Sunday, October 25, 2009

The Little Foxes

Catch for us the foxes, the little foxes that ruin the vineyards, our vineyards that are in bloom.

Song of Solomon 2:15
This verse really didn't seem to mean much to me until today when, for the first time since we have lived in this house (18 years), we spotted a fox in the back yard. We watched him for perhaps five minutes and shot several pictures from the kitchen window until something spooked the fox and he dashed off into the trees behind our place.

Its reason for being there was specifically the row of grapes along the garden, our vineyard, and he was eagerly eating the grapes that Abigail had thrown down a couple days ago, when she was trimming the plants. After a bumper crop, we had a lot of grapes left over, so the fox was grabbing the easy stuff, the grapes lying on the ground.

I would imagine they could do considerable damage to a good crop, given half the chance...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Facebook Panic

Tim Friend is unemployed.

There's a whole story behind this. Most of the story was caused by the appearance of these four words on Facebook this past Friday.

I check Facebook occasionally. Sometimes, it is the only way to find out what my college kid is up to. I rarely post anything. The signal to noise ratio on Facebook is quite low and adding to the inane posts will only increase the noise level.

Such things as:

So-and-so is bored.


So-and-so is tired.

appear frequently, so I thought that:

Tim Friend is unemployed.

would be just another four words in the endless digital chatter.

I was wrong.

On a whim, just before I shut down my computer for the last time at work, just before I turned in my ID badge, I logged into Facebook and typed two words (my name was already filled out). I then handed my computer to my boss and walked out the door for the last time.

I had David with me. The secretary from the Tech Center where he is taking his auto mechanics class called me to tell me he missed the bus, so I picked him up and had him help me clean out my office. I learned that his bus had left an hour early because of homecoming at the high school and had left him behind.

When I walked in the door at home, my dear wife went for the jugular. It took a little effort to pry her hands from around my neck and when I finally could breathe again, she went for the verbal jugular.

"What do you mean, you lost your job?!" she screeched.

"You know what's going on," I told her, "I start my other job on Monday. Unemployment is only for the weekend. You've known about this for two weeks."

As she started to calm down, the story came out.

When she arrived home from picking up Abigail from her class, David's car was not in its usual spot in the driveway. Deb's immediate thought was, "road kill" and Panic 1 started. David has had his driver's license for about a month and his car (which we affectionately call 'the bomb'--see The Car Crisis) for a week. So Deb thought he was splattered on the road somewhere.

She checked the answering machine, which was flashing 9 messages. When she finally got to the last one, it was me, telling her that I had David. The panic started to abate as turned on the computer to check email. She doesn't have a Facebook account, so she could only see the emailed responses to the above four words. "We're so sorry." "We'll be praying for you." "We're sorry you lost your job." These sorts of messages greeted her and started Panic 2.

We have great friends and family, by the way. They've showed lots of concern for what turns out to have been a false alarm.

While Deb was still reading the email, the phone rang. "Did Tim lose his job?" asked my mom. They are currently travelling and had received a phone call saying I had lost my job.

"I don't know," said Deb, "but I'm going to wring his neck."

So, just to set the record straight, I no longer work at Gentex as of this past Friday, but I start at a former employer, X-Rite, on Monday. So the statement "Tim Friend is unemployed" is true, but only temporarily.

And if you want to be in on the fun, just be my friend on Facebook. You may not hear from me that often, but when you do, it may make waves.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

The Car Crisis

It's been a while since I've posted anything. There's a good reason for this. We've been a little busy. For one thing, we're still working on getting used to an extra female in this family. Abigail comes into a family where boy stuff ruled the day for nearly two decades. Since Abigail joined our family nearly a year ago, we're seeing some of the pink side of things. Treehouses, zip lines, potato cannons, go karts and the like are giving way to tea parties, talking, and pony tails.

Abigail has a box of miscellaneous doll-house stuff at Grandma's house. Complete with the small doll in the flowing dress. Yesterday, she was playing wedding. The doll, whom she called Katie, was getting married. She spent quite a bit of time arranging the wedding. The only problem was, she didn't have a groom. In her ten-year-old creativity, she chose the nearest available thing--a cow whose legs could be manipulated, Gumby-style. The wedding proceeded despite this little glitch, the beautiful doll and the gumby-cow. When she described this to us the next day and repeated some of the festivities, it was really hard to keep from laughing.

This year finally tied us down to the school year. With Josh in college now and David going to the Intermediate School District Auto Mechanics program, we have specific start dates, days off, and schedules. Abigail, also, is going to a set of classes every Friday. So now we have a new problem on our hands. The Car Crisis.

We could see it coming and we have tried to head it off in various manners. The problem involves having more drivers needing to go different places at the same time than available vehicles. I'm sure many other families with older teenagers have run into this also for each kid, but, for us, it happened all at once. Josh needs to go one direction, David needs to go another, I go to work every day, and Deb needs transport Abigail to her classes and do all the normal household management stuff. With two cars, this doesn't seem to work.

Josh has biked to his classes at Grand Valley quite a few times. David also bikes to the high school where he picks up the bus for the Tech Center. But that only really works when the weather is nice. This is Michigan, after all. Bicycles and Blizzards, although they begin with the same letter, do not go well together. So we found an inexpensive car: a tired Honda that somehow escaped the Cash for Clunkers program. Josh uses it when it rains, when his backpack gets too heavy, and when he oversleeps. Problem solved. For one driver.

The second driver, David, has been a little harder. Since he has an interest in fixing cars, we bought a non-functional car several months ago for him to fix up. The idea was to have it fixed before school started. This one had a blown head gasket. He spent quite a bit of time tearing down the engine to replace the gasket, and then putting it all back together. It even occupied the coveted spot in our garage where the van normally sits, much to the consternation of Deb, who drives the van and covets the garage.

We got it running a few weeks ago. For a short time. Then with a clunk, it died. Due to a few mistakes in reassembling the engine, we now have a head gasket that needs replacing. If experience is the best teacher, we have been learning a lot lately.

So the car is still non-functional, and still in the garage. Deb's lament is: why can't we buy cars that work? I think she wants her garage back.

Meanwhile, the weather has turned decidedly colder. And wetter. September was awesome, good for biking, but the rain-rescues Deb has been having to make lately are getting numerous, and Winter is coming.

Friday we went to look at another car. David's project has gotten too lengthy and Deb can't take him to catch the bus all the time so we found a car on Craigslist that seemed to fit the bill. A means for getting from point A to point B was all we were asking. When David's car is working, then we can get rid of it.

The car was located in Hastings, about an hour away. By the time we got there, it was dark. We missed the driveway. Twice. The house had no lights on outside and the mailbox number was almost impossible to read. The car sat in the driveway in front of one of the large garage doors. The house had four of these, each garage having a large lift. It reminded me of a muffler shop, with a small living area sandwiched between bays 3 and 4.

We took the car for a test drive. It was a means for getting from point A to point B, but that was about it. In its glory days, it was a nice car. A Honda Accord LX with all the trappings, I'm sure it was nice at one time. It's not so nice now. With several large dents and a fair amount of rust, it would take a lot of imagination to call it "pretty". It makes a lot of Michigan winter beaters look good.

But it ran well and drove well. The wipers made a horrible screeching across the windshield, but those are easy to replace. I wish they had been newer because it poured rain all the way home. I couldn't see a thing.

I gave a lower offer and the guy accepted it so we took it home. The first thing we discovered when we stopped to get gas was that the fuel door wouldn't open. So we continued home, hoping the the fuel gauge was not lying to us.

The next day, when it was light, we could finally see what we had purchased. David was dismayed and said he would probably be laughed off the parking lot after seeing the nice mauve/purple interior of the car. Perhaps this will be additional incentive to get his other car working. The other car is a rear-engine, two seater sports car. We managed to punch out one dent using a large block of wood and a hammer, but the others may be permanent fixtures in the car.

So the Friend Transportation Department has been very active lately, but the Friend Housing Department has not been far behind. Our house rehab project has taken a little longer than planned, and with all my workers now in school, it is mostly Deb and I and Abigail, with a little of David's time, that continue the project. Yesterday, we replaced a window, putting a large hole in the side of the building, then getting it all put back together, with new wood siding, per historic district requirements. I was hoping to get it painted the same day, but a brief rain shower soaked everything, sending us inside for the remainder of the day. Deb discovered water dribbling from the bathroom ceiling, so now we have additional plumbing and drywall work to do. After replacing nearly all the plumbing in the building, we discovered that one of the few areas that was not replaced leaks. So it goes for old buildings.

There are other things going on as well, but I think I am running out of disk space. Stay tuned. This could get interesting.

Before: (the hack job)


The whole building, before and after paint:


After: (David putting on finishing touches)