Friday, February 22, 2008


Before I bought this house, I used to drive past other people's houses in various stages of restoration and see all the projects they'd started and not quite finished. And I said smugly, When I have an old house, I won't do that, no, not me. I'll finish every project I start before I begin another one.

And now that I have an old house of my very own, to that comment I say,


I've created a lot of mayhem in slightly over a year: ripped the yucky, fugly brown outdoor carpet off the front steps and the front porch; tore up the carpet in the entryway and the living room; yanked down the theater-like drapes in the living room; removed the shutters from three windows and the fireplace; peeled the floral-from-hell wallpaper off the kitchen walls; hammered to bits a roof-like thingy sticking out of the laundry room wall; bribed my son into tearing down the gigantic cornice over the dining room windows; fell off a ladder while pulling down a similar cornice in the kitchen; destroyed rotten matchstick blinds over the laundry room windows; tore linoleum off the bathroom walls; scraped painted-over wallpaper off the walls in the entryway and the living that all? Yeah, I think that's all.

Here's what I've finished: the entryway and living room have new sheers and valances; part of the kitchen's wallpapered; the laundry room windows have cute Waverly curtains; and the bathroom walls are painted. Actually, the bathroom walls were not just painted--they were taped, mudded, sanded, primed, painted, stencilled and glazed. So I should get extra credit for that.

Gee....the "finished" paragraph's so much shorter than the "mayhem" paragraph....Maybe that's because at home I have the attention span of a gnat. Oh, wonder what's under this carpet? Rip, rip. Who in their right mind puts shutters on a fireplace? Yank. That cornice is ugly. Crash. At work I can spend 45 minutes on the phone with a guy who'd rather operate on his own winky 'cause he has a kidney stone than tell me where he lives--you envy me my job, don't you?!--and I'm patient and kind. (He asked me to marry him just before the cops took him to the hospital.) At home I'm on some coffee-fueled manic mission to eradicate everything the sucky previous owners did as quickly as possible, leaving shards of wallpaper and bits of carpet in my wake. So last night I had a very stern talk with myself about finishing what I start. I promised myself I'd do better. And this morning I ripped up half the dining room carpet. Recovery from Gnat Attention Deficit Disorder will be a slow process.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


I'm a little bit upset. Not angry, I don't think. Frustrated. Yeah, that's it. Frustrated. So allow me a few moments of tsk-tsking and climbing up onto my soapbox here. See, I just read a post on one of my favorite blogs about how the FedEx man couldn't find the blogger's apparently rural house. The poor guy was asking her for a house number, which she says she doesn't have, and she was giving him the kind of landmark-oriented directions that most of us give. You know, like "go left on the road to the old dairy and go past the red barn and we're the third house on the right, big concrete deer in the yard". And most of the time that's okay. But being an emergency services dispatcher, I gotta ask:

What if that was the fire department looking for your house? And what if you were unable to tell them where you are?

Okay, you say, if my house is on fire they're eventually gonna find it. And that's true--the big plume of smoke rising from it that's visible for miles is always a good indicator of the fire's location. The sooner we find it, obviously, the better. Generally, house fires double in size every 60 seconds; some quicker than that. But in a medical situation--and medical calls are over 80 percent of my department's call load--we can't tell by just driving past the house which is the one that has the emergency inside.

So I have a simple request: Please, please put house numbers on your house.

If you live down a long driveway or if your house isn't visible from the main road, please put a house number at the end of your driveway. (Think about how hotel hallways are labeled as you get off the elevator--no doubt about which way to turn to find your room.)

Now should you desire to be the kind of citizen that is beloved by fire, police and ambulance agencies, do this, too: Drive past your house at night and check to see if your house number's visible--and easily read--from the street. Consider when you do this that although you might be driving by in an average-sized vehicle at normal speed in a neighborhood you're familiar with, emergency services personnel probably are not. If you think your house number is hard to read, it probably is. Please fix it. And please note that I'm not recommending you drive past your house at a high rate of speed to see if you can catch a glimpse of house numbers as you roar past. But if you'd like to experience that, check to see if your local police or fire department has a ride-along program and learn firsthand the aggravation of driving around a neighborhood with a spotlight at 3 a.m. looking for a particular house.

And finally, remember the slogan of Motel 6: "We'll leave the light on for ya." If you do have to summon emergency services to your house at night, please turn on the porch light if you're physically able to do so.

Okay, I see that I've stood atop my soapbox plenty long enough. Besides, it's naptime. Normal fixer-upper programming will resume here shortly.

Sunday, February 3, 2008


I feel horrid. I think I have the flu. I feel so yucky that knowing that I'm already out of the running for the $50 gift card from Home Depot doesn't even really bother me. (That's one of the prizes we CJC employees can earn for not using any sick days for a calendar year. So, 34 days into the year, that's shot to hell. And I don't care. I feel that icky.)

Anyway, I'm snuggled in my bed under an electric blanket with a space heater blowing directly on me and two cats sleeping on my legs (which says more about my life than you probably wanted to know) reading other people's houseblogs to cheer me up when I found this comment from TexMacRae over at 1880's Italianate:

You know how any old house project is like opening a can of worms and in that can of worms you find another can of worms and it goes on and on, like Russian nesting dolls?

Hilarious! That is the most succinct and best description of restoration or retrovation or whatever you want to call it that I've come across in a long time. It's only so funny because it's so true.

And then I was looking for titles for this post over on IMDb when I found this listed under Dustin Hoffman's credits:

A Wish for Wings That Work (1991) (TV) (voice) (uncredited) .... Milquetoast the Cross-Dressing Cockroach

Milquetoast the Cross-Dressing Cockroach?! I laughed so hard that I think I broke something loose in my lungs. I have to go rest now.

And if you can follow the thread from Dustin Hoffman to the eventual title of this post, you'll get some idea of how my feverish mind is working today....