Pool project #2

Catch up on post #1 if you missed it.

Here we are at the end of October… our backyard was a bit of a war scene.  I was trying to get through the mud every other day to manually water the plants that were left.

November and December was taken up with putting in the travertine around the pool, the concrete deck, and working on the infrastructure of the sewer lines, pumps, etc.

We had this playscape and finally saw that we would not be able to keep it.  First, my sister wanted it and we made arrangements for movers to take it apart, drive it to her house an hour away, and reassemble it.  However, when they came to look at it, they told us that much of the wood around the base was rotted and it wouldn’t be safe to use at all.  We got some good use out of it for 5+ years so that was ok.

I found someone in our neighborhood who wanted to take it and work on making the necessary repairs, so I gave it to them.  They hired the same movers again to come and take it away.  I was happy to give it to a family who would take care of it and appreciate it.

Of course, when they came it was pouring!

Above, our pumps on a platform looking good.  Below, you can see what the garage workers did in order to paint the brick.  Without asking anyone.  That cost several hundred dollars to repair. Grrr.

In February, SG got to pick out a few extra tiles to place around the pool.  She chose 2 little dolphins, 3 colorful fish by the steps, and a starfish on the pool floor.  The plaster took one day in March.

Here it’s finally empty of all the rainwater, mud, and leaves and ready to be filled with water.  It was fun to watch it fill up… took more than 24 hours!

Side story: our area has had some major flooding issues since we live close to a bayou.  Two years in a row, many people have had to rebuild their homes after significant rainfall.  We wanted to be cautious so we put in this detention pond at the side of the house.  It ended up being a swampy mosquito breeding ground.  The plan was to put in a pump.

When the city flood inspector came by, he told us that idea was going to be ineffective. Instead, he asked us to dig up much of our front yard in order to lower the elevation.  What a mess.

Then SG dropped this basket cover and we had to replace that.

Many spa tweaks later, we turned it on and there was a very loud POP.  This black cover had blown off.

Finally, we got to a point where we could shock and treat the water.  The vacuum was hooked up and things got moving…

Well, it turned out that that vacuum never worked.  We waited a month for another vacuum, which required the pump to be changed out.  Meanwhile we dealt with spa jet issues, and many other problems.  As I write this today, the entire system is off because Pump #2 broke out of the blue and started leaking water.  Parts are on order…

Here you can see the Cool Deck surrounding the pool.  We power washed it to get rid of all those stains.

And this is what it looks like at night! We have only used it once at night so far, but it was pretty cool.  We are also waiting for a Pentair rep to come by and fix the lights.

All problems aside, we have been loving having the pool for about 3 months now.  I exercise in it almost every morning and we all love entertaining friends and family in it.

The final pool post will cover landscaping.  Thanks for reading!

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The house of belonging

I created this canvas after watching the “belonging” section of Brené Brown’s “Kitchen Table Parenting” series.

Brené teaches:

“Belonging is the innate human desire to be a part of something larger than us.  Because this yearning is so primal, we often try to acquire it by fitting in and seeking approval, which are not only hollow substitutes for belonging, but often barriers to it.”

“If we don’t offer our kids a sense of absolutely no question, no requirement belonging, they will look for it elsewhere.”

“We cultivate love when we allow our most vulnerable and powerful selves to be deeply seen and known, and when we honor the spiritual connection that grows from that offering with trust, respect, kindness, and affection.”

So I asked my family what they think of when I say the word “belonging” and got some ideas for the canvas.  I put everyone’s phrases in the artwork.

I’ve tried to fit in probably more than I’ve accepted myself.  Maybe we all do that.  Consciously NOT doing that “fit in” dance is such a relief! If we can accept ourselves, we don’t desperately need anyone else’s approval.

I think of all the terrorist, gang members, drug dealers, and criminals who were only seeking a sense of belonging to something larger than themselves.  If only they had found it from something positive instead.

That unquestioning, unwavering, unconditional love is what home should feel like.

The connection that grows between our family is powerful mainly because we are showing each other our true selves.  When we need to put on an act, it’s less true and therefore less of a connection.

Being seen just as you are, flaws and talents, and being accepted no matter what, feels so good!

That love, I think, is what gives us the ability and permission to go forth into the larger world as our true self.

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Garage project #2: foundation and framing

Another one of our delays was that it kept raining! It needs to be dry for 3 days before the guys would come pour the foundation.  At this point, we were at the end of October, having started demo in August.

Once framing began, it came up quickly.

We also took down an extended overhang that required there to be a supporting beam pretty close to our driveway.

I went to a brickyard outside the city to select these… I knew we’d be painting them so I just wanted something that would be similar to what is on our 1961 house.  These were on clearance.

This was around the end of December.  One thing that bothered me was that they were mixing the mortar on my front lawn.  Did the grass die? Yes.

We had hail damage from a storm a year earlier, so we combined the entire project to replace the whole roof.

View from above.  So cool to be able to see from this perspective.  And such a mess!

What to put as our patio ceiling was a bit of a communication gap with the contractor, but they figured it out finally.

And this kept happening.  Every time it rained, water was getting into our sunroom.  Very annoying! Finally we added 2 gutter downspouts but we’d had to wait until the pool deck was in.  

Did you miss the first garage post? Find it here.

Next time: finishing details and how it looks today.

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Within me is a sanctuary

One lovely person in my Mussar group said something about the peace and sanctuary of meditation.  Something about what she said really resonated with me and I thought about taking the Ecclesiastes text from part of that lesson and creating something that would reflect her personality. This is what came forth.

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Pool project #1: excavation and beyond

This is what our backyard looked like originally: You can see the orange chalk lines of where the pool was to be dug.  We began talking about this with our contractor in February.

After much back and forth, we finally got some drawings and renderings in June.  It’s so cool how they can do this.  We still don’t understand why the garage contractor couldn’t have provided this for us.

Excavation began in August.  Pretty much immediately, the landscaping in the back was getting trampled.  We had the contractor put up a plastic fence to try to keep people out of there, but that didn’t work.

My daughter and I got to climb in the Bobcat at one point.  That was fun.

Because the water lines were being rerouted, the sprinkler system was shut off in the backyard.  Azaleas began struggling right away.  It was either stand out there in the August humidity with the hose, getting bitten by mosquitos, or find a solution.  We ended up rigging up a few sprinklers that attached to the hose on a timer, which worked as long as the workers didn’t take the hose off… which happened every few days.  So frustrating.

Because of the rainy weather, we had this for a few days…

This is what it looked like for quite a while, collecting rainwater and breeding mosquitos…

By September, it was looking like this…

Surrounding the pool was quite a bit of mud.  The things it’s hard to see in photos are rerouting sewer lines, water pipes, etc.  Doing all of that and waiting on the city inspectors took a bit of time.

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What did I read in May? Politics!

May was a very busy month with not much reading time, but I did manage to finish a few. Several years ago, I read the amazing story about how Barack Obama’s campaign was run and how it gathered momentum.  So, mainly out of curiosity, I read a book about each side of our recent 2016 election.  Both books were skewed but fairly interesting.  And the one by a former Secret Service UD officer… wow. I tried to balance out the nonfiction with two novels.  Wait ’til you hear what I’ve been reading in June! (No more politics.)

Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign by Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes

It’s always interesting to read insider stories.  The writers who brought us Hillary’s biography have now put together an inside perspective of the many things that went wrong for Hillary’s campaign.  Scandals, lack of messaging, untaken opportunities, miscommunication, bad decisions: everything can be traced back to the candidate herself.  Her campaign just couldn’t catch a break.  I have to say that after reading about half of this, I had to start skipping ahead because it was just one unfortunate occurrence after another!

“The campaign was an unholy mess, frought with tangled lines of authority, petty jealousies, distorted priorities, and no sense of greater purpose.  No one was in charge, and no one had figured out how to make the campaign about something bigger than Hillary.”

She was unable to prove to many voters that she was running for the presidency because she had a vision for the country rather than visions of power. And she couldn’t cast herself as anything but a lifelong insider when so much of the country had lost faith in its institutions and yearned for a fresh approach to governance. All of it fed a narrative of dynastic privilege that was woefully out of touch with the sentiment of the American electorate.”

Crisis of Character: A White House Secret Service Officer Discloses His Firsthand Experience with Hillary, Bill, and How They Operate by Gary J. Byrne

If the previous book treated Hillary like a superstar, this one labels her a villain.   The Secret Service Uniformed Division ranks among the nation’s most powerful law enforcement agencies.  Byrne served our country for 29 years with honor and integrity.  He gives a firsthand perspective of the Clintons that he states was his obligation to tell the nation prior to election day 2016.  If it is all true, “the Bill and Hillary show” is just appalling.

Besides that goal, this book is a memoir of Byrne’s progression through his training and various positions within the Secret Service and the Federal Air Marshall Service.  It is fascinating to read his stories about what his job was like.

Character in leadership comes down to two questions: Would you trade places with anyone under your command? Do you hold yourself to the same level of accountability as those for whom you bear responsibility?

With the long-shot goal of selling 20,000 copies, Crisis of Character has sold well over 450,000 copies.  Reading it, I have to say (and I can’t believe I’m saying it) that it’s possible we are better off with our current POTUS.  I’m relieved the Clinton dynasty is over, at least.

God-Shaped Hole: A Novel by Tiffanie DeBartolo

“We’re all searching for something to fill up what I like to call that big, God-shaped hole in our souls.”

DeBartolo is the Founder and CEO of SF Bay Area record label Bright Antenna Records. Knowing that, I can see why this book includes it’s own playlist! This is a love story that left me sobbing so much I couldn’t see the words on the page.  Beatrice replies to a personal ad and meets her soul-mate, a writer and seeker of life.  Their story is at once juvenile and touching.  It does make you wonder if some people are meant for each other.

“I suddenly thought my life was perfect. Or, at least, more perfect than it had ever been. It was as if all the melancholy I’d ever known, all the nights I sat alone thinking life sucked, had added up to our place in the world—finally a good place—and the spirit of that rightness was meant to echo on until the end of time.”

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos: A Novel by Dominic Smith

Three sides of a triangle weave together this story: rare landscape by a female Dutch painter in the 1600’s, an inheritor of the work in 1950s Manhattan, and a celebrated art historian who painted a forgery of it as a struggling Australian grad student.

As she unpacks the camera obscura, it strikes her that she has never painted exactly what she sees. Surely, this is the way of all art. The painter sees the world as if through the watery lens of a pond.

This book is well-written with likable, relatable characters and gorgeous detail.  Highly recommend.

You carry grudges and regrets for decades, tend them like gravesite vigils, then even after you lay them down they linger on the periphery, waiting to ambush you all over again.

The Making of the President 2016: How Donald Trump Orchestrated a Revolution by Roger Stone

This book is quite obviously slanted, but I was very curious about how and what made the Trump campaign so successful.  I found it fascinating to read about Trump’s ability to engage people with big-picture ideas and to tap into their distrust of career politicians and anger toward Washington.  I did not know that Nixon was his long-time advisor or that he’d been interested in running for President since the 70s, waiting for the opportune time.

Just as Jonathan Allen,  Amie Parnes, and Gary Byrne write that Hillary’s failures can be sourced directly to the candidate herself, Stone writes that “Donald Trump is his own strategist, campaign manager, and tactician, and all credit for his incredible election belongs to him.”

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