Fixing the Toilet

Did I tell this story already, or did I just compose it in my head and never write it? I started composing it in my head again and it seemed like déjà vu. Weird.

My toilet was leaking. I kept trying to blame the water on the floor near the base on washing my face in the sink next to it or getting out of the bathtub because any time I would notice water on the floor near the base, one of the other two things had happened. Yet somehow I knew that it was more than this. Deep in the recesses of my brain the leaking was there, well, leaking into my consciousness.

The main part of my mind wanted to ignore this. No, it’s not leaking. You just washed your face. You got water all over the basin. See this? Oh, yeah. Okay. Or you just used the toilet after your bath. That’s why the floor is wet. Right. That’s the ticket.

It became undeniable the morning I began cleaning the bathroom and was starting to wipe the base of the toilet off with a sponge to clean it. I knelt down, resting my left hand on the seat lid of the toilet and reaching under to clean. As I did so a splurge of water gushed out from under the base of the toilet.

I pressed the lid again and gush! Out shot another splurge of water. Damn. A leak. It’s a leak.

This meant I was going to have to repair the thing. Pull it off, install a wax ring, clean up the water. Yet while I was thinking Damn! on the one hand, I was also kind of glad on the other. I like fixing things. I like making them better. I hadn’t liked the way the toilet had been installed. Whoever did it did a crappy (isn’t that the perfect adjective for work on a toilet?) job. They didn’t use bolt covers on the bolts. They did a piss poor job of caulking, which was actually a blessing because the water didn’t just sit under the toilet and rot the floor. They also used caulk that was not meant for bathrooms because it was not resisting mildew. I was going to be happy to get rid of this mess.

Aftaer dutifully toddling off to the hardware store to buy a wax ring and new bolts, I turned off the hoses, drained the water, removed the bolts, and lifted the toilet carefully from it’s place. Water seeped everywhere. It really was a good thing this was getting changed. Unlike the last time I changed a toilet and the flooring was too high for the pipe the toilet attached to, this one was level with the floor. Installing would be easy. I scraped up the nasty caulk and cleaned up the old wax. I washed the bottom of the toilet completely and scrubbed out the rest of it in the bathtub. I then went to install the toilet on the base and realized I had purchased the wrong bolts to attach it to the floor. Dang! Back to the hardware store for the correct ones.

While I was at the hardware store, I noticed toilet seat lids. Ours was annoying. It had bolts that constantly came loose. The lid itself was not plastic, but the hinges were and they had broken on one side of each hinge, making the lid rattle and the seat shift when we sat on it. As I stood in the aisle at the hardware store buying the proper bolts, I decided to get a new lid.

I stood staring at the wall of toilet lids on display. I had not realized that there were so many options in toilet lids. Primarily the differences came down to the hinges attaching the lid to the toilet and the ability of the lid to shut without slamming. Hmmm. This seemed an interesting proposition, but an unnecessary one.

I decided on a white wood lid with metal hinges that was about $15. Unfortunately, the store was out of this one except for the display. Dang again. The only other option I liked that was white wood with metal hinges was one that shut without slamming. It cost $35. The other choices were all untenable to me: plastic seats, plastic lids, plastic hinges, or the wrong color or shape. Fine. I’d buy the $35 one.

Back home I installed the lid, finished bolting down the toilet, and cleaned everything up. We dragged the mess of sopping towels to the basement to wash and put away all the tools (my daughter had been helping me with this project).

With the new lid and bolt covers, the toilet looked brand new. No more water seeped from the bottom. We didn’t have to sit down gently to avoid pinching our butts as the seat slid to the side when we sat down. And in spite of my finding such things to be rather silly, I truly liked the lid that didn’t slam. It’s really good, actually.

Overall, the toilet leaking was not a bad thing. I like our “new” toilet. I love it that I can sit on it without worrying about the seat falling off. Water doesn’t ooze out the bottom. There isn’t ugly caulking I have to clean every other day to keep it from looking like someone peed on it. And in the middle of the night when I go to the bathroom, I just close the lid and it shuts softly and quietly. Good times.

How to Stop Coughing

For those of you who know I am a fan of Vicks™ on the feet, and think that this post is going to reiterate that, think again. I have something better that works like a charm. It seems magic, it works so well. It works for adults as well as children.

A couple of years ago during a particularly bad cold where I could not stop coughing no matter what, I wanted to determine what a cough was exactly so that perhaps I could then figure out how to stop it. I had been coughing for days, couldn’t sleep, and was sick to death of the constant tickling in my throat and ache in my head from coughing and coughing and coughing.

I figured out that a lot of cough is a reflex designed to prevent pulmonary aspiration, promote the movement of cilia in the lungs, and to clear airway debris. The reflex is partially triggered by blood in the throat. The purpose behind plasters (covering the chest or feet with different ingredients) to stop coughs is to pull blood away from the vessels into the throat. The point then, of putting Vicks™ or its equivalent on the chest or feet is to draw blood away from the throat, thereby relieving the cough.

I became a major fan of the Vicks™ approach because it worked so well on my baby daughter, who was age one at the time. I figured this out and was suffering mightily from a cold as well. I had given her the children’s version of cough medicine and it wasn’t working any better than the adult version was working for me. My research also brought up medical study after medical study showing how ineffective cough medicine really is. When I put Vicks on my baby’s feet, her coughs would stop within a minute. It was miraculous. She would be sleeping peacefully within minutes.

Yet the Vicks™ approach did not always work so well for me during a particularly bad cold this fall. I have a friend who complained it did not work for her at all. Lying awake coughing one night, I pondered this. Why would it work so well for small children and not adults? The answer it seemed to me was that the soles of the feet of adults are thicker than those of small children. One part of the Vicks™ on the feet approach that I did not like was that I had to spread it on really thick and cover my feet with socks, otherwise the sheets would get covered in petroleum jelly, the ingredient in Vicks™ that holds it together. I scanned my body, considering all the places where blood vessels would be near the surface that would take blood away from the neck. I realized that the wrists are just about perfect. The veins are right there near the surface of the skin, and wrists are far away from the neck.

I started putting Vicks™ on my wrists. It worked much better than feet. However, there was still the issue of petroleum jelly getting all over everything and leaving an oily residue, even after washing. The ingredients in Vicks are camphor, menthol, and eucalyptus. (Incidentally, I never actually used the Vicks™ brand because it is stupidly expensive and the generic version is exactly the same thing.)

Then one afternoon my teenage daughter pointed out that the ingredients in pain relieving cream (aka BenGay™, Icy Hot™, Mentholatum Deep Heat™, and the lot) are virtually identical, except without the petroleum jelly. We had a couple of tubes of generic pain relieving cream. The next time Milla had a cold, she used this on her wrists and claimed it worked better than anything we had used to date. The ingredients are camphor, menthol, and methyl salicylate, which is essentially wintergreen oil. The best part about this stuff is that it is extremely cheap (I paid $2.39 for a 4 ounce tube), and because the veins in the wrist are so close to the surface of the skin, you do not need much to get a result. The cream is not greasy and doesn’t leave any residue on the clothes. Plus the wintergreen smells good. I was also able to purchase a menthol stick designed for sore muscles, which is the best approach of all. Menthol has become our new coughing charm.

My 5-year-old has had a cold for about a week. She sleeps with me and started coughing several nights ago. I keep a stick of menthol rub on the bedside table. She coughs, I rub a small amount on her wrists, the coughing stops in under 20 seconds and she stays asleep for several hours. It’s miraculous. One night, I felt a tickle in my throat that kept on long enough I thought it would erupt in a huge cough. I rubbed on a small amount of menthol. The tickle disappeared. We are both getting sleep, and sleep is the best remedy to cure the cold that causes the cough in the first place.

One small caution: menthol is painful if you get it in your eyes. Be sure to wear long sleeves and cover your wrists after applying so that if your arm is up near your face, you don’t get it in your eyes. I’ve applied it to the inside of the elbow with the same success as the wrists, but with less risk of getting the menthol into the membranes of the eyes.

This works. I can’t recommend it enough. Want to stop a cough? Put menthol on your wrists or anywhere else you see veins near the surface of your skin. It works.

Interestingly, over the summer, we spent a weekend at the coast. I’d had a bit of a niggling cough off and on. Nothing major, but irritating periodically. I did not bring any sort of menthol to the beach with us. Lying there awake with the niggling cough, I considered what else might work. I had read that toothpaste has menthol in it, and it certainly has peppermint oil, which is the original ingredient in menthol. Worn out I figured, why not? I got up, got the travel toothpaste, and smeared some on my wrists. The cough ceased. Both nights we were there it worked. I slept and the cough was never able to really take hold.

One thing to note, if your cough is caused by inflamed lungs, smoking, or something more chronic, this won’t work. This is for the cough that is caused by blood in the blood vessels of the throat. If the cough is caused by something other than blood in the blood vessels in the throat, this is not the remedy.

If you try this, let me know how it worked for you in the comments section. I’m sure others would love to hear of your experience as well.

My Public Service Announcement for the Day

I have figured something out about blow driers. You know how when you go to the hairdresser and they blow out your hair and it has this amazing texture? I figured out today that it is the blow drier. Blow driers have these nets that catch the dust from the air circulating through them. The dustier they get, the worse the blowing. Apparently, the worse the blowing, the worse the texture of your hair too, because mine was looking and feeling seriously shabby. Today I couldn’t stand that it was taking me twice as long as it should to blow dry, and I got the clue that I hadn’t cleaned the dust thing in months and months, so I cleaned it. Voila! Not only did my hair dry quickly again, but my hair had that texture I get at the hairdresser, a texture I have been only intermittently able to achieve at home. Well, duh. It’s the blow drier. Now I know and if you’re reading this, so do you. Clean the lint trap on your blow drier, experience a new level of great hair texture at home.

Why Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney

Filing bankruptcy can be one of the most difficult choices a person makes. Often you have been struggling to meet your financial obligations. Something happens and the house of cards comes tumbling down, leaving you faced with a proposition that seems like failure. It is difficult and frustrating. You go to see an attorney and realize that even though you have no money to pay your bills, the attorney wants over a thousand dollars or more to represent you.

You discover there may be an alternative. You could pay someone much less to prepare your petition for you. You think Why not? Your case isn’t complicated, at least you don’t think it is. You pay a few hundred dollars and file your case. You may be okay. More likely, after things go very wrong you will realize that you should have hired an attorney.

Bankruptcy is more complicated than it appears on the surface. People who have seen or attended a bankruptcy hearing testify that the meetings are often over quickly. What is not apparent from the meeting is that most of the complicated work is done before the meeting takes place. The hearing should go smoothly if everything was done right ahead of time.

Having sat through countless hearings while representing debtors in the bankruptcy cases, I can assure you that bankruptcy is often more complicated than it looks, especially since the changes that took place in the bankruptcy laws in 2005.

Bankruptcy is more than what bills you owe. People often do not realize that all of their belongings are assets that may or may not be exempt. Other intangible things such as claims, insurance policies, and retirement accounts could also be assets. You may fail to disclose an item that could have been protected, only to lose it because of the lack of disclosure. The actions taken in the years and months leading up to bankruptcy can have consequences, and can cause unintended ramifications for friends and family members.

Every consumer bankruptcy case is assigned to a trustee. That person is responsible for ensuring the interests of your creditors are protected. When you hire a bankruptcy attorney, this person is there to represent you. Your attorney can help you to determine which debts you can discharge or pay off. Your attorney will help you protect assets that are not exempt, and will help you to do so legally.  Your attorney will make sure you list every asset and that every asset that can be is protected. Your attorney will help you ensure that bankruptcy is what it is intended to be:  a fresh start.

When you pay an attorney, you are paying that person to ensure you file everything you are supposed to file, turn over all the paperwork you are required to turn over, help you maximize your assets and minimize your losses, and to represent you against your creditors. In short, you are paying for the best fresh start you can muster.

What can a petition preparer do? Legally, all a petition preparer can do is fill in the blanks on your bankruptcy documents. If you choose to pay someone hundreds of dollars for this service you are, in effect, paying hundreds of dollars for data entry service.

If a petition preparer does more than enter information into your petition, that person is breaking the law. Both federal bankruptcy laws and state rules governing the practice of law forbid anyone except a licensed attorney from giving you advice.

Why? To protect you, the consumer. If an attorney messes up your case, there are protections in place to help you. Attorneys in Oregon,Washington, and many other states are required to carry malpractice insurance. They can also be sanctioned by their bars for failure to adhere to a basic code of conduct. There are no systems in place to help you if a document preparer messes up your petition or gives you erroneous advice. You may be able to file a complaint claiming they practiced law without a license, and while the person may face fines or sanctions, you will not get anything to cover your losses.

Hiring an attorney to represent you during your bankruptcy can be expensive. After suffering through financial difficulties and falling behind on your financial obligations, handing over a large sum of money to an attorney can seem like a real hardship. But bankruptcy is not an area to shortchange yourself.  Filing bankruptcy is your opportunity to make a fresh start. Make it the best start it can be by hiring a good attorney to represent, protect, and advise you. Think of it as your first investment in a new financial future.

I am a bankruptcy attorney. I help consumers file for chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy in Oregon and SW Washington.

How to Tell if a Cantaloupe is Ripe

Standing in the grocery store aisle, I overheard another customer ask one of the customer service people in produce how to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe.  I don’t know, said the clerk.  I think you tap on it and if it sounds hollow it is ripe. He was not correct.  Well, not completely incorrect, but the method he was offering is definitely not the best method for checking the ripeness of a cantaloupe. This is not the first time I have heard this question asked, and I rarely hear the correct answer.

I grew up on a small farm.  Although it wasn’t huge, we grew  many things.  One of these many things was cantaloupe.  In late summer early fall when the sun was still hot, I would run up my parent’s driveway after school, grab a couple of melons, take them into the house, and eat them warm, straight off the vine.  There was nothing more sweet and delicious, the sunny orange flesh nearly melting in my mouth.  My mother had learned to grow cantaloupes (also known as muskmelons) from another small time grower, who probably learned the same way.  Via anecdote, the growth and ripening of the plants traveled to the side of our hill, south facing and perfect for cantaloupes.

The best way to tell if a cantaloupe is ripe is to smell the small circle at the base of the melon where the stem used to be.  If it smells sweet and delicious, the melon is ripe and ready to go.  The thing about cantaloupes is that once they are taken from the vine, they are only ripe a very short time before they break down and decompose. This means that a lot of time in the stores, none of the melons will have this smell.  This is because none of them are ripe. They can’t pick them ripe because they would never make the journey to the store in time. If you find a melon with this sweet smell, eat it within a couple or three days, or it will be moldy before you know it.  Although, as is often the case with fruits and vegetables, you can lengthen the time until they are too ripe by putting them into the refrigerator.

The other way to tell a cantaloupe is on its way to ripe is the color.  Cantaloupes are covered with funny beige lines that look like sea coral.  Underneath, if the melon isn’t ripe, it is a sagey, greenish color.  Once it ripens, the entire melon turns beige to match the funny lines.  A melon without the sweet smell but colored all over that cantaloupe beige color will be ripe very soon.  These ones are your best bet if you aren’t planning to eat your melon right away.

What it is it about thumping that so many people find useful?  When melons aren’t ripe, their flesh is denser.  With honeydews and watermelons, whose rinds contain lots of water, it is easier to tell when thumping on them whether they are dense or not.  Not so with cantaloupes. Their rinds are like burlap and not watery at all.  Someone who has handled large numbers of them might be able to tell, but the method is not foolproof and often people end up with cantaloupes that need another few weeks to ripen.  Use the smell test–it works every time.

That’s the scoop on cantaloupes. Enjoy!

Why Hire a Bankruptcy Attorney?

Filing bankruptcy can be one of the most difficult choices a person makes. Often you have been struggling to meet your financial obligations. Something happens and the house of cards comes tumbling down, leaving you faced with a proposition that seems like failure. It is difficult and frustrating. You go to see an attorney and realize that even though you have no money to pay your bills, the attorney wants over a thousand dollars or more to represent you.

You discover there may be an alternative. You could pay someone much less to prepare your petition for you. You think Why not? Your case isn’t complicated, at least you don’t think it is. You pay a few hundred dollars and file your case. You may be okay. More likely, after things go very wrong you will realize that you should have hired an attorney.

Bankruptcy is more complicated than it appears on the surface. People who have seen or attended a bankruptcy hearing testify that the meetings are often over quickly. What is not apparent from the meeting is that most of the complicated work is done before the meeting takes place. The hearing should go smoothly if everything was done right ahead of time.

Having sat through countless hearings while representing debtors in the bankruptcy cases, I can assure you that bankruptcy is often more complicated than it looks, especially since the changes that took place in the bankruptcy laws in 2005.

Bankruptcy is more than what bills you owe. People often do not realize that all of their belongings are assets that may or may not be exempt. Other intangible things such as claims, insurance policies, and retirement accounts could also be assets. You may fail to disclose an item that could have been protected, only to lose it because of the lack of disclosure. The actions taken in the years and months leading up to bankruptcy can have consequences, and can cause unintended ramifications for friends and family members.

Every consumer bankruptcy case is assigned to a trustee. That person is responsible for ensuring the interests of your creditors are protected. When you hire a bankruptcy attorney, this person is there to represent you. Your attorney can help you to determine which debts you can discharge or pay off. Your attorney will help you protect assets that are not exempt, and will help you to do so legally.  Your attorney will make sure you list every asset and that every asset that can be is protected. Your attorney will help you ensure that bankruptcy is what it is intended to be:  a fresh start.

When you pay an attorney, you are paying that person to ensure you file everything you are supposed to file, turn over all the paperwork you are required to turn over, help you maximize your assets and minimize your losses, and to represent you against your creditors. In short, you are paying for the best fresh start you can muster.

What can a petition preparer do? Legally, all a petition preparer can do is fill in the blanks on your bankruptcy documents. If you choose to pay someone hundreds of dollars for this service you are, in effect, paying hundreds of dollars for data entry service.

If a petition preparer does more than enter information into your petition, that person is breaking the law. Both federal bankruptcy laws and state rules governing the practice of law forbid anyone except a licensed attorney from giving you advice.

Why? To protect you, the consumer. If an attorney messes up your case, there are protections in place to help you. Attorneys in Oregon,Washington, and many other states are required to carry malpractice insurance. They can also be sanctioned by their bars for failure to adhere to a basic code of conduct. There are no systems in place to help you if a document preparer messes up your petition or gives you erroneous advice. You may be able to file a complaint claiming they practiced law without a license, and while the person may face fines or sanctions, you will not get anything to cover your losses.

Hiring an attorney to represent you during your bankruptcy can be expensive. After suffering through financial difficulties and falling behind on your financial obligations, handing over a large sum of money to an attorney can seem like a real hardship. But bankruptcy is not an area to shortchange yourself.  Filing bankruptcy is your opportunity to make a fresh start. Make it the best start it can be by hiring a good attorney to represent, protect, and advise you. Think of it as your first investment in a new financial future.

I am a bankruptcy attorney. I help consumers file for chapter 7 and chapter 13 bankruptcy in Oregon and SW Washington.

Move Your Money

I’m very excited about a movement brewing to move money out of the big four banks (Chase, Citi, Wells Fargo, and Bank of America) and into smaller, community-based banks.  The big banks took our bailout money, then earned record profits, returning to the same practices that caused the collapse in the first place.  In spite of their profits, they have cut lending by 100 billion dollars in spite of the bailout money that was intended to get them lending again.

In the meantime, local community banks, most of whom avoided the corrupt practices of the big banks, are having difficulty getting by, and government policies that keep propping up the big guys are making things more difficult for banks who have followed the rules.

A group of people came up with an idea to help the little banks while simultaneously sending a message with teeth to the greedy, corrupt thieves who caused the meltdown in the first place.  The idea is simple.  If enough people move their money out of the big four and into smaller, local, solvent institutions, the system will become more balanced so it can be stronger, more stable, and productive, working for economic growth instead of against it.

You can get more information at the website www.MoveYourMoney.info.  The site will have a page where you can enter your zip code to find a highly ranked local bank in your area.

Move your money.  Let’s show those banks who think they are too big to fail that we aren’t putting up with their corruption any longer.