Rest in Peace dear brother Jeremy. I love you.

My brother Jeremy Davis Carter died last night. 2:00 AM. As I’m writing this, about 6 hours ago. He was only 28 years old. Dammit.

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I am so raw. I feel everything and nothing at once, at the same time. I wasn’t planning on blogging. I don’t know if I will hit “Publish”. I might. But right now my thoughts are disjointed, I am anxious to go out and do something, tackle something, but there is really nothing to do. At least not yet. There will be.

My dad called me sometime around 10:10 last night and told me that something was wrong, that they were at the hospital with Jeremy and it was not good. I got in the car and got there as quick as I could. I got a hold of Jamie at work and got him to come down. He made it there before me.

Jeremy was in Trauma 1 in the ER. He was not responsive. His temperature was low. His organs were not working. He was bleeding. He was yellow. I find out later that he had a heart attack at home while alone in the kitchen with our mom, my dear mother had to give him CPR until the paramedics came, and they took him to the ER.

Trauma 1 was a flurry of activity the entire night. Until it wasn’t. Jeremy had IV’s everywhere; leg, groin, arm, thumb. He had saline, epinephrine, blood, potassium, vial after vial after bag after bag after syringe. They did everything they could, they really did. They set us up in a family room. About 1:50, we hear Code Blue, Trauma 1. All personnel. Dammit.

Jeremy’s heart stopped a second time. They did CPR for 10 minutes. CPR in a real ER is no joke. It’s not slow, even compressions. It’s fast. It’s hard. It’s violent. It shakes the whole bed and takes an incredible amount of energy and doctors switch out every 30 seconds because it’s just so hard.

After 10 minutes of trying, they said they would continue, but he would likely be severely brain damaged. We told them to stop. They did. He died at 2:00 AM on December 20, 2015. He was only 28 years old. Dammit. I cried as hard as I ever had. I kept it together until the doctor said stop. Not afterwards. None of us did.

What happened after that. I don’t know. It’s surreal. It’s still surreal. I am waiting to wake up or for somebody to tell me that it was a nightmare or a horrible case of mistaken identity or really for somebody that knows all the facts to just tell me that the facts are not true. Just this one time can the facts not be true. I want the universe to lie to me. Just this once.

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I stayed around the hospital until 4. I told Jeremy goodbye. I kissed him. I hugged my brother Jamie, my wife, my parents, my grandparents. We cried. We cursed. We prayed. We cursed. We cried again. I’m still cursing. Still crying.

I came home to my in-laws. They came to get Charlie and I needed to be with my son. I hoped I would be able to sleep. I did not. I thought about everything. I read the text messages that we sent each other. Just on Tuesday. Dammit Jeremy. Send me another joke. Something funny from 9gag. Tell me about your classes Jeremy. Please. How was orientation, buddy? Are you excited? Have you decided what area of computing you want to study? Are you going to do graphics design? Dammit Jeremy text me and tell me it was all a lie and you’re fine and you’re excited about school, excited to see Charlie for Christmas. I am crying my eyes out right now buddy. I can’t see the screen.

It’s hard to comprehend how much the world has changed. I’ve written my Christmas letter to send to everybody. It’s fun and witty because I wanted you to enjoy it. I wrote that 2015 was good to us. We are supposed to get a cherry blossom tree to dedicate to mom and dad. I need you to get the plaque. I just got an email that a present I got for you has arrived at my house. It’s a hanger for your guitar, so you can put yours on the wall like I have for mine. I remember picking out the guitar with you. Very well. We got you an awesome amp. Played some Bombtrack. It was a very fun day with you.

I remember how you cried when you met Charlie for the first time. You were so sweet with him. You were a good uncle. He’ll know about you.

Dammit. I’m fine for a while then I get a wave, a tidal wave, that just comes over me and tumbles me around and I cry my eyes out. Then I get it together. Then I get a trigger. I think about my parent’s Christmas card. Oh god their Christmas card. When Shutterfly printed it off, Jeremy was alive, smiling. The Peachtree City post office is amazingly terrible. They’ve had the damn Christmas cards at their office since December 14. They’ve scanned this 3 pound box 5 times. They still haven’t delivered them. Jeremy never saw it. Dammit. Dammit. Dammit.

I think about going through your stuff. I don’t want to do that. I don’t want to have to. I worry about mom and dad. So much. I don’t know what they are going to do. I don’t know what I am going to do, but mom and dad. Mom.

I’m so excited to tell you about Charlie’s Christmas present. Remember those cardboard blocks we had as a kid? We built forts, knocked them down, threw them at each other, stood on them, made ramps, made walls, broke through them. I hid your toys in them and you did the same. We made a turret that went to the ceiling more than once. I can’t wait for you to play with them again. Play with them with Charlie. I think you’ll be 7 again. Dammit dammit dammit.

It’s been about 12 hours now. The word has gone around the family and close friends. I’m getting messages of love and support. Devastating. We are devastated. I heard the heart-wrenching devastating news. Devastated. That’s really the correct word. Nothing else really captures it. I am a sleepless shell with nothing inside. De vastare. Totally lay waste. That sums it up.

I went over to my parents house. I’ve never been so miserable. I don’t know if I have any tears left. Before I went to my parents house, I went to their old house. By chance, the mailman pulled in behind me. I stood in the middle of the road for them to deliver the damn Christmas card. They had it on the truck. The mail carrier handed it to me and said “Have a nice day.” It occurred to me that “Have a nice day.” is something that people say to each other. It’s normal. My world is so totally shattered and this mail carrier’s world is not. Have a nice day. Here are your Christmas cards. Such is the situation where the Christmas cards and Have a Nice Day are the most wretched of all wretched things.

I brought them into my parents house but did not announce them. I sat them next to my computer, which remained unopened. We all cried our eyes out again. I thought I got a lot of it out. Then we started talking about “plans”. We do not want to make plans. Not those plans. But it needed to be discussed. We don’t have a plot in Peachtree City. Our family has plots in Plains and in Arlington, Georgia. Mom asked dad if he wanted to bury him in Plains. He said probably but wanted to know if mom felt strongly about burying him in Arlington. She wanted dad to consider it. Then they asked me. I told them that it was up to them. They disagreed. My eyes welled up again. Jeremy did not want to be buried. He wanted to be cremated. I told them this. They remembered the conversation, but didn’t know if he was serious. He was. Many months or years ago he told us that if anything happened, he wanted to be cremated because he is claustrophobic. It took me three tries to get it out. Dammit.

More wailing sobs from the porch. My mom found the box of Christmas cards. It has 2 pictures of Jeremy. One is at my house with everybody but Jamie. The picture with Jamie is of the Christmas tree that he and Jamie cut down. It’s in my parent’s living room. There are presents for him under the tree.

I have a headache. I haven’t slept. I can’t sleep. My eyes are still puffy and the devastating, crushing, overwhelming pain comes in waves. I’m fine. I’m helping dad repair some furniture. Then I am very very not. It grips you and makes you scream out in agony. Then you control yourself and you start thinking about other things. Anything really. What kind of tree is that? What color are you going to stain the deck? How much was your chandelier? And then the wound rips wide open. Wide wide open. The trigger might be a half empty bottle of Caffeine Free Coca-Cola. A crushed cigarette pack. The image in my mind’s eye when Charlie runs out to him arms outstretched yelling Unka Jeremy!

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He had a whole battery of tests just a couple months ago. He couldn’t eat well and his legs ached. He had nearly every doctor at Emory look at him. They ended up prescribing him Vitamin A and Vitamin D. After all that. He got the full work over and really just needed vitamins. If a 28 year old heart is going to go out, shouldn’t they have found that? Maybe, but they didn’t. All I am really doing is negotiating with the universe, trying to find an inconsistency, trying to find a chink in the reality of events, the failure in the cosmic equation, hoping if I find the flaw that I can prove to the world that it didn’t actually happen and that Jeremy and I can laugh about it.

Dammit I am going to miss you buddy. I love you Jeremy.

Your loving brother Josh

Anatomy of a Track Day

Track Day, Bro!

Bro. Bro! Track Day Bro! Bro… Bro! Track Day! and then we hi-five and watch Fast and the Furious Seventeen.

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No. It’s nothing like that, at all. Despite the crazy hardware that shows up, there’s a very friendly camaraderie amongst the people that show up and actually drive. It’s a great atmosphere where you can bug the hell out of a dude that shows up with a new GT-R asking for rides (he said yes, but I had to dip out before it was my turn), show respect for a dude that shows up with a black GT-R Skyline and actually takes it out, hang out with a crazy-cool dude who instructs at the Porsche Experience Center but shows up (and runs down Miatas and 370z’s) in a stock Honda Fit with drum brakes, gawk at guy who “has the same car as I do” except he dropped in a 2003 Porsche 911 3.4L engine and devoted his entire trunk to an oil cooler, and chase down a 2015 C7 Corvette in your stock 16 year old Boxster. All smiles all the time, as long as you keep the shiny side up.

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I’ve done over 150 laps at Atlanta Motorsports Park, which is the best track ever, and I’ve seen a couple patterns emerge. If you’ve never been, here’s what you can expect on track day.

To begin at the beginning, it’s an early morning. EARLY. My alarm goes off at 5:30. And I happily jump out of bed. Seriously, it’s the easiest 5:30 you’ll ever wake up for. 5:30 for a 7:00 meeting at work? Snooze. snooze. Snooze again. Then oh crap. Oh Crap! Think of a reason to tell your boss why you missed the meeting. Son was sick. Yeah, he’s never heard that one before, bingo.

Not on track day. You’ll pop right out of bed. You’ll be happy, but not necessarily sharp. Good thing you packed your car the night before. Before you go to sleep, you’ll need the following in your car: snacks, water, a towel, tools, a spare t-shirt in case you have to get dirty, your hat, sun block, sun glasses (sun’s not up at 5:30. Don’t plan on remembering it), your tech sheet (you remembered to fill out your tech sheet, right?), your helmet, your driving gloves, and some extra fluids like brake fluid and oil. I also always bring glass cleaner and wipes. Pack your loose stuff in a bin so you can keep your stuff from tumbling all over the paddocks, and take out everything else. Taco Bell receipts, your brief case, empty food containers from lunch, empty water bottles, coffee mugs, dead bodies, and floor mats. You don’t need your floor mats. You won’t want your floor mats. You want nothing to mess with your feet. Just leave it at home.

But your car is packed, so now you go to sleep, wake up, make some coffee, put on a blipshift, manufacturer, performance-branded, or an ironic and mildly amusing T-shirt, feed the dog so he doesn’t bark and wake up the whole house waking your baby and making your wife very very mad, and point your GPS to the track. It’s 6 AM on a Sunday, there is no one else on the road except for Johnny Law, and the track opens at 7.

As you near the track, it’s not quiiiiite 7 AM, but the sun is just starting to peak out and drivers are converging. You’ll find yourself on a twisty mountain 2-lane road with plenty of elevation changes, E30’s, E36’s, caged Miatas, 350z’s, Mustangs, Camaros with track packages, and a new C7 Corvette or 3. There is no place for the fuzz to hang out on this particular stretch of Highway 53, so you might find yourself in a spirited caravan and [redacted]. You make it to the track entrance and find a surprisingly long line of cars waiting to get into the paddocks. Fall in line, sit tight, and contemplate your left foot skills while staring up at the hill up to the check-in booth. Then you finally get up to the booth, sign the waver that says that you “Fully Understand and Agree That” something, I dunno, and then you’re in. That wasn’t too bad! Next thing to do is to head to Tech Check.

What’s Tech Check? It’s sounds like an interrogation booth for your car. If you’ve never done it, you might picture a team of Track Professionals going over your car with a fine tooth comb, checking shocks, motor mounts, lug nuts, flux capacitors, horns, but really all you do is hand them your Tech Sheet checklist that you went through the day before to make sure you torqued down your lug nuts and that your brake pads aren’t going to give up the ghost this session. Tech will check your helmet and give you a Run Group sticker, then you’re ready to head to the paddocks. Time to go find a nice patch of asphalt in the paddocks and settle in.

You found your spot (pro tip: go to pit lane at AMP. Almost nobody goes there and I don’t know why. It’s always open.) First thing you want to do is say hi to your neighbors. It helps calm your track nerves and you just might find yourself next to an instructor at the Porsche Experience Center driving a bone stock Honda Fit.

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After Tech Check, and after you find a spot, the Driver’s Meeting is scheduled for 8:00, but always gets pushed out because Tech took longer than every one thought. So, about 8:15, you go to the Driver’s Meeting. They’re mandatory, and they’re all the same, and it’s all good reminders. Here’s the script:

“This is a High Performance Driving Event. This is not a race. There are no trophies, so don’t try to go be an hero. Let’s stay safe out there and have a good time. Be safe, don’t be stupid, ask around if you need help around the track. And I want good, solid, clear point-by’s. Don’t be a dick. Now Newt is going to go over the track and the flags, and then we’ll pair novices with instructors.”

Don’t be a dick. That’s the theme and most everybody takes it to heart on the track. Talk all the smack you want in the paddocks, but on-track if you try to take the inside going into the turn 1 hairpin without a point-by, you will have executed a dick move, and you will be shown a black flag, and you will have to pull in to pit lane to talk to the track marshal, and she will tell you that you have been a dick, and you get to sit and watch everybody not being a dick for the rest of the session. Then you can count on the person you cut off at the hairpin, or the event organizer, finding you in the paddocks to talk to you about not being a dick. It’s actually very rare and the track tolerance is zero. But if you do it, go out and do better next time.

So, with that important bit behind us, the next thing that happens is ducks-in-a-row. This is usually an open 10-minute period for anybody who wants to to get out on the track and drive it…. Slowly!…. to look at the track, see if anything is wet, remind yourself about the line, then get off. This is not a session, there is no passing.

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Now the fun part. You’ve got your run groups, you have your session sheet, and you’re only a couple minutes away from track time. Mount that Go-Pro, fire up your lap timer, set up the external GPS, check tire pressure one more time, put on the helmet, put on the gloves, and drive toward the track.

Line up in pit row. Heart’s thumping, lap timer is at 0:00 waiting to start, car is cold, track is cold, brakes are cold, tires are cold. You get waved on track. And now it’s go time!

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The first lap of every session is always a caution lap. Caution does not mean Sunday drive, but you don’t pass. You warm up your tires, your brakes, your mind and then you get all the way around the track to the finish line. Get the green flag flying from the starter and it’s time to GO!

Slam on the brakes at the 4 marker, heel-toe down to 3rd, then second, take the hairpin into Turn 1 and press in the throttle coming out of the turn. Track out and full throttle through Turn 2, get straight and tap on the brakes for Turn 3 and pop up to the skid pad at Turn 4. Double apex and let the track come to you to apex Turn 5 and aim straight for the spot between the 3 and 2 marker. Slam on brakes and heel-toe down to 2nd to turn in, then sharp right to head for the late apex at the Turn 6 hairpin. 7 and 8 just point you toward turn in at Turn 9, sharp left hander and take every bit of the curbing in turn 10. Turn once and let that wheel position take your car from track in to track out back to track in at Turn 11, then tap the brakes to send your weight to the front of the car to take a 90 degree right hander at better than 60 miles an hour. Drive straight up the hill staring at nothing but the sky, stay left ALL the way to Track In, Sharp right to take half the curb on Turn 12, unsettle your car in a straight line and drive off camber into 13 and aim for the meadow to pick up speed. Turn 14 is really just the longest carousel straight in the world so put your foot down, get your tires talking to you in three digits, touch the curb at Turn 15 and aim straight for the grass on the right side of the track before you can even see Turn 16. Get straight and kiss the curb on 16, because if you’re too far left you’re going into the wall. 150 laps and I still don’t have the nerve to keep my foot down until I’m through 16, so a little breathe off the throttle keeps you grounded. Scream down the front straight and cross the finish line, slam on brakes at the 4 marker, heel-tow down to 3rd, then second, then take the hairpin into Turn 1 and press in the throttle coming out of the turn. Rinse. Repeat. Time after time after time after time. Get better, go faster, brake later, accelerate harder. Spend all your money trying to take of seconds. Then tenths of seconds. Your heart is pounding, your tires are squealing, and the whole track smells like hot brake pads and a lil bit of clutch.

Go go go until you see the checkered flag. You’ll be on track for 20 minutes. Cross the finish line at full throttle and then it’s time to cool it. Take a breather, keep your line, smile at a job well done and curse yourself for your screw ups. So you missed a shift or didn’t dump your clutch smoothly. So you missed the apex at turn 14. So you didn’t get on the throttle in time coming out of 6. That’s fine. Do better next time. Go back to your spot in the paddocks and get up to the stands to watch the other run groups. Go find people that you pointed by on the track and ask them for pointers. Go find somebody replacing a wheel hub on their Miata and lend a hand. Go talk to somebody who shoehorned a LS6 into an RX8. Go find the dude that rolled up in a new GT3. You’re on the same track with all these folks so you have a lot to talk about. It is easy to make friends on track day.

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I’ve dropped more than 10 seconds since I started at AMP. I’m looking for 2 more seconds next time I go. The next track day is March 13. Sign up here http://www.jzillatrackdays.com/ and come join me!

Josh

Happy Birthday Mr. Christmas!

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Kids are adorable. Well, Charlie is adorable. I can’t vouch for your kid.

We promised Charlie a Christmas Tree. I love a real tree. Sure, you can buy the ones that are already lit, perfectly proportioned, and ready to hold a Target’s worth of ornaments. But you’re missing out on the trail of needles, the need to water your soon-to-be-dead-tree, and the aroma of Christmas. To me, Christmastime is the smell of Douglas Fir. I hope to make it Charlie’s lasting hallmark of Christmas.

But he is far too young for me to be wishing him nostalgia. He barely knows what an Advent Calendar is. Well, that’s not entirely true. He knows they’re a box with a lot of doors full of chocolate.

Sarah bought him one to teach him about Christmas, Jesus, Advent, Patience, and Chocolate. We quickly discovered its utility in bribery. If you eat a good dinner, and eat your asparagus and chicken and rice “all gone”, we can open an Advent door and read the verse and eat the delicious chocolate. It worked for the first day. And the second. Charlie caught on. There’s chocolate behind every door.

On December 3, Sarah gave him his chocolate and Charlie wanted another. Sarah took the Advent calendar and propped it on the table so he could look at the Christmas Train scene. Charlie told mommy that he wanted to look at it up close, so mommy let him hold it. He immediately ripped open a door (14th of December), caught the tumbling premature chocolate, and popped it into his mouth. Quick as a flash. I was on the other side of the kitchen and looked over at the commotion and saw Charlie staring defiantly at Mommy, Mommy agape processing the mischievousness of her sweet angel, and then I stared at the coffee maker for fear that Charlie could see me crying my eyes out in laughter at the scene. This was one of those hilarious parenting moments that you certainly did NOT want to let your little one know was funny. I felt sorry that Sarah had to keep it together, then I looked at her and saw that she wasn’t having any problem at all. Her look was genuine, and I pretty much had to leave the room. Mommy was stern that Charlie was NOT getting December 4th’s chocolate.  It was my favorite memory of this Christmas, and all for naught, because…

December 4 was the Boar’s Head Ceremony. The Boar’s Head (as I understand, is the rarest dish in all the land) is a ceremony celebrating Oglethorpe’s best and brightest. It rings in the Christmas celebration at Oglethorpe and recognizes all past and newly minted Omicron Delta Kappa’s (Oglethorpe’s campus leaders. Sarah’s one). It starts with a banquet, crescendos with a concert, and finishes with a feast. Chocolate abounds. The concert this year was a test. We brought Charlie and tried to get him to sit through the whole thing. We pulled out every trick that we had. I bounced him on my leg, Sarah fed him Peanut Butter crackers. We got through. We told Charlie about the singers, made him watch the tuba, told him what the conductor Dr. Ray was doing. He was the maestro, leading the pack. Between two incredibly soft and somber Christmas songs, Charlie figured out Dr. Ray, and wanted to be the conductor. Dr. Ray lifted his baton, tapped his music stand, and Charlie belted out “Ready, Set, Go!” Luckily our section was small, otherwise the laughter from Stage Right might have overshadowed the maestro.

Aaand that was my favorite part about this Christmas. Until we got our Christmas tree.

We went to the Brookhaven Christian Church, where we get all of our pumpkins in the fall and our Christmas trees in the Christmas, and picked out a tree. They had a good run this year, but wanted to be done with trees. How much is this tree? $65. What’s this brown here? Uh… $45. Deal. So we brought the tree home, made dinner (Sarah was Hangry. Urban Dictionary it. I learned a new term too.) and then I mounted it in the stand. I had the great idea to put the lights on the tree in the garage, since I was mounting the tree in the stand in the garage anyway, and I could easily walk all around it. Lit it up. Wrapped it, re-wrapped it, took some slack out and re-wrapped it, then I re-wrapped it. After I re-wrapped it, I got Charlie to come back out and countdown to lighting, which when you’re two years old, is exactly like counting up. One. Two. Three! I plugged in the tree, and Charlie was amazed. “Wow!” he said. “Happy Birthday, Mr. Christmas!”

Best Christmas yet. And we’re still 3 weeks away.

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Josh

I Can See Clearly Now

I fixed muh tee-vee.

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Many moons ago, after a very long day, Sarah and I sat down to enjoy some quality network programming (if I’m playing odds, it was probably a Modern Family rerun). I pressed the go button on the remote and no picture. The screen did not turn on and the power light blinked exactly 6 times. Nada. Dammit.

I got off the couch and pressed the power button manually, hoping that the act of getting off the couch and actually pressing a button on the device would improve things. It did! I got a closer look at the no-screen and 6 blinks. Nada. Dammit.

I considered the evidence. I pressed the power button and got 6 blinks from the power light and got no picture. Then I pressed the power button on the TV, got 6 blinks and no picture. I was doing the thing that was supposed to get me a picture and I got no picture. Hypotheses were forming. Conclusions were coming into focus. Either 6 blinks was the new “watching TV” or my “TV was busted.” My heart sank. Neither option seemed good. I had a very good, very well researched, Josh spec’d Panasonic Viera Plasma TV. It had perfect blacks. Vivid color. Dead.

In my scotch-induced haze, and I swear this is true, I fired up the Google machine and just Googled “Panasonic TV 6 blinks”. First thing that came up was a Youtube video on how to diagnose your Panasonic TV with 6 blinks. First thing to do was to take apart your TV. This seemed reasonable. At least I could figure out what was wrong. So I took the monitor from my computer and brought it downstairs and rummaged through my trunk and got a DVI to HDMI cable, hooked up the monitor, got Sarah setup with American Idol or America’s Got Talent or America’s Got A Dude That Belly Flops Through Rings Of Fire Into A Wading Pool Of Alligators And Somehow This Is TV, and marveled at the fact that I had a 6′ DVI to HDMI cable in my trunk.

I got a screwdriver.

It was surgery time. Poured myself another scotch, got to work. Watching this video, I learned that there were really only two possibilities for the dreaded 6 blinks. First and easiest, was a failed power board. Second and not easiest, was a dead SN board. The SN board renders the picture on your screen. It’s considered important. Dude on the Youtube video, who seemed to know what he was doing, said disconnect this cable, disconnect this other cable, try to turn it on. If the TV power light stays on but screen stays off, it’s your power board. If your TV power light blinks 6 times, SN board is toast. So, I disconnected the cables and turned on the TV. A spark shot out of one of the chips on the SN board. Magic Smoke was released.

My SN board was toast.

So I went on Panasonic’s website to order the SN board. I found out that SN stands for SNotgoingtomakeitanymore. Well dammit.

eBay? No new boards, but there’s a dude on eBay that sells a fixit service for 6 or 7 Blinks. There’s another dude that sells a fix for the exotic 3 Blinks. I settled on a guy that (1) claimed that he could fix any 3, 5, 6, or 7 Blink SN board, and (2) actually owned an electronics repair shop. He was a $15 premium over the basement-dwelling 15 year old (hey, I don’t judge, I was that kid once), but I figured money well spent. I think he was in Van Nuys. I called him up, paid him through eBay, sent him my board. Got a quick turn from him too. Probably within a week, or just about.

But that weekend we went to Sarah’s parent’s house and borrowed David’s TV. Then the SN card sat in a box.

And sat.

And sat.

Finally, we cleaned off the operating room table dining room table for Thanksgiving, and I had room to try out this new board. Time to pour myself a scotch.

I took apart the TV again, and put the SN card in place. Then I looked for the screws. Dammit. Where did I put the screws? Then I thought, where would John Dewar and Sons put the screws? I checked where the TV should go, in the TV cabinet. Bingo.

Put it in place, screwed it in, got most of the lines working. This is an HDTV and there are 1080 horizontal lines of pixels, and there are 1080 pins that have to line up with 1080 sockets in the SN card. At first try, I had some stragglers. So, on the lines that didn’t work, I pulled out the cable, blew it off Nintendo style, and reconnected. Success. Success. Success. Try Again… and Success….. Success!

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Please know dear reader, where you may see a crappy aliased cell phone screen grab of Sofia Vergara, I saw no dead lines, a working SN card, and a beautiful, beautiful picture.

So I poured myself a celebratory scotch.

Josh

Charlie and the Technicolor Dream House

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We have decided on white.

Nah, we have picked all the colors!* The painters are a paintin’. You might not be interested in any of my tips and tricks, but I’ve already roped you in. Ha!

Pro tip 1: For painting a house, car, boat, shed, lean-to, space station, or tee-pee, the little teeny tiny postage stamps of color that you pick up at Sherwin-Williams or the paint isle at Lowe’s is only going to help you narrow down the colors that you want to try out. So unless you are building a school for ants, you have to buy samples. And paint boards. Drywall is the best item to paint because it is cheap, doesn’t warp, and it’s the exact same material you are painting in your house, but it’s heavy. So, we bought foam core boards at Wal-Mart. and painted. and painted. and shopped. and looked through the little color book. and painted some more.

Pro tip 2: You have to paint two coats. Because when you triumphantly emerge from your garage with your 9 single coat sample boards, you will look at them and think “Is the paint really that light or is that the board showing through?” “Is that streaky part the light or will the color look like that?” “Did I do two coats of Tupelo Tree over that Southern Colonial Vintage Blush because it looks more like Mélange Green to me.” Avoid these questions. You’re painting them twice anyway. Might as well do it right the first time.

Pro tip 3: If you are using foam core boards, you need to paint both sides, or the board will cup. Not just a little bit of warp, but your toddler will think it’s a sled. It warps so much that you can’t actually see the color right because any way you hold it, you are catching the light wrong. Painting both sides flattens your board automagically. And you can get 18 colors on 9 project boards. Just make sure you can see all of your color choices for a specific room at the same time, so don’t economize by painting the front and back of a board with 2 different colors you want for the living room. Or you’ll be repainting a board. Trust me.

So here’s the run down, and I promise you all these names are real. Our main neutral will be Latte (so far, so good). This color will be in our foyer, hallways, living room, and kitchen. The guest room is Comfort Grey, because we want our guests to be comfortable. Our dining room is Colonial Revival Green Stone (there we go) and our music room across from the dining room will be Hopsack with Rockwood Terra Cotta. Going upstairs, Charlie’s room will Take Five, as will his bathroom. The Bonus Room is Worn Turquoise, and Sarah’s sewing room and laundry room are Mint Condition. The nursery and Jack & Jill bath will be By the Sea, and coming off the silliness the Master Bed will be the same Hopsack from the music room, and we finish in the Master Bath with Sage. All closets are Killim Beige, which is probably the most ridiculous color name because killim rugs are anything but beige. I might rename it Pacific Ocean Tangerine. Maybe it was somebody’s first day. Our trim and ceilings are Marshmallow, which is true to its namesake and looks exactly like white unless you hold it up to something white.

first floor plan

second floor plan

*we may change the bathrooms based on the tile we pick. Which is this weekend. Which is now.

Josh

Trying To Stay Neutral

We have a basic idea of how we want the house to look. We want a neutral color to go in the foyer, living room, kitchen, and up the stairs to the hallway. We want the dining room to be trim colored wainscoting with some sort of green on the walls, the music room to be some sort of green with guitars on the walls, the guest room to be a cream, the nursery to be Charlie’s current bedroom color blue, the project room to be some compromise of Sarah-wants-it-purple and Josh-wants-the-color-decided-whatever, Charlie’s room a more grown up (3 year-old) blue, the bonus room to be a color, and the master bedroom and bathroom to definitely be a good ______________. We’re close.

So, colors have names. The colors we like have names like Latte, Macadamia, Hopsack, Camelback, Idunnoiguessits Brown, etc. The color names are ridiculous and that has to be the best job at Sherwin Williams. You probably get to show up to work stoned. That’s probably how our neutral yellow color got named Bagel–dude was hungry. It’s certainly not because the color looks like a bagel. Which leads me to:

We painted 5 boards this weekend to see what colors we liked (Camelback, Macadamia, Mocha, Blonde, Bagel). We held them up in my bedroom (which if it was a Sherwin Williams color, would probably be Muted Cardboard With Whole Milk Spilled On It) and none of the colors looked like they had a color. Then we thought it would be helpful to move the same color panels to our (Now That’s What I Call Yellow) buttery yellow walls in the kitchen, and we thought every one of them looked (I’m Falling Asleep) beige. A minor freak-out ensued and we called in 4 more colors (Cardboard, Toasty, Hopsack, Vintage Gold) and they would be ready to pick up as soon as Charlie went to sleep.

Ha! That didn’t happen. Pro Tip: 2 year olds never sleep when you need them to. Never plan on it.

But I invited Kojo and Jennae to our old house to walk to our new house, but I commandeered their car to take me to Sherwin Williams to get the samples. While Sarah caught up with Kojo and Jennae, I painted our samples, and we chased the sun to go to the house and check out what we liked. Near sundown (4:50 PM….. Have I mentioned how much I hate Daylight Wasting Time?) we walked to the house with the wet samples in hand and looked at them. Holy crap Toasty was dark. Cardboard? Looked like cardboard. We liked Hopsack and Vintage Gold. We fell back in love with Latte. Macadamia fell out of favor, but it had a good run. Blonde was never in, but we brought it anyway, and confirmed it’s status as color we’ll sell to some neighbor looking for samples or we’ll drop it off behind Oglethorpe’s drama department.

So now we’re down to 3 colors, and we have a lot of colors we might like for the rest of the house.

I promised resolution by Wednesday.

Tick.

Tock.

Josh

Sanderlings That Stay South

A sanderling is a small wading bird. Not entirely unlike a sandpiper, it’s small, light colored with a bit of brown, it stands on the shore and eats crab. Not too shabby. Basically, if you start in the middle of the arctic ocean, then wade south toward Alaska until you’re about equally stranded away from land in all directions, you’re in the center of the sanderling breeding habitat in the spring. Then they fly all the way to South America in the winter because after thousands of years of evolutionary pressure, these birds have figured out that Rio is better than Nunavut in January.

Sanderling is also the color that we choose for our house. It’s in Georgia, year round. Like it? We do.

House Exterior Painted

There has been a lot of activity at our house in the past couple weeks. The drywall is still up and the walls are sanded and all the dust is in the air and on the ground and I didn’t have to do any of it! The crown is up and the wainscoting is installed in the dining room. When I took these pictures (on Thanksgiving! These guys assured me that dinner was awaiting them when they got home) they were putting up the coffer surround (obvi…) and finishing up the crown.

Coffer In Work

And the Dining Room

Wanescoting

We went for recessed wainscoting look because I think it’s pretty sweet. I’ll take a close-up when they prime it this weekend.

My mom and dad came with Sarah, Charlie, and me to check it out and they seemed to like it, despite the dust. I walked around the back woods with dad and he named off all the species of trees that we will likely keep, and all the pines and sweetgums that we won’t. We have some interesting stuff back there, and I’ll probably have to re-up with dad to get the names of the trees back there.

Next up: Paint colors. We’ve picked the gutter colors, window sash colors, exterior color and trim, and appliance colors (GE, like I promised). We are pretty close on the colors for Charlie’s bedroom, the laundry room, the common areas including the kitchen, the master bathroom, and the future nursery. Basically, the color scheme is Blue, Green, and Jazzy (pictured, the one wearing the blue bandanna, is a dog). We’ll figure it all out by Monday.

Charlie and Jazzy

Wish us luck!

Josh

17 Shades of Brown

We have decided on the cabinets!

We picked Kinda Dark And Not Too Red But Totally Still Brown brown, which we think will look good. The island will be Wasabi green, as in the color of Wasabi. The plan is to put a lighter granite on the top of the wood, darker granite on top of the island. Maybe.

Here’s a rendering:

Kitchen Rendering

Sarah did the heavy lifting here, and we’ve added and removed a lot of expensive things. Starting at the left and going around the room, we’ll have our in-wall oven and microwave, below we’ll have a drawer for casserole dishes and up top we’ll have a cabinet for something. Going toward the back of the room I’ve got my coffee bar, then the fridge which won’t actually be a counter depth fridge because they have less space and cost $1000 more than a regular fridge, then my pantry (!). Turning the corner, we’ll have a pull out spice rack, then some aesthetically pleasing symmetrically placed combination cabinets with pullouts in the cabinet area. The little drawers under our cooktop are fake (because there’s a cooktop there), but there are real drawers under that for something. The corner will have a lazy-susan and over the countertop we’ll have a glass door’d cabinet to show off some kitchen stuff, like bowls and teapots. Turn the corner and you’ve got our trash, sink, and dishwasher, then a bunch of drawers for things we will use whilst dining–table linens, napkins, bibs, things that stab, things that cut, things that scoop. The valance over the window is something Sarah fought our designer to do, but it will totally round out and tie together the room. The dentil molding was a will be our throwback to this old house that will be on the market next quarter. (Call me if you’re interested. Best public schools ITP.)

We went over budget.

– Josh

If These Walls Could Talk

They’d probably just say WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA and they would eat and poop and sleep. They’re only a couple days old now, and I think they look so good in drywall-paper grey and mud white.

DSC_0659

It’s amazing what a little bit ton of drywall will do to make the rooms feel like rooms and the walls less see-through. These photos were taken in the middle of the night (6:30 after work. Hate me some daylight-wasting-time) and I’m not particularly proud of them, but they’re worth a thousand words just the same. Up there is the kitchen, and down here is my living room.

DSC_0663

I’m so happy that the builder didn’t sheetrock the coffers. We’re going to cover them in wood and paint them a trim color, which is just one more color that we have to pick out. They also did a good job in my Bonus Room.

DSC_0681

See those can lights in the ceiling? Sarah thought it would be a good idea to put some extra lights in the bonus room, so before they hung the drywall, I went down to the house and measured where to put the lights… at 1:20 in the morning. I figured out the placement and the next day the builder told Sarah that one of the neighbors ran over to tell him that there was a strange man lurking round the house late last night. Guess I can’t say he was incorrect.

Master Bedroom!

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I love the ceiling. I just now noticed that the windows are different. Hmmm…

– Josh

Good lord I am tired

Reader, I am so tired. I don’t really know why I am blogging instead of passing out on the couch awaiting stern looks and reminders of chores unfinished. But we had a huge day.

In a life without kids, my day probably would have read like this: I went out and took some pictures, went to the gardens, had a couple nice meals, started the dishes, nightcapped with a glass of Macallan 12, and went to sleep. With the exception of sleep because I never sleep, I did all those things. Outlooks are different when you have a toddler.

We have started a tradition with our friends Rick and Kim to shoot each other’s kids. Calm down… with a Nikon. Every year (2 so far), we go somewhere where the leaves are pretty and shoot each other’s family Christmas card photos. We’re not Annie Leibovitz, but we do have a healthy respect for lining up a shot and remembering that our subjects have feet. After arriving late due to a prolonged fight about pooping, we had a fantastic shoot in Morgan Falls, which has an unfortunate juxtaposition with a beautiful playground. So, lets play a game. Were our children (a) excited to take family portraits or (b) completely flabbergasted as to why we had to stand in this boring spot doing boring things like sit when there was an enormous brightly colored playground JUST RIGHT THERE!… I can feel your anticipation rising, reader. It was b. We continued to shoot on the playground, then we finally went to lunch. We had a fantastic lunch. I bought a ceasar burger, which is essentially a Big Mac the way a Big Mac should have been, with perfect onion rings. Perfect! The burger was excellent. Sarah’s trout was excellent. Every bite of Charlie’s was a fight. The placement of the ketchup was a fight. He asked for ketchup, and he pointed to where he wanted it on his plate. So, silly-ass me, I put the ketchup where he pointed on his plate. Hindsight and all that, what he really wanted was a cup of ketchup so he could stick his fingers in and color on his plate. Shoulda known. So we paid, went home, and put him down for a nap. Sarah and I sat on the couch and stared into the middle distance until 30 minutes later when it was time to get up and go to the Botanical Gardens for their Holiday Lights. They have an amazing display of over 2 million lights throughout the park, and they have a new(ish) restaurant Linton’s that we go to whenever we are at the gardens. Sarah’s pot pie was 5-star gourmet and my beef bourgignon was amazing. Silly-ass me thought that Charlie would like meat, potatoes, carrots, and chicken because he mostly eats and likes meat, potatoes, carrots and chicken, and we asked him if he would like it, and he said yes. First things first, we gave him a bite of our tomato bisque, being that one of Charlie’s favorite food is a tomato, and he immediately spit it all over his lap. Guess he didn’t like it. Then we filled a plate for him, by which he was utterly offended, and decided he was too cool for dinner. We negotiated (I gave up and put on Curious George on my iPhone) and he finally ate, then we went to go look at the lights. Charlie really liked them, but didn’t want to sit in the stroller, or be told where to go, or when to stop. He loved the trains. We must have ran around the trains setup two hundred thousand times, then we headed to a fire pit to roast marshmallows. Charlie had his first S’more! He didn’t like it at first when his first bite was just burnt marshmallow, but now he’s a fan. After the s’more and about an hour and a half after his bedtime, he finally agreed to sit in his seat in the stroller and we went through the light tunnel and went out. The lights were spectacular.

The drywall in our house is up, mudded, and taped. I’m going to sleep.

– Josh