Walking on Water

So after getting into my home, I realized there were a lot of idiosyncrasies that we had to learn about this home.  each home has its own rhythm and the real test is how quickly we understand them and respond accordingly. I should have known that water would be a prevalent theme.  When your home says this is my Achilles heel, it would be good to bring a foot doctor to the party.

When I first moved in, one of the great features in the house was a Jacuzzi.  I loved that Jacuzzi.  I loved water…I would sit in it for at least an hour a couple of times a day.  That was doable since I work out of my house.

Then little projects started to spring up.  We have  basement that has a sump pump.  Every year you want to make sure it works.  You can go 8 months without it ever going on.  The only way you know it is broken is when I fails to pump water out of the well. When that happens you get a flood.  The first flood was 6 inches across the entire basement. We had a lot of items stored in cardboard boxes and that meant a lot of sentimental items were now lost do to water damage.  The next year, we tested and found that we needed to replace it again.  I remember when the electricity went off in our home, the sump pump could not work.  The water tables were already incredibly high.  I start emptying totes and doing a bucket brigade into the totes hoping that any moment the electricity would come back on and the water would naturally pump out of the house.  I was just about physical wasted at 3:10am when the lights came on and the water started pumping out of the house.  Now I have back -up units and a gas generator so that does not happen again.

A week later drips comes through the roof into our bedroom.  Higher a guy to fix the roof and that is alleviated.  Then leaks from behind the washing machine.   Water was literally gushing through the walls.  I called Upstate New York Plumbing and they saved the day.  I am out of my depth in most things related to plumbing.  I had a leak under my kitchen sink and tried to replace pipes three different times and never could get it to stop leasing.  That is correct, I called my plumber again.  I have him on speed dial for all of my emergencies.

Continue reading “Walking on Water”

Pick up Sticks

It is an amazing time of year.  Spring brings such vibrant colors and a pure expression of life and a picture of all that is alive.  Over the winter, I stayed inside a little bit too long and picked up a little too much weight.  On our property we get a lot of ice, wind, rain and then fallen trees and or branches.  The exercise does not look all of that threatening.  There are plenty of branches, twigs and sticks to pick up and it looks like an hours worth of work.

You drop down to pick up a stick and you notice the blood rushing to your head.  Then you take a moment to collect yourself and you decide this time to bend the knees to make it an easier blood flow transition.  This time the oxygen and blood flow are properly balanced as I bend down this time.

So far so good.  About eight squats later, I feel like I am about to pull a muscle in my hamstring.  Again I stand up to gather myself and now what looked like an hours worth of work, now seemed like a weekend and a likely stop at the Hospital.

I decided that it was time for me to be a leader and inspire my wife and daughter to help me in the yard.  I was so encouraged with how helpful the were, that I even brought out the chain saw and cut the fallen trees to logs for disposal.  I even got my nineteen year old daughter to stack them in the back of the trailer attached to my tractor.  Once I got it back to the far reaches of my property, I could lean over and toss the logs without too much distress. It was just the challenge of bending over to pick up sticks that almost did me in.

The great news is that got me just tired enough to take the best nap that I have taken in years.  So next time when you hear someone say have you ever heard of “pick up sticks”, make sure you explain to them it is strictly for kids.  I think of this advice as more of a life lesson.  That being said, I have come to realize that my working from home has made me way too stationary.  So as a answer to that it is 300 steps for me to take my dogs down to the creek.  That makes a round trip 600 steps.  If I do that four times a day, that will get me to right around 2400 steps. I recognize this is well shot of the 10,000 steps that we are encouraged to take every day.  To put in context, I am likely taking fewer than 1,000 steps a day now.  If I can incrementally increase the length and frequency, then I may be in a position to not worry about my weight or age and just decide it is time to pick up sticks.


Can’t see the Forest through the Trees

When we moved into our house twelve years ago, we did notice that on our four and a half acres that about two acres were open and needed to be mowed.  The remaining two and a half acres were woods.  I would guess that we have over a thousand trees on our property.  Some are big, sturdy and healthy.  Then we have a group that are classic junk trees that can grow quickly and then fall over because the root system is extremely shallow.  Then we have hundreds and hundreds of pines that were with the house when we bought the property.  The house was thirty + years old when we bought the house and somewhere around that time, I am sure that those pine trees were planted.

When we look around the property, so many trees have fallen over, split or are rotten.  I found out that the life span of a pine tree is thirty years.  While the pine trees provided privacy and a nice buffer between us and our neighbors, they are a danger as fallen trees are left leaning against healthy trees.  To cut down the trees cleanly and removing all of that timber is a job for a professional.  What do you do when there are so many trees and this is not just a grand or two to fix.  This looks like it would take weeks to do, with a full crew of people.

I will say that it seems like my second job cutting down trees and removing the wood, or cutting the wood to be burned in a bon-fire.  I have several cord of wood that have been sitting there for several seasons. I am not sure it is good seasoned wood any more.  I still have a bunch of trees that I have cut into logs that are lying all over the place now.  About eight weeks ago I found out that I have neck and shoulder issues and have been going to PT several times a week for three weeks now.

So where I was spending many hours every week cutting down, cutting up and then stack or throwing over the bank, now I can only look.  I would have church folk come over to help shuttle and move wood around, but the danger posed by the trees leaning against other trees is too much risk.

When I look at the amount of work to be done outside, then to repave a 240 foot driveway, then to replace a roof, to replace doors and windows, replace the deck in the back yard, I realize that I would never recover that money in a million years.  So the alternative is to do just enough to sell the property and take what I can get on the open market instead of believing that these investments will work in my financial favor should I move forward on these projects.  I have quietly raised the white flag and I am ready to talk terms of my surrender.

My Dad’s Proudest Moment

I remember when I was in high school, my family was lucky enough to have an in ground pool.  Thirty five years ago, it was not as normal as it is today.  Maybe three pools in a community of hundred of homes.  Everyone else belonged to the neighborhood pool.  Now I grew up with a father that never was comfortable with explaining what he needed from me.  if he was working on a project then he did not want to stop and explain what he was doing, because he was busy doing.  When he was not working, then he was staring at the project for an extremely long period of time trying to figure out what he was going to do.  The best delegation of works program we had is that we broke up the mowing portions of the lawn into four sections.  Two sections were large but flat with no trees.  The other two parts were smaller, but you had to deal with trees, roots and hills.  With a push lawn mower these were important variables.  Outside of that I would ask my dad if he needed help and he would say sure. Then we would stare at something for a half an hour.  I would say, “Dad, if you can point me in a direction or have me do something, then i am happy to help.  I just can not stare at that wall any longer, or that engine and longer, or that hole where the toilet will eventually go”.  He kindly releases me from work, more because he did not know how to teach me.  The end result was that I did not know how to do to much, but if I understood the job, then I would be happy to work.  I worked part-time unloading the brown delivery trucks at UPS and anyone that knows that line of work, it is so demanding.  the reason it was part-time was that no one could work at that pace and that strain for eight hours.  it was all about speed.

That brings me back to the pool. Every now and then we had upkeep that needed to be done on the pool.  This time we had water leaking from the pool.  It would go down to a certain level and we had to see if their was a tear in the liner at the level somewhere in the pool.  We could not find it, but it was at that specific level somewhere.  That meant we need to start digging a three foot trench around the pool.  This was grueling work. This was also a perfect example of how we view things from perspectives.  After hours and hours of digging, we still had not found the cause of the leak.  my dad said, son you have done more than I could have expected and if you want to stop you can.  I would have loved to, but the job was still far from done.  I worked on for many more hours.  Twenty five years later my Dad tells the story of how he used reverse psychology to get me to continue to work.  The temperatures had been in the nineties all day. He thought I had to be close to wanting to quit.  So he played the nice card and how thankful he was, with the intent of me wanting to stay longer.  Twenty five years after it felt like insincere manipulation.  I looked at him a bit hurt and told him it was the first bit of instruction I could remember him giving me so of course I wanted to do what I was asked to do.

Point me to a project and let me break a sweat and get after it.  Standing around for me is liking pouring Kero syrup into my veins.  It makes my energy level like that of the economy under the Jimmy Carter administration…a malaise.

I have a Fox in my House

I remember at the end of a work day, I was going to take a shower to reinvigorate me for the evening with family.  As I am stepping in the shower I hear both my wife and daughter screaming.  I hesitating for a moment, well because I was naked.  The scream was one that I recognized.  To me it signaled another bat flying around the house.

They continued to scream so I through on basic under garment to shoo away the bat.  As I am coming down the steps my wife is screaming something audible and recognizable.  As I am half way down the stairs she screams that there is a fox in the house.  The screams are coming from the mud room off of the kitchen.  The scream was a bit muffled because they could not open the door for fear of the fox cornering them.

Right as I comprehended what was being said, I saw a fox running past my view into the living room to me left followed closely by our dog that was roughly the same size as the fox.  I barked a command for my dog to come, right as the fox hit a dead end and was cornered.

Fortunately my dog came and I took her up the stairs and put her in my bedroom and closed the door behind me.  Now I am walking downstairs barefooted looking for the fox having no idea what I was going to do once I encountered it.

As I came down the steps I looked to the left and did not see it.  I came down to the last step and kind of peaked my head around the corner to see if I could locate it.  Right at that moment I felt something brush against my leg.  I screamed like a school girl as my nerves were on end.

My wife did the bravest thing.  She left the mud room to go outside and open the front door so that the fox had a means of escape.  Then ran back to the mud room.

I sat on the fifth step and watched this cute young fox just staring at me.  I tried to talk gently and point to the open front door, but the fox had no clue what I was wanting. He just looked eager to get out of the house and was looking for any help he could get.  After about three minutes he passed in front of me passing the open door and into my family room.  I had to recliners that he ran behind. I got a trash can so I at least had a barrier between us and start moving the recliners and tables to angle him out towards the door.  It work and my adrenaline was through the roof.  I gave the all is clear sign to my wife she and my daughter came into to help me put the room back into place.  The funny thing is that my wife’s notes for work were sitting on a bench and several of the pages had fox paw prints on them.

After that episode, I think it took us about an hour to get back to a normal composed state.

Whole lotta yard

Now that I have gone past the half century mark, I start looking at the amount of work that is needed to just not lose ground.  Every year, the wild fringes of the woods claim a little more ground that we have toiled to keep groomed.

Just one year of me ignoring the yard work, meaning yard work beyond cutting the grass and I lost 20 percent of my property.  Junk trees growing and then falling over made getting back to the second third of my property extremely difficult.  The last third of my property is what meets up with our creek.  So we want that to stay natural.  I just wanted a path to be able to easily access the creek.

It has been easier to cross over into our kind next door neighbors yard to access the creek, but that is not our long-term plan. We want to build easy access from our yard.  I have found that I alone cannot keep pace with cutting down trees and stacking the wood or moving the wood.  I have had problems with back, elbows and shoulders and as my health diminishes, the work seems to increase.  If I get behind a little, it seems to snowball into an avalanche of work.  If I do not get obsessive about it, then I lose my back yard.

I like to have a thing that I do during the long summer nights, but I am thinking I would rather find fun activities with my wife and not beat back the bush 5 months every year.  I have two acres of grass to mow and then the wild seems to invade on all fronts.

My wife’s project for the yard is plants in the front yard and does a bilk of the weeding.  I do try to kick in with the weeding, but there are only so many projects I can attack outside.  So as my kids our in the college years, I wonder if it is time to find the smaller home with much less upkeep.  What a great idea.  To get the price I would need I think I am going to need to get the yard looking pretty good.  For me to do that, then I can to need to obsess about it to get it done and then I am not spending that quality time with my wife.  This endless loop needs to have a logical exit point, but where it is seems to be a mystery.

I think I am at the age of desiring big pieces of machinery to get this kind of work done.  Perhaps this summer i will rent a bunch of industrial equipment and act like a little boy with my trucks.  I think I will have a tough time getting buy in from my wife, but that does seem like a fun alternative to cutting down trees.  Perhaps I will just hit with the bulldozer and call it a day.

House not Covet

It is one of our 10 commandments declaring “thou shall not covet”, but is our dna designed to work another way.  Is the programming so hard coded that we cannot stop the QVC must have right now moment.  All of the products get sold literally the next day, because they caught you on the couch late at night coveting thing. Not things you need, but rather things that you want.  So many people buy like this, that it puts a strain to actually deliver all of these products within three days.  So how do we reprogram ourselves not to covet?

The first thing is to buy only want you NEED.  This is something that costs over $50, then your spouse should have to agree that it is something that not only you need, but you need it now.  Sometimes just pushing it out of the queue and saying that we will need to get that down the road sometime takes it off of the front burner.  the longer you ponder it, without dismissing it, the closer you come to giving in.  At the same time, things under $50 that you just want to pick up here and there.  Then the kids asking for things that they really WANT.  Explaining the need process to them when they have noticed in the past that you have not applied those same principles to your own buying.  Kids can spot a hypocrite as early as two years old.  They do not use words like hypocrite, but the will say “how come when you…”.  You get the point.  You need to own for yourself so you can be somewhat authentic when guiding and instructing your children. So the first principle is buy what you need and have your spouse hold you accountable, as you hold her accountable.

Buy good enough.  There is no real value or advantage of buying on the bleeding edge.  You are part of that curve that got swept up in the land of “everyone has one but me:(“.  If you analyze what you need something for and buy to that need, you will find used or lower cost models will do more than enough.  You do not over buy in case some day you want to be a professional gamer.

If you want something bad enough, then earn the right to buy it.  Put together a savings envelope where you purposely set money aside for that acquisition.  If you take a long-term view of the acquisition it can develop good saving habits for other areas you will want to save up for.

Do not buy something that you do not need, just because it is 50% off, 60% off or even 90%off.  Only leverage discounts when it supports a need that you are already in process of procuring.  My wife bought me a new office chair. We had set aside a specific amount.  This had crossed over from a want to a need.  I sit down in that chair at least 8 hours every day and I need to make sure that I am not have health problems attributed to my work environment.  Once the chair was selected within the price range we discussed, then she proceeded to inquire about discounts and coupons. I am not quite sure how she did it, but it account for a $100 savings.  My wife made the discounts work for us.

When looking at the big acquisition like buying a home in say Laguna Beach, look at the long-term cost of ownership.  You may be able to pay cash for the home, but the property taxes will likely be the size of mortgage.  The landscaping costs, the pool cost…  You may have enough to buy the house, but you become house poor. No money is left over to get you that ergonomically correct chair to save your health.

In the end, these are tools.  We really need to redefine what makes us happy.  That can be found in a small home, with second hand furniture with children fully capable of finding out how to stay out of debt as they enter the world from outside of the protective bubble of home.  Just enjoy what is right there in front of you right now.


What is Paradise

Have you ever wondered what Paradise should look like.  Are we conditioned into what it should loo like and how we deserve to be in paradise.  Pick a spot near water and the marketing engines kick in.  Are we wired to go on vacation in or around the beautiful beaches and lakes? What constitutes a successful vacation?  Does it live up to the hype? Or are we just trying to find to decompress for a while.  When that is the case it seems like it takes a couple of days to fully fall into vacation time.  Then starts the count down when you have to go back to the real world in 4 days,, 3 days, 2 days urgh lets pack and go.  Then the plans start about what you will do different next time.  My real question is that what is paradise.  Is it merely an escape from the daily grind, if so there are much less expensive ways to possibly accomplish that.  I get back to have we been wired to expect that a vacation looks like a trip to Disney land or the Outer Banks or Laguna Beach.   Is a vacation where all warring parties agree to a cease fire.  Or do arguments start because everyone has competing agendas on the vacation and no one feels as though they have been heard.