Wednesday, November 06, 2019


I've been feeling uber frustrated as we return to Pacific Standard Time with its unpredictable weather (yes, even here in SoCal) and the darker evenings we love to complain about.  This PST situation vexes me perhaps more than some folks, since I tend to do things in the later part of the afternoon due to my pain and fatigue issues.  An earlier start to my activities means I poop out earlier in the day, which doesn't help with productivity.  After a volunteer gig last weekend, I got home at 2:00 p.m. hoping for a short nap and a second wind.  My caffeine intake must have prevented that nap from happening, so I lay on the couch with my feet elevated pretty much until bedtime, binge watching Netflix.  Of course in my head, I had plans for that Saturday afternoon, which were not to be accomplished.

In my work, I've always been a rather dogged (and annoying to some) "finisher".  I've been known to nag colleagues, bosses and clients with no mercy when I sense they are procrastinating on a project.  Yes, time does actually seem to go quicker as we age.  My blog, my bathroom and my three book club selections are all languishing unfinished, along with healthcare related projects, my real estate investment goals, my desire to get more exercise and be more spiritually connected and a plethora of other challenges.

I could attribute this lack of focus to my Age Activated Attention Deficit Disorder, which is way more than a LOL meme on social media. This is sadly familiar...and as my stamina declines with age, I feel like I get a lot less done in a day.

In my 40+ years of doing administrative work, with its constant interruptions and shifting priorities, multitasking is just the way my brain works.  Even in my younger days, I was often guilty of not finishing books I started reading, and giving up on school, jobs and relationships that I deemed not a good fit.  In more recent years, computers, the Internet and our smart devices have shortened my already short attention span.   Being an experienced administrator and coordinator, I am way more organized than most people and I have halfway decent time management skills.  But I am also guilty of many bad habits such as jumping up to get tea or run a load of laundry in real life. Even more insidious and seductive are online distractions and mea culpa big time.  Living alone and having no family, my social network is important to me for connection, information, inspiration and humor. 

A dear friend who has been caring for her husband with advancing Parkinson's just let me know that they are looking into hospice care.  He's a retired Madison Avenue art director for an advertising agency.  The walls of their living room are filled with his modernistic acrylic paintings inspired by their trips to Santa Fe, New Mexico.  Photos on their bookshelves show him with celebrities he met in his working years.  He was blessed to discover his talents and his path early on - he went to a music and arts high school and flourished in his career and in his life. 

Facing the end of one's life casts a whole new shadow on things unfinished.  This lovely man is only 80, still young in today's world.   All the little tasks and projects on my to-do list - getting estimates for paint and floor covering, working on my writing, exploring alternative health practices as possible pain relief solutions - all pale in comparison to the bigger questions about a life well lived.  If we only knew how long we'd live, we'd be better able to plan.   Brings to mind the quote, "You hear God laughing when you tell Her your plans." 

Sunday, November 03, 2019

A few small repairs

Wow, I played this old Shawn Colvin song because "a few small repairs" has been rattling around my brain all afternoon.  I've been researching paint for my hideous builder grade 1985 laminate cabinetry in kitchen and master bath.  I just can't bring myself to remodel but I would like to update the look just a bit.

But in my heart, I'd really like to move.  My big picture intention is to move elsewhere and rent this condo for retirement income.  Looks good on paper!  I've looked off and during the six years I've lived here and sadly for me as a buyer, it is still a bubbly seller's market out there in the wild of SoCal coastal real estate.  Even major fixers are overpriced.  I do a careful analysis of potential repair costs and when I add those to asking price, in my not so humble opinion, I'd be over-invested.  So I'm still here and dealing with the bad juju, but that's another story.

In late June, I discovered a water leak - a dark spot in a corner of my master bathroom.  I knew right away this was trouble, since I had a prior pinhole leak (behind the wall separating my two bathrooms) in 2015.  I hired a leak detection and repair guy and moved out of my bathroom and bedroom and welcomed the ginormous dehumidifier that ran 24/7 throughout the 4th of July four day weekend.  I slept on a 30 year old single hide-a-bed in my office for three weeks during this early phase of the repair.  I was still working at that time for my client, who had troubles of his own.  I was literally having panic attacks from the stress.

Leak detector guy recommended a re-pipe since I'd had the prior leak as well.  The prior (original) owners of this condo had already done a re-pipe, but apparently they went with the low bid and the contractor used the cheap grade copper pipe.  I dove into getting educated and getting estimates on this upcoming expensive and disruptive horror show.  I got way more estimates than I usually would for repairs - seven.  Turns out this is the field to be in, with the "aging housing stock" in Southern California.  Bids were confusing, convoluted and ranged from $5K-10K.  I checked and verified everything and as always "buyer beware" applies here.

By now I knew I was in for an ordeal and my client and I agreed I'd take some time off to deal.  After weeks of estimates and research, I hired a highly rated and lowest priced contractor to do the re-pipe.  I moved back into my bedroom since I was going crazy sleeping on the hide-a-bed in my cramped office.  But I had to prep for the re-pipe and had to unload all my lower cabinets that had any pipes in them.  I only have a one car garage, so I did box up some of the more fragile stuff, but all the cleaning supplies, pots and pans etc. I piled up in my living and dining rooms.

The crew did a great job all things considered.  The foreman was experienced and organized.  He kept things going as well as could be expected.  Then I got the permit from the City, then the drywall team came in to patch the walls.  Then the cleanup from all the bits of white dust and chunks all over the place.  My job.  Out of sheer exhaustion, I lived with the cabinet stuff in my living and dining rooms for weeks.  I just couldn't face it.

Finally I tidied up inside of my cabinets and put the stuff back.  Meanwhile, I'm using the hall (smaller) bathroom since I had the leak detector guy demo the shower as well.  Glad we did that, since he discovered a second leak where the contractor fixing the 2015 leak hadn't properly soldered a fitting.  So the master bathroom contained only the sink, counter and vanity cabinet.

Thus began the shower debacle.  I tried to get estimates to get the shower replaced and contacted numerous contractors ranging from top of the line catering to the wealthy and flaky solo dufus guys with a truck.  Patience and goodwill were definitely wearing very thin by now.

Spent hours online at the Big Box home improvement stores researching materials, after ruling out the first estimate I got - a highly qualified general contract who gave me a bid of $35K.  I made at least three trips to my nearby store and thought I had a great contact in the plumbing department.  After considering several options that either didn't fit the measurements of my alcove shower or were either too fancy or too low end.  I wanted mid-range - quality but this is not my dream home.

I placed my special order with this store with the assurance from the guy in the plumbing department, that he'd inspect the ensemble kit for damage before releasing the product to me.  I had noted on reviews for similar products (made of Vikrel, whatever that is) that it arrived damaged.

Short version - well, I soon found out that it DID arrive to the store damaged.  Plumbing department guy was all talk and no action.  Shocking, I know.  I had meanwhile hired a plumber who had worked for me before to do the install.  He was kind enough to pick up the ensemble kit from the store and bring it to my carport.  The first carton he opened was the base, and there was a visible crack.

I gave him $20 for a pizza and we took off for the store, with the damaged base back in his truck.  Big hassle at the store, again, shocking.  This was one piece of a kit.  Finally a manager figured out how to do this as an exchange and the plan was that I'd just pick up the base and they'd return the damaged base with the second order.  How they handle it, I did not care.

This second special order took almost three weeks.  I calmed down and tried to distract myself with other projects while waiting for its arrival.  My next upsetting mishap occurred at 7:20 a.m.on Monday morning September 23.  I was aware that my HOA was painting the exterior of our units, but we were told it was one building (four units) a month over a year.  I was given NO NOTICE.  Under normal circumstances I'd have been annoyed and maybe a little inconvenienced, but with all the large cartons of "shower ensemble kit" and my master bathroom commode stored in my carport/patio which needed to be accessed for powerwash, prep and paint.  I really lost it.

Then I enjoyed a series of hostile emails with our new "property manager" at the management company my HOA is contracted with.  I'm not proud of my attitude but there's plenty of blame to go around in all the confusion with this paint project.  But I digress.  The HOA president and another neighbor came by late in the day to move the cartons of shower ensemble kit into my demo'd master bathroom.  Meanwhile, I'd packed up everything I could out there.  Exhausted again.  The exterior paint job took about a week.  I wasn't too impressed with the crew although with some supervision and some touchups, the end result I'd say was B+.  Timing and communication, I'd say big fat F.

The store was typically unhelpful about the estimated arrival date.  So very Corporate America and not customer friendly.  On the day I was initially advised it would arrive, I phoned the store, and all they could tell me was the original estimated date, Friday, October 11.   They said it wasn't there.  So I cancelled the plumber for the following Monday, Oct. 14.  Two hours later I got a call from someone else at the store saying it was there.  I tried to reinstate the plumber for Monday but he had already filled the slot.  I was fuming.  Then later on Friday evening, I got a text saying that my order was going to be delivered the next day, Saturday October 12 between 9 - 12 noon.  What?   I hadn't ordered home delivery!  And my carport was all prepped for the condo community garage sale the following day, so I couldn't have the giant carton out there too!

I called the Los Angeles delivery company who had texted me and said I'd have to reschedule.  The guy said, sure no problem and we set it up for the following day, Sunday afternoon.

Sunday morning, nothing.  No text, no call from the delivery company, so I phoned them.  They said, "Oh, the schedule request has to come from the store."  Again, what?  I then scrambled to reschedule the busy plumber and establish that the replacement shower base was in fact at the store, not on a truck somewhere.

On Thursday, October 21, my hero the wonderful plumber installed the shower.  He ran out of time since he had plans with his kids that evening, but he came back on Sunday to finish up.  What a guy. 

 I'm working this week on drywall patching, and have hired a guy who was referred to me to finish up the patching in the master bath later this week.  I'll figure out if I can repaint the wall using leftover paint if it's still usable after six years in my hot garage.  Or hire a painter.  I also have a cabinet paint kit my cart on amazon.   I'm avoiding shopping at a certain Big Box store as much as I can.

Then floor covering in both bathrooms.  I may consider tile, but am leaning toward vinyl.  In my dreams I'm going to replace floor covering throughout the condo, but that would involve packing up all the surface and shelf objects so furniture could be moved.  I know people do it all the time, but I just can't imagine it.

On HGTV they don't do renos or flips when the homeowner is actually LIVING there!  It's interesting to see behind the walls and learn a bit about California Construction.  But like like the cliche about not wanting to see how laws or sausage are made, living through all these repairs just ruins the whole concept of one's home as a sanctuary and respite from the mad world.

Sunday, October 13, 2019

Thinning the Hoard

I've believed for many years that there is a fine line between being a collector and being a hoarder.  As the decades go by, my various collections seem to grow.  At the same time, the space in my home is limited since I now live in a small-ish 2BR/2BA condo.  I have kept too many of my antique furniture storage pieces, which overpower the small rooms.  And my stamina for dusting treasured knick-knacks and dark wood surfaces is declining. 

I recently had my condo re-piped, which necessitated emptying the contents of lower cabinets in my  kitchen and bathrooms - toiletries, cleaning supplies, pots and pans etc.  I lived with the contents piled up along the edges of my living room for weeks.  This mess reminded me of a past client who hoarded paperwork in boxes and bags lined up along the perimeter of her rooms, as well as random piles all over her home and garage. 

Because of my experience with my organizing clients, I have done some research on the subject of hoarding.  Hoarding can be mild or severe in its impact on a person's life.  Hoarding is sometimes considered an aspect of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) and associated with anxiety disorders.  These tendencies are more common as we age.

I also boxed up a lot of decorative items in my master bedroom and bathrooms which were in the way of the re-pipe project and put them hastily in unmarked cartons in my small one car garage.  This was in the early stages of my water leak detection and remediation in early July.  I was so aggravated and felt so overwhelmed with all this "stuff" I started cleaning out my tiny garage which was somewhat cathartic (and physically exhausting!) at the time.  I pulled out some boxes of similar decorative bedroom and bathroom items from a prior water leak and restoration project in my other bathroom in 2015.  I moved all these cartons to my carport area to force myself to go through them and start to reduce my inventory.

We all have relationships with our stuff.  Even if it's dollar store or thrift shop "junque", it represents a part of our life story.  Our stuff reminds us of a party we attended, a gift from a loved one, a remembrance from our family of origin, hobbies we may no longer actively pursue, well-loved pets, books, clothing, and photos of or greeting cards from people who may be long gone.

The Minimalists and Marie Kondo's KonMari "sparking joy" methods are current trends on social media, blogs, best selling books and on Netflix live stream. In our materialistic society where we typically use our garages to store our "stuff" while parking our cars in the driveway, one can easily make a case to downsize.  I follow these posts with interest as grist for the mill.  As with many of life's ongoing dilemmas, I seek balance in my views - not minimalist and not hoarding.

Years ago I attended a Unity church in San Diego.  I remember the minister made a comment to the effect that " has become our god and acquisition has become our practice."  This resonates with me in my own life and rings true in my observations of friends' and clients' struggles to manage their collections.  Our cultural preoccupation with shopping and our identifying with our material possessions has in my humble opinion, gone off the rails.  Yet I too, feel conflicted emotios as I downsize my treasures.

My sorting-the-cartons project was delayed by the recent exterior paint project in my condo community.  For that I had to haul these cartons back into the garage.  Once the painting was finished, I began to seriously go through these boxes in preparation for the condo community's annual garage sale which was yesterday.  I spent an exhausting week staging and pricing my goodies.  I admit that I set aside the better and less generic stuff for "later".  I have been to and held many garage sales and I know what sells and what doesn't.  Yesterday's sale was just the top layer.  It was fairly successful - I'd say I sold maybe 75% of what I had displayed.  I pulled back a few items into the house and filled the back seat of my car with thrift shop donations.  I am committed to NOT going into the thrift shop when I drop off the donations!  That is my Waterloo.  I always find a treasure or two to bring home in my "retail therapy" thrift shopping sessions.  True, it's cheaper than real therapy, but I am learning my limits late in life and don't wish to go south from collecting into hoarding.

Next I will to go through the better and more specialized "stuff" and try to sell some of my collections - my family pieces, furniture, Hawaiiana and cat collections.  I'm thinking NextDoor and perhaps a new site called Mercari.  I'm not a huge fan of packing and shipping items, so there may be some challenges in this chapter of my downsizing.  Just another way my "stuff" is a mixed blessing in my life.

Image by andreas N from Pixabay

COVID Diaries Chapter Seven

Shadowbox Project This project doesn't really qualify as downsizing, since I had maybe 10 boxes of family memorabilia before doing the s...