Thursday, September 22

House Disrepair

As you may know, we moved into a brand-spankin’ new home a couple years ago. This is the third brand-spankin’ new home we have bought in our career as grownups. I didn’t think anything could have been worse than our first one, where there had been a labor dispute during the final phase (which was where our house was of course), the experienced contractors walked off the job, and the builder had to hire anyone he could get to finish the houses on our street. As a result, a lot of the finish work was horrible. Ours was mostly cosmetics, poor cleanup, and water damage (it was an El Niño year), but nothing as serious as our next door neighbor, who had a two-story house, took a bath and when she pulled the plug she discovered that the drain was not connected to anything and all the bathwater ran through the floor to the dining room below, ruining their family heirloom dining furniture. The tub only went halfway through the hole in the floor/ceiling, so I guess they were lucky in that respect.

There are a million stories like this in California, mainly because production houses are built wiki-wiki and with the cheapest materials possible, and a lot of contractors are skinny, hard-drinking, dubious dudes. The houses aren’t worth a shit, it’s the dirt lot they sit on that is where the steep prices come from. Location, location, location. In our case, we have a 2200 square foot house and the price tag was around a million. That’s about $485 per square foot. Unbelievable, huh.

So here we are, two-plus years later, and our house is coming apart at the seams. No, really.

Last fall, as in most years, we had a powerful Santa Ana wind and it felt like the walls were being blown in by the Big Bad Wolf. As it turns out, they were.

Because of these winds and the fact that the hills are alive here, houses are built to be flexible. Slabs torque, walls move, earthquakes happen, it’s all part of the magic that is California. Bear with me. After many months and various engineers and experts crawling around our house, I finally have a grasp on what and why this happened. But first, pictures.

This is the first spot we noticed where the wall separated from the ceiling.

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Then we saw more and more places like this. It was scary because we didn’t know how much bigger it would get. As it turned out, this was about it. But still—holy shit!

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Then the wall started lifting from the floor, or maybe the floor was dropping down, we didn’t know. We put the coins in there to show scale.

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We even had cracks outside. Yikes!

We had more engineers and specialists in here than you could imagine. No one really knew what they were up against, and no one wanted to assume responsibility ($$). Who messed up? Was it the slab guys? The framers? The farmers?

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And then we learned some of our neighbors were having similar cracks, but we were the only ones whose floor was falling. So we were what you might call ground zero.

Speaking of ground zero, this really is it. The attic. Sort of makes me think of the movie Poltergeist.

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Are you still with me? We have learned that the fault lies in the trusses. What’s a truss? I am so glad you asked! Truss 101, coming up! No! Not that kind of truss! Please!

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THIS kind!  The trusses are fastened tightly to the exterior walls. But not the interior walls, which divide the rooms, are not load-bearing, and are supposed to remain in place when something makes the house move (earthquake, wind, big bad wolf). When they are installed correctly. Which they weren’t.

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In a nutshell, when the house moved with the wind, it took the interior walls with it. Capisce?

Here’s how it looks today. Pictures are worth 1,000 words.

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They are literally unbuilding the house. We are in day four of a three-day job, and my guess is they’re barely at the halfway point.

“Ladies and gentlemen, this is your stewardess speaking... We regret any inconvenience the sudden cabin movement might have caused, this is due to periodic air pockets we encountered, there's no reason to become alarmed, and we hope you enjoy the rest of your flight... By the way, is there anyone on board who knows how to fly a plane?”

Saturday, September 17

Just More Golf Stuff

Probably pretty boring for you. But it’s what I have been doing outside of reading and cooking and taking care of house/home. Oh, and a few parties. We party a lot around here, that’s for sure. Once a week it seems.

First up, I played in a golf tournament and our team won. By a mile. I was teamed up with my so-called “Kinda sorta future son-in-law maybe,” Steve, who is in my golf group—I introduced him to my stepdaughter Michelle’s best friend Holly, whom I have known since she was a kid, and who I adore. They have been dating (do they still call it that?) and having fun for about six months. Happy, happy.

Anyway, back to my golf story. We played what’s called a scramble, where everyone hits their ball from the tee and then the team (usually 4 but we were 3) decides whose ball landed in the best position then everyone hits their next ball from that spot. They keep choosing the best position to hit from until the ball is holed out. It’s a fun team experience. Back to Steve: Steve hits the ball a ton—an eye-popping distance.  Needless to say we hit his ball most of the time. It would take me at least two strokes, maybe three, to get where his ball lies in one. The other guy on our team, he was great on approach shots, so he did his part, and we strategized that I, the weakest player, would putt first so they could read the line. Well, pretty much most all of my long putts went in the hole. It was crazy! We couldn’t believe it. We shot  64! I was the scorekeeper and I remarked how much fun it was recording 3s and 4s instead of 5s and 6s. We had only one bogey all day. Nobody else could believe it either, so we had to convince them it was an honest score. The prize was a box of balls and a golf cap, both courtesy of TaylorMade where one of our member’s sons works, plus bragging rights. Here’s a picture of Steve:

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That evening we had our annual golf dinner (lasagna and garlic bread—which I couldn’t eat [gluten] and I was starving), and I left my phone home because I wouldn’t be using it, not even thinking of its camera. Oh well. Trust me when I say we had a great day and a fun evening. The weather was absolutely perfect.

The week before, I played with my gal pals at Arroyo Trabuco. There had been a fire the day before and it was still smoldering, so I got out my phone, which has usurped my worthless camera which has been shelved. Here are photos:

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Sad, isn’t it. They say it was started by a golfer who hit a rock with a golf club and it made a spark. We all thought a discarded cigar was more likely, but I suppose the rock thing could happen if the golfer was hitting out of the rough, it’s pretty dry out there. And often windy.

 

You can tell it’s fall around here because football is dominating the TV. During the week, the political news keeps us entertained. It’s a crazy election.

Friday, September 2

End of Summer Wrap-up

August has slipped away and we are at the threshold of Autumn. Although here in the southwest Autumn is really only a date on the calendar, because September and even October are some of our hottest months. And even November, if we get a lot of Santa Anas. When most of North America enjoys a nip in the air and the first snowfall, we are still wearing sunscreen and white sandals.

I don’t have a lot to report for August, but I did want to report that all is well with JJ and me. I’m still here. I got beyond my shoulder tendinitis and returned to golf, which made me very happy. I pretty much sat on my can for the four months I was dealing with that, which means I put on some weight and man is it hard to take off!! Mornings have been cooler lately so I have been able to walk around the hood in Geezerville and get my heart pumping. It’s hard to get motivated to get out there, but once I do, it feels GOOD! And I have more energy throughout the day. All I have to do is lace up my sneakers and step outside.

I didn’t do a damn thing in the studio, either. It was hard to push a quilt with my painful shoulders, which is where the push/pull is generated from, and my vision is less than ideal when doing close work, which is what I do when I do it, not to mention I use invisible thread. I have a magnifying gizmo on my machine and my reading glasses are 3.25 these days. Distance vision is pretty good, but I can’t see detail up close. It’s very hard to describe.

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Anyway, I’m going to give making some art a go. I have some ideas and plenty of fabric, and I’m out of excuses.

So what did I do in August? Well, I watched a lot of Olympics. Actually my husband did, he loves anything with a score in it, and Track & Field is his favorite of favorites. He has a lot of favorites when it comes to sports, and the Summer Olympics only comes once every four years, so he was glued. Mostly I watched it by osmosis, looking at the TV as I passed through the room, only actively watching the gymnastics, which was captivating. I held my breath during the balance beam routines.

We went to a summer concert in Carlsbad and all the little girls were doing backflips and cartwheels. I told Savannah about it and of course she had to show me she could do them better than anybody. That girl spends as much time upside down as she does upside up. The rodeo was in town last week and we had the fam & friends over for a post-rodeo barbecue on the terrace Saturday.

We had a fire in Silverado Canyon, near where I play golf, and I took a photo of it to show JJ because he said it was not smoke, just clouds. They got the fire out within a 24-hour period. There is so little water left that our golf courses are no longer allowed to water. This is the first hole at Tijeras Creek, and it looks pretty good, but there were way too many bare spots out there. I think brown dead grass is the wave of the future. It is already like that in Palm Springs, only the tees and greens are green, the rest is ugly brown. Doesn’t help the homeowners real estate values any. These are some mega-expensive homes.

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Right before I tore up my shoulder (April) I took some pictures of the prickly pear cactus blooming on #16 at Tijeras Creek. Now that I am back, the flowers have come and gone and we are left with the prickly pears. These will turn purple and get big and juicy, like a plum. Stay tuned. You could pick them but they have hair-like prickers on them that you can’t see but you can feel. Ask me how I know. I wonder why they don’t call them prickly plum cactus.

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I have also been caught up in the political news. Every day more and more secrets about HRC’s emails are revealed and it is really interesting! I don’t discuss politics here on The Pages, and I am neither a republican nor a democrat. Not officially, anyway, but if you must know, I lean toward conservatism, and I don’t favor either of the candidates. But it is SO interesting! JJ has long been a political junkie but I wouldn’t say that applied to me until lately. But now I’m hooked!

One more thing: My cyber-friend Mary recently blogged about traveling vicariously through other people’s blogs and she showed some photos from Italy. Well, here is one more Mary, I took it last November. I bet you can guess where.

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Monday, August 1

Summer in the Southland

We had an almost week-long string of parties and events last week. It started off with going to the Pacific Amphitheater to see Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons. Now, Frankie et al was never one of my favorite bands in the 60s, but we were invited by a friend to celebrate his birthday. So I had low expectations. Boy, was I wrong.

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Frankie still has a good voice which doesn’t sound much different from 50 years ago. Can you believe it has been that long? They actually sound better now, because of the band and more modern instruments, and the four young new Seasons, who are incredibly talented. Valli is 83 years old. I don’t know how he keeps up with his schedule. Of course everyone knows the words to Sherry Baby, and he invited us to sing along. They put on a great show.

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The next day our good pals Alan & Cheryl came for our annual golf-and-ponies thing. We kicked off the fun by dining al fresco at Arroyo Trabuco, where I play golf. The band was pretty good and being outside at night is always magical.

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Friday we played golf at beautiful Tijeras Creek. Man, it was way too hot out there. 90° at least. It was my first time to play since I hurt my shoulder four months ago. (FOUR MONTHS!) I did okay, and Cheryl and I both scored about the same. No damage to the shoulder as far as I could tell, but my golf clothes shrunk in my closet! But it was great to be out on the course and I’ve already signed up to play with the girlfriends next week. I’m BACK!!

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Below is the #10 par 4 over water. I hate this hole—it’s short, but really hard. I didn’t play all the holes, I sat out the long ones, partly because I was being careful of my shoulder and partly because it was just too bloody hot.

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Saturday we went to the track at Del Mar. I don’t know why I bother going, I never bet (thus I never lose) but I enjoy the pageantry and looking at the horses in the paddock.

It was seriously hot and humid in the grandstand—no air at all. We were glistening in the heat.

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We took some peeps with us. From left to right are Alan, Holly, Savannah, Chris, and Michelle. Steve, Holly’s beau, was recovering from surgery and couldn’t join us.

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After the races we went to dinner at Red Tracton’s. It was way too expensive and huge portions. We shared a meal and still were stuffed to the gunnels.

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Sunday we made breakfast and bloody Marys for Alan & Cheryl, and sent them on their way back to Los Angeles. A few hours later we had the D’s—Don & Danielle—over to play bridge.

I found I had to be careful telling the difference between the black suits. A reality check that’s troubling.

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Today we are resting. Doing nothing. Thanks Cheryl, for the FB pics.

Wednesday, July 20

Lazy Days of Summer

I have been decidedly unproductive lately. I had intended to return to golf today but my shoulders are still iffy and one more week won’t hurt. If they don’t get better I may give up golf altogether. Yes, the thought has crossed my mind and, to my surprise, I am really okay with it. It has been hot—and playing in the searing summer heat is not my idea of a good time. I know I used to complain about too-early tee times, but here we tee off around 10, so we are out there in the midday sun in summer. That’s a headache waiting to happen. So I can wait.

I was at book club yesterday and, looking out the window, I saw this magnificent arbor of Palo Verde trees. I had to go get my camera. Aren’t they beautiful.

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Palo verde translates from Spanish to “Green Stick.” The branches of these trees are green year-round. “What is that, Father?” “Why Son, that is a Green Stick Tree.”

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I walked beneath the arbor to get some more photos and it was a hive of activity. Bees everywhere—hundreds, if not thousands. I thought about my mother, who was so deathly afraid of bees. I have no fear of bees. I tried to capture some bees in a photo but they were moving way too fast.

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See any bees? Maybe one, but you could sure hear them.

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The ground below is littered with tiny yellow petals. We had one of these trees many years ago and it was a mess to clean up every summer. I could see it from the front window—glorious. It was the centerpiece in a cactus garden, and cleaning up the yellow petals from the prickly cactus was impossible. So we didn’t.

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Here is one of our clubhouses. That tree is a Jacaranda. They are beautiful in spring, but they have lost most of their purple flowers by now. There is one at the end of every street in our section of the community.

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This is the book we read in July, The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende. We all liked it. It’s hard to say what it’s about because it is about so many different things. It covered WWII, Japanese internment camps, forbidden love, and weed-smoking seniors in a retirement community. It was a real chop suey of a story.

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Tuesday, July 12

Fire

Everyone knows Southern California has wildfires. It’s a fact of life here, just like earthquakes and El Niño winters, although the latter hasn’t produced much rain in a very long time, and we’re in a serious drought, so it’s tinder-dry out there. All over the state.

This is the view outside my front door. We live in what is considered a “high-risk fire area.” No lie. Just look how dry those hills are. The nearest hill, there are sprinklers to keep the drought-tolerant plants alive to prevent landslides should we actually get rain someday, but those dun-colored hills beyond? Quietly waiting for a spark. Plus it’s fairly windy up here.

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Yesterday I was doing housework and smelled smoke. Sniff sniff, yep that’s smoke. I went outside to see the source and saw smoke in the sky. Just a little, so I went to the back and this is what I saw—smoke, and the wind was blowing this way.

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I called 911. They were already on it.

A few minutes later it was bearing down on the neighbors’ houses, and it was coming right at us. You could hear it as it gobbled up the dry grass.

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Here comes the OCFA helicopter to drop fire retardant. If there are swimming pools nearby, the copter can suck up water from them, or from the ocean, by way of that spout thing hanging down. We have a pool at the club but it’s not chopper-accessible. The copter circled round and round for hours, going and returning with retardant. This was a small fire, but in a major fire they bring in commercial jets to drop massive amounts of retardant.

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The firefighters have arrived and they are chasing the fire up the hill, away from the houses.

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The OCFA copter comes in for another drop.

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You can see the firefighters on the ridge. This was a very small fire by comparison, but you never know—even devastating fires start small and, if they get hot enough, create their own wind and can consume whole neighborhoods faster than a speeding bullet. You can only watch and hope for the best.

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It’s only a matter of time before these hills burn. But a three-truck fire station is less than a half-mile away, and there are fire breaks up there that you can’t see from here. I hiked up the hill this morning and saw them—I hadn’t noticed before. They had this fire out in three hours and it didn’t even make the five o’clock news. But it makes you grateful and thankful for firefighters.

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And our house has no exposed beams. It’s completely sealed. And we have a whole-house sprinkler system.

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When the devastating Laguna Beach fire happened in 1993, they learned what a good idea that was.

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Sunday, July 10

Epiretinal Membrane

I have recently been diagnosed with Epiretinal Membrane, or Macular Pucker. It’s not a happy thing, but the good news is I don’t have Macular Degeneration, which is what I was initially diagnosed with…whew, that was depressing!

So what is this thing? It’s a film, or tissue, that grows over the retina like Saran Wrap. Like used, wrinkled Saran Wrap. What causes it? Age, mostly. Genetics probably plays a part. Everything’s genetic nowadays. Hey—you live long enough, stuff goes south.

I googled it to try to get some pictures to show you what it looks like from my point of view, but I didn’t have much luck. This is kinda close, I do see things in pixels a little like the picture below. I have it in both eyes., but my right eye is way better than my left.

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But that doesn’t really capture it. So I Photoshopped some pictures to show you.

The wrinkles aren’t laid out in a grid pattern like below, they’re more like random tree branches, but the idea is the same.

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Looking at vertical lines is really difficult—I can’t stand to look at my stainless steel refrigerator, it makes me crazy. The lines are broken.

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Thank goodness for my good eye!

The first time I noticed something was wrong, I could not see the green and white rope on the golf course. I couldn’t see it to step over it and almost did a face-plant on the fairway. I was bitching about why don’t they just make it solid white so you could see it, and my playing partner suggested I get my eyes checked.

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Okay, so now what. They can do surgery and pull it off, but that’s some scary stuff—me not think so!

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Enough about that! I am fine, and I am making excellent progress with my shoulder and my golf swing. 98%! I was going to play this week but decided to give it an extra week while I practice, practice, practice! Today I finished the whole bucket [small] and even used my driver. A milestone! How do I feel? I ache and I’m tired. But I’m not in pain.

We are going to a paver party tonight. What’s a paver party you ask? Well, down in the flats (as opposed to the hillside where we are) five houses are built around small cul-de-sacs, and the shared driveway/courtyard is covered with pavers. So one pod (I call ‘em pods because I don’t know the proper term) of five houses take turns hosting the other pods. JJ’s bridge partner lives in the host pod and we are invited. It’s a pot-luck and we are taking little meatballs in grape jelly and BBQ sauce. Weather promises to be postcard-perfect.