Thursday, July 5, 2012

What I Did On My Summer Vacation

by Jenn Flynn-Shon

Remember those papers we all had to write back in elementary school?  I didn’t have to write it for every class, every year, but sometimes it seemed that way.  The teacher was all but telling us that they might have partied a little too hard over their summer vacation and that’s why they came to school on day one with no real purpose or direction; without a real lesson plan.

But it was cool, none of us were all that happy about being there so our motivation level was just as low.  It didn’t even matter that we wore brand new outfits and snazzy new shoes for the occasion.  It was still school.  Was it just me or did no one want to go back to school at the end of summer?  Then right off the bat the teacher wants us to recount all the fun things we did and wanted to still be doing.  Hello, unfair tease…

Those days are gone now of course; lost to the past where responsibilities didn’t exist and all of us should have been smarter to open our eyes and relish it.  But that old “youth is wasted on the young” cliché is true.  For the most part, my only responsibilities included stuff relating to school.  Paying bills and other grown-up problems weren’t anything I had to deal with until high school.

Ah, yes.  Sometimes I miss those days of high school where I had to set myself free.  Skipping was a class I took regularly sophomore year and on.  And I was excellent at it; absolutely no doubt I got an A in that class.  There were times I spent entire days in that class, not just single class times.  Another true thing, said by Brian Setzer – “Can't learn nothin' in school they don’t teach you on the street.”

But now I’m all grown-up, most of the time, and this summer I would have all kinds of stuff to report back to the teacher.  It may have even got me to go to school to tell them – I moved into a new house, spent a bunch of money making it a better place to live, and splashed in the pool just about every day.  In other words – BORing.  No teacher enjoyed the boring papers, the ones where the kid recapped exactly what they did every day in full detail.  They wanted something they could enjoy reading.  Something more exciting.

So in the spirit of entertaining my teachers back in the old days, here’s my summer vacation recap.  And let me preface this by saying that my teachers back in the old days likely weren’t all that entertained by my stories because I hadn’t yet developed sarcasm and I never included pictures.  But as an adult now, you can all but count on me to try to rectify that problem.

Summer Isn’t Even Over, How Are You Writing Your Summer Vacation Essay Now?

Yes that’s a great question!  But for me summer ended as June came to a close.  July and August I’m spending writing (blogs, manuscript #2, guest posts, interviews, etc.) so my new school year started on July first.  That doesn’t matter though, there was plenty already packed into summer this year.  I have already:
Dealt with a mortgage closing on a short sale.
Painted 1500 square feet of walls, ceilings & cabinetry.
Moved in and set up my office (remember that, because I do…heehee).
Drained my bank account replacing broken pool equipment and buying tools.

And in reference to the tools, most of what we’ve bought so far has been for gardening and the like.  Matt is in heaven having an outdoor space to work in and I can’t wait to see how he brings the entire yard together.  One of the things that I practically insisted on though was a spot for our grill that didn’t interfere with the pool or wind up under the outdoor patio roof.

We found about 100 leftover bricks had been piled up over by the pool equipment and I knew they had to get used somewhere.  Now for those who have known me a long time you’ll recall we purchased another house, the Labor of Love, a long time ago.  Quick backstory to fully understand the brick debacle…

Right after we bought the house in Springfield we discovered the lot was just a wee bit improperly graded.  Like, about a foot below the neighbor’s backyard which was nothing more than a parking lot of asphalt.  Hey, they needed somewhere to conduct their chop shop duties so I can’t really fault them.  One day that summer it rained.  It rained like no one has ever seen rain before and our backyard turned into Niagra Falls.

Water flooded in at an alarming rate and next thing we knew it was overflowing right down our bulkhead and directly into the basement.  We had about four inches of water in our basement and a non-functioning sump pump.  Oh where was Mike Holmes when we needed him?  (Canada, yeah, I know)  The next morning, after Matt spent a healthy number of hours the night before bailing out the basement with a five gallon Home Depot Homer bucket, we went to the Depot and purchased a bunch of drainage stuff.

Back at the homestead our Saturday was spent digging out a twenty foot hand-dug trench that spanned from just under the deck out into the wooded area beside the house.  We installed a French drain type system, complete with sock over the drain pipe.  For the next handful of years that we “lived” there we never got another drop of water in our basement but we definitely didn’t install it correctly (no gravel surrounding the pipe, just dirt) so I’m sure that means at some point the thing will fail.  Sorry to whoever ended up in that place.

But you’re probably asking what all this drain digging and flooding have to do with left over bricks right?  Well, when we dug the trench we discovered, yup you guessed it, about 100 leftover bricks that were just buried in the backyard.  My guess is they were leftover after building the foundation and became part of the backfill.  After digging them all up they became my patio.

Now here’s the kicker of course, that was another thing I had no clue how to install.  Again, sorry about that.  But it sure looked good at the time.  Not that we ever put a chair out there.  Details…

It may have sloped a foot downward over a 13' run but damn it, the place was all ours and we were gonna grill!

These days however I’m a little savvy and have more time to figure out how to do it right.  Plus I can afford cable now so there’s a hell of a lot of DIY Network being watched in this place.  Again, Mike Holmes is like my personal hero.

So when I discovered the leftover bricks this time (without even having to dig a drainage ditch!) I knew just what to do and where I wanted to put them.


As you can kind of see behind the chairs and on the left there is a big patch of empty gravel space right next to the patio, garage and walkway.


So I grabbed Matt and between the 2 of us we collected the bricks then broke up the clay soil and dug out a level patch of gravel and dirt.  Not easy stuff to move and we started it on a day over 100 degrees.  Maybe not the smartest plan so we stopped early.  But yesterday we finally got rain here, the temperatures dipped into the upper seventies and we had a somewhat muggy but cloudy day for the whole day.  Our day started at Lowes picking up the tools we needed using our $10 off coupon (score!).


We dry fit the brick to decide on a pattern and to make sure we’d have enough.


We staked out the area with stakes meant for our beach shelter and ran a level line of string with some old present wrapping ribbon.  Sometimes you just use what’s on hand and wing it right?  This is the spot dug out, filed with gravel then topped with play sand and leveled so water slopes away from the walkway.


While Matt ran back to Home Depot for filler sand I laid in every single brick by hand, by feel, and gave them a little tap with the rubber mallet.  All 108 of them.  After every 6-8 bricks I tossed the level on just to ensure they were installing correctly.

Yes we went a little shy of the line all the way around, that was to accommodate for backfilling with dirt and bringing the gravel and sand right up to the edge of the patio.  Matt poured the sand and we both took turns sweeping in and tamping down to ensure all the cracks were filled to the top with no obvious gaps.  Then we brought back dirt and gravel and topped the edge bricks with sand.

We finished just as the sky was clearing out a little bit and the sun was setting into a beautiful sunset.  Most of the bricks dried out nicely overnight and I walked out to see this beautiful piece of effort this morning.


It is going to be the perfect spot to house our grill.  Just as soon as our budget allows us to go out and get one.

So this is how I spent my summer, capped off with the Fourth of July holiday and a bit of manual labor.

And just like those teachers who came to school exhausted and under motivated to get back to their jobs, I’m taking 2 Tylenol and lying down on the sofa to edit today.

9 comments:

Judi FitzPatrick said...

Ah, the Springfield patio - I have some pics of you building that. Will have to find them; maybe next week.

Your brick patio building skills have improved remarkably; but that's good since you are no longer in the freshman class! Can't wait to see this one.

Love you, Mum

Almost Precious said...

Great job, Jenn ! The second brick patio looks totally professional, and awesome if I may say so.

I always hated those "What I did over the summer" essays. Maybe if I had done something fun and exciting it wouldn't have been such a bore to write but we never went anywhere or did anything vaguely interesting. Suppose I could have used my imagination ... made up a story about vacationing in Columbia where my parents got involved with a drug cartel or some such nonsense. Then I'd probably have gotten kicked out of school.

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

The only pictures of Spfld patio install that I could find were ones like this, either the dry fit or installed and complete. Would love to see some pictures of it being installed! Let me know if you come across them, thanks!

Jenn Flynn-Shon said...

Thanks so much Anna! I feel like we've learned so much in the many years since our Money Pit that now we can put it all to good use in this much more functional and happy home.

You might have been kicked out of school but I bet Hollywood would've taken you in to pen the next great blockbuster with a story like that :-)

lettersfromlaunna said...

I never liked writing what we did in the summer since it was pretty boring, compared to some of the children who traveled somewhere... we camped... woo hoo...

Alice said...

We have also found and repurposed bricks at both of the houses we have owened...what is that? Excellent patio.

Rosebud Collection said...

I don't like to think of summer leaving..but such is life.
How are you doing you your new home? You did a great job with the bricks.
So glad you are happy in your new state..heck, swimming everyday..and enjoying the sun..can it get any better?
Take care my dear friend and wishing you both all the best with your new life..xoxoCarolyn

Joan said...

Beautiful job! You deserve to be right where you are...the sofa!
My cousin lives in Avondale, had to go to the airport twice on Tuesday. They said it was not good!

Insomniac #4 said...

You've definitely had an eventful summer already, long before July even started. I don't know if it makes for a good school essay but you've sure had a lot of great blog posts. I just wish I had more free time to read and comment on them in a more timely manner but I've been busy changing diapers and feeding the little ones. Yup, that's what I did on my summer vacation! Hannah was pretty much the start of my summer and that was six weeks ago! Its going by so fast and between the heat wave and the 'dad duty' I've spent waaaay too much time indoors. Can't wait to take them out...somewhere...but a newborn baby and 95* heat don't mix.

That patio looks fantastic! Very nice DIY work my friend! I think i might have to hire you and Matt to do our yard ;-) I was out all day yesterday chopping weeds b/c our backyard is overrun with those stupid tree things that take root in our wretched grass. Also we live next to a "jungle"; the house has been abandoned for like a decade. Seriously. I'll blog about it sometime. Anyway, um...why don't you have a grill? There's one in the pic of your 'Labor of Love' house is Springfield. I'm guessing you left it behind? Or did one of the floods ruin it? I think I remember that year...it was right after we bought our house and we had specifically asked about the flood zone/sump pump. And we were told it *never* floods, ever.

We had four monster floods that first year, and then another one last year from Hurricane Irene.

Okay, I'm rambling b/c I'm wired on energy drinks (4am is the only time I can write and Sunday is the only time I can crash!) and I'm making up for responding a week late, so I'll stop now! Keep up the great DIY work! :)