Monday, December 15, 2008

Why Does Ebay Cost Me Time and Money?

Money is tight, time is short and there is stuff all over my house. I know the solution - Ebay! So on a Sunday, while hubby is golfing in 40 degree weather, I take inventory. No longer use that sofa, check, found those dolls at a garage sale, yep, don't use that comforter any more, sure, put it on the list. 10 Days later I find myself swamped with packaging, satisfied that people from Ohio to New York have gotten great deals, and I've barely made enough money to pay for the shipping. $5 or 10% whichever is greater was donated to Habitat for Humanity. And can you believe nobody even wanted vintage Effanbee dolls for $5.99 NIB NR?!

Undercalculating the shipping cost to send some blankets and pillows turned into a $30 loss, and the rest of my profit was spent to maintain my 100% positive feedback rating? "What, you didn't realize it was a pickup only item? No problem, I'll find a way to get it to you!" I'm awaiting a phone call from a North Dakota trucker (she bought the TV/VCR/DVD combo for $161 for her mom and will pick it up on her next route through Omaha.)

And I'm still trying to find a box for that cute table and chairs that I sold for $49 (it will cost more than that to ship). Let this be a lesson to you. Don't buy the stuff in the first place, or if you must sell, consider your local Craigslist. At least those people are in the neighborhood.

Would You Love it if your Grandma Made you a TeddyBear?

Budgets are tight this holiday season so I was only half joking when I told mom she's likely to get a sock monkey for Christmas. It was Sparky's idea anyhow.
Sparticus, our 1-year old boxer-doodle loves the soft fleece blanket so much that he's chewed both the ivory and the chocolate brown throws clean thru with holes. I think he enjoys the pop-feeling as his teeth break thru the squeeky fabric. With all that soft hole-y fabric, little cash, and dark cold midwest nights, I thought - that's it. . . I'll make Teddy-Bears for grandkids, Billy (11), Kaelynn (9) and Nathan (5). Never mind it's been 20 years since I've sewed anything more than a window curtain. Heck the machine is as old as my just-turned-30 daughter.

If the kids' bears turn out okay, I might just make Sparky one too, stuffed with something squeeky, to keep him busy on Christmas day.

So what do you think? Will the kids think it's dumb to get a toy, stitched from one of grandma's favorite blankets with crooked hand-sewn button noses and felt cut-out eyes? Without any electronics, screens or beeps? Would you?

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Hey Lady - Wanna buy a Timeshare?

Thanks to the Trip a Day giveaway on a Jazz station in San Diego, my daughter Kristen invited me to share in her 'trip for 2' won to Cabo San Lucas. Too bad no one warned us of the timeshare culture we were about to step into upon clearing customs. The 5 day 4 night trip ended up with 2 days of adventure, 2 days of travel and 2 'half' days sitting thru timeshare presentations.
Here's what we EARNED: 1 trip for 2 to ride ATVs to the beach, 1 trip for two snorkeling up the baja coast, $100 cash, 2 free breakfasts, 1 dinner and 2 spa treatments, lots of pre-paid taxi and shuttle fares. We calculated our earnings at about $100/hour while on vacation, and were only saved from signing the dotted line by reality. We had no 'cash' for a down payment, thank goodness. Anyhow, on the shuttle back to the airport we learned that a timeshare can be picked up on the resale market for about 10 cents on the dollar.
So once I get 10 cents, I'm buying a timeshare in Cabo.
Awesome place!

Saturday, November 1, 2008

Happy Birthday Nathan!

First you were born. Today you are 5!

Voting in Cass County Nebraska Ain't That Tough

A few days before the election and I'm in a panic once I realize my plane leaves at 8:30 a.m. on 11/4 and the polls don't open until 8:00 a.m. The airport is 30 minutes away. It's too late to apply for an absentee ballot.

On the news, the lines are already long by Friday before the election, so imagine my suprise when I call the registrar of voters, and she says, "come on down". It was halloween and her comment when I arrived was, "you're our first costume of the day". There was no line. Two workers, 3 polling booths and just me, voting early.

I proudly added the sticker "my vote counts" to my outfit and I was out the door and heading back to work 5 minutes after I arrived. It's good to live in Nebraska.

Buy a Waterfront Home in Nebraska?

It turns out buying two homes before the real estate market crashed was a bad idea. So our waterfront home is now for sale.

Custom designed and built, we puchased the land 10 years ago and drafted the floorplan on graph paper before finally asking our brother-in-law, Mike Koch of the Flooring Studio to built the house.
People ask me, how can you sell after all the landscaping you've done? To Brian and I, it has been a dream to build the house.

In spite of waterfront and beach, a 3,400 square foot home is a bit much for just two of us. Our plans next, finish up and relocate to the flip house and have no mortage at all.

Hey, anyone know where we can get a renovation loan?

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Camera and Pretty Photos Found!

Imagine my surprise when I had all but given up searching for my old Nikon camera, and then by chance found it. I had looked in every basket, toy bin and bucket in the kids loft.
I had looked in every tool box, under car seats and in every drawer in the house. And then, while looking for something else in the laundry room, there was my camera!
I had shoved everything into a small basket in the cupboard months ago right before our open house.
And better than the found camera, was the found photos. These two were taken on differnt days, the first was during extreme weather showing the view from behind our house, over the lake.
The second is looking east, sometime in the morning.
After the house is sold, I'll be glad to have these photos to remember these lovely scenes. Enjoy!

Kids and Compost

Don't turn me in to the labor law folks for putting Nathan (4) to work in the compost heap.

Thanks to Omaha's yard waste recycling program, enormous piles of this sweet-smelling compost are available to the public for about $8 a truckload. Helper Will, and grandson Nathan took turns shoveling "Omagrow" compost into the truck.

We then spread this lovely soil amendment into garden areas in the front yard of the flip house. The butterfly bushes and blue fescue will love living there.

Someday, if we ever get financing to finish the project, new homeowners will love living there too.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I'm related to someone famous, kind of

So here's what I do know.

The Wales-side of the family (West) migrated through England about 1670 to the then English Colonies and we are officially considered patriots of the American Revolution. The German side (Schmidt) arrived about the same time, and anglicized their name to 'Smith' so that makes our family tree with our 'John Smith' quite common.

We arrived in Pennsylvania, made our way south to Virginia (which became Kentucky) not long after Daniel Boone explored there. I was pleased to find Kentucky neutral during the war, but suspect due to family names like 'Dixie' that we had a southern leanin'. If fact we have one of the actual Hatfields (Mary Hatfield) in our family tree, stepmother to our Great Great Great grandmother Louisa Catherine (sp?) Jackson, but she's not blood related to us and 40 years older the Devil Anse Hatfield, so breathe easy relatives . . .

Yeah, yeah, yeah, we're all related to Charlemagne somehow (according to family trees, but are able to document that our 1st cousin (many generations back) was Benjamin West, court painter to the King of England, and close enough to Benjamin Franklin, that dear Benjamin installed his first lighting rod on old uncle Benjamin's rooftop! Futher down the line, we're cousins with Jerry West of NBA fame (the guy in the silohette on the NBA logo nonetheless) but sadly, there are no additional artists or pro-athletes in the current generation.

On Grandpa Bernie's (HB) side (Wolff), we're linked in with stonemasons, with Harold A. Wolff (grandpa H.B Wolff's dad) having cut stone in St. Louis and having his name stamped on several St. Louis buildings including the main postoffice.
Being 'adopted' by my step-father Richard DePhilippis of Filippis Pizza fame always left me feeling a bit rootless until I met my biological father's sister, Aunt Suzi who filled in the gaps and shared photos - bless her heart. The geneology research helps me realize that in fact, my family, aka 'patriots' were one of the first families on the ground in the U.S. and if the rumors about a native American link are true (maybe William Harrison Jackson's first wife?) then we've been here longer than almost anyone. That sure helps me feel like I belong.

Mud Run, the Yearbook and Horseback Riding

Beth is such a better mom than I was. At 29 she's keeping fit, running triathalons and volunteering in her spare time to manage the yearbook for her Jerebek in Scripps Ranch. Kristen manages to get Nathan in Swim and Karate classes, even though she lives on spare change. She takes Nathan to the beach or the park each day.

Did I mention with pride that Beths'an Engineer and owns her own company?

Or that Kristen is an esthetician and a single mom, having received nearly straight A's in nursing and trade school? My favorite photos are below and include images showing teaching her kids how to trapeze, how fitness can be fun (San Diego Mud Run) and not to be afraid to ride horses on the beach in Mexico.

Kristen's photos of Nathan also reveal one happy kid. I was in grad school while my kids were young, so other than the occassional backpack trip to Europe (with Kristen ,then 6) one summer, I didn't expose my kids to nearly enough recreational activities.
In fact one year their birthday party (combined because I was too lazy to plan both) was celebrated in the garage because it rained and I wasn't prepared for 20 girls running around the house. I was too driven, too uptight and too focused on appearances.
Maybe that's why they're less concerned about a clean house and more concerned about spending quality time with their kids. I could learn a lot from these girls of mine.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Has anyone seen my camera?

Without new photos, posting on a blog is like eating toast dry. We've searched high and low for that Nikon camera and perhaps it's time to upgrade anyhow. Here is an image of Nathan at the tourmaline mine in Pala, CA taken by co-worker Jane, seen here with Nathan and Kristen in La Jolla. Thank goodness for that business trip that took me home to San Diego.

Below is my younger daughter Kristen, a single mother doing a fabulous job raising Nathan (age 4). I still can't figure how all the kids in the family are blonde when I'm brown hair, brown eye boring - but I recall asking God for blonde haired blue eyed children, so maybe that was it.

Isn't she cute?

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

My To Do List Woke Me at 1:30 a.m.

Actually, I never slept. We had lightning in the sky, a frightened puppy on the bed, and my head spinning with all the cool ideas gleaned from the ASTD International Conference and EXPO in San Diego last week. At 1:30 a.m., with Sparticus at my heels, I searched all the 'junk' drawers in the house for a notepad. The only one found said ONE with the ConAgra Foods logo, from a failed effort years back to get all business units on the same page, but I digress. Thirty-eight line items later my husband wandered into the room, somehow wakened by the dog, the light, or doors and drawers being opened and closed. Only one of the line items related to him, in that I would like him to stop being so cranky every time a certain fishman drives his boat up near our beach...But thirty-eight? Here are some samples:

  • finishing our flip house (Plattsmouth)

  • missing my brother who passed away (Vince)

  • needing a fence (ours)

  • judging an art contest (for OneGirlsDream)

  • setting up Power Hour webinars (work)

  • upgrading our Corporate training (work)

  • buying an investment property (San Diego)

I had to write them down. By the time I turned the light off an hour later, I had scheduled my work of the week, reminded myself that I can't do everything at once and even planned time for social interaction with a former colleage, Ronda Smith, who now owns her own marketing company in addition to working on her Phd. Let's call that perspective. Lights out, good night.

Whoa! Why does my Avatar have a Beard?

In 2005 2nd Life was new to me, introduced at the Learning 2005 conference. I set up my first account "Learner Hiam", get it? 'learner I am'? Anyhow, I never logged on. This year I attended a symposium at SDSU sponsored by our EdTech alums and SAGE (the student arm of ISPI). So now I have an Avatar, MichaelVincent Nathansohn. We've already gotten through 'orientation island' and flown around the riverfront. If we ever meet, I'll explain the name, but I chose to classify myself as a male to prevent being hit on in 2NL

So today, I sign in to 2NL and suddenly my delicate-faced avatar is sporting a mustache, goatee (sp?) and sideburns. And it's not easy to edit my 'appearance' given my early millenial Dell which doesn't quite meet 2nd Life minimum graphic requirements. In fact, after I changed my hair and put on a sparkly skirt, my clothes kept flashing from undergarments to plant textures (seriously, it's creepy to see avatar pantyhose lines, in public no less). So this image is just a headshot. You understand, right?
Eventually, I'd like to build new business orientation in 2NL. For now, I'll settle for learning to dress and groom myself. I have to start somewhere.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

My First 38 Caliber Bullet

Cocking a gun doesn't come natural to most women, and setting the hammer was the easy part. (The hard part was figuring out that a bullet is needed to launch the nail and frankly, figuring out what size nail to use in the first place.) My first nail was shot into a 2x4 stringer on the block wall and the kickback was thrilling. Nonetheless, I gave the Remington back to Will to finish installing the rest so we could hang siding and transform our 'basement with a roof' into an 'environmentally friendly earth home hillside lodge'.

Here's what got done and we learned:

Hydro-expansion cement does work . . . if you can apply it in the 3 minutes before it clumps; the caulk gun is a great tool . . . when you remember to pucture the seal in the caulk tube first;
painting is easy . . . except over your head (with no ladder) or over wall-paper over plaster coated over block. Let's just say it was easier to allow the whole muck to turn into paper-mache and leave it in place. We're going to drywall over it anyhow, right?

Even I can install a window . . . if someone else frames it out; pink fiberboard insulation can be snapped just like drywall . . . if scored first with a utility knife; tools are handy . . . if I would only return them to my apron pocket after use! Liquid nails really do work; instruction books are also useful, if read; Wood siding is easy to handle but different from aluminum which has pre-scored holes. It actually needs to be nailed in, low on the board, so that the next piece can slide into the groove at the top. I had to ask the hardware guy after I couldn't figure it out for myself. A nights' sleep lost for nothing.
My favorite "aha" this week is that the guys at the hardware store must have had sensitivity training - they no longer roll their eyes when I ask stupid questions like "can I return all that PVC guttering?" and "can you pick it up cause I don't have a truck?"

BTW - That PVC guttering is crap. At least the aluminum stuff can be cut, bent and pounded to fit. And I already have metal shears. Next week . . . fun with cement!

I Love that Bad Dog!

When visitors arrive the dogs have to be on their best behavior, and that means it's kennel time.

Too bad that I didn't lock both doors on the dog crate when putting the dogs in the downstairs bathroom before work.

Our 10-month old boxer-doodle Sparticus even jumped into the shower and pulled the shampoos off the top ledge. Our Scotty dogs Toby (11) and his wife Missy (7) were horrified I'm sure.

It's a good thing I arrived home first. After I stopped laughing and let the dogs out so they didn't pee on the carpet , I hurriedly took these photos and then picked up. My husband was already annoyed about a third dog.

Hey, love happens. And this one happened to make a big mess.

Are the Pelicans Lost or Did I Miss Something in Biology Class?

This is the 2nd year that Pelicans have landed on our lake here in Nebraska. Last year there were a few Pelicans and hundreds of Cormorants. This year, well, take a look. On the coldest days they huddled together, hundreds of them, like a huge mound of marshmallows. Other birds showing up about the same time included Blue Herons, a White Egret. A few weeks later the Green Heron showed up and we could hear woodpeckers, and owls. The wildlife is the best part of our home in Nebraska. The worst part? We're 1,400 miles from mom, grandpa and the kids.

Grandpa's still getting phone numbers shoved into his pockets!

Last Saturday night, mom and I were worried when we returned home after seeing Jim Kalhorn in A Midsummer Night's Dream at the Glenwood community theater. My husband and grandpa were missing at 11 pm. Grandpa has Alzheimers and is usally in bed by 8, but my husband had offered to take him to dinner and they hadn't returned. Mom and I headed into town, found the truck parked in front of a local bar and were taken back by the sight of the two of them sitting at the bar with two young girls. Now my husband is a good looking, and quiet man, but the girls (ages 30 and 37) were hanging off grandpa! We helped grandpa make his way to the truck and home after having a drink together and all he could remember in the morning is that "there were some nice looking girls at the bar." He was really working the crowd that night, saying hello to everyone and joking with people at each table. In the morning, the proof of his evening was in his pocket. Amanda's phone number. Grandpa, you still got it going on!

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Water Runs Downhill

We finally got our utility company Aquila to come out and bury the gas line after our grader hit it in the fall. Hey, we're all for calling Diggers hotline (we did that), but is it our fault the gas line was buried 6 inches below grade when it's supposed to be burried 3 feet deep? So the grader got a bill for over $500 and we'd fight except it's already been turned over to collections. This lesson is costly and we don't want to ruin anyone's credit.

The dented gas line did cause a few months delay (uh, we call it 'winter' here). All that time, water continued to run down the property and pour into the foundation. Thanks to our AirForce 'helper' the gutters were pulled off and the dirt pulled away from the house with an idea to put in a drain tile, but the water damage continued until thelot was graded. Somehow the drain tile and gutters never got put back up. (Something about Chad going drinking last weekend and having his keys taken away?) Anyhow, best not to drink and drive. The foundation will dry out, eventually.

Today I drove the lot across the graded driveway. I checked the block inside and it is dry so the grading worked. Hey, Jay Sorenson told me, "water runs downhill" - to him the solution was obvious. Grade the dirt so that it's higher at the foundation and then water will flow down away from the foundation. It didn't hurt that we used waterproof cement on Saturday to seal up any cracks inside after cleaning the wall with concrete cleaner. Our soil is clay so it will 'seal' outside.

One of our AirForce recruits is actually willing to read labels at the hardware store. This weekend we'll paint on the expansion waterseal and then he'll finally get to use the Remington gun to nail 2x2 stringers on the wall. Loud noises. We know what motivates!

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Poison Ivy, a Broken Leg and Winter, yet we persist!

The adventurous do-it-yourselfer in me is learning the hard way.

God has his own timetable, and perhaps is pleased to look the other way as I make one big mistake after the other.

Take for instance the poison ivy. It seemed to me that I am strong enough to haul cut-down tree limbs. Too bad I'm not smart enough to realize that the urisol oil from the poison ivy that grows around the branches lasts far longer than the green turn-reddish fall leaves. Here are the results!

I appreciate the websites with crazy information on treating poison ivy.
I've since learned that TECNU can be used to wash off the oil.
My favorite suggestion was 'cover the area in dry portland cement!' Too late for me though - I had to drink SlimFast for 8 weeks to keep my weight down while I took prenisone, wrapped my arm in a cloth soaked in milk, and burned the rash each day in the shower to numb the pain for 20-30 minutes. I'll be more careful next year, eh?

Come winter, I began to clear the forest, well bundled of course against oily tree branches. Thank goodness for my contractor's son, who was close enough to hear me call out when the bone broke!
My husband claimed it was a sprained ankle. I twisted it hauling branches into neat piles. Five days later I saw the Xray of my broken fibula. Eight weeks in a cast, and I still can't walk right in heels. Thank goodness it was winter and I could use weather as an excuse for not working on the house.

Now mom is back in town calling for bids, we've got our Dream Team, and the weather has finally warmed enough to want to spend weekends on our flip house.

The US Airforce Provided our Dream Team

In house flipping, the experts tell us to find a dream team. So after weeks of calling contractor ad and phone book listings and receiving overpriced bids from arrogant experts, we posted an ad on Craiglist and within 2 days found 3 wonderful AirForce military men who have construction experience, and some free time after their work on base. We call them our dream team.

Tony has landscape experience from his hometown in Long Island. Chad has worked construction alongside family most his life. And Will, who answered the ad online is renovating his own home, and wants to learn electrical. Together, we're brainstorming each next step of the project, starting last week with gutters and this week with siding. They've joined us on Saturdays and some weekdays after they're done with their gunsmithing for uncle Sam.

If you've seen the house, you know that we're all learning on the job. Will has a book on electrical wiring, and yes, we'll have the electrical inspected by a licensed 'expert'. But why pay an expert $65 an hour to drop lines from the attic into the walls and hook up outlets. We can do that.

We also feed 'em on the job which sometimes costs more than what they're being paid per hour!And they can bring their dog, or kids, chew and even drink beer while they are participating in their contract 'internship' in construction.
Grandpa says he don't think men will like working for women. These men seem not to mind at all. And we may even finish this house.

Many thanks to Uncle Sam!