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The First in the Deck Series

Our most recent DIY experience through the process.

Out With The Old, In With The New

Gotta love a new beginning, right?

Peppermint Shortage

Just a funny afternoon.

Coffeyville, KS

I loved this experience so much that I had to write about it. Then, through e-mails it spread to Coffeyville itself.

Photo Restoration

I had a lot of fun with this "old school" photo. It turned out too cool to not blog about it.

Kitchen Remodel (part one)

This is the first of a nine-part series documenting the remodel of our 50-year-old kitchen in our 100-year-old home!

Ezra Montagne

I just realized that I've never written a blog announcing the birth of Ezra. So, better late than never, right? Sorry, Ezra. No doubt you will be reading this some day.

As a matter of fact, with that in mind. This blog is addressed to you, Ezra. Everyone else can read this if they please, but it's not for them, to them, or about them. It's about you, for you, and to you, my beautiful daughter.

I love you, Ezra. You are my first and only daughter. I don't know how old you are now (your time, when you are reading this), but I hope that you know that I love you. You are two and a half months old (my time), and I know that even as you grow older, you will never be able to shake that image of you from my mind. You will forever be my little girl.

Having a child is strange by itself. I don't know that any parent fully realizes the enormity of the role. Your oldest brother Jacob is eleven and a half. He's getting close to being a teenager and resembles one even now. You would think that I'd be used to the idea that he is my child and I am his parent and in more ways than not I am used to it. However, when I think about, I'm still shocked on so many levels. How did this happen?! Maybe I'm alone in my thinking. Maybe not, maybe every parent feels this way. I don't know. It's wonderful, exciting, terrifying, beautiful, unsettling, rewarding, etc. Parenting is a roller coaster of emotions.

So, if I'm still getting used to being a parent of two boys who've been around for years, how much greater am I feeling unprepared for you, a daughter, a girl, a woman in the making? I'm scared to be one of two of the most responsible people for you in the world. It holds the potential to frighten me to no end.

That being said, I am also unimaginably thankful for the opportunity to be that person in your life. I'm honored that God would place you in my care and entrust me with such a role. I may know that I am unequipped to raise you and teach you and guide you, but I know without a shadow of a doubt that God is perfectly equipped to do such a job. And, with He as my guide, I will never fail you in any way.

I love you, Ezra. And, I will seek to treasure every moment we have together.

6th Anniversary

Jodi and I celebrated our sixth anniversary this last weekend. We didn't do anything too special, but had a great time just getting to spend time with each other while we ran around a little and relaxed a little more.

We started out the day with a breakfast of champions. That's right. T-bone steaks and eggs. Mmmmm. We also were very giggly and had some true comic moments. What a wonderful way to start a day. Protein and laughter.

We tried out a new flea market,Springfield Flea Market & Gifts, and checked out one we'd been to before right behind the first one. It was fun and we saw some neat things and bought a few little things. The second one was better than last time, but still not my favorite place to go. They have tons of furniture and I'd say that's their specialty. But, Jodi made a great point about if they would set it up with pieces that went together, they'd probably sell a lot more of it. It's all just crammed in there now with no rhyme or reason.

After just the two flea markets we were ready for a treat. So, to Krispy Kreme we went. For lunch. Hey, don't judge. It was a special day. We stuffed ourselves silly. It was a good thing that we were sitting by the window in the bright sunlight, because I'm sure that the Vitamin D from the sun was the only vitamins we managed to consume while being there. Unless there is such thing as a coffee vitamin. Maybe there should be.

Afterwards, we drove home and just chilled out in the air conditioning and watched some Netflix.

It was a good day. I love my wife. We have fun together.

Just Deserts

My worst experience with a bank, by far, was with Ozark Bank. They cost me $110, got me arrested, and made me spend a night in jail. I wrote a blog about it already so I won't go into detail, but it was pretty bad, for sure.

A couple years ago, I had another bad experience with a bank. This time it was Bank of America. I had been a B of A customer for 11 years. I wasn't a fan of them and had only stayed with them as long as I had because of the volume of ATMs they had in Springfield. In addition to the ATMs at their branches, they also had them in every Git-N-Go in and around Springfield. I found that to be very convenient so I stuck around as a customer despite disliking their service.

In 2004, however, Git 'n' Go was bought out by Kum & Go who quickly removed all of B of A's ATMs and replaced them with generic ones that would charge every user with a fee for usage. So, overnight, the reason to stay with B of A dissolved.

I didn't get rid of them, though. I should have. I dragged my feet for a few reasons that in retrospect weren't good enough to continue banking somewhere I despised. But, oh well. What's done is done.

So, fast forward through five years of procrastination, and we reach the summer of 2009. I took a photography job in Michigan. A check was written to me for my services. I cashed that check in Springfield three days later. Four days after that I get a notice showing I have had three separate $35 overdraft fees charged to my account.

I immediately go to the bank where I find out that the Michigan check bounced and that they removed the amount of the check from my checking account to make up what they gave me in cash. They could have handled this a thousand ways but the way they handled it was by trying to process the check twice over the course of a couple days, then seizing the money out of my account when it didn't work for them. All of this without contacting me about it. Then when my account balance fell below zero which it eventually would since they just removed hundreds of dollars from my account without notification to me, they happily twisted the knife by charging me $105 in fees.

I had come with cash in hand to make a deposit and repair the issue, but they were unwavering and unsympathetic. The woman I spoke with took my cash and left to deposit it for me. She took it to a teller, despite knowing that had she deposited it in the ATM or directed me to do so that it would have posted that night. Instead, she took the teller route which wouldn't post until midnight the next night, over 24 hours away. So, in that time period, three more pending items came that could have been avoided adding another $105 worth of fees.

So, back to the bank the next day for me. This time I had the bank manager to talk to. After a lot of talk, she reluctantly dismissed the $105 worth of fees that could have been avoided had her employee cared enough to think about it. But, she refused to do anything about the prior fees. She retained the position that the bank was not at fault and was only following policy. She wasn't interested in logic, only following their supposed policy.

But, I know how it works. She is a bank manager and has the power to waive the fees if she wants to. The same way she waived the wees on the other latter set of fees. She just didn't want to do it. Finally, I changed my approach and simply asked her if her bank would pay $105 for an eleven-year customer. She avoided answering the question despite me asking it several times. I knew the answer and so did she. She also knew that refunding me the fees wouldn't keep me as a customer. She knew at that point in our conversation that I was going to close my account regardless of what she did, so she kept the money.

I closed my account finally and have been happily banking at Great Southern ever since.

The day before yesterday, Jodi called me at work to give me the following news that came in the mail for me: Bank of America has agreed to pay a $410 million settlement to those who had a B of A checking account with debit card services who had overdraft fees charged to them between Jan 1, 2001 and May 24, 2011.

Sweet justice. :)

Invention Idea

Ever have a great idea for an invention or improvement? I've had a few in my day. One that is finally starting to be marketed now is the Bluetooth audio adapter.

I thought of this almost two years ago. It was an invention out of necessity. At the time, I was contemplating how to setup my stereo in my 1959 Ford when I get it back on the road. The doors don't have any locks and I don't know that I actually want to change that about it. I don't want anyone to steal the stereo that I install in it, so I have a dilemma. How do you install a burglar-proof stereo? The answer: you don't install one.

What? Exactly! See? I had an idea to install a small amplifier (that I already own) under the seat somewhere where it could be relatively hidden from view while also being bolted down through the cab. It would take two people to bolt it as well as unbolt it. One would have to be under the truck with a wrench while another in the cab had a wrench on the other end. Too much trouble to remove for an old 45-watt amp. The two speakers would go behind the headliner in the rear corners also out of sight. Then, instead of installing a stereo, simply install a Bluetooth adapter that would pick up the stereo music Bluetooth signal from my phone from under the seat and send the audio signal to the amp via its RCA cable outputs. The power switch for the amp could be easily connected to the manual choke switch on the dash since it won't be necessary with the new engine configuration. So, everything is hidden. To the untrained eye, it would look like it has always looked in the cab: radioless. Simple enough, right?

The only problem is that there wasn't anything on the market like the Bluetooth adapter I described. However, now there are two items that are really close to accomplishing this. Belkin makes a Bluetooth Music Receiver which has the option to send that signal out via RCA or 3.5mm jack. The only reason it wouldn't work for my application is that it is powered with a 110v outlet adapter. It's meant to be used in the home or office. Miccus also makes a Bluetooth Music Receiver. The issue I take with it is that it is charged using a USB port. I would either need to purchase more equipment to get it to charge or I would have to remove it from the truck every other day to charge it. Also, I learned from a review that it does not "remember" a previous Bluetooth pairing which means every time I got in to use it, I would have to reach under the seat to reset the connection.

What I want is something that I can permanently install that I can discreetly turn on the power to from the dash and make a connection from my phone. I don't want to ever need to reach under the seat to reset or remove equipment to charge. And, I want to do it with the least amount of equipment possible. Right now, with these new products, the Belkin best fits my need for it remembers the connection and wouldn't require charging or resetting. The downside is that I would need to find a way to power it which would require me to probably buy a power port and a universal car power adapter to use in place of its provided wall adapter.

Either way, the technology is moving in the right direction, so I'm excited about that. Maybe they will have a solution by the time my truck sees pavement again. Or, maybe I'm the only one who wants to bypass the need for an in-dash car stereo.

Still Pounding Away At It

I'm not sure what to call this project. I've had a name for every other project in the house, but this one alludes me. Should it be the "outdoor closet" project? "New basement door" project? I'm just not sure. In an earlier post I was referring to it as a small addition, but that sort of denotes living space in my mind. And, I don't intend on anyone living out here. Any suggestions on a name?

Regardless of what we decide to call it, I made some pretty decent progress on it over the weekend. The backbreaking part was the concrete, but it got done. I finished pouring a new top step to the staircase, one that isn't a fatal trip hazard. And, I managed to dig out and pour about a 3 1/2" thick slab inside the closet. I'm so glad that it's over. When it was all said and done, I had mixed 960 lbs. of concrete. This was the part of the project that I looked forward to the least. However, with my newly gained experience pouring concrete in Haiti back in March, I was able to confidently get to work on it and see it through.

In the next couple of evenings, I hope to be able to devote a little more time to it. My next steps are:
  • Relocate the dirt pile
  • Grade the ground down and away for better water runoff
  • Connect the wiring into the breaker box
  • Cover all the outside walls with tar paper
  • Hang all the metal lathe
  • Stain the rafter tails
  • Apply the stucco
  • Finish the stucco on the garden wall
  • Build the doors
  • Hang the doors
  • Paint all the stucco the desired color
I don't have a time frame for all these steps, but it would sure be cool if I could get it all accomplished while my motivation is in full force.


I got to looking at my categories list on my blog and realized that maybe it says a little bit about me. So, let's read into it, shall we?

  • I like to write about myself more than anything. Apparently, I strike myself as the most interesting thing I know.
  • I'm slightly more useful around the house than I am in making people laugh, yet both score pretty high.
  • I can't decide what I love more, my family or food. However, this does show when the scores are added together, that I'm probably happiest when eating with my family.
  • I love a good debate. Evidently, even if I'm arguing a lie, because truth didn't get as high a ranking.
  • Opinion and politics ranked the same. I imagine that this is because every post I categorized as 'politics' I also categorized as 'opinion'. After all, I can't talk about politics and remain unbiased. I'm going to tell you my opinion and I'm probably not going to leave you alone until your opinion becomes in line with mine. Just kidding. Not really. ;)
  • History and controversy are both interesting to me. The controversy sort of falls into the debate category, but it's somewhat different. People can debate about anything, but controversy really only happens on the big issues where people clearly create at least two sides. Adding history to the mix, you get things like the JFK assassination, 9/11, Vietnam. These make for some pretty interesting table talk.
  • Friends, photography, and technology all tied. That only makes sense since I like taking digital photos of my friends, right?
  • I'm ashamed that God ranks way down here. In my defense, I could claim that God is really tied into all these categories when they are all boiled down, but who needs a defense?
  • The rest are just a few hit and miss categories that don't deserve mentioning. They got their 15 minutes of fame when I wrote on those topics, but now they just sit there with no other purpose than to just fill up the fine print near the bottom of the categories box.
So, what about you? What (if you actually wrote about your life) would be your categories of choice?

More Progress

I failed to get any photos before it got dark outside, but that's okay because it wouldn't be much of a dramatic photo anyway. So, I used a photo from Monday evening and dramatized it up with some funky arrows.

Last night, I accomplished quite a bit for having been at work all day. I started with taking a sledge hammer to the trip hazard at the top of the stairs. This trip hazard served to keep the water out, but also begged to send someone to the bottom of the stairs much faster than they intended. So, it had to go. Besides, the concrete there is already sloped away from the house so it's unnecessary.

I also cut out the now unnecessary overhead hazard at the bottom of the stairs. This served as a plate and support for the previous 45-degree basement door, but now it serves no purpose apart from forcing everyone to bow before entering the basement. I shall not bow before it. So, I cut it out.

I also got up two of the walls. Yay. And braced the framing in preparation for the double doors to go in on the closet side. Then, (spoken with an ominous voice) as darkness fell over the land, I picked up all the scraps and garbage and got them all in the dumpster just in time for trash day.

My next step will be to concrete a flat step in place of the trip hazard that I just busted out. As soon as this is done, I can finish the framing for the round-top basement door and wall in the front of the addition. Then, with the walls all up and in place I can stucco it.

And, somewhere in there (maybe while I'm waiting for concrete to dry) I can wire up the lights and my new outdoor electric receptacle. I'm excited about that. My house doesn't have any outdoor electricity. So, every time I'm doing a project like this I have to run an extension cord into the house. So, inconvenient! So, this will be great for future projects since I'm only beginning on the greater backyard deck and landscaping project.

Addition Progress

This Independence Day weekend was a good one. Though, we didn't do a whole lot of traditional activities. We did hang out with some friends, grill some steak and see some fireworks, but the bulk of our weekend was spent working on the house.

With some help from the boys, we managed to get most of the drain pipe installed and buried, the framework pretty much done, and the roof completely installed. I missed being able to just hang out with my family, but it was also good to get a chance to do some construction. And, it was good for Jacob. He learned some construction basics and and was excited to get a chance to help.

The photos here show the progress. As always, click on them to enlarge them. There's still a list of work to be done, but I'll keep plugging away at it every chance I get and it'll be complete before we know it.

Small Addition

We've spent most of our energy renovating the inside of our home over the course of the last four and a half years we've lived here. The outside, though, has seen little more than the necessary maintenance. We have a plan, however. And, using Google Sketchup, I was able to better visualize that plan by building a 3D model of our house and yard. In this photo (click to enlarge), it shows our plan for a large deck, outdoor formal dining room (far left), brick patio with fire pit, and outdoor closet/new basement entrance.

The latter is what I'll be working on this holiday weekend. The photo isn't exactly what we're going for. The wall I built between the house and garage is actually taller than the one in the photo. So, I won't be hipping the roof on the addition down towards the wall. Rather, it will just shoot straight across to the inside of the wall.

The first thing I have to do, though, is dig a trench and bury a drain pipe. There are two gutters that empty right at the corner where the wall meets the house. I'm going to direct both of these into the drain pipe and reroute that water to the rear of the garage. Once that's done, I can dig and create a footing for the wall. Then, once the siding is cut I can start framing. I'll take lots of photos along the way and show the progress.

Though small, this addition will be a really nice and needed asset to the house. It will pretty up the view of our home from the backyard by removing this big ugly hinged basement access door. It will hide both the phone access panel and the sewer clean-out pipe. It will help tie in our garden wall to the house. Also, we'll gain an outdoor closet to put the bikes into. Eventually we can also use this closet to house our designer outdoor furniture cushions. We don't own any now but maybe when our backyard looks like the 3D drawing we will.

The bike storage is a big one. Normally, we keep the bikes in the basement. However, with the nice weather comes more use of them and they wind up in the kitchen so that the boys don't have to go up and down the stairs with them every day. The payment for this convenience for the boys is clutter for us all. We have a nice big kitchen so we can spare the space, but this temporary home for the bikes has long worn out its welcome.

Why am I starting an outdoor home improvement project on the hottest day of the year? I don't know. I guess I like a challenge. Come back VERY soon to see the progress!

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