'The true Soldier fights not because he hates what is in front of him, but because He loves what is behind him.' -G. K. Chesterton

31 May 2012

Back In Black Or Name That Corvette

The other day brother Keads put up this post about his classic Mustang. I was so inspired that I am shamelessly following his lead and ripping him off. I finally have all the necessary things done to get the Vette back on the road again. Lu and I went out to our local Utah DMV today and got the title transferred and the registration done. As of today it is legal and back on the road.

Here's a little video in homage to Keads. No, it is not a classic Mustang. It's just a box stock 80 Corvette, one of many hundreds of thousands that were made but she's sweet, gorgeous (if I do say so myself) and all mine. I have many hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars into her resurrection and, in spite of myself, I do love the old girl.

And a picture of the dash. Please ignore the ashtray and broken heater control. I have replacement pieces. Just lazy. That steering wheel is Lu's work. The stock wheel was in pretty bad shape so I bought a cover for it. Temporary. But Lu decided it needed to be a bit more secure so she sewed it on. I ended up liking it so much I decided to keep it as is. Is there anything that woman cannot do?

This is definitely a work in process and I can't decide whether or not to keep it. One day it's yes and the next it's gotta go. My mood on it is usually directly proportional to how much it's going to cost me or how much work I'm going to have to do to replace or repair the next item on the list. Still.

After getting the new plates installed Lu and I took her out for a nice drive. Tops off and windows down. She's a coupe, not a roadster but when she's all skinned out she does a pretty good imitation. Wind in my hair and all that. If I had any hair.

For the last 35 years I have wanted to drive my Corvette through the Virgin River Gorge section of I15. Until a few years ago I couldn't afford a Corvette. Today I made that dream a reality. I didn't have my camera with me so no pictures but I did find this video of the drive. This is Northbound. We took it Southbound today and returned on Hwy 91 over Utah Hill, the old route to Vegas before they finished the Gorge.

It's a good video. You may have caught a reference to Littlefield at the very beginning. It's where we used to go to drink adult beverages somewhat before we were exactly of legal age. See, at that time the drinking age in Arizona was 19 and since some of the group had older brothers nature just followed it's course. As it were.

The Gorge is a wonderful piece of twisty tarmac. It's a joy on a motorcycle. We used it to hone our youthful manly (well, boyly anyway) driving skills. There was a standing contest for the best time through the Gorge. For the life of me I can't remember the times but I do know that I scared myself more than once and I was far from the fastest, 1969 Chevelle SS 396 notwithstanding.

It was a great drive and a wonderful day. Just what the doctor ordered. Now, as of this moment, I'm inclined to keep the car. We're going to start taking day trips around the area in it. Nothing too far, just short hops with a nice lunch thrown in as a reward for driving around in a black on black car with no AC on hundred degree Summer days.

If I do keep her she needs a name. The black on black color scheme suggests at least one possibility.

One of my favorite songs but then I still have just a little of that kid who drove a big block Chevelle at warp speeds and occasionally imbibed in intoxicating beverages left in me. Anyway, name. Back In Black won't work. Too long. BIB has the unfortunate connotation of a man too old to keep his meal off his chest. So not going there. Black Beauty has been done. I'm stuck. Help me out here, I'm begging. If someone doesn't come up with something better she'll end being called something stupid like Bertha or Camille. Yes, I have absolutely no imagination.

Don't let my car end up as a Bertha. Send in your suggestion today. Operators standing by. There may be fabulous prizes (there won't). Don't let the stupid man choose. The very Car World is depending on you.


29 May 2012

It's Time To Talk

It's been a few days now and I've had a chance to process and talk to a few good friends. I'm going to talk about this, not because I want to claim victim-hood but because I think I should and there may be someone else out there who has had the same experience who might benefit from what I'm going to say.This is a very long post.

My mother committed suicide. There, I said it.

If you've been here for a while you know that she was diagnosed with late stage, terminal lung cancer in January of 2011. Lung cancer is a painful and protracted way to die. Not that any terminal disease is pleasant, I'm just setting the stage here. She decided not to pursue aggressive treatments. She did start taking Erlotinib for a short while but stopped when the side effects became worse than the disease. She refused to quit smoking. That's important because it shows so clearly that she had given up. She made up her living will and put Lu in charge of pretty much everything. She and I had a long conversation relatively recently where she actually apologized for surviving so long. It was just after that, when I chastised her and assured her we were all better off with her still in our lives, that she began the Erlotinib routine. Again, clues to her mindset.

10 days ago the local PD came knocking. There were two officers and by their looks and given what I knew and expected I was pretty sure I knew why they were there. I was wrong.
"Is there anyone else here?" A bad sign. I didn't even ask. I just got on the phone, called Lu and asked her to come home immediately. They were relieved and stayed until she arrived.
"We got a call from the Sheriff's Department. Your mom shot herself."

I wish I could say I was stunned but I wasn't. Surprised but not stunned. Lu and I had a conversation once about this very thing. I knew she was capable but I thought, I was so sure, that she wouldn't simply because she had to know how her police officer son was going to take that. I missed or ignored the clues she'd left me because I trusted her not to hurt me.

"Gunshot wound to the head?" I hated myself for asking that but I had to know. The police officer in me was now front and center, taking charge, making decisions and judgements and doing all the talking.

"Yes. She's still alive and being Life Flighted to Las Vegas UMC Trauma."

The officers were gracious and solicitous. I pitied them. I've done that duty so many times and it's always painful and troubling. This one must have been particularly bad because they know me, know what I did and must have felt like they were delivering the news to a close friend. A brother. They gave me contact info for the detective working the case.

I called the detective who gave me the news. She'd called 911, announced her intentions and hung up. By the time a deputy arrived it was done. They found her slumped on the couch with a gunshot to the head. She still had vitals so they ordered in Life Flight and had her transported. Exactly what they're trained to do and should have done. He gave me all the info I needed, including contact names and numbers at the hospital. He was a good man, professional and gracious. He did a good investigation and treated me with concern and care.

Lu and I loaded up and headed south but I also had notifications to do and I had to do them myself. I had to call my little brother and the rest of the family.
"Hey little bro. Mom shot herself."
Unpleasant doesn't begin to describe that conversation. I won't go into details but he's much less emotionally able to handle the news than someone to whom such was a fact of everyday life for 24 years. My uncle took it well and volunteered to contact the rest of the family and let them know. Good, one less burden and now I can concentrate on the present.

I called the Trauma Center and spoke with one of their Councillors. Good folks and a great idea. She kept me updated and even let me speak to the trauma surgeon who was working on her. He gave me the grim details. "Non Survivable. I am so sorry. We did all we could."

I let him off the hook. "I'm retired PD Doc. I know the score. Thanks for trying."

Then it was the silence of the drive. Nothing more to do than drive and think and wonder. Will she survive until we arrive? Will I have to make the call? She had a NR order in her will. Technically I should have stopped them immediately. But I didn't. I knew I would if I had to but I admit it, I prayed for that decision to be taken from me. So did Lu. And no, I do not feel one bit guilty about that. It wasn't my choice, I had no say in the outcome and no son should be asked to do that. Ever. We got another call from the hospital about 20 minutes out. "How long to get here? The Coroner is asking." The Coroner? Not good.

"Coroner? She's passed then?"

"Yes, she's passed. We're so sorry."

I wanted to point out to her that this was info I'd have appreciated prior to being told the Coroner was waiting but decided that was simply hitting on my part and unworthy of the moment. "We'll be there in 20 minutes."

"Ok, He'll be standing by." She gave me his contact info and just like that it was done. My mother was gone.
I turned to Lu. "She's passed." We both cried a little but we were still on The Mission and tears would have to wait.

UMC is dirty, a bit run down, big but with limited parking. I found a spot on the street and in we went. I didn't know exactly where I was going but after a few questions and some directions we made our way to Trauma. As we were arriving the Coroner Investigator called my cellphone. I told him we were in the lobby and he told us to sit tight, he'd be right there.

Whatever their other faults may be, the Clark County Coroner's office is first rate. The Investigator was polite, professional and empathetic. he asked if I wanted to see her.
"No. I have too many ghosts as it is. I do not need to add my mother to that list."
"Good. I was going to try to talk you out of it if you had said yes."
He let me do the ID by her drivers license. He confirmed all that I had been told. He gave me the rundown on what was going to happen next. Coroner's Inquest. Release of her remains to our Mortuary, release of personal belongings and final determination by the Coroner. Case number, business card and were out the door and on the way to her house. Parking ticket on the windshield when we got out. Thanks Metro. I take back all the good things I said about you.

The local Sheriff's Department uses the County Administrator's Office in these cases, where there's no one immediately available to take responsibility for the scene. I called and talked to one of their volunteers, who had secured the scene. We went to their office (he stayed way late just so we could get keys and personal effects). I stepped out and while I was gone he apparently had a conversation with Lu about the scene. It must be pretty bad. A through and through head shot isn't pretty. The short version was "don't let him go in there." Lu told me not to, that this was exactly why Mom had placed her in charge. Car Guy called and basically ordered me to stay out, even if he had to drive straight through from New Mexico. I obeyed but here's the thing.

See, I don't need to go into the house to know exactly what the house looked like. I saw so many, how can I not have a vision of exactly how the scene looked? I've seen men and women at the moment of death. How can I not see the fatal shot? What it looked like. What she did and how her body reacted. I've seen too much not to know and now I can't get those images of her out of my head. No, I won't ever go back into that house but it's not to spare myself the sight, it's to spare those who love me from the idea that I have seen that sight.

My mother lived a hard and often brutal life. Starting with Polio as a child and the Polio Syndrome late in her life to marriage to a violent man, to scoliosis, to lung cancer that was eating her alive. I know she was in pain. Daily and horrible pain. I understand that, I really do. But she took away from me my ability to celebrate her life and her courage. How do I reconcile that strong woman I knew so well with the suicide who put a gun to her head and pulled the trigger? A gun I gave her by the way. She was a single woman living in the boondocks and about 10 years ago she asked me for a means of self defense. I gave it to her and she took her life with it.

So what am I left with? Where do I go now? I'll tell you.

Despair is never the answer. Never. I hate suicide, absolutely and with a great passion. I have seen way too many lives so lost to hold the practice in anything but contempt. But. We each live our lives separated from one another. We live our lives within our own bodies, our own minds. No one can know what another is experiencing. Not truly. Words always fail to convey the depths. I will not second guess my mother's final decision, no matter how wrong I personally consider it to be. She was proud and independent. Her biggest fear was losing that very independence, of having to live somewhere other than her home and be subject to anothers whim. A greater fear than dying as I now realize. She was in great pain. She'd often cry at not being able to find any relief. She yearned to be free from the pain and the coughing and the inability to breath and all the rest.

So be it. I will accept her answer as the best she could find with the wisdom she possessed. I will accept that I could not have altered this outcome no matter what. I will accept that even if I had taken away her gun she would have found another way. I will concede that it was her life to live and her life to take. I will try to understand though that may be long and difficult in coming. But I will accept that this was her choice, her final choice. I can even accept not getting a chance to say goodbye. Lu says that she couldn't because she knew I would have talked her out of it and she is right.

This is a first for me. Oh I had a step father who suicided decades ago but he was an evil man the world is better off without. I felt nothing unless it was disappointment that he met his end by his own hand and not mine. I've seen and handled many suicides in my life. But they were always held at arms length. An officer who cannot shut off his or her emotions is one who will soon find themselves on the wrong end of the suicide call if they're not careful. In those cases I was always left with more questions than answers. Why? Wasn't there another, a better way?

Police officers like to say that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. But what if the problem isn't temporary? What if you're dealing with temporary solutions to permanent problems? That was the case with my mother I think. She simply couldn't see a way out or find a better solution. I'm not Ok with it but I understand it and can handle it.

See, ultimately this isn't about me. Not at all. It's not about my brother nor her siblings nor anyone who was going to be affected by her choice. It's about her and her decision. I said it before. I am not a victim here. No matter how poor a choice I consider it to be, the decision mom made was hers and hers alone. I know she thought long and hard about it. It's clear to me now that she must have been planning this from the time she got her diagnosis a year and a half ago. She wasn't trying to get attention or sympathy. Frankly she liked her little life out in the sticks with her books and cats and crystals and baseball. She loved baseball. It was a love we shared and one I am going to still enjoy. Because I know she'd want me to. She didn't want to die but she also didn't want to live as she was. So she chose. Separate and apart from me. I am not to blame and I am not responsible. I will not take her decision away from her by feeling guilty, no matter how much I abhor that choice. I will respect her wishes and I will carry on.

Suicide is the ultimate in selfishness. Yes, I still believe that. But I wasn't in her skin so I don't know how bad it was. I like to consider myself a tough guy, one who is going to take it to the very end and experience and endure all life has to throw at me but I'm not at that end yet so my answer is still to come. I hope, I pray that in the end I will carry myself with pride and dignity and die as I have lived. And that is what suicide robs us of. Your life ends not as it began, surrounded by loved ones who will say their goodbyes even as others greeted you in the dawn of your life. No, it ends in a crime scene, surrounded by wisecracking strangers who are desperately trying not to let it get to them even as they collect and photograph and write and notify. Suicide robs us of dignity.

Other than a few tears I haven't cried yet, not really, and I suspect that day is still a ways off. Officer Six is still in charge at the moment and shows no signs of letting go anytime soon. I seem to have lost my ability to grieve for my mother. Still, it creeps up on you and can come when you least expect it. I still have occasional bouts where I can see scenes long past, shocking in the clarity of the images and the immediacy of the emotions. Car Guy broke down last Christmas as he was decorating the tree. A teen suicide from 20 years ago. But I'm doing Ok now. The anger is dwindling, the guilt put away as unnecessary and undeserved. I'm talking more than brooding and for me that is a very good thing. I'll have the Corvette back on the road today and maybe I'll take a little drive. I'm going to buy another motorcycle and then me and my favorite uncle, one of mom's brothers, are going to go for a nice long ride. Nowhere in particular, just miles and sights and time away from the responsibilities.

Thank you again for all your words and love and prayers, each and every one of you. It's the support of friends and loved ones like you that allow us to survive such things whole and intact. I will be forever in your debt. I think this will probably be the last time I talk about this here. It has always seemed best to me to get past such things as quickly and completely as possible and that's what I'm going to try and do. Put this behind me and get on with life. I have a beautiful wife, a beloved child and two wonderful grandchildren who love me and need me and I will be there for them just as long as I can.

And I will remember my mother as she once was, proud and courageous with a keen mind and a ready wit. So I will say this here for the very last time.

I love you Ma and I will always miss you. Rest easy. I will forever remain your faithful and loving son.
Until we meet again on the other side.


28 May 2012

Memorial Day

It has become my tradition to post this poem on Memorial Day. For all those served and never returned to their true love. You will never be forgotten. We, those of us who honor your memory, your service and your sacrifice, will keep your flame alive. We love you and we always will. 

As always, RIP Ken.

Soldier, Soldier
Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Why don't you march with my true love?"
"We're fresh from off the ship an' 'e's maybe give the slip,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."
New love! True love!
Best go look for a new love,
The dead they cannot rise, an' you'd better dry your eyes,
An' you'd best go look for a new love.

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
What did you see o' my true love?"
"I seed 'im serve the Queen in a suit o' rifle-green,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Did ye see no more o' my true love?"
"I seed 'im runnin' by when the shots begun to fly --
But you'd best go look for a new love."

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Did aught take 'arm to my true love?"
"I couldn't see the fight, for the smoke it lay so white --
An' you'd best go look for a new love."

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
I'll up an' tend to my true love!"
"'E's lying on the dead with a bullet through 'is 'ead,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
I'll down an' die with my true love!"
"The pit we dug'll 'ide 'im an' the twenty men beside 'im --
An' you'd best go look for a new love."

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
Do you bring no sign from my true love?"
"I bring a lock of 'air that 'e allus used to wear,
An' you'd best go look for a new love."

"Soldier, soldier come from the wars,
O then I know it's true I've lost my true love!"
"An' I tell you truth again -- when you've lost the feel o' pain
You'd best take me for your true love."
True love! New love!
Best take 'im for a new love,
The dead they cannot rise, an' you'd better dry your eyes,
An' you'd best take 'im for your true love.

26 May 2012

Sunday Kipling

"The Men That Fought at Minden"

A Song of Instruction
The men that fought at Minden, they was rookies in their time --
 So was them that fought at Waterloo!
All the 'ole command, yuss, from Minden to Maiwand,
 They was once dam' sweeps like you!
Then do not be discouraged, 'Eaven is your 'elper,
 We'll learn you not to forget;
An' you mustn't swear an' curse, or you'll only catch it worse,
 For we'll make you soldiers yet!
The men that fought at Minden, they 'ad stocks beneath their chins,
 Six inch 'igh an' more;
But fatigue it was their pride, and they would not be denied
 To clean the cook-'ouse floor.
The men that fought at Minden, they had anarchistic bombs
 Served to 'em by name of 'and-grenades;
But they got it in the eye (same as you will by-an'-by)
 When they clubbed their field-parades.
The men that fought at Minden, they 'ad buttons up an' down,
 Two-an'-twenty dozen of 'em told;
But they didn't grouse an' shirk at an hour's extry work,
 They kept 'em bright as gold.
The men that fought at Minden, they was armed with musketoons,
 Also, they was drilled by 'alberdiers;
I don't know what they were, but the sergeants took good care
 They washed be'ind their ears.
The men that fought at Minden, they 'ad ever cash in 'and
 Which they did not bank nor save,
But spent it gay an' free on their betters -- such as me --
 For the good advice I gave.
The men that fought at Minden, they was civil -- yuss, they was --
 Never didn't talk o' rights an' wrongs,
But they got it with the toe (same as you will get it -- so!) --
 For interrupting songs.
The men that fought at Minden, they was several other things
 Which I don't remember clear;
But that's the reason why, now the six-year men are dry,
 The rooks will stand the beer!
Then do not be discouraged, 'Eaven is your 'elper,
 We'll learn you not to forget;
An' you mustn't swear an' curse, or you'll only catch it worse,
 For we'll make you soldiers yet!
Soldiers yet, if you've got it in you --
 All for the sake of the Core;
Soldiers yet, if we 'ave to skin you --
 Run an' get the beer, Johnny Raw -- Johnny Raw!
 Ho! run an' get the beer, Johnny Raw!

21 May 2012

Thank You

I am so grateful for all of your thoughts and prayers. It sounds trite but it's true, they really do help.

We're still working through a few things. I think I probably will talk about it here. There's enough wisdom and experience among you that I think you'd understand what happened and have some insight to share. Frankly, I could use both right about now. I'm not trying to be coy, just picking at the scab before I rip off the bandaid I currently have on my emotions.

Give me a day or two and I'll be back and I'll tell the story. Both for myself and possibly for others who may find themselves in my shoes.

You are the best friends a man could possibly have and I am profoundly grateful for each and every one of you.


19 May 2012


The knock on the door came at about 2:30 this afternoon. Two officers from the local PD doing a notification for the County Sheriff in Nevada.

My mother passed at 4:16 local time while Lu and I were en route to the hospital. There's a lot to this story. I'm unsure, at this late hour, how much if any I am going to talk about. It is intensely painful and after many hours, way too many miles and a lifetime of tears and sorrow I am simply too wrung out to know my own mind.

I am so tired but will sleep come? I may be away for a while. Again.

May you finally rest in peace Ma.


16 May 2012

Jem Trail With The Kids

With the kids having a few weeks on two wheels to practice and hone their skills it was time for the next step. Trail ride. We chose the Jem Trail because there's a very nice section of double track/ fire road that's pretty flat (considering it in the actual mountains) with a little loop of single track that's as non-technical as you can get out here. The kids loved it. I am positively giddy with delight. They took to it immediately, flying down declines, swooping over whoops, standing up and taking on ruts head on and powering up inclines. It was a ball. Both of them even crashed a couple of times. No tears, just dusted themselves off and on to the next section of trail. No whines, no crying, no complaints. Just good old fashioned fun in the dirt and a couple of band-aids.

Warning: the word awesome will be used extensively in this post. 

The day was bright, hot and clear. As you can see here, The Boy jumped into the lead right out of the gate and stayed there the whole day. Angus spent most of the day running back and forth between the two groups. We guys were naturally way more awesome of course. "Hey, you guys coming or what?"

There was one climb that was just a bit beyond them and they ended up pushing. It was all good as Angus promptly went back to show them how it was done.

This is where you turn off the double track and pick up the single. It was also where we had the endos that I was afraid was going to screw up the entire day. Biker chicks are so awesome.

Aftermath of the endo. Ok, here's Lu and The Princess at the endo site. Here's what happened. If you look closely you can see there's a small drop off just behind the girls. It's probably 6 feet down, not too steep, then flattens out and goes into a great little berm. At the bottom of the drop there's some soft dirt. I explained how to traverse the obstacle and then demonstrated it. The Boy sailed through but The Princess hit the soft dirt and promptly went right over the handlebars. It wasn't serious, just a slightly skinned knee, though it was awesome (sorry, it just was). I freaked thinking this was going to be it. She'd walk back to the truck and never ride again. Nope. She made the pain face, checked herself out, then remounted and rode on. This pic was just after the crash. The Princess and Lu were still discussing the spectacular endo and how to get around the berm. Have I mentioned how cool biker chicks are?

Both of the girls decided that discretion was the better part of valor and walked the berm. Of course they did have the benefit of watching The Boy make the attempt. I did mention two endos? Well this was where The Boy ate it. He got about halfway through the berm but didn't have enough speed and augured in at the mid point. It wasn't so much an endo as a get off but it was pretty cool. The Boy is getting to the point where he truly appreciates a really spectacular crash. Even his own.

The end of a really great day. The kids are now certified mountain bikers. Next year we'll be upgrading from those cheap big box bikes to something much better with suspension and good hand brakes. At this age the first thing that flies out of their heads in a braking situation is the ability to actually brake. Good hand brakes will go a long way toward alleviating that. We ended the day with ice cream at the local DQ. Nothing tastes better than after ride soft serve with a side of good, clean dirt.

Since these pictures were taken I took The boy out to the trail for another run. He fell heavily twice but both times popped right back up, dusted himself off and took off again. He also made the berm. The Boy is really learning how to ride. The great thing is that both of them love to ride. They've made approximately a million laps of the circular driveway and are now riding to school, which they seem to think is awesomely awesome beans.

Hey, only a few more days before they have to go home to Florida. We need at least one more good Jem Trail ride. See you guys later. We're going for a ride.


14 May 2012

Screen Porch II

I finally got the porch taken down and have started getting the house ready for attempt number two. I promised to explain what happened.

See, there was this really bright light and then suddenly I found myself in a craft looking at two grey aliens holding what looked like a probe of some kind. Oh wait. Wrong story. Please disregard. I need to up my medication.

Ok then. When I removed the soffits this is what I found.
That is the end of one of the rafters over the master bedroom/ mud room. It originally had a flat roof but many years ago a sloped roof was added due to some leakage issues. Here's a closer look.
For some reason that I will never understand they didn't take off the old roof (as I had assumed) and construct a new one. They simply built a new structure directly on top of the old roof. There is also some odd local prejudice against rain gutters. Instead they tend toward deep soffits. Hence what we see here. Instead of new, complete rafters and roof joists the contractor (yes, someone was paid to do this) just added about 18 inches to the ends of the joists. That's a 2x6 nailed onto the end of the joist. Here's a view from below.
You can see what they did. That's a six inch nailer on a 12 inch overhang. The contractor decided the soffit needed to be 12 inches deeper so he added an 18 inch section of 2x6 with a 6 inch overlap. It's simply nailed on. Now this kind of construction is indeed acceptable if done correctly but the commonly accepted method is you double the length of the overhang for the nailer and then you fasten it with glue and screws on both sides of the repair. There's simply no way this overhang can take any weight at all so it all has to come down. I'll cut the roof back to the original joists, square the ends and face it with a fresh 2x6 screwed to the joists. The 2x6 will also be anchored to one end with joist hangers at the post you can see in the picture and a 4x4 post at the far end.

Was that It? No, not by a long shot. When I started taking down the aluminum ceiling I found the joists for the other section of the roof. Yes, they were complete and there were no add ons but a closer look revealed this.
In this picture the roof slopes up and away from you. If you look closely you can see where the rafter intersects the wall header. Er. Did they notch the rafters?
Yes, yes they did. There's about an inch of wood left at the top of the rafter. It's enough for the roof though it's definitely not the proper way to do things and something I never do and absolutely recommend against. But it will never hold any more weight. To be fair this is rough sawn wood and the dimensions are true 2x4 but still, it's not something I want to fool around with.

This is another look at this section of the house. You can see the roof and where I put up the header/nailer for the joists at the back. That's the section I'm talking about. There is some good news. See those two posts left and right in the picture at the back of the structure I built? Those are supporting a doubled 2x6 header for the existing wall. I took the roof back to that header and I'll now use it as the nailer for the new joists. After I get the new joists up I'll be able to see how much of the soffit I'll have to remove for the roof to fit. I'll be judicious and may find a way to reinforce the old roof joists but I'm confident it'll be plenty strong enough.

The structure is now down and I'm measuring and planning the new build. I'm confident I have now identified all the problem areas and fixes that will work, be structurally sound and look good. I'm also going to follow KurtP's suggestion and make both of the unsupported perimeter joists true 4x6 headers and add in at least one more 4x4 post for support. I'm ever rethinking 24 inch on center joists and may go with 16 inch. Time and budget will tell.

What have I learned from this fiasco? Do your due diligence. If you're going to add something make absolutely certain you do a proper tear out and discover all the hidden issues before you drive a single nail or cut your first board. Trust me, it's a lot less painful that way.

More tomorrow.


13 May 2012

Sunday Kipling

It's technically still Sunday. Sorry, got caught up in the Mother's Day festivities.

Mother o' Mine

If I were hanged on the highest hill,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
I know whose love would follow me still,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were drowned in the deepest sea,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!
I know whose tears would come down to me,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

If I were damned of body and soul,
I know whose prayers would make me whole,
Mother o' mine, O mother o' mine!

10 May 2012

What Is That Smell?

How can a six year old boy produce poop that smells like that? I mean, The Boy can clear out the entire house. What's he eating, raw weasel rectums? There's a semi permanent green cloud in the bathroom. Angus just tucks his tail and slinks away, whining and casting accusatory looks at me. Even Chrisi can smell it and she hasn't had a working nose for two years. The UN called, talking about sanctions and sending in a WMD inspection team. I mean, he's three feet tall with about a foot and a half of intestines. Nothing in there should have the time to reach that level of stinkitude. Lu is talking about installing an outhouse. In the neighbors yard.

Boys. Never let them use the indoor toilet.


Prosecutors And Public Opinion

I've decided, for the sake of my mental health, to take a couple of days away from the porch. Lest I grab the chain saw and just raze the whole thing to the ground, burn the rubble and sow the earth with salt so nothing will ever be raised here again. Not that I'm bitter.

Whilst entertaining myself I ran across this story about another in-home self defense shooting. As I read it I was struck by the actions of the DA. Never let anyone tell you that the local prosecutor doesn't affect the way stories are viewed. This is a case in point. Please compare and contrast this case with Zimmerman. Note how the absence of racial details released until all the facts were in kept this off the front page and the race whores looking for greener pastures.

In my career my greatest source of professional frustration was with our DA. I never could understand their reasoning on which cases they would prosecute, which they would not and why they charged as they did. I've seen felons walk away from slam dunk cases and seen them press outlandish charges on cases that were certain dogs. Remember, every single deputy/assistant/associate DA I ever knew and worked with wanted to be either the DA or a judge (mostly a judge) and they filed their cases based on their view of how it was going to affect their career path. There are exceptions I'm sure (as the above cited article shows) I've just never personally met one. I had quite a few defense attorneys I liked, admired and was even friends with. I knew one deputy DA I liked but wouldn't have trusted him as far as I could have thrown his 300 pound ass. That's not bitterness it's reality. Prosecutors should have a shelf life before being required to return to private practice and should be reviewed and rated based on competence and common sense rather than their conviction record and how many headlines they can grab. Prosecutors are attention whores masquerading as law enforcement professionals and I have very limited respect for them.


08 May 2012

Uh, Never Mind

That last post? Yeah, please disregard the whole thing. Let this be a lesson for me. Always check and double check and even triple check because when you're dealing with a house this old and this poorly constructed it's a bottomless pit of "Oh Shit".

I'm going to have to take the whole porch apart and do it all over again. I won't go into specifics yet because I want to do a whole series of posts on this remodel but suffice it to say that as I was tearing off the old siding and the aluminum ceiling I found stuff that has completely changed how I'm going to anchor the porch roof. It all has to come down. The only thing I don't have to re-do is the corner post.

More tomorrow.

Sigh. Live and learn.


Screen Porch

Among the many projects around here I've wanted to enclose the back porch and make it into a screen porch. With Summer upon us Lu decided we needed a cool place to BBQ and hang out with the dogs so she made the executive decision that it was going to be the next project. What She wants She gets. Please bear in mind that this is roughed in. Rough construction. There will be errors but nothing I can't cover with paint, molding or finish carpentry.

View of the area we're enclosing from the house. I've already done a little concrete work as well as putting up the 4x4 corner post. If you look at the base of the post on the right you can see some lighter concrete. It was about a 5'x5' patch. Since it's in the backyard and kinda hard to reach I mixed and filled by hand. It took 520 pounds of hand mixed concrete to fill. Yeah, my back still hurts.

This is the view from the yard. You can see I've put up the headers and faced the soffit. All structural lumber is 2x6.

The door isn't going exactly there but it'll be close. Just a few inches to the left, near the edge where the concrete ends.

With the headers up it's time for the roof joists. It's a flat roof, sloped down and toward the outside edge for drainage. Because it's a porch and I'm using 2x6s I can spread them out just a bit. Instead of 16 inches on center they're 24, put up with joist hangers and screws. I ran into another problem here. The porch isn't square and the house is at an odd angle relative to the back yard. I decided to keep the joists in line with the house and have a wedge shaped section along the outer edge. This will allow the eye to see proper dimensions on entering the space and most people probably won't even notice the last joist at all. Besides, Lu is already making ceiling sounds so I'm guessing I'll be covering the whole thing up anyway.

The joists are up and it's ready for sheathing. When I re-roof the house a little later I'll be extending the shingles to cover the porch. There's just enough slope that I won't have to do tar and gravel.

I decided on OSB for the roof sheathing. It's tough, easy to work with, code compliant and fairly inexpensive. You can see how much coverage we're getting. It'll be a nice space when I'm done. I'll be adding a hip wall across the front, enclosing the right side (where the fence is) and adding screen from the top of the walls to the roof. Flooring will be grey indoor/outdoor carpeting after I fill the huge cracks and voids in the existing concrete.

Once the porch is done I'll be addressing the yard. I want to do ornamental concrete but I'm open to pavers. It'll depend on cost and ease of installation. I'll be adding posts as the work progresses. Stay tune, I have power tools and delusions of competence so this could be a complete disaster.


06 May 2012

Sunday Kipling. Now With Bacon!

The other day I made the obligatory Costco run. One of the needed items was bacon. Hey, I always need bacon. Whilst perusing the offerings I saw this package. (Note: Like everything else in my life I paid good money for this offering and have received no compensation from Costco or anyone else for this review. Not that I'd turn down a couple of pounds gratis. That's a hint right there Costco.)

It's Costco's store brand bacon. How's it look? I'm glad you asked.

It cooks up nice and has a wonderful aroma. A little mapley with just a hint of smoke.

How's it taste? Fabulous. Mmmmm, bacon. Cost was $10.99 for 4 one pound packages. The Six clan highly recommends it. You're welcome.

With breakfast taken care of it's on to the day. Lu and I will probably rest and recuperate. The kids immediately jumped on their bikes and rode to the playground next to their school. Chrisi apparently has decided that sleep is a good thing on a lazy Sunday morning while Angus is already begging to go out and complaining that he didn't get to go with the kids and What's Up With That? I hope you all have a double helping of bacon kind of a day. Hey we're all neighbors in spirit.


"Beauty Sports"
From "Limits and Renewals" (1932)
The man that is open of heart to his neighbour,
  And stops to consider his likes and dislikes,
His blood shall be wholesome whatever his labour,
  His luck shall be with him whatever he strikes.
The Splendour of Morning shall duly possess him,
  That he may not be sad at the falling of eve.
And, when he has done with mere living--God bless him!--
  A many shall sigh, and one Woman shall grieve! 

But he that is costive of soul toward his fellow,
  Through the ways, and the works, and the woes of this life,
Him food shall not fatten, him drink shall not mellow;
  And his innards shall brew him perpetual strife.
His eye shall be blind to God's Glory above him;
  His ear shall be deaf to Earth's Laughter around;
His Friends and his Club and his Dog shall not love him;
  And his Widow shall skip when he goes underground!

04 May 2012

America Is Not Dead

120 kindergartners. 120 five and six year olds on stage. The event is their end of the school year program. The setting is a high school stage with a screen hung behind with seating for the kids. The stage is hung with bunting consisting of American flags hand drawn by the kids who are dressed in hand made red, white and blue t-shirts.

The program consisted of songs extolling the virtues of America, freedom, patriotism and the sacrifices of the men and women who wear the uniform of our beloved nation. This one especially. (I apologize for the poor quality. I took this with Lu's mini still camera that has a small video function)

On the screen behind the children is displayed pictures of those who have and continue to serve. Sung in darkness to keep the spotlight off of themselves and on those they are honoring. My beloved grandson was among them. The words:

When I lay my head down every night.
And go to sleep in peace.
I can stay there knowing all is well.
While you're standing on your feet.
Keeping watch, protecting shore to shore.
In the Air and Ocean too.
Defending freedom at all cost.
For the Red, White and the Blue.
Thank you! Oh thank you!
Men and women brave and strong.
To those who serve so gallantly.
We sing this grateful song.
To the soldiers who have traveled on.
To countries far and near.
In peace and war you paid the price.
For the cause you hold to dear.
That we may wake each morning bright.
And know that freedom rings.
Because of your great sacrifice.
Your country joins to sing.
Thank you! Oh thank you!
Men and women brave and strong.
To those who serve so gallantly.
We sing this grateful song.
Thank you! Oh thank you!
Men and women brave and strong.
To those who serve so gallantly.
We sing this grateful song.

 There were many such songs and offerings but I chose this one because it meant so much to me. Music for the soul. I cried. Openly and unashamedly. Sarge and Lu both got teary eyed as well. Who could stay dry eyed? Those may be the sweetest words I've ever heard and uttered by such innocent voiced American children. I'm tearing up even as I write these words. Yes, I am a patriot.

The program was written, directed and produced by 4 kindergarten teachers. Approved by the principal and school district. In the America of today.

120 kindergarten kids. Five and six year olds. Take heart America for a country that still produces such as these children and the adults who are charged with their education and upbringing is a country full of hope and courage and pride. So many are predicting dire days ahead. Instead I will remember this program and the kids who sang so proudly. I will remember the pride and joy in my heart as I heard their song of gratitude and tribute.I will remember my grandson, wearing his red, white and blue shirt and singing his heart out. I love him. Indeed, I love them all.

And to the enemies of my country foreign and domestic I have this message. I will defend the lives and freedom of each and every one of those children, indeed every child in America, to my dying breath. I will never abandon them and the promise of freedom, their freedom, to the depredations of the cruel and the power mad. If you think I can't or won't just try me and remember that a man who is moved by the songs of children is a man who will gladly lay down his life to make sure they can keep on singing and "go to sleep in peace".

Keep the faith my friends.


02 May 2012

Lu's Half Marathon

Last Saturday was the Hurricane Half Marathon. 13.1 miles of "what the hell were you thinking". This race also has a 5K that Lu and I ran last year. When asked if I was going to run it with her I broke down into gales of laughter. Uh, no. Lu would be going this one alone. Well, the kids and I did our best to encourage her without actually doing anything more stressful than getting out of the pickup and cheering madly.

Up at 0500 so she could make the bus at 0530. Turns out we could have dropped her off ourselves but who doesn't like a nice school bus ride at odarkthirty?
What does one feed a hungry crew and runner just before a torture test? Jelly donuts of course. Breakfast of champions.

The start line. We figured about 500 runners. The ambulance in the distance is confirmation that this race is not for the faint hearted.

Lu getting warmed up for the 0630 start. Surprisingly it went off almost exactly on time. It was cool early so Lu started off with that yellow jacket. By the time she got to The Hill it had disappeared.

On your Mark. Get Set.


And they're off.

Lu started off well. She has a good pace, not exactly record breaking but sure and strong. This is a woman who, up until a few years ago, didn't really do any kind of serious exercise. Now she's learned she loves to run and can she ever run.

This is OMG Hill, last seen here when Lu and I were riding up it during a 29 mile charity ride for Spina Bifida. Lu is waaaay down there at the bottom. Go sweetheart. You can do it!

Hurricane PD were being kinda difficult about things so I didn't manage to get a shot of her at the top but I did get this one just past the summit. Still looking strong. The top of the climb is at the 6 mile mark.

 Lu at the 7 mile marker. Over halfway!!

Lu coming up on the 11 mile point. She's still looking good but by this point she was ready to be done.

11 Miles and now running through town. Almost there.

At this point we called Sarge and MIL and met them at the finish line. You can't see her but Lu is just up ahead, on the home stretch.

The kids running a few steps with Lu heading into the finish chute. We think it's vital for them to see us doing stuff like this and participating as much as they can. Besides, how cute is that?

Lu crossing the finish line. We don't have her official time yet but it was right at the 3:08 mark. She was shooting for under 3:30 and feared the 4 hour cutoff so she was ecstatic at her time.

That is one Hawt Chick right there. Is there anything sexier than an athletic, confident woman? Down boys, she's all mine.

There are awards and then there are Awards. The kids spent hours making sure Lu was properly recognized by those whose opinion really matters to her.

This was something Lu has wanted to do for a long time and the smile of joy on her face tells you all you need to know about how she's feeling. It's also testament to staying active and never letting fear rule you. Age is a challenge not a barrier. Go. Do. Have fun.

I'm so proud of you sweetheart. You did good.