Thursday, April 9, 2009

Insult to Injury

I got my hair cut today. I tend to keep it pretty short and disheveled (maintenance-free, baby!), so I just go to the cheap-o Great Clips place around the corner where I can get it cut for $8 with a coupon. Usually, my once-a-month visit is quiet, quick, and pleasant. Today, though? Lacking the pleasant part.

Now, I've been going grey for quite some time. Around 17 or 18, I started to notice my first grey hair, and it's been getting steadily worse since then. Now, I'm downright salt-and-pepper. I'm generally okay with that, and it's probably helped my career a bit. I've found that if I keep my hair short and maybe put a little gel in it, it's not nearly as noticeable to most folks. It doesn't hurt that I'm also 6'4", so there aren't a whole lot of people getting a good view of the top of my head on a regular basis.

Today though, it was an issue. The stylist (someone I'd never seen before) and I were chatting as she trimmed my flowing locks (ha!); just the general chit-chat that always occurs. Somehow, we got to a point in the conversation where I mentioned that I had just had a milestone birthday this past Sunday. Here's how that conversation went:

Me: "Yeah, I just had a milestone birthday this past Sunday."

Her: "Oooo, let me guess how old you, forty?"

Me (noticeably peeved, I'm sure): "Yeah, um. Actually, no, I just turned thirty."

Her: "Oh my gosh. I'm really sorry. I didn't mean to..."

Me: "That's okay, I'm starting to get used to...."

Her: "It's just that I saw all that grey hair on the apron and thought....I mean, you're REALLY grey for thirty."

Wow. Gee, thanks, lady. You sure know how to brighten my day.

At least I only paid $8 for the abuse.


Monday, April 6, 2009

Things Are A-Changin' Around the YFNN House...

Our house had some pretty gnarly pine trees at each corner of the house. Likely planted when the house was built (in 1986), they’d grown to over 20 feet tall and were ridiculously close to the house itself. They weren’t even all that attractive. Check out the pictures.

This caused some problems. First, every time the wind blew, the trees would sway a bit and rub against the house siding, or the windows. This always made some noise, usually annoyed us, and occasionally spooked our bossy dog. In addition, they were close enough to the house that their root systems were getting to be a concern for our basement and such. Then, last year, we got bagworms, and despite their manual removal and treatments, they slowly started to kill the trees. So, we decided that the trees had to come out.

Since the tree folks were going to removing at least four pine trees, we also had them remove an additional white pine that was diseased and encroaching on our deck, a large half-dead cherry tree in the center of our back yard (yeah, it was as dumb as it sounds), and a terribly unruly shrub that no matter how much we cut it back decided to take over an entire side of the house, preventing access to the lone outdoor hose spigot.

So, last Tuesday, the tree guys removed it all while I was at work. Apparently it only took a couple of hours and they left no damage and no debris. They did, however, leave the stumps, but those should be ground out shortly.

The next phase of the project includes reseeding certain areas with grass seed, planting new plants (of the placement and type I am unaware, but trust my wife’s judgment entirely), and finishing with mulch and such. That work should commence next week.

Right now though, I’m just looking at some stumps and bare dirt around the house, but I can already see that it’s going to look MUCH improved. The fact that it’s going to be less work, less worry, and give us more usable yard is even better.


ING Savings Rate and Other Ramblings

ING, Debt, and Savings

Well, ING Direct dropped their rate for their Orange Savings Account yet again. This time to 1.490% APY (1.50% APR). So, my money is now working a lot less hard for me than it was before.

Still, it’s way better than my brick and mortar bank’s rate (currently 0.05%), and our emergency fund money is safe there, so I’ll keep slowly piling up money there every week.

Also, with savings account rates so low right now, it’s a great time to pay off debt. Do it, do it, do it. Make sure you keep a bit of a cash cushion in savings, but don’t be afraid to pound out some debt right now.

We don’t currently carry any debt (aside from the house), but my student loans used to be at a fixed rate of 3.375% APR. When ING Direct was giving me 4.5% APY on my savings, it made sense to put money into savings, rather than pay off debt. Essentially, we made more money on interest on the savings than we paid in interest on the loan. Now, even with the student loan interest tax deduction, it makes more sense to pay off the loan.

If you’re on the fence about paying off some debt, DO IT. I can’t tell you how calming it feels not to have worry about car payments, credit cards, or other debt.

Insurance Coverage

In other news, we’ve finally completed the finalization of our bills from the hospital for our most recent trip. The hospital charged the insurance company over $16K for my wife and over $4K for the baby, but thankfully we were responsible for much, much less. It was interesting to see just how inflated the charges from the hospital were and how much they'd actually accept from the insurance company. Examples? You betcha.

My wife's stay: $16,757.40. Insurance paid just $4,261.84. I paid $1,065.46. So, basically the hospital wanted almost $17K, but only got a little over $5K. Ridiculous.

The epidural: $3,280. Insurance paid just $880. I paid $220.

Baby's stay: $4,261.84. Insurance paid just $1,032.24. I paid $258.06.

It's crazy to me that the hospitals are willing to write off so much money (and charge so much to begin with). I know the reasoning behind it all, but I don't want to get into it right now. Suffice it to say, the way we handle insurance is stupid (and no, universal healthcare would make it worse, not better). Maybe that'll be another post some day.

Friends and Food

Since the birth of our son, we’ve had loads of people over to visit and especially to bring us food. Before Baby was born, I kind of poo-pooed the idea of everyone bringing food to us, thinking that I’m still more than capable of putting together a meal for us every night. But, I’ll definitely admit that it’s pretty nice having something in the refrigerator or freezer that just needs to be heated. I wouldn’t have believed it before, but it’s a little difficult sometimes to find 30-45 uninterrupted minutes to put together a nutritious meal. We’ve been very fortunate to have such wonderful friends and family, especially ones that can cook!


Friday, February 20, 2009

I Wanna Be a Mean Parent

When I was a child, my parents were mean. Horribly mean. And, I hope that I will be just as mean as they were.

My parents weren't physically, emotionally, verbally, or psychologically abusive. That's not the kind of "mean" that I'm talking about.

When other kids had Oreos and ice cream for breakfast, we had to have eggs, toast, or cereal. When other kids had Pepsi and chips for lunch, we had sandwiches and carrots. While other kids had pizza and cake for dinner every night, my mean parents gave us healthy meats, potatoes, vegetables, and fruits. My parents were mean when it came to food.

We were required to be clean and wear clean clothes; other kids could wear the same clothes for days. We had to have normal, appropriate haircuts; other kids were allowed to be rebellious with their hair. We had to look “presentable.” Since I'm the oldest of their three children, I didn't have to wear hand-me-down clothes, but my mean parents made my brother and sister wear my old-but-still-good clothes, just to save money for other things like college. Can you imagine?

Our mean parents gave us bedtimes. And we had to stick to them! While other kids got to sleep until noon on the weekends and have no responsibilities, my parents completely disregarded child labor laws and gave us chores to do before we could play. We had to help with the dishes, set the table for meals, and keep our toys picked up. It was like they dreamed up chores for us to do in their sleep! Where did they come with these unreasonable expectations?!

Once we were in school, things got even worse. We had to walk to the bus stop, about a block away, for junior high and high school. Even in the rain and when it was cold. Other kids got to sit in their parents’ fancy car, even on nice days, avoiding the unrestricted socialization with the kids besides us with mean parents.

My brother, sister and I weren't allowed to be "sick" like our friends and miss school. Some other kids could stay home by themselves when they had a headache, hangnail or other critical ailment. Not us. In fact, I can distinctly remember my mother saying "You're not sick, you just have a cold. Get up and go to school." We never got pulled from school to go on vacations. "That's what summers are for," we were told.

They were mean about our grades, too. While other kids celebrated Cs and Ds and just passing classes, my parents accepted nothing less than As and Bs. Somehow they knew that if we got anything less, we weren't really trying. They had us figured out. They were actually involved in our education. They kept tabs on major projects, annoyed us about completing our homework, and constantly asked if we needed help. We were expected to speak properly, and write even better. It was horrible. Come graduation time, none of us were allowed to drop out and we were expected to go to college. Just awful.

Our mean parents made us go to church every week. We couldn't skip and stay home like some other kids. We weren't allowed to wear jeans or shorts and we had to look presentable. We had to pray, participate, and pay attention in our Sunday School classes and during the service. Unlike some of the other kids, we weren't allowed to climb on the pews, make noise, or fall asleep. It was completely unfair.

When we were older, my mean parents insisted on knowing where we were at all times. They had to know where we were going, when we were getting back, and who we were going with. If plans changed, we were required to call. If we were late, we had some explaining to do.

They set rules and boundaries for the three of us. They knew how to say "no" and weren't afraid to do so. Their "no"s were uncompromising and there was no negotiating the standards of behavior that were expected. Even if they didn't totally agree with everything, they worked as an unwavering team to set the bar high and expect the best from us, always.

Somehow, their mean-ness worked. All three of us grew up to be well-adjusted, polite and well-spoken. None of us have been arrested or talk like Valley Girls. We all hold college degrees (one of us, multiple!) and are now successful on our own. They taught us to be tough, smart, and strong. None of us are entitlement-minded or dependent on anyone or anything. We grew up to be honest, God-fearing, and self-motivated. And, we owe it all to our horrendously mean parents.

Now, with a child of my own, I hope to set the same mean standards and expectations. I can only hope to be as mean a parent as they were. I can’t wait to use one of my favorite phrases, “You’re not sick, you just have a cold,” and I can guarantee you that I will be filled with pride when my child finally calls me "mean."

So, if you're reading Mom and Dad, thanks for being so darn mean.


Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cool Things I Learned About Childbirth

If you've got a thing about blood, poop, or medical stuff, you may want to skip this post. Seriously.

As I stated in the previous post, I was heavily involved in the birth of our son about two weeks ago. I asked lots of questions, got as close as they'd allow, and kept involved as much as possible. I learned a tremendous amount, and had a great time on my little science-y field trip to the labor and delivery room with my wife. Here's just some highlights:

  • Contractions are surprisingly consistent and predictable, both in frequency and magnitude. I loved the live data that the monitors were able to acquire regarding heart rate, blood pressure, and the contractions.
  • Internal heart rate monitors (for the baby in utero) are actually screwed into his scalp when it's visible through the vagina. Like a tiny fishhook.
  • The baby's first poop is actually meconium and is from swallowing amniotic fluid and such.
  • Babies can have their first poop in utero. This can cause some problems immediately after birth, so the uterus is flushed out with clean fluid during delivery.
  • Once the baby's head is out, things move pretty quickly. No, I take that back. Darn near instantly.
  • Babies are sometimes born with splotches of vernix on them, which is a waxy, protective gunk. It kind of looks like soft, white cheese.
  • Umbilical cords are much thicker than I thought and when you cut it, it feels like you're cutting rubber tubing.
  • After the rest of the umbilical cord and placenta are delivered, you have to inspect the placenta to ensure that all of it made the trip out. Small pieces left inside are dangerous.
  • The placenta and umbilical cord pulsate a bit after they're out. Yes, it's as creepy as it sounds.
  • If the doctor decides that an episiotomy is needed, they're quick and precise with the scissors. If you blink, you miss it.
  • There are different levels of tearing, one to four. Level two isn't bad.
  • They put antibacterial gel on the baby's eyes shortly after birth to prevent infection.
  • Babies sometimes come out with fine hair on their back and shoulders called lanugo. It falls out after a little while.
  • There's a slick little tool that's used to perform the circumcision of newborns. It makes it darn near impossible to mess up. It even comes in different sizes. :)

All in all, it was a very educational trip.


My Really Good Reason

It’s been a while since I posted, and I have a really good reason, I promise.

On Monday, February 9th, my lovely wife gave birth to our perfect baby boy. As a first-time father, I can tell you that it was absolutely unbelievable on so many levels.

First, I thought I was prepared mentally and thought that I understood what it would feel like to be a father. I wasn’t. Not even close.

As soon as he was born, I cried. When I held him for the first time, I cried. When I changed his first diaper and held his little hand, I cried. Even now, over a week later, I look into his tiny eyes as I hold him and just cry tears of joy. I was completely unprepared and I don’t think I could have ever fully understood before it happened.

Second, I learned that my wife is probably the strongest woman I have ever met. I had no idea that she had it in her. She was absolutely incredible. To see the anguish and effort that she went through was absolutely amazing. She was a trooper. She was WonderWoman. I will never forget her toughness she showed through 18 hours of labor and over two hours of pushing. She was completely inspiring and now carries an ever greater air of self-confidence and strength. I love what this baby has done to her.

With the touch-feely, decidedly un-manly stuff out of the way, I have to say that from a nerdy point of view, the birth and subsequent few days was awesome. I’m not one to shy away from questions or interactions, so it was like a big science-y, medical vacation for me. I learned about epidurals, meconium, and contractions. I learned how the contraction monitors work, how internal heart rate monitors work, and the whys and hows of the birth of a child. I got to see the first glimpse of my son’s head, and hear his first cries. I got to cut his umbilical cord and help with APGAR scoring. Not being one to turn down a science-y opportunity to learn hands-on, I learned about the afterbirth and the delivery of the placenta (much to my wife’s chagrin).

On the day after my son was born, I asked many questions to the pediatrician, and even got to help with circumcision. While it sounds a little disturbing, it was awesome.

I was lucky that the doctors and nurses we had were so friendly and open to questions. I’m sure they don’t get too many people like me, so I’m glad they were so willing to share their knowledge and allow me to get a little closer than most probably dare.

After being involved every step of the way, I can assuredly say that the birth of a child truly is nothing short of a miracle.


(Isn't he cute?)

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Cops and Sandwiches

Every Wednesday, the guys in my engineering group and I go out for lunch together. We try hard to not discuss work-related things and a tasty lunch is usually punctuated with plenty of laughter and good-hearted insults. It’s a great camaraderie-building event.

Yesterday, we made a trip to one of our more common stops: the Ohio Deli, a local diner-like place that has GREAT sandwiches and soups. The Deli was recently featured on a Travel Channel show called Man vs. Food. The hero of the show travels the country, visiting different establishments that tout extreme eating challenges. The Ohio Deli’s challenge: The Dagwood.

The Dagwood is certainly a sandwich to behold. Named after the comic strip hero Dagwood Bumstead’s colossal sandwiches, the Dagwood is packed with 2-1/2 pounds of three different kinds of deli meat, tomato, lettuce onion, and mayo, all stuffed between a couple of mammoth hunks of sourdough. The platter comes with a heaping pile of the Deli’s delicious fries and a pickle spear. The challenge is to consume the entire platter in less than 30 minutes. According to their photo wall of fame, the current men’s record is 5-1/2 minutes. (!)

When we entered the Ohio Deli yesterday, we were seated next to some city police officers, who were getting ready to order. After some ribbing from his buddies, one of the officers decided to take the Deli’s Dagwood challenge.

When he got his platter, I think he was little shocked. The sandwich was towering over a huge expanse of fries. The waitress casually placed the platter in front of him (using two hands) and noted that he had until 12:10 to finish (30 minutes). To his credit, the cop really gave his all. He was able to finish the sandwich in about 15 minutes, after loosening his gunbelt. He really struggled through the fries and especially the pickle spear, but he finished with just a few ticks of the clock to spare.

H was, of course, heartily congratulated by our table, and the waitress took his picture and gave him his tee-shirt to commemorate his momentous achievement. As his group was getting up from the table, he commented to us that he sure hopes he doesn’t have to chase anybody or do anything strenuous the rest of the day and we certainly agreed.

However, as they were leaving, we looked out the window to our snow-covered streets, and saw a tiny woman in a BMW stuck at the stoplight. She had already exited her car and was desperately trying to shovel the piles of snow out from underneath the front end. Of course, the officers saw her and felt obligated to push her on her way.

While we couldn’t hear exactly what was being said, it was pretty clear that it was hig buddies thought it be absolutely hilarious that the Dagwood champion was quickly voted the guy to push the lady’s car. And push he did. He got her moving, but was he ever green in the face when he was done.

Of course, after such a display of manliness and heroism, two the guys at my table decided that next week they’re going to attempt the Dagwood challenge. I told them that I’ll happily just watch the clock for them and finished my Buffalo Chicken Spinner. I’ll let you know how next week goes.

I'll bet it goes delicious.


Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Fun With Numbers

It gets to a point with numbers that you start to lose your sense of perspective and relation, especially with money. I can relate to and understand $100,000. I can even relate to one million or one hundred million. But after a point, we start to lose our reference point and it turns into monopoly money and politicians know that. Does $400B dollars really feel twice as big as $200B? Not to me. It's lost perspective. So, it's important to express these numbers in something we can relate to.

Obama's $825B "emergency" stimulus plan (I put "emergency" in quotations because only 3% spent in the first year isn't much of an emergency) is like spending:

$1,000,000 a day for the next 2,260 years.

Yes, that's right. The next 2,260 years. One million dollars. Every day. From now until the year 4269. 4269.

Not enough? Try buying this 14 bedroom, 18 bathroom, 33,000 sq. ft. home in Park City, Utah every hour, on the hour, for the entire length of Obama's first term.

That's spending $23,500,000 over 35,000 times. That's a lot of 23-million dollar mansions. Enough to give every single Senator and Congressional Representative a mansion in each state and still have over eight thousand mansions left over.

Crazy big numbers. Keep them in perspective.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Week One Under the Messiah

Summary of week one under the rule of "the chosen one".

1) Has his preacher friend declare that whites are racists for him.
2) States his intent to implement national gun control.
3) Pisses off press corps by not answering questions and talking down to them.
4) Acts like a jackass to the Senate minority whip.
5) Appoints Nancy Pelosi as dictator of national fuel economy standards.
6) Announces closure of terrorist retention facility.
7) States intent to pull out of Iraq ahead of schedule.

I just can't get enough change.


Monday, January 26, 2009

This Ain't Calculus

My wife is due in less than three weeks. Less than 21 days.


To say that I’m personally unprepared is an understatement. Now, don’t’ get me wrong here. I’m an engineer by trade, so preparation and organization is what I do. Our checklists are completed, items have been purchased and assembled, and the closet is stocked with diapers. I’m confident that our home, nursery, and all the required “stuff” is ready to rock (likely overly-ready-to-rock). Stuff-wise, I feel like we could bring home half a dozen babies and not need to buy a thing, but mentally, that’s a different story.

I’m usually calm, collected, and practical. I plan, I rehearse, and when the time comes for most things, I’m sure I can deliver. I’m the kind of guy that rehearses presentations and buys adequate life insurance. I’m confident. I perform well under pressure. That’s why this baby is beating me up. Sure, I’d like to think that I’m mentally prepared for this kid, and I think I do a pretty good job of convincing my wife that we should feel comfortable and ready (and we should!), but deep down I know that I’m personally not even close. What’s worse is that I know even with infinite planning, I'll never be totally prepared and that scares me. I’m not used to that at all.

It’s just that the consequences seem so extreme to me. If I botch a presentation or mess up at work, it’s fixable. If I bang up the car or burn down the house, they’re replaceable. But with this kid, I get one shot to get it right. No do-overs. No mulligans. If I mess him up, it’s permanent. Not only for my wife and I, but for the rest of his life too. That’s absolutely terrifying.

I’ve got the mechanics down. I know how to change a diaper; I know how to operate the carseat. I know how to carry him and I know what to look for when he’s ill. But, how do I know what to say and when to say it? How do I know what to teach and how to teach it? What if I teach him the wrong thing? What if I’m already out-of-touch with today’s kids? How do I even know if I mess up?

This is way out of my comfort zone. I like well-defined answers. Every calculus problem has one correct answer. One. Every design has one optimum. One. Every manufacturing process has one maximum efficiency. One. With this baby, there isn’t one answer, and that unbelievably frustrating.

I need a single solution. An optimum. A perfect plan of what to do and when to do it. It’s pretty obvious I’m not going to get it.

Maybe this is why I hated all those liberal arts classes in college; I need a right answer.

As always, any and all advice would be appreciated.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

Direction or Misdirection?

Recently, economist and policy analyst Stephen Moore did an interview with a well-circulated newsletter that I occasionally read. He's is the author of the new book "The End of Prosperity" (linky-linky) and an editorial writer for the Wall Street Journal. He is very well educated and was the senior economist for the the U.S. Congress Joint Economic Committee, so he definitely knows what he's talking about. I found this segment of the interview particularly interesting and certainly timely as we start a new era with a president and congress bound and determined to try to regulate, socialize, and tax this country into prosperity:

“The 1990’s was a great decade. Our book (The End of Prosperity) describes when Reagan came in with a new kind of supply-side pro-free-market philosophy- turning around, by the way, the worst decade of the century other than the Great Depression, which was the 1970’s.

Amazingly , the left is rewriting the history of the 70’s: “If only we hadn’t had Reaganomics, we could go back to those wonderful years of the 1970’s”- when we had gas lines and 25% mortgage interest rates and 14% inflation.”

In any case, Reagan did two things. He cut tax rates very significantly from 70% all the way down to 28%. And he slayed inflation. The inflation rate went from 14.5% down to 3%. We had the greatest boom for 25 years in the history of civilization. No country had ever seen anything like what happened in American from the early 1980’s through 2007. We created $40 trillion dollars of net new wealth over that period. It was an awesome experiment in prosperity.

Now, Bill Clinton’s tax increase did hurt the economy, The evidence is that in the first two years in the Clinton Administration, the economy actually slowed down. But once you had the Republican Revolution in 1994, once you had the combination of Newt Gingrich and Dick Armey running the Congress, then Clinton moved back to the right. That’s when he gave his speech, “the era of big government is over.”

We had welfare reform, we had the capital gains tax cut, we balanced the budget. Those were all pro-growth Reagan ideas.

But a lot of the economists that I talk to in the Obama camp look at that period and say, “Look, we can raise taxes through the roof and its not going to hurt the economy.”

That’s a very dangerous idea at a time when the rest of the world is going the other way. China, Sweden, India, my goodness, Russia has a 13% flat tax. How are we going to compete with them with a 40% income tax? It’s a really dangerous idea to be talking about raising taxes right now in the face of the worst economy we’ve had in 25 years.”

Ah, the 70's. I'm so glad I was just a baby during the vast majority of them, especially the Carter years. I think my head would have exploded. I just hope the new prez doesn't take us the same direction.


Thursday, January 15, 2009

Advice for 01/15/09

Advice of the Day: Don't sneeze when you've got a mouth full of shredded wheat.

Follow-up advice: If you do sneeze with a mouth full of shredded wheat, don't try to contain it with your hand. It just ends up all over your face, including your eyes, beard and nose.

Follow-up to the follow-up advice: If you do sneeze with a mouth full of shredded wheat, and you do try to contain it with your hand, make sure you check yourself out in a mirror before heading to a meeting. Partially-chewed shredded wheat in your goatee is not professional.


Monday, January 12, 2009

The Great Closet Adventure, Part Two

I wanted to make sure that the closet I designed was efficient, functional and most importantly, flexible. I wanted the ability to move shelves and rods around as our closet needs changed and evolved. To me, this meant that everything needs to be installed on standards. (standards are the vertical beams that brackets attach to). That would allow anything to moved up and down in approximately 1.5" increments.

Flexible. So, I started installing the standards I had purchased on every stud in the room. All told, I installed 22 seven-foot standards. When I was done, looked a bit like a prison, with white bars even spaced every 16 inches.

Next, I referenced my parts list and double checked some measurements. Then I started cutting my shelves to length. The shelves I purchased were heavy-duty ClosetMaid shelves that were 12 inches deep and had an integrated hanging rod for clothes on hangers. Even though they were available in 4, 6, and 8-foot lengths too, I purchased the 12-foot lengths to reduce cost. I had a cut sheet drawn before I shopped, so I knew exactly how many lengths to get and how much waste I would have. I pulled out my DeWalt sawzall (my favorite power tool) and got to cutting the shelves to the correct length.

As I cut them one-by-one, I wiped them down and installed the plastic end caps to cover the rough ends. Then I moved the upstairs and installed them on the brackets in the standards. Before long, everything was cut and installed. I made some minor adjustments to the shelf heights and lengths, and at the end I was left with a total of only 18" of scrap shelf, in three pieces. Not too bad.

We spent the rest of the day putting the clothes back in and sorting and re-organizing my wife's clothes. When we were finished, we had gained about 7 linear feet of hanging space and another 12 linear feet of shelf space. We were able to get all of her clothes and all of my clothes in, and still space left over. Efficiency is beautiful.

My wife was amazed. Not only was there more room, but everything was still easily reachable and organized. I was referred to as the "closet magician" the rest of the weekend.

All in all, it was a lot of work, but the wife is happy, the baby has a closet, and I don't have to trek to the basement to retrieve my khakis in the morning. Complete success.


The Great Closet Adventure, Part One

I lost my closet.

My closet has been taken over by an unborn child. You see, when my wife and I married, I got the closet in the spare bedroom upstairs for my clothes. The large walk-in closet in the master bedroom was inefficient and, um, full. My little closet was tight, but adequate. I even built some shelves to better utilize the top space above the hanging rods. Even though I had to go to a different bedroom to retrieve my clothes in the mornings, all was well and we were happy with our closet space.

However, when we found out that my lovely wife was pregnant, the spare bedroom upstairs was quickly deemed "the nursery'. At first, I thought "No problem. Baby clothes are tiny and don't need hung up anyway. My closet is safe." Boy, was I wrong. Through the nesting process (learn about that bit of fun here), I was firmly informed that baby clothes are indeed hang-able and will take up a lot of space. They even sell baby clothes hangers, which are basically miniature versions of adult hangers at higher prices, but apparently they're very important. Ask me how I know.

Anyway, I was also informed that under no circumstances was I to enter the nursery every morning at 4:30am to retrieve my clothes. So, I was ousted from my closet and had to come up another solution. The basement bedroom was out (too far), the office closet upstairs was out (full of office-y stuff), and the coat closets downstairs already house, well, coats.

So, that left me with reorganizing and increasing the space efficiency of the master bedroom walk-in closet. So this weekend, we set off on that task.

The master bedroom closet is a pretty big space, although oddly-shaped. The existing shelves and rods were installed by the previous owner and were in rough shape. They were the cheapest plastic-coasted wire shelves you could buy, supported by plastic wall hooks and flimsy sheet metal brackets. Nothing was screwed into studs, but used plastic wall anchors in drywall. Many shelves had started to droop and the anchors were starting to pull out of the drywall. To top it off, it was ridiculously inefficient. All the shelves were hung at approximately eye-level, leaving a three-foot space of unused space above them, and another 2 foot space underneath the clothes that hung off them.

Since the closet was already full of my wife's clothes, belts, and shoes, there was absolutely zero space for my items. Add that to the near-dangerous hardware, and it was clear that I needed to rip everything out and start over.

On Friday (I only work four days a week...more about that later, I suppose), we moved all of her clothing to a couple of portable closets and out of the way. Then we spent the remainder of the day removing the existing shelving.

Apparently, the previous owners were not engineers. Nor were they efficiency experts or likely even high school graduates. What they were, however, is lazy. Complete home improvement hacks. They were the type of folks that wire light sockets backwards so you get zapped with you change a lightbulb. Or the kind that add lights to the garage by looping wires over existing wires and just taping them up. Dangerous home improvement hacks.

As I stated, not a single screw in the closet was screwed into a stud. Screws were either screwed directly into the drywall (which means they did essentially nothing) or used plastic wall anchors of varying sizes. What's more, no less than eleven different screw sizes and types were used. Eleven! Apparently whatever they had laying around sufficed. They ranged from 2" deck screws to 4" wood screws and even some machine screws. Some had flat heads, some had round heads. Some required a Phillips screwdriver, some required a flathead. Some of the brackets were even secured with nails pounded into wall anchors.

Yep. Nails.

When we were finished removing the old stuff, I was left with an empty room with 64 holes the drywall ranging from 1/8" (screws directly into drywall) to 1/2" (BIG plastic wall anchors). Did you see that? Sixty-four holes. None of which lined up with a stud. Zero. I can't believe the whole system didn't collapse under the weight of Wifey's stuff.

So, I used an entire small container of putty and patches and got to work. Four hours later, everything was spackled, dry, sanded, and smooth. Since the putty matched the paint, it didn't even look too bad. I took some measurements of the room and grabbed my green engineering grid paper (yep, I'm a dork).

I made scale drawings of the room from all angles and optimized the space available with the parts I knew were available at our local hardware store. Before long, I had six scale drawings of the closet from varying angles with every shelf, rod, bracket and standard in place, along with a complete parts list.

90 minutes, $700, and one scary car trip later, I had every piece of hardware needed laid out in the garage. I set up my WorkMate (which are awesome) as a portable vise and went to bed. The rest would be tackled in the morning.

More later...