Category Archives: Home Projects

Civil Liberty

As an American citizen, I enjoy certain freedoms that have been baked into our government structure. Although I don’t always feel as free as I would like, for the most part, I enjoy the following civil liberties:

  • Freedom of assembly
  • Freedom of speech
  • Free exercise of religion
  • Equal treatment under the law
  • Right to life
  • Right to due process
  • Right to privacy — specifically, the right to be secure in my person, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures
  • Freedom of expression

Indeed, I’m using that last freedom at the present moment. It is a considerable joy and privilege to live under a government that, for the most part, allows me to live in a state of considerable liberty. I am aware that many people have no such liberty, and I am grateful for what I have been granted.

Several months ago, I decided to build a deck behind my house, using some of the Trex boards that were left over from the front porch renovation project I finished just before Rachel and Tim’s wedding. Admittedly, the back deck will be much larger than what would be needed to use up those boards, but I subscribe to the ‘go big, or go home’ architectural school of deck building.

When I extended the front porch, I researched the local building codes, and determined that a permit was not required, since the additional area was less than 120 square feet, and the deck was less than 30″ off the ground.

I was acutely embarrassed to have this affixed to the front of my house.

I was acutely embarrassed to have this affixed to the front of my house.

Imagine my surprise and dismay when I received a stop work order from the city, threatening me with fines and demanding I procure a permit. After a sleepless night and a consult with the permit office, I submitted the required drawings, paid my fee, and received my permit. The inspectors were gracious, and (with considerable help from some friends) I finished the project. The front porch adorns our house and provides a delightful space to sit outside.

The finished front porch has really improved the 'curb appeal' of our house.

The finished front porch has really improved the ‘curb appeal’ of our house.

This time, I asked the City permit office people if I needed a permit BEFORE I started on the project. It is a firm belief of mine that there is no known historical record of any city building authority on the planet ever admitting that a person does not need a permit, and my experience did nothing to dispel that belief. “Yes, you need a permit,” they told me, “because the structure is more than 120 square feet, and because it affects the egress [sic] of your home.” I have to admit the truth of the first part — I do plan to build a large deck. In the words of my friend, Dan, “It’s the size of New Jersey!” I firmly reject the question of waterfowl, however. We have rabbits, cats, deer, occasional raccoons, but no egrets whatsoever.

I'm sure I would have noticed if a bunch of these birds were hanging around my house.

I’m sure I would have noticed if a bunch of these birds were hanging around my house.

So I began filling out the forms and started planning the deck, based on the packet the building department gave me. I first communicated with them on April 16, and email questions flew back and forth for the next two months. Finally, after hours of drawing and painstaking form completion, I proudly submitted my permit application on June 26. It was rejected on grounds that I failed to adequately describe the ‘prescriptive codes’ associated with each element of my plan. I resubmitted on July 20 after many more hours of re-drawing my plans. It was rejected again, on the same grounds.

Finally, I researched the 2018 International Residential Code which has apparently been adopted by my city (and, indeed, most of the United States). Imagine my surprise to discover that the supporting structure which I had used for my front porch expansion just a few years earlier was entirely obsolete, and the new requirements for a deck are similar to those you would expect for an actual house. So I spent many more hours adding prescriptive code tables to my drawings, and resubmitted on July 23.

This time, the permit application was grudgingly accepted as ‘minimally acceptable’ and a portion of the fee was accepted from me. Tomorrow marks the one-month anniversary of that blessed event, and still I have no permit. The lumber I purchased to build the supporting structure warps quietly on my patio. The two dozen holes I dug for the footings gradually crumble and fill. Yet I hold off on building this deck, submitting to the government’s control and waiting patiently for them to approve (or disapprove) my permit application, as the optimal building season slowly slips away.

A lot of people have asked me, “Tim, why get a permit? The deck is behind your house, how will the City ever know? Why pay more than $1000 for a permit when you can just build it and no one will care?”

I am waiting for the permit for two reasons:

  1. I believe it is right for me to submit to the lawful control of the government in this case. I don’t like it, and I wish I lived somewhere that allowed homeowners more latitude in improving their property, but the State of Washington has many such laws designed to protect the citizens from each other, and it doesn’t violate any of my foundational liberties. In a time when the right to life is denied to unborn children, and the right to privacy is being radically redefined by multinational corporations, I think a minor bureaucratic overreach is the least of my worries.
  2. If I don’t submit to the government, I will almost certainly be caught. I have found that God keeps me on a really short leash in these kind of things (which is a huge blessing, when you think about it).

As far as I know, my local building permit office doesn’t dispatch people to drive around looking for permit violators. I live on a double-ended cul-de-sac, which means we get almost zero pass-through traffic. It seems likely that someone on my street must have called in and reported the work I was doing on my front porch. I suspect that the same unknown person, whether an enemy or simply a busybody, would call in this work as well. As a Christian, I am held to a higher standard by God than ‘normal’ non-believers, especially since He knows that I really struggle to submit to authority. I am a slow learner, but I eventually do pick up on these things.

One of the things that really DOES get me riled up is when the government overreaches in their control of the Church. The current situation in Washington is that our Governor has placed severe restrictions on the exercise of religion here, under the guise of attempting to protect people from the spread of COVID-19. Unfortunately, the State does not have the authority to abridge the first amendment of the U.S. Constitution, as stated in section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment:

No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

And of course, the part of the law that protects our liberty to freely exercise religion is found in the First Amendment:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.

I don’t think you have to be a legal scholar to see that the Governor has overreached State authority and is actively infringing on the First Amendment rights of citizens to assemble and to freely exercise religion. With his proscriptions against churches meeting indoors, against churches meeting as a complete body, and against praising God without being muffled by masks, our Governor has placed himself in opposition to the first and fourteenth amendments of the Constitution, and it is the right and responsibility of citizens to resist and peacefully disobey his illegal edicts. Indeed, the President has pledged the resources of the Department of Justice and the U.S. Attorney General to defend these rights from encroachment.

Do I think that COVID-19 is contagious? Yes. Do I think the Church should make an effort to protect its vulnerable from this disease? Yes.

Do I think the Lord is honored when we meekly submit to draconian efforts to quarantine an entire country, disobeying His instructions ‘to meet together’ (Hebrews 10:25)? No, I don’t think He is honored by this cowardly behavior.

In the United States, you have about a 1 in 1875 chance of dying from COVID-19 this year, assuming you accept the statistics that have been published (I don’t, but more on that in a later post). As a frame of reference, you are thirty-four times more likely to get into a significant auto accident than you are to die from COVID this year. Of course, if you are young or healthy, or don’t live in a nursing home, the odds go way down. In my opinion, attempting to prevent COVID deaths by closing churches is like requiring everyone to move around in wheelchairs for fear that someone might be injured by falling. But even if there was a direct cause and effect relationship between going to church and dying of COVID, I would still advocate church attendance. People all over the world, throughout history, have risked their lives to obey God; why should Americans be coddled in 2020?

It is a delicate subject. People have over-reacted, whether in buying up toilet paper or cowering in their homes for months on end. And there are certainly some who have foolishly and callously disregarded the vulnerabilities of others.

My local grocery store bread aisle, in response to a simple snow storm in 2019.

My local grocery store bread aisle, in response to a simple snow storm in 2019.

Many medical professionals advocate the ‘social distancing’ restrictions and use of masks out of abundance of care for the vulnerable, and some will take offense at my words in this post. But I would make these three final points:

  1. After all these months, we still know very little about how this disease spreads, what the effective death rate is, how best to treat it, or if immunity can be achieved. It is very presumptuous for anyone to make dogmatic claims of one treatment or prevention technique, claiming that ‘science’ backs them up. Truth is, you can find ‘science’ in the form of statistics and clinical trials on every side of this argument.
  2. There is a huge, not yet fully-realized cost to these massive attempts to quarantine the healthy. Suicide numbers (which are typically about 1/4 the number of COVID deaths this year) are on the rise. Child abuse reports have ominously dropped, while alcohol consumption has skyrocketed. Needed critical medical procedures have been delayed or canceled, even though we lose eight times more people to heart disease and cancer than we have to COVID, every year. Considering the long-term correlation between economic status and health, it seems likely that more lives will be needlessly lost or curtailed to our misguided quarantining efforts than will actually be lost to COVID.
  3. God’s word requires all true believers to gather together as His Church, and requires us to praise Him loudly and joyfully. Whatever the cost, I believe I must obey God, rather than men.


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Pinterest Class, Starbucks, and Thrifty Chic

This year I think we acquired new Christmas decor from three different places – Sarah’s homeschool co-op Pinterest class, Starbucks, and a local Facebook “for sale” page.

Sarah is so talented!

Sarah is so talented!

I love that our co-op offers such a diverse collection of classes. I am NOT artistic, so it’s a treat when Sarah or David can benefit from the other talented moms. Sarah made several beautiful things this past semester in her Pinterest class.

Merry Christmas!

Merry Christmas!

For some reason, I decided to splurge and treat myself to several mini Starbucks ornaments this year. I had a few from previous years, and couldn’t resist buying one or two throughout the month of December. I kept them in their little box until late December – still not sure if I was keeping them for myself or giving them as gifts. Heh heh. Then I stumbled on a small golden ornament tree for sale on our local Facebook page.

Filled with ornaments!

Filled with ornaments!

There’s room for a few more ornaments. Next year??

A tree in front of a tree.

A tree in front of a tree.

I even hung them on this little tree IN their boxes. Toward the end of the month a sweet friend gave me two more ornaments I was missing, and Sarah looked at me knowingly.

“Mom, you’re not going to give these away. You think they’re too much fun. Just take them out of their boxes and enjoy the coffee tree.”

Sigh, when your kids know you so well, what can you do??

My artist - working on our chalkboard pantry door.

My artist – working on our chalkboard pantry door.

Over the month I did quite a bit of odds and ends shopping on the FB site. I picked up a tree, some garland, several ornaments, fleece pj’s, decorated mason jars for candles, and so on.

This garland was perfect over.  Took down the curtains, wound lights into the greenery and hung them in the living room.

This garland was perfect over. Took down the curtains, wound lights into the greenery and hung them in the living room.

Our master bedroom is big enough for it’s own tree. I hung all the ornaments on it that I haven’t used in years – memory ones from our first year of marriage, themed ornaments that just didn’t fit on the main tree, childhood creations. I even put lights over the window and around the room. Tim works from home several days a week. Our room became one of our favorite Christmas spots of the season.

Christmas tree decorating in process.

Christmas tree decorating in process.

Of course, putting Christmas decorations AWAY is never as much fun as taking them out – the END of the season is always bitter sweet (kids going back to college, Tim off to work, homeschooling and ministry responsibilities returning). Going through our Project 365 pictures, blogging about the big and small moments of our days, and smiling over it all, helps to keep me thankful and aware of all our abundant blessings.

Project 365 Days 341, 342 and 344 (Dec 7, 8 and 10)

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Conquering Landscaper

We made great progress on the overgrown bushes and trees in the front yard on Sunday. But there’s always more work to do, and it’s amazing the life lessons you learn from gardening. Two things I’ve thought about recently:

- Weeds can be easily plucked out or deeply entrenched and require serious work to remove them [Like the sin, struggles, and temptations in my life)

- Some plants are pretty (like ivy) or produce delicious fruit (like blackberries), but they can grow with abandon and often destroy things in their path. [There are so many "good" things in life that can become idols if I place them ahead of the Lord and my role as a wife and mother.]

We’ve been clearing out some greenery from the side of our house. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to feel any ownership of the landscaping in the yard. If you don’t know how to properly plant a tree ? then visit to kglandscape website.

Me: “It looks like we’re going to stay here a little while longer, I think we should plant some flowers we like.”
Tim: “After 10 years here, you’re just now feeling settled?”
Me: “Um.”
Tim: “Well, I guess you decluttered the garage and reorganized most of the house, it was time to move to the yard.”
Me: “Yes. That’s it. Or maybe I was just too busy trying to keep track of 5 rascals (homeschooling, housework, and life) and never got around to actually looking at the yard.”
Tim: “You’ll have 3 kids in college in the fall. Plenty of time to work on new things.”
Me: SOB!
Tim: “I’m going inside now.”

After cutting down two little trees that had grown up alongside our lovely Birch by the mailbox, I began to cast my eye around at what else we could get rid of. There was a tall shrub on the one side of the garage that came to my negative attention. Not particularly attractive, not helping with privacy, constantly needing pruning but dead inside, it needed to GO.

Of course, deciding a big tall (read thick roots and stump) bush needs to be removed and actually doing it are two different things. Another life lesson! Daniel and I did some sawing at the base of the bush before he reluctantly (or was that cheerfully) left me to go off to work. I started to work on the branches since I could tell there was no way I could saw through the thick base myself. Pretty much all I did was make a big mess on the driveway and destroy the bush.

The kids: “Mom, if you thought that bush looked bad before…”
Me: “Quiet and grab some hedge trimmers. We can do this!”
Kids: “Sure thing, we’re just gonna go call Dad first and see when he’s coming home.”
Me: “Traitors!”

I never think to take Before or even Middle pictures. It always looks so bad, I am embarrassed to document it on film. Later, I wish I had captured the “Oh Dear” of the befores.

When Tim got home, I begged him to help me cut down this stupid bush.

Tim: “Really, Kathy, you could easily do this yourself with the saw.”
Me: “Great, so you’ll help me?”
Tim: “If I do this, will you stop bugging me?”
Me: [crossing fingers behind back] “Of course, dear.”

15 minutes later.

Tim: “Man, this saw isn’t even touching the trunk of this bush. Bring me some rope.”
Me: “Thank you so much!”
Pause, pause.
Me: “So the, ‘Kathy you could have easily done this yourself’ was NOT totally true.”
Pause, pause.
Tim: “Harrumph.”

LOL! I had to go pick up the kids at their middle school lake day, so I slipped away while Tim was working. When I came back the bush was cut down, and Tim was victorious!

Got muscles, will prune.

Got muscles, will prune.

Very thankful to get that ugly shrub out of there. Still have some roots and stump to deal with, but that will wait until later.

"I will step on you, little bush."

“I will step on you, little bush.”

Project 365 – Day 217

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Tree Pruning Frenzy

One of the banes of my existence (a man of my talents and character has many banes, as it turns out) is the trash, recycling and yard waste removal company—Dump Daddy—that serves our neighborhood. Renting a dumpster on wheels is convenient for cleanup projects that are located in various areas of the yard or home. When there are wheels on a dumpster it can be rolled from one location in the yard to another. A small dumpster on wheels can also be positioned inside a home during a small or medium construction project such as remodeling a bathroom or kitchen. Simply call in an order your dumpster and have it delivered the next day. Positioning the dumpster for easy cleanup is so much easier when you pick a dumpster with wheels. However, sometimes the project is too big for a dumpster that can be rolled and moved and it requires a larger dumpster such as a 15 yd.² dumpster or a 20 yd.² dumpster. A dumpster is an American term meaning a garbage bin. This garbage bin is mobile and can therefore be moved around. The main function of a dumpster is storing trash for a short period of time before it is emptied into a garbage truck that comes around maybe two times a week depending on your agreement. These dumpsters are used for dumping many kinds of waste material and also recycling purposes. Apartments, schools, businesses, offices and industrial sites have dumpsters to store waste. Front loading-trucks, which have large prongs are used to empty these dumpsters. They have hydraulics used for lifting the dumpsters and then flip them to empty its contents in the truck’s hopper. Visit site to know more about Dumpster Rental Company in Austin TX.

I am distrustful of monopolies, and the multi-year, exclusive sweetheart contract that our city has made with the company seems to give all the benefit to the removal company, and little to the residents. They charge high rates and are very strict about any overages, once doubling my trash charge because the lid was not flush with the top of the container.

How will junk removal companies help you? Well, whether you are a commercial or residential property owner, hiring a contractor to clean your property can help you in more ways than one. Below are some of the following benefits when you hire a junk removal service to clear out the accumulated junk in your property.

Clearing up all the junk in a residential or commercial property would take a lot of time. Sometimes, it can reach several hours depending on the accumulated junk you have. It is also an exhausting thing to do because you would need to separate, haul and properly dispose of them. In other places, there’s a need to fulfill certain requirements in order to dump particular kinds of junk or trash. On the other hand, hiring a contractor to clear out all the junk will lead to avoiding all these hassles. You can leave everything to them. Here is the #1 Junk Removal in Denver | Demolitions – Rubbish Cleanouts, do visit

Hiring a junk removal service will help you save a lot of time and also effort. This is because the contractors will do all the hard work. Moreover, they can do it in an efficient and swift manner. This is due to the skills and experience they have in hauling junk. Aside from this, you can also save money. You can write this thing off on your tax report as an ongoing renovation. As a matter of fact, many businessmen do this thing in order to save money on their taxes.

There are wastes that can be dangerous to health, like old paint and thinner. If you inhale their fumes while clearing away junk you may end up having certain health complications. In addition to this, accidents may occur if you clear away junk on your own like cuts, burns or others. Hiring expert junk removers on the other hand will take away these risks.

As sometimes happens, Daniel was standing in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

As sometimes happens, Daniel was standing in the wrong place, at the wrong time.

They also have a diabolical tendency to send their trucks early on the days when I forget to put out the cans. There is nothing quite so chilling as the sound of the garbage truck accelerating gleefully past my house, when I know I have a full can, but forgot to put it out. Of course, on the days when I put the cans out on Sunday night, they resentfully send the truck to my neighborhood around noon.

A month or two ago, I decided to shell out for an extra blue yard waste bin, because we seemed to be generating an unusually-large amount of yard waste (clippings, prunings and untreated wood from all the Garden Paving we’ve done over the year). So it was with a sinking feeling this afternoon, that I realized both yard bins were at least half-empty.

Each blue bin costs about $7.50, every time they empty it.

Each blue bin costs about $7.50, every time they empty it.

I hate paying for recycling and yard waste (I believe they should pay me for my valuable recyclables and yard waste, or at least removal should be free) and it is especially infuriating to pay for bins that are left empty.

“Time to prune!” I shouted. Everyone turned out to help as I waved my reciprocating saw over my head with abandon, and tree limbs began to rain down on the driveway. Several unwitting members of the Pancho family (they thought they were coming to watch a movie, and maybe have some ice cream) were sucked into the fun.

I let David play with use my new reciprocating saw to chop up some of the larger branches.

I let David play with use my new reciprocating saw to chop up some of the larger branches.

We managed to fill both our bins, and even contributed to the blue bin of a generous neighbor who was attracted by the noise (or possibly he had dialed 911, and needed details for the dispatcher). Now the mailman can actually approach our mailbox, and Kathy can park in the driveway without being scratched by bushes.

Lawn work is not Sarah's favorite -- she is better at looking beautiful.

Lawn work is not Sarah’s favorite — she is better at looking beautiful.

The full bins are safely out at the curb, so we’re as ready for Monday as we’re likely to be.

Project 365, Day 214

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Sink or Swim

Poor Tim. The Declutter Madness is never ending. Saturday he was trapped. Daniel was working, Rachel was babysitting, Sarah and David were busy with projects. No where to hide (no children to hide behind).

“Hi sweetie. Whatcha doing?” (Has any wife ever asked that question without ulterior motives?)

“Um, working on my class.” (Politely doesn’t say – “Isn’t it obvious? I’m sitting at the computer writing?”)

“Heh heh.” Slightly wicked smile.

“Great, could you help me for a little bit?” (Cause obviously working at the computer = not doing anything and ready to help me with my random projects? Hmmm. Let’s not examine that line of thinking too closely.)

“Sure,” he says with a sweet sigh. (Tim is a great husband. He may or may not be looking into a Declutter Intervention program for me).

Knowing he could change his mind at any time, I hurried (okay, shoved) him into the garage.

“I need space on these shelves. Now, I don’t want to get rid of these Playmobil Bins (the future/eventual grandchildren will want to play with them). Or these six (cough, cough) bins of Christmas things. So what else can we work with? I need to find some place to put a bin of winter clothes and a box of Sarah’s stuffed animals.”

“Stuffed animals?”

“Well, yes. She’s cleared them out of her room, but she’s not ready to get rid of them completely yet.” (Decluttering is sometimes a two phase process. From the bedroom to the garage and eventually Good Will.)

“Okay. What about this bin of Water Things. What in the world is in there?”

Time for a swim?

Time for a swim?

“Perfect! There are only a few things in there and we can unload, I mean, share this cool boat with our good friend who lives on the lake.”

“Exactly,” Tim said. (It sounded sarcastic, but I can’t be certain.) “No doubt she’s been hoping you would give her a big raft. Maybe we can throw in an extra child as well.”

Paddle David, paddle!  You'll make it to shore.

Paddle David, paddle! You’ll make it to shore.

“No, I think we need to keep David.” (Silly guy, thinking I’d give away one of our kids. I do have limits to my decluttering.)

A couple of coolers to the shed. A bin emptied and stored away. Old table cloths added to the Good Will pile. And eventually there was room for Sarah’s stuffed animals on the shelves. All tidy and organized.

“Ah. Isn’t it beautiful?” I breathed as Tim slipped quietly out of the garage. I couldn’t tell, but there might have been some rolling of the eyes. Probably just dust from the shelves. Or, more likely, a tear of appreciation for the masterpiece of order and tidiness the garage is becoming.

Project 365 – Day 213

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