Sunday, August 31, 2014

August 31: Marilyn finally worked on this blog today. Joie read and wrote and prepared for class despite the new tenants moving in today. That would have been a little chaotic under any circumstances, but one of the helpers wondered what would happen if he pulled on the bar on the red metal box on the wall...the one that said "FIRE, TO SOUND ALARM PULL DOWN".

We should explain that the walk-out basement of this house was a daycare center for 19 years and thus there were all sorts of fire safety requirements, but we thought everything had been disconnected (another job to be added to the electrician's list). Alas, the incredibly loud alarm went off. The dogs were terrified. Everyone wondered what could be done to stop the gawdawful noise. Fortunately, Joie is really, really smart and she ran to the circuit box and cut the power. Then she had to call the fire department just in case the thing was still connected to them...her call was answered by a voice mail. Then she called the police to make sure no one was on their way here but it took a long time for them to answer because, after all, this is move-in weekend for 25,000 students so the officials all have their hands full without our adding to it.
J to M: It's all going to be okay. Just stay in your room, watch a movie and finish our blog.
M: I can do that.
August 26-29: Joie has officially switched gears this week from half student/half reno queen to full-time student. On Tuesday she had the 5 College Library tour, Thursday was 10 hours of UMass Orientations and Dinner, and Friday was 11 hours of History Department introductory seminars and a BBQ.  ...while Marilyn cleaned and painted more ceiling tracks. But she DID manage to squeeze in yet another flash trip through Home Depot and Lowe's to buy another tool - this one is part saw (M needs to build a stand for the new fridge, among other things), part sander (door edges need shaving, floors and cabinets need sanding) & it has about 20 more functions that will undoubtedly come in handy eventually.
August 25: The Russians taught us how to use a new tool today cut perfect round circles out of ceiling tiles so that we could install the ones around the a/c/heating vents.

Drywalling, painting & (hopefully) another plumber are on my agenda today. The gross, old CAST IRON sink and cabinet in the 2nd downstairs bedroom got pulled out, bright blue painted over wallpaper had to all be peeled off, and the mildewed wall was treated and rebuilt.
M -  Seriously, aren't I too old for this sh*#?!
Downstairs bedroom 2 before - 
and after -

And now it's ready for the new tenants to move in this weekend!

August 23: Yesterday we (mostly Jo-Jo) "crashed" a wall, chisels, huge hammers & a crowbar were involved (forgot to mention we've been adding to our tool chest)! These are 2 different bedrooms that only had thin plywood and some built-in bookshelves separating them. Our job was to demolish so that the carpenter could build a full solid wall between the rooms. The fun part was the crashing, the tough part was removing the dozens of 6-inch screws that had  been used to hold all the shelves in place!

August 21:
J:  I've been shot. Seriously, immunizations required by UMass have me feeling like a bullet is lodged in my arm. Mom felt so bad about it that she went out and got stung by a bee! Again, seriously, while I was whining about my arm, a bee stung her through her shirt. See what happens when you complain about bring negativity straight into your world. Don't do it people! Lest you get yourself and your loved ones stung by bees...
M: What Jo didn't say was  that when the bee got me, the a/c-heat serviceman was there & explained that, because I was wearing a black shirt, the bee thought I was a bear! Now I will admit to gaining a few pounds & it's been a while since I shaved, but a BEAR? Meanwhile back indoors, a little progress was made by the electricians but the impressive moment of the day was Joie totally destroying a built-in bookcase with chisel, heavy hammer and crowbar, while I attacked mildewed wallpaper. Seriously, when do we get to do the pretty parts of renovating??????

August 20: Another long hard day of doing a disgusting/dirty job on This Olde House with no visible improvement --every A/C heating vent and intake was packed with unexplainable dirt, old clothing, towels, fiberglass insulation, giant spiders, drywall chunks, etc, all of which had to be cleaned out for the system to work. Feel a bit embarrassed that it required a service call to figure out the problem.
August 19: A true rural reno girl's fantasy was fulfilled today. We had the electricians, a plumber and contractor/carpenter all servicing, er rather, helping us, then a bit later two new roommate prospects arrived to discuss what we would require of them. Maybe we should mention these were all males of varying ages and endless talents and skill. 
M - With my erotic romance hat on, my imagination may have run a bit amok. But then I remembered Rosie O'Donnell's perfect line from Exit to Eden when told by the young submissive that he would do anything for her. Do you remember what she ordered him to do?
August 16-18: Started sanding and repainting the drop ceiling track, then installing the new, noise reducing ceiling tiles wherever the electricians were done working. They've already removed all the old fluorescent tube lighting and installed recessed cans. They seemed somewhat bewildered by Joie's skipping skipping barefoot from room to room, waving her Harry Potter wand and declaring in a Luna-esque voice, "LET THERE BE LIGHT."
August 15: The Comcast guy's early comment about the "possible" mouse issue concerned us. The exterminator's report worried us. But once the electricians started poking around between the floors and found themselves hindered by the obstruction, we had to change our priority list. They showed us where hundreds of pounds of mouse feces were in the insulation between the floors, currently being contained by heavy plastic sheeting, all of which is dangerously close to crashing through the old, stained, dropped ceiling tiles. This pic was taken after we started removing the tiles & it wasn't even the worst area.

 Before anything could be accomplished (and before we could rent another room out), five decades worth of mouse feces and tiny skeleton-filled insulation had to be removed, which also meant 1200 sq. ft. of ceiling tiles had to be pulled down & disposed of. But first we had to have a gigantic dumpster delivered.
J - Just another day in the life of the Reno Queens! Girls meet dumpster. Girls start loading dumpster. Girls ignore directions on dumpster. What can we say...we like living on the edge.
As soon as the dumpster was in place, we donned our long-sleeved flannel shirts and long gloves and put on paper masks.
We have pictures of what we removed but it is truly too disgusting and disturbing for public posting! Realizing the number of potential diseases we could contract, on the second day, we upgraded to professional style respirators -

J - I have never said the phrases "Oh my dear God!!" and "Sweet Baby Jesus!!" so many times in my entire life. I have done A LOT of stuff in my life...some good stuff, some bad stuff, some smart stuff, some stupid stuff...BUT this ranks as the most disgusting, filthy, foul, wretched thing I have ever done...EVER. I am not sure which of the low points was the lowest...the moment a pile of tiny skeletons fell on my head...or the moment when a pound of feces fell out of the ceiling on top of me. But, two days and six showers later, it is done. No one can ever say that Marilyn Campbell and I aren't badass bitches. That's right, I said it. BADASS BITCHES. King Kong ain't got nothin' on us!
Mission accomplished!!!!
What you're seeing below is miles and miles of old electrical wiring to intercom system, security system, in-wall vacuum system - everything was state of the art when this house was built but now it's all just dumpster fodder...right after the darling electricians assure us the power's been cut off.
August 13: After striking out repeatedly in our search for carpenters, drywall people and plumbers, we begged the darling electrician for help and he "made a call". Obviously we should have gotten down on our knees weeks ago.
August 11:
M - Some of you know how attached I've been to airbeds. I've preferred them to traditional beds for sleeping for at least 12 years. I like the way they support me and I especially like the way they flatten and fold up for quick getaways,er, I mean moves, which I've done a lot. the 5 weeks since we arrived in MA, I had THREE good airbeds spring leaks in the middle of the night and resist repair.
Sweetie gave her approval immediately. She can now oversee her acreage from a comfy spot!
 So, yesterday, while we were buying appliances, I spied a row of beds and was told they are all being sold at a deep (about 75%) discount because they would no longer be carrying them in that store. And so, I bought a bed. A really really good pillow top mattress and box spring. It was delivered today.
I guess it just goes to prove, we're never too old to change.
August 10: After hours that ran into days of shopping and comparing & taking into account that Massachusetts has one weekend in August when all purchases are tax-free, we finally bought all the appliances from a Sears Hometown store during the friends & family discount day (we're pretty sure we earned that privilege by returning at least 20 times with questions). Delivery day isn't until Sept 8 but we've already learned it could take that long to secure a plumber (all gas oven/range requires one, as does new fridge water line and dishwasher install, but the number of plumbers is limited & they are really busy) and line up a carpenter to carve out the spaces required (all the old appliances were very small). Pics will be posted as more work is done.
August 6: The exterminator returned to check on the mouse status. Good news was most of the crittters that were in house seemed to be taking the bait & leaving or dying...which is not a problem because the special bait speeds up decomposition so that the bad smell only lasts a couple days (how is it none of the detective shows have used this stuff in a murder coverup?). The bad news -- he let us know a lot of the smell is from an older infestation.
August 4:
The demolition has officially begun! Lucky for us, some of the wall crashing, like the one between the long hallway and the kitchen was done by the super-skilled and incredibly nice electrician and his Russian journeymen, who could all pose for romance novel covers. Hey JoJo, how about some better pics of the workers next time!
July 31: One huge job started on the 18th & was completed by Joie today. By the way, in case you were wondering, the color of the water has not been photo-shopped.

July 30: We are officially Massachusetts residents as of this day. In the past 2 weeks, we've transferred the car titles and tags, our drivers' licenses, voters registrations, checked in with the Town Hall regarding their various local requirements, got the dogs to a new vet (they both had been sick since we arrived...probably ate some of the exterminator's brew) and registered them with the Town. The most tedious task was getting Marilyn's car inspected--a computer glitch that came with the car six years ago had to be fixed before a MA tag could be issued. This, of course, required an expensive and time-consuming visit to the nearest dealership.
     But we Campbell girls are queens at multi-tasking - during this period, Joie also had to get everything lined up for starting at UMass, from parking permit to health records to choosing class and teaching schedules to the gym membership. Marilyn also imposed on her to help proofread the manuscript for "LOGAN", the new Innerworld series book. It got turned into the publisher, late but polished to a satisfying gleam.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

July 29: A squad of tree trimmers and landscapers invaded the property today (an enormous branch fell off an ancient tree, barely missing the house and making this task a priority). Jo wanted to take a picture of the main guy hanging by a rope about 40 feet in the air with a chain saw tied to his waist, but she intelligently decided it might not be a good idea to distract him, so the only pic on this one is an after shot. However, it should be noted that, once he was on the ground again, she bestowed on him the" Official BadAss of the Day Award". And in return she got a hint of a grin from the very serious man. Must add that a week later we received a notice of impending cancellation from the homeowners insurance company unless we trimmed all the trees back from the house!
July 21: 3 weeks of gathering analyses and cost estimates from the sub-contractors who weren't too busy to return our calls, it was painfully clear that, unless we suddenly won the lottery, we would have to do some of the physical work, such as demolition, ourselves...and that would require some serious tool purchases...
M: How much do you think a sledgehammer costs?
J: I don't know...thirty bucks?
M: Hmmm.....
J: Why do you ask?
M: We should own one.
J: You're right...I think every woman should own a sledgehammer.
M: Do we own a shovel?
J: I don't think so.
M: We should buy one.
J: So what you're saying is.......every woman should own a sledgehammer and a shovel...?
M: Exactly.
July 1, 2014: Before getting into the dirty work, however, we want to share some mental & photographic images of why it's all going to be worth it. Remember the movie, "We Bought a Zoo"? Well, WE bought a VIEW! The evening we arrived at Chateau de Joie (and, yes, it has been named... "House of Joy"), we had dinner al fresco on our screened-in, upper deck porch and then were treated to one of Mother Nature's rave parties. Thousands of fireflies lit up the property and danced for hours. Seriously, one of the coolest things either of us has seen. 

Then, during this morning's coffee on the porch, we watched the sun rise and listened to the amazing variety of birds singing their greetings and saw a beautiful doe prance across the lawn. Joie was unable to capture the fireflies from the night before, but she caught the rising red moon and, if you look closely at the next pic, you'll see one of the deer at the tree line just beyond the fire pit.

And here's Marilyn walking the internationally registered labyrinth in our new back yard. Already discovered that maintaining it will take a LOT of work, but it does make the place extra special. 

Looking forward to lots of you coming to visit for a guided meditation walk next summer...and maybe a tea party under the old weeping willow. Remind anyone of Harry Potter's whomping tree?

One more happy thought about this purchase...the house includes a finished, walk-out basement with one great tenant already in residence. (With 5 colleges within a short distance, the student housing shortage has a lot of locals renting out rooms.) Later that evening, after we called a break in the unpacking process, we poured our favorite beverages to unwind by and went back out onto the porch. There we were, sitting on the old porch swing, sipping our drinks and admiring OUR beautiful "estate". We had just started congratulating ourselves for making such a good purchase, when our tenant started playing fantastic blues on his guitar! As the sexy notes drifted up to us, even the dogs calmed down to the unexpected music.

J - Seriously, I must've earned some major karma points in my last life.
June 30, 2014: Marilyn, Joie, Milkdud & Sweetie arrived at our "new" home in Western Massachusetts, filled with foolish city girl notions of paint colors, countertop choices & flooring preferences.
Then the Comcast guy gave us the first bit of not-so-great news...the whole house would have to be rewired before we could have cable tv, and were we aware that we might have a mouse "issue" between the floors? One phone call led to another and we soon had our rude awakening - before any pretty decor fun could begin, we needed electricians, plumbers, carpenters, exterminators, tree trimmers, etc, etc. etc.