from my husband in my hand and efficiently moved around the home improvement warehouse picking up hedge trimmers, outlet covers and water filters along the way.  I got to the checkout with my purchases and realized as we were unloading that, instead of six electrical outlet covers, I had six light switch plates.  So I let the kind cashier ring through the rest of my order and bolted back to get the additional outlet covers.  Got back, changed out the order, paid, picked up my bags and...rrrrip.  The bag holding my precious purchases spilled out all over the floor.

As I  gathered my belongings into a new bag the lady behind me in line who had witnessed the entire affair including my sprint back to electrical commented "This is just not your day is it?" Lady, you have no idea. I thought but did not say.

At the late hour after my last appointment, my choices for food were limited to McDonalds and McDonalds so I stopped off for a fish sandwich and a Diet Coke and got on the Interstate with the latest JD Robb novel playing on the iPod.  The trip was short lived however, as fifteen minutes into the journey, I was met with a scent of burning rubber and the unmistakeable quiver of a blown tire.  Somehow I managed to steer the van off onto the shoulder, flip on my hazard lights and spew a line of expletives before calling my husband for the number to Roadside Assistance.

I know at this point you must be thinking "Window Woman with your amazing skills and qualifications a road warrior of your caliber should be able to handle a simple tire change", and you would be correct under normal circumstances, however I was on a dark stretch of rural interstate where semi trucks were whipping past my vehicle at a minimum of 70 miles per hour (see exhibit A on right), I was wearing a wrap around sundress which billowed up Marilyn Monroe style every time a gust of wind blew by and, most importantly, I had no clue where the spare tire on the van was located.  Yeah yeah I know - something I should definitely know (and I do now) but I couldn't even find the owner's manual that I had taken out of the glove box so I could program the on-board garage door opener.  In hind sight, that would have been a perfect time to review the "emergency roadside" section of the handbook.

After a lovely conversation with Karen at the insurance dispatch center I was told that a truck would be available at or before 11:45pm which left me a little over an hour before this distressed damsel would be rescued.  After a mere 20 minutes I received a phone call on my cell from the tow truck driver who identified himself as "Corky" (seriously, even if this were a work of fiction I couldn't have come up with a name that ironic.)  I explained the dilemma and he promised to be there in about 20 minutes.

During the waiting period I utilized my time by organizing and purging the glove box, reading a few pages of my ebook, and finishing up the now luke warm sandwich and watered down Diet Coke.  True to his word Corky pulled up behind me with yellow lights flashing and came out to assess the situation.

"Looks like your tire is shredded," he said in a flat tone that indicated that I might not actually know that is what was wrong.

"Looks like it" I said, "that's what you are here for." I explained about the mystery of where the spare was located and set to work on finding it.  Corky's theory was that it must be under the cargo hold of the back of my van.

Let me stop to explain something about my van.  On any given day my vehicle is stuffed to the gills with sample cases, car seats, kids toys, random items on their way to Goodwill, office equipment and various forms of office paperwork.  It is my mobile office, mobile showroom, and quite often my mobile napping spot. Unloading such items is no easy task but Corky dutifully began the search for the spare by removing and neatly lining up the cases against the side of the car furthest from the rushing traffic.  Still no release hatch.  We slid out the back seats of the car.  Still no release hatch.  At this point I am doubting the validity of Corky's credentials and volunteered to Google search the owner's manual from the Saturn website.  A few minutes after looking at the iPhone rendering of the release knob, he found and removed the donut from the undercarriage of the vehicle.  Success!

Once the spare was found Corky went to his tasks which, thankfully, he performed quickly and efficiently.  He quickly lived up to his quirky name by indulging me in happy small talk about how he came to the profession of emergency vehicle assistance, the personal lives of all of his office co-workers and making not so subtle inquiries about the nature of my business, all while I was attempting to repack the Tetris puzzle that makes up the cargo hold of my van.  He was a good guy and - if you ever find yourself stranded anywhere near the Iowa City metro area, Campus Towing is the one to call (be sure to ask for Corky)  He even indulged me in a little blog worthy self portrait and didn't complain at all when the flash of the iPhone camera kept lighting up his safety vest like a nuclear flashpoint.

The last thing of which Corky was obliged to remind me was that the donut wasn't meant to sustain speeds of over 50 miles per hour.  Mind you, I am now approximately 80 miles away from home, about an 1.25 hours of driving at the posted Interstate speed limit of 70 mph and the time was now midnight (insert scene of me bashing my head against the steering wheel of my vehicle repeatedly here)

Heeding his warning, I pulled off at the next exit about a mile up the road with Corky following with his yellow lights still whirring away and headed towards Highway 6 otherwise known as "The Long Way Home." By this time I was in serious need of caffeine, and yes, a bathroom.  Surely, somewhere along the stretch of state highway, someone would have the presence of mind to have a 24 hour Casey's or Quicktrip planted at an intersection.  You would think that, but you would be wrong.  Small town after small town rolled by and no sign of life was readily visible for miles.  The "Stop Ladora Stora" windows were as dark as a Hitchcock movie, the Cenex station in Brooklyn closed up like a mob suspect in a police investigation.  The only thing I could see through the bug juice that was now caking my windshield was open road, ghost towns, and the occasional possum, raccoon and one very curious doe that thankfully stayed OFF the road.  It felt like the road was winding backwards as I crept along at 45mph praying that the thin piece of dusty rubber on the back of my car would hold.

At long last, the oasis of Grinnell shimmered in the distance.  To see the small town lit up with street lights felt to me like a cowboy driving across the Brooklyn Bridge and catching his first glimpse of New York City.  Here I knew, was at least a 24 hour grocery where I could find relief and refreshment.   I had never been so excited to see a Kum and Go (yes, people in Iowa visit a convenience store called Kum and Go and it does not degenerate into a fit of giggles over the name.  That's alright, get it out of your system.) in my entire life, at least here would be hot coffee and clean bathrooms.  Hallelujah.

The time was 1:30am when I filled my coffee cup and brought it to the counter where David, the also very chipper, cashier checked me out.  "How are you tonight?" was the obligatory question.  I glared at him through bleary, tired eyes and muttered, "I survived." David chuckled "You know Nietzsche once said that what doesn't kill you makes you stronger but what he didn't say is that it hurts a lot." I weakly smiled and returned the platitude. "Tomorrow is another day, wait, it's tomorrow already it can only go up from here."  "Don't worry," he replied. "It can always get worse."

As I pushed my way out the door, I retorted back  "David you are a bright shining piece of optimism." and climbed back into my ailing vehicle.  Nietzsche, he quoted freaking Nietzsche to me, this night cannot get any weirder.

At 2:15am I finally cruised into my driveway to find that Chad and the older boys were still up watching some awful movie on Netflix.  Still stimulated by the recent round of caffeine, I finished the film and collapsed into bed.  It didn't kill me, so I guess the logical conclusion must be that I will be stronger.  **crossing fingers and hoping**

Thursday, June 14, 2012


One of the funnest things about this move has been getting to find new homes for all of my old stuff. And also getting new stuff to add to it. There is no doubt that there is a lot of stuff to put up but wow what a difference it makes toward making the place our own. Office dining room and entry way are done except for paint in the entry. Upstairs is next!!

Office windows: Potratz Sign I made from open stock photography.  Some of the little collectibles I have collected over the years, the digital photo frame my husband got me for my birthday and the Office sign that has been collecting dust for years as well.

Dining Room: I got all of the coffee themed pictures that I have collected over the years up on the walls.  It feels nice that everything has a place and it works so well in this room and I got the china cabinet all stocked and put together and looking elegant.

Entryway.  The bookshelf has a wedding picture and bouquet on top, a picture from our honeymoon in a driftwood frame we bought in Key West as well as a bowl of sand and coral from snorkeling in Belize.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Selling the Ghost

Chapter Three - Red Oak, IA

Saturday afternoons are often the best and worst appointments to run.  Great because we catch people who work their normal 8-5 M-F schedules while they are home but the worst because people have a tendency to get wrapped up in their Saturday activities and forget that the Window Woman is coming to visit.  Nevermind that she got up early and left her kids with her parents and drove two hours to come see you.  It's all part of the routine though so I complain rather infrequently.  I am just happy to have someone to talk to and the potential to provide money to my family.

The good news, the prospect was home when I knocked on his door.  Waiting for me actually.  He looked like he was in his late seventies and the house looked like it was in pretty good shape for the relative age of the structure.  Charlie met me at the door armed with his two expectations of his appointment.  #1) *pointing to a 24x18 leaded glass window in the front hall* If you touch that window I will sue your company for all its worth.  #2) No matter how much he likes what I have to say, the spirits have to approve before he will install anything.

I was with him on the lead glass - that stuff is valuable and beautiful but, did he just say "spirits"?  Obviously a poker career is not in my future because he read the surprise and skepticism in my look immediately.  I regained my composure as quickly as I could and nodded as if he just asked me if I could finance his purchases instead of asking me to provide a sales pitch to the spirits who live in his house.

"That sounds interesting" I replied, "tell me about theses 'spirits'"

Charlie lead me into his den which had depictions of wolves and eagles coating every flat surface.  He pointed to a hand carved wooden rocking chair for me and he sat on a 50's era office chair in the requisite mustard yellow fabric across from me.

He settled back in his chair and lit an American Spirit cigarette to tell his tale.  "Back in 1940, there was an old couple who lived in this house, they raised seven children here and passed the house to them when they died.  The kids had no respect for the history of the home and painted and scratched up the woodwork, broke most of the old windows in the house and then sold it.  What they didn't know is that the spirit of the parents never left the house and all of the bad luck that fell on each of their children was because those spirits dwelled in the home and still do to this day."  He then produced a picture of one Halloween when a picture was taken on his front porch that "showed" the spirit hovering above the front window (I don't suppose there was any other explanation like the reflection of a kid in a mask reflected in the window or anything) but again I nodded and pretended to be awed by the image in the photograph.

Satisfied that I believed his stories, I was then free to launch into my presentation I was talking about the superiority of our structure, integrity, and purity of ingredients when he stopped me and reached his hand out for the vial of ground vinyl I was presenting.  "Let me hold it" he said "I can feel for purity in my hands." Determined not to be phased by the request I passed it over.  "This is not pure" he said and passed it back.  But I had him locked and passed over the vial of the competitors grind for palm analysis. "Ahh I see - it's not pure but its a lot more pure than this one." I smirked in spite of myself knowing that I had just proven myself to Charlie and to his spirits.

At the end of the presentation, his demeanor was relaxed and he followed me around as I was measuring each window and told me all about his Native American ancestors (who were wolves) as well as his kids. Calculation finished, he nodded at the figures I put together.  "That looks good, let me consult my son and my spirits."  More amused than anything else I kicked back and accepted one the cigarettes he offered me while he placed his calls (both on the phone and through a series of knocks and about 15 minutes where he sat with his eyes closed, humming under his breath.

The final verdict?  He would take the whole houseful of windows!  Window Woman to the rescue!  Of course, as enthusiastic as he was about the prospect of his new windows, the spirits couldn't help him out in one key area.  Financing. *sigh*

Monday, June 11, 2012

Sounds About Right

Chapter Two

The time was 5:15 AM and Gutter Girl rolled over with disdain at the beeping iPhone in front of her.  This time of the morning in general should be a criminal offense, or at least a criminal defense strategy seeing as though no rational thought can occur before the sun crests the horizon.  After a weekend spent aimlessly wandering between Iowa and the Missouri border, I was in no mood to start off the week with a three hour drive to the Illinois border for leads.  The promise of sales and coffee as well as the beeping of the (third?) snooze alarm screeching back at me shoved me out of bed and into the shower.  The warm shower water washed over me and rinsed off the humid, stuffy veneer of the upstairs of the house off my skin and humanity began to creep in to my demeanor.

Half an hour later I was pulling into the mostly empty parking lot of the Kindercare and kissing my kids goodbye.  Although I told the boys that she would see them later that night, I knew in my heart that it was a long shot that I would be home to see them except when I cracked their doors to watch their angelic faces sleeping in the glow of their night lights.

Coffee in hand, I pulled into traffic and set the cruise.  Another hour into the journey as I pulled off to get a new coffee and eliminate the remains of her first one, the phone rang again.  The office.  As I considered the call, I prayed a silent prayer that it wasn't a cancellation and that I didn't wake up at the ungodly hour for no apparent reason.  It was worse, the Monday morning customer complaint call, yup that sounds about right.

Taking it in stride, I resolved the issue with the wheels in her mind spinning as fast as the ones that touched the pavement.  Apparently some of those wheels were spinning faster than others because in my rear view mirror where the spinning red and blue lights of the Jasper County Sheriff's cruiser.  Glancing at my speedometer, I noticed that I was only going about 7 mph over the limit but I dutifully pulled over and dug my license and registration from the mass of paperwork in the glovebox.  Officer Merriman approached with a gentle reminder that I was "going a little fast" and commented on how it looked like I had a mobile office in my vehicle.  I shrugged.  What was there to say besides, "Thank you for your obvious commentary Officer-I-am-not-going-to-give-you-a-ticket-but-just-pulled-you-over-to-make-your-life-suck-just-a-little-bit-more-this-morning-Merriman.  He passed my information back through the window and reminded me that the speed limit is 55 not 62 and made his way back to his vehicle.

That done, I turned my vehicle off the main road onto the day's first "Level B Minimum Maintenance" county service road of the day.  The town was called "Sebula" and the rickety front porches and neglected exteriors seemed to conjure to mind everything that the name implied.  Pulling in to the front drive of the appointed house, even the feigned enthusiasm I had made myself feel earlier that day faded at the abandoned look of the home.  The dance began

Doorbell pressed - - No answer
Screen door knocked - - No answer
Front door knocked - - No answer
Sounds about right.

Back in my vehicle, I laid her head on the steering wheel and relayed the news to the office, they tried the number given when the appointment was set and was informed that the husband got called in to work and would not be available...and they couldn't have called before the three hour drive to get to them eh?  Sounds about right.

The drive to my second location was a winding back road covering 50 miles of driving but only traveled about 30 miles as the crow flies.  Again, I tried to maintain some momentum and control over the day.  I took in the beauty of the rolling fields and hills and sipped on a Monster to keep myself from nodding off. It worked to some degree, at least I didn't take out my car, any other cars, and a bare minimum of the shoulder of the turns and surrounding pastureland on any of the curves.

By some miracle, a posh little coffeeshop materialized on the riverside town.  That's right folks we have reached the 3rd state border in as many days in my travels.  Dying for some air-conditioning and and an iced coffee, she went in to the curiously crowded shop for 2:00 in the afternoon and wedged herself in a banquette of seating between a grossly overweight housewife drinking an ironic Diet Pepsi while scarfing crosscut potato chips that left grease on the paper plate where they were stacked, and an elderly woman discussing the merits of the current cast of Dancing With the Stars with her bored teenage grand-daughter.  I didn't care I had free wifi and a skinny iced vanilla latte with extra whipped cream to keep me company.

Two hours, one more cancellation and one small sale later, I returned to the office.  After chatting with the office manager on duty for a few minutes and set to work putting my paperwork together for followup calls and scheduling when a vehicle I didn't recognize pulled to the front door of the office complex.  I looked up from where I was sitting at the front desk to find...Officer Merriman approaching the office door.

"Oh Shit!!" The voice in my head screamed, thinking that, somehow the state patrolman from earlier that day had changed his mind and was going to give me a ticket anyway.  That sounds about right.

Instead his face was as surprised to see me behind the desk as I was to see his walking through.  He smiled ironically and stated his business.

"I was sent over by the local patrol to collect some information, we understand you have a wired alarm system on the office that has been going off accidentally but we do not have any contact information for the owners or who to call in an actual emergency."  I hoped he didn't hear me exhale heavily in relief.

I happily provided my and the owner's contact information and, as he turned to leave, he caught sight of the gutter cover display that was set up in the lobby of the office.  He left and I returned to paperwork while explaining to the office manager where the officer and I had met earlier that day.

As if he heard us talking, the telltale beep of the outer door alert chimed and Officer Merriman made his way back inside.  This time, the voice in my head used a bit more explicit language as he again entered the lobby.  He had his hands raised in a "don't shoot" gesture which told me that my face must be betraying the fear and pounding that coursed through my veins.

"This is a personal question." he said.  I looked at him quizzically as if to beckon him to continue. "I see you do gutter guards." he said and gestured to the display model.  I instantly relaxed into my Gutter Girl persona and proceeded to ask leading questions into what he was looking for and transitioned this crazy encounter into a gutter guard and possibly siding lead.  He left with an appointment card in hand and, once the outer door secured, I curtsied to the mock applause sent out by my staff.  Yeah, now THAT sounds about right.  Gutter Girl to the rescue!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Sleep - the elusive

Who needs sleep when there is flooring to be laid right?  Weeell I paid for my 2am swearing, cutting and finishing the flooring in spades today.  One appointment and then getting the kiddos and napping on the sofa for a whopping two hours.  Since I was a complete bum today I didn't get around to unpacking any boxes or hanging any pictures but I did want to share the completed flooring pictures with the furniture in place!  Yeah!!!  I have tan curtains to go on that window and all of my coffee pictures to go up on the walls.  More updates as more goes up.

I think Joey likes it you think?  He was so proud that him and Josh and Daddy moved all the furniture in.  I'm sure he "helped" more than he actually helped.  

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Hillbilly Hell (aka the day of the skunk)

The Adventures of Window Woman and Gutter Girl
Chapter One March 15, 2012

The day was wearing on me like sweatpants on a hot summer day.  The poor little rural town I had called home for the past two hours had eroded my sense of humanity to the point of making me feel rabid.  A quick driver around all seven streets of town revealed no public parking areas where I could recline the seat of my van and read while I obsessively shelled sunflower seeds and spit them out the window.  I had long since dismissed the only diner within a five mile radius due to the run down exterior and a conspicuous congregation of screeching cats circling the back door.

Being hungry and in need of refilling my IV bag of coffee I opted for the mostly clean BP station off the main highway.  Inside I got what I called the "Road Warrior Special" Large Coffee, Prepackaged Ham Sandwich and a bag of jellybeans.  (If you closed your eyes you could almost imagine that the ham had originated from an actual pig at one time.)

I amused myself with games such as "Who Has the Most Teeth" and "I Spy Spandex." but those are no fun to play by yourself.  When I grew weary of playing games I amused myself by popping the tiny pastel balls of sugar two at a time and trying to describe this Boondocks town to my husband via text.

"The longer I'm in this place, the more I want a job that lets me sit on my porch drinking forties of Old English, smoking Marlboro Reds and yelling commands at my kids like they were dogs."

**no response**

"Seriously baby this town is slowly leeching the will to succeed in life out of my very soul."

**no response

An overweight gas station attendant in what looked like was once a red polo but was now streaked with hot pink bleach stains came out to where I sat with my sugar and caffeine, lit a cigarette and told me the parking was for customers only.  I held up my coffee cup emblazoned with the BP logo on the side and nodded to the convenience store indicating that I am, indeed, a customer.

"Well, the commuter rush is coming soon so you best be on your way." She smiled halfheartedly showing all six of her teeth (she was NOT the winner of "Who Has the Most Teeth") and waddled back across the completely empty parking lot.

I sighed and forced the van into reverse and decided on a new time killing game. I drove around town until I found a run down shack with a "For Sale" sign on it.  I snapped a picture with my camera phone and texted it to my husband with a pleading description.

"New idea baby!  Why don't we move here.  We can get this charming fixer-upper just steps away from a very active railroad track for the low price of only $42,000." 

**no response**

A few blocks away I came to what I believe was once a three story school house but was now the parking lot for various semi trailers and possibly some squatters.  Again I snapped a picture and reinforced the idea via text.

"There's even a high quality trucking school.  Jackson would make a great trucker."

Finally a response.  "LOL Sorry babe."

"You're sorry." I muttered aloud under my breath.  I secretly plotted to come home with cheap beer and solicit him for a night of redneck debauchery just to punish him for not finding me as amusing as I was finding myself.

I managed to find the only paved parking spot in town (which just happened to be the handicap parking just outside of the unoccupied baseball field) and settled in with my Nook book and some Florence and the Machine.Sure enough, the second that I popped my seat back into recline here come the little leaguers ready for practice.

Sighing heavily (again) I decided I would just have to be early for my appointment and pulled up to the address about 10 minutes early.  The house was one of the better maintained on the block. (that is to say, it wasn't a trailer and had an intact roof).  Outside two pretty but dirty dogs yipped at me while I rang the bell.  I glanced up and noticed some homemade decor items hanging from the eaves.  The contraction was made up of plywood, fishing line and empty beer cans, the sign reading "Rednek Windchime" (the "c" was omitted by the artist, not the author).  Again I knocked, nobody home yet.

Across the road I heard a neighbor call.  "They ain't home yet, there'd be a truck and a Charger in the drive if they were."
I was about to call back that I had figured that out on my own when I caught sight of the neighbor.  The man was stout and thick with a big white bushy beard that made him look like a hillbilly Santa.  He swung a wood splitting axe over his shoulder and smiled.  "Thanks" I muttered instead and clambered back into the van just in time to hear the text message chirp on my iPhone.

"Your Tuesday sale called to cancel and wants you to give her a call." Damnit.

I laid my aching head on the steering wheel and lifted it only in response to some shouting down the lane.  What I saw made me think I might have fallen asleep and was dreaming an odd and disturbing dream.  A little, old, white haired, black woman on a Rascal scooter was racing down a gravel path chasing a huge wolf like black dog yelling at him to "Come back here now".

I was torn between wanting to get out and help her with her task and wanting to watch how this scene played out.  It looked like she was gaining on the enormous mutt so I let my voyeur win the debate.  To my shock and awe, the old woman pulled up along side the beast, caught it by the scruff of his mottled fur and deftly strapped a leash onto his collar all while the Rascal continued to speed forward.

"Wow" I exclaimed under my breath. "Just wow."

A few minutes passed and my query in a big white truck pulled up along side the Axe Man and started up a conversation.  The lumberjack leaned against the window sill of the truck and they began what sounded like a nightly neighborhood update.  The exchange was punctuated by gestures toward me (had he seen me snapping camera phone pictures?) With a laugh and a wave, my prospect pulled up the drive to my van and we met at the front of the house.

"Kristy Potratz - Window Woman." I introduced.

He took my hand and my card and introduced himself as Stu.  "My wife will be home in half an hour," he explained and led me, belly leading, toward the windows he wanted replaced.  I took measurements and made small talk as I stalled for time.

"I drive a dump truck." he said proudly, "do haulin' all over the state.  And Jo, she works for the transit authority."  Gainfully employed, I made a mental note.

The house was neat and ordered, antique beer steins hung from a display rack on the wall of the living room.  The walls were coated with hip height wood paneling and the trim around all the doors and windows were painted a pale shade of lavender which clashed perfectly with the brown shag carpeting coating the floors.  In the far corner of the room there was, of course, a 50 inch big screen TV.  Of course.

"A charming place" I lied.

"We've been here about 5 years" he said, "I guess we'll stay here until the house falls down or they put us in the dirt."

A glimmer of hope ignited in me.  Permanence was good for my business.  It makes my products a long term investment that will pay them back rather than a short term fix for those looking to move or flip a property.  The embers cooled quickly though when he announced that the Termite problem they had been having would probably ensure that the house fell down first.  Double Damnit.

Still prolonging the time for his wife to return, I asked to use the bathroom.  He directed me to the Jack and Jill bathroom sharing a door with both the kitchen and the living room.  The lavender motif continued, this time extending to the commode, sink and bathtub.  As I hovered over the toilet, one door that opened to the kitchen squeaked open a crack and the snout of a puppy with gorgeous coloring and clear blue eyes peeked in.   I quickly finished my business to avoid an embarrassing reveal to the potential client.  I wanted to hide the pup in my sample case and spirit him away from this dump. 

I scooped him up, his tongue bathing me in wet doggy kisses and we set off to find Stu on the back porch.  He had used my absense to claim a cold Miller Lite from the fridge and stood on the back patio with a smoke and a koozie.  He introduced the pup as "Gypsy" and I put him down so Stu could throw a chewed up frisbee for the dog to fetch.  Gypsy dutifully bounded after it and I fell just a little bit in love with the dog. 

"This is a great lot, spacious" I ventured as a shiny gray Dodge Charger pulled into the spot behind the truck.  "Looks like Gypsy has a great kennel out there." I said, pointing to a fenced in house with a tarp over the roof.  Inside was a little plastic igloo like structure and a bowl of food.

"Oh, that's not for Gypsy" he said, resting the can on his belly like a pregnant buddha, "That's for Chumley, our pet skunk."

I was speechless.  Of all of the bizarre sights I had witnessed that day, the last thing I expected were the words "pet skunk" to fall from anyone's lips.

Stu's wife Joleen joined us and verified "Skunks make great pets ones you get the stink glands removed.  Chumley is like a cat, he'll paw at you until you pet him.  Uses the litter box and everything.

Windows be damned...I wanted to see that skunk.  Stu and Joleen obliged my curiosity and let me down to the enclosure.  Joleen opened the gate on the house and called Chumley by name.  Sure as anything, here lumbered an enormous, rat faced, black and white skunk.  He stopped to sniff at his food dish before moving over to where Joleen was waiting.  She reached in and hauled the creature out and held it up to me for inspection.

"Yup that's a skunk" I said uneasily.  Then I remembered my iPhone in my pocket.  "Can I take a picture?"

"I'll do you one better." she said as she heaved the skunk up and dumped him into my arms.  She pulled the phone from my grip and reminded me to support his backside.  I grinned uncomfortably at the camera, sure that I was being punked and that the skunk was going to squirt his stink juice all over my favorite sweater.  He didn't.  His tail swished like a happy cat and he curiously nibbled my fingers.  I suddenly thought of rabies and mad skunk disease and my urban alarm bells started going off en masse.  I relinquished Chumley back to his momma, who cradled him like a baby and scratched his belly.

I didn't sell any windows that day, but before I pulled out of Hillbilly Hell I managed to catch enough cell signal at the BP station to post the photo of Chumley and I to my Facebook wall.  I also messaged one to my stepson Joshua telling him that I trumped his pet snake with my pet skunk.

By the time I arrived home the photo had a dozen comments, some of those stated that, indeed, skunks make great pets.  I on the other hand would have preferred Gypsy. 

Flooring is FUN!

Those of  you who know me and my style may have detected a note of sarcasm in the title of this post but - I actually kind of mean it!  I got the underlayment of the dining room rolled out this morning and started plotting out the floating floor that is going on top of it.  It was actually a lot of fun!  (of course ask me that question tonight at ten when I'm still cutting out tiny pieces of vinyl and we'll see if I still feel that way.  I don't have anything stuck down right now I just wanted to see how the pattern would lay out and make sure I didn't need another box of planks from Lowe's when I go out to my appointment at three.  I'm so geeked out over how awesome it looks that I had to take a few minutes to post these photos before I go up to shower and get ready to head out to Ames.

Another small-ish problem arose on Tuesday when TV and Internet got hooked up.  DirecTV came out and said that - unless we chop down a giant tree blocking the satellite in the backyard, there is no way they can install on the house.  We were a bit crestfallen since we have really been enjoying the directv services but the super techno boys were on the case.  They ended up hooking a spare desktop computer we had in the house directly into the TV.  After an hour or so with them playing with the aspect ratio and pixel settings (things I neither know anything about or could see any difference in when they got done with the tinkering) we now have a media computer.  Using Netflix, Hulu and information from broadcast websites, we can now watch in demand television through the main TV as well as through the Wii systems that are in Jackson's room and in the basement.  All for only $7.99 that's over 90% savings over what we were paying for DirecTV.  Works for me :)

The plan is to finish the flooring tonight and get the furniture moved back into the dining room so I can "hopefully" get some art on the wall and sheers hung up on the windows. That gives me all day tomorrow to play with the kids, maybe *gasp* scrapbook a little, and drive Jackson down to Bethany MO to meet up with his biological dad to spend the weekend with his brothers in KC.  We are reaching the end of this journey.  Lots of hard work but every second has been incredibly worth it!

Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Caught my husband with a stripper!

You heard me correctly.  I got a text from my husband this afternoon "I rented a stripper for the day - hope you don't mind" My reply.  "Is she prettier than me?"  Ha - we were talking - of course - about the carpet and tile stripper that we rented from True Value this afternoon to finally take up the awful dining room carpet.  Really people?  Carpet in the dining room?  Needless to say - it was a welcome change to come home for lunch to find this happening in my dining room.

I didn't really even realize how awful the carpet was until it was laying in my driveway.  The underside was filthy.  But the dining room smells a LOT (understatement) better now with the last of the carpet and fabric left behind.

The depths of idiocy of the previous homeowners was once again evident once everything was done.  First, the carpet was laid on a solid glue mat which stretched the entire length of the 16x16 room.  Talk about overkill.  This is why the stripper came in handy - to pull up glue and carpet shreds so they could take it out in pieces. Next, we discovered that the carpet had not been applied to the subflooring directly, but to the same rubberized linoleum that they have in the laundry room.  Really?  Yes really.  Flooring on top of flooring.  Fabulous. 

When I left, Chad and James were tugging and pulling and stripping (yeah I know how that sounds) but when I got home, I now have...

A blank canvas!  On the way home from my appointments in Ames I stopped (again) at Lowe's and picked up a roll of 15 pound builders felt to help flatten out the bumps and bruises that were underneath the crazy carpeting so now I just need to find time to lay the felt then put my vinyl plank flooring on over the top. 

I can hardly believe that we have only been in this house for 10 days and already the house looks completely different than the one we turned the key on last Friday.  The wall color in this room turned out a little bit more on the Olive side than the Sage side but I still really like it.  It looks great with the dark wood furniture and with the  "gunstock oak" colored flooring I'm finally going to have a nice, elegant dining room! I'm truly excited about the prospect.  Excited enough to be on my hands and knees laying flooring for the next two days.  (well Thursday and Friday at least).

Since its been a couple of days without time and Internet access to update progress: some of the other projects I have taken on to varying degrees of success was to take down this hideous, monstrous, hanging light fixture.  We bought a multidirectional ceiling mounted light to put up in its place but first I have to figure out which breaker switch turns off the power off to that fixture so as not to create a Krispy Krissy delicacy out of myself.  My dad was excited to see it gone too - he bumps his head on it every time he walks into that hallway.

I also changed out the doorknobs on the front and back of the garage and bought a new deadbolt for the front door.  So everything is now rekeyed so we don't have to worry about who around town might have keys from the previous tenants. And the slow unpacking process is ongoing one at a time but I did get a chance on Sunday to organize the boxes into categories such as "Clothes Jackson has outgrown but will fit Joey next week"; "Stuff my mother has moved from her garage into mine for storage"; "Krissy is addicted to Christmas clearance at Target" and "Couponing stash and other assorted collections."

Once enough boxes are unpacked to allow us to park both vehicles in the garage, the only minor projects left are going to be taking down the wallpaper border in the kitchen and painting the walls the same color as the dining room and picking a wall color for the foyer and a rug to match.

Major projects include: Getting a tree cut down in the back yard, installing central air, mold remediation in the basement (well, actually, redoing the entire basement), and getting the attic cleaned out and attic blanket installed so its ready for refinishing.  All of that can be put on hold though (although my husband and kids would claim that the a/c needs to go in more than immediately).  I'm pretty proud that we have been able to do so much in just a week and a half and on a fairly limited budget.  At last count we have only spent about $1500 and a LOT of sweat and time every single drop has been worth it though. More updates when the flooring goes in!

Monday, June 4, 2012

More work more results

Internet gets hooked up tomorrow and the dining room carpet is getting taken up too! I'm so darn excited. Whoever came up with the idea of carpet in the dining room obviously never had small children and had to soak spilled milk out of Berber.

I took Saturday off to rest but was back at it yesterday. I unpacked more boxes, organized the garage, took down an atrocious light from the hall and got the first coat of paint on the dining room walls.

By the end of the week the house will finally be done! I can't wait.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Getting there

The unpacking and organizing are in full force and I have to say that it is really fun to get to decorate this place and really make it our own. Things are going up on the walls and it's just feeling a lot like a real home.

Update photos
All curtains up in the living room. Computer and printer set up
Entryway mirror and pictures are up
Doug and Kathy sent some really pretty flowers as a housewarming

Tomorrow going to try some lighting and dining room paint is finally going up yay!

Thursday, May 31, 2012

All moved in

That is to say that all of our things are on the same place at the same time. We still have a garage completely full of boxes to be weeded through and unpacked and put away but this house is really a home now and all of our hard work paid off.

Moving day started bright and early on Wednesday with the crew from two men and a truck arriving at eight. Jackson and Joey spent the night with nana and papa so they weren't under foot. It turns out that one of the guys moving us actually moved me and the boys into our old house two years ago. Dexter and Scott were great. Fast efficient and most importantly under budget!!! These guys must have played a lot of tetris growing up because these stacks were unreal.

Half way through the move Joshua disappeared. We found him curled up in james car under a snuggie fast asleep. Must have worn the kid out!

Seeing how well the furniture fit in the space thrills me to no end. Our huge sectional fits great and I adore the contrast of the gray with the brown and the blue accents!

The dining room is our final frontier. During the carpet removal process we discovered that the nasty Berber in the room was adhered with a solid glue mat which means it has to be physically scraped up instead of just being pulled up. So we are living with it for now but i already have seven boxes of new flooring ready to go down once it finally gets taken up so that just can't happen far enough for me. Whoever came up with carpeted dining rooms obviously never had small children.

The boys are both thrilled with their new rooms. Jackson's room is truly massive and yes he does get his own tv hooked up to the wii to complete the Mario motif. It also frees up the downstairs tv for adult programming. Joeys room is smaller but so is he.
During the course of taking apart the bunk beds it was discovered that the bottom bunk was cracked in several places so instead of just separating the beds Joey got a new race car bed from Craigslist instead. Yeah he was as thrilled as you might imagine.

So day one went great. I had taken the whole week off to handle the move so I spent today hanging curtains putting up my scrapbook cubes and starting on Mt Saint Boxes. I also ran the kids over to their new Kindercare to do their paperwork to start on Monday. They are loving the huge fenced in back yard and played outside for almost two hours in the chilly air. Since mediacom doesn't come out until tuesday we have no tv or Internet except on our phones. It's kind of refreshing and definitely helps keep us on task with the unpacking process.

Tomorrow I am going to attempt to replace a truly heinous light fixture in the hallway and another run to lowes for new doorknobs since the place was a rental before we have no idea how many keys are floating around so they are all getting new locks.

Anyway. That's the update. Here are some photos of the progress since I am on the blogger app on my phone I couldn't do it as I went but you can connect the dots.