Thursday, July 22, 2010

New Carpet Eve

About two months ago I posted here about our carpet dilemma, and my no-cash proposition to solve it. The two carpet companies I talked with both responded positively to my inquiry about bartering, but after following up twice with both stores and not getting anywhere, I'd given up on the idea.

Then, I got a call.

And that's how I ended up spending three weeks in June remodeling the office space at a local carpet company. I put in a new corrugated steel ceiling (very cool, looks a little like this ceiling in an Austin Restaurant) and hanging lights. I repaired some pretty severe water damage on one wall, and painted the entire office. I cut, painted, and installed baseboards and I spray painted eight filing cabinets. The only thing in the room I didn't do was rewire some plugs and install a new floor.

If I'd only done the work and gotten some carpet out of the deal, we would have been pleased, but the job has turned out to be so much more. In the process of working at the store I have gotten to know the owners (a husband and wife who've been in the carpet business for about ten years and spend their weekends playing elite little league baseball with their boys) and the handful of employees, installers, and contractors that frequent the store.

Good people. Every last one of them.

I mentioned the arrangement to my mom on the phone a few weeks ago--how I'd become friends with everyone at the store and how they'd not only been willing to work with me, but really welcomed me into their store family--and she said something like, "I wish carpet store owners in Vegas were more like that." And that got me thinking--what is it about one place that breeds selfishness and cynicism, while another place fosters trust and charity? It's not that Lubbock isn't without scoundrels or that Vegas isn't without saints--no, its something else.

Maybe its Texas. Maybe its the South. Maybe its the way that Lubbock maintains a "small town" feel despite the population climbing to nearly a quarter of a million people. Maybe its the power of putting yourself out there for someone.

I remember the first day I went to the carpet store to talk with Kim, one of the owners, about the work I would be doing for them. The end of the conversation came down to deciding how to calculate the value of my labor and after passing a few ideas back and forth, there was this kind of awkward moment in which I was trying to explain to her that I wanted to be compensated fairly, but I also wanted them to feel like they were getting a good deal.

Talking about money is hard.

really hard.

for me.

But I'm glad I explained myself, because Kim said she'd felt the same way and that she'd been a little nervous because I was a stranger and she and her husband had no idea what to expect.

We never signed a contract.

But we had a verbal one--I won't take advantage of you, and you won't take advantage of me.

During the three weeks I spent at the store they lent me their tools, let me drive their trucks, gave me the store credit card to make purchases, bought me lunch, gave me some flooring supplies for another project, and gave me free reign to come up with a way to put their remodeling ideas into reality.

Trust is a wonderful, terrible, awesome, essential, and risky venture.

And without it, none of us could ever get anything done.

And thanks to it, we've made some new friends...and to boot, we're getting new carpet tomorrow.

"Pour You Out a Blessing"

I haven't been writing much at all on the blog lately. Not because I don't want to, just busy. But today I felt like I needed to take time to write about this.

I get asked these questions a lot:
You mean you don't work? Your husband is a graduate student, you have 3 kids and you don't work? How do you live?

There's a lot to that question, much of it is a personal decision, but part of it is continually giving back. Sometimes financial blessings come to us at different times and different ways but we as a family have come to recognize the Lord's hand in our financial life. It's not something to brag or boast about, we don't even have two cars or money to go see movies in the theater, but the Lord always provides somehow.
The Lord and the church don't need our money. Our personal Franklin Family Contribution is not figured into our congregation's budget, and the Lord already has access to all the resources he needs. But He knows that we need to give, that something fundamentally changes inside us when we willingly and faithfully give. I paid tithes (more about that here) my whole life, it was a good experience as a child and a teenager but it didn't really mean anything until I had a husband and we had hungry mouths to feed and little bodies to keep warm and healthy.

Twice in our life we desperately needed money. Avoiding loans as much as possible and trying to be creative with our money and time we were coming up short. That's not the only two times we needed money, but both times prayers were answered in the same way.
A car accident.
Anyone could probably argue that's not a blessing. But when both times it meant a hit on the rear quarter panel on an older paid-for car and an insurance payout that still left it safely drivable without being fixed, I call it a blessing. It took some perspective of course, but I'm thankful anyway.

Many, many, many times in our nearly 8 years of marriage we've been surprised by the way just the right amount of money shows up in our life at just the right time. It doesn't mean we never have financial issues. When we do though, I'm never scared.

Tomorrow will bring new carpet into our house. If you knew our yearly 'salary' you would know replacing the older carpet throughout the house would not be in the budget. I am so so grateful. The Student often remarks that we cannot afford to not pay tithing. The blessings are just too great.

"Bring ye all the tithes into the storehouse, that there may be meat in mine house, and prove me now herewith, saith the Lord of hosts, if I will not open you the windows of heaven, and pour you out a blessing, that there shall not be room enough to receive it" (Malachi 3:10).

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Amarillo--Land of the 72oz stake.

Not every city can say it is famous for a restaurant that offers a steak the size and weight of a laptop computer, but this is Texas, and Amarillo is a particularly Texan part of Texas. The city's logo has a pair of cowboy boots for LLs and in the brief history found in one of the tourist pamphlets we picked up at the hotel, we read that when the city got started, it had something like 500 people and 500,000 head of cattle.

We were not there, however, for the cattle, or the steaks, but for our cousins, who were coming through town on their way from Arizona to a new job in Wisconsin. We used Travelocity to find a cheap hotel with a pool and free breakfast and the boys chanted "Swimming! Swimming! Swimming!" the whole drive there. I think we were spoiled last summer when our apartment complex had a swimming pool and we got to go swimming every day.

Driving north out of Lubbock always makes me think of our drive from Ohio. The Interstate between Oklahoma city and Lubbock was the last leg of our journey and our first glimpse of Texas. We counted dead Armadillos on the road and watched cotton fields spread out like billowy quilts on all sides. We counted pick-up truck after pick-up truck and craned our necks in a small town called Groom where we passed this 190 foot cross:

Texas felt like a foreign country then, and it still does, in a lot of ways, but now I don't notice the cotton fields so much anymore, or the size of the sky, which stretches out before you on the road and runs all the way to the horizon line, like the whole world is divided into two great swaths of blue and brown.

The boys handled the drive really well and didn't fight at all. They read books and slept and we listened to some kids' music, all the while reminding the boys that we'd go swimming as soon as we got to the hotel. We even had their swim suits on the top of the suitcase.

We pulled up into the parking lot of the hotel, checked in and walked up the three flights of stairs toward our room, which was in the back of the hotel overlooking the pool.

As we walked down the open air hallway toward our room I said, "the pool is just around the corner boys!"

It was hot, and we were all ready for a dip.

Then we turned the corner.

Travelocity advertised this hotel as having a pool, and I guess, technically, they weren't lying. The boys were again sad, but they managed their disappointment and reverted to jumping on the hotel beds while I got on the phone with Travelocity to figure something out.

Eventually, Travelocity paid for us to move to a hotel right next door and the boys got to go swimming. The next day we met our cousins, ate some breakfast and headed off to the Amarillo Zoo. We had Pizza Planet for lunch with a coupon out of the gas station phone book and hit the local science museum on our way out of town.

All in all, it was a nice mini-vacation.

Even without the 72 ounce steak.


Tuesday, July 6, 2010

I can't resist I good English Major joke...

Notice, this one was taken at the botany pond at BYU....small world, this internet is.

I think I'll use this when I talk to my Freshman comp students about the difference between serif and sans serif fonts.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Fourth of July--rained out!

The fourth of July has been canceled in Lubbock. The sizzling fuse working its way through town, getting everyone excited about the parade and the street dance and the BBQ and the watermelon and water fights and baseball and fireworks has been snuffed out, or rather doused.

5.5 inches of rain fell on Lubbock Saturday, flooding streets, stranding motorists, and turning our backyard into a swamp. We'd been planning on heading to South Lubbock for a big neighborhood party with some friends, but we ended up staying inside all day and watching World Cup Soccer, instead.

Well, kind of.

Friday night at about midnight I started doing some dishes when the sink clogged up. In the process of trouble shooting the problem, I unintentionally drained a sink's worth of dish water onto the kitchen floor. I managed to mop up most of the water, but not before a substantial amount of it leaked through the caulk around the edges of the floor and pooled beneath beneath the floor (laminate floors are free-floating).

I ended up pulling out several pieces of the floor and sliding broom handles beneath the rest of it to raise it up high enough to allow air to help dry out the water. I got the entire floor raised up and then barricaded off the kitchen so that unsuspecting boys would not try to walk on the floor in the morning when they woke up.

Saturday morning the floor had dried out so I put it back together and then installed a new garbage disposal (what I thought was the source of the's an old garbage disposal, old like the instructions say "no fish, chicken or dinosaur bones." Ha ha, I must be tired, because that was a lame joke and I'm just going to leave it in here).

However, changing the garbage disposal required a trip to Home Depot, of course, for some plumber's putty, so we all piled into the car and went (and missed Germany's #2,3,and 4 goals against Argentina)

Changing the garbage disposal also meant fixing some of the electrical issues under the sink, which meant about three hours of head scratching, phone calling dad, disconnecting and moving the dishwasher, and almost electrocuting myself.

by four thirty in the afternoon, I'd gotten the floor, sink, dishwasher, and new disposal all in place, but when I turned it on and ran some water, the sink still clogged up again. I'd just spent all day fixing nothing. At this point it was dinner time and the kitchen was a disaster and all of us were grumpy and hungry so the QB found a coupon online for Applebees and we went out to eat.

By the way, I definitely recommend their Cajun Tilapia and their house salad.

By the time we finished eating, the streets were already starting to flood and we almost got stuck in the WalMart parking lot. After the kids went to bed I spent another hour or two trying to unclog the drain with a pipe snake, but nothing seemed to work. Not even 64 ounces of Draino.

Finally, Sunday night, with the help of a friend's electric pipe snake we unclogged the drain and got the kitchen clean enough to bake a cake and eat some real dinner. This cake was our only real homage to the Fourth of July this weekend, and despite missing out on all the fun, the boys handled it pretty well.

Mr. Baseball really wanted to put the real flag in this photo. The cake beneath the flag is slightly doctored version of a Martha Stewart white cake recipe.

The one consolation for missing all the fourth of July stuff this weekend--since we couldn't wash any dishes for twenty four hours or so, we ended up eating fourth of July dinner on paper plates anyway, even without the picnic.