Saturday, April 29, 2006

OK, the results of the Stripper Name contest are in. We have the following entries:
Lizzie Union
Curie Thomas
Sunny Dinwiddie
Sunshine Brightseat
Cuddles King
Bootsie LaQuarta
Duke Floral
Brownie Kingsfield

As the self-appointed judge of the contest I'm picking as a tie for first place Lizzie Union and Bootsie LaQuarta, with Cuddles King as the first runner-up. All three of these have great prop and costume possibilities.
If any of you lurkers can beat those three, we'd love to hear from you.
Thanks for playing and have a great weekend!

Friday, April 28, 2006

So I'm morphing out of Construction Girl, but really like the "CG." It reminds me of T.S. Garp. If you never read that wonderful book, Garp's given name is only the initials. So when people ask what it stands for, he answers depending on his mood: Terribly Sexy, Terribly Shy, Terribly Sad. So I'm going to do the same with CG.

So the tech writing project is still on-going, but the jobsite work is pretty much over. It was fun. It is making me think out of the box for my next move. I was looking in the classifieds under "W" for writer and saw something intriguing: "Wildlife Trapper." I'm serious. The requirements listed were as follows: neat, dependable, clean driving record, comfortable on ladders. I couldn't help being intrigued, so I called. The woman who took my call was surprised that I was inquiring for myself, being a girl. She doesn't know me.

"What kind of wildlife are you trapping on ladders?" I inquired. I couldn't imagine.
"Mostly squirrels and raccoons that get into attics."
"Is this a full time position?" I never knew you could have such a niche.
"Mostly. There would be some light construction work to repair the damage and and seal the entry points," she explained. I think she expected me to say "eeww."
"Surprisingly, I have a bit of experience in that area," I told her. I was thinking of the anti-squirrel screws and the rancid insulation.
So I left my number.

Now do I really want to make a career out of this? I don't suppose so. But just imagine the conversation and writing potential it presents.
In a bar: "What do you do?"
"I'm a wildlife trapper. I climb ladders."

I wonder how long people keep a position like that.

So what would that make me CG wise? Critter Grabber? Chipmunk Goalie? Climbing Gladiator?

A friend suggested CG could be Clever Gal, Courageous Goddess, Clever Geisha, Complete Gobbledygook...

Any other ideas? I'm wide open.

Thursday, April 27, 2006

Even Construction Girls get the blues.

What do you do with your feelings when you realize that something you were hoping for isn't going to work out as you had hoped? Like when a customer has ordered a big addition and the money runs out before completion. Or when you realize a relationship is doomed, or a career opportunity isn't panning out. What if it's even more minor, like your new couch isn't as comfy as the stinky saggy old one or a fun weekend get-away is cancelled. Or what if more than one of those things happens at once. Don't bummers usually come in threes?

I know life still goes on. None of those things are huge in the grand scheme of things. You just have to take a deep breathe and re-group, make new plans. My emotions tend to run in circles so that when things are running high, part of me is aware that it is temporary. I'll get back to the top again, but first I have to cycle down. Well, I'm on one of those down cycles. Maybe I can gather some momentum and swing around the bottom quickly. Something good will be around the corner. Right?

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

When's the last time you looked under your couch? It had obviously been a while in my house. My green reclining couch that I bought from a furniture truck parked one weekend by a Dunkin' Donuts has seen its last day at my house. The fabric has been like velcro for cat hair. One of the arms keep caving in, despite my best CG efforts to re-secure it. There's a hard wooden brace in the middle that isn't comfortable in any position.

Tomorrow, my lovely new couch arrives - brown leather. Hopefully no cat hair will cling to it. Although it won't recline, it will have a queen sleeper in it for my summer bonanza of out-of-town guests. I'm hoping this one is simply sturdier for my busy household.

Tonight I needed to haul the Incredible Hulk out. The Ex was kind enough to help me wrestle that monster out the door. So he was present when it was moved from it's spot, revealing quite a cache of unsavory objects. Fortunately there was nothing in the debris that I couldn't blame on the kids. I guess he already knows my housekeeping shortcomings.

Now I hate to just throw something away that has some life left in it or that might be useful to someone else, but try as I might, I couldn't give this one away. So my children are excited about the death of this couch. We are all going to work together to dismantle the thing. The kids are "calling" the tools they want to use. We are going to reduce it to a heap and put it out with Friday's trash.

Sometimes dismantling things can be fun. Other times it is just work. Are you dismantling anything?

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

This must be my lucky sweater. It’s the same bright pink sweater that I was wearing the day at the beach when I fell into the amazingly fun opportunity to operate the crane, excavator, and the bull dozer. Today it got me a lesson on the backhoe and front end loader.

I pulled up for a day’s work at the office. It is gorgeous outside, so I was planning to work on my laptop at the picnic table behind the office. I was gathering my laptop back pack and things to carry in when I noticed that Rick, the concrete guy was coming my way on the backhoe. He and I have met a few times at different jobsites. On one memorable occasion I saw him throw his cell phone like he was throwing a baseball from third base to first, only in this case first base was a mud puddle. In our last conversation, when I saw him using the backhoe to extract a pretty significant tree stump, I asked if he had lost his cell phone again.

So this morning he sped the backhoe over by my soccer-mom minivan. I had parked far from the office and he offered me a lift. So I hopped on. As we traveled back to the building at the break neck speed of 5 miles per hour or so, I talked him into a lesson.
It was cool! First I had to put the legs down to anchor the machine. Then I got to use the two levers to make the bucket move. I didn’t actually dig a hole, but tried to get a smooth motion going. My movements were still petty jerky, but I began to see that I could get the hang of it. The jerkiness of it reminded me of the bigger machines on the beach. It was similar to the excavator. The levers didn’t move in ways that felt natural to the movement of the equipment. It was like trying to draw a curved line on an Etch-a-Sketch, only on a huge scale.
Then I got to operate the front end loader. First, I had to lift the legs, then flip the seat into reverse position and climb over. I drove the machine at top speed over to Rick’s truck where he tossed a big coil of wire fencing into the bull dozer-like loader. When I backed up to return to the office, I made that lovely reverse beeping sound.

What a great morning! I have had some other non-construction related good luck in this same pink hoodie sweater. I’m going to have to wear this more often!

Monday, April 24, 2006

I was thinking about bras today on the job.

We were setting the base cabinets in a kitchen. It seems like it would be be easier than it was. You might think that you could just go in and put all the base cabinets on the floor where the customer wants them. In a perfect world, that would be true. But just like no body is perfect, no house is perfect either.

Houses, like bodies are sometimes just built a bit lopsided. You know that one of your... feet is bigger than the other, as are other slightly asymmetrical parts of your body. And some parts of your body, as with houses, sag with age.

Well this kitchen had two strikes in that department. Not only is it a settling aging house, but also both the walls and the floor were not perfectly straight. The problem is that the cabinets we were installing were straight. So Stan took measurements and evaluated the bubbles on the level while Don "ripped" the 2x4s at the right angles to raise the cabinets to the same level height as marked by the cool red laser line. I was over in shim city handing over shims, screws, hammers, or any other thing I could think of to do in the surgery nurse position.

It occurred to me that we were making a Wonder Bra of sorts for the house, compensating for natural lopsidedness and the sagging of age.

Don also showed me how to do a great Madonna impersonation with the corner styrofoam pads sent in the packing material with the cabinets.

So it was bra day. We all need a little help smoothing out our lopsidedness sometimes.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

My mom asked me what I was doing this afternoon. I told her I had set aside some time to see if I could fix my toilet. I have a kit for all the toilet innards. I have tried three different flappers and the ghost flushing continues. However, I explained to Mom, come to think of it, I hadn't noticed the ghost flushing so much in the last 24 hours. Maybe the rubber of the latest flapper just needed time to swell a bit in the water to get the proper seal and fill the hole, preventing the slow leak.
My mom snickered and said, "Sounds like a good topic for your next blog."

Looks like I'm turning my mother into Bootsie LaQuarta.

I tested the toilet with food dye in the tank to see if it is leaking into the bowl. It is. I mustof not been paying attention the last 24 hours. I guess I've got one last ditch effort before calling a plumber.

Saturday, April 22, 2006

Here's a silly post for my diehard weekend readers.

One of my favorite authors is Laurie Notaro. She's a journalist in Phoenix who writes off-color, realistic essays that just hit me right in my funny bone. Although I'm sure women would find her writing more appealing than men, anyone who just can't seem to get their shit together would be able to laugh with her. Her first book "The Idiot Girls Action Adventure Club," was published at a time when I needed a laugh and couldn't concentrate on anything serious. She has a website ( that has a quiz to see if you are an Idiot Girl too. Here's a sample question

2. A frantic knock at your door at 2:30 am reveals a neighbor screaming that your backyard is on fire. You immediately:
a) Call 911.
b) Call her a drunk and slam the door.
c) Run to the backyard to try and fight the fire with the garden hose, completely unaware that you are not wearing pants.
d) Make a few phone calls to let your single girlfriends know that some firemen are coming over.

In I think her first book she talks about everyone having a "stripper name." Your stripper name is the name of one of your pets and a street you lived on. This can work for men and women.
My stripper name isn't the greatest: Brownie Kingsfield

So post your stripper names and lets see who has the best one.
And if you take the idiot girls quiz, let us know your score.
And if you're a guy and check out the quiz, let us know if she mentions someone like you in the quiz.

Friday, April 21, 2006

I may be one of the only guys on the crew who finds the clean-up fun, at least when it involves throwing things into the dump truck. I did need a few pointers on flinging big stuff high enough to get over the edge. Rather than just doing it himself or assuming I am not strong enough, Don is great about giving me lifting, hauling, and flinging instructions. It is actually easier to fling scraps that are on the heavy side. The Styrofoam and cardboard seemed to hover a bit and the smaller pieces would land back at my feet, requiring a second pitch. The old glass windows were a little risky. If I missed, there could’ve been broken glass everywhere. I almost did – yikes! But once those were in, everything else I threw in made a lovely glass shattering sound. I suppose that if I did this for years, day in and day out, the charm of breaking windows could wear thin. But I’m still enjoying it. It sure beats a desk job.

Have you found that the heftier stuff is easier to get rid of? What little stuff keep falling out of your dumpster that you have to pick up and try to throw out again?

Thursday, April 20, 2006

How do you deal with a tough customer and what makes them tough?

Today I filled a new role as a decoy for the elderly couple who is aggravating the workers on a bathroom remodel job. I am guessing this couple is about 80 years old in their house that is about 50 years old. This couple grew up in the depression and are having trouble with all the perceived waste on the jobsite. For example, she wants to save and reuse old screws, wants to keep the old doorknob, decided to reinstall the original bathroom mirror.

Another problem is the couple's discomfort with construction dust. This was the job with the jackhammer. There has been drywall torn out, new drywall cut and installed. She wanted one worker to vacuum the dust that fell inside the drywall. She wants to sweep around the workers feet while they are working. We do a good job of cleaning up the sight, but we do wait until the end of the day.

So the main problem is their proximity to the work. They hover silently and compare the building methods with those they were familiar with 20 years ago. Change, although originally requested by them, is agitating to them. They are only trying to be thorough and responsible homeowners. They are only trying to be frugal and keep things tidy. But it is slowing down the project and frustrating the workers who have had to undo work unnecessarily.

So today we had to return to fix a leaky faucet, which was fine. I was riding with Michael to discuss our business plans. As we pulled into the driveway, I suggested that I wait in the truck with my laptop, but he requested that I come in and do the talking while he did the repair. It was an easy job since they have so many old an interesting objects and pictures around the house. She was impressed that I could explain the parts of the sink that were being repaired. Michael was relieve to just be able to do the work without stopping to explain each component of the sink and the motives behind each action.

I think it was a win for everybody. Not exactly one of the skills I had anticipated using on this job, but one that came in handy today. I have a feeling I know which job the guys will want me on next week.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Today I had to go shopping for just the right screw. How many times am I going to have to do this? There is such a variety, a screw for so many occasions. I am starting to get better at this hardware business.

Don was going to climb up a very tall ladder to secure the wire mesh covering the attic vents that had come loose. This had to have been the point of access for the squirrels that had putrified the insulation above the kitchen we're renovating. There wasn't much for me to do on the job site because we had to wait for the electricians to do their part. So I drove on the double errand of taking back a damaged screen for rescreening and to the hardware store for the anti-squirrel screws.

The rescreening looked like a fairly simple maneuver with a tool called a spline roller that looks kinda like a pasta cutter. I'm sure it would take me significantly longer than the experienced guy rescreening the frame. It takes a little finesse to get the screen taut without warping the frame. He even showed me what to watch for when trimming the corners. I'm sure it would be as easy for me as - swinging a hammer and sinking a nail in one hit. I guess I should practice on my own screens first.

Then to the hardware store - aisle 13. Have you ever checked out the variety of screws? We were looking for short screws with a big head to hold down some wide washers with a narrow hole. Honest. That's exactly what we were looking for. Does the aisle number symbolize that such a variety of screws all in one place is bad luck?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

New tools today. I had my first, albeit brief turn with a Sawzall. We were taking out the old windows in the kitchen with that bad old insulation. That thing cuts right through nails. And then I also got a lot of time with an intense staple gun that was hooked up to an air compressor. Remember the kitchen where I blistered my hand pulling staples out of the floor? This was the opposite. I was helping put down the luan plywood to prep the floor for tiles. I think we put in about 2500 staples. That was fun. And I got to use the circular saw (I think that's what it is called.) I've done that before, but it is also fun.

The tool that is still giving me the most trouble, that I'm having the most difficulty mastering seems the simplest: the hammer.

My son has started his first season playing lacrosse. He has improved partly because he has realized that it is not only acceptable, but necessary to plow right into his opponents and knock them over. It's OK to poke them with the stick. He gets praised for something I'm sure I've told him not to do.

I'm in a similar place with the hammer. I'm just not swinging hard enough. For the most part, it is OK if the wood takes a little dent. It's not that I'm actually afraid, just not used to using force. And then there's the aim part. I'm still working on hitting the nail on the head. And I'm even worse with my left hand. I just need to be fiercer, bolder. It's great to work where that is encouraged.

Why are the things that seem the simplest the most difficult?

Monday, April 17, 2006

Today was the last day of Spring Break for my kids. Mostly I didn't work, but I did have to go back to my friend's and solve the mystery of the sink that wouldn't turn off. I was hoping Michael would be able to meet me there, but he couldn't. So I was pleased with myself for figuring it out on my own - although I suppose I should have figured it out last Friday, so it was a qualified pleasure.

There was this little spring whose origin I couldn't figure out. On Friday I took both hot & cold faucets apart looking for the spring without finding it. I took apart a sink that wasn't dripping to find the spring, but none was visible. So I thought maybe it was from something else. Thank goodness I didn't throw it out. That was the missing piece of the puzzle. And I figured it out in just moments. Kind of like when I get stumped on a crossword puzzle and put it down. When I pick it back up, the answer seems obvious.

I also repaired her ghost-flushing toilet. Now I just need to fix my own. Those flappers are fragile but important things. And the little chain can make all the difference.

As I'm writing this, my cat has jumped up in my lap and is trying to nudge me into petting him. But his nose is cold and wet, so I am typing this stocatto, trying to dodge the cold wet nose.

Today I hosted my son's 11th birthday party. It was great. Although we woke up to rain, the sun came out about half an hour before the party. We had a fun kickball tournament and one game of softball, grilled dinner, double chocolate cake (I made myself) lots of cool presents, and a silly string battle. The party favors were whoopie cushions and fake crooked teeth. He's a cool kid. I'm glad I could throw him a fun party.

In the car on the way home at 8 o'clock, my 8 year old announced she had two Spring Break homework packets. All the points I gained for cool mom at the party were cancelled out by not having checked her backpack myself last week. It's a good thing she's pretty bright and could crank them out in one sitting. She's bright, but still innocent. She was trying to come up with words that rhymed with "pour." Her first attempt made me and my 12 year old snap to attention.
Aahh, the joys of parenting.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

I was thinking about why it is I find this job appealing. My previous career as a teacher was far better planned. I had several years of college behind me and student teaching. "English teacher" was a much more acceptable career, although less interesting to discuss at a party. I remember not wanting to get out of my car in the parking lot once I got to the school. I would feel my blood pressure elevate once I arrived. A combination of factors created that tension. I was a good teacher, but I'm glad that didn't lock me into a stressful career. Just because you're good at something doesn't mean you can't quit when it isn't unfulfilling.

This job is the opposite, tension releasing rather than building. I'm sure the physical component has a lot to do with it. Although not every day is a tear out day, often enough I get to tear down walls, throw stuff out windows, drill through the side of a house, or knock nails in with a hammer. At the end of the day I can see what I've accomplished. I like it when work stays at work too. I like getting tired and sweaty. I don't even mind busting my knuckles or getting all dirty.

How do you deal with tension?
Do you find that you release tension by getting sweaty and dirty and tired?

Saturday, April 15, 2006

I didn't tell you the nastiest part of the kitchen tear out from earlier this week. Remember the house where I was swinging from the cabinets? Well, those cabinets were screwed to a 2x4 that was nailed to the ceiling, running the length of the front of the cabinets. The 2x4 was hidden behind a decorative piece of wood laminate and some trim. There were also some short pieces of wood running perpendicular to the cabinets about every 18 inches or so to support the 2x4. I hope you can picture that - kind of like a ladder in the ceiling.

Anyway, once the cabinets were down we could see up into the eaves of the house. There was only a non-storage attic space above the kitchen. I'm sure that the original insulation there was lovely. But now it wasn't. At some point in the house's history, rodents of some kind had nested all in that insulation. We decided it must be squirrels, which I'm hoping is true. There were some leaves and twigs mixed in with the smelly, gray, now loose insulation. Because it had been damp and then dry, it didn't all fall down when the cabinets were removed.

What wasn't falling out had to be pulled out. Since I was already up on the counter and step ladder working on the 2x4, it kind of fell to me to pull it down. There was another guy on the job that day, Adam, a 15 year old on his spring break earning some extra cash. He had been doing the same thing as I had been, so we pulled that nasty nesting out together. He held open the big trash bag and I, with my hands gloved, did my best to aim the fetid feculent flotsam into the bag. Poor Adam. Even though I had my gloved hands in it all, at least my head was above it.

When I got home, I did not hug my children. I undressed in the laundry room and ran a load on hot. It was very nasty.

Here's the thought that kept nauseating me. The kitchen is usually the hub of family activity. It is where families not only prepare their meals, but share their lives with each other and their guests. I'm sure this family never realized how close to all this shit they were. It's probably good that they weren't there to see it. It would make you want to tear down more of the house.

It then made me think of how I react to tragic stories in the news. I used to read about these personal traumas and look for the part of the story that would give me hope that it couldn't happen to me. It used to be easier in my life to find those differences. I think it might have been only the illusion of safety and cleanliness before. Is it better to know about the shit on the fringes of your life or not?

Friday, April 14, 2006

I got my new tool belt that I ordered off the "charm and hammer" website. It is thick suede and dyed bright pink. I wore it to a friend's house who asked if I could help her fix a leaky faucet. The belt felt a little stiff, but I'm sure it will break in. I can only imagine what the guys at work will say, but I don't care. It's a good tool belt and I get tired of "Has anyone seen my...?" No one will mistake it for theirs, that's for sure.

I'm not sure about which tools to put in it. I now have a portable tool box instead of a bucket and my tool collection is growing. Instead of lugging in the whole tool box, I tried to anticipate which tools I might need for faucet repair and loaded my belt. I did use most of the ones I brought up, but still needed to go back to the van for needle-nosed pliers. (That was after the textbook version of the repair didn't happen.) The other tool I wished I had put in the belt was the utility knife. I couldn't imagine why I would need it for plumbing, but here's why: those damn plastic boxes that seal in the little parts. I think I just always need the utility knife with me. I've started carrying a pocket knife too.

Anyway, about my friend's sink... I fixed two problems but created a new one. So I have to go back on Monday. It was left in a state that she could live with for the weekend. I felt a little defeated, but I'll take reinforcements with me on Monday.

I determined that the drip was from the hot water side. I pulled out the stem and went to two different hardware stores to find the right one. When I went to install it, all went well. The drip seemed to stop. (I thought that once before about my sister's sink, so I will see how I did on Monday.) But when I installed a new one on the cold water side, I could never turn the faucet off. So I took it back apart and examined it closely, reversed it, twisted it, took the other side apart and compared them. I even tried re-installing the original one but the cold water would not shut off. So annoying!

I did find a leak under the sink that I was able to fix with a few twists of a loose nut. She hadn't even noticed the leak because it only occurred when she used the sink and the leak had not dripped on any paper products.

But since my daughter had soccer and my friend was happy about my attempt to save her a hundred bucks, I was able to leave it half done (after two hours.) There's just so many variables in plumbing. I see why they pay those guys a lot. Napoleon Dynamite was right, girls like guys with skills. I'm going to see if the reverse is true.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

I was swinging from the cabinets today - something I was never encouraged to do before in my life. It was a kitchen tear out. The house itself was at least 50 years old, although the kitchen was "new," only about 25 years old. I was thinking we would unscrew the cabinets, but Stan showed me how I could just rip them out. He demostrated, ripping off a cabinet door and pounding out some side pieces.

So I tried. I grabbed the top of a cabinet door, almost like Stan who is taller than I am. I yanked like Stan showed me, but the door didn't rip off like it did for him. So I tried again. This time when I yanked down, I bent my knees, trying to throw all my weight into the pull. But it didn't work and that's how I came to be swinging from the cabinet doors. It was fun. I recommend trying it - but if your door breaks off, that's your responsibility. I had to get up on the counter with my pry bar.

Did anybody else do anything fun today - or yesterday? Those fun moments don't come by too often. When was your last moment like that and what did you get to do?

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Today I was able to go inside a granite and marble fabrication company. It was fascinating. This company takes huge slabs of rough stone quarried from all parts of the world and turns them into beautiful pieces for homes. You may have never realized how varied and gorgeous stone can be. I suppose I knew it just from taking hikes on the Appalachian Trail and seeing the differences in the rocks jutting up from the soil. But it really is amazing to see row after row of slab after slab of various granites and marbles. There are different colors and shades and combinations, different veins and crystal sizes and sheens.

It was amazing to think how long ago these slabs of stone were created before they made their way to this warehouse awaiting a customer to say, "I want that one." I know that quarrying stone for building is at least as old as Stone Henge and the Giza Pyramids, but still, it is amazing to think that people excavate deep into the earth to pull up these hidden beauties. I don't know how much guess work there is in finding these rocks. They are surely not as dramatically beautiful when they are first quarried, all rough and initially hewn. But someone knew that these stones were of value because of their strength and beauty, even if that beauty was not yet visible.

I got to go into the portion of the warehouse where they cut the slabs to the dimensions needed for kitchen counters, backsplashes, and door sills. These slabs are placed on huge machines that cut through the stone with diamond-toothed blades. Both the cutting table and the polishing equipment were huge and used water to polish, keep the blade cool, and keep the dust under control. So the room where all this was done was cool and had water running all over the floor.

I was impressed with the staff in this place. There were men of all races and ages and sizes and styles. Although I know there is a woman who works the sales in the front, there were no women working in the back. It seems to me it would be a cool job. You would definitely get a work out because those stones are so heavy. Even relatively small slabs need several men to carry. I'm sure they use lifting equipment for some of it.

But here's the problem or perhaps the risk of these heavy stones. Once the strong, ancient stones are carved into relatively thin slabs and polished and shaped and beveled, the stone become more and more fragile. The weight of the stone, which is what make it so durable and desirable, is also the aspect of it that can cause it to snap, ruining the piece. Sometimes the break can be repaired, glued and polished and reinforced. This can be pulled off easier with marble than with granite because of the veining. Often times, however, the break is irreparable. Because of the custom ordering, the slab is ruined, useless.

So in its natural state, it is buried, its beauty hidden, its strength untapped. To make it useful, the stone has to come in contact with many people across the world. The refining process is cumbersome, but the beauty and durability of the finished product is worth the effort. However, if refined too much, if the slab is cut too thin, if the lifting isn't handled precisely, the very aspects that cause it to be valuable cause it to be ruined.

If you are the stone, which phase are you in?

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Today was the fancy luncheon I mentioned last week that prompted me to print up some business cards. Boy am I glad I did. I mean, I'm glad Brooke could do that for me. She did a great job.

I had the good fortune of having a friend invite me to a luncheon of a certain Maryland Historical Society that had as its guest speaker Justice Sandra Day O'Conner. As the luncheon began, I chit chatted with what turned out to be a roomful of lawyers. They assumed I was one. (I guess I can pass as fancy when I have to. I can manage it for a couple of hours at least.) When I explained a bit of what I was doing, I got some welcome advice and instant introductions. Three business women asked for my card. One asked for two so she could pass one along. I'm so glad I didn't have to write anything down on a napkin because they only had cloth.

Then Justice O'Conner delivered a pleasant speech about the Humble Beginnings of the Supreme Court. It was very interesting. It occurred to me that Construction Girl is not just learning the various aspects of general house construction in her apprenticeship of sorts, she's constructing a business. I felt very aware that this was an important moment in my humble beginnings. It's exciting to realize that you are at the beginning of something good, something of yours.

Monday, April 10, 2006

That faucet I tried to repair last week - dripped all weekend. So today I went back to investigate. Took it apart. Put it together. Took it apart. Examined it closely. Put it back together. Michael came over to help me investigate. He took it apart and put it back together. He eventually figured it out.

This doesn't happen very often, but in this case the screw was too long.

Apparently when I tightened the final screw that attached the faucet to the internal stem, the tip of the screw reached the interior ceramic washer and turned it enough to let out a constant trickle of water. You know if you have a constant trickle you should call someone to fix that.

We were able to alleviate the intense friction by wrapping a spare o-ring around the screw before insertion. That O-ring wrapped four times around the screw. Quite an incentive to ease up on the friction. And the dripping stopped too. Perhaps an unorthodox solution, but you have to go with what works for your particular set of hardware.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

This week is Spring Break so I'm doing some spring cleaning. I've finally decided to take on the garage. Since the garage became mine three years ago, I have never really claimed that space in the house. I have only heaped more stuff on the cluttered tool bench without organizing anything. There are cabinets out there that I have never opened.

Now I am finally feeling the need for the space. I am learning what more and more tools are for and what various little widgets and hoochies are for. Helping to clean out and organize the contracting van and trailer have helped me feel that I can tackle and then maintain this job. Plus now I need the area for working on various domestic projects instead of hiring so much of it out.

But before I can get to the part I really want to get to, the actual tool bench stuff, I've had to sort through the clutter that has accumulated on top of it. I really need to have a garage sale, but doesn't that sound like a lot of work? And then I'll still be stuck with some things. So I have to figure out how to get rid of the stuff that's still good, but unwanted or unnecessary.

It sure feels good to purge all this stuff though.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

I inadvertently have a day today with nothing planned and I have to say I am loving the solitude. I have a long list of shoulds and coulds as I'm sure you all do. Some are expectations others have for me, like the gas & electric company, and some are ones I'm putting on myself. For example, since it's too rainy for my morning walk, I put on clothes to go to the gym. But instead I've been catching up on the phone with long distance friends, shifting laundry, and just generally not rushing anything.

Since I've become Construction Girl, I've noticed people expect that I have advice about plumbing, hardware, and other general construction topics. Sometimes I have an intelligent reply, but often I have to say that I am still learning and will put that one on my list. It reminds me of when I was an English teacher and people thought I could spell any word that stumped them or they were appalled when I said "me & my friend" instead of "my friend & I." I'm sure it's the same in any profession: as soon as you mention you are a doctor or nurse, people start telling you about their various aches and pains, or ask accountants about their tax dilemmas, or mechanics about their car troubles. Mostly that is fine, but it's good to have a day off from everyone's expectations every now and then.

I had breakfast with a friend whose house I hadn't been to in a few months. We are always amazed at the unexpected things that happen in each of our lives and try to make some time to catch up every few months or so. I noticed that the city must have installed some speed bumps on her street since I had been there last. Since it was a change, and the yellow paint and mound of asphalt were apparently not enough to warn to motorists, the city decided that they ought to erect a sign to notify drivers of the new obstacle. The sign, unfortunately for my friend, is centered right in front of her house. I couldn't help but laugh when I saw it. Rather than saying "speed bump" the sign simply says "HUMP."

I asked her if she had noticed any motorists pulling over in her front yard to obey the traffic sign. She said she had been amazed by the sign and no, she hadn't had any problems because of it. Then my happily married friend speculated that it was a good thing that the sign wasn't in my front yard now that I'm single. Talk about expectations!

Friday, April 07, 2006

I repaired a leaky bathroom sink faucet today. Michael was officially training me for the future Construction Girl Enterprise. So I gathered all the tools I had, which compared to the guys is a paltry showing. A major shopping trip is in order. We investigated the leaky sink to see not only which parts we needed, but which tools I needed.

I tried using my adjustable wrench to loosen a big nut, but it was too small. Just a little short. Michael advised that I purchase a bigger one - because 8 inches was close, but 10 was definitely better.

Have a fun weekend folks!

Thursday, April 06, 2006

I have new business cards that say "Construction Girl" on them with my blog address. I'm so excited! No more scribbling on cocktail napkins. I had planned on waiting until our corporation was formed and logo designed; however, that is taking longer than I can wait. I have been invited to attend a fancy luncheon next week and I didn't want to appear unprofessional. So the lovely young admin in the office, Brooke, volunteered to design some provisional cards for me. She obviously enjoyed the creative dimension to the task and came up with several options for me to consider.

The cards saved me a moment of embarrassment today too. I was trying to purchase some wine this afternoon on a lunch break with Michael for a little gathering I am planning for the weekend. I hadn't planned to stop in a store and didn't have my purse with my ID. (Construction Girls don't carry purses on the job.) I only had a credit card that says, "See ID" on the signature line. The cashier called over her manager who asked if I had anything else with my name on it on me. I had only my new business card which I proudly whipped out of my back pocket. I suppose I look enough like "Construction Girl" to pass the wine purchasing requirements. So thanks to Brooke's talent and creative efforts, I will have good wine at my party on Friday.

Construction Girls have excellent staff support.

On a side note, sorry about deleting the comment options on yesterday's blog. I couldn't figure out how to delete a new guy's comment without shutting down that day. I'll see if I can investigate blogger's features further. I'm sure most of you had witty responses that weren't libelous. Teasing is fine and fun. Friends of CG are not accusing anyone of criminal behavior though, maybe an OSHA violation here and there, but not anything jailable.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Plumbing can be messy. We had a little indoor waterfall today - very exciting, although that opinion was not shared by all. Fortunately the waterworks occurred in an unfinished basement that was just being used as storage. We were able to move the home owner's personal belonging out of the way, so there was no damage, just mess.

We were running some PVC (cpvc to be exact,) pipes in this addition from the new hot water heaters that are mounted outside the house. So I got to drill a hole from the outside of the house to the inside, low down by the basement. That was fun, even though it was freezing outside and the holes were in an awkward place.

We had to put a bend in the pipe that was held together with some plumbers glue. Once all the pieces were in place we considered whether or not to test the pipes with water. The glue is supposed to dry overnight, but the customer wanted hot water sooner. So we decided to test the pipes.

It appears the label was right on that one. The glue does take 12 hours to dry. The trouble is that when we realized that, water was spraying all over the basement. So everyone sprang into action. Stan ran to shut the water back off. The rest of us moved cardboard boxes off the floor. I ended up giving the concrete floor a good cleansing squeegee once everything was under control. It was one of those manageable crises that causes everyone to spring into action but is easily handled. Like an adrenaline rush without the hangover.

So, the pipes have to be firmly fitted before they can handle any built up fluid pressure.

I know that full-time plumbers have to deal with much more shit than this, I just never truly appreciated their efforts until now.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

When I got to the house where I was working today, Roy the electrician was installing a recessed light fixture into a vaulted ceiling. I had to stop and observe and of course I had a few questions. (So naturally he assumed I was the "lady of the house.")

He was on the "this-is-not-a-step" step while reaching high above him to insert the light canister. To make the whole action seem more precarious to me, Roy was wearing tube socks like thumbless mittens. I didn't speak, afraid that if I startled him he might lose his balance. He was trying to get the slanted canister to line up with the slant of the ceiling. He had obviously had enough experience to make him relaxed on his tremulous perch.

When he came down a step or two I asked about the tube socks. They were to protect the freshly painted ceiling and shiny new canister light from dings and fingerprints. The canister was one especially designed for the increasingly more common vaulted ceiling. He looked at his work and was not satisfied, so we mounted the ladder to the top again for a miniscule adjustment to the canister.

It got me thinking about ladder safety. The other day when I took my friend up on the roof for our lunch, I was nervous about the ladder. I had climbed it before and even double checked the anchors on the ground. I was sure the ladder could handle my weight and the added heft of the burritos. The angle looked safe and the ladder extended well beyond the line of the roof. But the reason I felt OK climbing was because I had the most important piece of safety equipment with me: another person to dial 911 if I fell.

When I climbed a ladder to get into an attic on another job, I had to stand on the "this-is-not-a-step" step. I remember that day Don suggested someone get out their cell phone and just dial 9-1 to be ready. But unlike Roy, I was partway into the attic and could hold those edges for support. He was stretched out like a yogi.

Taking risks gets easier with experience. When you are not used to it, everything seems so dangerous. If, however, you know there will be someone to help scrape you up if you fail, it seems a little safer to take that risk. My favorite band, The Indigo Girls, has a song that says, "The higher the leap, the harder the ground." I'd rather leap than stay safe on the ground.

Monday, April 03, 2006

A lesson in faucet purchasing today.

Contractors end up at big box hardware stores a lot. (Dare I say this one was orange?) We were considering faucets for the bathroom renovation house where I hope to get some time tomorrow (if I can get my kids to beat the pollen and go to school.) If you haven't priced faucets lately, there is quite a range of options starting I believe at 18.97 and going up to 119.99. So what make the difference of $100?

plastic or brass

If price is your primary consideration, you could end up paying a lot more in the long run. Although the high end isn't necessarily the best, you would be safer to err on the side of pricey - especially where water is concerned. Water can cause a tremendous amount of damage. So if you opt for the $18.97 faucet, you are risking that the plastic interior will hold up against the water pressure inside until you replace it again. Otherwise, the only way you will know that the plastic wasn't strong enough is when it breaks and water floods your bathroom. A flood in your bathroom might be manageable - if you are home when it happens and catch it right away and know how to turn off your water.

But what if you are not home? Michael told me a story of a client who opted for the $18.97 faucet. The guy was away on vacation when the bargain faucet with the plastic innards that he installed on the third floor of his townhouse ruptured under the pressure of the water. The Water erupted from the faucet at such a force that a few days later when he got home, not only was there a hole in the ceiling above the faucet, he had extensive damage to the drywall, carpet, and furniture on all three floors of his home.

It might have been worth it to have spent another $40 on a faucet that had insides parts of brass and not plastic. How can you tell the difference? You take a few seconds and look. Brass isn't white.

So the moral of the story is, if you are going to invest, invest in something made of solid materials. What looks like a bargain will cost you possible a thousand times more in the long run. Look at the insides. Invest a little time - and even a little money. What looks fast and easy could be a real disaster. Who has already learned that the hard way?

I'd like to take a second to thank those of you who have the brass insides enough to post comments. You certainly keep me smiling throughout the day. And the Billy Price concert was great. You should've been there. Thanks Anne!

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Any Harley Davidson fans out there? I'm a new fan. Just like construction boys like to talk about their tools, HD guys like to talk about their bikes. In fact, biker boys get a little poetic about their rides.

I recently was informed that the HD V-twin engine is configured to create the classic bass "plunkity-plunkity-plunkity" sound that other bikes have tried to imitate. When a HD accelorates, the sound intensifies and hits the pleasure center of the brain. That head-turning sound plus the rightness of the vibration created by the V-Twin motor make the bike a provocative stimulator on many sensory levels.

That resonant pulsation is so palpable that when I was recently donning my helment while my friend fired up his Fat Boy, the bass vibrations tripped the alarm on the car parked behind us.

cool, huh?

Maybe some of you with more biking experience would care to elaborate.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

This weekend has been pretty much a Construction Mom weekend. My hot Friday night had my kids all playing with friends while their moms & I sipped some pinot grigio in the warm evening breeze. It was actually quite lovely.

My Saturday morning would have been easier if I had a clone of myself. (One on which I could later blame all my mischievous behavior.) My kids all had overlapping lacrosse & soccer games on different fields around town. Fortunately my great family pitched in on the sports fiesta shuffle and everyone got to where they needed to be.

In the frenzy of leaving the house packed with all the necessary equipment for the day's activities, I reminded my son, Kyle, of the one piece of equipment that I have no experience with. He forgot it once and I've heard that the coach can do a spot check that could be painful if he forgot this protective gear. Rather than simply telling me he already had it, he just gave it a sharp rap with his knuckles, horrifying his sisters. This boy has been living with all women for three years (exactly today - easy day to remember: April Fool's Day.) So I figured he was due for a little 10 year old flare of testosterone. He's my child who has been most excited and supportive of my new Construction Girl job.

At his game, one of my favorite City Rangers on duty at that field lingered to watch the game for a bit. In the car on the way home, Kyle asked if the City Ranger was armed. I said that his only weapon was his cell phone. But after quickly considering the Ranger's 6 & a half feet of height I said, "unless you consider his boots weapons." I'm sure a kick with those big things could inflict some damage if necessary.

Kyle's head snapped over to look at me in smiling surprise and said, "Mom! You're not supposed to be looking!"
Confused I asked, "At his boots?" I didn't think he knew the old joke about the size of a man's boots and... well, you know.
"Oh," he relaxed, obviously relieved. "I thought you said 'his Glutes'."

I think I may have a future construction boy here.

btw, they are killer glutes.