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Archive for the ‘Simpler life’ Category

They say that change is the only constant in life and that is becoming more apparent as the calendar changes to 60 for me in a few weeks.

I started noticing it when I turned 45 and couldn’t find my cologne, British Sterling, in stores any more. At my then wife’s suggestion, I switched to Paul Sebastian.

But when I turned 55, and newly divorced, I couldn’t find a bottle of Paul Sebastian for less than $60 in stores. eBay came to the rescue and thankfully, I can still find a bottle of Paul Sebastian after shave for under $15.

Charmin was my toilet paper of choice since I was a teen and my dad started bringing home multipacks from work. It was the simple, 1-ply style, which served me well. I’m not sure when, but they stopped making 1-ply, or at least the stores I used quit stocking it, and I found I was using way more 2-ply than I did one ply.

That’s when Cottonelle came into my life after I moved to the ridge. Cheaper than Charmin but as good as Charmin ever was.

It’s the same with paper towels. Dad brought an obscene number of rolls of Bounty home from work when I was a kid and I became loyal to that brand.

As my life simplified after the divorce, I found the large multipacks offered at grocers and discount stores impractical because I had a smaller amount of storage space. At about the same time, stores started stocking single or double packs, so I would just buy one roll and make sure I always had a spare in the pantry.

Now that I live in the country and my shopping options are more limited, I have found it impossible to locate a single roll of Bounty that isn’t that aggravating “select-a-size” type.

The local independent grocer in Charlotte has come to my rescue with a “premium” option for its store brand paper towels, though. It’s 70 cents cheaper than a roll of Bounty, has no feminine floral print on it and works as a sufficient substitute for the rare times when I run out of Kleenex or toilet paper.

Adaptation. Its a great tool to develop as you get older.

I think I’m ready to be 60.

 

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I drive an 18 year-old car because it’s paid for and it still runs great.

It’s a Toyota, of course, and has more than 276,000 miles on it. I bought it 6 years ago with 150,000 miles on it and my goal is to get at least 300,000 or more miles on it before I buy another car.

It’s a good car, but it does have its quirks.

Like the driver’s window. It stopped working three years ago. Just refused to roll down. A month later, it started working again. I never found out why. But it worked like a charm until six months ago, when it up and quit again.

My plan was to take it to a shop to get it fixed, but something always came up that required my attention (and my cash).

I’m working really hard to pay off my house, so cash is always tight. Replacing the window motor or carriage could cost anywhere from $200 to $1,200 depending on the shop. (I’ve called several.)

A new transmission (technically, it’s a used transmission) was the the first thing that bumped the window from my priority list. New tires for my dad’s truck, a gift when he decided not to drive any more last spring, were next.

Then there were new tires for the car, skirting for the house, new steps on the deck to pass codes, dues for the half dozen Masonic organizations I belong to, topped off by a busted water pipe and my attempts to better weatherize my water system.

It’s been really cold this week, with snow added as an accent. I drove the truck on the long holiday weekend and again on Tuesday and Wednesday in part because the roads were slick and because the driver’s window rolls down which makes getting in the parking garage for work much easier. (I had to unbuckle the seat belt, open the door and lean back to use my access card with the car.)

Today, with the temperature below freezing for two days in a row and fears that letting the car sit idle for the better part of a week, I used my car. Besides, its heater works better than the truck’s.

As the side window fogged up during the early part of my drive , I hit the window down button to clear the moisture and lo and behold, the window rolled down. And then it rolled back up.

A miracle, no doubt.

It worked great as I entered and left the garage, too.

God only knows how long it will continue to work this time, but now I can spend my cash on other things — like my water system, which froze again today.

I’m hoping for a burst-free thaw.

Stop laughing. Miracles do happen. Just ask my car.

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Tank you

If it’s possible to love an appliance, I never really cared much for my washing machine.

The washer came with a dryer in a package deal that fit my budget at the time five years ago when I was focused on paying off my debt. But it didn’t do a good job of getting stains out of my shirts, so I put a thermometer to the water when it was on the Warm setting. 72 degrees.

The repair guy who came out the next day said that’s how they build them these days. It runs the cold water for a bit and then a short run with hot water.

Hot water at my apartment was too hot for my shirts and pants, and the heater was behind a locked door that I didn’t have a key that would allow me to adjust it, so there were times after I dribbled soy sauce or salad dressing on me, that some shirts had to be washed two or three times.

I opted for a tankless water heater in my house, but the cold water problem was even worse since there was a 20-second lag from the time the washer switched to hot and hot water arrived at the washer. I started looking for money in the budget for a better model, but the budget was tight.

Then one day, while looking at the red glow of the temperature readout on the tank, it hit me. I can adjust the temperature down to 98 degrees, which is what most consider warm water.

So now, when I wash my permanent press, I set the washer temp setting to Hot and the water tank to 98 and you never see the remnants of soy sauce or salad dressing on my shirts any more.

I like my cheap washer now.

 

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Bug out

Gnats love the ridge.

Gnats also love vinegar.

Fill a jar lid with vinegar, add a drop of dish-washing liquid and stir.

Ridge 19, Gnats 0.

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I had to take a personal day off from work today to manage several issues dealing with the house, especially the drainage problem between the house and the hill.

Yesterday started out with a call from AT&T telling me what I knew all along — my house is too far back in the woods to get Uverse internet.

What internet options are available there? I don’t know yet, because the customer service person who called doesn’t work with the DSL/phone line group and I didn’t have time for her to transfer me to another sales person when I’m up to my eyes wrasslin’ alligators at work.

Later in the day, I called to reschedule the appliance delivery yet again and discovered a secret policy at Home Depot. When buying the appliances in December, I was told I had up to 90 days to take delivery.

I was told that I could set up delivery but postpone it if the house wasn’t ready. But that I couldn’t set a delivery date and then change it to an earlier date. So the sales lady set it for the last Monday in January.

What I wasn’t told was that once you set up a delivery date, your delivery delay window shrinks to 30 days. So I have no choice but to take delivery by the last Monday in February. The flooring won’t be installed then, but the Home Depot  didn’t seem to care.

I told him to hold off on scheduling the delivery because I’d have to find a place to store them.

A little while later, my electrician told me there would be a problem getting the rain gutters installed and the HVAC system put in next week because rain from earlier in the week had ponded between the house and the hill and there was no way any one would be able to work there.

I was numb.

I thought I would be able to move into the house by Christmas. And when that didn’t happen, I said Mardi Gras. When that didn’t happen, I said St. Patrick’s day and now, I’m thinking, Easter if I’m lucky.

I took deep breaths. I checked my pulse. I was OK. No signs of a heart attack. Yet. I took a walk. I asked my boss if I could take a personal day to straighten things out and she said yes. I have the greatest boss.

Driving home Thursday evening, I called Lowe’s flooring department to see what the charge would be to move appliances. the flooring lady called the installers and it’s $35 per appliance. I’ll have 3 to move. $105. Cheaper than a storage unit and U haul truck. I paid the fee. Problem one solved.

I went online when I got back to the hotel and found rubber boots for $25 at a Walmart nearby. That was my first stop of the day this morning.

I got to the house mid morning. I had a huge pond, but no crawfish. I broke out my shovels and rake and spent a half hour trying to make the water go where I wanted it to go behind the house.

One thing you learn growing up in the swamps of South Louisiana is that water will take the path of least resistance. But to get it to go behind the house involved either making it go uphill or cutting a deep ditch in red clay that’s peppered with rocks.

I asked the water where it wanted to go, and it wanted to go under the house. But the work I had done last week built a small berm around the house to keep water from going under it. So I did the coonass thing and cut a trenasse in the berm. (My electrician scratched his head when I used that word.)

I also texted a picture of the pond to my land guy. And he came by with his Bobcat when the water was about half drained. He reworked the area, cutting it deeper behind the house and eliminating high spots. It should work. We’ll know in the morning because rain is in the forecast for tonight.

While he was digging out the drain, I took a break and sat on the front steps.

A pair of hawks circled the valley, riding updrafts and enjoying a breezy February afternoon where the temperature reached 70.  They circled the valley as if they didn’t have a care in the world. Hovering briefly, then tucking a wing and diving earthward only to rise up higher on the next updraft.

I got lost watching them.

A little while later, after they’d moved out of sight, I got up from the steps. The electrician was working on a new meter that will give me 200 amp service. One of the nagging problems we’ve been dealing with is how do we get a trench dug deep enough in the rocky hill that sits between my house and the power pole.

“Could we just run the wire from the pole to the back of the house and then run conduit to the breaker box in the front of the house,” I asked.

His eyes lit up. “We’ll have to get an engineer to come out and look at it, but I think we can do that,” he said.

We’ll find out next week.

So after a tumultuous 36 hours, I feel like those hawks again. I can’t wait to get to know them better.

 

 

 

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Taking it easy

Home sweet home in a month or so

This was my first stress-free day in months.

Decisions are coming at me a mile a minute from every direction since even before the house was delivered, so I took today off, and drove to Hartsville, Tenn.

The  Tennessee Lodge of Research held its quarterly meeting at Hartsville Lodge #113, a lodge that was founded about a year after my lodge, Charlotte #97.

I got there early and stumbled upon the town’s Christmas parade, which ran at a leisurely pace through town about a half block from the lodge building. Great little parade with local clubs, politicians, Santa and lots of folks on horseback waving and smiling.

It was also Dickens Days in town, so there were folks in 19th Century garb milling about the crowd as well. No one asked me what kind of thingamabob I was planning to use for a whatchamacallit in the house.

The meeting was nice, too. The lunch superb — fried chicken, green beans and mashed potatoes with pecan pie and cake for dessert.

We heard a talk on the Masonic connections to Boy Scouts and I had my application for membership in the Tennessee Lodge of Research approved.

I met lots of Masonic brothers today, some of whom don’t live far from the Ridge, and all who are interested in history and Masonry like me.

The drive back to Nashville was quiet.

I stopped at the storage place to pay my first month’s rent and get things squared away before the big move at the end of the month.

It turns out that I can use  my own padlock, so I used the lock that was on the gate, which simplifies things, since it uses the same key as the other locks on the Ridge.

All in all it was a simple day, serving as a reminder that when all of these decisions are made and executed, a simpler life awaits me on the Ridge.

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About 16 years ago, I decided to go all in with technology again and buy a digital clock radio with built in adjustment for daylight savings time.

I was getting married and my old battery-powered alarm clock, with it’s shrill alarm reminiscent of a smoke detector’s shriek, seemed outdated. This clock radio I spied at Circuit City seemed like the best thing for me as I was leaving another Ludite phase in my life.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with technology.

I was an early adapter when I was flush with money working in the oil field. One of the first things I bought with my oilfield paychecks was a digital watch, which was a new thing in 1977.

Who wouldn’t want to know the exact time, down to the second? So I went to Service Merchandise in New Orleans East and bought a fancy gold Casio watch with black liquid crystal numbers large enough for me to see without my glasses.

I could press a button and read the time in the dark. The same button could also tell me the date and work as a stopwatch, depending on how many times I pushed the button.

Life was good for a while. Then one day, we were driving somewhere and a friend’s little sister asked what time it was. “It’s about a quarter til 2,” I said glancing at my watch, which read 1:44 p.m.

“Quarter til? What is that? I asked what time it is,” she said smartly.

I got to thinking how much my old watches, with their round faces divided up into 12 equal parts helped me better visualize how I was using my time and dividing up my day. I felt sad that the generation after me wouldn’t know how to do that.

A few weeks later, I bought a new watch. It had a black face and gold dots where 12, 3, 6 and 9 should be.  It had a second hand, but no calendar function. It served me well. and I have not gone back to a digital watch since then. I use my time wisely (for the most part.)

The 1981 Thunderbird I bought had a digital dashboard. Coolest thing I ever saw. lighted bars showed me how much gas I had, the radiator temperature and the oil pressure. The speedometer had a digital display, like my Casio watch.The door locks were digital, too.

You could toggle the speedometer between miles per hour and kilometers per hour, which allowed me to freak my mom out, because 60 mph converts to 100 kph. “You slow this thing down right now,” she yelled from the back seat.

The Thunderbird had a 36,000 mile warranty. The digital dashboard went out at 37,000 miles and by that time, my oilfield earnings were cut in half by the bust in the 80s. The speed would flicker on every once in a while. I drove by instinct for the next 3 years. The power windows went out at 40,000 miles and the power antenna at 38,000.

I replaced the Tbird in 1987 with a Chevy Nova, which was really a Toyota Corolla, with a 5-speed manual transmission, hand crank windows and a conventional dashboard. I got 66,000 miles out of the Tbird. I got 150,000 from the Nova.

But technology started creeping back into my life as my newspaper career started paying better. The Corolla I replaced the Nova with had a digital radio and I started building my own computers. (My current Toyota has a powered moon roof and power windows along with a door remote, but no digital dashboard.)

A clock radio that automatically updated for daylight saving time seemed like an absolute necessity in 2000. And it worked great.

The amber digital display is big enough for me to read without glasses in the dark, but not enough light to bother me when I’m dozing off. Not having to remember which weekend was the end of daylight savings time was a bonus, too.

But Congress changed the daylight savings law five years after I bought the clock and suddenly, I had a problem.

Where before I had a clock that I had to physically change twice a year, I now have a clock I have to change four times a year. It is set up to automatically change on the second Sunday in March and the last Sunday in October. Daylight saving time changed in 2007 to the first Sunday in April and the first Sunday in November.

So why not buy a new alarm clock set to the new time changes? Because the law also gave Congress the ability to revert to the old system if it wants to without altering other provisions in the Act. Rest assured that as soon as I replace this clock with a more modern version, Congress will change the law back.

Plus, it’s the only radio in the house that can consistently pick up LSU games on WWL-AM at night.

 

 

 

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