A reluctant office lady who still gets zits, but already has gray hair.

Tag Archives: diy

I wrote this post like a week ago, but was holding off on posting it because I thought I might like to add pictures.  Then, my home computer got some sort of Trojan that made it (and I’m not exaggerating here at all, this really happened) play an audio clip of someone crying and praying the Our Father.  I don’t understand how these things happen, since I bought this computer in August and I didn’t realize that people still got computer viruses, let alone that they did weird things like this. 

Anyway, no pictures.  Use your imagination.

So since I’ve written last, winter happened.  Christmas was a thing, and then New Years and Valentine’s Day followed, and there were other days that occurred as well.  It was cold forever, and I spent the entire season moping about how cold it was and operating at about 20% efficiency, which, although I haven’t verified this, is about as efficient as I estimate my 30 year old furnace to be.  I was productive enough to shower, go to work and occasionally even feed myself, but not much else happened in the way of looking for new jobs, improving my home, or writing in this blog.  Which brings us to right now.

Today, I had a venti iced coffee, and it has left me with a venti urge to Get Back on That Metaphorical Horse.  Not a real horse, though, because they’re huge and terrifying and why do humans need to ride animals at all when we have cars?  This is 2013, no one needs to ride a horse.

So, as I’ve mentioned, I own my home.  I know, whatever, a lot of people own homes, and this is not a huge accomplishment.  My house was pretty much in move-in condition when I bought it almost 5 years ago, and I have done very little to maintain it, but every time something has happened, it has happened with great drama. 

I’ve mentioned the GREAT CEILING LEAK OF 2010, and then there was the lesser Ceiling Leak of 2012, which occurred when part of a fan blew off of my roof during a thunderstorm, causing a large hole through which rain poured in.  I was able to find an amazing roofing company who fixed it for 100 dollars.  Can you imagine that?  In my head, I’ve conjured up such a horrible image of contractors wherein they see that I’m some defenseless young girl with a checkbook and they overcharge me because I am vulnerable.  To date, this hasn’t really happened. 

There are some things in the house that I have fixed myself or with the help of a dear companion.  I replaced a ceiling fan with an overhead light (solid B+ work, I only had to re-do it once because I didn’t twist the wires tightly enough).  I added thresholds between the carpet and hardwood (probably more towards a C+ job, since I knew nothing then [or now] about staining wood.)  Elissa and I (although mostly her) replaced the dimmer switch for the recessed can lights in our kitchen because the previous switch required a comical amount of manhandling before it would stay on without flickering, and sometimes, if you laughed or coughed or yelled too loudly, it would switch off altogether.  I don’t want to admit how long I lived with that faulty switch before actually doing something about it, but I will just say that it’s a Whole New World we’re living in now that the kitchen lights turn on exactly in the fashion we desire.

Generally speaking, I’m happy with my house. It’s in pretty good shape and I’ve decorated it satisfactorily. I bought it when prices were low, and I think that even if I sold it today, I’d still be able to make a bit of a profit.  It hasn’t been a money pit by any means, and I feel good knowing that it’s ‘good debt,’ which is a thing that homeowners say to feel smarmy about people with credit card debt.  (This is conflicting for me, since I am in both of those demographics.)

The backyard, however, is the thorn in my side.  Every summer since 2008, I have attempted different things to make the backyard more appealing. 

It’s not even a huge yard.  We’re talking maybe 25 ft by 60 ft?  It’s a small area, but it’s enough to make me insane.  I bought a rhododendron (it died), I bought a chinese lilac (it died), I bought 2 small eucalyptus-looking shrubs, which are marginally still alive, I guess, but they look pretty bleak and they’ve got weeds all tangled up in them.  Meanwhile, there are randomly-placed unsolicited perennials that appear yearly, along with some suspicious-looking succulents.  There also used to be wild onions, but I think my fat dog ate them into extinction one year.  There’s one of those plastic ponds, with some kind of cemented-in filtration system that has never worked, to my knowledge, so I just scowl at it and empty it yearly.  And then it fills back up again with moldy rain water, and the dogs drink out of it when they want to throw up.

 Part of my problem with the backyard is just discipline.  I have no intrinsic motivation for landscaping, and I don’t have the right tools, so I never really gain any pride from it.  It’s not like any of the other things I’ve learned, like painting, or mild electrical work.

It’s hard labor, with weird mismatched rusty tools.  I have an electric lawnmower that I inherited from my parents, and I have a manual reel mower that I bought on my own, and mowing the lawn with either of them is terrible in its own unique way. 

Here’s how it usually goes:

  1. Spring starts and I’m committed to maintaining the yard and I mow the lawn.
  2. Maybe this occurs the next week, and sometimes, in the most ambitious summers, even the week after that.
  3. Then it rains or we go out of town or we have to work late or something else happens.
  4. Then the grass is too long for my little sissy lawn mowers.  And then there’s too much dog poop, and it would get stuck in the blades of the mowers if I tried, and this is when lawn morale sinks and I just wait for the grass to die.  This is almost certainly before June 1. 

Well, this year is the year, folks, because I AM HIRING SOMEONE.  2 SOMEONES.  And they are going to mow my lawn and pick up dog poop.  And you know what?  I don’t feel guilty about spending this money, because this will make me happier.

Here’s my reasoning.  There are 2 of us, living in a low-priced home, with moderate debt, and decent jobs.  We’re not super-rich, but at any given time, either of us have enough money in our accounts to spend 30 dollars on dinner or make-up (this is me) or wine or records (this is her) or any other random frivolous purchase that comes to mind.  And we do spend that money, probably more often than we should.  So the funds are there.  I think it’s just time to face the fact that doing-it-yourself doesn’t mean you have to do EVERYTHING yourself, especially when that really means that it just doesn’t get done.

Everyone knows that when the inside of your house is clean, you feel better.  Walking through freshly-vacuumed rooms unencumbered by mountains of mail and clothes (Currently, because winter weather just ended last week, 3 of my dining room chairs are covered in layers of jackets and coats that we’ve worn in the past 2 weeks) just makes me feel calmer.  Otherwise, it’s easy to just let it all swallow you.  What I didn’t realize until just recently is that the backyard is the same way.  It’s not a pet or a child or something that commands my constant attention, but it needs to be maintained, and if I can’t do it myself, then I need to hire someone to do it, so that it doesn’t swallow me.  Also?  I want to have company sometimes, and having an overgrown poop garden for a backyard is embarrassing. 

So I guess that’s all that’s new.  I am vaguely optimistic about a job thing that is happening, but since I don’t really know how long I’ll have to wait before something happens, it’s not really worth mentioning.  All I’ll say is that I think that good things are happening, even if they are happening at an incredibly slow pace.  Maybe by the time summer comes around, I’ll have more to report.

Also, since I wrote this, I had a guy take the pond out.  The whole experience was pretty underwhelming, and basically, the company sold me (actually Elissa) a coupon for 8 HRS OF HANDYMAN WORK and instead of letting us work this (mildly drugged-looking young) man’s fingers to the bone for 8 hours to do all of my bidding, he just propped up our leaning fence and took out the pond, putting maybe an hour and 45 minutes in.  But we thought those jobs would take longer, and it didn’t seem like he could have done much else, ability-wise, so maybe it went as well as it could have.  At least our fence isn’t leaning anymore and the pond is gone, but maybe the guy missed the point of taking out such an eyesore, because he left me a new eyesore, a large pile of dirt and rocks where it used to be.  Overall, it’s a wash.  I’ve been thus far unsuccessful in finding a new landscaping company to come out and give me an estimate on cutting the lawn regularly and cleaning up the pond drama.  I imagine landscapers to be an aloof sub-culture of people who can’t be held down by ‘appointments’ or ‘offerings of weekly cash payments.’  If we could all be so lucky…

(Also also, never in my wildest dreams did I ever imagine that some day, I’d write over 1600 words about a patch of grass.)


First of all, I actually did hang the mirrors, and I even took some pictures of the project as I went, but I still need to take some pictures of them where they’re not just reflecting my messy room.*

But I think today’s going to be a busy day at work, so here is the good news and the bad news about today.

  • The good news is that I requested 2 PTO days and they were both approved, and everyone knows how much I love not being at work.
  • The bad news is that I am currently at work, and I am so so so tired.  Improbably tired!  Did I actually stay up all night jogging or doing math while I thought I was asleep? Is there a carbon monoxide leak in my house/car/office/brain that is making me feel so drowsy?  Inexplicably tired.
  • The good news is it’s almost Thanksgiving!  Every year, I buy 2 chocolate chip pecan pies from a friend to take to Thanksgiving dinner (This is not a traditional Thanksgiving pie. In fact, it’s closer to a traditional Kentucky Derby pie, but this is Pittsburgh, and we don’t really celebrate the derby so much.)  Anyway, with 48 hrs until my favorite holiday of the year, that pie is all I can think about.  Soon you will be mine!
  • There is no more bad news to report.  3 day workweek!
  • And one item that ended up kind of neutral:  Had to unclog the toilet last night and it made me start to re-think the dual-flush kit that I installed a few weeks ago.  I get that it works for Ikea, and I get that it works for Young House Love (where I got the idea/courage to attempt this), and also probably most of Europe, but I just don’t know if it’s right for us with our precarious Pittsburgh plumbing.  It doesn’t help matters that we still need a new fill valve, so maybe replacing that will make me like it more?  The jury is still out, but the good news is that the ole’ “Dump a Bucket of Hot Water in the Toilet” trick worked like a dream to unclog it.  So there you have it, kids, my first DIY tutorial.

I’ll say it again, this time in haiku:

Toilet not flushing?

Fill a bucket- hot water!

Dump it all in there.


*I just kind of think it’s hilarious that my solution is not to clean the room -that would be ridiculous!- but instead to take different pictures where the mirrors do not reflect the mess.

I have mentioned that I used to blog in high school and college, and some of these blogs even had custom graphics/backgrounds, because back then, I had a pirated copy of Photoshop 7 (yes, back even before they started calling them CSx), and I taught myself how to use brushes and make headers and blend layers and all of the things that bloggers should know how to do.  Then, I got a macbook and an office job and lost all of my photoshop skills.  I’ve since gotten rid of the macbook (ask me why I’m anti-Mac, I’ll give you an earful!) and tonight, I decided that if I’m going to blog, I should think about maybe including some images? It just so happens that because Elissa is in grad school, we can get a pretty steep discount on it so that I can avoid paying $500+.  In the meantime, I downloaded the free trial and it has been a rude awakening.   One thing is for certain: only suckers try to use Photoshop with a trackpad, so it looks like I’ll be digging out my wireless mouse to use.

So far, the only thing I’ve used it for is to crudely sketch out a possible design for these Ikea Honefoss mirrors that I bought.

I bought 2 packages and I want to stick them to my bedroom wall.  This is what I’ve come up with as a tentative layout:


You have no idea how painstaking it was A) making this graphic (and it’s not even that good!) and B) getting it into this post.  But the point is that I’m learning.  Also that I might have a bad-ass mirror layout on my wall sooner than later.

So when we last left off, I was explaining about the worst day of my job to date, and how I work for an insanely frustrating human being.  When I got home that night, I felt like I needed to be in charge of a project and I needed to succeed at something.

So here’s a little back story about the kitchen:

2 years ago, I had just started to live by myself after a sad breakup, and I was seeing someone new (my current girlfriend, holla!), but I was still pretty damaged and I was completely underwater financially, since my ex had been sharing the bills with me up to that point.  One day, I came downstairs to find that water had been dripping out of my kitchen cabinets on to my electric range, and I panicked.  I unplugged the stove, called off work, and then called some plumbing company that had a catchy commercial on TV, and they came out and diagnosed some (probably relatively small) leak in the branch lines that connected my shower to the main stack.  I guess somewhere along the way, he must have given me the option to just fix the leak, but because he was a salesman before all else and I was a panicked homeowner still trying to prove to everyone (most of all myself) that I could handle this solo homeowning gig, he convinced me to replace all of the second floor’s plumbing, which was really expensive.  I guess they did good work, and it is supposedly warranted for the rest of my life, but I should have called someone cheaper.  At the end of that day, I was left with a gaping hole in my ceiling and an even larger hole in my available credit on my credit card, and I decided that I didn’t want to tell anyone that I had called some big name plumber because I didn’t know what else to do and I’m such a damsel in distress, etc etc.

But then inertia kicked in, and I didn’t get the drywall fixed for a whole year.  And then when I finally did get the drywall fixed, the guy couldn’t see to smooth it out after it got dark that day because the lighting in my kitchen is weird, so he said he’d come back.  But then I didn’t call him and he didn’t call me, and a whole year passed AGAIN of me avoiding having my family over, because I hadn’t painted over the drywall and there was an obvious patch.

Something clicked in me recently, though, and I didn’t want to be afraid of my parents or friends stopping by anymore.  I wanted to maybe even invite them to stop over, so they could see this home that I have made with my girlfriend, which is actually okay.  My mom hasn’t been in my house since 2009 (although we live in the same city), so maybe it would be nice to have them over.  Besides, like I mentioned, I’m thinking about selling the house in the next few years, so I need to scratch these things off of my to-do list.  It’s nice to take some pride in my house instead of viewing it as a burden, and it’s nice to finally get out from underneath the inertia that had me feeling so down for so long.

So Elissa and I sanded/primed/painted on Wednesday and Thursday, and then I put the recessed lighting back in today, and it is finally back to how it was, 2 full years later.  Maybe there’s some kind of metaphor in there about healing, or maybe not.  All I know is that it’s really nice to finish something.  Especially when it has nothing to do with work.

So yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had at this job yet.

If you’ve read my About This Girl page, you know that I work in the online education industry.  I worked for 6 years at a big-name for-profit college company, but left when they started laying people off and freezing raises, because I wanted to leave on my own terms.  Also, my job as a ‘team lead’ was incredibly stressful, and I felt like the time was right.

My new job is at a cyber-school and I took a substantial pay cut to take it, but at the time, it seemed like the best choice and that I was making an investment in a more stable career.

Well, it turns out I was pretty wrong.  My new company is low-budget, pretty unstable, and it’s managed/owned by someone who is probably very intelligent, but not particularly tech-savvy and not particularly business-minded.  Also, he’s kind of a jerk who treats everyone as though they have no idea how to do their own job.  I have a lot of feelings and opinions about him, but I’ll abbreviate them in the interest of time.

My particular position is administrative, mostly.  I have some lofty title that may lead you to believe that I have more responsibility/authority than I do, but I’m basically responsible for pushing buttons all day.  There are a few variations on this:

-Some days are busy and I have to push more buttons than usual.

-Sometimes, there are priorities and I have to push the buttons in a different order.

-Sometimes, I’m not given all of the information that I need, so I have to deduce which buttons to push.

-Sometimes, for reasons outside of my control, I’m unable to push the buttons due to tech problems, so I have to explain this to various people inside and outside of the company.

-Also, unfortunately, sometimes I push the wrong buttons and I have to apologize thoroughly and sincerely to everyone involved.

At first, I was really mad when I found out how data-entry-focused this job was, especially because I wasn’t exactly wonderful at it.  I started at the busiest time of year, and I made typos, because I’ve never had a job like that before.  I felt really self-righteous, telling everyone who asked that I used to MANAGE people with jobs like this, and that I felt totally bamboozled by the interview process.

Eventually, it slowed down, and I realized that I have quite a bit of downtime, which I should probably appreciate, after living an all-job-all-the-time lifestyle for about two years.  I’m still looking for a new job, but not as actively, and, like I’ve mentioned, I’m still trying to come up with a game plan for how to change my situation.

Then, about 2 weeks ago, one of the managers here came down and said that one of his employees had given her 2-weeks notice and that he would need my help in her absence.  It sounded sort of occasional and casual, but the new responsibilities involve performing quality assurance (QA) checks on our online courses.  Since QA can be a bit of a resume buzzword (and I’m looking for more skills!), I was actually pretty excited about this possibility, because I want to make myself a more marketable candidate.

A member of his team gave me a half-hour training session, but she didn’t really tell me the scope or regularity of the responsibilities and I just sort of pushed it to the side, since the button-pushing demands of my own job had escalated and I really didn’t have time to do anything extra.

This all seemed fine, and I was still pretty gung-ho about the new work until yesterday, when the stereotypical hothead small business owner called all of us into a meeting and basically said that I’m accountable for the QA of all of the courses, effective immediately.  And it didn’t even seem like it would be effective immediately, as much as it sounded like it was already effective, as though if he found errors in any course, I would be personally accountable.   As if this wasn’t infuriating enough, he proceeded to say several times to me in his standard-issue condescending tone, “Do…you…understand??  This is important.”  The manager whose team is actually responsible for the content of the courses said nothing to indicate that I hadn’t really started doing these quality assurance checks or that the training I received was nowhere near thorough enough to be fully accountable.  He just sat there quietly while I was instructed by the owner that I have 2 jobs now.   For the same shitty pay.

This meeting put me behind schedule, but instead of working from home last night (for free!), I decided that I had already dedicated enough hours of my day to this guy and his crappy company, so I decided to paint the kitchen ceiling, because I needed to do something where I could control the outcome.

(To be continued…)



When I think of the insane owner, I think of this scene from A League of their Own, not because he makes me cry (he doesn’t) or because he yells in my face (he doesn’t), but because sometimes I feel like asking him if anyone ever told him he looks like a penis with a little hat on.  There’s no crying in cyber-school, after all.