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It's been a very productive month, about which we couldn't be more pleased and excited. If you need a refresher of where we last left our heroes, you can skim through the pictures in the September 5 update.

People kept asking us how many square feet we were adding on, and we finally got tired of answering, "We don't know," so we contacted the architects who informed us that we're going from 1000 square feet to 1,500 square feet.

The executive summary of this month's progress is:

  • Framing of new areas (porch, master bathroom, master bedroom closet, storage areas) completed

  • Water heater moved

  • Existing kitchen demolished

  • New plumbing roughed in

  • New electrical wiring roughed in

September 2, 2016 — Screened-in porch framing
Porch framing

September 4, 2016 — Kitchen, master bathroom, and master bedroom framing
Kitchen, master bathroom, master bedroom framing

September 6, 2016 — Porch roof framing
Porch framing

September 8, 2016 — Porch roof
Porch roofing

September 15, 2016 — Skylights / solar tubes arrive
Skylights and solar tubes

September 16, 2016 — Kitchen and master bathroom skylights
Kitchen and master bathroom skylights

September 16, 2016 — New roof over back storage shed, porch, and master bedroom
(as seen from our neighbor's yard)
New roof and side view from neighboring yard

September 17, 2016 — Fridge and microwave moved into the living room
in advance of the kitchen demolition

Fridge and microwave now in living room

September 17, 2016 — Bob removed cabinets, counters, and the stove!
Stove, cupboards, and counters gone

September 17, 2016 — Bob also removed the island that was in the kitchen!
Kitchen island gone

September 19, 2016 — Kitchen back wall, sink, window, and cabinets demolished
Gutted kitchen

September 19, 2016 — View from old kitchen opening into
new galley kitchen area replacing it

Kitchen sink, window, and wall gone

September 19, 2016 — Diana and Rollo at work
Dianna and Rolo working

September 26, 2016 — View from existing TV room into new master suite
(hallway in middle, closet to the right, master bathroom to the left, bedroom in the back)
View into new master suite

September 26, 2016 — New storage area in the hallway
that leads to existing bathroom

New hallway storage area

September 29, 2016 — Back of house (master bedroom, porch, and shed) walled and roofed
Back view of master suite, porch, and storage shed

September 30, 2016 — Exhaust fan and canned lighting in new master bathroom
Canned lighting

September 30, 2016 — Electrical work roughed in
Electrical wiring rough-in

September 30, 2016 — Plumbing work roughed in
Washer and dryer plumbing

September 30, 2016 — New air intake facing the master suite hallway
Air intake

Coming soon: Insulation, sheetrock, floors, and cabinets...

Some books I recommend

This entry is specifically for Leigh Day, but it's a public entry for all who might be interested.

I don't think I can present these in an order that suggests I liked any one more than any other; I obviously liked them all (for different reasons, though) if they're on the list.

So, I'll just make some comments about each:

Cutting for Stone
You might want to put this one on the back burner after just finishing All the Light We Cannot See, because it's a challenging read, but so worth it in the end. ☺ The only other caveat I'd add for this one is that I get a little impatient with a lot of description at the expense of moving the plot along, and I definitely experienced that in this book—a couple of times to the point of almost abandoning it. But, then I just started skimming over some of the long instances of description, and in the end, I was glad I stuck with it. It's a very compelling story overall.

Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
This is one of the quirkiest books I've ever read, and years and years and years after having read it, I still can't think of it without smiling. This would be a good "break" after All the Light We Cannot See." This line from the Goodreads synopsis resonates with me: "Told with dazzling narrative brilliance, Perfume is a hauntingly powerful tale of murder and sensual depravity." Caveat: It's quite an old book, so I can only assume it's still "in print."

So You've Been Publicly Shamed
This is non-fiction about the motives, inequities, and collateral damage that can result from public shaming. In addition to several case studies, there is a fascinating chapter about the enormity involved in repairing damaged online reputations. While reading this book, I sometimes thought of some of the postings that appear on memo-list or rdu-list (e.g., the "let's-start-a-garage-parking-shaming-list"). I read this for a book club, and we had great discussion about it. It's also our next book, since it was my turn to pick a book, in my Mostly Social Book Club.

South of Broad
I love Pat Conroy's writing, which is what prompted me to read this one. It did not disappoint. I've also read The Prince of Tides and The Great Santini by Conroy and loved those, too. Not unlike Paula McLain's Circling the Sun and The Paris Wife, it's beautifully written and a compelling story, which if you've read any Pat Conroy at all, you'd expect.

The Secret History
Another compelling, deeply involved, story from Donna Tartt of The Goldfinch fame, which I know you read. I read this one, maybe 15 or 20 years ago, and it still haunts me.

The Art of Racing in the Rain
If you're a dog lover, this one will undoubtedly make you boo-hoo, but it's very good. What I loved about this book was that the narrator, who's actually a dog, is the one who made me cry. That's pretty good writing, because in general, the idea of a dog being a narrator is completely ridiculous to me. :-)

The Kite Runner
This one ranks up in my top 5 books of all time. It's another beautifully written (hmmm, I see a theme in the books I like ☺), "sweeping" story with themes that include class, diversity, betrayal, redemption, and the love between a father and his son. This was one of those books I hated to see end.

A Prayer for Owen Meany
In the past, I have called this book "my favorite book of all time." It still ranks right up there, at least in the top 3. What I loved about this book was that it was the quintessential exposition of the notion of fate, and even though I'm more of a "you-create-your-own-destiny-kind-of person" than a "fate person," I was totally into this story the whole way through. I just loved it when we found out how the things Owen had thoughts and visions about all through the book unfolded at the end.


Remodeling and addition...

~Monday~ It's been quite a while since I've posted an update, but not as much as taken place as you might imagine would have since our June 29, 2016 update.

An unanticipated event happened on July 6—our air-conditioner died. We lived over the subsequent couple of days with the door closed to our bedroom with an AC window unit loaned to us by the company we bought our new unit from until they could install the new one. If it was going to happen, it was probably good timing, as we bought a bigger until, which will accommodate our somewhat significant square foot addition.

July 8, 2016 — Shiny new air-conditioner

With the team doing our foundation essentially pissing away a month—between them taking vacation one week; showing up to start their day rarely before noon, and then quitting early because it was "so hot"; and canceling because it might rain instead of showing up and working until (if) it did rain—we had a real lull in progress for most of July.

July 25, 2016 — Some equipment finally arrives

July 25, 2016 — And the foundation work begins

It looked good until after I used our bathroom and Bob noticed the water from both my shower and flushing our toilet draining out into that newly-dug trench. Apparently, it didn't occur to the guys digging that a perfectly new-looking PVC pipe might actually be in use. Getting that scheduled and repaired set us back another week.

July 25, 2016 — The drainage pipe was here (see red circle to the right)

July 30, 2016 — Drainage pipe replaced

August 8, 2016 — And we have cement

August 11, 2016 — Concrete footings poured

August 12, 2016 — Cinder blocks at the ready

August 17, 2016 — Foundation in progress

At this point, we were thrilled to be done with that foundation crew. And they had the nerve to ask our contractor if we were pleased with their work. Uh, that would be a resounding, "No!"

August 29, 2016 — Bedroom, bathroom, and kitchen framing started

August 30, 2016 — The screened-in-porch framing started

August 31, 2016 — Master bedroom, bath, and kitchen floor decking

August 31, 2016 — More serious framing materials

September 1, 2016 — Framing and homewrapping begins

September 1, 2016 — Hello walls!

September 1, 2016 —Bedroom and bathroom interior walls

Essentially, it was a long, slow summer, but things have really picked up, and we're excited about that.

Coming up (hopefully this week): A couple of internal walls have to be demolished and/or moved to widen our kitchen area and extend it into a galley kitchen that will open up onto the screened-in porch.

In The Real World (NCGLFF 2016)

~Thursday~ Bob and I attended the second of the four films we're seeing together this year at the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF).

This was another collection of short films with a math problem. Named In the Real World, the collection on the NCGLFF website was advertised as, "Do you love documentaries? Here's a collection of 9 short features for gay, lesbian, and transgender audiences on a variety of intriguing queer subjects." But alas, as you yourself can count, there were only 8 films in the collection. Math is hard.

And, truth be told, I might argue that, technically, there were 7 "films" and one "commercial."

Here are the synopses and my thoughts about them:


Synopsis: A man's experience with depression and homophobia shapes his life for the better, leading him to become an activist for the LGBT community through his YouTube channel.

Thoughts: This was a well-crafted film, with a likable protagonist who was open, thoughtful, hopeful, and entertaining. Themes touched on included childhood bullying, workplace harassment, bad relationships as growth experiences, soul-searching, depression, and becoming a voice for activism. It was interesting enough to make me want to check out McSwiggan's YouTube channel.

What"s A Gender?

Synopsis: Whether you are a man, a woman, or both classifications is irrelevant.

Thoughts: This was arguably my favorite film of the collection, but unequivocally, it was the most intellectually interesting one to me. These two sisters so defied gender classification, both knew it, and both were most unapologetic about it. My favorite scene was when they were describing what it's like when they walk down a street together—people stare at them with a "What the fuck?" expression on their faces. Personally, I found them mesmerizing, provocative, and quite thought-provoking.

Alzheimer"s: A Love Story

Synopsis: In this sensitive portrait we watch as Michael, Gregory's husband of four decades, struggles to connect with Gregory in the face of this tragic disease and to assure that Gregory's final days are redeemed by an awareness of Michael's undying love.

Thoughts: This film was undeniably touching and sad. The sanguine Michael teared up a lot, but held it together for the most part. The woman sitting in the row in front of us, however, bawled through most of this short documentary.

What was interesting to me about this film being in a Gay & Lesbian film festival was that it was essentially an "Alzheimer's story" and not a "gay story," about which I'm ambivalent. On the one hand, it showed that gay people are "just like everyone else" when it comes to "a non-discriminating disease like Alzheimer's," and what we want for our loved ones.

On the other hand, there can be some LGBT issues (still, even in 2016) around partners dealing with a healthcare system that isn't always supportive of LGBT people nurturing their loved ones in their final months and days. I guess, there have been no shortage of films exploring that, though.

You can watch a minute-and-a-half trailer of the film, if you're interested.


Synopsis: The world of square dancing is rather traditional, but see how gay square dance clubs in New York and California accept anyone, gay or straight, just as they are.

Thoughts: This film was just strange. It sort of made one point—that anyone is welcome there—over and over, and it just ended so abruptly. As Bob noted, most stories have a beginning, middle, and an end. This one pretty much had a beginning and that was it. The ending was when the screen just went black, and at first I thought the film had broken, because there weren't even any credits at the end. About a half-minute later, Pink Boy started.

Pink Boy

Synopsis: BJ, a butch lesbian, successfully avoided dresses her entire life until she adopted Jeffrey, who starts to dance in gowns and perform for her.

Thoughts: I thought this, too, was a well-done film. I loved that the two women who were raising Jeffrey were so supportive. My favorite line was when BJ said, "I've been a lesbian all of my life..." in the context of having never played with Barbie® dolls but was now, because that's what Jeffrey wanted to do. I don't know why that phrase tickled me so much. I guess it's because it sounded like something she had to work at for so long, instead of it just being who she was.

This story interested me enough that I'd love to see Jeffrey 10 years from now.

In The Hollow

Synopsis: In May 1988, girlfriends Claudia Brenner and Rebecca Wight were violently attacked while hiking the Appalachian Trail. Hear their story as Claudia returns to the trail for the first time since the incident.

Thoughts: This was my next-to-favorite film of the collection. It was a compelling story that elicited outrage, and its setting was The Appalachian Trail, which I had recently read about in the Bill Bryson book A Walk in the Woods: Rediscovering America on the Appalachian Trail.

Claudia noted that she wasn't able to attend her girlfriend's funeral at the time, because she was still in the hospital for the wounds she herself had suffered (which were not inconsequential) during the attack. She also said she knew that Rebecca's ashes were buried somewhere in Maine (I think that was where she said), and I was surprised to hear her say she's never seen them. (Some were scattered, but some were buried.) Perhaps said trip will be her next short film, or perhaps she's actually done it now and it's covered in her book.

In checking out the IMDB entry for this short documentary, my interest was piqued by the fact that "Claudia has since written a book titled Eight Bullets about the events that occurred in the forest and the resulting investigation and trial."

A Lifetime of Making Change

Synopsis: Maxine Wolfe, 74, reflects on a lifetime of activism as a coordinator at the Lesbian Herstory Archives in Brookly, N.Y.

Thoughts: This is the film that, arguably, could have been a commercial. It was so short that I literally thought at its conclusion, "Huh?" immediately followed by, "And the point was?" Ms. Wolfe's very last sentence gave you the impression that the entire 2 or 3 minutes, if it was that, was wholly self-serving. Definitely my least-liked film of the bunch.


Synopsis: Five queer and trans Asian-Americans from New York City explore their relationships with their family and culture.

Thoughts: Mostly, this film made me sad for people who still feel they are unable to live their authentic lives. Having been in the closet for the first 35 years of my life, I have great empathy for them.

Although to a lesser extent, this film also made me think about the "diluting of heritage and culture" in the descendants of immigrant families in the U.S. Being half Portuguese (my dad's parents immigrated here from the Azores Islands, Portugal) and half French-Canadian (my mom's parents immigrated here from Montreal), I'm living proof of such a dilution with the only honoring I do of either of those cultures is eating Portuguese food when my sister makes it.

Have you seen this collection of movies? If so, what did you think of them? See what what other movies I've seen since 2003.


Can't Live Without You (NCGLFF 2016)

~Saturday~ Bob and I attended the second night of the North Carolina Gay & Lesbian Film Festival (NCGLFF), where starting at 11:00 p.m. and running until just short of 12:30 a.m., we watched a collection of short films given the name "Can't Live Without You," presumably by the festival's screening committee.

On the NCGLFF website, this collection was advertised as, "Here's a collection of 7 amazing shorts that the NCGLFF committee just could not live without..." the veracity of which seems plausible on first glance. Until you get to the 6th film and there's not another.

The collection description also designated two of the films (Away With Me and Parting) as UK films and the other four (Dads, Occupy Me, The Next Stop, and Guidance) as U.S. films, for what that's worth.

Here are the synopses of the films and my thoughts about them:


Synopsis: Scott finds his morning interrupted by an unexpected visit from his father. When Scott's friend-with-benefits Doug also shows up, all three men find themselves in a quietly awkward world of ambiguity and things unsaid.

Thoughts: This was probably my least favorite of the six. It took forever for any of the characters to start speaking, which drives me crazy. It was very slow moving, and it left me with a lot of questions:
  • Did the dad already know his son was gay?
  • What was the picture of Doug doing on the wall, and why did his dad take it down?
  • How did it end up on the floor?
  • Why didn't Doug stop by to see Scott in the laundry room on his way out?
  • Was the dad gay?
The synopsis intimated (to me, at least) that all 3 of them would end up in the same room at the same time, which didn't happen. The synopsis also said that all 3 men find themselves in a "world of ambiguity and things unsaid." I didn't take that to mean the audience would, too. Maybe, in retrospect it was a brilliant film. Just kidding.


Synopsis: Two men whose flirtatious word-spar about sexual positions turns unwittingly into a debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, both taking sides against the other.

Thoughts: This film was an intellectual and philosophical inquiry into the implications of "topping" and "bottoming" in the parlance of gay male sex. I'm not so sure the conversation turned into a debate over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict beyond one of them being Arab and the other being Jewish and them using the term "occupying me" as a metaphor for the top being "in" the bottom.

The debate, as I remember it, was initially around what "Yes?" means as a single-word question just before "occupation," which evolved into a discussion about the power dynamics (i.e., taking power and giving up power) associated with being the top vs. the bottom during gay male sex.

This was one of my favorites of the six films, and it didn't help that the guys in it were totally my type.


Synopsis: A forty-something Brooklyn man rebounds from a long-term relationship by hooking up with a 23 year-old rugby player.

Thoughts: This was one of two films, the other being Guidance, that dealt with the trappings of being with a closeted partner. It was interesting enough, but nothing compelling. It had an ambiguous ending, which I'm not crazy about, although I'll take that—any day—over a "Hollywood happy ending."


Synopsis: Charles, a high school psychologist at a parochial school, struggles to keep his personal and professional lives separate and intact.

Thoughts: This film was also one of my favorites, as it wasn't "all gay, all the time," which is kind of ironic and a result of this film festival being in its 21st year, I suppose. In the early years I loved that most of the storylines were gay, gay, gay.

My change in preference probably also has to do with the abundance of gay characters in movies and on TV these days. In the early years of the festival, it was about the only place to see movies where, in the end (double-entendre totally intended), the guy gets the guy."

One of the things I liked about this one was the diversity in the characters' genders and sexuality and their problems.


Synopsis: A spontaneous holiday romance in Nice turns sour when there is a clash of intentions and expectations between the two men.

Thoughts: This storyline was a little weak in that it was hard to believe someone would go away, to what seemed like a fairly far destination, with someone whose last name they didn't even know. There was also a fair amount of ambiguity in this one, which as I've already stated, doesn't work well for me.

The best thing about this film was that I didn't remember that it mentioned Nice in the synopsis, and when they first showed them on the balcony of where they were staying, I thought, "That looks like the Promenade des Anglais," and then when they showed the beach scene, I thought, "Yep, all rocks, no sand, just like Nice." Many, many years ago, I spent 6 glorious weeks in Nice on an IBM business trip and my ($600-a-night) hotel was on the Promenade des Anglais facing the Riviera.


Synopsis: After a lifetime together, time has stopped for an elderly couple as they prepare to say goodbye.

Thoughts: This was a nicely done film that touched on a number of themes such as life-long gay relationships, "in sickness and in health," caregiving, death with dignity, and having some say in your own mortality.

Have you seen this collection of movies? If so, what did you think of them? See what what other movies I've seen since 2003.


Remodeling and addition (day 5)

~Wednesday~   Uht oh! Remember how the house looked when last we saw it? Here's a reminder:


Well tonight it poured, and while I slept on the couch in the other room, Bob calmly attended to all this:

Remodeling and addition (day 4)

~Tuesday~   It was a little rainy today, so not too much happened, but the removal of the deck was completed with the exception of one little section.

Porch, deck, and foundation gone
Porch, deck, and foundation gone

Porch, deck, and foundation gone (zoomed out)
Porch, deck, and foundation gone zoomed out

Remodeling and addition (day 3)

~Monday~   The dumpster was emptied today and demolition work continued on removing the rest of the porch out back.

Our first dumpster emptying
First dumpster emptying

Porch walls and roof gone head-on view
Porch walls and roof gone head-on view

Porch walls and roof gone view from left
Left-side view of porch walls and roof gone

Porch walls and roof gone view from right
Right-side view of porch walls and roof gone

Porch completely gone
Porch totally gone

Remodeling and addition (day 2)

~Thursday~  Welcome to the latest update and thanks for your interest in following along with our remodeling and addition adventure.

Several people have commented about how frustrating such a project can be, warned us to have patience as we proceed, and said that it'll undoubtedly be fraught with setbacks and delays.

Fortunately for us (and for the builder, because I do have high expectations and almost nonexistence patience), Bob has already been through a number of remodeling and addition projects on this house over the years. And we're working with the same builder that did the 2012 project, so that takes away a lot of the unknown right there.

The previous projects included:

  1. Added a linen closet in a hall area in 1989

  2. Replaced a roof around 1992

  3. Added central heat and air in 1996

  4. Remodeled the kitchen and converted a screened-in porch area, enclosing it to make it a dining area, around 1996

  5. Added on a deck in 1998

  6. Paved the driveway in 2001

  7. Added on a second bathroom in 2003—complete with sink, toilet, shower, and non other than a:

    wall urinal

  8. Converted the existing deck into a screened-in porch in 2007

  9. Added a lower deck in 2008

  10. Converted the carport into a garage and added on a front porch in 2012

  11. Remodeled the original bathroom (new sink and tiled floor and walls) in 2014

  12. Added and updated privacy fences over the years

Back to our current project...

Diana and Sean were back today. In Bob's affable and personable way, he has gotten to know each of them in the short amount of time they've been coming to the house.

  • Diana is a firefighter, she's from the Seattle area, and she came here 2 years ago for her job. She loves dogs (always a plus with Bob), and she has a lab.

  • Sean is also a firefighter. He has 4 little rat terriers, so he's also in like flint.

Our builder, Brett, who uses Diana and Sean as contractors, is also a firefighter. Things that make you go, "Hmmmm."

Here are a couple of pictures of today's progress, with the first one being a reminder of the starting point.

The back of the house before any work began at all
Back of the house

The lower-level deck is gone
Lower-level deck gone

The gutters have been removed
Gutters gone

Our first dumpster load is ready to be emptied
First full dumpster ready to be emptied
~Tuesday~  Bob and I are about to start an adventure. We're remodeling some of our existing house and putting on an addition.

The remodeling involves the current dining area, which will become an office; our current kitchen, which will become a dining area and galley kitchen; and our porch, which will be moved and changed a little. The addition involves a new master bedroom and bathroom, and a wet bar.

Here are the plans: (The areas that look like lattice work are the existing areas of the house that aren't being touched.)

House plans.png

We've been waiting a long time to get started, so I don't think it's that unreasonable how excited I was to see a dumpster in our driveway when I headed out to work this morning. (Hover over pics for captions.)

Empty dumpster head-onEmpty dumpster side view

I didn't really expect much more to happen today, as Bob is really the one who's up on the day-to-day scheduling with the contractor and workers. I just assumed we'd get the dumpsters today and that the work would start tomorrow.

So, imagine my surprise (and pleasure!) to find all this as part of the first day's progress, starting with these three "before" pictures: (Click on pics to enlarge.)

Back of house center viewBack of house left-side view

Back of house right-side view

And these three "after" pics for the day:
Left side of porch lattice and screening coming downBack side and right side porch screening down

Start of deck demolition

And so begins our long journey, which is estimated to take six months.



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