1902 Victorian

Bringing our old house out of the disco era and back into the Victorian.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Wounded Knee

I had a non-dog-related post all ready to go, but I just have to relate this one story.

Yesterday while I was at work, Darwin took Millie out for a walk on her new 16-foot retractable leash. She was sniffing around the fig tree (on the side of the yard she prefers for doing her business), and Darwin held the plastic leash handle loosely in his hand.

Suddenly, Millie caught a whiff of something interesting and took off, jerking the leash right out of Darwin's hand. The leash immediately retracted, and the plastic handle bounced on the ground behind Millie. She freaked out and started running around the fig tree in circles, with the leash handle in hot pursuit.

Our girl is a speedy little devil, especially when being chased by a bouncing pink plastic object, which is why I've been terrified she'll get loose. Once she starts running, there's no catching her.

But in this case, she was too afraid to take off for the treeline, the highway or the neighbors' dog. Darwin watched her careen around the fig tree and realized there was only one way to stop her. He bent his knees, stretched out his hands, waited till she rounded the tree one last time, and ... dove!

His knee struck a tree root, and pain shot down his leg. But still his outstretched hands reached for the pink handle, grasped and caught!

Millie kept running and then stopped short at the end of the leash, on the other side of the fig tree.

"Millie," Darwin gasped, clutching at his knee. "Millie!"

She perked her ears, wagged her tail and trotted over. She licked his face. She was totally unphased.

Darwin didn't tell me this story until I got home last night. He knew it would frighten me less in person. With her there wriggling in my arms, I could laugh with him and call him Wounded Knee.

I choose not to think about what could have been. I love this girl so much already.

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The Importance of Being Millie

I introduce to you the newest bundle of joy in the 1902 Victorian household:

This is Millie, getting her first bath.

Millie came to us, and to her name, in a roundabout way.

A co-worker of mine found a pup her neighborhood a several days ago. She put up flyers, called the local shelter and checked the missing pets page of the shelter website. Meanwhile, she and a neighbor passed the pup back and forth, while their husbands said, "We are absolutely not keeping this dog!"

Then on Sunday my co-worker sent an e-mail around the office titled, "Christmas puppy needs good home!"

The thing that first attracted me to the pup was her name. They were calling her Roxanne. I love the song "Roxanne" (and its derivative "El Tango de Roxanne" from Moulin Rouge). I also love Chicago, so having my own little Roxie Hart sounded just perfect to me.

I promptly called Darwin and proposed we adopt this pooch. We've talked about getting a dog one day, but it's always one distant, magical day when we'll have a fence and the ever-elusive "more time."

Darwin said this was not that day.

But I have my ways of persuasion. At dinner Monday night, I cheerfully talked about what we could name her. After all my love for the name Roxanne, I'd come to realize that it didn't mesh well with Alistair and Henry - too modern. I needed something old-fashioned and ladylike, so all through dinner I threw out suggestions like Thomasina, Josephine, Penelope, Ruby and Lucinda.

Darwin refused to participate, but by the time we got home that night I had come up with a new plan. We could take her home on a trial basis, I suggested. Keep her a week or two and then if it didn't work out - if the cats waged war on her or something - we'd find her a new home.

Still, Darwin refused. "Don't bring that dog home," he said sternly.

"You know you want a dog," I wheedled. "Every time we see one, you get all misty-eyed."

He gave me a withering look.

"You know you'll love her," I said. "I'm doing this for you!"

"Don't bring that dog home," he repeated, and kept repeating it at every opportunity that night and the next day.

I pretended not to hear him. I explained how they'd be bringing her to me that afternoon. I suggested more names.

By the end of the day, I'd beaten him down. Defeated, he stopped even trying to talk me out of it.

When I arrive home with the pup, Darwin came out to help me get in some stuff. I opened the car door, and the puppy wiggled and lurched until I released her into his arms.

"Oh, good girl!" Darwin said in his baby voice, "That's a good girl. Quit kissing Daddy!"

And I knew he was hooked.

When Darwin set her down inside the house, Henry puffed up to twice his size and skated sideways away from her. Alistair, usually the mean kitty in the house, merely sniffed her and - fascinated but still cautious - chased her, at a safe distance, as she explored the house.

Not 10 minutes later, Darwin had christened the pup Lily, and I was too thrilled by his unexpected reception of her to argue. Anyway, it was a nice name and old-fashioned. It would do, and it was clear Darwin had adopted this girl as his own. Who was I to come between a boy and his dog?

Wednesday I took her to work with me, where she was received with oohs and ahhs. In my office, the dog lovers vastly outnumber the cat lovers, so I felt like I was being welcomed into the club.

Then I took her to the vet, where she got her shots and I learned she is about 5 months old (pretty much what we'd suspected), about 9.5 pounds and possibly a mix of miniature pinscher and/or some kind of terrier. Next month she'll go back for more shots and then after that she'll be spayed and possibly microchipped. Anyone done the microchipping thing? I'm not sure about it yet.

We had a ballroom dancing lesson scheduled for that night, so I got it moved up to the afternoon, and the teachers (fortunately dog lovers) let her run around the studio while we practiced our rumba.

Back at home that night, the cats weren't responding well. Lily wanted to play, but they interpreted her bounding leaps onto their backs as something more hostile. Henry retreated to the dining room table and growled every time she scampered by. Alistair hung around near her and engaged in a few play/battles that always ended in me coming to his rescue so he could struggle away and hide under a chair.

Thursday morning I woke up and got dressed for work, but the thought of leaving the three of them alone together all day made my stomach twist. What if the pup hurt one of the cats by accident? She's only playing, but she doesn't know that cats don't enjoy the same kind of rough-housing dogs do. They needed me there to break up altercations and to teach Lily not to leap on the cats. It hadn't occurred to Alistair yet to use his claws, so she wasn't a bit afraid of him. Besides, Henry might never leave the dining room table!

So I ended up taking a vacation day yesterday instead of the one I planned to take next week. Today Darwin is off and will be for the next week, so we'll have plenty of time to get the animals acclimated to each other before we leave them alone together for long stretches of time.

Since I was home, I invited my sister (home from Atlanta for the week) to bring her dog Lewis (a Shih Tzu) over for a play date with our pup. The two of them chased and wrestled and had barking contests all day.

At lunch time, we put them in a room together and walked to the square to have lunch at our friend’s restaurant. On the check-out counter was the local newspaper, folded open to a photo of our neighbors Michael and Larry standing in front of their huge Christmas tree, one of them clutching a tiny Chihuahua.

We brought the paper to our table to read while we waited. Being a photojournalist, my sister always notices the photo credit and caption.

"Their dog's name is Lily, too," she said, pointing to the tiny black and white in Michael’s arms.

To say this was bad news would be putting it lightly. I pride myself on originality in naming or at least try to avoid the totally generic and expected (kindly ignore the name of this blog, which is anything but original). I obsessively read the name blog The Baby Name Wizard, which follows naming trends, with the goal of naming my future child/children something meaningful and old-fashioned, yet not old-fashioned-turned-fashionable. (There go my favorites Harper and Emmett, which have tragically skyrocketed this year.)

So to have my dog, my furry child, share the name of a neighbor’s pet was unthinkable. It had to be changed.

The sad part was our pup had already been called who-knows-what in her early months of life, Roxanne and Puppy for several days, then Lily for a few days. She already seemed to know her name, and I hated to change it again.

So my sister and I went to the trusty Name Voyager tool and looked for names that sounded similar to Lily. My sister’s genius suggestion was Millie, and when I plugged it into the Name Voyager, I found that Millie was actually more popular 100-120 years ago than Lily, AND it has experienced no resurgence in popularity. Best of all, when called out in a high-pitched voice, Millie sounds almost identical to Lily.

When I told Darwin of the situation, he promptly agreed to the switch, and from then on our girl has been Millie. It has taken more adjustment on our part than Millie’s. Also, it’s hard going from having only boys to including a girl in the mix. We keep mixing up our pronouns, and we have to alter our usual all-encompassing phrases (i.e. “Bye bye, big boys!” becomes “Bye bye big boys … and girl”), even though the animals don’t know the difference.

Of course, having a dog – a puppy in particular – brings many more changes. Millie must be walked a few times a day and scolded when she eats from the cats’ bowl. She sleeps between us in our bed – last night under the covers pressed up against my thigh – and follows us around everywhere. She bounces and leaps, tears up paper, chases Henry onto the dining room table, bites a little too hard when she’s excited, and carries off my slippers while I’m in the shower. She sometimes has accidents, especially when left alone, even for only a few hours.

But Darwin is home this whole week to work with her, and there are signs that the cats are adjusting. Henry is spending more time on the floor, in chairs or on the ottoman instead of huddling in fear on the table. Alistair will lie beside her on the couch and only hiss grumpily when she touches him.

We got her a pink retractable 16-foot leash that she likes much better than the cats’ leash, so she’s better behaved on her walks. We still don’t know what we’ll do with her when we both go back to work full time. I hate the idea of crating a dog with so much energy, or even shutting her up in the bathroom, but my sister (who has two dogs and once worked at a dog daycare) says maybe having so much space in the house is detrimental to her training. A dog generally doesn’t want to go the bathroom in his/her “home,” but Millie has plenty of room to get away from her living areas and find a convenient spot in the house to do her business.

My sister suggests we leave her in the bathroom while we’re gone until she’s fully trained. She also says Millie seems to have a lot of anxiety about being away from us, which we think is the cause of the accidents when we leave her alone even for a short time. Maybe when she begins to feel more comfortable and confident that we WILL be returning to her, she won’t have those accidents anymore.

Though we both grew up with dogs, we’re newbies to this having-our-own-pup thing. Any tips from you experts out there?

More photos of Millie


Monday, December 18, 2006

All Better Now

The Gimp is back at work today. He was still in pain and walking gimpy until one day late last week when everything magically went back to normal. Almost normal, anyway. He's still stiff and gets a little whingey when he has to stand up for too long, and the doc advised him to wear one of those back brace things the Sam's Club cashiers have to wear, just in case he should have to lift a 48-pack of double-roll toilet paper.

In all seriousness, I'm absolutely thrilled that my man is straightened out. He worried me for a while there.

And it goes without saying, this set back our bathroom work. This weekend was a complete wash, and next weekend basically will be, too, because of that pesky baby Jesus. Fortunately, Darwin has the whole week after Christmas off work, and I expect some serious bathroom work to happen - injured back or no injured back!

This weekend I was sorting through old photos looking for ones I could delete (because my computer is full to the brim, and I urgently need an external hardrive), and I found a folder dated 10-15-2005. To my surprise, it's been more than a year since we took out the carpet in the half bath and started taking down the wall tile in the master bath.

Looking at the pics of the intact bathtub and tile surround and the candy cane bubble bath sitting on the ledge made me feel something unexpected - I MISSED the bathroom the way it was! Obviously, it's going to be so much better when we get it finished, but I miss the long-ago time when I could take a bath if I wanted, when my heaps of bathroom stuff were tucked quietly away in a room no guest ever saw, when I had a bleepity-bleeping master bathroom.


As I told Darwin last night while he was trying to ignore me and go to sleep, I just really, really, really, really, really want this bathroom done.

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Wednesday, December 13, 2006

The Gimp Lives

With our bathroom, it's always one step forward, two steps back. In Darwin's case, two very gimpy steps back.

On Saturday, we were trying to figure out exactly where to cut the openings for the outlets. I had the bright idea that Darwin should lift the massive cast iron sink and hold it in position on the wall, so we could see if the spot we'd marked would work.

But as Darwin struggled to grasp the beast, I reconsidered. "We can just measure it!" I said. "Don't worry about it!"

Have I mentioned my husband is stubborn?

"I can get it," he insisted.

"At least let me help," I said, but he just laughed and pointed out that I wouldn't be much help.

He was probably right. I'm not known for my upper body strength, and I'd already squashed my finger between it and the edge of the trunk when I was trying to get the thing home.

So I just stepped back and let him go.

The sink was lying on a bed of cardboard across the narrow room from its final position. Darwin half-squatted and heaved the thing up onto his thighs. He turned with it and hobbled toward the wall, then leaned into it briefly with the sink.

"Okay, looks fine," I said quickly, seeing his face turn red and his forehead vein protrude.

Then came the worst part - lowering the gargantuan sink back down onto the cardboard. He couldn't let it drop because it would certainly dent the pine floor and probably shake the house from its foundation. I watched him carefully lower it, his face turning purple now, and worried for him and for the floor.

At last it was down. He straightened, and all was well. He continued on to cut the outlet holes (a dramatic process in its own right, since the circular saw was smoking and the other tools just weren't doing the job).

That night as we got ready to go to the Tuscaloosa Ballroom Dance Club Christmas Ball, Darwin complained of his back hurting. I ignored him because that complaint was mixed in with about 50 other reasons he didn't want to go to the Christmas Ball.

We made it to the ball and managed to have fun in spite of his complaints and initially bad attitude. He danced the rumba like a champ and finally conquered a waltz move that had stymied him in the past.

We went home and to bed in high spirits.

Then Sunday morning, Darwin woke with a pain in his back. He'd had this sort of pain before. For a few days at a time, it would make him walk slowly, bent to the side. Like those other times, I found his old-man walk pretty hilarious and nicknamed him The Gimp.

But then it got worse. He could barely walk by bedtime, and he couldn't find a way to sit that didn't hurt. When I found out he was hurting all the time, it stopped seeming funny.

He woke up first thing the next morning, hoping it had gone away. Instead, it was worse, and he woke me up to show me something weird. Even when he was standing straight up, his torso slanted to the left from the waist.

He called into work - something he hasn't done all year - and I knew it was bad if he was willing to mess up his perfect attendance record 9 days before the end of his work year.

I took off work, too, and drove him to the chiropractor. We'd never been to one before, but his brother had been to this guy, and a 9:15 appointment sounded a heck of a lot better than sitting in the miserable hospital waiting room for hours just to get a prescription for Loritab and a referral somewhere.

On the way, he whined about every bump in the road, which was pretty weird for Darwin. I never hear him whine about much.

While we waited for the doctor, we studied the skeletal diagrams on the walls and tried to figure out which one might depict Darwin's problem.

When the doctor - a young, personable guy - came in, he poked and prodded Darwin and made him bend and maneuver. Darwin couldn't bend over from the waist more than an inch or so, and even that pained him. I'd never seen him really hurt before, and it brought tears to my eyes to see him in so much pain.

The doctor could tell right away what was wrong - a slipped disc. I'd heard the term before but didn't really know what it meant. The doctor pointed to a diagram and explained that a disc doesn't actually "slip" but becomes damaged. In Darwin's case, it had probably been thin for a while and had probably been injured before. The sink just triggered a problem that had been waiting for an opportunity to happen.

The doc took X-rays of Darwin's back and showed us how Darwin's hips had twisted, making one leg 2 inches shorter than the other. The muscles in his back and hips had contracted to protect the inflamed disc, the lowest in his spine.

It was a pretty freaky sight, but the doctor said he could get him straightened out again in about a week. So Darwin has been at the doctor twice a day all week and will continue to go. Today, he drove himself for the first time. He put on his own pants and shoes, and he's walking at almost-normal speed, though his body is still oddly twisted.

I'm thrilled that he's doing better. The spine is not something to mess around with, and I admit I'm scared this won't be the last we hear from that pesky disc.

We both know this will change the careless way we do things in our home improvement. We have neighbors/friends who can help and are willing to help when we need to move something heavy. There's no reason Darwin should risk his health just to be all independent macho man.

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Monday, December 11, 2006

Decision Time

On my bathroom timeline, I said I'd order the sink faucet and vanity light this weekend. I was thinking that we'd need the light fixture once the electrical was done, and the sink faucet would be necessary to install the sink.

But then we realized we wouldn't want to install the light fixture until the very end - after sanding, drywalling, painting, etc. - so that can wait. And Darwin pointed out that the sink plumbing isn't actually changing - we're putting it in the same spot as the old sink - and we won't need the faucet till the very end either.

So we decided to save those purchases until after Christmas, when we won't be leaking money all over the place.

But I did make decisions on the faucet and light, and for me, that alone is worth celebrating.

The faucet:
Strom Plumbing Thames widespread faucet in polished nickel

This should've been an easy decision because it's the faucet that matches our shower set, but I wouldn't be me if I didn't hem and haw endlessly. I kept hoping to find a cheaper faucet, but they don't seem to exist in polished nickel. Oh well, matching it is.

The light:
Rejuvenation Three Forks in polished nickel, probably with the Classic 2-1/4" Frosted Shade, as pictured

We had a big debate on the blog over this fixture vs. a cheaper Lowe's fixture. I've had several months to think about it, and I still like the Rejuvenation one much better, so it wins. The deal maker was the polished nickel - none of the big-box-store fixtures come in polished nickel. We're spending two arms and a leg on bathtub and sink faucets in polished nickel, so why screw it up by putting in a cheapo brushed nickel light?

Plus, I'm slightly obsessed with repro and antique lighting. It makes me happy.

So that's that. Now I need to sell like mad on eBay and make the money to pay for them.

As for our timeline, we're already slightly behind. Neighbor E wasn't able to come help with the wiring this weekend after all, so that part of the timeline is pushed back. See, this is why I gave us an extra month. Valentine's Day, here we come!

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Friday, December 08, 2006

Cat in a Hoodie

This is something you don't see every day: a fluffy orange cat docilely posing in a red Old Navy hoodie with kangaroo pocket and cut-off sleeves.

It had sleeves, but they came down over his elbows and restricted his walking. Then we tried rolling them up, but they were too bunchy under his arms. So I had to get all teenage-redneck-circa-1985 on it and cut off the sleeves.

In spite of what his facial expression might tell you, Alistair doesn't seem to mind wearing the hoodie. I swear, it's for his own benefit. It's cold in the house, and he loves to snuggle on and under blankets in front of the space heater. So why not give him a portable warm fuzzy, right?

Okay, and I admit, part of the reason I dress him in clothes is because he reminds me of that fat orange cat in the tiny T-shirt that Fievel befriends in An American Tail.

It's not easy finding clothes for cats, you know. Sure, dog clothes are everywhere, and technically even this hoodie is made for a dog, but it's hard to get a decent fit. The small is too small, the medium is too large, or Alistair can walk right out of the gaping neck opening.

Maybe the dearth of cat clothes is because most cats are like Henry. We don't even try with him. He would be scarred for life.

But Alistair is pretty easygoing. He didn't resist his fluffy jingle bell Christmas collar, his hoodie, or even the time I put him in a pink cable knit sweater with a pearl necklace attached. Though he did pitch a royal fit when we put him in a Santa hat. Guess he's not a fan of Old St. Nick.

Here he is looking all gangsta with the hood up:

I don't leave it up for long because I can't tell if he likes it or hates it. He seems neutral toward the hoodie itself, but I don't want to push my luck.

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Tuesday, December 05, 2006

A Wrinkle-free Timeline

In elementary school, I always loved the projects that required a timeline. I liked the long line drawn across two sheets of paper taped together, with vertical lines interrupting it at intervals, tiny writing in pencil, maybe a drawing of the Mayflower, a feather pen to symbolize the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Abraham Lincoln's top hat.

I liked seeing it all laid out. Everything made so much more sense in the context of what came before and after it.

I still feel that way. When I get deep in my genealogy research, the names and dates seem to boil inside my head, rolling around, up and under each other, until I can barely remember my own name. That is until I get some paper, tape it together, and try to plot things out with a good, old-fashioned pencil.

Or when I'm editing a complex or disorganized story at work, sometimes I just have to print it and spread it out around me on the desk.

So it's no wonder this bathroom project has me flummoxed. All the different projects are floating around in my brain, knocking into one another, sending each other astray. I need to lay it out. I need a timeline.

This weekend, we took the scenic route home from a family Christmas party (yes, already with the Christmas parties) and used the time to think and strategize.

This is what we came up with for completing the bathroom in a timely and organized fashion:

Weekend, Dec. 9-10:
Figure out where to put electrical outlets in bathroom wall and cut holes.

Neighbor E (for electrician) comes over and helps Darwin run new wiring to the bathroom for a closet light and two new outlets, and organize all three light switches into one switch plate.

Order faucet for bathroom sink and light fixture for over sink. Shrivel up and almost die of Overspending Disease.

Make a miraculous recovery and party the night away at Christmas Ball, where we will show off our new rumba skillz.

Weekend, Dec. 15-16:
Move plumbing vent pipe into corner of future closet.

Visit Neighbor K to use his woodworking tools to shave a little indention into the back of a replacement piece of beadboard, so it will fit against the stud.

Install two replacement pieces of beadboard (easy peasy once the indention is made).

Begin building little bookshelf under the window.

Begin working on patching nail holes, scraping loose paint, etc. on "rustic" beadboard walls. They are just full of character!

Holiday Weekend, Dec. 23-25:
Buy materials for upcoming projects - wood for trim, paint for walls and trim.

Stuff our faces with Christmas goodies.

Week, Dec. 26-29:
Darwin will be off work, and I may be able to take a day or two, too.

Install drywall to close up gaping hole to the attic, and re-create mini-slant in bathroom ceiling. Repair a couple spots of drywall damage on ceiling from when we removed the wall separating the two parts of the bathroom.

Finish building little bookshelf under the window.

Finish patching up beadboard walls.

Prime and paint ceiling.

Prime and paint the walls.

Prepaint and install baseboards, crown molding and corner molding to disguise the edges of the slanty drywall ceiling and where the beadboard meets all crookedy.

Weekend, Dec. 30-31:
Touch up paint on moldings, and paint bookshelf and door trim.

Paint second coat on the floor.

Install light fixture over sink.

Party the night away again and show off our rumba skillz some more. Spend next day recovering.

Weekend, Jan. 6-7:
Rearrange the bathroom plumbing, or hire someone to do it. Darwin knows how to solder copper pipe and says he can do the job, but we'll see. I'm not waiting until 2008 to use my clawfoot tub, people.

Install whatever bathroom fixtures have to be installed to get the plumbing to work - don't ask me, I'm not a plumber.

Weekend, Jan. 13-14:
Install sink, clawfoot tub and toilet if they haven't already been installed. The clawfoot tub with its maze of nickel-plated pipes will probably be an ordeal, so prepare for The First Screaming Match of 2007.

Hang vintage nickel-plated bathroom stuff like sponge holder and towel bar.

Take a bath in clawfoot tub, using yummy bath goods bought in Italy just for this occasion.

Rest of 2007:
Search for the perfect piece of furniture to place between the sink and toilet. It must have a mirror, drawers and room to slide a bench/chair underneath, so I can beautify myself in comfort and style.

Buy a heated towel rack.

Search for materials (maybe cast iron brackets?) to build shelves beside the sink in the same place where they originally were.

Buy rugs and towels and either buy or make curtains and maybe a purty shower curtain to cover the plain one.

Possibly replace overhead light fixture.

Begin work on walk-in closet and hopefully finish it sometime before we die.


See there, it's not so hard. If we buckle down and have some good work days, we can knock this sucker out in a little over a month! Of course, knowing how household projects go, I'll add a month onto this projection. By Valentine's Day, then.

On Valentine's Day, I will take a romantic soak in my clawfoot tub ... even if it's only with myself.

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