Quick drying cement dries really quickly

I used to live in a fairly blue collar neighborhood not too long ago. Most of my neighbors were in the trades, which was great news for me because I was pretty hopeless at most home improvement.

A barter system arose in which I was their go-to guy for computer problems and in return my neighbors would all take turns helping me limp through a bathroom renovation.

My neighbor across the street had a small drywall company and two teenage daughters who always had computer problems. He was also desperate to get NASCAR on the ‘Innernet. A deal was struck.

During halftime one afternoon he taped and mudded my entire bathroom.

I watched, slack-jawed, as he scooped the “mud” (which is the highly technical term for the goop that solidifies into a wall) into his little red bucket that he cradled in his arm, mixed it a few times, and slapped it on the wall.





Over and over again.


Every single time.

“That’s easy!” I exclaimed.

He looked at me and just smiled.





He finished in about 15 minutes, accepted the six pack I offered, and ambled back over to his house to watch the game.

It took me fours hours to untangle the mess his daughters made of his computer.

I think he got the better end of that deal.

Eventually I finished the bathroom. Just in time to sell the house.

Fast forward a few years into the New House.

Around the time Faceman was getting ready to be born I started on a little project to put some travertine tile in the front hallway. This was not supposed to be a big deal.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

As I peeled up the baseboard I discovered some black powdery stuff on the wall. Hm. That looks disgusting. I kept going and peeled back the linoleum the previous owners had so thoughfully installed. More black stuff.


Six bajillion dollars later our house has been gutted in response to a major mold infestation that was destroying mine and my son’s sinuses. We had microbiologist do a full check on the house and it turns out we had three major kinds of mold: the kind that smells, a kind that makes you really sick, and another kind that will kill you in your sleep.

After the crew gutted the house, it was up to me to put it back together. I got everything mostly done, except for the master bathroom- which was the source of the original toilet explosion that had flooded the downstairs with poop water.

Let me just say that once you know for certain that your house was flooded with poop water, there is no cost too high to clean that up.

These days the Faceman is 7, and we still don’t have a master bathroom. One thing led to another, and then another, and then we had another baby, and the to-dos just kept piling up, and none of them were “finish bathroom.”

A few months ago I decided I was going to try to burn the house down for insurance money, so I learned how to solder copper pipes. Unfortunately, I was unsuccessful in burning down the house, but I did get the new plumbing installed.

Just like that, we were back in business.

I decided to take a “short cut” in the whole bathroom process and buy this fancy Canadian bathroom product recommended by Holmes on Homes, because I always do what overly muscular Canuks tell me (politely) to do. I’m not going to name names, but it’s called the Schluter System. There’s the Schluter Kerdi Mat, the Schluter Kerdi Kerb, The Kerdi Kandi, and the Kerdi Karnival Kruise. All of which is designed to make it easier for me, Joe Homeowner, to install a shower without another Poop Water Explosion.

Unfortunately, I forgot there were 87 different thickness of wallboard, so the wallboard I installed adjacent to the existing wallboard was not the same thickness.

A rational person would decide at this point to go buy some board of the correct thickness and reinstall.

A liberal arts major, such as yours truly, would decide to just take some goop and try to level it out, because he saw his neighbor do that once and it worked out all right.

So after yet another trip to the Big Box store, I emerged with what appeared to be a quick-drying cement. The instructions said “Do not mix more product than can be applied in 10 minutes.”

I really, really should have reconsidered at this point. I am many things, but “speedy” is not one of them. My nickname when I was a lad waiting tables was “Death”, as in “Slow Death”.

One time a 3-toed sloth passed me on my morning run.

I do not move quickly, unless on fire. Which has happened. Twice.

Gamely, I follow the directions and mix up the entire 10 pounds of powder, which is really powdery and now I probably have cement in my lungs. Clock ticking- 10 MINUTES GO!

Lug the bucket of cement upstairs.

Run back downstairs to get my trowel.

Run back upstairs. Start applying goop to wall. Marvel at how easily it’s going on.

Run back downstairs to get my little red bucket.

Scoop goop into little red bucket. Seems like it’s getting harder. Better work faster.

Out of goop in the red bucket. Add some more from the big bucket.

The big bucket is drying out. Better add some water.

The water isn’t doing anything. It’s just make the dried out stuff thick and chunky.





Quick spread the goopy chunky stuff on the wall.


Maybe a wet sponge will help!


What if I try … nope.

Box of wine it is.

Any of you folks need to get NASCAR on the ‘Innernet?

Many thanks to my neighbor for her “All the bad words” story, which partly inspired this one.

Celebrating the victories

I’m trying not to harp too much on the whole new habits thing because this blog is already just a “ONE DIRECTION” poster away from being a tweenie bopper’s bedroom and too much navel gazing isn’t fun for anyone. On the other hand, this is cheap therapy and the worst thing that can happen is I will get only 2 likes on Facebook.

Actually I take that back, that is pretty horrible. I think I would have to sulk for hours. Quick, appeal to the masses!


I am proud of a few small victories:

  • I wrote every night I planned to write
  • I actually completed one chapter, 2500 words, of The Book

Of course, this is what I wrote Friday night:

I really really didn’t want to write tonight. This Week I am 1 for 5 for getting up early. So I am forcing myself to write this to keep a promise to myself.

Sometimes victory comes on a technicality.

One thing I didn’t really start to understand until I started keeping detailed notes was just how much of an impact the amount of sleep I’m getting has on my willpower. We live in such a cavalier culture when it comes to how little we sleep that I don’t appreciate the impact it has until I’m trying to do anything besides stagger through my life on autopilot clutching a cup of coffee and wishing desperately that I still smoked cigarettes.

Between the inherent sleeplessness of parenthood and the rhythm of modern life, we’re blase about the fact that many of us are getting, at best, 5 hours of sleep a night.

I have no willpower on 5 hours of sleep. None.

4 year old wants to draw on the walls with a sharpie? Go for it.

7 year old wants to pack a lunch consisting entirely of Aunt Jemima and Cheezits? Heck yeah why not.

Get up out of the recliner and go for a run? Are you freaking kidding me? There’s no coffee out there, not happening.

What worse, two of my favorite things– alcohol and coffee– make sleep worse. So I’m considering giving up coffee, which I think puts me in the certifiable grade A1 insane basket of broken eggs.

I bet Hemingway didn’t have to put up with this nonsense.

Celestial Seasonings this ain’t

I fell off the wagon, and then it ran me over

When I set out last week to add some structure to my life and adopt some positive new habits, I knew it would be hard.  I made it through the first 24 hours swimmingly, and then the second day the difficulty of sticking with my resolutions ratcheted up unexpectedly high. Thursday and Friday were a lot easier and I was convinced I had reached a new plateau of personal awesomeness.

The Plan: 1 Real Life: 0

Friday night I had a few beers and the next thing I knew I overslept Saturday. My whole strategy is to front load the morning with time for myself, which appeals to my selfishness and so (I thought) it should be easier to achieve. Then the dishwasher died an ugly, noisy death. Suddenly taking time to go exercise seemed a little too selfish when I had a job to do. My weekend was consumed by a blur of salvage stores and big box scratch and dent sections until we found a decent dishwasher. 

The Plan: 1 Real Life:1

Sunday morning started out well with a gorgeous morning that was perfect for a run with Mrs. Nostrikethat. My dishwasher woes continued as I discovered that I needed a pluggy thing, and no one sold the pluggy thing because we bought the Delorean of dishwashers and the only place to get the pluggy thing was the Internet, after a delay of 2 weeks. 

No bueno. Visit 4 more appliance stores trying to find a part.

Sunday evening turned into an impromptu neighborhood event as a few of us gathered our folding chairs and drank box wine while our kids ran around outside. Sunday evening wine turned into Sunday night beer, and by the time 11 o’clock rolled around my Irish-ish neighbor and I had consumed an embarrassing amount of alcohol for a work night.

The next morning I discovered that my alarm clock sounded suspiciously like my guilty conscience.


I spent the morning in bed trying to determine exactly what kind of carpet my tongue had turned into as I pondered what I’ve learned this week.

  1. The willingness to revisit your initial assumptions is a good thing. Saturday felt like a better cheat day than Sunday just due to the rhythm of our week.
  2. Revisiting your assumptions 2 days in a row is a nice way of lying to yourself about cheating.
  3. Some things seem urgent and will falsely distract you. I let myself focus on the dishwasher when I might have been better off stepping away on purpose to take care of myself.
  4. Never underestimate the power of beer.

With the dishwasher finally replaced and running, tomorrow is back to work. If I had to grade myself, I’d give me a “C” for the past week. This week we start again. Today was the first whiff of winter, and if I don’t have my new habits solidified by the time it gets cold and dark then nothing is going to happen in the winter.