Monday, June 28, 2010

Generations

I'm not quite to "geezer" status, but I'll be hitting a pretty big milestone in about a month when I turn 50.  And some events of the last week have me thinking about that and what it means....

I spent most of last week traveling to and from and attending some organizational meetings in Florida for my employer.  Not exciting stuff, but a chance to see a few people I like and enjoy, coupled with the dreaded all-day meeting scenario.  I can honestly say I didn't learn a great deal from these meetings that I did not already know, but I think a few people learned some things about me.

I continued to make the point with almost everyone who asked (and many who didn't) that, at the conclusion of the trip I would be starting a ten day vacation and that my wife and I would be joined for nearly all of that time by our daughter and her family, visiting from Colorado!  The enthusiasm for this visit was etched on my face, I suppose, because nearly everyone could not help but comment positively, and many congratulated me for my ingenious scheduling and such.  I had nothing to do with the planning, I told them, it was all based on the best deal that our daughter's family could find for airfares and some events within her husband's family that had already been scheduled!

So I traveled back from the Louisville airport with a carload of folks and a whole bunch of luggage in the back.  And it's been fun since then, but I still think my favorite set of moments were when my granddaughter spotted me in the airport terminal and ran, full speed, into my arms for a long and satisfying hug.  And seeing my grandson for the first time since Christmas....a big, dimply smile, laughing and grabbing.....wow.

So, as I told someone whom I don't know well but with whom I spoke on Friday, I'll be playing the role of Poppy until July 5.  Manning the grill, entertaining the troops.....all in a day's work!  Child's play, actually!

Friday, June 18, 2010

What's new

Now that I've finally completed a start-and-stop project for work I have a little time to post here and regale you with what's been happening on my end of the connection.  The answer, simply, is "not much."

But what will be happening next week should be something great.....I return from a business trip and about twenty minutes after my plane lands in Louisville (not my home airport of Lexington) our daughter and her family should also arrive, and I'll be bringing them back home with me for a visit that will last through July 5!

And we're going to have a huge DOUBLE baptism on July 3, so we should have a lot of fun with the little ones here (oh, and their parents, too).  Can't wait to see our Kentucky granddaughter and our Colorado grandson crawling all over the place!

But we have lots and lots of work to do to prepare, since I have to leave on that business trip on Monday.  Shopping, cleaning (carpets cleaned Wednesday, and just in the nick of time!), arranging furniture, changing out bed linens, you name it.  We're planning to be BUSY over the weekend!

Yesterday I played in a golf scramble put on by a professional association of which my company is a member.  Now, if you don't play golf, this will be lost on you, but the organizers somehow decided that the men should play from the back tees (the furthest from the hole) and the holes were placed in some of the most awkward and inaccessible places I've seen on this particular course.  It's a really great course, but making it harder for a "fun" event didn't make a lot of sense to me.  My associate actually decided to leave midway through her round when she saw that it was going to take a while.

And that was a good call, since my group took nearly SIX hours to play a round of golf.  I love the game of golf, but maybe not that much.

Wonder how Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson feel about golf this morning?  Both managed to complete their first round in the U.S. Open, "golf's toughest test," without a birdie between them.  I'd say they're not too happy, but it should be interesting to see if they channel that anxiety into better play today.

Have a good weekend and I'll try to report back on how our weekend went.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Ren-o-va-tion!

Well, well, well....the Smith manse is looking a bit spiffier these days, with the addition of new countertops in our galley kitchen!

The genesis of this started, oh, years ago, from our obsessive viewing of HGTV (and it's not just my wife, as I like many of the design and real estate programs) and the desire to update our kitchen.  You see, we attempted to sell and relocate a couple of years ago (a story I'll tell at length at some point in the future), and while our kitchen contained a new-ish fridge, range and microwave, the countertops, primary lighting and wallpaper were original equipment from our home's construction in 1987.  And at the suggestion of our realtors, we did nothing to it except clean thoroughly, as our realtors felt that most homebuyers could look beyond any dated decor and foresee placing their own stamp on the space.

So we were unsuccessful in selling.  Then, in the early part of 2009 we decided to strip dated wallpaper from our downstairs bathrooms and our kitchen.  Thankfully, our son and his wife had bought a wallpaper steamer when they purchased their current home, so I could use their device and take my time.  Over the course of about six weeks I completed all of the stripping and repainting, finishing with the kitchen.  My wife and I both liked the outcome but kept thinking that the counters were really dulling the effect of our efforts.  So we looked and thought and looked and thought and did.....nothing.

Not because we didn't want to, but because we couldn't really justify granite countertops, even in such a small space.  But somewhere along the line we were at a home improvement store on one of our wandering Saturdays (my wife calls them "Rick days") and happened into the kitchen cabinet section and found a decent selection of countertop pieces with the laminate surfaces already affixed.  And to our surprise, many of them had the look of stone, but at a fraction of the price.  We agreed that this would be a worthwhile undertaking to inexpensively facelift our kitchen a bit further, but time passed and we occasionally saw these prefabricated countertops again and picked up a few surface samples to look at in our kitchen.

Gradually we settled on the color choice for WHENEVER we decided to go forward.  And more time passed....

But a couple of weekends ago we accompanied our son, his wife and our adorable granddaughter to IKEA, north of Cincinnati.  If you're not familiar with IKEA, look them up online.  It's a veritable Mecca of home furnishings and fixtures, and they have many, MANY kitchen models set up to show how easily you, too, can remodel.  The kids obviously plan to redo their kitchen, but that probably accelerated our interest, and, before you know it, the following Tuesday I was removing the backsplashes from our counters (they were separate from the countertops).  My wife questioned my motives and, indeed, my sanity, as our daughter and her family will be visiting for a spell later this month.  I explained that I had to sand and paint the walls behind these backsplashes and that I would see to it that it looked presentable.

In truth, that sanding and painting job was a little easier than I anticipated, so my next step was to see if our son, who had worked in residential and commercial construction during and immediately after college, would be available to assist (which is pronounced "do it for me") that weekend...LAST weekend, to be precise.  He was, so now we were heading down that road and gaining speed!

Friday night I cleared the space beneath the sink and removed it and the garbage disposal (we had decided to keep all of that).  Then I called our preferred home improvement store to ascertain which location had the goods we needed, and on Saturday morning our son and I set sail to buy it all.  But first we had to unload the truckload (I'm not kidding) of tools and aids necessary to this job.  And our son bought a table saw for the occasion, and assured me he would be using that device for lots more than our little kitchen job.

Removing the old countertops was really not difficult.  What was difficult, though, was dealing with the walls in our kitchen.  The house was constructed by an independent homebuilder with, shall we say, liberal definitions of quality control.  So my running joke is there isn't a square angle in the entire house, and the walls of the kitchen were no exception.  And the countertops we bought had the backsplash already built into them (four inch height), so there was no allowance for a slight curving of the backsplash to hide imperfections in the plumbness of the wall.

So, to make a long story short, after about eight hours of effort on Saturday and another five or six on Sunday, our kitchen renovation was complete.  We were absolutely stunned by the results, and since I had removed the plumbing, I insisted on replacing it myself (after all, I had to so something on this job, right?).  All went well, except....

....a guyser when we went to use the dishwasher.  A vent piece that sits atop the sink (most everyone has something similar) had fallen out of the cover and thankfully we were standing by when Old Faithful appeared, so that we could shut everything off.

....the seal around the garbage disposal decided that now would be a good time to fail, so a couple of abortive efforts and finally the purchase of some plumber's putty did the trick.

Am I happy?  Absolutely!  Did the job come in under budget?  We really didn't set a budget, but the whole job was completed for just over $300, which ain't bad, regardless of how you count the money!  And is my wife happy?  Oh, yeah!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Good sports....well, mostly

A few sports observations in today's post....

First, farewell and congratulations to Ken Griffey, Jr.  He announced very quietly and very indirectly this week that he was retiring from major league baseball after 22 seasons, eight of which were spent with my Cincinnati Reds.  Now, let's be fair...Junior got a lot of flak from fans and the media while he was with the Reds, because his contract was so large that it prevented the Reds from acquiring other players, and he began to physically break down and experience major injuries for the first time in his career.  But when he was healthy, my, he was something to see.  Even after he had lost a step he was still capable of producing thrills on the field, smashing majestic home runs with that oh-so-sweet swing of his and robbing opposing batters of home runs with electrifying catches at or even over the outfield fence!  He was a quiet, private guy, from all reports, but loved and respected the game and his teammates and I wish him well in the next phase of his life!

I would also like to congratulate everyone except Commissioner Bud Selig for their respective roles in the perfect game that wasn't a couple of nights ago in Detroit.  If you missed it, a pitcher for the Tigers named Armando Gallaraga was about to pitch that rarest of feats, a perfect game (no hits, no walks, no batters hit by a pitch, no errors).  Last batter grounds to the first baseman, who flips to Gallaraga covering first, and that's that, but umpire Jim Joyce calls the runner safe. And a short time later admits a mistake and that the runner should have been called out.  Since that occurred, Joyce showed a tremendous amount of class and grace, as did Gallaraga (who received a new Corvette for his almost-perfect game) and the Tiger fans, who could just as easily attempted to boo Mr. Joyce out of the state of Michigan when he reported for home plate umpiring duty the next day.  But the Commish decided that, no, the "human element" has always been a part of baseball, etc., etc.  Another gaffe by Bud Light...one wonders if the game will implode before he exits the stage, ever so reluctantly.

Now, before I close, I want to comment on the latest situation surrounding Kentucky basketball, coach John Calipari and departing guard Eric Bledsoe.  Mr. Bledsoe's grades weren't great in his junior year of high school, but he changed schools and his fortunes improved, allowing his new school to compete for the Alabama state high school championship and for him to be recruited by major universities, ultimately signing with Kentucky for the most recent basketball season.  But it seems that the NCAA is now investigating his classroom improvements in his senior year of high school, despite having cleared him (academically) to play college basketball.

Universities have to rely on the NCAA Clearinghouse to approve players for competition, but apparently the investigative arm of the Association reserves the right to check things out after the fact and second-guess their own Clearinghouse, which is what appears to be happening here.  One would hope that the NCAA will eventually clear their own house of this inconsistent procedure.

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