Friday, September 19, 2008

Octopus Mother

Last Friday night, September 12, I drove my friends Janie & Becky to Mt. Clemens to attend the opening night of our friend Abbi Israelsen's art exhibit Deep Breath (read more about it here). Here we are, being so cute (L to R: Becky, PG, Janie, Abbi the Artist):

Abbi almost died of accute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) earlier this year, and after she recovered, she agreed to do some fund raising for an ARDS research foundation. As an artist, she decided to donate an original drawing to each person who contributed $50 to her campaign. She has been pushing herself to do a drawing a day for this exhibit. Each of the drawings in the exhibit that has not already been promised to a donor is being sold for $65, and all of that money will go to ARDS research as well.

I had been debating between two drawings that I wanted to buy (scans of all of her drawings are on her blog, Drawing for ARDS), but one of them had already sold by the time I got there, making my choice an easy one. I am the proud new owner of "Octopus Mother."

I can't wait for the exhibit to close on October 3 so that I can bring my favorite new drawing home!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Better Than Christmas

What could be better than waking up Christmas morning to the promise of gifts and family, friends and food? Waking up to the promise of flushing toilets, doing laundry, bathing the filthy children, and washing dishes in the comfort of your own home. Yes, I felt euphoric when I woke up this morning. By 8:30 a.m., Jim, Pete & Pete were already at work digging up the street to fix my sewer main. They were about my favorite people in the world at that moment. By the time I got back from running some errands, around 11 a.m., there was a huge hole full of stinky sewage water where just hours before a black stretch of asphalt had been. I could hear all of the sewage water on the floor of my laundry room being sucked down the drain and out into that hole. Here is a view of the action:

During Esther's nap I checked in and learned that not only was the bad orangeburg pipe running from the curb to the city main in the middle of the street, it was also running at least halfway across my lawn toward the house. It is possible that the only piece of cast iron pipe on the whole thing is a little patch they made near the house in the 1970s. So Jim, Pete & Pete will be replacing the whole thing from the house to the city sewer connection with PVC pipe, and we will be paying the full $9,000. But I am just so happy to know that these problems will be resolved soon!

Around 5 or 6 p.m. when I went out to see what progress had been made, they were finishing up for the day. They had laid the first section of PVC where the original break/ blockage had been, and connected it up to the orangeburg on both sides. They had reconnected the house to the city water line, and we could use all of our plumbing just like normal for the rest of the evening. The first thing I did was give Esther a bath and wash her hair. It took me about 30 minutes to comb out all the tangles after that, and it was a good feeling. The first thing Dan did when he got home from work was to start cleaning the kitchen counters. I put in a load of laundry, and then another. We flushed all the toilets. It was a grand feeling. Tomorrow morning they will disconnect us again so they can finish the job, but I think we'll have our plumbing back to normal again in the evening.

It is amazing how one day you can flush your toilet and it is not enough to make you feel happy and like all of your problems are solved, and then a few days later, that very same act seems like the pinnacle of joy and contentment. I have NEVER enjoyed starting the washer as much as I did tonight. If only each of you could experience this! Just kidding...

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Sewer Saga Continues

We spent the weekend praying for our pipes, that somehow they could hold everything including the neverending downpour of rain that we got. Sunday night the water was still slightly below the level of the floor, miraculously. Monday morning the water had come up to a few inches over the drain, but was contained in the floor depression and not spreading all over the floor. Monday morning plumber #2 came to the house to use his expensive video equipment and locating equipment to find the exact location of the blockage. He placed a black "X" on our street, about five feet out from the curb, i.e. worst case scenario.

Before plumber #2 arrived, I checked my email. There was a comment from HW about a company she had used for sewer work that she really liked called Perimeter. She even gave me the phone number. After plumber #2 left, I got a phone call from Garn-Girl telling me that she had used a company called Perimeter to have her footing drains disconnected, and she really liked them. When she said that, I got the chills. I felt that these two friends were giving me this information in answer to our prayers for our pipes. I called Steve at Perimeter and set up an appointment for him to come out at 2 p.m. to check out the situation.

Before the revelation about Steve, I had talked to Mitch, plumber #3 about doing the work. I had called him to see when he could come out and was waiting for him to return my call when Garn-Girl called, leading me to call Steve. Right after I hung up with Steve, I saw a man in an unmarked truck park in front of my house and begin inspecting my street and yard. It was Mitch. I was planning to tell him that we'd decided to go with Steve, but I chickened out. I told him we were considering someone else for the job, and would he like to come in to look around so that he could give me a bid. He did, but he didn't look too happy about it. When he left, he promised a verbal bid by the evening and a written bid the next morning. I still have not heard back from him.

Steve showed up at 2 and was super nice, professional, articulate, and thorough. I vastly preferred him to Mitch. He also told me that he could give me a verbal bid that evening and a written bid in the morning.

I didn't get any phone calls from either company last night, but this morning when I got home from taking the boys to school, there was a message from Steve. I also noticed that the city had come and marked up the lawn and street to show where all the buried things are for the excavation. I found out that Steve had called Miss Dig for us yesterday, just in case we decided to go with his company, so that they could get started right away. After verbally agreeing with Steve to do the job, for which we will be charged $5,000 if the problem is just from the curb to the city's main line in the street, or a total of $9,000 if there is also a problem with the pipe running from our house to the curb, I got a call from another friend recommending Steve at Perimeter!

Steve has already brought me paperwork to sign, and will be mobilizing the necessary equipment today. His team will start first thing tomorrow morning. Yay!!! Yay!!!! I can't wait to be able to shower/ bathe, flush toilets, do laundry, dishes, cook, et cetera.

I would like to add that my husband Dan is a genius. Last night, looking around the filthy kitchen full of dirty dishes he said that he knew a way to run the dishwasher without flooding our basement. He disconnected the dishwasher hose from the pipe under the sink and put it in a bucket. Then he ran a full load of dishes and the hose drained into the bucket, which he dumped outside in our bushes. I know we shouldn't be putting dishwashing soap out there, but I really really don't care at this point. I did another load this morning, and it felt great! We could technically do that with the laundry, but it would be a lot more water to dispose of and we'd have to haul it up the basement stairs. For now, I am delighted knowing that we will be back in business tomorrow or the next day. And did I mention that the rain has stopped and the sun is shining in the robin's egg blue sky?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rewards for doing daily work: peace and iTunes

If there was a school for homemakers, I might have flunked out.

I do not like cleaning the house, and instead of just doing it because I'm an adult and it needs to be done, I avoid it. Of course, I don't like living in a dirty house, so I spend a lot of time being unhappy with myself and my surroundings. For the past year or so, I have been trying to grow up. I was motivated after General Conference in April to turn my attention to making dinner and keeping the kitchen clean, after hearing Elder Oaks mention the great force for good eating dinner as a family can have on the children. I am getting much better in that area, and have been rewarded by many pleasant mealtimes with my husband and children and a sense of peace that comes from doing something that I believe is important.

Esther started her new preschool on Wednesday. Each week (except for the handful when I host), she will be spending three hours at one of my friends' houses attending "school" with four other little 2-year-old girls. As I contemplated how to best use my time while she is away, the answer came to me very clearly: clean your house. So this past week, I determined ahead of time that I would clean all three bathrooms on Wednesday. When the time came, I was having a very hard time getting myself to go into bathroom #1. I talked to Dan's sister about it, and she suggested that I give myself some kind of reward if I completed all three bathrooms, perhaps an ice cream cone at the end of the day? I told her that I would much rather buy myself a CD, or even just one song from iTunes. One song from iTunes. That was it. Only $1 spent to motivate and reward myself for a job that most adults just do as a matter of course.

I am delighted to say that I did in fact clean all three bathrooms while Esther was gone, and then thoroughly enjoyed buying my first iTune: "The Story" by Brandi Carlile. Now I'm trying to think of other onerous homemaking tasks that would be worthy of an iTune reward. And, I'm embarrassed to say, I'm spending a bit too much time making lists of the songs I want to buy.

One of Many Reasons I Recommend Renting

Before we bought our house, I dreamed longingly of the day I would own my own place. I pictured how I would keep it clean, decorate and beautify it, tend its yard, plant a garden, cook dinner every night, and even start wearing makeup once I had an actual house to live in. We scraped together every cent we had (and many we didn't) to buy our first house four years ago. We love the neighborhood we live in. We are happy with our house. But there are days, like Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, and today, for instance, when we wish we were still renting.

On Wednesday while Esther was at her first day of "preschool" (playing with 4 other girls at a friend's house once a week), I cleaned all three bathrooms (significant accomplishment worthy of its own post). While I was in the basement, I noticed that the toilet could not flush down the bubbles from the cleaner I had used in it. So I got out the plunger and went to work. About ten minutes later, the toilet could still not swallow the bubbles, and I was noticing that each thrust with the plunger caused a corresponding gurgle of water to come up the drain of the sink. I am not a plumber, but I did not think toilet water should be coming up the sink drain.

Later in the day Dan called my attention to the fact that water had risen up and out of the large drain in the basement floor near the washer and dryer. It was just a few inches of water, and since the floor slopes down to the drain, it was contained in the bowl-shaped impression in the floor. But still.

The next morning when Dan's visiting sister tried to flush the basement toilet and then plunge it for many long minutes, in vain, she reminded me that I needed to call a plumber. By then the water had gone back down into the floor drain, but I could see it glistening just under the surface. Luckily for us, our next door neighbor when we lived in our apartment is a plumber, and he came out that very afternoon to investigate. Four and a half hours later, he informed me that something is seriously wrong. The main sewer pipe that takes all the water from the house to the city line in the street is blocked, and he could not get it open, not with all of the tools in his entire van. He gave me the name of a trustworthy friend that does excavating and recommended that I call as soon as possible. I asked him if this is the kind of thing that costs more or less than $1000. He looked at me as though I was a naive child and explained as gently as he could that this could cost us upwards of $10,000. Oh.

The next day, instead of calling the excavator, I went to Ikea. That may, in retrospect, have been a mistake.

Today it started to rain. And rain. And rain. The basement toilet is not flushing, the water level in the basement floor drain is rising, and I decided it might be the right time to call the excavator, Mitch. He told me to call his colleague Dan, the sewage pipe camera guy, to set up an appointment to have the exact location of the blockage pinpointed. Dan told me that he can come Monday morning, but that to protect my home in the meantime, we should not flush ANYTHING but liquid down our toilets, we should avoid doing laundry, and generally use as little water as possible. Did I mention that it is still raining, and the water in that drain appears to still be rising?

So, water (and other liquid-y things) cannot leave our house, and we may have to fork over $12,000 that we don't have if the blockage turns out to be in the street. According to plumber #1's estimate, the blockage is 50-55 feet from our house, putting it right on the curb. If it is in fact not that far from the house, we may be spared the quintuple digit figure. If, however, the blockage is under the street, we will have to pay to have the street ripped up and put back together, thereby plunging us into the highest possible price bracket. Every hour or so I go downstairs to see if the water has risen above the drain. So far it has not. But the dirty laundry is piling up, not to mention the toilet restrictions. Dan (my husband, not the third plumber) has had a pained look on his face all day. I sometimes point out the many benefits to renting a home, and he always argues that we are much better off as home-owners. But today, he is starting to see things my way.