Friday, January 28, 2011

Why Plumbers Wear Brown Pants

Yesterday I had put off the fateful hour as long as possible. After days of failed attempts with Liquid Plumber (just a tip: buy stock),it was time to deal with the Problem of the Clogged Sewer Line.

I dug out the access to under the house and took off all the protective coverings so carefully applied after the last time I went down into the yawning maw that is my house's underside. I knew where the clean-out was, but unfortunately it had about two inches of clearance between the pipe and the dirt. The last enterprising gents to work on it had laid a board under it and used it to guide the "material" down the slope and into the bucket. I started to work on the cap with a brave wrench nobly loaned by my dad.

The clean-out cover came off and I braced for a flood.




The liquid plumber had done its work well. Everything was congealed into a consistency not unlike pudding. And wonder of wonders, it only smelled like Liquid Plumber. I scraped what I could out of the line, down the board leaned against the slope, and into the bucket.


I put the cap back on and told Laura to go up and flush the toilet. Once. She did, and I had a front row seat listening to the water gush through the pipes to where I crouched. The gurgles stopped and I, somewhat more confidently this time, took off the cap.

Do you have any idea how much water there is in one flush of a toilet? And how far that water can gush against an embankment containing one wildly scooting person? Or how inadequate a board-and-bucket system can suddenly seem?

After the deluge subsided, I went to work on the remaining spludge, capped off the clean-out, and Laura and I went into Westby for baths. We hadn't eaten, but I for one didn't have much of an appetite. I tried some chocolate soy milk, but when I poured it out...well...spludge.

I poured the milk back in the carton.

Today I went back under and dug out the dirt around the clean-out so if anyone ever has to do it again a bucket can fit nicely underneath. It gave me a fresh appreciation for the Allied prisoners-of-war who dug escape tunnels every chance they got. They had to dig hunched over or lying down, in terrible conditions, and all the dirt had to be hauled to the surface. From there it had to be scattered carefully since the Germans would have been a tad suspicious if large dirt piles had started appearing around the camp.

All my hunkering and squatting muscles are severely tried today, but as Noni said, at least I didn't have to put the dirt into sacks in my pant legs and scatter it slowly while I walked. Of course, since everything is snow covered and white that really wouldn't have been very effective anyway.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

January Synopsis: Part 2

When I started this blog, it was with the intention that it cover only the happier areas of my life, areas more suitable for public consumption than those covered in my private blog. However, some events are so big that they need at least a little explaining. I can't have one of my kids completely disappear from the stream of blogdom without making some sort of an explanation.

Six and a half years ago I adopted three children as a single parent. Brave? Bold? Courageous? Crazy? Maybe all of those things, but there was never a question in my mind that I was going to make that choice. Would I have made the same choice had I known how things would go for the next 6+ years? Maybe, but out of mercy God didn't give me all the info ahead of time.

Our little family has had a lot of rough times since the adoption. Children who have been traumatized have a very hard time healing; meanwhile they lash out at those around them. I happen to have been around them a lot!

One decision that I made at the time of the adoption was to not sever contact between the kids and their biological family. Our families had been linked since before the kids were born, and with the kids so old it didn't seem like the right thing to do. Was that the right decision? I don't know that either, but I do know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it was NOT the easy way.

Two weeks ago I made the decision to send John to live with his biological father. It was not an easy choice to make; there are really no words that can convey what it's like to send your child away knowing they don't want you anymore, but I felt that was the direction God was leading.

I realized John was allowing no part of our family to reach his heart; anger and bitterness, now carefully nourished by his biological father, was blocking any possible benefit he might have received. Meanwhile he was causing deliberate harm to the others and destroying their chance at having a peaceful and safe home to grow up in. (Note: Caleb is still in his program, so he wasn't as directly affected at the moment, but would have been extremely harmed if he'd been home. And since I do expect him home again, I brought that into my consideration) I couldn't continue to damage the ones struggling to triumph over their early trauma because of my desperate attempt to save one who was resisting all help.

I could go on and on, unleashing just a fraction of the rage and hurt in my own heart, but this is hardly the place for my therapeutic release. Suffice it to say that while life goes on because it must, I have not been unaffected by the wreckage left by self-centered adults and angry, hurting children.

But that is why John won't be mentioned a whole lot in the everyday goings on from now on. By his own choice, he lives elsewhere.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

January Synopsis: Part 1

It's almost the end of January, an important fact that means winter is over in ONLY 5 MORE MONTHS!!!!! YEAH! It also means another busy month is about to be tucked safely under the belt of time, never to be dealt with again (thank goodness!).

The day after Christmas was my last day working for Walmart. Since then I have gotten a lot done on the ol' homestead. Unfortunately, most of what I've done has only made it uglier. For instance, one (not-so) fine day I decided to change the rubber strip in my threshold. I quickly discovered that the strip was so old I could not get it completely out of the threshold. But not before I took the threshold off. And the door.

I put the door and threshold back on, then purchased a new threshold the next day. Door and old threshold came back off. I measured carefully, cut the aluminum of the new threshold with a hacksaw, installed it. Door went back on. Beautiful!!

Now the door wouldn't shut.

Door came back off. I tried cutting the door with the hacksaw. A butter knife would have been faster. Tried a little Roto-zip, but the blade broke off in despair. Then I sent out an emergency call for an electric saw. Noni brought me out a Skil-saw. The blade was bent and cut crooked. Changed the blade and cut the door. Yeah! Door goes back on. Door now fits perfectly in the corner where I measured from. Floor slants down the rest of the door width.

Most of door now 1 inch off beautiful door jamb. Arctic breeze gusts through gap. Sigh.

So now swinging over my beautiful door jamb I have a door with half of a draft stopper insert (a full one wouldn't go all the way across because one corner was the right height, remember), a little plastic draft stopper stapled all the way across the bottom of the door, and then 3 inches of putrid pink carpeting, wrong side out, stapled across all of that.

But that coordinates with the black trash bag stapled over the window, the carpet strip across the top, and the neon 70's pink and green flowered blanket hung between the door and the storm door. This much ugly takes time and planning!

One 'beautifying' project I was able to complete was painting my living room a soft, butter yellow. Sigh. The paint was called 'Asian Silk'. The name brings to mind something dignified, hints at the mysteries of the Orient. It lies.

I told my mom if the sun and a yellow crayon had a baby, and that baby spit up mustard, that's what my living room looks like. The room will have to be repainted anyway since my renovating plans have been recently modified. Still, for all 'Asian Silk's' overpowering nature, it's a nice antidote to the winter blahs.

Another much more wonderful improvement was getting my interior water supply back. My pump broke near the beginning of December and I was without indoor water for nearly a month. Oh, how difficult it was pumping all that water by hand and then hauling those buckets through the snow, the wind, the cold.

Just kidding. I had to walk 20 feet to a heated well house and plug in an electric pump. I was still glad when I didn't have to do that anymore! That cleared the way for the next problem, the Problem of the Clogged Sewer Lines. Every time the temperature drops (and it's North Dakota, folks. That happens a lot!) my sewer line backs up. Tomorrow I expect to go under the house and take apart the line to clear it before the weather gets bad again. That's OK. Winter can't last forever. Soon all these problems will be distant memories.

Something else splendid was getting to say a permanent good-bye to my walk-in front room refrigerator. If you recall, my front room was (and still is) a nice crisp 39 degrees, so in the absence of my fridge, I stored the groceries in the living room. My dad helped me haul my fridge from Noni's house out to mine before he left for another trip to California. First I had to get it from the mother-in-law cottage out to the road, so Tiggy helped me push it through the snow. Have you ever pushed a refrigerator on its side through the snow? It does not make a good sled.

The last week of weather has been wonderful. Temperatures all the way up to 30 degrees and lots of sun, but there were plenty of cold days before that. I also understand that the usual weather pattern after a January thaw is to have a dreadful February.

The deer have been in great abundance. They winter in large herds, some in abandoned farm yards and some right in town. On almost every drive you are bound to run into a few, sometimes figuratively, sometimes literally. The snow is so deep this year that if they leap off the road they sink up to their necks. A maneuver like that leaves a deer perilously vulnerable to coyote attack, so they are loathe to do it, choosing instead to run panic-stricken along the road for great distances. It's inconvenient, but I can't bring myself to resent it too strongly. After all, any animal that has to spend the whole winter outside digging up grass crumbs to survive deserves a little understanding.

Amazingly, these were the cheerful news items for January. My next post will deal with the non-cheerful news, but it seemed a little, well, out-of-place to mix it in with the rest.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Fun With Stock Photography

I've been mildly interested in stock photography for a year or two now. It first started when my Yahoo page would take a moment loading the picture and all I'd see was the title, things like "attractive couple looks at computer" or "concerned doctor and patient." It started me thinking about the photography work that we see all day, every day as part of nearly everything we do.

Everywhere we look, we see stock photos. Health article? Need a picture of an ethnically diverse doctor with elderly patient. Losing weight? Need a picture of a healthy and attractive model (who does not need to lose any weight) happily exercising. Ad for a daycare? Need a picture of happy children finger painting with bright colors.

This past week, I decided to look into it more seriously, by which I mean randomly selecting a site on the internet, applying with impulsive submissions, and getting turned down flat. I still plan to work on it, but with purpose and self-education this time. Even if I never gain anything monetarily from it, it's great discipline as a portrait photographer. For one thing, since they are for sale every picture must be technically perfect. For another, you have to get very good at composition, because you have to make ordinary actions and objects look vibrant and dynamic.

It also serves to prove a truth that anyone can be a model. Sure, there's more of a market for happy, pretty people, but there's a certain need for ordinary-looking people doing mundane jobs. As part of my 'research' into what sells, I've been going through some of the already-accepted stock photos. If you ever have an afternoon with absolutely nothing better to do, you can spend it in this fun and diverting manner:

Go to a stock photography website. You should be able to browse all the pictures.
Search for fun and random images like these:
Bad Teeth
Bad Breath
Male Pattern Baldness
Fungal infections

Be Creative! Come up with your own! And since most sites keep track of the most popular searches, there's the potential to re-shape the entire industry.


Tuesday, January 18, 2011

My Accident Photos

The highway patrol in North Dakota is a full service organization. The responding officer to my accident said I could get copies of the photos he took for their records if I contacted the HP office. I would have to pay a small fee, but I could get them no problem. When I finally got around to asking for them, the Very Nice Lady sent them, on a CD no less, free of charge.

I couldn't take any of my own because I forgot to grab my purse when I climbed out of the van. Poor planning, that.

The white pick-up truck that is stuck in the snow is the one that stopped to see if I was alright and just slid sideways into the snow. They had a hard time getting back out again, but made it eventually with another truck's help.