What You Need to Know Before You Remodel

Right now, we’re far, far along in a major remodeling project – by which I mean we’re almost 15% through. On the off chance you’re foolishly thinking of doing something just as bone-headed, let me pass along some valuable advice.

People who have survived the ordeal of a home makeover will use words like “exhausting”, “overwhelming” and “it was entirely my wife’s idea.” But there are countless others who tackled the same project who don’t have a single negative word to say about their experience. That’s because they’re all dead. It killed them. But if they could return from the grave, they’d totally concur with the survivors.

Before you begin your long, arduous journey into this Hell hole, ask yourself a few salient questions: “Why on earth would you take on such a lengthy, expensive, frustrating endeavor?” and “Is your life raising teenagers not stressful enough already?” and “How do you feel about living in the garage for the next six months?” These are all excellent questions I wish someone had posed to me before we took the plunge. Actually, my sister raised all these points, but what does my sister know about home improvements? (I can’t believe you wrote that! – Betsy, your editor and SISTER!)

My best counsel would be to forget about a remodel. Buy a nice hot tub instead. Way less hassle. But once you’ve decided to ignore my advice, the first thing to consider is how extensive of an upgrade? Are you simply looking to retile the bathroom? Or is it a bit more wall to wall, like ripping out the carpeting and replacing it with hardwood floors? Or have you gone completely off the rails and decided to gut the entire main level down to the studs and start over? Only an idiot would think such a massive undertaking was a good idea, and by idiot, I am, of course, referring to my wife’s husband.

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  • Published On Sep. 19, 2017 by TEJ
  • Vancouver? – Ya’ Can’t Get There from Here

    [The following is a true story.]

    Here’s a tip you might want to jot down: When your guests from Argentina want to hit the rails to Vancouver departing from Stanwood, Washington, the closest town to my home with a train station, you might want to make reservations. I didn’t – which caused the following chain of events…

    It was the end of a very nice visit with Monique and Manuel. (Not their real names. Their real names are Maria and Jose.) I had already mapped out my day: Drop them off at the station to catch the 9:15 train. Get back home by 9:30. At 9:35 commence sleeping in the hammock. A perfect plan.

    Except for one small miscalculation. I failed to make train reservations for my friends. I wanted to wave “Goodbye” from my car, but decided that might be rude. So, I walked them to the platform. That’s when I heard the conductor announce, “Passengers with reservations only! All Aboard!” Reservations? It’s a ten-car train hailing from tiny Stanwood. Who needs reservations? I immediately had my own reservations – something was not right.

    There is a quaint saying: “The journey is the destination.” Except for that day when the destination was everything: Vancouver, CANADA – on CANADA DAY, the nation’s Independence Day – their biggest annual holiday after National Apology Day.

    No biggie. We’ll just make reservations for the next train, right? Nope. It didn’t leave for another 10 hours. What about a bus? Sorry. The sole Vancouver-bound bus left 15 minutes ago. How about a taxi or Uber? Great suggestion, Tim. Problem solved – so long as my guests were willing to shell out 400 bucks (American) for a 178-mile drive.

    I researched every transportation option I could think of: ferry, rental car, crop duster, Pony Express, you name it. None of them was feasible. And I had a gut feeling that my guests were not the hitchhiking type.

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    • LOL National Apology Day. Good one. Though I'm sorry you see fit to mock our…
      Rob McCarrol
  • Published On Sep. 14, 2017 by TEJ
  • A Day at the Races

    I was not sure what to expect when a buddy of mine invited me to join him for drag racing. Contrary to my assumptions, there were very few men sprinting in high heels, makeup and wigs. No, it turns out that drag racing is a completely different genre of entertainment. If you’re not familiar with this sport, let me cover the basics.

    The average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish the sentence, “the average race takes less time to finish than it takes to finish this sentence.” The fastest dragsters hurtle down a 1,000-foot track in under four seconds. When I told my wife this, her response was, “That’s barely enough time to make it to the first turn.” During one heat I sneezed, causing me to completely miss the race.

    My wife does not understand drag racing at all – in the same way that I usually don’t understand my wife. You see, this sport is all about three things: insanely fast cars, thunderously loud engines that could burst your ear drums, and sexy young women in hot pants and knee-high kinky boots, hanging around the starting line, pretending to serve a purpose.

    When we sat down for the first heat, I almost had a heart attack at the explosion of noise. Imagine the heavy metal rock band Spinal Tap, with their speakers cranked up to 11. Now multiple that by 11 gazillion and you have a rough approximation of how loud these engines are.

    Typically, two racers are pitted against each other in a sprint. Sadly, I did not witness a single car veer off the track into the wall. The closest any car came to disaster was when one dragster’s engine caught fire, causing him to lose the race. My buddy informed me that replacing the engine would cost upwards of $250,000. Given that the average income for a drag racer is $75,000 – well, you do the math.

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    • I'm with your wife. I just don't get it. The noise, the need for speed and, especially, the young,…
      Scoundrel
  • Published On Sep. 06, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Visit to Authentic Scotland (Sort of)

    Recently, my wife and I spent a day exploring Scotland. Okay, technically we didn’t actually travel all the way to the land of Braveheart. But we did the next best thing: We went to a traditional Scottish Highland Games. If you’ve never been to a Highland Games before, it’s a lot like Game of Thrones, but with seriously overweight people who can’t get dates and have no business wearing kilts, along with booths selling Haggis, meat pies, and funnel cakes. But unlike Game of Thrones, I’m happy to report there were very few fatalities.

    My wife is Canadian. Her grandmother immigrated to Canada from Glasgow, Scotland with quite a set of pipes – bagpipes, that is. Every visit to Grandma’s included a concert of bagpipe music, complete with Amazing Grace as the grand finale. Apparently, this is how they punish children for misbehaving in Canada.

    It turns out I too have some Scottish ancestry – 1/8th – which qualified me for 10% off on a raspberry scone at MacGregor’s Scones ‘n Cones at the fair. My lineage is through the Hanna clan and can be traced all the way back to the year 1215, to a tiny town in southwestern Scotland called Sorbie. (True!) There is even a 15th century castle there that belongs to my clan, but it’s largely a ruin now. It figures. My ancestors never took good care of their stuff.

    To venture into the Games, we traversed a rickety drawbridge through towering castle walls all made from traditional Scottish plywood, reinforced with authentic Scotch Tape. I could smell the earthiness of moors as we passed the Honey Bucket porta potties. I started to tear up as the strains of a tartan-clad marching band wafted through the air. I could imagine my ancestors trading their wares as I meandered past vendors hawking t-shirts and mugs with expressions like “If it’s not Scottish, it’s Crap.” 

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    • Hoot Mon, Timothy! Ye gee us a great read. I'm thinkin' ye'd look real posh in a kilt…
      Eleanor Rushworh
  • Published On Aug. 05, 2017 by TEJ
  • My Personal War with a Backyard Mole

    I’m not a violent man. But everyone has their breaking point. And I’ve reached mine. If you’re a homeowner, there are three certainties in life: your property taxes will go up, the roof will need to be replaced SOON, and with the first blossoms of Spring, moles will arrive in your yard.

    I’ve lived in three different houses over the past 28 years. I’ve had a mole problem in every location. Not to sound paranoid, but I’m pretty sure it’s the same mole in each place. He’s following me. I’ve named him Henry – because I hate the name Henry. He probably crawls onto my covers at night just to glare at me with those nasty, vengeful pinhole eyes of his, daring me to try to defeat him.

    My never-ending war with Henry started up again this spring after a wintertime truce. At first it was just a skirmish. A mound of dirt discreetly left at the corner of my backyard. Barely noticeable. I stomped it down and that was that. There were no other mounds for several days. Relieved, I concluded that Henry had moved on to my neighbors’ yard. I concluded wrong.

    One week later, there were two fresh mole hills. The following week, four more. We’re now up to over 40 dirt pyramids. It’s possible Henry’s brought in reinforcements. Looks like my nemesis was going to make a mountain out of this after all.

    Don’t get me wrong. I’m not taking this lying down. I get off my hammock every morning to resume my personal battle with the furry face of evil. I’ve made countless trips to ACE Hardware to stock up on defenses and ammo. First, I tried sprinkling fox urine powder around my yard. Supposedly, moles are afraid of foxes, so the urine is a humane way to coax them to move next door. Apparently, my neighbors use a more powerful concentration of fox urine powder because Henry has decided to stay here and keep on digging. I can just see the smirk on Henry’s obnoxious squinty face right now.

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    • one word...pavement. yup just pave the backyard. It will settle the little bugger and you can wax nostalgic for…
      mark
  • Published On Jul. 29, 2017 by TEJ
  • Everything I’ve Ever Learned About Oil Rig Piston Corers and Drill Strings I Learned from My Dry Cleaner

    Did you know that on a deep-water oil rig, the crew cements casings between drillings and that when the rock cuttings reveal the oil sand from the reservoir rock, they then remove the drilling apparatus from the hole and perform a logging test to retrieve a core sampling before lowering a perforating gun into the well to set off explosive charges in order to create holes in the casing through which the oil can flow? Neither did I – that is, until this past Tuesday, when I stopped at my local dry cleaner to drop off a pair of pants.

    It was a routine trip to my local dry cleaners. All I wanted was to get my trousers pressed. In and out in three minutes, right? Not quite. The owner, an elderly Korean man, was feeling particularly chatty, so it took me almost a half hour to get out of there – and I was the only victim, I mean, customer. This is the honest (significantly abbreviated) retelling of the day time stood still.

    As I was wrapping things up, the proprietor, Mr. Ho, asked me my name – so he could write it down on the claim check. In retrospect, revealing that information was an egregious error.

    Mr. Ho: You name Jones? You know Keith Jones?

    Me: No, can’t say that I do. Who is Keith Jones?

    Mr. Ho: He very nice man. He live London, England.

    Me: You don’t say? And to think we’ve never met.

    Mr. Ho: He very smart. He manage oil rigs all over world.

    Me: Very impressive. Well, thank you. Have a nice day.

    Mr. Ho: He in charge of oil rigs in Africa and Asia. But not South America.

    Me: Fascinating. So, you say my pants will be ready on Friday afternoon? See you then.

    Mr. Ho: Keith Jones. He Welsh. You Welsh?

    Me: Um, yeah, I have Welsh ancestors – and Scottish and German.

    Mr. Ho: Keith no German. He Welsh. He very smart. Was my boss. He work in oil business for years. Manage rigs. I work on rigs for career.

    Now I SHOULD have just ignored that last comment, smiled, turned and marched out the door. But No! I had to be polite and ask, So, you worked on an oil rig, you say? I immediately paid for this blunder.

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  • Published On Jul. 15, 2017 by TEJ
  • Meet the Likely Next President of My Alma Mater – ME

    I don’t want to get ahead of myself, but, begrudgingly, I may have to put my island life retirement on pause and return to work. That’s because odds are I will be selected as the next president of my alma mater, the prestigious University of Virginia.

    You see, I received this email from some guy named Louis something-or-other, whose title is “Rector”, whatever that means. Sounds important. So, Louis informs me the University of Virginia is seeking my input as an esteemed alumnus as to who should be the school’s next head honcho. He even included a survey. I love surveys.

    Naturally, I was deeply honored by this personal invitation he sent to me and 27,000 other alumni. I sure hope he overlooks that my last donation to UVa was in 1985. I was short on cash then, so I sent a $25 Starbucks gift card regifted to me for Christmas.

    The more I looked at Louis’s questions, the more obvious it became that I was the perfect candidate. Check out the survey and my responses below.

    Dear University of Virginia alumnus: Identifying the right leader for our future will depend upon the collective wisdom of the University community, so we appreciate you sharing your thoughts via this survey. 

    When you think of the University of Virginia, what sort of community do you envision the next president fostering?  

    MY RESPONSE: As your next university president, I envision a community that believes in effective communication. That’s why I would give special funding to Speech Communication, my extremely lame major, which only qualified me to flip burgers for a living or go on to grad school. It’s time we make Speech Communication the major of the future.

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    • You will definitely get the job. The problem is that you'll then be faced with turning it down unless it's…
      Rey Carr
  • Published On Jul. 02, 2017 by TEJ
  • Trading Stories at My College Reunion

    I just returned from my 40th college reunion. It was an amazing experience to reconnect with many people I have not seen in decades. What college did I attend, you ask? Well if you guessed Harvard University, you’re extremely close – in fact, my alma mater shares several letters in common with Harvard, including a V, an R, an A and the entire word “University” (University of Virginia).

    One thing I’ve always preached to my daughters is the importance of being authentic, and to be proud of who you are – which can be a challenge at times when you realize you’re a humor writer. To be honest, I was a little anxious about seeing my old college cronies. Sure, I’ve had my share of achievements since I graduated – like having never once been convicted of a major felony. Or the fact that I am a published author of a book that has sold roughly 100,000 copies (if you round up to the nearest 100,000).

    I arrived at the reunion’s opening reception, and the first person I met was Brett Farnsworth III. I told him I wrote a weekly humor blog. As though he were experiencing an adverse Pavlovian reaction to the word “blog”, Brett abruptly excused himself, proclaiming he had to step away for a phone interview with CNN to discuss his role spearheading NASA’s manned flight program to Mars – ETA: 2022.

    Next, I bumped into Richard Brantley, who lived two doors down in my first-year dorm. “Tim, wow, I barely recognized you with your weight gain. And when did you lose so much hair?” I started feeling a bit self-conscious, but I tried to be polite, asking him what he’d been up to in recent years. “Oh, nothing much,” he started. “Same old – same old. Still Senior Vice President of Global Strategy for Apple. What about you?” A nagging feeling was mushrooming inside me that my career accomplishments might not stack up to those of my fellow alums.

    In an attempt to preserve my rapidly crumbling self-esteem, I went into improv mode. “Um, well, since you asked…. I was recently promoted to Executive Senior Vice President of International Brand Management for P&G – you know, Proctor & Gamble. I just flew in from our Geneva manufacturing facility for the reunion.” Okay, so I lied. Sue me. I just didn’t know how to make “I write blogs about being a bad parent” sound impressive. On the one hand, I felt badly about the ruse. On the other hand, Richard was clearly awed by how I engineered a five percent gain in market share in our consumer brands division in my first quarter in the job. So much for my plans to be authentic.

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    • So loved reading this. You've totally nailed why I absolutely refuse to go to reunions at all. (But on…
      Clare
  • Published On Jun. 24, 2017 by TEJ
  • A Parent’s Commencement Address to His College Graduates

    [Author’s Note: Both of my daughters graduated from college this year. This is my commencement address to them on reaching this important milestone in life.]

    Today marks the official start of your lives as college graduates. Don’t think of this as the date when your parents stopped paying for your cell phone plan and car insurance. Think of it as a new beginning when you discover the joys of balancing your own checkbook and deciding whether to spend your money on rent or the latest designer dress.

    This day calls to mind my favorite Latin quote: Tibi gratias ago Deo et non ex se ad replete FAFSA forma. Translation: “Thank God, I won’t have to fill out another FAFSA application.”

    As you move through life, you’ll encounter people who you’ll feel are treating you unfairly – most notably your parents. But we are only doing this to help you in the long run – unless we’re just trying to yank your chain. However, I still stand by my rule about not leaving your curling irons on your bed and plugged in when you headed off to middle school each day. I apologize for letting my selfish desire to prevent our house from burning down interfere with your hairstyle fashion sense.

    You have both accomplished so much. Emily, I’m not just talking about how you managed to stay awake through your 8am accounting class sophomore year – although, kudos on that impressive feat. I never could have done it.

    It seems like just yesterday that you entered college with no idea what you wanted to do with the rest of your lives. Just four years later, you’ve already narrowed it down to “no job that requires operating a fork lift.” 

    You’ve both matured in so many ways – from the quality of your tattoo selections to your taste in men. Aren’t you glad you didn’t elope with Stoner Steve when you were a freshman, Rachel? I am so proud – and relieved.

    Now it’s time to give back. You can begin by giving back the camping gear you never used.

    My advice to you is to look for a career that will stoke your passion. Rachel, you considered career options at a very early age. At age seven you declared you wanted to be the world’s first ballerina-astronaut-fireman-kitty cat petter. If you still wish to pursue this, I believe in you. But don’t discount too quickly your other passion of becoming a cardiology nurse as a fallback, if the fireman-cat thing doesn’t pan out.

    As for how to pursue a successful career, perhaps the best advice I can give you is to study the many decisions your father made to further his career – then do exactly the opposite. I’d hate for either of you to look back at life when you’re my age, facing the stark reality that your career peaked at age 27 and you ended up throwing away your dreams to pursue the life of a humor writer. It still keeps your mom up at night.

    Don’t hold back on pursuing your goals due to fears or anxieties. Press forward in spite of them – like you did so boldly, Emily, when at age six you overcame your fear of scissors by cutting off all your hair. For months afterward, people kept asking why we never mentioned that we had a son.

    As you move through life, do not judge others too harshly – the way you concluded by age nine that I was the lamest, worst dad in the entire world. Now that you’re mature adults, I think we can all agree that Allison’s dad would hold that distinction.

    Be careful with how you spend your money. Be sure to set aside at least 10% of your income for long-term savings. And remember this important investment advice: BUY LOW. SELL HIGH. It took your father far too many decades to realize it wasn’t the other way around.

    Pay attention to those for whom life may not have shined so brightly as it has for you. While loaning a sorority sister your fake ID so she can buy beer may have seemed like a giving gesture at the time, perhaps you can stretch a little further in the future by helping others with slightly more pressing problems. Here’s a thought: you could donate your out-of-style Lululemon collection.to the nation of Burkina Faso. I’m sure you have enough to clothe at least half the population.

    On this momentous occasion, I implore you to seek your destiny – unless you think your destiny involves joining the circus. As you look ahead to your future, ask yourself these important questions:

    • How can you make a positive impact on the world?
    • What can you do with your life that will make you want to get out of bed each day?
    • Where can you find a one-bedroom apartment for under $1,000 a month – because no, you can’t move back home to avoid paying rent. Besides, your bedroom has been converted into my man cave.

    As your father, I want to thank you for the many life lessons each of you has taught me – like the importance of patience – and learning not to say the first thing that popped into my head when Rachel hosed down the family room (because “the pillows needed a bath”) or when Emily took a Sharpie to draw a giant mural of flowers on the living room wall (“I’m an artist – just like Mommy!”).

    And now you’re all grown up. How did that happen so quickly? My little “angel monsters” have blossomed into two amazing, self-confident, and determined young adults. Now follow your dream – just so long as it doesn’t include asking anyone if they want fries with their order.

    In closing, my counsel to you both is always to look at life with a grateful heart. I am deeply grateful for the joy each of you has given me as your dad. When you were young, every night at bedtime, when I would tuck you in, I’d kiss you on your foreheads and tell you: “I love you to the universe and back.” I still feel that way. Thank you for two decades of bedtime stories, soccer practices, gym meets, and butterfly kisses.

    Congratulations, college graduates. Your mom and I are enormously proud of the people you’ve become. It’s your turn now. The world is your oyster. It’s up to you to figure out what that means – because I have no clue.

    That’s the view from the bleachers. Perhaps I’m off base.

    PS: If you enjoyed this week’s post, let me know by posting a comment, giving it a Like or sharing this post on Facebook.

    Check out my latest humor book: YOU’RE GROUNDED FOR LIFE: Misguided Parenting Strategies That Sounded Good at the Time

    © Tim Jones, View from the Bleachers 2017


    • §ome good advice to your girls, Tim. The memories we have of them growing up will stay with us…
      eleanor
  • Published On May. 30, 2017 by TEJ
  • Breaking up with an English Teacher

    [The following text exchange took place between a female business executive named Roxanne and her boyfriend of four years, Virgil, a high school English teacher.] 

    Roxanne: Dear Virgil, I gotta tell you something and it’s been on my mind for a long time.

    Virgil: Good evening, Roxanne. Thank you for your text. By the way, “gotta” is not proper English. I believe you meant to say, “I must” or “I have to.” What’s up?

    Roxanne:  We need 2 talk. 

    Virgil: You errantly used the digit “2” as in one more than one. So, you’ve lost me. We need “one plus one talk?” That makes no sense. Please clarify. 

    Roxanne: Oh, for God’s sake, Virgil. 2 is short for “to.” We need TO talk. I cant wait any longer. 

    Virgil: Sorry, still not clear on what you’re trying to convey – unless you mean “no, I can’t” in which case, don’t forget the apostrophe since it’s a contraction.   

    Roxanne: Geez. Okay. Got it. 

    Virgil: Who’s got what? “Got it” is missing a subject. Who has it? A policeman? The Queen of England? My schnauzer? My brain buzzes with possibilities. Could you clarify who it is that has it and what specifically does he or she have? 

    Roxanne: Jesus, Virgil. I’m talking about US. We need to talk about US. 

    Virgil: Capitalizing the letters US only makes sense if you’re referring to our country. But even then, technically you should put periods after the letters since it’s an abbreviation for United States. 

    Roxanne: Virgil, focus. For the millionth time, I don’t need another syntax lesson. 

    Virgil:  I believe you mean “another grammar” lesson. Syntax is about word order. Your mistake was – 

    Roxanne: My MISTAKE was taking four freakin’ years to tell you what I should have told you four years ago. It’s over.  Read More…


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  • Published On May. 25, 2017 by TEJ