Saturday, October 29, 2011

Kitchen Chronicles

The Original Kitchen
It's been awhile since we have finished our kitchen but I though I would give a little chronicle of the process.  Ever since I moved in our house about 7 years ago, I have wanted to tile the kitchen area.  There is a hallway from the garage to the kitchen that is carpeted and just gets nasty with all the traffic.  The kitchen is all infested with a pretty ugly type of lineoleum that has layers of caked in dirt.  This stuff needed to go.  You could say why did I not replace it years ago.  It was not motivation, it was more about Rachael finding the right type of tile.  Unfortunately or fortunately (in hindsight), she had bigger plans for the kitchen and wanted to update the whole kitchen including cabinets, countertops, and appliances (especially the microwave).  Of course, after seeing the price tag of new cabinets, countertops, and appliances, Rachael and I had to compromise.  We set a budget of $5000.  So we found that we could not get new cabinets or no new appliances.  We could however replace the backsplash, get new countertops, tile the floor, and at least paint the cabinets...and everything but the countertops had to be self installed.  Let the process begin.
Tearing down the sheetrock

I don't know about y'all but when I have a project to do I just want to get it done.  Rachael on the other hand has to be happy with the scheme.  It took awhile (according to my timetable), to find the right countertop, backsplash, and tile that we agreed upone, that matched each other, and fit within our budget  (I think Rachael's careful planning was well worth it).  We were even able to get the countertop during a sale and we found a groupon at a tile store.
Rachael painting the cabinets

So we made an appointment for the installation of the countertop which required myself to remove the existing backsplash.  I thought it just be a piece of cake in which I could just easily chisel them off the wall.  Not the case.  I ended up just tearing down the wall and putting up new sheetrock  The one benefit was that we decided to put in a hidden outlet that is controlled by an existing light switch for cabinet lighting.

Countertops installed
During the sheetrock installation, Rachael got an idea to take off some of the cabinet doors to at least start painting the cabinets.  I think Rachael had the idea just to do this in her leisure.  Unfortunately, it gave her ultra-motivated, yet one-sighted husband the green light to paint the cabinets.  Hell-week began and we hammered out those cabinets. We degreased, sanded, put on 1 coat primer and two coats white paint inside an out.  We we able to finish just in time to have the countertops installed.  Rachael's sister Becky visited at the time and graciously helped us out and put up with my stubbornness.  I don't think we would have finished them without her...thanks Becky!

A Master Tiler
After painting the cabinets, we had to install the backsplash.  I thought the backsplash was going to be one of the most difficult jobs, but we were able to put it up in a day (not grouted or sealed), and probably could have finished much sooner had we not been taking care of a very curious and energetic 1-year old.  During the process, I discovered that Rachael is an excellent installer of tile.  I just had to cut.  We ended up finishing around 11:30 that night, after our new neighbor came by to complain about the excessive noise from the tile saw..oops.  At least I was able to go finally meet him the next day and apologize.  Rachael and I were able to finish the grout and sealer in the next few days which did not take long.

Amazing!  The kitchen progress actually took less time than what my aggressive internal timetable was expecting.  Other than the tile floor, we were finished most of the difficult work.  Over the next few weeks we did the finishing touches of adding door hardware, cabinet lighting, caulking, and doing some touch-up painting.  Now for the floor.

Everthing Finished but the Tile
Doing the floor would take some pick the type of tile.  We were, however able to find a groupon for a tile store and could get the tile as a substantial discount.  The other issue was figuring out when to install the tile with a one-year old.  Rachael had a idea to have her nieces down in TX and then return them to Nebraska a week later and stay in Nebraska for two weeks with Caleb.  I did not have the vacation time and found that it would be the perfect time to tile the floor.  I would have to tile kitchen, pantry, hallway, bathroom, and hall closet (around 450 sq ft).  Not an easy job and definitely NOT a no brainer.  I won't go into details, but I am happy with the way somethings turned out and not happy with other things.  Most people who come see it are impressed, so maybe I am a perfectionist.  I was not able to finish before Rachael made it home so it took about 3 weeks on nights and weekends which included installing shoe molding, caulking, painting and reinstalling the sink and toilet in the bathroom.
Installing the Tile

 So you may ask, did we stay within budget?  I think so.  The countertops were $2600, the backsplash including grout, mortar, and tools were around $550, the paint, sandpaper, and degreaser were about $200, the tile floor (with groupon), grout, mortar, and shoe molding were around $1000.  We also bought a new kitchen faucet and garbage disposal which cost about $325 and we bought some slideout shelving which cost around $300.  This gives a grand total of $4975.  I am sure there is some extra-miscellanous stuff that I forgot to take into account which probably took the total above the $5k mark, but hey not bad at all considering others end up spending way above $10k for the same updates.
All Done!!

In hindsight, there are things that we would do differently, but I think Rachael and I are well-pleased with the results and greatly enjoy the look of the new updates as well as the cabinet lighting, new faucet, deep-single sink, and the slide-out shelving.

You might ask what is the next project?  Well after burning out Rachael and realizing that I had some issues with getting too focused on finishing a task and ignoring more important priorities like a son and a lovely wife, we have decided to take a break for awhile.  Rachael and I signed a contract so that we will not do projects in 2012.  Might be difficult, but I think we are up for the task.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

The Quick Fix??

This is a little rant based on my hesitation to use medications to provide relief for certain symptoms.  I am talking about antibiotics for infections, cold medicines for the cold, sleeping pills for insomnia, the list can go on.  My hesitation was increased when Caleb got an allergic reaction to an antibiotic (amoxicillin) for an ear infection last year.  My question is that even if Caleb did not get a reaction would it have been better for his bodies natural defense mechanisms to fight off the infection and does the antibiotics actually suppress the bodies natural defenses and cause the body to be more susceptible to infections in the future?  I am not sure.

This little rant has turned into a bigger question about our desire for a quick fix.  This question can be directed our medical industry, economy, and even our police state.  I will turn to the medical industry on the topic of drugs, but might write some other topics later on.

Furthering my discussion about antibiotics leads to the question about why medications are so popular.  If a person goes to a doctor with some type of symptom or chronic problem, does it seem like medications seem to be the fix to the problem?  I am only asking?  Does the visit (other than the wait) seem to be rushed without a thorough analysis of the fundamental problem?  For example, a person might have insomnia so a doctor might prescribe a sleeping pill without questioning whether the person drinks too much caffeine, does not exercise, etc.  I see all these drug commercials with the promise to improve your life (provide that you don't suffer from the large number of side effects) but can these really deliver and are doctors just prescribing these just because a patient asks. 

Do you see my point about a quick fix?  So why is the quick fix for health so popular?  Here are my thoughts (WARNING: CONSPIRACY THEORY)
  • A doctor is just trying to get the patient out the door and prescribing a drug is an easy answer.  Why?  Asking lifestyle questions takes too long (see footnote 1) and perhaps a patients is unwilling to change their unhealthy habits and will not budge until drugs are prescribed.
  • A patient just wants to relieve their problem without any lifestyle change.  Exercising an eating right is not easy.
  •  Money, Money, Money.  Drug companies make a ton of money selling drugs.  They market to the doctors (drug reps), patients (commercials), as well as the government (lobbyists) and they do a good job at it.
  • Sometimes the adverse effects of a drug are minimized (again see point 3- Money).   These drug companies control advertisements (notice nice music over a peaceful backdrop while giving side affects) and sometimes has some keys ties to government officials (CDC) who will recommend certain drugs or require certain vaccines.
One issue with antibiotics, vaccines, and prescribed drugs is the possible side effects, suppression of the bodies natural defense mechanism, allergic reactions, reactions to other drug,  and the long term effects of these drugs.  No one knows the full effects of these drugs, because either it cannot fully be determined, or the drug has not been in the market long enough to see the effects.  But is it less of a risk to take the drug, vaccine, or antibiotic rather than use natural methods??

Again, I am not an expert in this field but I believe this is a valid question. I admit that I am a little old fashioned and generally believe that toughing it out though a sickness is a better alternative, so I would love to hear your viewpoints on whether drugs are quick fix alternatives or a better alternative.

1. Our pediatrician for Caleb, although well recommended, tends to be a little busy.  Rachael has visited many more times than myself, but in the three times that I have visited, our pediatrician has started the conversation with "Boy that last parent would not stop talking", insinuating that we should make this visit quick.  That was just a sidenote.   For our 2nd or 3rd visit (I can't remember) when we started seeing symptoms of eczema for Caleb, we asked the doctor about the symptoms and she just seemed to minimize the issue without looking at his skin or even asking about our history.  It was not until the end of the very quick visit when Rachael, as an aside, commented about how my side of the family has had many cases of eczema.  The doctors face lit up and she finally realized that we were serious.  She almost had us out of the door, but realized that this was actually a case of eczema.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Friday, December 3, 2010

Watch out!

We think he'll be scooting by Christmas...

Sunday, November 28, 2010


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Thursday, September 23, 2010


Been a little busy the past few months, of course, with Rachael's and my beautiful son Caleb. He has been a lot of work but also a great joy. Rachael took a year off of work and brought all of her teaching material home and we needed storage. So, in the midst of trying to keep my job, while catching up on some sleep I was able to build some closet shelving and a built in bookshelf. Building the shelving and the built in bookshelf was pretty straight forward and I use MDF boards for the material. The time consuming part was caulking, puttying and painting the shelves. Rachael would have like a little more of my time during that process. Overall, this turned out fairly well, and I even was able to add crown moulding to all of the bedrooms and bathrooms upstairs. Also, I have to give a thanks to a coworker Jose who built the doors for me. Below are some pics of my process of making the built-in bookshelves.
Dead space - good candidate for a bookshelf

Bookshelf built - done with the easy part
Put up the rest of the crown molding. After caulking put on the primer
Done painting
Put on the doors
Painted the doors

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Toastmasters Speech #10 "Inspire Your Audience"

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No

Yesterday, I sat at the computer racking my brain on how to inspire the audience.  I am not sure about you, but for me, it has always been difficult to choose a topic to speak about, and even more try to make it fit within the constraints of the Toastmaster speech.  So, as I was sitting and thinking about how to inspire you guys....and the doorbell rang...another solicitor.  This guy was trying to sell some coupons for something that I did not need from some store that I never heard of.  This guy would just continue to talk and I could not get a word in.  All that I could think about how to get rid of this guys and what excuse that I could make to have this guy leave.  Finally, when I did say no, he asked why and I said I don’t want it.  He continued to give his spiel about how I needed it...I said no...then he gave a spiel about how he was trying to make a living.  Oh no, the trying to make a living guild trip...I say no...and he would not budge...finally I gave a forceful no and blatantly said that I don’t want the product.  He finally left and I was thinking.  What a pain?  Why is it difficult for me to say no to others?  Why is that others cannot respect my answer of a no?  What a great idea for a speech.  Today, fellow Toastmasters,  I would like to inspire you to “Let your “Yes” be “Yes” and your “No” be “No”.

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  It is easy to say Yes to someone, but why is it  so difficult to say no.  There are some that won’t take no for an answer.  They may use the guilt method by saying “to step up” or “what else do you have to do?”, and “Nobody else can do it”.  If you are like me then you tend to assume responsibility for the situation just because the person asked even if the request is unreasonable.  My advice is to set boundaries for yourself and learn to clearly communicate your boundaries.     How many of you have that friend who only calls when they need help, and they have that knack to get you to do something for them even if you don’t want to do it.  I have that one friend, who only seems to call me when he needs a favor to which I have difficulty saying no.  I have moved him 4 times in the last 5 years and he has tried to recruit me into his many pyramid schemes.  I finally caught on.  I wanted to help him out but sometimes he ropes me in to do more than I should, so Just recently he asked if I could help him move his shed to which I said yes with the stipulation that I only had 2 hours.  I got to his place and I found that he was moving again.  We moved the shed and he asked if I could move the rest of his stuff, to which I replied “No”, I only had 2 hours.  That felt good and my friend clearly knew the boundaries that I had set.    

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  Take time to consider the what you are asked.  This keeps you from saying Yes under pressure.  I have been trying to get in the habit and asking the person if I could think about their request before I give my answer.  This allows me to seriously consider whether I want to say yes to the request, whether I have the capacity to say fulfill the request, and whether the request is valid.  As a side note if they don’t allow for you to have the time then just say no and say that you were not give ample time to think about it.  I was asked by a member from my church to fill a leadership role, to which I said I will need to think and pray about it and talk with my wife.  Unfortunately, he said he needed my response now, so I said “NO”....He was taken aback and then conceded by saying that he would give me some time.  I later thought about it and found that I would be able to do it.    

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  How many of you are people pleasers like myself?  It is difficult to say No because you feel like you are letting the other person down.  How many feel that saying No could ruin your friendship or jeopardize your standing at work.  Saying No could hurt someones feelings which might be true.   But sometimes we tend to let go of what is important to us in favor of what another person wants.  This can cause us to take on more than we can handle and spread ourselves thin.  We get burned out.  Plus with saying yes to everything does not allow us to assess the value of the things we are asked.  We are just being pressured into saying yes.  I have a coworker that I work closely with on a project in years past.  Since then, I have moved on to other projects and he is still supporting the old project and he comes to ask favors to support this old project, to which I have said yes.  Of course, just recently I have been incredibly busy finishing a project and my coworker came needing another favor.  I said I did not have the time to which he pressured me by saying that his project needed to be finished soon.  I said let’s talk to our boss and he stopped asking me.  Of course, at first he was not happy about it and did not talk to me for a few days, but since then he has got over it. 

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  A good way to be good at saying “No” is to find what you want to say Yes to in life.  Setting priorities is a good way to find those things that will fit into your life, and those that cannot.  For instance, if you want to have more time with you family then say no to those things that keep you away from home.  If you need to exercise, make it a point to say no to things that keep you from exercising.  My Achilles heel is pushy solicitors.  They have a product they are selling or they are asking for donations for a non-profit organization, or a panhandler asks for money, and it is difficult for me to say no.  So, I had to have a list, which is very short, of things I would say yes to when approached.  For instance, I will decline giving money to a panhandler but will definitely buy them a bite to eat.  I will say yes to girl scout cookies, but will decline every other product or non-profit organization.  The point is to accept those things that you would want to give a resounding “Yes”.

Let your Yes be Yes and your No be No.  Now that I have explained a little about why it is difficult to say no.  I just wanted to discuss a little bit about taking serious consideration about saying yes and making commitments.  As I said before, it is easy to say Yes, the hard part is actually fulfilling your promise.   It could be said flippantly.  The point that I am trying to make is to seriously consider what you are saying “yes” to.  If you say “yes” are you able to fulfill that commitment?  Sometimes the commitment might have been more difficult than you thought.  Do your best to to fulfill you commitments to the best of your ability.  Just this weekend, as I was banging my head trying to write a speech, the thought of not doing the speech did come up, but, I thought, I signed up for it so I better make sure that I do it.  So let your yes be yes.

In conclusion, we all lead hectic lives.  We juggle between family, friends, our jobs, our hobbies, and our never ending to-do lists.  Even in Toastmasters with filling of roles, officer training, speech contests, district conferences there are more activities and events that we can handle. .  We can’t do everything so we have to learn to say no.  We have to set clear boundaries, we have to give ourselves time to think about making commitments, we can’t please everyone, we have to prioritize and find that yes, and we have to fulfill the commitments that we said yes to.  This allows us to let our yes be yes and our no be no.