I’m the Hero

Yes. Thanks to ME the pool dreams are coming true. The show of poop came to an end today, to much hilarity.

Cutting to the chase: we have fire.

Yes. Other than a minor adjustment, the pool is working. It is a miracle, sort of. First, the pool guys showed up bright and early with a new heater. This one worked and was not too bad to install. However, they’d been unable to find the missing mechanism for the fire pit. Bummer.

Glad to have this out of the way.

Then I worked a lot. Work, work, work, meet, meet, meet. Oh, did I mention we had our first “meal” with the kids at the cabin last night? Yes! Dairy Queen drive through! Official move-in date is this weekend.

Anyway, mid afternoon the propane guys came back. They got the heater hooked up, and now we’re cooking with gas. Yep.


We were all sad that we could not get the fire pit going. They got more stuff attached, and we’re looking around at the inside of the pit. It was all dusty and full of plastic stuff that appeared to be trash.

Looks like trash.

Ha. That was not trash. I picked up a bag and there was some copper stuff in it. Hey, is this the thing you we’re looking for?


Well. I was the hero of the day. In fact, everything they needed was under the dust from drilling the holes. Sheepishly, the guys set off to hook everything up. And soon, as you saw earlier, fire occurred.

Glorious reflection of fire pit, and Lee’s beloved vacuum hose.

So yes. The pool is a pool! Other than needing something to brace the fire pit mechanism against and covering the new holes, we are set. Just in time for a cold front. I do think we’ll get to try the hot tub, though.

Hot tub is heating!

I know the lady at the pool company got a good laugh out of me finding those parts. She no longer has to try to buy one and get it rushed here. As for me, even though I work 7 am to 8 pm tomorrow, I’m seeing nothing but blue skies. Quarantine with hot tub is way better than without.


Hot tub inaugurated. Still not hot and the cold front blew in!

What a Poop Show

We were all excited yesterday, because the propane people were supposed to come hook up the hot tub and fire pit, since our swimming pool is just a large water dish right now.

We love our water dish.

Let’s start with good news. The guy from DIRECTV showed up and stood the satellite dish back up so we can see television. He was unable to do anything about getting things set up so we can put a set in my office, because we have the COVID in the house. But, now he knows what we need, so he’ll be prepared in case we ever get the all-clear to participate in society again. This disease can make some people so sick. It’s horrible. Yes, that was the good news.

Standing tall again.

The rest of the stuff for the day did not go well for anyone involved. First, the pool company sent a young fellow out to “fix” our fire pit, because it apparently needed ventilation holes that they didn’t know about before. They’d started it last week, but not gotten very far.

Early in the drilling process

So, the young fella drilled and drilled, and repeatedly said, “Oh, snap!” which I thought was charming. Pretty soon, he’d burned out the drill, so he had to go all the way back to Waco to get another one. That thrilled him to no end.

Where’s the pool guy? (Even the dogs are looking)

Before he came back, the propane guys arrived. Let’s just say they weren’t thrilled to find out that a) the pool heater was not functional, so they couldn’t hook it up, and b) they were supposed to install a line to the fire pit, which they had not been informed about. There seems to be a lot of miscommunication going on around here.

Fine. We at least brought enough of this yellow stuff.

They went ahead and attached the gas line to the propane tank, which was the thing we were most concerned about, then grumbled a lot as they got pipe to the fire pit.

Hope nothing escapes that sewer line!

Speaking of grumbling, the nice pool kid returned with what had to be the biggest drill I ever saw. I think it’s an impact driver or something. He couldn’t even lift it! He also couldn’t change bits until our resident tool person showed him how in a rather graphic fashion that I will not share here.

The giant drill is on the ground. That’s our medium-sized drill he’s using. The young man has shed many layers.

I finally suggested that maybe we’d have a drill bigger than the first one and smaller than the second one, and sure enough, we did, and he finished after five endless hours of drilling and being complained to by the propane guys about sending them here with none of the stuff ready (like some vitally important key to turn the fire pit on and off, which I swear used to be there). None of these workers had a good day, though they were all perfectly pleasant to us, and we did get in a few laughs.

Waiting for something to hook up to.

I was told that a new heater was coming today and that they would get the hot tub going. It’s afternoon already and I see no workers of any sort. I’m not surprised, since the propane guys have other clients. But, where is the pool heater?

I’ll just sit here and wait, says Vlassic.

I pity the poor young woman who works for the pool company and had the bad timing to email me asking how the propane went. I told her. Many excuses later, and we still do not have a fire pit, a hot tub, or a covered trench. I think the Pool of Dreams will just have to remain a dream a while longer…another cold front is coming and the wind’s picked up again!

I’m sure glad I have all those horses to fill me with joy!

Pool of Dreaming

So, it’s 2022. Is that swimming pool finished? Of course not, but as the daylight grows stronger, it gets closer and closer.

At least it LOOKS done.

Today the intrepid pool guys braved biting winds and chilly temps to finally finish with the landscaping. They had a wheelbarrow and a bucket, but filled in all the gaps at last.

It really looks complete now. The Pool of Dreams looks like a dream oasis in a desert with all the natural rock.

So, what’s missing?

In addition to the rocks, the guys labeled all the valves, installed the thing that will eventually dispense salt, and got us our remote control.

They also tried to do work on the fire pit, but their drill wasn’t long enough. And that’s what’s left: the hot stuff. I was happy to hear that we are on the list at the propane company to get hooked up. I’m dreaming of a hot tub in winter!

Bonus work.

Lee took advantage of the fence being open so the pool truck could get in to bring dirt in to smooth out behind the pool. Progress!

So, between working hard and getting stuff done, things are good, except my favorite ring fell apart! When I woke up this morning, the beautiful inlay was gone. I’m sad about that. Maybe I’ll find it one day.

Pool Filling, Dog Feeling Better

Deepest thanks to all of you who read my tribute to my friend, Ted, yesterday. Keep his wife, family and friends in your thoughts. Your words comforted me. Wow, many folks in my circle are dealing with unexpected deaths this month.

This morning, we still had lots of water to add.

Today I tried to just do fun things. Lee and I spent a long time watching the pool fill up. That’s a slow process over here in northern Milam County. It’s actually still filling, but should be done by bedtime. It’s up to the beach area at last!

Almost full!

A nice young man named Austin came over and got all the equipment set up and ready to turn on tomorrow morning. The dogs loved him.

Whatcha doin’?

He installed the spa jets and skimmer baskets, then brushed down the pool, a thing we are supposed to do often until the plaster is cured.

Cleaning, from far away

He got the rather impressive robot pool cleaner ready to go, but since we can’t use it until the end of January, he didn’t show us how to use it. (The reason for that is that the wheels might mark the plaster until it is fully cured.)

This is the robotic cart.

Tomorrow, Austin will come back and bring the Pool of Dreams to life. That’s just in time for a much-needed Christmas light show! until then, enjoy more pool pix.

Dog Update

While watching the pool fill up, we also enjoyed the dogs. I’m happy to report that Harvey is acting much like his old self. He is playing with the other dogs, including Goldie. They act completely normal.

We get along. At the moment.

Harvey’s injuries are looking much better. Lots of scabs are gone, and where he was stapled seems healed.

See. I look better

He still has a couple of open sores that we put medication goop in, but even the horrible one looks better. I am very relieved to have the old pack again.

Much better.

The pool fascinates Penney. She thinks it’s a giant water dish, which I guess it is right now! I think she is gonna love the beach area. I predict a lot of damp dog feet!

I’m exhausted, so I’ll tell you how our three horse lessons went today. Quite eventful!

I need to learn to chill like Alfred.

We Have a Pool, Soon to Include Water

I feel a bit weird writing a cheerful post today, but maybe it’s a good example to f the ability to hold two emotions at once. Right now, talking about the swimming pool is a good distraction.

Glamour shot.

As I type, the hot tub is filling up. I can even see water reflecting on the tiles. It will take a long time to fill the pool, and then we will get instructions!

That’s my rum and Coke editing for me.

It was another interesting day for the Pool of Dreams, and I hope one of the last pre-swimming fun days. Two really nice guys came to do the acid washing, a nephew-uncle duo (who truly loved Goldie and now want a Great Dane). I decided it was a lot more fun to watch them than to try to re-learn the piece of software I was messing with, so I spent a lot of time observing the process. First, there was sanding. The nephew sanded all the potential rough spots quite carefully.

I was happy to see all the protective equipment he used.

While that was going on, the uncle took apart “Mandi’s swimming pool,” slowly and methodically. I was surprised to see he just let all the water out, until I realized all the excess concrete particles had settled to the bottom. I sort of wanted to keep it and make it into a little patio or something.

Alas, he demolished it with a pick-axe.

After the sanding came lots and lots of rinsing with a hose. That got rid of any grit that was hanging around.

He already had on his mask while he rinsed.

Then came the smelly part, which involved a lot of muriatic acid. He had a circulating pump that re-used the water/HCL mix. It was stinky, but sure left the pool surface shiny and clean. Of course they did it to the hot tub, too.

Between the power washer, the acid, and the hose, that was one clean pool.

It was impressive to watch, but probably my favorite part was when he pumped the diluted acid mixture out and it made smoke when it hit the dirt. We figured nothing would harm that Bermuda grass, so it was fine to send it that way.


I did stay upwind of the acid. Once that was all done and everything cleaned up, they installed all the covers, light bulbs and such, which made the entire hole in the ground suddenly look like an actual swimming pool. To say I was pleased would be an understatement! My pool of dreams is becoming real.

Oh, look, the hot tub is full. You can see all the drains down there.

The nephew was very impressed with the glow-in-the-dark tiles on the steps and seats and took pictures of those. I guess they are a new feature for the pool company. When everything was done, they were kind enough to power wash the patio, which had some staining from the plastering process. Now my whole setup is fantastic.

Wow, that looks pretty darned nice.

What’s left is to get the chemicals in the pool (it’s a salt-water system), get the cleaning system set up, and learn how to use the pool. That will happen on Thursday, we are told. I can’t wait to see it all full and with the lights going. I guess that’s my Christmas present.

Dogs like it, too. I’m glad I got a photo of how their shadows looked on the empty pool!

This made my solstice good. Like with everything in life, there are sad things to balance out the happy, but at least most of the time, I’m fine with that. Sigh. Okay, for whoever among you it is who goes through every picture in the galleries, here are a few more photos from today.

Pool of Dreams! So Pretty

Finally and at last the plasterers showed up to put the finished surface on our pool of dreams. Doesn’t it look great?

It’s so lovely. Why is Penney running away?

I love the shiny surface, too. Isn’t it inviting?

And the red trim matches the trim on the house.

I’m such a kidder. That’s some sort of sludge pool of water sucked out of the plaster. The process was pretty complicated and took a lot of guys to accomplish. They also went through many bags of white cement and shiny stuff.

Guys fill a hopper with dry material and mix it with water. Then it goes through a hose to the pool.

It was fun to watch. They sprayed the goop out in globs. It sounded like gargling and was quite goopy looking.

Spraying at right. Smoothing at left.

As soon as they got it sprayed, someone would start smoothing. They did two coats of rough smoothing. The second coat had shiny stuff in it, which looked really cool.

You can sort of see the sheen.

The guys wore interesting shoe attachments that didn’t mess up the plaster much, as they skillfully smoothed the quick-drying glop.

On the final pass-through, they really smoothed and sprayed a textured coating (for safety). It’s quite subtle. They also cleared off the lights and the glow-in-the-dark tiles.

Finished hot tub.

There are still some pipes sticking up, which I assume are the drains, but the did a bit of finishing.

Looking toward the deep end. Hey, no water!

Tomorrow more guys will come in and do an acid wash. I assume they’ll do final touches as well. Then, I do believe water will go in! I have no idea how long it will take. Lee says 2-3 days.

Looking the other way. From these photos it looks like there will be some shade all day. Maybe.

I can’t wait to see how they do the chemicals and lights and stuff. We will have to have “Pool School” soon! It sure has been a relief to see progress. It also turns out that if we had started later, those supply chain issues would have caused even more delays. Eek.

Enjoy a few more pictures! They are in chronological order.

Two Truths: We Need to Learn This

Last weekend, as I was driving home from my Drew lesson, I listened to an episode of Hidden Brain, by Shankar Vedantam. I’m so glad I did, because the story he shared, gently and neutrally, made the point that I’ve been slowly and painfully trying to articulate for the past few years:

More than one viewpoint about people and situations can be true at the same time.


I’ve always been deeply aware that circumstances are rarely black and white. No one’s all good or all evil. No form of government is all bad or all good. No religion is perfect or all bad. You get my drift and may even agree.

But what this episode, “Both Things Can Be True,” clarified for me is that while it is much easier to see people only one way, it is entirely possible to hold two completely conflicting views of someone. The woman in the story comes to see an important person in her life as both someone who saved her life and betrayed her. She could be both grateful and angry. And that allowed her to reach peace.

I can understand that professional football is highly flawed and can lead to head injuries with lifelong consequences. I can also enjoy watching it and be a fan. Integrative complexity?

The ability to do this is called integrative complexity, which is not a new concept, but was new to me. That’s what has let me cope a little better with the complexities in my own life (sparing you the details).

Good news: studies have shown that people who grasp integrative complexity are more likely to succeed in life. That makes sense to me. You’re more open to connections and possibilities.

From what I observe, though, not many people are into the complexity thing. It’s easier to over generalize.

I see it so often where someone fucks up and the people around them switch from seeing them as good and label them as evil. It’s happened in my family, both to me and to someone I care deeply about. I see it, too, when people declare all Republicans or Democrats are evil, all Christians or Muslims are extremists, all police officers are corrupt…etc.

No wonder there’s so much divisiveness. Black and white thinking is just easier.

I am so tired of that bullshit.

It’s not easy to let go of ingrained patterns of belief. Don’t I know it! But integrative complexity is, I think, exactly what is needed to create a world where people can work together to solve the real problems of the world…once we accept that solutions, too, are not all black and white.

These are my opinions. Your mileage may vary.

Grateful for So Much

It was a really hard day in f so one ways. My friend’s memorial service wasn’t one of those uplifting ones that celebrated someone, but more of a sermon. I really hope it comforted her family and friends.

This comforts me

To console myself after we were dismissed by the preacher, I went and ate some toast and fried chicken at Dairy Queen. Then I checked on the progress at Anita’s house in Cameron. I’m grateful she’s coming here. And her house looks great with its new insulation, plumbing, and air conditioning. It’s like a new house.

Ooh, Anita has a French door!

I had a few minutes, so I got a cheerful red velvet shirt to wear over my funeral dress. at least the Bling Box cheered me up, since friends were there and we had fun joking around. And Jennifer, who happened to be there, helped me pick perky earrings.

Outfit not as cute as I’d hoped.

Next, I headed over to the Master Naturalist holiday party, which the incoming President and VP did a fine job with. I feel good about organization going forward.

Such a nice event.

We gave the 2020 class their prizes, and that’s when I realized my festive red top, when combined with the dress I was wearing, made me look as if I were about to give birth. Hmm. Not my best look.

Carolyn looked good, though.

I drank wine to help me deal with the previous event, and did my best to enjoy seeing all our chapter members after so long. Our county has low COVID rates right now. I hope it keeps up.

Two good things made me more grateful. First, more than one person came by and told me I’d done a good job as President for the past two years. I was really grateful. It was a hard job and I was often overwhelmed with things. But, I got them through a slump after the previous leader died, and I handled the COVID changes. Whew.

We honored our intrepid 2020 class.

The other thing I’m grateful for is that Catherine, who comments here often, told me she had a gift for me that was really from a blog reader who follows my stuff. Apparently, I’m inheriting this item from someone who passed away, and when the dreaded saw it, she insisted it was for me.

It was the biggest Dallas Cowboys flag I ever saw! Now I need to hang it up. What a kind gift! I was really touched and grateful to receive this well-loved flag. Thanks, blog reader! I’ll get a picture of it flying up soon.

Since I didn’t get a picture of the flag, here’s our chilly sunset.

So sure, even with floods, deaths, illnesses among my friends, and all that, there is still stuff to be grateful for. By the way, I’m also an honorary grandmother, as baby Ruby arrived yesterday. Life goes on.

Blue Screen Day

No day is great when the first thing you see is a bright blue screen on the new laptop you’ve only had two months. And yes, that’s what greeted me this morning, when I came down thinking I had 2.5 hours to work on training stuff.

At least it was a pretty morning.

Instead, I spent 2.4 hours on a tech support call, repeatedly rebooting and having to enter a giant, endless passcode. I became cranky. When the young man informed me I had to reinstall the operating system and could do it only if I had a USB drive of a certain size, I became vexed. Of course I threw out all my old Planview drives and only have the giant one where I brilliantly store all my backup files. It was too big.

Look who felt well enough to come out with the other dogs.

Now, I know how hard that job is and that they are reading from a decision tree and actually have no clue how computers work. I know the guy was trying while he repeatedly had to consult various things. But I also had to work.

The Christmas cactus cheered me up.

Of course my colleague on an Asian subcontinent had pinged me long before I came downstairs, so I had to help her while on the phone with the other guy. One big happy family, since we work for them same company. I got her going. Then the OTHER fellow I’m working with on that project needed help.

We think Carlton cleaned his shoulder up last night. It looks less gross.

I was really patient, for me. But in the end, someone has to come work on the laptop in person. So glad I spent extra for that. This means all blogging will be done on the phone for a few days.

I will stop with the whining and summarize that today was very long. The woman who pinged me before I came down to work was still asking questions when I was trying to work with the horses.

Not All Bad

Setting up equipment.

The day had good points, though! The Pool of Dreams finally saw some more action today! An electrician came to get all the power for the equipment set up. He couldn’t get the wiring to the part of the garage where the fuse box is, so he will have to come back.

Lee and dogs supervising the control panels.

I was relieved to get this done. The plaster is supposed to be Friday. We’ll see.

Looking tidy!

I have more to share that’s somewhat cheerful but I’m tired of typing on the phone. I’ll be back soon.

Wiring the fire pit. Harvey is trying to hide.

Remember That Pool of Dreams?

Hey there, readers! Do you remember that back in September we started building a swimming pool over here at the Hermits’ Rest Ranch? You haven’t been hearing much about it lately, have you?

Lee inspects his plastic palm trees. They will help keep people from falling off the steps, which has already happened.

That’s because, just as Lee feared, the workers disappeared for about a month. Naturally, the only day all this week that I was gone was when people showed up, at last. They came to put the plants in the flower beds. Hooray.

Workers, working. Photo by Lee.

They also put in Lee’s fake palm trees, which I have to say look pretty good right now. We will see how they hold up after a few rains. I was glad to see that the real plants are hardy items like palmettoes and those yuccas with the red blooms. They will at least lend some color.

The dogs seem to approve of the plants or whatever peed on the rocks before they were delivered, perhaps.

Lee and the gang were glad to see that they did put landscape fabric down and they put tan rocks in, not glaring white (which pretty much cooks plants in the summer sun here).

They didn’t have enough rocks. Oops. My job is to remind the owner to order more rocks.

The frog pond is now dry, as well. There is a lot of silt and such in the bottom of the pool that they will need to get rid of before the plastering can occur. I have been told that the plastering will commence tomorrow or Monday. We’ll see.

I think the plants look nice, but I do hope they remember to make the electricity work and make the pool actually work after the plastering. I want that hot tub.

In Other News

I enjoyed a book club at a nice restaurant last night with Anita and the women from the old neighborhood. Finding the restaurant was challenging, because it is in a dimly lit (but lovely) shopping area and its sign is not lit up at night. You are just supposed to know where it is, sorta like Bob’s Steak House in Cameron. It was really nice to see everyone and get caught up, at least a little bit, on what’s going on with them.

It’s not quite everyone, but is most of the neighbors!

They gave Anita a lovely poster with lots of photos of them as a going away gift. Wasn’t that sweet? No wonder we’ll miss them once Anita is no longer cat sitting on the next street over!

They say hi.

You will also be happy to know I got a replacement helmet for riding the horses. I actually ordered two, in the vain hope that Anita or someone else concerned with the safety of their noggin will want to go riding with me some day, once I have two horses. I guess, though, if one’s my son, I’ll have to get an XL helmet.

I figure if my horse is named after a Native American group, I can have a matching helmet design. The other one I ordered is plain white and has more air vents, like for summer.

At least Sara and I won’t mix our helmets up anymore.

Katie Zapfel

Children's book author. Mom blogger.

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