Saturday, July 25, 2009

The Honest Story of Installing a Water Heater or How to Complicate Things.

When I went to Puerto Rico at the beginning of July with its sweltering tropical heat, it was not only to see my mom, visit El Yunque and the beautiful beaches if I had a chance, but also to work out some problems in my rented apartment.

You must realize that I have had this apartment for many years and since I was using it infrequently I had been able to get by from making any major repairs. Though, I actually remodeled the kitchen two years ago, everything else seemed to be working fine. But suddenly the water heater started to leak and it had to be replaced. Summer time, the worse time and the best time to have this problem come up. The worst time because I am always low on funds in the summer and the best time, because I can do it myself.

Myself, is a misnomer because it's not true. I couldn't do it myself by a long stretch. On the other hand I could not afford a plumber particularly the one who quoted the PR College of Plumbers assigning the work for $175 (he showed me a paper) and then went on to say, but for you I'll do it for $225. How refreshing, not!

So I headed for Home Depot. No Lowe's in PR. They had several models, but my main mistake is not having gone with someone knowledgeable from the very start. Notice I said main mistake. I should have titled this piece, "How Not to Install a Water Heater on your own. Fortunately, I have about the most patient brother in law and I am so sorry I exasperated my sister in the process. But this is how it all happened.

Back in Home Depot, I thought hey I can install one of those new German water heaters that heat the water instantly as needed and they don't take up closet space. There were two drawbacks. First it costed only ten dollars less the conventional water heater and it only had a 2 year warranty while the GE models have about a six year warranty. Warranty, two versus six. Two versus six, knowing all the inconveniences involved in installing a water heater. Heck that was a no brainer. So I went with the smallest GE model. That way I thought I could carry it upstairs and install it myself. How hard could that be, I thought?

You can start laughing now. By now two days had passed, and Jairo had arrived with my sister from being out of town. He agreed to give me a hand and he installed this small water heater, but it was only then that we realized that it only held six gallons and was 110 watts and not 240 watts which was the connection we had. Jairo had to spend a while convincing, hard headed me that this was not going to work. I felt so bad for him, taking up his time and all, and he assured me we could return it and I could buy a bigger one. Dragging my feet, we dismantled it and took it back. I must say this. The people at Home Depot did not give us any grief upon returning it. They immediately took care of it and gave me my money back. Thank God.

Then we bought the 20 gallon one. Quite a big larger to say the least. We also had to buy additional flexible hoses and plumber tape for the water connections and a metal saw to cut the copper pipe. It's complicated. Then we took it to the apartment and Jairo patiently lugged it up the stairs and installed it. We breathed a sign of relief. The water heater was installed and it was heating. We thought we were done.

The next thing I know, I get a text message from my tenant saying the heater is leaking! Jairo was tired by then, so I went back and thought I could solve the situation. Maybe it was defective, so I turned off the electricity and hooked a hose to it at the bottom to empty it. It barely emptied about a cup of water, so I raised the air release valve, and bit of water came out with a rush of air. I couldn't empty it.

I was exasperated. By then I had given up. I just carried the whole situation to the Lord. I couldn't do this anymore. I couldn't pay a plumber and I couldn't continue to bother my brother in law. To make a long story short, the next day my brother in law agreed to look at it for the last time but to our amazement he couldn't find a leak. Baffled, we dried the area with a paper towel and waited for water to leak out. It didn't. He left after being there an hour and I took pictures of before and after. The leaking had stopped. I stayed for an another half hour. It was heating fine. It wasn't leaking. Then I finally left.

A week later the tenant texted to say it hadn't leaked again all week and they had been using it continuously and that the temperature needed to be adjusted, otherwise it was heating fine. So I hope that is the end of it. Did I learn any lessons? Don't ask! LOL!

Thank you God for your help.

Friday, July 24, 2009

What would you put in your ark?

I've asked my students that before. If your house caught on fire and you only had a couple of minutes to get out with your most valuable possessions what would you take? What would be the most important items? If you could only save a couple of things what would you take? Of course other than people.

So late this afternoon, when the sun was setting I had to make those choices. No, it wasn't a fire. Actually we were having really severe weather. First it was in Daytona, then Orange City and it was weird. (Here is a link to some of that weather last night) Some was moving east, some was moving west and some south. And for those of us without a Doppler radar, even though we had access to a "radar map" they have a Wesh TV online, it was hard to interpret. Add to that the fact that it was thundering all around and the storm was moving a slow ten miles per hour.

You may not know this but our properties here in Florida, lack what most homeowners in the north take for granted: a basement. So what are we supposed to do in case of a tornado? Find the nearest bathtub, get in it and cover yourself with a mattress. Not really the most exciting thing to do, but that is more or less what I did. My guest bathroom is nicely decorated and it has semi transparent curtains in two panels that start at the ceiling and reach the floor. Then I filled the tub with all sorts of pillows and then got one of the cushions from my love seat and rested it against the wall, so I could quickly grab it if needed. There was a moment that I did get in the tub and momentarily used the cushion to cover me to check for effectiveness, but I quickly put it up against the wall. With the curtains enclosing the tub, it seemed like I was on an exotic sofa rather than in a tub fully dressed.

Anyway, it was an awkward adventure, but an adventure none the same. But as I was in there I decided to run outside to take pictures of the weather. Not something I would recommend others do. When I did, I realized while I was out there, that I needed to get back in the bathroom because the wind was starting to pick up and the lighting was becoming more frequent.

Now back to the bathroom. For some reason I just couldn't get in without getting some of my valuables with me. I had only a couple of minutes to make my choices. Though the storm was moving slowly, I didn't know that then. I already had my laptop and a radio placed near the sink. So I thought, what else should I bring here? I instinctively went to my studio. I brought some of my paintings that I had in a recyclable shopping bag. No, I didn't take the time to check which ones were in there. Then I went to my bedroom and I got two Bibles, one with a concordance and a small one for my purse. Then I got my jammies for some reason. I also got some pictures of my children and grandchildren and my aunts with my mom at her 80th birthday. A picture of my sister and my niece. Then in the kitchen, I also got a small stack of books, a granola snack, a small flashlight, and my camera which I threw inside my purse. But that is it.

That is what I put in my ark. Why no photo albums? Well my bathroom is pretty small for starts and there is no room. I thought of bringing a pretty quilt I have on my bed, but I didn't. I guess I didn't want to start folding and cramming. No make up and no clothes. I figured I could work that out later. No important papers. Didn't even think of them. But I did think of my kids, and it was comforting to have their pictures. It was also comforting to have the Word of God with me, too. And pictures of my family immediate and extended. The radio, the flashlight, and laptop were to keep me connected and lit. Would I make a different choice next time? I don't think so. Well maybe the quilt. That's it.

Not exactly, Mesha my cat was in and out of the bathroom. At one moment she came in the tub and tried almost to sit on my head, but thought twice about it. Then she smelled my arm and walked the bathtub edge until I shooed her down. She mostly laid on the rug next to the bathroom door wondering was was her mistress up too? I would have grabbed her if needed. So that was it. Really.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Making Hummus

I love Hummus with chips, because it is a low calorie, high fiber snack but with the price of everything these days, this is one thing I had heard I could make at home. You know what? It's true! You don't have to be a rocket scientist or a chef to do it, and it's comparatively easy and considerably cheaper. All you need is a 15. 5 can of garbanzos or chick peas (same thing), a 1/4 cup of olive oil, squeeze some lemon, and something called Tahini (which I didn't have),and add salt, pepper, and herbs to taste. In my case I didn't have Tahini so instead I used red peppers which add a certain something, actually a great taste. The website below has recipes with or without tahini, so it is alright not to use it. Take all these ingredients and put them in a blender and mix until smooth. I am still working on perhaps adding a bit more oil (I actually increased the liquid that comes with the garbanzos, instead of draining them completely, I added 1/3 of the liquid in the can) and blending half of the garbanzos at a time, but I have to say the result was delicious. You can get the recipe and additional information at Hummus recipe I noticed they had all sorts of recipes including Spinach and Feta, Kalamata Olive, Cilantro and Lemon, and Roasted Garlic (don't talk to me that day or join me and we can cancel each other out together that day!) among others. If you have a Hummus recipe to share, please do. Happy Hummus to you!

Fine Arts Festival

Last night I went to Faith Assembly here in Orlando for their prayer meeting and worship service. When we think of a prayer service we think of quiet, singing, and worship. Not at Faith Assembly; that church is on fire for God. Last night I walked into it and it was ablaze.

It was awesome on several levels, first the youth were in charge of worship. They had a program which included terrific presentations that you could tell took hours of design, practice, synchronization, and devotion. There were at least ten groups and two individual presentations with one monologue and a cutting edge rap. Each group had from 8 to 10 members presenting monologues, dramas, mimes, music with or without live vocals and combinations there of. It was fantastic!

They shared messages about creation and the fall of man, people surviving rejection and finding the love of God with all the spiritual battles that accompany that, how God fights our battles and conquers our enemies, the ministry of Christ with the healing of the blind and other miracles and his scourging, crucifixion, death, burial, and resurrection.

The two individual presentations were both on target. The monologue was about three common people who were satisfied with their mediocre, second best lives in contrast to the dynamic awesome lives Christ sacrificed for. To say it was insightful is an understatement. The rap on the other hand had kids standing just like they do in a concert with the same acoustics. It was sharp, poetic, and fast. It definitely was not church like always.

What was most amazing was the amount of youth in the audience supporting their friends and hearing the message of Christ in a contemporary way that spoke their language. It wasn't mediocre by any means and it showed the idealism and power of unashamed youth. It was the next generation saying we will carry the cross of Christ with power in this fallen world. We have a message to take and we are ready.

What are they getting ready for aside from their heartfelt goal of being ambassadors for Christ? They were having a dress rehearsal for the Fine Arts Festival that will be taking place here in Orlando from August 3-7. *I don't know if it is open to the public, but if it is my goodness it is worth going. You will never be the same.

*Guess what? You will be able to watch the Fine Arts Festival online even if you are not in Orlando since they will be streaming it live.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Painting Again

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Actually, it is posting paintings again. These painting are going to be placed on Etsy later tomorrow. The first one is Purple Iris which is a 5 by 7 inch painting, one of a series of three which are matted and ready to be framed.

The second painting is called Birds on High, matted on a 8 by 10 inch mat, also ready to be frame. This painting is a partner to Birds on High which is also matted for an 8 by 10 frame.

Oops, I almost forgot my abstract. Pretty much Untitled for now. Would someone like to give it a name?

What I like about these paintings is that they are colorful but also they seem joyful. I hope you like them, too. Check them out on Etsy if you are interested in any of them. Thanks.

Monday, July 20, 2009



I know many of you just sped right through the photos the other day of my trip to Vieques and our mini ordeal buying tickets. But when it comes to life in Puerto Rico, it is always an adventure. Standing in line there is not an isolated experience, it is a community gathering. Individuals, couples, and whole families stand in line and drag all their paraphernalia for their camping trip through the line as if they have found a place through which they can journey together. People were coming and going with total strangers saving their space in line while verifying information. Then came the conversations. Conversations that included the customary rumors and familiarity: how was the line progressing?, were the tickets almost sold out? or how was the situation up there?, but also information about where they were from, how far they had traveled, that the place was packed the day before, that next time we all need to arrive an hour earlier, if possible buy the tickets on line ahead of time, and why haven't they modernized the system already? They told jokes about the latter saying that for 500 people they had 3 cashiers that didn't know how to count beyond ten. We all laughed but we knew they were mostly trying to expedite their work with outdated machines while keeping their cool. Obviously, it's not easy to help a lot of desperate impatient people trying to negotiate their way into paradise.

In the midst of all this coming and going, there was this man, "vendiendo agua/ selling water." What was curious about him was his hat. A very appropriate hat for his job out in the Caribbean sun that said, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Frankly, it was the right message in that chaotic situation and what we all needed to hear. The word metaphor comes to mind when I think of that time and place.

The man's hat was an example also of using the mundane to include the sublime in our lives. Bello! I think this is becoming a theme of mine. How can I do this in my life, too? Perhaps intentional or as a lifestyle? Or both?

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The Force of a Few Words o La Fuerza de Pocas Palabras

Yesterday I was texting my kids to let them know about the progress of my flight from San Juan to Orlando with a stop in Miami. One of them responded with a sweet message including "qDtb" What does that mean, many of you are wondering, I am sure in this era of abbreviations. Well, "qDtb," means que Dios te bendiga, in other words God bless you. (In English it would Gby.) I love it because she didn't say qdtb. Not only did she bless me but she honored God as she did. It often takes very little to give honor and recognize that the Lord is God in the small things. Of course I told her qDtb back. I hope Gby today, too.

Spanish text follows:

Ayer yo me estaba comunicando con mis hijos usando el metodo de "texting," para dejarle saber sobre el progreso de mi viaje de San Juan a Orlando ataves de Miami. Una de mis hijas me respondio con un mensaje de texto que decia, "qDtb." Y que quiere decir estas letras en en contexto de este mundo de tecnologia? Bueno, que Dios te bendiga. Dentro de mensajito que es disenado para simplificar nuestra vida, ella no se olvido de que hay cosas mas importantes que la simplificacion. Es importante honrar a Dios en las cosas pequenas. A veces son precisamente en esas cosas pequenas que con un acto deliberado podemos reconocer la presencia de Dios en nuestras vidas. Claro que tambien le dije qDtb y espero qDtb a ti tambien hoy.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Unexpected Vieques

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I should have suspected something when my daughter Rosita said, "Mom did you already buy your tickets?" My pause and no should have given me a hint that that was the wrong answer. She was right. We got to Fajardo around 8:20 for the Ferry that was scheduled to leave at 9:30. Too late. Too bad. Tough luck. There were about 200 people still in line when they announced that the 9:30 ferry was full and that the next one was scheduled for 3:00 in the afternoon. That ruled out Culebra, unless we only wanted a boat ride, and we really wanted to go to the beach. We considered Plan B and Plan C. Plan B was to switch to Vieques and Plan C go to Luquillo. Fortunately we went for Plan B and were able to get on the Ferry to Vieques.

The ticket costs four dollars each way since I am not yet a "Senior citizen" here. So I paid the full fare, which when all things considered is an incredible deal. Once on the island you have to take a "publico." Publicos are a type of public transportation owned by private operators and are usually large size minivans that can seat up to 10 to 12 people. Since my sister and her husband had been to Vieques before, her husband sought out Manuel's bus and we arranged for him to come pick us up at Sun Ray beach at 2:00. This is a very important thing to do so you do not get stranded at the beach and end up without a ride back to town in time to catch the ferry home.

When we got to the beach at 11:45, there was hardly anyone there and we were able to pick a very nice coconut palm tree to sit under. We hadn't been there more than five minutes when a beach maintenance man came by and warned us about falling coconuts, so we moved to a safer place. We set up our gear, got in the water and then had sandwiches, ice water, and dessert.

Anyway. The water was amazing. Not only for it beautiful color but the temperature. The only annoying thing that happened on this otherwise perfect day was that as soon as I stepped in the water a very territorial fish came and bit me. I didn't say anything at first, since I had only stepped into the water, and my sister and her husband weren't close by but a few minutes later, I heard others complaining about the same thing. I think the fish got the message that we weren't leaving and eventually quit nipping us. To prevent another nip on the leg, I just stayed in constant movement and it didn't bother me again.

Sun Ray beach is wonderful and hypnotic. I put sunscreen on but I got sunburnt anyway. I stayed in too long and now I am paying for it. In a minute I will be spraying myself with Solarcaine so I can sleep. So enjoy the beach but don't make my mistake. Here I was saying yesterday that I didn't want to become a tomato, and here I am, red as a tomato after all!

True to his word, by two, Manuel was there waiting for us. Actually he arrived at twenty of two, so that was terrific. He was relaxing with the men from the beach, the maintenance crew and such, and we didn't feel hurried what so ever. While we got ready to leave we chatted with some ladies from Mexico, enjoying ten days here. Then we headed into town, but not without Manuel pausing to wait for me to get some nice pictures of the beach. He dropped us off at Isabel 2da, and then we roamed the plaza, and got on our ferry to head home. The trip home takes at least an hour, but it is a lovely ride. We did encounter some choppy waters as we neared La Isla Grande, (the big island,i.e. Puerto Rico) and some people did not feel so well. Fortunately the choppiness didn't last long. We were back on the Isla del Encanto before we knew it!