Photo of the month

We lost our beloved cat Ariel on April 1. We all miss her dearly. This month's News & Views is dedicated in her memory. 2008 photo by Glenn.

April 2010

Roni seeks information online while Ariel spends her final few hours with us on Thursday, April 1. She stopped eating and drinking, and despite a vet visit the previous day, attempts to help her were unsuccessful. We decided it was more compassionate to put her to sleep. Photo by Glenn.

It was very hard adjusting to life without Ariel around the house. We printed out a favorite photo of her and placed in on one of her favorite spots on the living room sofa. Photo by Glenn.

Cute moments such as this are how we prefer to remember her. Here she has made herself at home inside one of the cubby holes of Roni's bookshelf, April 5, 2003. Photo by Glenn.

Always the queen of her domain, Ariel looked quite regal in these ribbons. 2008 photo by Glenn.

Ariel was known as the "cuddle queen." Ever affectionate, she loved to curl up with Roni or Glenn at the end of a long day. 2008 photo by Glenn.

Give her a warm spot to nap near the bedroom window and she'd be content for hours. Hopefully wherever Ariel is now is always sunny. 2003 photo by Glenn.

Eevee investigates the box containing Ariel's ashes the day we brought her home, April 15. Says Eevee, "If that's what happens when you go to the vet, I'm never going again." Photo by Roni.

The front of Ariel's box contains a nice plaque with a custom inscription. Not bad, considering we came up with the wording amidst our grief the day we took her to the vet for the last time. RIP, sweet girl. Photo by Roni.

BNSF continues to work on the railroad behind our house. On April 5 they were working perilously close to our back fence with this giant piece of machinery. Photo by Glenn.

And here's what BNSF was doing. Pulling old ties to exchange for new ones. Each tie weighs close to 200 pounds. Photo by Glenn.

April was a month consumed with home improvement projects. Here, Roni primes the walls of Ben's bathroom on Easter Sunday. Photo by Glenn.

Even Ben had a chance to do some painting on the ceiling. Photo by Glenn.

And here it is, more or less finished. The little bathroom is now a cheery sky blue with faux-finished walls. The hardware in the shower is all new, and the light fixture has been replaced. Floor, sink and toilet still under renovation. Photo by Glenn.

Look out! She's out of control. Roni and her primer can progress from the bathroom to the living room walls. Photo by Glenn.

We started repainting the living room April 17 in preparation for getting new carpets. We wanted the painting done before the installers came. Photo by Glenn.

Glenn uses a ladder and pole to paint the living room ceiling. His neck was stuck in this position for days afterward (or at least felt like it was.) Photo by Roni.

Glenn isn't lying down on the job, just taking advantage of a loft in the living room to gain easier access to the ceiling. Photo by Roni.

What to do with the fireplace is always a question. We tried for the tri-tone look in the bricks, incorporating other colors in the room. Photo by Glenn.

The front yard wisteria has been giving us awesome color this spring, with large, cinnamon-scented blossoms. Photo by Roni.

As the wisteria sheds its blossoms late in April, the petals pile up like purple popcorn near the front lawn. Photo by Glenn.

We always enjoy hearing from our visitors. We welcome your comments.

Farewell, Ariel

April 30, 2010

It was a bright autumn day in 1992 when Ariel came into our lives. A kitten who had been fending for herself on the streets of Brentwood, she was rescued by a kindly if clueless delivery driver who brought her into Glenn’s office at the newspaper and asked in all seriousness, “I found her wandering around the post office. Does she belong to anyone here?” The post office was four blocks away, in a town of what was then more than 6,500 people. The odds that he would locate that kitten’s family were stacked heavily against her. Fortunately for that little kitten — and for us — fate had brought her our way.

From the moment Glenn first held her in the office that day, Ariel was our cat. She cuddled into his shoulder, kneading his sweater and purring loudly as his coworkers noted they seemed to be bonding together well. They also noted the tiny ribbon of drool that slid down her chin as she cuddled. At the time we were renters, and taking a cat into our home, even an affectionate drooling one, was not an option. Sadly, Glenn knew he’d have to let it go. But before Glenn could say anything, the clueless delivery driver had vanished, leaving Ariel with the newspaper staff. Glenn, as the editor, had to make an executive decision.

And so it was that he brought Ariel home. Landlords be damned, she had come into our lives for a reason and we took it upon ourselves to care for her like a member of the family. She was, after all, like our first child. We took her to be spayed and declawed. We got all her shots. We joked that this “free” stray kitten was our “$200 cat” for all the vet bills. Roni came up with the name Ariel for the main character in the Disney movie “The Little Mermaid,” and true to movie she was treated like a princess.

We were constantly entertained by her quirks — such as the way she would wander through the house with a sock in her mouth and meow — but we also learned to accept some of her less desirable behaviors; she suffered from a medical condition that caused her to throw up her food frequently. We tried to get it treated, but the vet never figured out what caused it. Somehow she lived with it, despite always being thin. We lived with it by keeping rolls of paper towels close at hand.

Ariel had the house to herself for nearly a year and a half before the birth of our son, Ben. She was good with him, even if the relationship was never warm and cozy. She was less accepting of Ben’s cat, Eevee, who came to live with us in 2001. From that point on, she spent less and less time outside of our bedroom except at night after Ben and Eevee had gone to bed. Then she would venture out to cuddle with Roni in one of the living room chairs.

A bundle of affection from the beginning, Ariel rarely passed up an opportunity to cuddle with us, whether it was on the sofa, on our bed, or under the covers. Even when her back legs began to fail her in later years, she would perch her bony paws on our chests in the middle of the night, taking several minutes to get comfortable. This didn’t seem to stop her from leaping from the bathroom floor to the sink counter, where she was in the habit of getting her drinks.

Ariel was so much a part of our lives that sometimes we thought she would be with us forever. But death comes to all creatures eventually, and for her the end came on April 1. She had stopped eating and drinking earlier in the week. We took her to the vet March 31 and they took a blood test and gave her fluids with the hope it would stimulate her appetite. But she became worse overnight. The next day found her listless, so weak that she couldn’t stand. The vet told us she had advanced renal failure and didn’t sound hopeful that she could be saved and maintain a decent quality of life, but she was willing to try if that was what we wanted. We struggled with what we should do — hospitalize her for an expensive treatment that might not work, or put her to sleep. We looked at her lying there on our bed, in obvious discomfort, and asked whether we were trying to save Ariel for her or for us. As hard as it was to accept, we knew the correct answer was to put her down.

But knowing the right thing to do didn’t make it any easier. We bundled Ariel in a blue flannel blanket and fought back tears as we took the backroads to the veterinary hospital in Antioch. Roni drove while Glenn held Ariel on his chest, remembering the first time he’d held her at the newspaper more than 17 years ago. At the hospital, we each took turns carrying Ariel in the blanket, then tearfully kissed her goodbye as the vet gently took her away for the last time.

Two weeks later we returned to the hospital to bring Ariel home, only this time it was for her cremains that had been sealed in a decorative oak box, with an engraved plaque on the front that reads: “In loving memory — Princess Ariel — 17 wonderful years.” Yes, Ariel is gone, but we are thankful for the many good years we had to spend with her, and we will forever treasure the memories she gave us.

* * * * *

While the loss of Ariel started the month on a low note, it set in motion a chain of events that has led us to a more positive finish.

The carpeting in our home is as old as the house itself, and after more than 22 years of wear it was overdue for replacement. We’d talked often about eventually breaking down and doing it, but the thing that always held us back was Ariel. Her health issues discouraged us from investing the money on a new carpet only to have it immediately damaged by pet stains. This is not to say that Eevee isn’t quite capable of his own messes, but they are less frequent. With Ariel no longer an issue, it wasn’t even a week before we found ourselves combing the sample boards in the Lowe’s flooring department.

We’d casually checked out colors once or twice before and knew two things: we didn’t want a light color and we didn’t want brown. We wanted to be different. Glenn sort of liked red. Roni really liked blue. In the end we compromised and went with blue. That turned out to be the easy part. The hard part, apparently, was figuring out how much carpet we would need.

We decided to redo the living/dining room because… well, it had to be done. We estimated about 300 square feet. We also wanted to do the master bedroom, but we didn’t want to make things simple and continue with the blue carpet we’d picked out for the living room. We’d long had our eyes on an colorful rose pattern, thinking it would be different than plopping another solid color on the floor and would give the room some bed & breakfast inn character. It was a bit more expensive than the other stuff, but our master bedroom is barely 10x12 square feet, so we wouldn’t need that much of it. And finally there was Ben’s bedroom, which long ago had surrendered its 100 square feet of carpet for vinyl floor tiles. We could keep Ben’s room in the same blue as the living room. Our total estimate? $1,800-$2,000 tops, including Lowe’s $97 installation deal. We thought about it a couple of days and then asked the sales consultant to schedule an appointment to measure the house.

A man from Carter’s Carpets in Concord showed up a couple of days later, tape measure and clipboard in hand, to check the lay of the land. He told us where the carpet would be seamed in the living room and asked us things such as whether we planned to replace the carpeting in our closets. Then he delivered some bad news when we learned the true dimensions of our master bedroom. The pattern carpet only comes in 12-foot widths, and our room was 12 feet six inches, so that would mean having to buy a few extra feet to ensure that the seam would match properly. OK, the $2,000 guesstimate was looking more realistic.

Needless to say, we got a severe case of sticker shock a couple of days later when the Lowe’s sales guy called back with a bid of $3,100. Ouch! The cost for the master bedroom alone was almost double our original guess, the living room considerably higher as well. What had we done wrong? Namely, we failed to take into account that most carpet is sold in 12-foot rolls and that you have to purchase the entire width even if it doesn’t get used. That necessity would result in more than 100 square feet of waste on our project. Still, the numbers didn’t seem right.

Was it possible we could have been so far off on our original measurements? We went back and re-measured, armed with our new knowledge. Then we discovered that while 12-foot rolls are the standard, some carpets come in wider and smaller widths. What if…?

We went back to Lowe’s and checked the sample stock and pleasantly discovered that the rose pattern we liked comes in 13.5-foot rolls. That would mean no seam. The discovery saved about $400. Then we discovered that our sales associate was a bit math challenged. He’d run some quick calculations on a pocket calculator to come up with the price for Ben’s room, and once we asked him to figure the numbers again, it brought the price closer to $2,400. Still more than we’d planned on, but at least it seemed fair.

We placed our order that day. That was April 16. Our hope was to have the carpets installed in time for Ben’s birthday on May 2. The sales guy told us it might be close. Meanwhile, the process of shopping for carpet had fired us up for home improvement, and now we were talking about repainting the living room. After all, we wouldn’t want to paint once the carpet was installed, so any painting would need to be done in advance. Could we get it done in less than two weeks?

We picked out a light-almost-white ceiling paint called Cotton Whisper, which was mostly put on in a day. Then we ran to Home Depot on Sunday to finalize what had been hours spent looking at swatches before we came up with a couple of brownish shades called Wagon Wheel and Carmel Crunch. Roni painted primer over the walls that previously had a faux suede leather look, then we eagerly put up the first fresh coats. By the end of that weekend we had much of the major painting finished. We spent the week with detail stuff, edging around corners and wall fixtures and finding places that needed a second, and in some cases third, coat.

* * * * *

Perhaps the greatest challenge of preparing for new carpet is that you have to empty the entire work area of furniture. It’s sort of like getting ready to move, except that the home you’re moving to is the same one you’re already in. That could explain why most people don’t replace carpets until they are ready to sell. Because we have a small house and three of the four main rooms are receiving carpet, that leaves only the garage and writing sanctuary to store things. Anything that won’t fit there will have to go on the back patio or the front lawn.

This past Saturday, April 24, we decided to do some preliminary packing, taking out some of the bulkiest objects so we won’t have to deal with them when the installers arrive Thursday morning. One of those was the huge computer desk in the dining room that Glenn had built a decade ago to hold his and Ben’s machines. Roni spend part of the week clearing its cabinets of (mostly) junk, then Glenn removed the angle brackets holding the top in place on the flimsy particle board cabinets. One good gust of wind might have knocked it over at that point. So it was little shock to anyone when we tried to move one of the largest cabinets that it collapsed on itself. If we’d had any thought of reinstalling the desk, it officially ended in that moment.

But unofficially, the idea of building a new computer station had been percolating for years, and started coming to a full boil on one of our paint runs to Home Depot. They were having a truckload sale on kitchen cabinets, and while perhaps not the best quality available, the variety of sizes and reasonable prices fit our needs. There was just one problem: how to get it home? Neither of our Toyotas is capable of hauling much more than the three of us, so any time we have brought home bulky building materials has been an adventure. Cabinets, not to mention a 10-foot countertop, were out of the question, and it seemed silly to pay $80 for Home Depot to drive them to us on a giant flatbed.

The solution turned out to be Home Depot’s truck rental program, where for about $20 you get 75 minutes to haul your purchases home and return the vehicle. On Sunday, April 25, we returned to the store armed with a shopping list of bulky items we needed. We wisely reserved the truck first, given that we didn’t know how the rental worked and because we were afraid that on a weekend the truck would be in high demand. It turns out that Home Depot of Brentwood has a van and a small flatbed truck for rent. Because we planned on getting items longer than 8 feet, the clerk set us up with the truck. Then we were on our way like a couple of contestants on Supermarket Sweep.

We first picked out the three cabinets we liked and got some assistance hauling them down from the high shelves. The clerks placed them on a cart and left them near the checkout area for us while we next headed for the lumber aisle. We picked out a dozen 10-foot pieces of 2x4 for use on an upcoming outdoor project, figuring that as long as we already had the truck we’d save ourselves a future trip. Then we cruised over to the kitchen section and selected a 10-foot laminate countertop, looking like a couple of Keystone Kops as we struggled to get the thing loaded safely on the cart.

Last, we selected a 10-pack of 12-foot baseboards for use in the living room once the carpet is in place. They are made of fiberboard rather than wood, so we thought they would be easier to handle. Wrong. The heavy packs were stood up on end, so it took one of us to slide it off the display shelf to the floor and the other to help guide it onto the cart. By the time we were finished we’d piled our carts with about $500 worth of product. Al we had to do now was pay for it and go back to the tool rental counter to pick up our truck.

We got there not a moment too soon, because the rental clerk, who was not the same person who had assisted us originally, was about to give our truck away to some other customer who’d just walked in the door. We took our purchases outside and stood by as the two rental clerks prepped the truck for us, sweeping the bed of leftover gravel and an empty pallet. Then they loaded it for us and tied everything down with twine so it wouldn’t slide around on the 4-mile drive back to Oakley. Then they gave us the key and we were on the clock.

We made it home in 20 minutes, unloaded in 25 with Ben’s help, then got the truck back to the store with about 10 minutes to spare. We didn’t even hit anything. The mission was successful enough that we are considering using the rental truck again the next time we have a large order to lug home.

We celebrated by going out to eat dinner at Red Robin at The Streets of Brentwood, one of the best places we know of to get a $5 hamburger for $10. Now we just have to see how all our raw materials take shape next month.

* * * * *

Ben got a bit of good news this month when he passed the California High School Exit Exam on his first attempt. As the name implies, it will allow him to graduate from high school in a couple of years from now. Best of all, he won’t have to worry about having to retake the test. He also is excited about his upcoming 16th birthday party next month. He got an early birthday gift from his grandparents Gehlke in the form of an iPod Touch, so don’t be surprised if you catch him on Facebook some night at 3 a.m. We are not encouraging this, mind you, but who are we to argue with the importance of timely status updates 24/7? (Oops! You say you just lost your Internet connection? Um, gee, must be a problem with the server. I’m sure it will be restored by… before… 9 a.m. ... Saturday.)

Speaking of the Internet, gotta run post this now before the month expires. So little time, so much to do…

Glenn, Roni and Ben

This page was last updated on Monday, May 31, 2010 at 02:48 hrs.

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