Tuesday, March 27, 2012


For today's post, we have a deep metaphor about heritage, identity, and how they intersect with infertility. Wait a minute...

No, that must be a different blog. Today, we have a post about plumbing. You know what I'm talking about.

My house has a front yard large enough for a walk and some flowers, with the makings of a rather nice porch (at the wrong height - it needs to be raised a few feet, so some time when we have spare time there will be Fun With Pressure-Treated Lumber Day here at misfit central), except that it's on a very busy street which is loud all the time, so we sort of pretend that doesn't exist. It has quite a nice-sized back yard, with raised beds I haven't done much with (but I did start vegetable and herb seeds in peat pots this weekend! And I planted a dormant blackberry in the yard! And I have corn seedlings that I bought...um...a month early! And today my DH mowed everything and dealt with all the sticks and dead leaves and stuff, and it looks really nice). We'll get there. The right side of the yard is not bad, it has some grass, I just don't have anything really in mind for it. (My DH wants a hot tub on the paved part in front of the carriage house. We'll see...) And the left side is quite narrow, as the houses there are close together, so the previous owners put in a tall fence and brick pavers. Like so:

Now, if you notice, on the right side of this photo there are some little stairs up to the back sun porch. On the far side of those stairs, you can see a little bitty yew (you know, that evergreen shrub that every office building has a hedge of). It's not even three feet tall. You can't tell in the picture, but at some point the prior owners hung many large rocks from it, presumably to...make its branches grow horizontally? Not that I know why anyone would want a yew to do that.

The yew had its revenge, though.

Yesterday, the plumbers came. First of all, let me say they are the best plumbers in the whole world, ever. They were prompt. They were pleasant. They worked fast and they were competent. They were thorough and considerate. They were honest and fair. When one of the fellows working used a naughty word to my sister (a word to describe, quite accurately, the contents of the pipe they were working on), he got a severe scolding by his boss, because he is not to use words like that around a lady.

They had figured out that the obstruction in the pipe was under the side yard. Because it's bounded fairly narrowly by the side of the house and the tall fence, and there's other obstacles, like the back stairs, and it's rather pricier to re-pour concrete than re-sod (though I decided I would just put all the bricks back, and replace any removed concrete with further bricks, and then they actually put everything back for me), they decided to do a limited drain replacement, rather than bringing a backhoe in and replacing all the drain pipe between the house and the street. So they first determined where the start of the problem was, and it was right near that little yew. So the yew came up, followed by the bricks, and then a lot of dirt, and then the pipe. My sister took this picture (she was standing on the aforementioned steps, but otherwise the perspective is the same as the previous picture):

They found seven-foot-long sections of root in that pipe - four inches thick. Not from the big old tree in the front yard that the county has slowly killed by trimming it around the power lines, which I would happily be rid of. Not from the bigger, older, really lovely tree in the back yard that I want to put a tea table under this summer.

From the little bitty yew.

You see, on the surface, it was scrawny, ratty, asymmetrical, sparse, unlovely, and wholly pointless in its location. But on the underside, where no one could see, it was a demon yew.

Sometimes life is like that.

But what you really need to know is that there is root-be-gone that you can buy at the big orange store, and run through your pipes every six months. So that if little roots get into your pipe, they will die, and then they will flush out with the sewage water. Rather than taking over the pipe like the demon yew. And then, you will not need to spend $3000 (0r more - it could have been a lot more) and have someone dig up your yard.

Also, the little bathroom is going to be redone now. I am not showing you a before picture because it is that horrible right now. And sadly, I do not have a before-before picture. This is too bad, because tomorrow they are ripping up the tile (which I never liked anyway), so the insurance adjuster can see how bad the water damage is. And then (if all goes well), he will give us a reasonable amount to have it fixed, and we can have the subfloor and any affected joists replaced. And then I can have the tiles I like:

And also the paint color I like, which is Valspar's Mackinac Island Grand Hotel Blue. I found out about it from the blogger who used it to paint this table:

Which I found through Susan's Metamorphosis Monday. (I told you it was helpful!)

And then I will find just the right mirror (I have already been looking) and I will replace the ludicrously inappropriate-looking faucets with some that belong in that bathroom and I will tinker with the little shelf that looks a bit odd, and maybe add a decorative thing or two, and the bathroom will be done. Long before I thought it would be. And other things will not be done. But that's OK...one thing at a time.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

the second bedroom

It was not a good bedroom. It may, in fact, have been the worst-decorated bedroom (intentionally decorated, I mean; decorating neglect may perhaps at some point in history have sunk to lower lows) I have ever seen. Here's the listing photo:

The picture was taken from the doorway into the hall. What you see on the walls is dark blue paint on the ceiling and the top foot of the walls; on the lower part of the walls is lighter blue paint, with a lime green sponge-paint treatment. Rounding out the look are the green sheer curtain and the switchplate, which I tragically did not photograph before its removal. It was a very large metal switchplate in the shape of a flounder, enameled in rainbow colors. After I removed it, my hatred of it waned somewhat with the realization that it might be OK in a nursery (not what this room previously was). Sarah (callmemama) now has it, since she
actually has a nursery to decorate, and maybe she will share a picture of it with you all.

Anyway, I decided there needed to be some changes. First of all, new rule for the house: no ceilings painted any color other than white. Second, no more sponge-painting, anywhere, for any reason. The color scheme for the room was basically determined when I repainted the living room gray. It had been green (two ugly and incompatible shades of green; for that, too, had a colored ceiling), and my DH was sad to see the color go (it's his favorite color), so I said I would paint a bedroom green. So I set out to find green wallpaper I liked, which was harder than anticipated. There's a lot of green wallpaper out there, of course, but nothing was quite right. When I finally settled on one (part of the Ashford House silhouettes collection, if you're interested), I color-matched paint to the paper and painted the walls (and the ceiling white), and moved on from there. So here we start:

I had the highboy from our last house. It's a Broyhill, solid wood, and I got it on craigslist for $45. No idea why. The duvet is a pale green jacquard that I bought in a thrift store. It's a king size, but for this room, I tailored it down to fit a queen comforter for the double bed. (Got it?)

The photo above shows a better view of the highboy. Also the doorway to the hall (stained), and the doorway to a closet (painted white). And the maple rolltop desk I found on craigslist for $75. The chair (which you can barely see) is real leather with nailhead trim. Also craigslist (but I bought it when we were still in our old place), for $40.

I've just realized that, where I put the pillows, you can't see the headboard (and I am not going upstairs to get more pictures). It's a vintage maple poster-y one that was part of my mother's thrifting collection. She sent it to law school with me after we were married.

Last wide shot. I know these are all terrible pictures, but this has the most accurate rendition of the colors in the room.

OK, that strip of wood on the bottom (above) is the top of the desk. Above it is one of two large framed pictures. (They're prints of watercolors depicting some of the buildings at my alma mater.) The frames aren't really wood, but they were $17 at Ikea for rather large frames, and until they come down and we try to move them, they won't get dented enough to show that they're MDF.

Here is a closeup of the curtains. It makes them look more brassy and metallic than they actually look. In other words, it's a complete failure - instead of showing you clearly how they look, it shows how they do not look. They're from Amazon; they were $35 for the pair, so I was pleased. I like it that they go with the wall color, but also introduce some new colors to the room. And they are cheerful.

OK, here's the desk and the desk chair. I actually sat in it before I bought it, but I was distracted by making small talk with the people who were selling it (and sizing up whether they looked like serial killers. I decided no. She was half my size, anyway). So I didn't realize that it rocks back in theory, but in practice, you'd have to be large to get it to tip backward. Way heavier than I am. And since it's really leather, it's slippery. Unless you can lean back (not I), you slide forward. But my DH didn't like the cute little green and white chair I had before...so I basically bought this for him...so it's fine, I think.

We acquired two of these black-antiqued gold side tables from a neighbor who was moving out of the apartment next door after we were first married. I couldn't not take them, because they clearly had so much potential. But other than the fact that they were horizontal surfaces (and therefore immediately had stuff set on them as soon as we moved in anywhere), they never seemed to fit in aesthetically. But since there are two of them, I thought maybe they should go here. They seem happy. The lamps I found for $30 for both at the first thrift store I visited after we moved to Arlington. I still like them, though they're not as brilliant as I once thought they were. I also know that that was not an acceptable thrift store price for them, but I was so disappointed to find that that store had none of the furniture I was looking for that I felt compelled to buy something. Anyway, there are two of those too, and they're part green, and part gold, and also part fuchsia (in the flowers). This matches fuchsia hints in the little rug (which you can't see) and the blanket under the comforter. You can't see that either. It's OK :).

Here are some medium-sized pictures. These frames are also from Ikea, and I think they were $4. They have trip pictures - the left from our vacation to Austria, and the one on the right from my DH's trip to Nepal. And the last is a cross, which we got for our wedding from one of my mom's friends.

You remember the little-bitty Ikea frames from my stairwell? I got three of them for this bedroom and spray-painted them white. Very glossy, as you see. If I had it to do again, I would use a brush and somewhat less glossy paint. They have three more of my MIL's vintage postcards (including one with a picture of the "green room" at the White House. Get it...?).

OK. That's the room. Aaaand...I'm linking it up at Metamorphosis Monday, again - check it out!

Monday, March 12, 2012

D.C. bishops deny Jesus

...just in time for Lent.

I do try not to get into politics on my blog. But then again, I have no qualms with talking about religion. So when politics is trying to take over my religion...from the inside...maybe that's a good time to make an exception. It's just one little blog, after all.

You may already have heard of the furor surrounding Fr. Marcel Guarnizo. If not, you can read the epilogue here. A more complete explanation of the facts is available here, and here. As it happens, I know Fr. Marcel personally. He's an uncompromising sort - he tells the truth bluntly and he may be genetically incapable of sugar-coating anything. That doesn't mean he's incapable of kindness - just that with him, it doesn't take the form of diplomacy. Like a lot of people of that temperament, he doesn't mind the same plain-spokenness directed at him - I know this from experience.

So here's what actually happened - the short version. Barbara Johnson was apparently raised Catholic, but at some point left the Church and now professes to be a Buddhist. Her late mother was a parishioner where Fr. Marcel was assigned in Gaithersburg, Maryland. Ms. Johnson had the responsibility of offering a eulogy at her mother's funeral. For this reason, she was engaged in discussions with Fr. Marcel (the celebrant for the funeral Mass) in the sacristy. She took that opportunity to introduce him to another woman, whom she introduced as her "lover." During the funeral Mass, she entered the line for communion, and presented herself to receive the Eucharist from Fr. Marcel. He refused her communion (so quietly that the lay Eucharistic minister standing next to him did not notice). She then got in the other line and received communion from that person (who did not know what was going on, obviously).

She then went on a press junket about Father's refusal to give her communion (citing in addition the fact that he left the funeral Mass, apparently because he was sick, and arranged for another priest to accompany the mourners to the grave site). The liberal media took it up immediately as an indication of the Church's hatred of homosexuals. So far, so humdrum (well, minus the part about a non-Catholic professedly living in a state of mortal sin presenting herself twice for communion and actually receiving it).

As soon as the story hit the press (the Huffington Post - before it even got into the Washington Post, I believe), a DC auxiliary bishop issued an apology to Ms. Johnson. The bishop never contacted Fr. Marcel to ask what had happened. Fr. Marcel is assigned in the Archdiocese of Washington; they know where he works, and they know where he lives, because he works for them. It's not that they forgot he works for them, of course - no sooner had they issued an apology without demonstrating any interest in the facts, than they ordered him (under obedience, because he is a priest and must obey the bishop) not to speak publicly about what happened. In other words, they didn't innocently assume that they knew all the facts. The Archdiocese of Washington actively and deliberately tried to suppress the facts of this story because its officials wanted to appear as pro-homosexual as possible. Then, they removed him from service in the archdiocese (saying Mass and hearing confessions) - without even admitting that the furor over Ms. Johnson was their motivation. The bishops wanted Fr. Marcel to be tarred as a homophobe, and themselves to be lauded as progressive and enlightened.

Now, you may ask, does not Christian charity require Catholics to treat homosexuals with love and respect? Of course it does. Of course it does. ALL persons deserve love and respect. Our obligation to love people and respect them isn't changed by who they are, what they believe, or the fact that they are sinners - all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.

So why did Fr. Marcel deny this woman communion?

This is the central question here - to a believing Catholic, the only question that matters. The answer is simple. The belief of the Catholic Church is that the Eucharist - the bread and wine - REALLY, ACTUALLY, and LITERALLY is the body and blood of Jesus Christ. Not a symbol, a reenactment, or a metaphor - the actual body and blood of Christ. This topic was actually addressed by the archdiocese - very, very quietly, compared to its outspoken actions attacking the priest who defended the Sacrament - fairly accurately here.

That sounds insane, right?

It's totally insane. It got Christians in the early centuries persecuted by pagan Rome for cannibalism. It's an out-there belief. We believe a lot of out-there things - and as times change, and we don't (I hope), some of them start to seem more out-there than they were before. Others become commonplace. Which is fine - we don't believe them because they're popular so we don't change them when they're not. We believe that they're true.

Because we believe that the Eucharist is actually the body and blood of Christ, no person may receive the Eucharist at Mass unless (1) he is a Catholic; (2) he is in a "state of grace," meaning that if he has committed any grave sin, he must go to confession before receiving Communion; and (3) he has fasted for an hour before receiving. (Some limited exceptions are available.) The reasons for this are pretty obvious, right? If we believe that we are actually consuming the body and blood of Christ - insane in itself - we ought to be pretty careful about doing so, and make sure that everyone else is, too. The Eucharist isn't birthday cake. We don't hand it out to indicate who we think is "cool." The Church distributes the Eucharist because she was commanded to do so by Christ (at the Last Supper), and does so in a very careful way.

The Church's strict rules on the receipt of communion don't only bar those engaging in homosexual acts (persons of homosexual orientation who are chaste are as free to receive the Eucharist as any other person who is living a life of virtue). On the contrary. Assuming you haven't been to confession, you aren't permitted to receive communion if you've had sex or engaged in other sexually impure behavior with your boyfriend or girlfriend (regardless of your sexual orientation); cheated on your spouse; deliberately missed Mass on a Sunday; willingly entertained sexually impure thoughts; used contraception to avoid pregnancy; deliberately harmed an innocent person physically (including killing an innocent person, which includes abortion); masturbated; consumed pornography; stolen something of significant value; lied about someone with the intent of doing him harm; become seriously and immoderately angry; broken an oath or a vow...the list goes on.

It's a long list, right? We take this stuff VERY seriously. These aren't rules that most people live by - they don't believe what we believe. By the same token, they don't present themselves to receive our sacraments. Why would they? If they don't believe it's the body and blood of Christ as we do, why would they want to receive it? Just to be offensive to Catholics? What kind of a person would do that?

I don't believe that Allah is God or that Mohammed is his prophet, and consequently I don't pray five times a day to Mecca, and I wouldn't insert myself into worship in a mosque. I don't believe in Vishnu and wouldn't participate in Hindu ceremonies. I'm not Jewish and I don't attend synagogue. If I were invited by a practitioner of another faith to attend worship with him, and doing so didn't run contrary to my religion, then I would do so. But I would not violate the traditions and etiquette - to say nothing of religious requirements - of that faith. I wouldn't enter a mosque with my head uncovered. I wouldn't insist on sitting on the men's side in an orthodox temple. I wouldn't bring a hamburger to India to eat in a crowd of Hindus. I don't need to go to those places and harass those people. The fact that I believe something different doesn't require me to insult what they hold sacred - particularly as a guest.

And it doesn't matter whether their religious beliefs happen to run afoul of my political beliefs. I'm a woman, but I don't have to flaunt my notions of gender equity (whatever those may be) at the expense of respecting others' religious traditions while I'm in their church. If their religious beliefs are absolutely objectionable to me, I have an excellent option - don't attend their worship.

Ms. Johnson chose "none of the above." She may well have known what Catholics believe about the Eucharist. She chose to present herself to receive it even though she knew she was engaging in behavior the Church defines to be a sin. (That part she certainly knew - she made a point of making an issue of it to the priest.) If she was somehow unaware of Catholics' beliefs regarding the sacredness of the Eucharist, she was told by a priest and she certainly knew it then.

Can you IMAGINE going to someone else's church (even if for a family funeral, wedding, whatever), presenting yourself to receive communion or participate in some other ceremony, being told discreetly by a minister that you were not permitted to, and going around to another line so you could do so anyway? Can you IMAGINE? I can't. I blush just thinking of such brazen, offensive behavior. It's shocking. And that's just assuming that I would be intruding on someone else's tradition - not committing a sacrilege against God.

Ms. Johnson wasn't ashamed of her behavior. She had a press tour set up for the minute she walked out of the church. Her mother's funeral was probably the first opportunity she found to paint herself as a sympathetic victim while committing a sacrilege against someone else's faith. She wants this story to be about how the Church denies communion to homosexuals. I have news for Ms. Johnson: the Church refuses communion to anyone who is known to be involved in an extramarital sexual relationship. That's a rather large slice of the population. You're not as special as you think you are.

But that's not where the real problem comes in. The real problem comes in when the cardinal and auxiliary bishops of the Archdiocese of Washington soft-pedal the body and blood of Christ because defending it would anger the homosexual lobby and the liberal media. The problem comes in when they use embarrassingly transparent grounds to remove a priest - just as Barbara Johnson demanded they do! - for fulfilling his priestly vocation by defending Jesus Christ, really present in the Eucharist. So they don't have to hear a Washington Post reporter assault their delicate episcopal ears with the word "bigot." Can we think of anyone else who refused to acknowledge that he knew Our Lord when he perceived that asserting friendship with Him would mean being reviled?

When priests are punished, not for neglecting the sacraments and the prerogatives of God, but for honoring them, Satan is in charge of the Church. At least, this archdiocese - but I very much doubt it stops here.

You're not going to cover up the identity of you true master forever, Cardinal Wuerl. And you're not going to live forever, either. Is it worth it?

Friday, March 2, 2012

the stairs

Yes, I know, at long last.

So as I may have mentioned, I stenciled my stairs. (Now I'm working on the finishing-touches list of 900 million other things to do before the party. And I really need a nap.) They used to look like this:

The warm color on the faux wood grain (no, that is not stain) was actually a good color for the space (as I later realized). However, the paint was starting to come off, so I knew they would need repainting:

In these pictures, I had already painted the walls in the stairwell that light blue color. Formerly, they were yellow sponge-painted, exactly like this:

(That's the bedroom the stairs open into. And that is a BEFORE picture, people.)

Once upon a time, when we were still searching for a house and I was hoarding on houzz.com all the pictures I could find of what lovely houses should look like, I saved this picture, and realized that when I looked at that staircase, I felt loved:

Elegance & Decay eclectic
I have an oddly emotional relationship with home decor. Yes, therapy is still an ongoing consideration - but you tell me that stairs like these wouldn't render therapy totally superfluous.

Anyway, I didn't exactly go around looking for a house onto which I could project all of these little ideas; I just thought they would help me understand the full potential of similarly-structured spaces which were confounding me because their full potential had not been remotely realized.

Later, I realized that this house has an essentially similar staircase. OK, there are a few key distinctions. One is that our service stairs live behind a door, which will most often be closed (its swing takes up too much room in a small kitchen, and since it is missing those first two steps, it is not the most useful set of stairs). Another, which is my fault, is that I am already painting the kitchen yellow, so painting the adjacent stair-wall a different shade of yellow (i.e., the one in the picture) is out. I could paint the stair-wall the same yellow as the kitchen, so I am actually pondering repainting it, but I'm not sure I want the staircase to be an extension of the kitchen. To be determined.

Anyway, as I was painting the walls blue, I looked down at the worn paint on the steps and realized it needed repainting. I thought a nice dark charcoal would be nice - the black in my inspiration photo would be too dark for a little-lit space, but maybe charcoal would be near the mark.

Then I saw this.

I did think that it would be nice to give the stairwell a little bit of visual interest. I was already planning a modest little gallery wall (as, in my view, that is the most essential element in the inspiration photo), but why not decorate the stairs themselves? First I went to the big orange store to get the porch-and-floor paint, since this was something I was going to have to do either way and represented no waste of money on the artsy aspect of the project. I was going to tint it to a very dark gray, but my sister insisted that the stairwell was too dark to go any darker than "slate," one of the pre-mixed colors. So I went with that. I also bought some water-based (non-polyurethane) varnish, because it's "crystal-clear" rather than yellowing. I gather it's less durable than polyurethane, but like all water-based projects, it's also easier on the cleanup. It was $40 for a gallon, which is kind of a lot, but I figured I could use it for multiple projects, so in the great accounting ledger in my head, I could spread out the cost. I got the satin finish.

Then I bought a $3.99 stencil at A.C. Moore (like Michael's), because I could not imagine buying a giant stencil and bending the stenciled image around the edges of stairs (though some people on teh interwebz have done this), and it was the only image that came out positive (i.e., the second color of paint creates the image, rather than the first color) and was the right size for the stairs (which are very shallow). I used leftover paint from my living room walls to do the print; it's Behr's "dolphin fin."

My takeaway is, the woman in the blog post above has greater planning ability, patience, and talent than I have, and probably also had better tools and materials. I didn't start to make real progress until I accepted that my stenciling would not have thick enough paint to be truly opaque, and would have blurry edges. Once I decided to embrace the imperfection, the project went fast (two hours for all the stencils?), and I can't complain about the results:

Another look:

The bottom of the stairs:

My one concern is that this may simply be kitschy, and while I am trying to go for a low-key, somewhat less-ornate charm (the house hails from the Victorian-style period in American architecture, but is simple and humble in its design and ornamentation, and I want to complement that, not fight it), I am not trying to veer off the road straight into shabby chic or "country." Heaven preserve me from ornamental butter churns. Notthatthere'sanythingwrongwiththat and I have kind of always wanted a pie safe (but I don't have room in my kitchen) (and I would actually use it for storage, maybe even pies, so that makes it non-ornamental) but yeah, actually, no.

So I may have erred here; I find it hard to say.

But of course I didn't stop there. You remember that gallery wall I mentioned? This had been in the works, in the strange and hideous corners of my mind, for some time. First, I acquired a large and fabulous collection of real, sent and received, vintage postcards from my MIL, who was going to throw them out. (I get that; you can't keep stuff forever. But I'm so glad she gave me the refusal of them.) They were sent to and from members of her family (mostly her) half a century ago, and they hail from travels not only all over the Northeastern United States, but the rest of the country as well. And they showcase fascinating historic and religious sites and some really, really beautiful architecture (not just on public buildings, but modest-sized private homes as well) - the sort of thing that everyone took for granted before we as a nation started dropping acid and modern art happened to teach us a good lesson and we somehow utterly failed to learn it.

But I digress. Anyway, I have probably a couple hundred of them, but I pored over them and picked just twelve for my gallery wall. I had decided that I was going to use matting as frames for them, to save money (since there are quite a few of them) and also so that when they were hung, you could flip them around and read the messages on the back. I was toying with the notion of hanging them in rows connected by ribbon; hadn't got the idea all the way worked out. I looked for some appropriately-sized mats in Ikea, and that's when I stumbled upon their three-for-$2 unfinished wooden picture frames. The frames are fantastically simple, solid softwood (pine?), the exactly perfect size for the postcards (even though the postcards are smaller than contemporary postcards!), and, of course, inexpensive. I used Minwax gel stain (thank you Meg! It's the best thing ever!) in hickory to stain them. This worked to coordinate with one or two picture frames I already had, and the look I was going for:

And a bit of a close-up (sorry, I know, these are terrible pictures. Phone camera is a ghetto option, but I am telling you this is a hard space to photograph):

Since they come in raw wood, I actually think they'd really look cool with a colored stain or "whitewash" treatment (paint thinned with water) in maybe a blue or green, for a more whimsical (and somewhat more contemporary) look. For just a few dollars, you could do a row all the way down a long hallway, or even an entire wall COVERED with postcards, or photos, or little mementos. Lots of possibilities here!

I know, it's not at all exactly like my inspiration photo, and I know it's missing a certain something of the magic, but I think it was a reasonable success. Now, to work on getting some of that magic in in a few other places.

In the meantime, I am sharing my little project at Susan's Metamorphosis Monday, which you should totally visit.

On a completely unrelated note: looks like we've been approaching this problem wrong the whole time. Check it out.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

please pray for my house

I thought I was doing so well. I've been remembering to make all my phone calls this week, and mostly responsible about the repair people. First, I finally got around to signing the contract with the roof re-sealing folks and getting in their queue. As I had hoped, they fit us in before our housewarming party. They showed up on Monday and took the better part of the day. Now our roof is bright, shiny silver, and the porch roof as well. No more rusted-looking shingles or layers of flaking paint and sealant, and I hope both roofs will endure for many years to come. For some reason they also decided to seal our chimney (I didn't ask them to do that, or not to - never crossed my mind), so now that has gone from brick red to shiny silver as well. Guess you can't win 'em all.

The refrigerator repair guy came out the same day. He said that the grinding noise in the freezer is because the bearings on the chiller motor are wearing out. He will be replacing the motor. This is covered by our home warranty (we paid a $100 service fee for him to come out. First, I priced what a technician would cost to repair the motor if not covered by warranty, and it was a bit more).

Then yesterday the plumber finally came to snake out the downstairs drains. First I bought a $25 auger at the big orange store and tried to do it myself, but after I got 10-15 feet into the drains (I took off the p-trap in the sink and everything. Even remembered to put a bucket under it first. So competent!) I was no longer strong enough to shove any more in, and I clearly hadn't hit a clog (the nose of the auger was clean). So we called the plumber, also covered by the home warranty folks.

[Well, only if you have a ground-level drain cleanout, which we don't. So they were going to make me pay for all of it, after they told me it would be covered and said NOTHING about the cleanout. Through badgering, I persuaded them that if I paid the plumber to remove and reset the toilet ($175), we would effectively have a ground-level drain cleanout, and so they should cover the snaking from that point ($350). I note that if I had known about this tidbit beforehand, I could have removed the toilet myself, and reset it for $1.50 in new wax ring costs. I am proud that I can now confidently say that I am competent to remove and replace a toilet. Not that it helped in this case.]

I was extremely pleased with myself, but I quickly got a frantic email from my sister, who graciously let the plumber in: "Bad news. Call right away." He had confidently said it would be 30 minutes to do the snaking and set his (motorized. This makes me feel better about my useless little T-Rex arms and my little manual auger) auger to work. But instead of hitting a clog, after many feet of auger (such that the auger nose was in the sewage pipe under the front yard), he hit...tree roots. Lots of them. This is the mother of all bad augering news, though I note that the daddy of all bad augering news is "the pipes under your house are crushed and we have to dig through your concrete basement floor to access them. They also appear to be leaking sewage under your foundation and undermining the structure of the house." This has never happened to me, and I hope it never does, or to you either.

So today I talked to the ueber-plumber and he gave me several estimates, depending on how thorough a replacement we want and how deeply our pipes are buried. It can't be done before our party (Saturday), as it takes a day and a half to do the work, and probably involves some logistical preparation; among other things, it may result in a backhoe on my front lawn. Which is on a very busy road, by the by. And I need to get two more estimates anyway (I already have some names, which is more progress than it sounds like - finding a company that will even offer an estimate for the type of work I want has proved to be a headache several times so far). So we are deciding whether the slow draining is too much of a disaster to hold the party. And the ueber-plumber is visiting tomorrow to get all the details and provide an official proposal.

If you (especially my prayer buddy) could say a prayer for our party (no plumbing disasters, please God!) and for the cost of the repair to be as low as it can be and the repair to go smoothly and be completely successful, with no collateral damage, I would appreciate that, truly I would. I think St. Joseph has a soft spot for my house (I suspect he found it for me), so maybe he would help. I know...there are more important intentions in blogland...my general intention is for my marriage, which is probably more important than my plumbing (in the literal or figurative sense, really). But this is weighing on my mind.

Post on the staircase soon, I promise :).