Category Archives: Family

Photos of family events.

Exploring the sewer

We’ve had to have the RotoRooter guys out twice so far this year, so we took their advice and arranged to have a team come out, excavate a possible blockage in the line and do a “spot repair.”  They arrived about 10:30 this morning.

Five and a half hours later, we all know a lot about our sanitary plumbing that we didn’t know before.  The house is 100 years old, and it turns out that the sewer main and its associated inputs are also about 100 years old, and the main line is clay pipe.  We’ve also discovered three sewer cleanout openings we didn’t know we had, one of which had a lower cleanout lid leading to a flapper valve (meant to prevent backflow from the street into our yard, which is slightly lower than the line in the street). 

The expert they sent out (a very experienced supervisor) believes all our backup problems relate to the flapper valve, which had rotted away from its attachment and was rolling around loose on the floor of the main pipe.  The expert was quite surprised to find this valve in our parking strip, next to the street; he said they’re usually placed right near the house.  But there it is, and they had to dig up about 4 inches of dirt and several Algerian iris plants to expose the cleanout lid. 

The good news is that, although there are some minor issues with the main pipe, the flow to the street from the house is unobstructed and the clay pipe is generally intact.  Now that they’ve removed the loose flapper, he thinks we should have no more backup issues.  The area where we thought we had a blockage turned out to be a junction with a former storm drain, which was patched into the main sewer many years ago, and was closed off and capped by our neighbors more recently, when they redid their own plumbing.  So we don’t need anything more now except putting everything back together, re-laying the concrete they dug up beside the house (where the old storm drain was), and leaving all the cleanouts accessible.

And this is a good thing, because if we ever do decide to do a trenchless sewer main replacement, it will require digging up the street out near the main (an Oakland city requirement) at our expense.  With traffic management, and repairs to the street.  And that will cost us somewhere in low five figures.  I asked why they have to dig up the road if the replacement is “trenchless,” and they pointed out that they have to be able to get at all the ends of the line.

If we ever sell the house, we’ll have to do it, because of the local requirement, imposed by the local water company shortly after the major remodel we did in 2012!  If we tried to do that remodel now, we’d also have to do the sewer line replacement.  Since we don’t plan to move out any time soon, we’ll worry about that later.

Also posted in Neighborhood Tagged , |

The Old Quilt

We visited my sister right after Christmas.  Among other things she was recovering from a fall which chipped a bone in her foot, so we didn’t get out much, but we had a good time anyway.  Jim and I went hiking in the Red Rock recreational area, especially the Calico Hills:

Calico Hills

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Also posted in Personal Tagged |

Fall in Las Vegas

I've been spending the weekend with my sister in Las Vegas, keeping her company while her husband (as usual) is at the Reno Air Races.  At least this year nobody up there died.

One of the things I do while I'm here, since getting out of bed is hard for her and takes a long time, is get up around 6 AM or so, let the two dogs out into the fenced yard, and go back to bed.  We let them back in and feed them when we get up a couple hours later.

Yesterday morning around 6 AM, I did something stupid.  I got up, went out into the hall without turning on a light, and turned left toward Sue's room – and tripped over Duke, the Doberman, who was sleeping outside my room.  (Duke likes me.)  I would have seen him if I'd turned on a light. I did a faceplant – I landed on my right eyebrow.  And my left knee. 

This was stupid.  It also began a 3 week period in which I'm more likely than usual to fall again, and in which I have to take an airplane flight, and move house.  (Details about that last in another post.)

The good news is that I got ice on both bruises within 10 minutes of the fall; my sister has a freezer full of icepacks.  I iced them 4 times yesterday and a couple of times today, and nothing except my forehead is even especially tender to touch.  But there's no denying it:  I have a really spectacular shiner.  I look like a raccoon.  And my knee looks about the way you'd expect.

No, I do not plan to post a photo.

It shook me badly.  I've fallen a couple of times, but I've never hit my head before, and it scared me.  I was shaky all day, and Sue was shaky all day, she was really upset that I fell.  We're both slowly getting over this, but it wasn't how we thought the weekend would go. 

Duke has been extremely apologetic; he regularly comes up and leans against me, and puts his head between my knees if I'm sitting.  Poor dog, it wasn't his fault.

Also posted in Personal Tagged |

Odd Week in Las Vegas

My sister has lived in Las Vegas for the last 20 years or so.  (A long way from The Strip, I may add; we neither of us gamble; she’s a desert rat, and so is her husband.)  She currently can’t travel due to health problems; so once or twice a year I fly over to Vegas, or Jim and I drive over, to visit.  I almost always visit in September, for various reasons (more on that later); and I just got back from the latest visit yesterday.

The first odd thing was the weather.  I arrived Monday afternoon in the middle of an absolutely spectacular sky filled with big white cumulus clouds, shading into cumulo-nimbus.  In desert terms, we had a thunderstorm building; I was relieved it held off until after my plane landed.  But – it wasn’t especially hot.  The high was only 92 – to some that may seem a lot but I’ve been there in September when it was 117.  Ninety-two is merely balmy for Vegas.  It didn’t top 100 the entire week – very unusual.

The thunderstorm happened Monday night to Tuesday morning, and I couldn’t figure out for the longest time what was causing those flashes of light in my room at three in the morning.  Headlights on the cross street (where there’s essentially zero traffic)?  Is the battery going in the smoke detector (but why no noise)?  I don’t reason very well when I’m half asleep, but I finally found an east-facing window and looked out into one of the more spectacular lightning storms I’ve ever seen:  big honkin’ bolt lighting, way across the valley, too far for us to hear the thunder.  (This is why my brother-in-law has multiple lightning rods on the house.)  Now I knew what it was, I could ignore it, so I went back to sleep.

In the morning it was – raining?  In Las Vegas?   Yes.  The dogs were appalled.  We let them out into the yard and they practically took the paint off the door coming back in.  The desert tortoises in the back yard refused to come out at all.  This meant some very frisky dogs that day, because nobody wanted to take them out for a walk in the rain and mud – including the dogs.  It rained for several hours but dried up by noon, and in the afternoon the news began showing photos of the flooding in Henderson, which got Even More Rain.  It rained on and off all day and through Tuesday night.  The weather people Tuesday afternoon were marveling that the high temperature was 78, recorded at 1 AM; but looking back at the week’s stats I see it actually got up to 88.  Wednesday the high was 85 – the “low high.”

By Thursday morning things were settling down, no more rain, but the high Thursday was still only 88.  Friday was quiet, a little warmer; my sister went to physical therapy, I studied SQL.  Then around 5:30, I heard her exclaim something, and went out to find her staring into space.  JD just called, she said.  He says he wanted to tell me he’s alive.

OK, I’ll turn over the hole card.  I was visiting my sister (who has to have someone in the house with her) so my brother-in-law could attend the Reno Air Races.  He’s gone every year for as long as I’ve known him; he is himself a pilot, now retired; he flew fighters in Vietnam and airliners for NorthWest.  The Reno Air Races are a big deal for him and his service buddies, and they were all there when the P51D Mustang crashed.  His preference for sitting at the top of the stands probably saved him; he was about 200 feet from the point of impact.  Fortunately none of his immediate group was severely injured, although it took him until 9 o’clock Friday night to find them all, and one or two of them caught some frag.

For those of you who have read some of the wilder speculations about this incident, the pros (my brother-in-law’s buddies) are convinced that the crash was an equipment failure – they think the plane lost an elevator stabilizer, and frankly their description of what happened next suggests that a brilliant pilot died trying to kill as few people as possible.  I doubt seriously that the pilot’s age (74) was a factor – if he had been impaired in any way, from what they said, he’d probably have taken out the whole grandstand.

So the rest of my vacation was spent listening to my sister answer the phone about every 15 minutes, and repeat, “JD is all right…”

The flight home was totally uneventful in clear calm weather, and I’m glad to be back.

Also posted in Nature, Personal, Vacations Tagged , |

The Joys of Retirement

For once I’m not talking about my retirement; after four years I’ve got a routine established, weird as it may look to anyone else.  No, this is about my husband.  He retired a week ago yesterday, and turned off the alarm clock for the last time.  Working 45 miles away at a job that began at 8 AM, he used to get up at 5:50 AM and leave the house a little after seven.

This morning he commented that his new schedule had a downside.  When he was working, he used to go out and cruise the garden after breakfast for a few minutes, looking for snails and slugs to remove.  After an early incident when he accidentally sprayed the rosebushes with RoundUp, he reduced chemicals in the garden to a very small minimum, and his manual snail control methods kept things pretty well under control with only minor amounts of snail bait.

Well, that was when breakfast was at 6:30.  When “after breakfast” is after 8 AM, there aren’t any snails visible.  They’ve had dinner and gone back to their holes.  As far as I know he’s still mulling this over.  If the alarm starts going off at 6 AM again, I’ll know why.

Going Dancing

The men in my father’s family were charmers, all of them – including Dad!  My sister recently told me a wonderful story about Dad, which I must share.  I assume this happened in the summer of 1975 because that’s the only time in the ’70s I didn’t have a job that would have kept me from taking the trip I describe.

In 1975 I was in the process of divorcing my first husband, and was living with my parents, stony broke and unemployed.  My mother worked for the local library, and planned to attend a library convention in Los Angeles; we decided I would go with her for company.  This left my sister and my father living in the Napa house together for a few days.  Dad was retired at this time and was either 67 or 68 (I don’t recall the exact date).

My sister says one evening while Mother and I were gone, Dad came into the living room all dressed up in a suit and tie (and probably a hat; Dad was a very sharp dresser).  She asked him where he was going, and he said he was going to Santa Rosa to the senior center dance.  “You can’t go to the dance all by yourself,” she objected, whereupon he said that of course he could, he was going to dance with all the widow women.  He went out the door and didn’t come back until 2 AM.  My sister complained that she had sat up waiting for him, and he said that was her payback for all the nights he sat up until 2 AM waiting for her!

When she told me this, I asked her if she went to the dance with him, and she said he wouldn’t let her – he was afraid she’d cramp his style!  I couldn’t have posted this while Mother was alive, but she’s gone, God rest her, and it’s too classic not to share.

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Saying Goodbye

We never know when this will happen.  My cousin Michael Maguire died the morning after Thanksgiving.

I didn’t see much of Michael as an adult, but when we were children, his family and my family and yet a third set of cousins did Thanksgiving and Christmas together, every year, at one house or the other.   He was part of my childhood, part of my growing up.  When my Dad died, and we sold the house, Michael came and spent the whole day cleaning out the garage; my sister and I unanimously agreed that he should have his pick of Dad’s tools.  He married late, about 7 years ago; I didn’t make the wedding, but I went to the party he threw afterward.  I went to his father’s funeral, and his mother’s, and his sister’s.  I probably went to his grandmother’s funeral (she was my aunt), but that was back in the ’70s and I don’t remember it.  Now I’ll go to his – a military funeral, he served a couple of hitches in Germany in the sixties, didn’t go to ‘Nam.  He was two years younger than I am.

Michael was a quiet man, not talkative; a man who liked to do things with his hands.  There was a time when he drank more than was good for him, but he stopped drinking, and didn’t start again.  Solid, reliable, and kind – not the sort you want to lose.  He died in a hospital, he’d been in one hospital or another since July.  Sometimes modern medicine just doesn’t do it.  At least he’s not in pain any more, no longer in a strange bed with tubes and machines.  Not a good way to go, for a man who liked hiking and camping and birding.  Maybe there are forests and birds where he is, wherever that is.

So goodbye, Michael – you’ve taken a small piece of my life with you.  Rest in peace.

Celtic Music from my Sister-in-law

My sister-in-law, Sally, plays hammer dulcimer in a Celtic band in western Pennsylvania.  Usually we don’t get to hear them play, being 3000 miles (or so) away.  But recently she played at a local winery, and a local blogger recorded a couple of tunes on her cell phone!  You’ll find the link here:

My Life Has Gone to the Dogs and I Love It!

Enjoy the two pieces.

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